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baby highchairI have a one-year old daughter, 3 nieces and a nephew. My family is pretty large, with lots of children, and we like to travel together. But babies and kids require a lot of extra luggage that makes a well-stocked family-friendly vacation rental even more enticing to me. When thinking about how to market your home to families, especially those with young children, consider the following.

Bathtub – Most kids don’t start showering until they’re at least 5 or 6 years old. Until then, a bathtub (or large kitchen sink in some cases) will get the job done. I know one owner who provides a plastic baby bathtub for guests. An inflatable tub would also be useful and collapses for easy storage.

Books – If you’ve stocked the library full books for the adults, be sure to have some children’s books on hand too. You can always buy inexpensive used books at a local children’s store or borrow them from the town library.

Crib – Families with young children don’t want to lug around a portable crib on vacation. If your rental already has one, show it in the photos and list it as an amenity. If there’s a local baby rental store that delivers and sets up cribs for out-of-towners, provide a link on your local guide. Continue Reading…

limo driverMarketing your vacation rental as a “luxury” property is tricky because your definition of what constitutes luxury may be different than that of the traveler. Is it because your furnishings are top-of-the-line? Because you hired an interior decorator to meticulously design each room? Personally, when I think of luxury, I think of top-notch service comparable to a Ritz Carlton hotel. Obviously your vacation rental is not a hotel (nor would anyone want it to be), but there are plenty of concierge services you can offer your guests to improve the quality of their stay. These range from the inexpensive to the extravagant, and everything in between.

Scheduled Airport Pickup

This one is fairly simple to organize in any town or city. Just do a quick search on Google or Yelp for “SFO airport pickup” and you’ll find plenty of options to choose from. Find a sedan car provider with great reviews and give them a call to arrange. In larger cities, on-demand services like Uber can be arranged upon arrival. The driver will usually hold up a sign at the airport arrival area with the guests name, but be sure to ask just in case. Depending on the location, sedan car services can range from $50 – $150 each way. Continue Reading…

inquiry formOnce you have your vacation rental management process figured out, it’s time to start getting guests through the door. With the growth of social media and the omnipresent Internet, marketing isn’t what it used to be — and it’s changing all the time.

As you start moving forward with your marketing plan, here are some terms you’ll likely hear, particularly when it comes to your website and online promotional activities.

Keep hearing a term that’s not on this list?  Please post it in the comments section below.

Analytics — the numbers you use to measure progress and results, and watch for patterns. For example, you may keep track of your web conversions, like the number of website visitors who send you an inquiry. Or, you may use this information over time to monitor whether the number of visitors to your website peaks at particular times of the year. (See also Conversion Rate.)

Auto Responder — an email that is automatically sent when someone sends you a message or inquiry. They can be a great way to deliver better customer service and help connect people quickly with important information about your property.

Call to Action — a word or phrase that encourages your reader to take a particular action, like “continue to reservation” or “share your review”.

Categories — broad topics used to group blog posts. For example, MyVR’s categories include “Contracts & Payments”, “Inquiries & Bookings”, and “Social Media”. (See also Keywords, Tags.) Continue Reading…

farmhouseYou can probably distinguish between a yacht, apartment and a villa. But what’s the difference between an apartment and a condo?

The truth is, many of these terms can be used to describe the same property; one person’s chalet could easily be another person’s cabin. You may choose a term because of what’s commonly used in your area, or because of the feeling a particular word evokes. Here’s an overview of the more standard categories.

Apartment — one of a number of units within a building that is owned by one common person or entity. (See also condo.)

Bungalow — generally speaking, a detached house where the main living areas are all on one floor. It may be one-and-a-half stories, with additional living space in either a basement that has above-ground windows or a second floor built under the slope of the roof. More specific features vary by region.

Cabin — “a small one-story dwelling usually of simple construction,” as defined by Mirriam-Webster. The term has traditionally implied a more rustic building. (See also chalet, cottage.) Continue Reading…

vacation rental taxesHotSpot Tax Services caters to the vacation rental industry and has a great list of reasons why vacation rental tax compliance is important. Among the best is that it creates an important revenue stream for state and local governments that can in turn protect our industry.

Tax is a scary little word – no one enjoys paying or collecting them – but you shouldn’t second guess your own willingness to comply. You are doing the right thing. What’s the best way to present them to guests? Continue Reading…

dictionaryAs a vacation rental owner and occasional traveller yourself, you’ve probably already noted the difference between being the person who makes a reservation, and being the person responsible for delivering on one.

Choosing to rent your second home as a vacation rental is a big decision, but it’s just the first of many.

As you set up your rental property, things you’ve never given a second thought — how much a reservation deposit should be, for example, or the difference between a property manager and a caretaker — don’t just need you to take a position. Your business depends on you making an informed decision.

Understanding the lingo is an important first step! Some terms may seem straightforward or even simple common sense, but as they say: Context is everything.

Following are some of the more common vacation rental terms explained. Wondering about a term that’s missing from the list? Please post it in the comments section below. Continue Reading…

flipkey 2012 top5s

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Getting the optimum rate at peak times requires that you really understand your market and competition. You know what to charge, when to charge it, and how to market your vacation rental in ways that other owners are overlooking. It requires some data analysis and a lot of organization. Let’s see how your rental stacks up for the 5 busiest weeks of the year and what you can do to stay ahead of the game.

The Five Busiest Weeks of the Year

FlipKey recently blogged that, according to past data, the busiest weeks for vacation rentals are:

  1. Christmas week
  2. 4th of July week
  3. Week before Christmas
  4. Midsummer (end of July – beginning of August)
  5. Midsummer (second to last week of July)

To see if you’re ahead of the game or about to play catch up, go to HomeAway, VRBO and FlipKey to see how far in advance similar rentals are booked up for these periods. Are you happy with what you see?

5 Marketing Steps That Put Inquiries In Your Inbox

mailboxIf you still have availability during the peak season, or feel you’re not earning top dollar for your rental during those periods, make sure you’re following these steps to drive inquiries and bookings. Continue Reading…

cat eyesThe average traveler will visit between 3-5 vacation rental websites, and inquire about 7 different properties, according to data from FlipKey. To make the shortlist, you need to do one critical thing: Get their attention!

That doesn’t mean SCREAM AND SHOUT at travelers with all caps, use lots of exclamation marks!! or even post photos of cute little kitties to make them swoon. It means putting together a great listing that speaks directly to your target traveler.

The real competition starts with the search results. If you’re updating an existing listing, take a minute to search for yours and see what kind of “first” impression it makes. If you’re feeling too biased, show a friend and see what they think.

Just yesterday I was asked to look at a great vacation rental in Maui. Their listing title said “true beachfront property” which was compelling to me as a traveler. One time I stayed at a hotel that said “beachfront” only to find a busy, 2-lane street intersecting my room and the beach. But, with their title in place, the first shot that appeared in the search results was a photo of the bedroom. Not exactly the beachfront I was envisioning.

All of the items that typically appear in the search results are pulled from your listing (you can’t customize them separately), so be sure to keep these in mind when creating your listing.

  • A small photo of the property (approx 1.5” wide x 1” tall)
  • The headline
  • Basic details (i.e. number of rooms, max occupancy, rates)
  • The number of reviews received, maybe including star rating
  • A very brief summary (i.e. the first sentence of your description)

Continue Reading…

family reunionIf you were looking for the perfect vacation rental for your family reunion, which headline would get your attention?

  1. Amazing, multilevel 6 bedroom spacious home 6000 SF
  2. Waterfront Tahoe Keys Home, Hot Tub, Boat Dock
  3. Comfortable 6 Bedroom, 4 Bathroom House in South Lake Tahoe

The reality is, these three rental properties from FlipKey all have six bedrooms and sleep 16 people. They’re all good headlines, but A stands out. Why? It packs in four ways to tell you it’s big – multilevel, 6 bedrooms, spacious, 6,000 square feet – before you even click.

While some owners shy away from accommodating groups, others rely on it. But, it’s important to think about what types of groups might be relevant for your home. Some groups might include:

  • Family reunions
  • Church group vacations or bible study weekends
  • Close friends for a ski trip
  • Corporate off-site or retreat
  • Activity-based group like geocaching or kayaking

According to FlipKey, houses are the #1 type of vacation rental property, making up 67% of their listings in 2012. If your rental property is a home, you have a large market, but you need to stand out. Here are a few basic steps to attract large groups to your vacation rental. Continue Reading…

writing descriptionPhotos that capture the best your vacation rental has to offer are critical when it comes to attracting attention — but they’re not the only thing that matters. In fact, they may not even be the most important thing.

Without the “1-2 punch” from great photos and an effective description, travelers who come across your listing may move on to someone who does a better job of showing and telling what their property has to offer.

What earns an inquiry is a rental that captures the imagination or meets the needs of a particular traveler. Your description’s goal is to relay the key features of your property as effectively as possible.

1. Have a great intro

You first sentence helps shape first impressions and hooks people into reading more.

Starting with the basics, like “This three-bedroom house is in a quiet neighborhood that’s walking-distance to downtown,” is a simple way to begin.

However, an opening like this misses a great opportunity for two reasons: Continue Reading…