Personally, I stay at about half a dozen Vacation Rental Homes a year, traveling for business or quick mini vacations where a day's drive just doesn't seem feasible. In my stays, I notice each time when a host goes above and beyond or when they do the bare minimum. It's easy to justify your price of your vacation based on your housing accommodations and when you have something more than you were expecting in where you're lodging. It directly affects the overall reflection of the vacation especially when you're reviewing your property through AirBnb. For that reason, I have compiled this list of 14 things you should be doing at your vacation rental so that you can ensure that you are NOT doing that bare minimum- not only creating a unique and memorable experience, but also assuring that you bring back repeat guests who can unhesitatingly leave you a 5 star review.
The reason this is so important to your business is because profit is based off your reviews. Whether or not that extent of those reviews are actually read before each and every booking is debatable, but none the less it does impact your star rating which in turn affects your booking rate. Still with me? If not, message me and I will help you navigate this area of your platforms booking abilities. At the end of your guests stay you want them to be able to leave raving reviews of the home. If you're doing the basic basic steps, you could just end up with 3 or 4 star review- not terrible, but not the goal. Consistent 5-stay reviews can quickly take you to Superhost status which shows you know what you're doing! That will help potential guests feel more comfortable and confident in their booking plus limit the complaints that may come in due to failure of meeting a higher expectation.
Don't fall short. These little measures go a long way and make a huge impact for your guests... and they're not even expensive.
1- Self Check-in Smart Locks or Key Pads
It's so simple yet so tough to do. When you have someone entering your home... or second home, or family vacation home, just a house you own that you visit once every year... it's hard to let go and trust. It takes some energy and convincing yourself but you can do it. And I promise you, guests will appreciate the space and the privacy (ehhemm, this is why guests screening is so important). If you can allow yourself to do instant book through AirBnb your screening options are limited however you can see their reviews and still ask questions when you have that booking. Anyway, with instant booking you should allow your guests to have self check-in or at least the option. Instant booking accounts for well over 70% of the platforms stays (or something like that). That alone should tell you something about that particular type of guests. I personally invest in the Smart Lock by Yale. OMG this has been a life (and time!) saver. You can create a custom time stamped guest code for each and every booking that can be used by just typing in the digits to the number pad- guests do NOT have to download an phone app and you set the perimeters. You can set the code from your app from anywhere once you have confirmation turn over (cleaning) is complete! All you need is wifi, because the smart lock piggy backs on your internet connection- and just fyi, you don't need to purchase any additional "bridge devices" or hub or whatever else tech people like to use to make us simple folk believe that sometimes tech is... challenging. The added bonus is, no more missing (ahem... stolen) keys! We'll talk about that another time...
2- Set the Expectation, Description should Be Upfront
I have read soooooo many listings descriptions that literally make me fall in love with a home by reading words on a screen. And about 50% of the time, they live up to the hype. Disappointing. The purpose of the listing description should be inviting, tell a story, and above all DESCRIBE YOUR HOME. Don't disguise it or make it so mysterious that someone has to book your place just to understand what the whole appeal is about. You need to accurately (and warmly) describe what a great place your home is to stay at, while also setting the expectation. For example-
"Beautiful green lush jungle surround this cabana home while welcoming the fresh ocean breeze up the mountain ridge into the living space..." Sounds great, right?! Yes but it fails to mention the home has no window screens, neighbors sharing the same mountain side, and hangs off the cliff. Your title can definitely be descriptive, and should be, but I encourage you to go into more detail with your description. Focus on the positive while also disclosing what YOU would want to know. The initial description paints the picture of a home sitting solemnly in a jungle perch- if your guests stopped reading there, well the expectation has been set! And you've failed to properly market your listing.
3- Create a House Manual or Guide Book
This is probably the HARDEST suggestion I have for you. Why? Becase it takes effort. It takes knowing your home in and out, thinking of the obvious (and yes very easy to miss items), anticipating questions as if you had never been there, and getting real familiar with why guests would travel to your area and the local hot spots. You should have an index page that has your contact info as well! Right there right when they open it up- I also post this number on the fridge or on my wifi boards. I recommend your first page be an introductory about you, your home, and maybe what you find appealing of the area- a favorite hike, the best viewing spot in the area, a local must visit restaurant, or your regular coffee spot where they have local treats and baked goods ready to be gobbled up for tourist to enjoy! The point is your first page should be welcoming and make it clear you want guests to enjoy their time visiting the area. I also recommend professional photos if you can budget them- include these throughout your guide book! You can follow that up with the "house rules" and additional things for guests to note. Be sure to also include a page for where guests can find things in your home- i.e. extra towels, blankets, trash bags, etc. Your guide book should of course highlight local tourist spots- 5 spots should be enough. Include photos you found of the internet, like of trail heads, the top breakfast spots, that cafe you mentioned, etc. Be sure to include the check out instructions and expectations. And lastly, a thank you page with a reminder again of how they can contact you in case of emergency.
4- Bring in Local Products
If you're in a very secluded area this might be tough to do. But there's got to be a local attraction that you can include in your listing- such as a piece of art work or map of the tourist area that you can put up and incorporate somehow. You can also include post cards to leave at your place for guests to use! I am in the PNW and so have tons of coffee options, naturally, s we include coffee beans from our local cafe and often leave fresh treats from the local bakery. We don't spend a fortune- maybe $15 for some treats and guests LOVE them! Whatever you can do will make guests feel like you really went above and beyond to display your love for the area and it will show in the review they leave you. Plus you support your community and get even more people familiar with your vacation rental.
5- Label Almost Everything
I cannot say this enough. Get yourself a label maker! THEY ARE AMAZING and yes very very easy to get carried away with. I was so in love with my label maker that I marked "fake plant" on one of indoor plants used for staging. My husband thought I was crazy- but my logic was that 'well, maybe they won't water it if they know it's fake.' His response was it was very very obvious it was fake and I was going overboard. So, my point is, don't go overboard. Just label drawers, light switches, short instructions, and designated item areas. You don't need to do much more than that, my husband promises.
6- No Message Gets Left Behind
This is an easy one- especially if you primarily use AirBnb. Respond to ALL messages- even if it's a no or a hard pass. The algorithm that is used to bring your listing to the top of search results measures your response times as a responsible host. If you fail to timely respond to inquires, requests, or any messages, your response time lowers- risking taking you off of the vital search results first page.
7- Invest in Mattress Protectors
Here is another easy one if you care about NOT having to replace mattresses more than once every few years. Mattress protectors will catch spills, body oils, and god knows what else. Protect your mattress at all cost.
8- Ask If Guest is Traveling for a Special Occassion
Guests really appreciate this extra question. Even if you do NOTHING to celebrate it with them. I think the fact that you are giving their travel plans some recognition or taking the time to get to know them helps them feel more comfortable in both their decision to travel and stay at your vacation rental. We had elopements, anniversaries, and birthdays at our cabin and each one is special. Sometimes its just a birthday card and a single boxed cupcake. Other times we've left flowers or a box of chocolates. It always gets mentioned in the reviews and THAT I appreciate. It shows I am a committed and professional host- which is what all guests want to see.
9- Leave Out Some Cleaning Supplies
You don't have to leave out everything, but guests should have access to a broom, rags, and maybe some lysol. For SOOOO many reasons. Enough said.
10- Pam Cooking spray
Pam cooking spray, or oil sprays for your cookware will save you so much headache. Burned or warped pots and pans were the number one expense for me for a while- I was replacing pans faster than the stores could stock them. Why didn't I think of a cooking spray sooner?! You're welcome.
11- Labeled Make Up Remover Towels
Or towelettes. I used to leave a handful of towelettes out for guests but when they run out, my white towels fall victim. So then I would leave the bag out- then the entire supply would go missing, annoying. I recommend a make up labeled towel- spend the $18 and get a couple. This will really save you in the long run and actually make you money back because you're saving on the expense cost of replacing towels a couple times a year! You can have the towels ordered off of Amazon here. These are my favorite, just don't wash them with your whites!
12- Wifi Board
You can have a peg board, a dry erase board, or laminated sheet, whatever, that says "Hey the Wifi password is ....". Put in on the kitchen counter or the bookshelf by the TV or tacked onto the fridge. It's so simple and will help your guests from scrambling through your manual to find the info and possibly save you a message. The less questions they have to ask, the better.
13- Leave Some Lights On
Just like when you're selling a house (and yes I would know), you should have some lights on. Any areas that get no natural light at all, such as a hall wall or bathroom, should have a light on. I always keep the living room light on and any accent lights- like the kitchen sconces and the stair railing lights. This little step makes the space inviting and not so scary. It will also help guests with their confusion with navigating a strangers home. Pro tip- keep those bulbs LED, save some money on that power bill. This step also goes for outside- landscaping lights will really help with the guest comfort level (they can see where the heck they're going) and help with a wow factor.
14- Consider a Co-Host
And lastly, but definitely not lease, get yourself a co-host. This little extra measure will not only help give you some peace of mind, but will also be a second set of eyes for you! A co-host is vital to your business if you want someone as devoted to the property as you are. Co-hosts will run you 10-20% and most are well worth the cost. Not only will you have someone there to make inventory purchases for you, arrange cleanings, and communicate with guests in case you cannot, but they will literally run the business for you so you can afford to take a step back! At Home Hosting Partners, the cost of investing in a co-host is easily reciprocated back in the profits you make on your vacation property. We can handle everything for you while focusing on making your property a profit earning short term rental property. Plus, we have so many more tips.