Real Estate Marketing

13 Mistakes New Vacation Rental Owners Always Make

13 Articles Written
Vacation Rental Owner

Vacation rental owners and managers are categorically new to the hospitality world.

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And so their list of common mistakes often reads like a who’s who of disaster-causing agents, certain to hold back their full vacation rental potential.

As a market researcher, I’ve decided to list 13 of the most common new vacation rental owner mistakes, along with solutions to help avoid negative impact:

1. Assume unrealistic conversion rates: As competition gets stronger in the vacation rental space, fewer inquiries will turn into actual bookings, merely because travelers have more property options and can afford to be picky. With this change, it becomes critical for owners/managers to stay updated on their property’s conversion rates: in other words, what standard is “normal” for converting an inquiry to an actual reservation? Lose track of this rate (or worse, pose unrealistic goals) and you’re in the dark.

2. Exhibit frustration with slow bookings: Every single owner/manager has slow periods and since most of us lack business backgrounds, it can be very debilitating to see “nothing working.” It’s important to remember, however, that vacation rental marketing is not an activity, but a culture. Spend time building and crafting your portfolio and ultimately the work will pay off. (In the meantime, use a quick fix like Google Adwords or upgraded listing packages to stay in business.)

3. Stop spending: One of the easiest yet most dangerous tendencies when things are either really good or really bad is to stop your marketing efforts. But in doing so, you lose momentum. Know what amounts you are comfortable spending (and know how much time you can realistically dedicate) and make it part of your budget (just like maintenance of your house). In both good times and in bad.

4. Put off the task of building a website: The daunting task of launching a website for your property(s) is probably #1 on the procrastination list for owners and managers. But the bad news is that it’s also probably the most time-sensitive of all marketing techniques! Since a website’s age is one of the biggest factors that contributes to how well it organically ranks in Google searches, every day you put this off is another day you’ve lost in garnering bookings down the road.

5. Utilize solely dependence channels: I’ve seen plenty of individuals with huge marketing portfolios (which is great) that consist exclusively of pay-as-you-go platforms like listing sites, Google Adwords, or marketing agents that take a cut out of each booking they send your way (which is…not great). Remember to diversify your property’s marketing armoire with independent channels like your own blog, email marketing, and the like. These are the efforts that will pay you back over time and contribute to sustainable lead flow.

6. Put all your eggs in one basket: Following in the footsteps of #5, don’t ever be caught investing (whether it is time or money) in solely one marketing platform. If, for one reason or another, it goes kaput, you’re out of business.

7. Set and forget: It can be easy to spend time writing a listing description or submitting your property to a local directory, and then pretty much forget about it. But the nature of vacation rental marketing is that it’s always changing. So revisit your work every six months to make sure you’re up-to-date on the most cutting edge message your property’s after.

8. Lose sight of long-term loyalty: In the beginning stages of your vacation rental business, it can be easy to opt for a dollar today instead of two dollars tomorrow. But be careful: guest loyalty is the cornerstone of any sustainable vacation rental marketing plan. Use this theme as the moral compass to resolve any judgment calls or marketing decisions and your long-term vision is more likely to be realized.

9. Use your own amateur photos: I hate that I have to keep saying this. But please, I beg you: hire a professional photographer (or trade her) to take photos of your property. It's probably the single strongest first impression factor available. Think about it: when two very similar vacation rentals are side-by-side, the nicer photos always win.

10. Hire the wrong consultants: I know full well that not everyone wants to do their own vacation rental marketing (and that is fine). But one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to hire the wrong consultant who charges too much and doesn’t deliver results. Since many of us aren’t experts in this industry, it can be easy to have the wool pulled over our eyes.  So ask around extensively before you hire and make sure that goals/results are statistically and tangibly verifiable.

11. Sell don’t help: Owners and managers who prefer to try and sell potential guests with various pitches, deals, and promotions before helping them in truly useful ways are in great danger. Shift the balance of your help-versus-sell scale in the right direction to avoid severing ties with the very core of your vacation rental following.

12. Assume potential guests know anything: It can be very easy to get complacent and forget that potential guests know nothing about your rental (and frankly, they probably don’t even care about your rental until you stand out from the competition). But in doing so – in neglecting to take that 50,000-foot view to “start from scratch” in your sales process with each and every inquiry – you will be soaring over the heads of many serious bookings.

13. Convince yourself that everything costs money: Don’t assume that all vacation rental marketing costs money. In fact, the large majority of tips in my newsletter are free to implement. If you’re  not absolutely desperate to make money, don’t be afraid to bootstrap it for a while. Compensate your hold on monetary spending with effort and ingenuity.

Do you have any others you’d like to add? Leave them, or any other comments, below!

    Jessica Sala-Bonin
    Replied almost 7 years ago
    Great list! Will def be sharing this!
    Matt Landau
    Replied almost 7 years ago
    Thanks Jessica!
    Replied almost 7 years ago
    Great advice!!!
    Replied almost 7 years ago
    Thanks Jimmy!
    Susan Gillespie
    Replied almost 7 years ago
    I would add making decisions based on emotion instead of business sense. It’s easy to get carried away with thoughts of the “vacation” part, like relaxing at the beach, instead of focusing on the “rental” part, like marketing, administration, understanding customers, etc. My first investment property was a vacation home. There are many long-term benefits to vacation home rentals, but it needs to be approached as a business. This is a helpful list for new and longer-term owners alike.
    Replied almost 7 years ago
    Great addition Susan!
    Elisa Davidson
    Replied about 6 years ago
    Hi Matt, Thanks for the post. We are slowly improving our old, rundown beach house. We are plowing all of our profits into renovations and upgrades. My parents are in their 80’s and had let things slide. My question is about choosing a professional photographer. Where do I go to get recommendations? When I Googled it, I found lots of Real Estate photographers, and some included “Hospitality Industry” in their description, but is there some place We can look to get recommended professionals? Thanks for the help. I want to set up our web site next. We tried once, but were overwhelmed and quit.