When it comes to cutting friends and family a good deal for your vacation rental, ground rules aren’t the only thing to pay attention to.
Before you start filling your vacation rental calendar with bookings from friends and family, or resenting every request you get, consider the following six suggestions for managing what can be a delicate situation.
1. Let them know it’s a special deal
However you handle special arrangements, it’s important to let the person you’re renting to understand that the deal they’re getting is special to them.
If you’re offering your vacation rental for free, chances are that it’s to someone who’s important to you; let them know that this time away is a gift from you. If you’re offering a deep discount, share that it’s a private offer because they’re important to you.
Communicating this helps temper that this is a special arrangement, not your typical business transaction. Also, when they get home, hopefully they’ll tell their friends and colleagues how wonderful your vacation rental is — and focus less on how cheaply you gave it to them.
2. Charge the minimum
Particularly if the requested time slot is during high-season, letting someone stay for free could mean a sizable loss: Not only will you lose a measurable piece of potentially-limited revenue, you’ll still incur any of the costs that come with renting your space (eg. administrative or cleaning fees).
Point friends to your rates page so they understand the current market rate, then offer them the best rate you are willing and able to accept during their stay.
When you first set your rates, you’ll have calculated the bare minimum you need to charge just to break even. While it’s up to you to decide how deeply you want to discount your rate, consider using this amount as your absolute minimum and suggest that they pay a rate that is above that cutoff point.
3. Ask for paying referrals
This can be a particularly helpful arrangement if you’re trying to build your business: In exchange for a special deal, suggest that they refer people they know as potential paying renters to you.
Maybe they know others who are also interested in visiting the area, or simply looking for a place to spend a vacation. Not only can your guest connect you with these potential renters, they can also speak from experience about their own stay at your home and in the area when they get back.
One word of caution with personal referrals: Handle them carefully. This isn’t the time to make your friends choose which of their acquaintances they want to subject to spam from you.
4. Suggest alternate dates
If weekends during a requested period of time are going to be booked but weekdays are less popular, suggest a compromise.
Perhaps your guests could pay full rate for weekends and have the weekdays for free. Or you could offer a deeper discount if they stay only between your busy weekends.
If you know ahead of time that a particular period of time will be booked, but isn’t yet (i.e. for a particular event), suggest alternate dates that will help you keep that block of time available for other renters.
5. Set time aside, then tell everybody about it
If you consistently get requests for free or discounted time at the cottage, be proactive about it: Set aside specific periods of time then make them available on a first-come-first-served or lottery-style basis.
Decide which time slot(s) work best for you, then let people know the dates, any conditions, and how best to let you know they’re interested.
6. Try a bit of bartering
Like the referral exchange mentioned above, often there are other things of value you can exchange with your friends or family.
For example, if your friend owns their own vacation rental, an exchange is an easy way for both of you to get value out of the transaction.
Do they offer business or creative services that would be of assistance to you?
Bartering for something of value to you can make it easier to justify a deep discount.