Management & Business
Good business practices and management are key to success.
BOOKING GUESTS DIRECTLY
Getting direct bookings has its benefits. What I like most is that I have real security deposit that I control and do not have to submit a claim for any damage caused by guests. But let me also note that in over twelve years in the vacation rental industry we have never kept a full security deposit. And only a kept a small portion three or four times. And those were mainly for real and accidental broken things: glass fireplace doors shattered, overloaded washer caused a blockage, pull-out garbage bin drawer broken, and excessive dirt and late departure causing severe challenge on a back to back turnover.
We don’t like to keep money from security deposits, it makes guests mad and you surely won’t get them to be a repeat guest. But that can be a good thing. Guests that have paid real security deposits know that they have to be good if they want to get that money back. So that is a benefit.
The other benefit to direct book is that you have less fees and that means more money in your hands. There are some fees if you use credit card processing or PayPal, but the fee is less than what the OTAs charge.
If you book direct you must have a way to collect money online. People are busy so giving them the ability to pay online will make it easy and convenient for them. I created an online invoice that includes my rental agreement. They can pay online with one click using PayPal. This is super easy and very quick. Some people opt to mail checks, which is fine for bookings that are more than a week from check-in.
CREATE AND MANAGE OTA LISTINGS
OTAs (online travel agencies) are almost unavoidable if you want to be successful in vacation rentals, especially if you are just starting out. OTAs are good and bad. The good: deep pockets for search engine optimization and advertising. The bad: too much control over your ranking.
But let’s get past that and focus on how to maximize your listing. The focus here is VRBO, HomeAway, and Airbnb listings. We are well aware that there are many other listing sites, but we are not going to focus on those, let's talk about the big ones. We are not huge fans of Booking.com for a number of reason so we ignore that too here.
Here is what you need for a good listing:
Excellent photos, not good photos, excellent photos
Competitive rates – not rates dictated by the OTAs, but competitive in your area.
Complete the forms or tabs that the listing agency provides
MANAGING YOUR RESERVATION CALENDAR
Managing your calendars over multiple OTAs is easier than you might think, unless you have instant book. I know the OTAs prefer listing to be instant book, but it is suggested to not signing up for instant book. This way you will have more control of the bookings. The best way to do keep from double booking is to choose one OTA calendar as your main calendar and import it into the other OTA platforms. It really is that easy. It can be challenging if you are in a busy or area, and the calendars don’t sync up fast enough. In all of the years I’ve been doing this, there was one or maybe two times when I actually had requests / inquires for same dates from different platforms. So it could happen, but if it is discovered right away then there is no hardship to either potential guest.
In addition to the online calendars I use old-fashioned pencil and paper calendars. I like to visually see the reservations written on paper with guest names, notes about why they are coming to town, if they have any special needs, and if they are bringing their dog. It is just quick and easy. I then actually copy these and share with my cleaners. I have to admit that I really like the paper.
I have a paper calendar for each of my properties. I can see all of my reservations at glance. You can certainly do the same thing on your computer or phone. The point is to have one for each property / listing.
Be sure to block dates needed for turnovers if your property takes more than five hours to turnover. I do this with a larger home that sleeps fifteen because it is impossible to turnover it in five hours. Therefore, I block out the day before and the day after a booked reservation.