A smaller couch works well with moveable smaller chairs.
Just a few years ago in the United States renting out your home or property to total strangers seemed like an impossible concept. Now vacation rentals are an established global industry and it is clear that this business model is here to stay. If you are hosting guests you now have thousands of listings to compete with so it is very important to provide a top notch customer experience in order to set your listing apart.
As an architectural and interior photographer, I have photographed over 2,000 vacation rental listings all over the New York City Tri-state area. Because of this experience, I can say without a doubt that strong photography is critical to success for owners who want to have successful vacation rental investments. Potential guests consistently overlook listings with poor photographs for ones with vibrant and professional photographs.
In addition to photographing many rentals, I have personally hosted dozens of Airbnb guests and stayed at many vacation rentals since 2012 so have additional insight into what makes some vacation rentals wildly prosperous and others moderately successful. Here are tips that can help your space perform well and give you an overall pleasant host experience while increasing revenue.
In my experience nothing is more important when offering a vacation rental than viewing the space as if you were a guest. You should always think, “What would I like if I was staying here”? It may help to think of an impressive customer service experience you recently had - whether it was a hotel stay or even a minor touch that a store provided that made you take notice. What specifically about that experience made you tell family and friends, leave a sparkling review and maybe even make plans to revisit?
Many hosts make the mistake of simply perceiving their rental as a way to make money and see their clients as customers rather than welcome guests. With every decision you make about managing your space you should think, “Is this visually appealing?”, “How would this make me feel?” or “Would this make me feel welcome?” This genuine concern for the well being of your guests will automatically make your listing stand apart.
Investing in the visual and overall quality of your listing is beneficial for the following reasons:
Guests will always be relieved when arriving to a well made bed.
A minimalist approach works well for smaller spaces.
The one thing that I take notice of when preparing to photograph a vacation rental is how attention-to-detail can improve or diminish the overall guest experience.
My wife and I have stayed at several vacation rentals and one very small detail always sticks out - the guestbook. This detail may seem trivial as you no doubt have spent lots of time and cash on securing furniture, bedding, kitchen essentials and countless other items that have put you over budget. But taking the time to put together a binder or book of local suggestions, tips, house rules and a welcoming message is priceless.
To be clear, a guestbook and a rule book are quite different. A book of house rules simply stating dos and don'ts about the space can come across as rude and unwelcoming which can, in turn, put a tarnish on the stay. Of course as a host you hope that guests don't damage or destroy anything in the property and are respectful to neighbors, but this worry should not come across in any written communication.
For example we stayed at a cabin for over a week that was absolutely perfect as far as our needs but the fact that the host came across as cold and removed in the rule book stuck in our heads. By contrast we stayed in a shared space for one night and the host and guestbook were so welcoming that we still talk about this experience.
Also the guestbook can appear in your listing photographs which conveys to the potential renter that you are thinking about hospitality when creating your space rather than just renting out an extra property. Finally, a nicely presented guest book immediately creates a great visual first impression when guests enter the home.
Guestbooks should include information only a local would know.
Everything You Need!
You may have visited a hotel or vacation rental and have thought, “it would nice if they had…”, only to turn around and notice it was there. This level of forethought might take some time and experience to build up so definitely take into account feedback from guests. It is important not to look at guests as a necessary nuisance but as partners in your enterprise. The ability to get useful guest feedback on every interaction is extremely valuable.
Also, get creative and don’t be afraid to ask for help. As a former host, I made the mistake of simply providing a roof over my guests' heads - a clean, safe and comfortable apartment. A friend of mine got involved later on and brought in desks, hair dryers, an iron (and ironing board) and artwork. These items along with a few other details instantly transformed the small space and felt more inviting to guests.
Also it leaves a great impression in your listing photographs as a comfortably furnished space will get booked quicker and more regularly than an empty space 100% of the time. Top Tip : Leave enough blankets for multiple guests and have close-up photographs taken of unique details.
In the absence of a friend, you can connect with other hosts in the area. I suggest checking the Meetup.com website as well as the vacation rental platforms you are using.
A few more tips -
You can take your time to give your space its own personality.
Think out of the box for smaller spaces.
The New York Times publishes great Real Estate articles and sometimes addresses the vacation rental market. This article has tips like decorating with purpose, keeping it simple and using materials that wear well.
Stay Here (Netflix) is a reality show that specializes on how to create wonderful and profitable vacation rentals. The hosts travel across the US and provide great advice on how to create that unique guest experience. Killer tip: Localize the guest experience by engaging the existing community resources.
Houzz - A great resource for decorating your home, the wealth of information on this site can help you prepare your vacation rental. Professional Interior designers and other housing professionals use this site regularly so you are definitely getting the best and most current concepts and ideas.
Creating a vacation rental and hosting guests from all over the world can be an invaluable experience. With the right amount of time, care and financial investment you can enjoy a fulfilling and lucrative enterprise. Whether you are just starting or refreshing an existing listing, the payoff may take a while to happen but keep in mind that this is totally normal and stick to proven principles. With a top quality guest experience as your number one priority, you will be able to compete at the highest level and achieve success.
Ps. Feel free to leave any of your own tips in the comment section!