4 Vacation Rental Policies to Boost Bookings in Low Seasons & Maximize Profits in High Seasons

by | BiggerPockets.com

You need to run a vacation home just like you do a business—income has to be equal to or greater than expenses. Here in Orlando, September is the beginning of our slow season. What I like to do during the two or three slower months (September and October) is review our rental booking policies so we can be more profitable next year. Here are a few ideas you might want to consider making to your reservation policies in 2016 to be more profitable.

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4 Vacation Rental Policies to Boost Bookings & Maximize Profits

Use Smart Pricing

Here in Orlando we have about eight weeks of high booking season, during which you should price your vacation home at the top of the market. After all, it is called high season because there are usually more guests coming to town than there are vacation homes. During low season, price your nightly rates near the bottom of the market. During low season, guests are looking around trying to find themselves the best deals, so offer them the absolute lowest price you can.

I like to look at my high and shoulder booking seasons as the time of year when I need to maximize my profits for my vacation home. I look at any bookings that I receive during the low season as freebies since I am not really counting on getting a whole lot of bookings during these slower times.

Perform Yield Management

You should keep a record of everyone who has booked with you in the past and send them an email offering them a great rate if they would like to rent your house out again. What you are trying to do here is build a base of business, and by doing this, it will allow you to do a little yield management to make more money.

Related: 5 Steps to Renting Out Your Vacation Property As Quickly As Possible

If you are not familiar with how “yield management” works, it is really simple: If you have 14 nights already booked in your vacation home for the month of February, then you raise your nightly rates for the open nights just a little, after you secure another booking in February, you raise the other open nights a little more. You will be surprised at how much more money you will make at the end of the year by just raising rates a few dollars here and a few dollars there.

Implement a Reservation Fee

Here is breaking news: The easier you make it for guests to do business with you, the more guests you will end up having. During low season, make your non-refundable reservation fee really low. You might even want to consider doing a fully refundable reservation fee. After all, a reservation fee is really put into place to make sure that your house is booked and if someone cancels you still get paid some money. During low season, if someone cancels, you are not really hurt that much since we are looking at low season bookings as icing on the cake. Now, with high season bookings you should charge a very high reservation fee because if someone cancels during high season, this could affect your income at the end of the year.

Related: 4 Compelling Reasons to Invest in a Vacation Property

Charge a Property Protection Fee, Not a Security Deposit

It is unfortunate that in this day and age, if someone does damage to vacation home and you ask them about it, most of the time they deny that they did the damage. A few years ago we went to charging everyone a property protection fee of $75. This fee is non-refundable, and it works just like insurance on the vacation should any damage occur while the guest is staying in the house. We find this works much better than security deposits since the guests who were doing damages to the property were also disputing the charges as well.

These four simple tips should help you secure more bookings during the low season and maximize your profits during the high season. You also need to keep your eye on all your expenses and make decision accordingly—after all, a penny saved is a penny earned.

Do you know other ways to maximize your rental income?

Leave your comments below!

About Author

Trey Duling

Trey Duling has been managing and marketing vacation homes in the Orlando and Disney World area since 2001. His passion is helping investors make their vacation homes more profitable. Please visit his website at http://www.orlandovacation.com/home-rentals/.


  1. John Underwood

    Great article and I agree with everything except one point.
    I used to use the non refundable damage insurance through homeaway.com.
    But over time I believe that paying this fee instead of a deposit is like paying for the extra rental car insurance. After you paid the non refundable fee why do you care if the rental car gets banged up, you have the insurance and you don’t get any money back if you bring the rental back in good shape.
    Since I started charging a deposit I have never had to keep any portion of it.
    People have a vested interest in taking care of your property so they will get their deposit back.
    People often leave the house in such good shape it is hard to tell anyone was there when we first walk in the house.
    I recently starting requesting that renters send me a copy of their drivers license so I can confirm they are who they say they are and not some young kids coming to my Lake house to throw a wild party.

  2. William Stokes

    Such a good read. People fail to understand the importance of an effective pricing strategy. It would also be benificial to keep track of local events in your area. Major sporting events, concerts, college graduations, etc. can spring up in the low season and for that particular week, there may be an increased demand in which you should adjust your prices accordingly.

  3. Katie Rogers

    I manage a high end vacation rental. We have been very successful with a policy of offering the same price everyday of the year. Our guests really appreciate the lack of price gouging during the so-called high season or high demand weekends. We get lots of repeat word-of-mouth guests, and we have never had to keep a penny of the security deposit. In fact, we reduced the amount of security deposit because there seemed to be no point in paying the full merchant fee to first take the deposit, and then paying the merchant fee again to return it.

    We feel that if our goal is maximizing value to the guests, the money will naturally follow, so our priority is the guests. The goal of making money is actually unnecessary and takes care of itself. Guests like our policies because they are simple, fair, and no-nonsense.

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