To a vacation home renter, your home is one in a million. According to FlipKey, the average traveler will search through numerous property listings across four different websites before finally selecting seven properties to send inquiries to.

Let’s say you’ve got the great photos and relevant information included in your listings to garner one of those requests. Are you ready?

What happens next can make all the difference between a dead-end and a confirmed booking – if not on this trip, then perhaps sometime down the road. How can you create the best chance for a successful inquiry-to-booking conversion?

Be Prepared

Given the next point – the need to respond as soon as possible – doing what you can to limit the amount of work needed on your end makes that fast response easier to turn around.

Collect information people frequently request into one document or folder that you can easily reference. You can also add the information to your website, but keep in mind that responding to email also gives you a great opportunity to connect with potential renters; connecting with someone personally will get a better response than referring them back to your FAQ webpage.

What should you have ready to copy-and-paste into an email?

  • Boilerplate information (i.e. content you can use in virtually every email), like your name and all relevant contact details and a link to your website.
  • Answers to common questions, like your pet or cancellation policy, defining your high and low seasons, or explaining your maximum occupancy or minimum age requirements.
  • Local tourist information for families, couples, or other niche groups that you can easily add for their reference.
  • Questions about information you want to know that people may not include, like the purpose of their stay or any special requests.

Always respond quickly

According to the Harvard Business Review, following up on a lead within one hour has a 7x better chance of earning a conversation than not. That conversation won’t necessarily win the booking for you, but bookings often go to the first person who responds to answer questions or confirm availability.

Check your email and phone messages on a regular basis; if you have a smartphone, you can even set alerts to notify you when new emails are delivered.

Consider picking up the phone

“[Vacation home owners] who call rather than e-mail have a significantly higher conversion rate than those who simply e-mail,” says this article from HomeAway. People don’t always monitor their email, so a quick phone call instead of an email response may give you an edge over your competition.

This also gives you the opportunity to connect with them personally and answer any questions they might have in a very timely way. If they’re still not interested in booking, you can follow-up with an email that references your conversation and directs them to any relevant additional information.

Go above and beyond

If you exceed expectations from the start, you’ll create a good foundation to build on. Deliver more than people expect by pointing them to your local guide or, if you know why they’re planning their trip, link them to related information. For example, a family planning a week-long vacation may appreciate a heads-up about a festival happening while they are in town.

Give them options

If you’re already booked for the time period requested, but your rental is available around their selected dates, let them know about the availability in case their dates are flexible.

Advanced tips

  • Add an email form: Accepting inquiries via a form eliminates some time-consuming back-and-forth, and helps ensure you have key details to effectively respond to an inquiry. A word of advice: Even with a form, your email address should still be available – on your contact page, for example – for guests who’ve already booked, or people who have other inquiries.

  • Promote your newsletter: Invite people to sign up for your newsletter to encourage future bookings. If it’s someone who regularly visits the area, or who has an interest in returning, this will enable you to keep them informed about the community and upcoming events, and help keep your property top-of-mind.

Anecdotally, a typical inquiry-to-booking ratio is approximately 5:1 although that can change by season or location. Once you have your own data, figure out what your ratio is as a starting point, then fine-tune your process to improve your results.