Vacation rental

Useful tips for new vacation rental hosts

Thibault Masson, Strategic Program Manager at Booking.com and owner of a number of vacation villas in Bali and St Barts, shares his advice for new vacation rental hosts

For second-home owners venturing into the travel industry, getting set for those first guests can be an extensive process. With many vacation rental entrepreneurs also taking on the task remotely, this can add to the complexity of day-to-day upkeep and preparation. What are the tips for hosts that will set you on the right path and help avoid any vacation rental problems down the line?

Get the price right

Working out the best price for your property can be tricky. Look at your competitors on the very platform where you are listing, check out their prices on other travel platforms and do your research. It’s worth noting that your competitors are not only other apartments or home rentals; Today, travellers would consider a hotel or b&b alongside an apartment, for example.

Reviews are vital for bookings: they inform future guests and create trust through advocacy. But when you start out you can’t yet take advantage of this. If you want to encourage first-time bookings consider subsidising the lack of reviews by offering a slightly lower rate and later, when the reviews are coming in, you can aim for your optimal price. This is also relevant if you have been in operation for a while but have decided to explore other channels - with a new platform come different competition and new guests to appeal to it’s important to re-establish that trust once again.

Set expectations and communicate

From pre-booking to the moment your guest checks out, it’s important to set expectations and good communication - particularly when you won’t meet personally. To save time, use templates and forms and take advantage of messaging tools. You can’t necessarily cater to every request but you should still enable that communication.

Build a rapport, understand preferences and share important information about the stay. Establish arrival plans, whether your guests need transport or directions, what the property has on offer and details of local shops or supermarkets - particularly if the property is secluded. Be sure to provide this information to the person welcoming the guests so those valuable insights aren’t lost during the arrival process.

Guides and guestbooks

In the property itself, include a welcome guide in addition to any information you share via email in advance. Introduce yourself, the home, the rules, and pointers on what to do locally. This guide doesn’t need to be fancy - a hardcopy is fine as long as the information you share doesn’t change too much.

It’s also nice to have a guestbook for visitors to leave their comments. This enables positive feedback and suggestions, helps alert you to things you need to know about the guest experience - plus other guests like to read the comments.

Find the right help

When your property is in a different location or you are juggling ownership alongside your full-time job, it’s important to find the right help; someone reliable that can help with the cleaning, preparation for arrivals, tasks like key collection and so on. This should be someone you trust but also someone you can train to do things exactly as you would. Create a simple checklist to set out the tasks and standards you expect and agree that this is followed precisely.

There are a number of services and apps with checklists the owner can monitor as tasks are completed. Processes like this can be simply replicated - sending photos and reminding everyone of crucial information - and it’s worth doing this until you feel 100% confident in the support. It’s a good idea to provide a small quantity of money so your local manager/helper can replace items or fix small problems without having to contact you each time. With this in mind, it’s also important that you trust their taste!

Whenever a review mentions your assistant, share that with them as it really shows their efforts are not invisible. It’s as much about empowering and recognising this support as ensuring you can rely on it.

Automation and gadgets

There are a multitude of technological innovations that help remote vacation rental owners to provide a great service without anyone required on-site. Lockboxes or electronic locks with a pincode are a useful solution to traditional key drop-offs. Be sure to pick one that offers multiple ways to access the property if something doesn’t work, even if it’s a neighbour on hand with a spare key.

Setting house rules is a must, but you can also use the likes of noise monitoring solutions to ensure your neighbours aren’t disturbed. These tools measure noise levels and alert you via an app if it gets too loud, but don’t actually record anything so your guest’s privacy is still observed. Finally, smart home products that help you do things like control room temperatures are a great addition so you can ensure a warm and welcoming property for the guest’s arrival.

 

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Takeaway
  • When starting out, consider subsidising the lack of reviews by offering a slightly lower rate to encourage first-time bookings
  • Good communication is key to a successful stay. Take advantage of messaging tools, templates and forms to help enable this and to set expectations
  • Investing in technological innovations or a reliable assistant you trust can help remote vacation rental owners ensure great service without being required on-site