Building managers responsible for vacation properties have a small window of opportunity to attract renters. The vacation rental market is subject to seasonal trends, so it's important for managers to take the proper steps to ensure their properties are as marketable as possible for peak vacation season.
Before summer truly kicks in, property managers can make changes to their properties and implement a plan to market their buildings to prospective renters. Consider these steps to help renters find their home away from home.
Increasingly, renters are conducting research online to find their temporary homes. When considering in which media to advertise your property, consider that websites have become viable tools for marketing and booking vacation rentals, says Steve Trover, president of the Vacation Rental Managers Association.
One key advantage to online marketing is the ability to showcase a large number of photographs of the property. Because renters likely won't have the opportunity to view the property in person, photographs can make or break a renter's decision. Vacationers have high expectations and will want to know they are receiving all the comforts of home in a vacation rental, Trover says, adding that some owners and managers fail to post enough photos of the property.
"First and foremost are quality pictures," Trover says of steps managers should take in marketing their properties. "I can't say that enough. Unfortunately, a lot of property managers don't do that well. They tend to not put enough emphasis on presenting the property in the best light."
While staging apartments and homes is standard practice for traditional rentals, vacation rentals should be true to the photos you include in your marketing. Vacationers do not like surprises and likely will be disappointed if the property's features and amenities don't match exactly what they saw in the photos, says Heather Bayer, CEO of CottageLINK Rental Management in Toronto.
"If something breaks or if something needs to be changed, the guests have to know," she says. For example, something as simple as showing pictures of bunk beds and then installing single beds instead could leave renters unhappy.
"It's upsetting to a renter who has a seven-year-old who has been looking forward to the top bunk bed," Bayer says.
In addition to photos that depict the current state of the property, you also should provide a detailed description, including the building's layout, amenities and local attractions. Trover says things such as sleeping accommodations for a vacation rental are important to renters and can be detailed in a floor plan.
After all your pre-rental work is done and you actually have a tenant in place, it's time to focus on maintenance. Vacationers are spending small amounts of time in your property, and they expect issues to be resolved almost immediately. If you're managing multiple properties in different locations, it's a good idea to have a maintenance team or caretaker available to do the handiwork. Whether it's a leaky faucet or an air conditioner that doesn't work, vacationers expect household problems to be dealt with immediately.
"It's the traveling public coming in to reside in a property, so they expect everything to be in perfect working order," Bayer says.
For every hour it takes to fix something, it will feel like a week has been taken away from the vacationer, Bayer says, because they have worked hard for that time off and are only living in the unit for a short period. On average, a guest will have worked a week for every day on vacation, so having to wait several hours—or even days—for something to get fixed will impact their vacation time from that perspective, she adds.
Unlike traditional rentals, vacation rentals rarely are rented all year long. Rental terms can be as short as a few days, up to weeks and months. When the property is vacant, take the time to make improvements and increase your chances of renting it during vacation season. Simple tasks such as changing batteries on a keyless entry system and setting up the security system correctly can avoid problems when tenants arrive. Furniture and other cosmetic upgrades also can make the unit more appealing to potential renters.
"Staging and upgrades will increase booking potential and the chance of one-time guests becoming repeat guests," Bayer says.
David Webb, president of RentChalets in British Columbia, suggests updating or adding furniture and appliances, such as flat-screen TVs, blenders, grills and hot tubs, to attract larger parties to the vacation rental.
"Renters are becoming more demanding, and the property manager needs to work with the owners to keep the property constantly upgraded," Webb says. "It has to be a nice place. You've got to keep on top of the repairs."
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