The exploding vacation rental industry is hitting it big on the small screen with “Stay Here”, a new series from Netflix that serves up advice that even the most experienced property managers can learn from. Don't have time to binge watch? We've got you covered with 10 MyVR-endorsed takeaways.
“Stay Here” follows renowned interior designer and former “Trading Spaces” star Genevieve Gorder and real estate mogul Peter Lorimer in their quest to transform neglected vacation rentals into unique, revenue-generating properties. But converting the physical properties into glamorous hideaways is only half the bill. The real estate masters teach vacation rental owners and the “Stay Here” audience valuable lessons in navigating the competitive short-term rental industry.
In addition to its practical business lessons and entertainment value, “Stay Here” validates why vacationers are trading in names like Hilton and Marriott for HomeAway and Airbnb at an increasing rate: Travelers want a unique experience rather than a cookie cutter hotel room and, in many cases, save money doing so. The excitement the Netflix hit brings to the trend may convince viewers to try a short-term rental on their next adventure.
What can you learn from “Stay Here” about converting more bookings and improving guest experience? Here are 10 of MyVR’s favorite takeaways:
1. Put any personal stuff in storage
Especially for owners who live in their rentals part of the year, one lesson Genevieve and Peter stress is depersonalizing the space by taking down any decorations that are personal, such as family photos. Guests don’t want to feel as if they are living in someone else’s space.
Peter says, “When you’re in a hotel, you don’t want to feel like you are in someone else’s room.” The same is true here, making it all the more important to put the owners’ souvenirs and heirlooms in a safe place when they aren’t staying there.Genevieve also encourages owners to not let personal biases get in the way of what is best for their business.
2. Set the stage for selfie-worthy moments
Do you want to take a selfie? There’s a good chance guests will; millennials are expected to take more than 25,000 selfies in their lifetime, leaving a trail that often includes Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. As they tour vacation rentals, Genevieve and Peter are constantly looking for an opportunity for what they call an “Instagram moment" - a place that can be subtly staged so guests can capture the perfect selfie.
Even if the property already has a gorgeous beachfront or cityscape view, they encourage owners to create a frame with coordinated furniture or landscaping. And if the view itself doesn’t inspire? The “Stay Here” team encourages other ways to stand out, such as:
- Unique decorations
- A mural that reflects local character or art
- Vintage furniture, or other items that fit the property’s character.
3. Know what the neighbors are doing
When it comes to pricing, Peter implores every property manager and vacation rental owner to know what their competition is doing - and to be honest with the pricing of each property in regards to how they measure up against neighboring short-term rentals.
Some of the questions to consider when setting rates:
- How many rentals are in the neighborhood and surrounding area?
- What are their points of difference and what are their points of parity?
- What makes your rental unique to theirs?
Attractive amenities, a strong niche, and a better location are all reasons to price a rental higher than a close competitor. If the properties are difficult to differentiate, you might consider spending time thinking about the properties’ niche market.
4. Cut through the noise by finding a niche
Each episode, the “Stay Here” team harps on standing out from your competition. Why should a guest choose your short-term rental over a competitor's? Sometimes the property itself is unique, but often it isn’t as simple as owning a houseboat in Seattle or an antique firehouse in DC.
For the property manager who is looking for an interesting spin on a property, ask the owner the history behind the house. If nothing jumps off the page, get creative with the home’s architecture like one “Stay Here” couple did with their 1970s Palm Beach home - they picked a theme and styled the property to match.
If all else fails, lean into your destination’s unique culture to give guests an authentic experience.
5. Create a unique experience for guests
Perhaps our favorite advice Peter gives is, “to succeed in the world of short-term rentals, you have to offer more than just a comfortable place to sleep. You have to guide your guests to great local experiences.”
In addition to a local guide, Genevieve and Peter suggest bringing experiences to your guests, particularly if it’s a luxury rental. Peter advises property managers to work with local businesses to bring one-of-a-kind experiences to your rental - like teaching guests how to smoke their own brisket in Texas, taking them shopping in a Rolls Royce, or taking photos in the driveway with an antique fire truck.
6. Polish the exterior
As often as you clean the interior, the exterior is easy to forget about. Luckily, there are maintenance tricks that can keep outdoor furniture in top shape all year long.
Small things, such as covering furniture padding with covers, will go a long way toward preserving it and saving time in cleaning. Peter recommends hiding eyesores such as exposed piping, gas tanks, and artificial turf that can ruin the illusion of the perfect vacation home.
7. Coordinate a five-star arrival experience
You know what they say about first impressions—they are not the same thing as love at first sight, but they are an invitation to consider the matter. The same can be said for vacation rentals: The property should meet, if not exceed, guests’ expectations from the moment they walk in.
To truly welcome guests to their vacation home, greet guests with a welcome basket filled with unique, local delicacies to start their vacation off on the right foot. Add seasonal decorations to the front stoop, door, or entryway. These small details provide a hotel-like vibe and set the scene for the remainder of their stay. Peter recommends, “Whatever you are charging, take 10% and spend on goodies...for the first night only.”
And remember: A guest’s first impression starts with your property’s listing photos...
8. Sell your property with great pictures
At the end of each episode, Genevieve and Peter bring in a professional photographer to do their hard work justice: “You have to have great pictures to sell your property!”
Peter recommends telling the photographer how you’re marketing each property so they can accurately depict the space. Then, give them a clear theme to capture. For example, if you are showcasing a Jackson Hole cabin as a “romantic getaway,” you don’t want to give off emanations of a “ski bum bachelor pad."
Most importantly, Peter encourages property managers to invest in professional photos and stresses that photos taken with a cell phone aren’t good enough.
9. Give recommendations and make a guide for your guests
If you or the owners are familiar with the area, create a guide that includes favorite restaurants, shops, bars, and activities complete with a map relative to the vacation rental. If you aren’t from the area, consider hiring a local to create one for you, or see if the tourism association has something that’s ready-made.
Make sure your recommendations are in sync with the guests you’re targeting. Properties marketed for luxury should be accompanied by a guidebook full of upscale restaurants, while larger properties in hot bachelor/bachelorette party destinations might include adventurous activities and karaoke bars.
If the property appeals to a wide variety of guests, you may find yourself creating multiple guides based on the purpose of each guests’ stay.
For properties in metropolitan areas with rapid growth, be sure to to revisit the guidebook often. Whether you add unique experiences that have popped up or remove a restaurant that has gone under, it is important your guests have a memorable experience at one of your recommendations.
10. Update appliances and furniture
Whether helping an owner launch a vacation rental for the first time or recommending improvements to an existing rental, Genevieve requires all appliances be up-to-date—it isn’t negotiable.
“If it’s just us, we can live with what we got,” she says. “But when we’re renting to hundreds of other people, we have to satiate and take care of people.”
For a sturdy, charming, and timeless look, Genevieve pushes owners and property managers to use leather furniture to outfit their common areas. She says leather’s great because it’s easy to protect, easy to clean, and it ages well—especially if it’s treated with Scotchguard and conditioned every once in a while to extend its life and maintain its beauty.
Particularly for owners who spend part of the year in the vacation rental themselves, some of these recommendations can be a tougher sell. When that happens, Genevieve and Peter remind owners that in order to use their property as a source of income, the focus needs to be on their guests’ experience, not their own.