I bought my first property when I was 19. Even in my young years I really saw the value in investing in real estate. My husband also shared this philosophy and even had loftier goals than myself with regards to acquiring property and investing in real estate. It hasn’t always been easy… we have made sacrifices to fulfill this vision, but we see the bigger, longer-term picture.
A few years ago we decided to purchase a property on the coast of Maine with the end goal of it becoming a vacation home that we could list on VRBO. We have been renting out our other properties for over a decade now, but we had never ventured into this arena before and were a little nervous, but we hoped with our background in real estate, my background in design, that we could create a place that people would want to come. We are so glad we did! It is shaping up to be our most profitable real estate investment by far. As an added bonus we have a place to go and gather as a family near our family… and it makes us money! Win-win.
Now we have plans to acquire more vacation rentals. Since getting bookings is how you get paid, here are my top 5 tips on how to get bookings. We are already almost fully booked for 2019. The vacation season is much shorter in Maine than most due to the weather (long winter). But rents are high and that helps us to cover our yearly expenses (and hopefully make a profit) in a short amount of time. We only have a few weeks left for 2019 and are already booking for 2020!
Here is how we get bookings:
If you want to stand apart from the competition, you must have a beautifully decorated home. If you have a nack for that, great! Do it yourself. If you don’t (or you are not sure) hire a professional to give you a consultation. You can carry out their plan and vision yourself or you can get a stager/designer to do it for you. But be prudent. This is a business so you want to get the best bang for the book without spending a fortune.
Make sure you take into consideration who your ideal renter is and where your home is located. For example, our home is on the coast in New England so you will definitely see that in the way I chose to decorate it. But I was extremely thrifty in all my design choices. Do not spend more than you have to, but at the same time, do not cheap out.
You want to give your vacationers an experience. You NEED to stand apart from the competition. Design your vacation property “to the Nines”!
** Side note: I now do virtual design consultations for a very reasonable rate, so feel free to reach out to me for more information.
I am surprised how many people don’t do this. Vacationers are finding your property online. Photography is the only the have to go off of. Yet still, I see dark, drab, and unappealing photos and people wonder why their home isn’t filling up as they want. People won’t get a food feeling looking at these kinds of pictures and they WILL move on to something that looks bright and inviting. Your property photos will be what sells your property. If they don’t highlight your home, you won’t get bookings.
It is definitely worth paying someone $200 to do this for you. If you think you can do it yourself, then make sure you brighten up your photos with an editor such as Picmonkey.com. But you should be able to write off that $200 as a business expense and you have professional pictures that will get people to hit the Book Now button!
This is SO important! If your vacation home is really clean it will show in the photos. However, this is a bigger picture point. To get bookings you need good reviews… you need an immaculate home to get good reviews. People do not want to be in other people’s dirt. Also, you want people to want to come back. We were lucky to hit the jackpot in this arena. Our cleaner is amazing!
I won’t dwell on this too much because I think you get the point… but in my experience, cleaniliness is somewhat subjective. What is considered clean to one person may not be to another so you need to err on the side of the most anally retentive clean freak you know. Would it be to their standards? If no… keep scrubbing and cleaning.
Pricing is a little nerve-wracking at first. You want to price it in a manner to maximize your profits, but low enough that you get it booked. You need to do your homework and be very realistic about your property. No rose colored glasses here.
You will hear the term “beds and heads” with regards to vacation rental homes. How many beds are there and how many people can it sleep? When you consider price, you need to look at your competition see what they are getting (and how booked they are), the condition of the home, the size and the beds and heads. If you are just starting out try setting the price a little below the competition to win the business. As the demand for your property increases, the price can follow suit.
As I mention in my video, you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket. If you do, you are missing business. You want to maximize your exposure. You must list your home on more than one website. I use VRBO and AirBnB.
This does complicate things a bit. But the little extra work you will have to do will be worth it in the end. For example, if you get a booking on VRBO, you will need to quickly block off that time on AirBnB so you don’t accidentally double book.
I have found that long-term planners typically use VRBO, while short-term planners use AirBnB. While this is kind of a generalization, it does seem true. This way I am capitalizing on both types of planners and the advantage goes to the bank account via more bookings.
If you are looking to start renting your property through AirBnB or VRBO, if you like you can click on the link to sign up (I may receive a small commission):
Now there may be other things to consider to be successful in booking your vacation property, such as timely response, good customer service skills, etc. But the above list were my top suggestions.
If you follow these things, you too can realize wonderful income potential from your vacation property. Good luck!
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