So you have purchased the perfect vacation property in the ideal location. Congratulations, you are on your way to creating a profitable and rewarding business! Here a few tips for selecting your property listing service to get you on the fast road to rental success.
A Bit About Our Journey
When my wife and I bought our first vacation rental property, we had no idea where to start. We just believed we could do it and we were determined to succeed. How hard can it be, right? We started our education of listing sites how most folks learn things these days, by using Google. We searched and digested every article we could find related to property rental listings. We ultimately learned a lot, so now we wish to help you fast track your listing without countless research hours.
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Set Your Goals to Choose Your Path
Choosing the right site or sites to list your short term rental is a critical first step on your path to success. How much time and effort do you want to invest in the process? Is maximizing rental income a strong motivation for you? Fear not as this isn't a complicated process; you need to identify your goals and plot your course to get there. We are here to assist you along the way.
Strategy #1 - Cover Your Costs With a Single STR Listing Site
If you want to cover your expenses and maybe make a few bucks along the way, select one of the big three vacation rental listing sites. These are Airbnb, VRBO, and Booking.com, in no particular order. Many other companies that you may be thinking of, like Orbitz, Travelocity, Kayak, etc., are part of the Expedia group, which also owns VRBO. Aren't monopolies grand? VRBO and Airbnb feature full site editing, simple rate setting, and seamless guest communications. Airbnb charges the lowest base commission rate, which will maximize your profits. VRBO percentage rate is higher, but they also offer a flat annual fee that is the best value for property owners with many bookings. Booking.com is a European company with a global reach for attracting a broad spectrum of travelers. They also offer promo codes to boost rentals. All of the listing sites have their merits and detractors, depending on the features that matter most to you. You will find a full comparison and our recommendations in a future article.
Strategy #2 - Make Serious Income With a Combination of VRBO, Airbnb and Booking.com listings
If you are willing to up your commitment and want to bring in some significant rental income, you will need to use two or three top STR listing sites. When you are first starting your business, this is particularly true. When your site listing first goes live, you will be competing against established sites. They will have many guest reviews and will rate higher in the search hierarchy than you. Don't get discouraged; you will quickly move up the rankings with good site set up and management.
This second approach requires more set up time initially and a more hands-on approach to managing your reservations. Your listing sites won't talk to each other (not without a channel manager), so you will need to stay on top of your bookings or risk the dreaded double booking. It's no fun to have to contact a guest and tell them that their dates aren't available due to a calendar snafu. You will need to synchronize your rates for consistency as well. If you are up for the challenge of running multiple sites, your wallet will thank you for your extra effort.
"I DON'T MUCH LIKE QUITTERS, SON." – JOHN WAYNE
Strategy #3 - You are in it to win it, add a personal website with a channel manager.
So you are all in to make some big money and are willing to go the extra mile to get there? Consider adding TripAdvisor and a personal website to your rental repertoire. TripAdvisor is prominent in certain parts of the United States and has a significant international following. Best know for travel reviews, they also offer property bookings.
Personal websites now come in easy to use templates from companies such as WIX and WordPress. Very little technical skill is needed to edit and operate them. Our website choice for reservation management is Lodgify, which only deals in Vacation Rental sites and, most importantly, comes with a channel manager.
🔥We are smitten with the Lodgify system and will promote it shamelessly because we genuinely believe in it. Our intention when purchasing it was to get commission-free bookings without using the paid listing sites. The unexpected bonus was how it simplified our rental business by coordinating the rates and bookings from my listing sites. Now we don't even care about the commission-free reservations; we need the site coordination. If you intend to have multiple rental properties, this should be a no brainer.
A channel manager will make your life so much easier by coordinating your reservations across the various listing sites. It will indeed be the brains of your rental operation. Gone are the days of double bookings because you missed manually updating your reservations. A personal website will also allow you to book reservations without the fees charged by the listing sites. The website comes in handy when friends, family, and repeat customers wish to stay at your place. We use this so that we can charge the housekeeping fee to our friends.
Ultimately you will need to decide how hands-on you want to be with your rental business. There is nothing wrong with taking a leisurely path and just covering your expenses. But it is a business where you can make a lot of income if you are willing to put in the time. It's like most anything else in life; the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it.