As a vacation rental property owner, you already know about the benefit of being listed on a vacation rental website. And chances are good you’ve already joined one. If you have, I have a recommendation for you. I’m going to suggest you join another. If you’re an owner of a vacation rental property, it’s worth the money to be listed in at least two directories.
Online vaction rental directories
But first, if you’re not already listed on one of the national or international vacation rental directories, here are the top 3 reasons why you should be:
1. Number of inquiries. The big directories, which charge between $200 and $500 per year to list your property, spend big bucks on advertising. The advertising gets the attention of Mrs. Prospective Vacationer, at just the right time– when she is formulating the summer vacation plans. Personally, as an owner, it’s worth the money for me to have my property listed on five different vacation rental sites. From some I get 5 inquiries in a good week, and from some I might get one inquiry a week – it’s still worth the cost.
2. Quality of inquiries. Theoretically, the ‘list your property for free’ sites should give you the same quality of inquiry as the pay-sites, but they don’t– not in my experience on Cape Cod. From the free sites, scam inquiries actually used to be rare. Now, scam inquiries are a regular occurence. Is “free” really free when you have to spend your valuable time screening prospects because something about their inquiry sounds ‘fishy,’ but you’re not really sure?
3. Pics and videos. At some point in the future (and maybe by the time you’ve finished reading this!), you will need to have at least 20 good quality photos and a couple of videos of your property to compete with other owners that do, and to ‘close the sale’ with a vacationer online. Make sure to list your property on a website that allows for this.
Benefits of listing in multiple directories
Now I’ll talk about how to choose a second vacation rental directory.
The big national and international directories promise to deliver lots of inquiries, and they do. But no single directory gets EVERY vacationer inquiry, or even a majority of them. If you’re only listed in 1 directory, you’re missing out on LOTS of prospective vacationers.
Do you get a rental from every prospect? Neither do I. Not by a long shot. For my Wellfleet Cape Cod rental, I need to get between 5 and 15 inquiries before I get a deposit. It depends on the week. Shoulder season weeks – that’s the spring and fall in Cape Cod – are harder and need more internet exposure. Summer weeks are easier to rent and need less exposure, so fewer inquiries are needed. But the summer weeks are so valuable. I’m more confident about raising prices when I’m getting more inquiries. More inquiries can get you more income.
In evaluating whether it’s worth it to list your property on more than one rental directory, consider the possibility that an additional directory listing could result in one additional week or weekend rental. What’s your lowest priced week? If it’s $600 or more, then you can see how it’s worth it.
Another reason to join an additional vacation rental directory even if you’re already listed in one is specialty. Some directories specialize in a certain geographic area. For example, First Vacation Rental specializes in Wellfleet and Cape Cod and has a “Things to Do” section on their site. Directories like this can enhance and emphasize the desirability of a specific location. This may add value to your individual vacation rental.
Lastly, another reason to join a second (or third or fourth) vacation rental directory: Customer Support. Was it a hassle to list your property in your current directory? I know what that’s like. I’ve listed my vacation rental in about 12 different sites over the years. What a pain. But some of the new sites make it extremely easy. Some will walk you through the process over the phone, use the pictures you already have, even come to your house and take high quality shots. (High quality pics are VERY important, but that’s another topic.) Look for a vacation rental directory that has a “Whatever it takes to earn your business” attitude.
Online vacation rental directories are a great tool to rent available weeks and to increase the inquiries you get for your popular weeks, giving you the confidence to raise prices. Because each directory has different strengths, you can often benefit by listing in two or more directories. Vacationers use one directory at a time, and if you’re not listed there then they won’t find your property. And a vacationer who becomes interested in your property could be a life-long customer.
How did people plan out their vacations before the internet? Nobody knows… At least that’s the impression you’d get from the newest generation of vacationers. Like so many other things, the internet has increased the ease and flexibility of finding a vacation destination, learning about it, and finally, booking a rental.
Learn about the area
There’s information online about every popular vacation destination. You may want to become acquainted with the area before booking your stay. This part of the process is helpful for picking a town for your vacation as well as planning possible activities for once you get there.
Search for a rental
Vacation rental directories are the easiest places to find a vacation home because they’re designed specifically for that purpose. You can browse listings by town, and usually run a search using the search feature. You should think about what’s most important to you. Vacation rentals can be sorted by price and the number of people the house can comfortably sleep. It sometimes pays to be flexible on the number of bedrooms you use in your search. For example, there might be a house that sleeps 7 people that’s cheaper than another that sleeps 6, and you wouldn’t necessarily want to filter it out just because it sleeps “too many” people for your group. You can also sometimes filter for specific amentities, such as wireless internet and air-conditioning.
Each vacation rental home listing contains a description written by the owner, broker, or manager. Although the description might be biased (“Best vacation rental in the world!”), it usually contains a lot of useful tidbits about the property. Contained in the description are often answers to common vacationer questions, such as “How close is the house to the beach?” and “Do you allow pets?”
Most vacation rental websites encourage homeowners to mark down which weeks their house is available. Owners mark down this information in an online “availability calendar.” Some owners don’t take advantage of this feature, but many owners keep their calendars up to date as the season progresses and their weeks fill up. The availability calendar allows you, the vacationer, to compare your desired vacation dates to the dates the house is available for renting.
Contact the owner
Once you’ve found a vacation rental you like, the next step is to contact the owner (or manager, in some cases). You can do this by clicking a link or button on the vacation rental listing page. You can ask the owner any questions you may have; this is the conversation that will eventually close the deal.
Homeowners tend to transact business in similar ways, but each individual owner may have a slightly different process. This is why it’s necessary to work out the details with her. Upon reaching an agreement, you’ll end up signing a lease and sending the owner a check. Then there’s nothing left to do but pack your bags and prepare to vacation!