If you’re thinking about getting into short term rentals, or if you’ve just purchased one, here are my lessons learned so far. In 5 short weeks my little bungalow has had 18 nights of occupancy and 4 reviews. Not bad off the bat!
If you are looking for easy money, do your homework on STRs. Long term rentals are much less work and likely less costly to maintain. While your asset has more potential earnings on the STR side, be ready to treat this as a true business and dedicate the time needed to it.
After 5 weeks of self managing my rental, here are my main takeaways:
- Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Diversify your distribution. It is crazy to dedicate your entire distribution strategy into one platform, yet some people do it. Be sure you are on key sites like Booking.com and VRBO as well as Airbnb. No hotel would just rely on one partner!
- Don’t forget to add the cleaning fee. On Booking.com the cleaning fee but it is not obvious like the other sites. I took two bookings with no cleaning fee by forgetting to add this in!
- Don’t open up your entire year calendar at once. Be strategic and manage your asset. Three to four months ahead max unless they are booking month or weekly stays.
- Don’t do one-night stays unless you have to. Another lesson learned. If you’re in a popular spot be sure to adjust the minimum stay at the same time as you open up availability, otherwise you may end up with a bunch of one nighters.
- Start again. If you are purchasing an existing business utilizing Airbnb you will need to start the account from scratch as a new host. There is no way to inherit it unless you want to be a co-host.
- Cancellations and date changes. This has probably taken the most time in the past month. Having a basic cancellation policy is one thing, what happens in life is another. Future guests end up in hospital or have family members that pass away. You’ll need to decide on a case by case basis how you handle this. The booking sites will call you to ask how you want to deal with it.
- Go direct as soon as possible. Your long-term goal should be building a guest list and going fully direct at some point.
- Create your own website that can capture email addresses and take bookings.
- Use a site like Lodgify or Hostfully to manage your booking calendar and all marketing platforms, including your own site, in one place
- Give your rental a memorable brand name and start social media as that entity as soon as possible.
- The power of the Welcome Basket – remember you are competing with many other listings and aiming for that five star review. A welcome basket with snacks and drinks is a great way to impress and welcome people.
- Booking.com is a great source of guests and also how you can get international bookings as it is a popular site outside the USA.
- Strategically open up 3 months in advance and be sure to create holiday pricing well in advance for those holiday weekends.
- Give it a fresh look if needed. I did not invest in any major upgrades except for décor changes and new plates, linens and towels. I incorporated a yellow theme into the decor and added cute porch items and pillows. Once the property has a good reserve I plan to make more major updates.
- Be very responsive to guests. If you do not respond quickly they will go elsewhere. Review them as soon as the booking site allows you to, so they can review you back.