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Investing in vacation rentals can be a lucrative business, provided you know how, when and why to market your property. With more rentals than ever competing for tourist dollars, it’s essential to maximize positive cash-flow returns when marketing a vacation property.
One relatively straightforward strategy is to advertise your rental property on multiple short-term rental sites. To make it work, you must understand the pros and cons of listing with numerous booking sites and create a strategy that works best for your property.
Advantages of listing on multiple sites
- More customers
Listing on multiple sites means more eyeballs on your vacation property profile. The key is to manage expectations by promoting a property’s advantages while being transparent about potential disadvantages.
It’s crucial to provide high-quality, well-appointed images and plenty of details about your vacation rental to help online leads feel more comfortable about committing. For example:
Category: Is it a shared room, a full apartment, or a suite in a house?
Location: Is it on a busy street? Near transit? Close to cafes?
Features and amenities: What can customers expect when they rent the unit?
- More bookings
Advertising your vacation rental on more sites should result in higher profits. Let’s say that your property’s listed for $100/night on three different sites. With each website generating bookings at least once a month, you’ll have earned a total of $3,600 after one year!
With a few good reviews and 5-star ratings, you’ll have an even better chance of attracting potential renters, which can lead to even more bookings.
- Better understanding of the market
Depending on their needs, renters visit different websites, so be sure to list on sites where your rental matches the needs of your target audience. Vacationers and other short-term renters look to Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway. Those are ideal if you’re renting an entire apartment, while those seeking longer-term rentals usually head to Craigslist, Apartment.com and Realtor.com.
You can also take advantage of listing websites to research the competition. For example, if you have properties near some of the top golf destinations in Whistler, you can see how they stack up against other, highly sought-after units in those areas. By analyzing similar offers, you can also create more compelling ads to convert leads into paying renters.
- Free and secure communication with customers
Most popular listing portals incorporate messaging apps to facilitate prompt and attentive communications that can enhance bookings.
- Easier to identify prospects
Not all clients are desirable, which is why sites like Airbnb allow both hosts and guests to leave reviews after a rental has been concluded. This transparency encourages hosts to be truthful about what they are advertising and guests to adhere to the standards set by Airbnb, helping to ensure a smooth transaction for all parties.
- Less hassle than creating and promoting your site
Besides making it easy to promote listings with customized profiles, listing portals offer several advantages over dedicated websites:
- Track bookings and payments with optional notifications and alerts
- No need to spend time and money creating a dedicated web page
- Specialized sites offer built-in search engine optimization functionality
- Easily upload photos and create rich content to attract customers
- Trusted by customers as a go-to source for vacation and rental lodging
- Build your business through market research
When listing on multiple sites, it’s easy to forget the end goal: To attract and retain repeat business—something that’s even easier to do with your customer-base list.
The concept is simple: Create a website dedicated to the property (or properties) and then use Google AdWords to promote it. At first, your budget will be allocated to target a broad range of potential renters, but over time, a snapshot of your “ideal” client will begin to emerge.
- Using Google Analytics, see who looks at, favorites and books your property (don’t forget to make a note of the site used, the amount paid and the terms searched).
- Use this information to create a “customer profile.”
- Target this socio-demographic group when you run your next AdWords campaign.
By focusing your marketing campaign on people that match your client profile, you can increase your property’s earning potential.
Disadvantages of listing on multiple sites
- Numerous fees
Listing sites charge fees to help maintain and upgrade website features and to pay for advertising to theoretically capture a larger market share of the vacation rental business.
For example, hosts on Airbnb pay 3 percent of their booking rate to cover the cost of payment processing. HomeAway (the parent company of VRBO and VacationRentals.com), charges between 4 and 10 percent of the booking rate across all of its websites.
Although these costs can add up on multiple sites, it’s important to view them as an essential part of your marketing budget rather than an unnecessary expense. To assess the real cost, track these fees against your bookings to see which sites offer better access to paying clients and are most worthy of your money.
- Managing bookings
One of the challenges in maintaining multiple listings is the need to keep track of bookings, payments and schedules. Without a sound monitoring system, you might get your reservations mixed up or accidentally double-book a property. To get around this, various online applications, including Google Calendar, make it easy to track clients and schedules, sync bookings, and monitor payments — all in one place.
For a modest fee, software like iGMS automatically syncs all messages and bookings from various websites, so you’ll only need to open one application to respond to customers
- Addressing customer service requests
With multiple properties and listing sites, keeping up with the requests and questions of prospects can become overwhelming. If you are only managing a few properties at a time, create a specific email address for fielding customer inquiries.
Otherwise, consider appointing a customer service representative who can respond to inquiries in a timely and professional manner. Not only will your leads get excellent service, but you will also have more time available for other responsibilities.
- Multiple competitors
Since Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, Craigslist and similar sites list rental properties from across the globe, competition can be fierce, with many properties offering comparable amenities. In addition, listing against so many competitors often leads to higher acquisition and retention costs.
Rather than finding customers through a third-party listing site, why not grow your base by setting up a basic website for your property? Offer perks like neighborhood tips, maps and coupons to attract clients away from listing sites and towards your website, and then entice them to sign up for a monthly newsletter. Once they’ve committed, don’t spam! Instead, engage your audience by providing actionable, quality information that has real value.