Creative ways to rent your vacation home

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With the summer rental season right around the corner, second-home owners hoping to rent out their getaways to travelers and vacationers are looking for creative ways to fill remaining vacancies in their rental calendars.

Vacation-home owners, investors and others seeking to become full-time vacation-home owners and managers gathered recently in Austin, Texas, for the HomeAway Summit to discuss creative marketing, finance and how to lure more customers in a sluggish economy.

For the past three years, vacation-home owners reported calls and reservations for weekly vacations have slowed considerably. Weekly family vacationers seemed to just simply be staying at home, enjoying "staycations." What do owners do to make up for all the lost reservations the bad economy is causing?

"The first thing I did was to start offering what guests seemed to be asking for: weekend stays instead of weekly stays," said Debi Nelson-Maney, who owns three lakeside vacation rental homes. "We went to a three-night minimum in our peak season and holidays, and two-night minimum in the off-peak season. All I did was determine what I was getting for a week stay and divided that by two (to) three nights, discounted it a bit so I could still actually advertise weekly rates as the better bargain."