Guest post by Jeff Caldwell 

When you’re trying to rent your vacation property, your first priority is to attract interested renters — and to do that, you need features that will catch people’s attention when they’re searching online.

Some of the most important are outdoor amenities: the right kind can grab the eye when someone is browsing hundreds of online listings, and can help someone choose your rental over the competition.

A place to sit and relax

A place to sit in the backyardPeople go on vacation to relax, so show that your property gives them a place to do this.

Put plenty of outdoor seating on your property:

  • A hammock between two trees in the backyard might be a good fit.
  • An outdoor table and chairs encourage relaxation and conversation.
  • Add an umbrella to provide shade while your renters sit outside.

Your outdoor space can be as simple or as complex as your budget allows. If you have a porch or patio, you don’t need to spend a fortune on fancy seating. Just make sure you have something there — something that will handle the weather well — and your potential renters will notice.

Don’t forget about lighting so people can still use the space after the sun sets!

A place to cook out

If the weather in your area is conducive to outdoor cookouts or marshmallow roasts, consider adding an attractive grill or fire pit area.

People enjoy the relaxation that comes from gathering around a fire with hot dogs or marshmallows in hand, swapping stories with friends or family while they enjoy the cool evening air.

Be sure to check with your insurance or the homeowner’s association in the community to ensure that a fire pit is allowed.

A place to play

A place for kids to playDoes your rental appeal to people with kids? A small swing set, if it’s not too much of an insurance liability, can be a major draw.

Many parents will opt to rent a property that gives their children a place to play — they’ll have more opportunities to relax if their kids aren’t constantly saying, “I’m bored!”

What can you do if a playground is not allowed or practical? Consider some outdoor games to give the kids something to play with.

Anything that provides some distraction and entertainment will be valued by your guests.

A place to swim

If you have the budget for installation and upkeep, consider investing in a pool or a sauna.

Giving your guests a place to swim can make your property feel more like a resort or hotel. Yes, it can add significant upkeep costs, but the benefit can be more renters who are thrilled to have an on-site pool available. You can also raise your rates because of the extra feature.

A place to enjoy beauty

Don’t forget about the landscaping and garden when you’re improving the outdoor space around your rental property.

Your landscaping doesn’t need to be fancy, but it does need to look nice. This is what will make people stop and take a closer look. Add a few low-maintenance perennial plants to keep the yard looking fresh, clean and beautiful, and enjoy the benefit of more interest in your rental property.

Don’t forget to add rocks or mulch to keep the weeds at bay.

A place for pets

Create a space for animalsDoes your rental property allow pets? If so, consider adding a dog run so animals have a place to enjoy the outdoors off-leash. For vacationers who travel with their pets, this small addition can show that you’re truly a pet-friendly property.

There’s a benefit for you, too: because pet owners are likely to put their pets in the designated area if it is available, it can help protect your lawn and landscaping.

To make your rental property a success, you have to think like a potential renter — which means thinking about what renters look for in a property before they decide to book. Invest in the outdoor amenities and you will get it back through more inquiries and happy guests.

 photos by Chun Kit ToAustin Kirk, Jenn

Jeff CaldwellJeff Caldwell is Brand Manager of Superior Shade (www.superiorshadeinc.com) in Carrollton, GA. Superior Shade provides protection from the elements with products like column umbrellas, custom shades, and shade hips, that provide protection from the sun and harmful UV rays. They provide custom shade structures to fit your business needs.

MyVR has a platform that delivers the tools you need to market and manage your vacation rental business — but what does that actually mean? For people looking at their marketing options, not to mention owners who are new to the industry, it’s hard to capture what we offer in a brief but engaging way.

We contacted Adelie Studios to create a video that would explain what we offer in a way that was quick, engaging, and not full of “marketing speak.”

The MyVR explainer had the impact we were looking for: we got a 34 percent increase in trial signups as a result. And we’re not the only ones who were impressed! Of 6,000 videos entered into an international competition, Adelie Studios was recently awarded a Silver Communicator Award of Distinction from the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts.

Congratulations to the team at Adelie Studios, and thanks for creating such an effective video!

Want to save money, save time, be more organized and look more professional when it comes to managing your vacation rental property? The MyVR team has been busy building great new features — it’s like spring cleaning for your property management to do list.

Continue Reading…

"Oak Terrace Preserve's Walkable Neighborhoods" on Flickr by North Charleston (CC BY-SA 2.0)Referrals are a common way for businesses to grow, and rent-by-owners (RBOs) aren’t any different; you likely already know that word-of-mouth marketing from happy guests can be one of your most powerful assets.

But what about referrals from other businesses — and other vacation rental owners in particular. Is it weird to get referrals from your competitors, or is it a potential source for new bookings that you’ve overlooked?

Continue Reading…

Fish with big eyesLaunching a new website for your vacation rental business is an exciting event…that can quickly deflate when nothing seems to happen. Where are the website visitors? Where are the new bookings?

Like building a business, generating web traffic takes time; over time, there are a lot of different ways you can improve your search engine optimization (SEO) — where you show up in search results — and make it easier for people to find you.

But for now, you just need your site to show up! Continue Reading…

Skift || Here’s a First Look at the Expedia-HomeAway Vacation Rental Experiment

Expedia

After announcing a partnership late last year, Expedia and HomeAway have just launched a beta version of their combined vacation rental search.

The user experience is a little rough, explained Skift’s Dennis Schaal, saying that it “functions more like an advertising relationship would than a tightly integrated booking process.” He also notes, however, that these are only first steps; much will likely change as they gain information and feedback.

Poster for the United States Travel Bureau promoting tourism, showing two cowboys on horseback by stream near desert rock formation. Created for the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project, by Frank S. Nicholson, between 1936 and 1939. [PD] This picture is in the public domain.

Travel Daily News || Vacation rentals even more popular with U.S. travelers in 2014

A recent survey by TripAdvisor found that 52 percent of American travelers plan to stay at a vacation rental in 2014—up from 44 percent last year.

Where are they planning to go, what are they willing to spend, and what amenities are they looking for? Reporter Theodore Koumelis covers the survey’s highlights. Continue Reading…

"Ice storm" on flickr, by Amanda B (CC BY 2.0)From a drought in California to snow in Texas, transportation blocked by ice storms and blackouts—not to mention the introduction of “polar vortex” into everyday vocabulary—it’s been an unpredictable season for traveling.

What do you do when your guests’ vacation is derailed by extreme weather—or worse, they can’t even make the journey to start their trip?

How you respond to any particular situation depends a lot on you and the relationship you have with your guests; there are no clear-cut answers, and it’s unlikely you’ll hit the same unexpected situation twice. But here are some ideas and best practices from other vacation rental owners. Continue Reading…

Sydney Morning Herald || The hottest travel trend of 2014? We know everything about you

We’ve talked about different ways to connect with your guests and provide truly personal service, something vacation rental owners are in a great position to provide. But hotels are upping their game, too. In this article from Australia, industry executives say they’re focused on detailsfrom remembering a guest’s preferred room temperature to buying personalized gifts inspired by their social media posts.

Vacation Rental Marketing Blog || 4 vacation rental guru predictions for 2014

Will 2014 bring more competition or more opportunity for vacation rental owners? Likely a good dose of both, according to the four vacation rental pros interviewed for this predictions post. From new initiatives by big brands to the need for better systems and more comprehensive marketing, our industry is poised for significant growth and change over the next couple of years. Continue Reading…

Once they decide where they want to go, travelers want to know what they can do when they get there, relying on the Internet and a sense of exploration to serve their needs.

However, new and emerging websites and smartphone applications are popping up all the time, many of them delivering information that’s local, socially curated and—in some cases—highly personalized. And they require little if any extra work from you!

Pointing your guest towards resources like these can help make their travel research much easier. Continue Reading…

Guest post by Karen Clark

Once you’ve addressed the vacation rental essentials—like price, convenience and cleanliness—the renters’ market, to some extent, becomes a battle of aesthetics and what’s in vogue.

If you’ve taken steps to automate your vacation home, you already have a leg up. Home automation has seen a massive spike in popularity. Homeowners are tethering their houses to their electronics, and there’s never been a better time for vacation rental owners to consider the smart home game.

Why automation? Why now?

"Home Automation" on Flickr, by Denis P (CC BY 2.0 from www.pallspera.com)Vacation rental owners are specialists in simplicity. With just a few pictures and some lines of text, you can sell an entire experience to tourists. It just goes to show that in the world of travel, easier is always better—and automating your home can bring both simplicity and efficiency.

Home automation has quickly ascended and is close to becoming an industry standard. According to SecurityCompanies.com, the home security and smart home spheres are quickly merging. It’s getting harder to find a home security service that doesn’t offer some type of home automation access and vice versa.

With the onset of automation features gracing so many products in today”s market – from security systems to toasters to sprinklers – it’s only sensible to give your guests the most hassle-free experience possible. Continue Reading…