Bedroom EssentialsWhat should every vacation rental have, and what are nice-to-have extras?

There are certain features and accessories that vacation home renters have come to expect – or, at least, that they hope to find when they walk through the door. Other features, when they show up, are considered a bonus.

Here’s our room-by-room guide to items you should include.

Don’t forget: There are also items that may legally be mandatory in your area, like fire extinguishers and smoke or carbon monoxide detectors. Ensure any items required by your insurance plan or local bylaws are at the top of your list! Continue Reading…

Vacation Rental FloodingHurricane Sandy hitting the east coast of North America; tsunami warnings on the west coast, through to Hawaii. Like any home, vacation rental properties can unexpectedly be positioned directly in the path of disasters.

When an emergency strikes, there are two things you need to protect: Your home and your guests. If recent situations have caught you off-guard, plan ahead so everything is prepared for next time. Continue Reading…

Pinterest iPadWhen I first started hearing about Pinterest, it just seemed like a site packed with pictures of chic baked goods and fingernail art. As cool as the images were, it was a little hard to understand the hype. Now, however, the Pinterest statistics are impossible to ignore. The latest whopper is that Pinterest is currently the 3rd most popular social networking site behind Facebook and Twitter.

For those who haven’t ventured there yet, Pinterest is a social network where users curate virtual pinboards of images that inspire them. ‘Pinners’ usually have multiple boards, and the pictures are pinned from all over the Internet. The subjects are limitless, but lifestyle topics like cooking, crafts and clothing predominate. It skews heavily female, but men are catching up. Users follow each other, similar to Twitter, thus creating the vast network.

Businesses are flocking for several reasons, Continue Reading…

Vacation Rental CalculatorLike any business, setting rates for your vacation rental can be a stressful challenge.

Set your rate too high and rentals could be slow or non-existent, or your guest may have expectations that are higher than you can deliver.

Set your price too low and you may not be able to earn a profit, or you’ll only attract people who abuse your property as a cheap rental.

How do you find balance? Here’s a four-step process to help you decide on a range that matches your property. Remember: While you want to research the information to set the right rate for your property from the beginning, you can fine-tune later.

Step 1: Know Your Costs

External factors carry a lot of weight when it comes to setting rates for your vacation rental, but to start you need to focus on yourself: What is the minimum you can charge to break even? Continue Reading…

Chamber of Commerce for Vacation RentalsYour local chamber of commerce — also called a board of trade or economic development council in some areas — is a business organization that specializes in advocating with different levels of government about business issues. They’re also a great place to network with other local business people, and they often get involved in supporting local businesses and the community through events and other initiatives.

As a vacation home owner, you have a variety of memberships, subscriptions and services to consider every year. Should your local chamber of commerce be one of them? Continue Reading…

Check Overpayment ScamThe email scam artists currently targeting vacation rental owners seem to have taken notes from the ‘Nigerian Prince’ fraudsters who’ve been around for decades. Maybe not as obvious, fraudulent inquiries on your rental property are likely to show up in your inbox. They will sound just as friendly as any legitimate inquiry, so take a look at these red flags:

  • Poor grammar and punctuation, plus bad spacing and line breaks. Especially when the request is coming from another country, this may seem normal. But the scammer may be pre-screening your patience level and naïveté.
  • Discrepancies about your rental property, such as calling your cabin an apartment suggest mass email.
  • Claims the trip is a surprise for someone else or a honeymoon. Generates warmth, creates distance.
  • Specifies dates then says they’re flexible. Or requests an extended stay, especially off-season for your location.
  • Inquiry comes from the UK or from a free email service, particularly Gmail, which is harder to trace.

Doesn’t really scream vacation rental scam, does it? Alone, these and other red flags are not enough to turn away renters. For example, check out this email from FindRentals.com: Continue Reading…

Handyman Maintenance Vacation RentalThere is no golden rule when it comes to do-it-yourself maintenance for your vacation rental; some people can wield power tools like a pro while others are barely comfortable lifting a screwdriver.

Whether you look after your own property maintenance depends on your availability and comfort level, but if you’re handy around the house and have a good selection of tools, some DIY projects can save you money. Others, however, could leave you open to liability.

How do you know the difference?

While you should make sure you’re up-to-speed with any local bylaws and regulations, there is one key deciding factor when it comes to working on your vacation rental: Whichever is the safest option for both you and your future guests. Continue Reading…

For many vacation rental owners, the major listing sites like HomeAway, VRBO, and FlipKey are essential to your business. It’s no doubt that these sites are generating inquiries for owners all over the world – attracting hundreds of thousands of travelers to their sites every month. But as more and more homes are being advertised there, it’s harder for individual vacation rental owners to make their homes stand out.

One thing you can do is place a link to your vacation rental website within your listing. This is your opportunity to showcase your brand – your home’s unique characteristics and personality. Your website should have tons of photos, detailed information on the local area, restaurant and activity recommendations, and upcoming events. Every listing has the same template, so your website should be unique, give you a professional presence, and help you convert more visitors into bookings!

Here’s how to get a link on HomeAway and VRBO:

You can add up to 4 links, but all are subject to review and they must be appropriate for family viewing. To add a URL link to your listing:

  1. Log into your HomeAway or VRBO account.
  2. If you have more than one listing, navigate to the appropriate listing.
  3. Click the “Edit Listing” link on the left side and open the “Links & Video” tab at the top.
  4. Scroll down and enter the URL of your website.
  5. Click “Save.”
  6. Wait for HomeAway to review and approve your listing.

Read the full instructions on their help site.

HomeAway Listing Link

Your link will appear below the amenities and above your reviews on HomeAway.

VRBO Listing Link

Your link will appear below your rates and above the map on VRBO.

Here’s how to get a link on FlipKey:

  1. Log into your account.
  2. Click on “Account” on the upper left hand side.
  3. Click on “Edit Profile” and enter the URL of your website.

Read the full instructions on their help site.

FlipKey Listing Link

Your link will appear on your Owner Profile page after you click the Contact link on your listing in FlipKey.

 

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Staged Vacation RentalYou put a lot of effort into marketing your vacation rental. You have a great-looking website, relevant information, and professional photographs. Plus, there’s the time, energy and money you’ve invested in purchasing and maintaining the property.

In many ways, all that work boils down to one critical moment: When your renters open the front door.

While your marketing efforts, and any correspondence you’ve had, are what draws guests to your doorstep, their decision to rent from you has been based on no small amount of trust and logic: They may have fallen in love with the photos, but it’s the location, budget, and their needs that made the decision for them.

The thing is, people are emotional creatures. Your home won’t leave a lasting impression because it had two bedrooms and a balcony. Instead, the tone for their trip will largely be set by what they find when they step through the doorway.

Reward the trust they’ve placed in you with the quality, service and style they expect — or, even better, exceed those expectations — by staging your vacation rental. This attention to detail isn’t just good customer service; building the perception of positive value will help protect your business and rates in the future. Continue Reading…

Inbound Links SEOGetting more links to your vacation rental website is critical in helping it get found organically (a.k.a. for free) in the search engines. The more inbound links your website has from higher authority sources, the more authority your own website will earn.

Essentially, there are 2 primary ways to rank higher in Google, Yahoo, and Bing. One is to optimize your website for keyword phrases potential renters might be searching for. This includes things like your website domain name (URLs), page titles, H1 headers, and your meta description. The second, and more important, is getting more inbound links to your website from high authority websites (i.e. The New York Times has a much higher authority than Bob’s Blog).

One way to measure this authority is through Google’s PageRank. It scores a web page out of 10 and it’s logarithmic, meaning it’s much harder to move your website from a 5 to a 6, than it is from a 2 to a 3. You can check out your current PageRank here. Continue Reading…