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Increase Your Vacation Rental Occupancy Hacks

You did it! You saved up, purchased a vacation rental home, got it rent ready, put it out there and started welcoming guests. Congrats! That is a huge accomplishment and I hope you are proud of yourself and/or your family for reaching a level of success that most will only dream of.

You log onto Airbnb and notice that the algorithm appears to have changed. Suddenly, every day is a new “featured” style of property. One day it’s castles, then log homes, then a-frames, then….tree houses? Who invests in a treehouse? Apparently some pretty smart people because as it turns out, tree houses are some of the top booking units on Airbnb…I guess everyone has a secret Swiss Family Robinson dream.

With vacation rentals soaring in popularity, you have to start thinking outside the box to really make your vacation rental pop. Keep in mind that none of your guests are going to see the actual unit until after they book, so the key is making yours stand out before they book so that they chose your rental rather than someone else’s.

If you put a thrift store couch (I mean I love thrift stores and they often have cool couches, but I’m talking about ones that look like that 70’s show and not in a good way) in your unit, take pictures with your phone, have little to no decor and zero “fun” items, don’t be surprised if your occupancy and rates are not great.

I preach this constantly and the numbers don’t lie. We managed a property that the owner refused to “improve.” We weren’t asking for major improvements. Simple things like replacing the stain-covered floor with vinyl, getting rid of the couch that he so proudly purchased for $35 dollars (and it was obvious) and the giant, 2 foot deep tv for a decent couch (like Big Lots decent, nothing crazy) and a flat-screen TV (less than $300…one nights rent if the house looked good). A $10k investment in this client’s home would have yielded insane returns.

He refused to put any money into the house and after three back-to-back unhappy guests we had to fire him as his home was just not up to par with our standards.

I own a home around the corner from him-same exact size home. 3 bed 2 bath, no pool.

My house had all the things-great decor, fire pit, comfy beds, throw pillows, clean rugs, etc. Nothing crazy, just attention to detail.

In 2019 his house did $24k in revenue. Mine did $58k. Now imagine we both owned our homes for ten years. You can do the math. Like I said, a $10k investment would have yielded him insane returns. In this case, 340% or $340,000 over ten years.

I’m not making these numbers up.

If you want to be in the amazing vacation rental space, you have to be willing to make your vacation rental amazing.

If you need to start small, I get it…I had to, too, when I first started. I used to do my own renovations (taking down wallpaper may be the worst thing ever), painting every wall, I learned how to do tile backsplash and more. But there were always a few things I knew I had to spend some extra dough on.

So here are my hacks of ways to make your occupancy increase without a huge investment:

  1. Only use professional photos. Your potential guests will be comparing you to every other nearby rental…this is worth every single penny.
  2. Invest in decor-if you’re in a beach town, make it beach. Mountain lodge-get your (fake) bear rugs out! You may love Tuscan decor, but your guest booking their beach vacay is going to want to feel like they are a mermaid swimming with sea turtles (unless your beach happens to be on the coast of Italy).
  3. Add at least one “extra fun” item. This can be anything that is likely different than what they have at home. Ping-pong tables are my favorite for this. They are low cost, don’t have felt to scratch like a pool table and are fun for all ages. Other ideas: pool tables (usually higher end homes as these are price to buy and pricey to repair), game consoles (stand-up Ms. Pac-Man is always a hit), air-hockey, foosball, pinball or I’ve even seen skee-ball units in homes.
  4. Showcase your outdoors-but make it location specific. Putting a pool at your Montana home won’t yield you much extra cash and is only useable a few months a year, but a pool home in Florida will put you way ahead of the competition. A hot tub in Florida may still be a nice idea, but a hot tub at a snow ski location is almost a must-have these days. Make a cool fire pit area, small putting green or neat deck. Your outdoor area can really increase your occupancy if it’s good. On our farm in Georgia, we have two older horses…they can’t be ridden anymore but they are living their best retirement life being fed carrots daily by our guests. And…nobody else nearby has horses so we definitely stand out.
  5. Stage your rental when you take your pictures. Choose a sunny day, open the windows and make sure your main photo is your best photo.
  6. Get creative to get social-my friend Stetson had a mural painted in his living room that is a massive draw to his demographic. Consider putting a photo booth in your unit. These ideas are a great way to get your guests to take pics of your pad and to share them on social media.
  7. Consider installing an Ipad or touch screen guide to help guests learn about the area and things to do. This is way more modern than a book with a list of places to go. Our interactive guest guide has videos of places we love, instructions on how to use things in the house (like TV remotes), dining discounts and our guests can scan anything from our guide to get more info-tech is the way to go!
  8. Our newest venture-Elite Concierge Services. We are now offering our guests experiences tailored to their trip. Want a private chef to cook you a fresh Florida seafood meal? No problem. Want to rent surf/paddleboards/golf carts/bikes and have them delivered and waiting for you when you arrive. We got you covered. Enjoying a bachelorette weekend and want our concierge to set up your beach chairs and drinks on a Tuesday morning and then have a taco bar waiting for you at your unit when you return…say no more, we’re on it.

The point is, vacationing is all about having an experience that is nothing like your day-to-day life. Put your “guests” hat on when setting up and running your listing. Think about ways to make their experience something they will never forget and I promise you, you will see a great increase in occupancy.

You got this.

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