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12 Attributes of a Successful Vacation Rental
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to what makes a vacation rental successful. However, there are 12 attributes of a successful vacation rental that indicate better performance than those that don’t exhibit these aspects. This post breaks down what makes each aspect so powerful, as well as tips for applying these traits to your short-term rental, no matter your market.
- Take Great Photos
- Implement Instant Book on Airbnb for Better Occupancy Rates
- Choose the Right Cancellation Policy
- Get Good Reviews: Focus on Guest Satisfaction
- Learn How to Set an Cleaning Fee That Doesn’t Deter Guests
- Leverage Dynamic Pricing
- Pick the Best Type of Property for Your Goals
- Keep It Clean: Cleanliness Impacts Your Ratings
- Attract More Guests with Only the Best Amenities
- Be Pet-Friendly—And Earn More Revenue
- Benchmark Your Property’s Performance
- Be Unique: Ideas Outside the Box Get More Guests
1. Take Great Photos
A picture is worth a thousand words, as well as several thousands of dollars if you take good photos. The more (representative) photos you have, the higher your occupancy rate. But be sure to include 20–40 verified photos. Guests want to know that their experience matches the listing. Give them peace of mind by including verified photos, and see your effort pay off with higher occupancy rates.
Don’t sweat it if you’re not confident in your photography skills. There are plenty of online resources that teach you how to take excellent photos with your smartphone. But, if you’d rather hire a professional photographer, the short-term rental giant makes it easy to do.
2. Implement Instant Book on Airbnb for Better Occupancy Rates
In our fast-paced world, people expect instantaneous buys and bookings; they don’t want to wait for you to accept their reservation request. Do your guests (and your occupancy rate) a favor by implementing Instant Book.
By giving your guests the option to book immediately, you’re not only guaranteeing their spot, but boosting your ranking on Airbnb’s Search Engine Results Page. This means that your listing will pop up ahead of others, letting guests lay eyes on your property before others. If you have stellar photos, you’re among the top listings, and guests can book instantly, you can anticipate a 4.1–5.7% increase in your occupancy rates.
3. Choose the Right Cancelation Policy
No two vacation rental hosts will agree on which cancelation policy is best; cancellation policies are split somewhat evenly among hosts. Whatever you decide, be strategic. Strict cancellation policies often make more sense for hosts with nicer properties. These hosts can usually afford to lose a few bookings here and there.
On the other hand, hosts with more modest properties generally benefit from a flexible policy that allows guests to cancel up to the day before their stay.
4. Get Good Reviews: Focus on Guest Satisfaction
Every new vacation rental host wants to know how to get good reviews. The answer’s simple, really: be a good host and offer a great experience. That’s easier said than done sometimes, but overall, it’s a proven approach. And it pays off; your Airbnb business is based on positive reviews, so better reviews bring in more guests.
If you have a single property and can be pretty hands-on, ensuring guests have everything they need is pretty easy. It’s when you scale your vacation rental count that it becomes harder to keep an eye on guest satisfaction. In fact, the data shows that non-professional (read: hosts with only one or two properties) perform better than hosts with a dozen (or dozens of) properties.
If you are looking to scale your vacation rental operation, or even thinking about hiring a property manager for your sole property, be sure to choose a top-rated property manager to ensure your guests have a great stay—and leave a positive review to let potential guests know.
5. Learn How to Set a Cleaning Fee That Doesn’t Deter Guests
This might be the most polarizing topic among hosts.
Should you set a steep fee in case you have inconsiderate guests? Or should you lower your cleaning fee to attract potential guests? It all depends, really; there’s no blanket answer here.
However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t multiple correct answers. As a host, you have to do what’s right for you and your goals. If you find that guests are booking other comparable properties in your area, take a hard look at your cleaning fee.
Data shows that cleaning fees need to align with the property size — there’s no reason to have a steep fee for a small property.
There may be a good reason to bring it down, too: having a low cleaning fee can boost your occupancy rate. On the flip side, high cleaning fees can actually be justified if you’re armed with good reviews.
6. Leverage Dynamic Pricing
No host optimizes their revenue, occupancy rate, or guest satisfaction by setting their pricing and never updating it. To truly boost your property’s performance, you need to leverage dynamic pricing.
This approach lets you adjust your nightly rate to match supply and demand in your area. If there’s an event in your area a few months down the road, up your price to capitalize on increased demand. If it’s the slow season, adjust accordingly there, too.
7. Pick the Best Type of Property for Your Goals
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, buying a vacation rental was a solid investment for virtually all property types. But throughout the darkest days of the pandemic to the present, the best type of property for a vacation rental has been larger homes. It makes sense: guests from cramped, urban areas craved more space. “Friend bubbles” felt safer renting large, spacious properties spread apart from other homes.
Hosts with vacation rentals with 5+ bedrooms routinely performed better than hosts with smaller spaces throughout the pandemic. The trend is likely to hold, at least until the pandemic is truly behind us. So, if you can afford a large property, the numbers say it’s an excellent investment.
8. Keep It Clean: Cleanliness Impacts Your Ratings
Though we’ve already discussed cleaning fees, it’s important to reiterate that guests have new standards for “clean.” While short-term rentals gave many people a much-needed escape from daily life during the depths of the pandemic, hosts (and those who kept hosts’ properties clean) upped their cleaning protocol. Now, guests expect a sparklingly clean stay every time—and why shouldn’t they? No one wants to stay in a dirty or uncared-for space
Besides it being a good practice for hosts to offer their guests a clean place to stay, it’s good for your business, too. Before the pandemic, hosts who scored high on cleanliness enjoyed a 2.3% occupancy rate increase compared to hosts who scored lower. In 2021, hosts with high cleanliness rates saw their occupancy rates increase by 6.8% over hosts in the seven-to-eight category of cleanliness. Even if you’re only looking at it from a financial perspective, reviews on cleanliness improve occupancy rates.
9. Attract More Guests with Only the Best Amenities
Guests don’t just expect a palace to stay, they expect an experience. You can’t get by on just offering plush towels, mid-tier linens, and some spotty wifi. Guests expect more, and the most successful vacation rentals have the most in-demand amenities for their market.
The best amenities help your property stand out from the rest—and offer your guests a memorable experience. These amenities earn more Airbnb bookings; if you have a fireplace, AC, hot tub, or allow pets, and other amenities guests love, you could earn much more than competitors who don’t, depending on your market. In short, find out which amenities make the most sense for revenue and occupancy rates, and make changes if you can.
10. Be Pet-Friendly—And Earn More Revenue
Should you allow pets? Absolutely. The data shows that pet-friendly vacation rentals earn more than those that don’t allow pets. And, really, you have nothing to lose by allowing pets. Pet fees on Airbnb vary wildly but should help you rest easy knowing that, should a four-legged guest ruin a rug, the pet fee covers it.
11. Benchmark Your Property’s Performance
If you’re serious about increasing your vacation rental rates, you need to get serious about benchmarking your property’s performance. The most successful properties benchmark against their competition.
12. Be Unique: Ideas Outside the Box Get More Guests
Guests choose to stay at a vacation rental for several reasons. But one of the biggest reasons is to stay in a unique space. If your property blends in with the rest, it’s difficult to attract some of the most selective guests. If you’re eyeing a new property, go for a unique one. While this may not be an option for every host, it’s an excellent investment.
If you already have a short-term rental, do anything you can to make it stand out from the pack, and make it feel like an experience your guests will want to document and return to. If that’s the case, you can rest assured they’ll leave a positive review. With just a few solid bedroom ideas, you can turn a modest bedroom into a plush, memorable one.
And, while decor doesn’t matter as much as the amenities you offer, there’s a lot to be said about decorating your vacation rental. Choose neutral-yet-attractive features, colors, and decor—make it pop. Unique ideas are endless; you don’t need a yurt, Airstream, or tree house to wow guests. Just make it stand out, and watch the bookings roll in.
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