You put a lot of effort into marketing your vacation rental. You have a great-looking website, relevant information, and professional photographs. Plus, there’s the time, energy and money you’ve invested in purchasing and maintaining the property.
In many ways, all that work boils down to one critical moment: When your renters open the front door.
While your marketing efforts, and any correspondence you’ve had, are what draws guests to your doorstep, their decision to rent from you has been based on no small amount of trust and logic: They may have fallen in love with the photos, but it’s the location, budget, and their needs that made the decision for them.
The thing is, people are emotional creatures. Your home won’t leave a lasting impression because it had two bedrooms and a balcony. Instead, the tone for their trip will largely be set by what they find when they step through the doorway.
Reward the trust they’ve placed in you with the quality, service and style they expect — or, even better, exceed those expectations — by staging your vacation rental. This attention to detail isn’t just good customer service; building the perception of positive value will help protect your business and rates in the future.
- Invest upfront. As recommended in our expert vacation rental photo tips, it’s best to use what you have on-site when staging your photos. So, start with products that set the right tone for your vacation rental — quality linens and towels, furniture and supplies. When you start with good-quality materials, it takes less effort to make your property look good!
- Refresh, don’t redecorate. When preparing a home to sell, professional stagers may swap furniture, art and other accessories to show a room at its best. As noted above, this isn’t ideal for your vacation rental; nobody wants to show up after months of planning only to learn that what they’d come to expect was only meant for show.
- Meet expectations. Just as you don’t want your vacation rental to have a different look in person than online, you also need to make sure your home meets expectations for cleanliness, services and accessories. Whether your guests anticipate office supplies, a fully-stocked kitchen, or chairs so they can relax on the patio, make every effort to have everything in place before they arrive.
- Just like new. If you provide things like liquid soap or dish detergent, buy them in bulk and refill between guests. Be sure to remove any half-used products that have been left behind, like soap, shampoo, or perishable food. Andrea Angott, a PhD who studied real estate staging, said this in an interview with the Chicago Tribune: “People don’t want to feel that the house they’re buying is lived-in — that other human beings are shaving and brushing their teeth in [the house].” The same applies to your vacation rental; don’t remind your guests of all the people who’ve used the space before.
- Clear the clutter. Clutter can creep up on you; make sure it doesn’t build up over time with books or other bits and pieces that have been left behind.
- Stay neutral. When choosing paint colors or adding accessories like rugs and throw cushions, keep your palette neutral: Avoid anything notably masculine or feminine, and stay away from bright colors.
- Group your furniture. “There’s a common belief that rooms will feel larger and easier to use if all the furniture is pushed against the walls, but that isn’t the case” noted HGTV in 15 Secrets of Home Staging. Assess the living areas, keeping an eye out for furniture that might get in the way or spaces that could be arranged differently.
On the day your guests arrive, there are small details that can help make your guests feel right at home:
- Setting out fresh flowers — or silk, if that’s a better option for you.
- Place a bowl of fresh fruit in the kitchen.
- Leave a welcome letter for them.
- Open all the doors so the space feels inviting.
Pay attention in your own travels, too. Do you like the way hotels fold the toilet paper ends into triangles, or the thoughtfulness of leaving mints or chocolates on the pillow?
Remember: Your guests are staying in your vacation rental because of the style and services it has to offer, whether that’s a home away from home for the travelling business person or an artist’s retreat. Create your own standards for customer service to match the unique property you’ve already created!