Its been over 7 years since Ive began shooting vacation rentals in the Bahamas for Airbnb. During that time not only have I seen the drastic increase in the amount of rentals but Ive also had an increase in questions. The biggest question I’m often asked, in a round about way is how can I make money with my rental? Well I’m no expert in the matter but over the years Ive seen some pretty successful rental properties as well as some properties that I just knew were not going to make it.
The short end of the story is simple. You really have to take care of your property and make a conscious effort in actually offering a really good place to stay. Over the years there are lots of things that persons have done to increase their bookings but the top six things I notice that seems to work are;
1. Take good care of your guest and request reviews as soon as possible
This goes without saying but it has to be said. Ive seen many persons leave their guest up to their own devices once they have checked into the vacation rental. Think about this, a guest decided to come to the Bahamas for the very first time. They don’t know much about the country much less the area they will be living in besides what they found online. Now they are in your country with a vague idea of what to do or where to go. This is the exact recipe to a disastrous vacation. Sometimes they may be operating on outdated information, shops closed down and can be difficult to find transportation to and from places.
You have got to be begging for a bad or no review at all. You have to realize your are now in the Tourism business and as such you much become an ambassador to represent not only the country but the people of the Bahamas. Make sure you take care of your visitors. Explain were stores and restaurants are in the area. How to call a taxi or catch a bus. If they rented a car, advise of sights of interest they may want to see places to go or events to enjoy. Sit and discuss their itinerary and help where you can with information, directions do’s and don’t s.
Once you have assisted them either basically or throughout their entire stay, do not forget to ask for a review. I would suggest you ask the night before they leave, this way while the experience is still fresh in their minds they can write a great review and as you know good reviews are the final thing persons read before they book. Take care of your guest as best you can without being overbearing and don’t forget to ask for a review on your listing.
2. Update the copy-writing on your page
What is copy writing? Its not to be confuses with copyrighting, copy writing is a form of writing designed specifically for advertising. When you enter the details on your airbnb host page you are copy writing. Believe it or not but this is million dollar industry around the world. The art of writing to increase brand awareness and increase sales is a well sought after talent by many companies. Although you are not a company but an individual this does not exclude you from the equation.
Read over your present information on your page in an objective manner. If it does not entice your to want to learn more or book yourself then you obviously have a problem. Reading the information out loud allows you to hear what your potential guest are hearing as the read your coy. Is it to boring, is it lacking details, is it long with no pure direction and does it accurately describe your vacation rental as it is and what to expect when guest arrive. If anything is off you really need to take some time out to rewrite your information.
I am not here to discuss how to do this as its a topic in its self but what I can suggest is that you use descriptive words to paint a mental picture of you rental, its surroundings and what you can help with.
3. Hire a professional photographer who understands real estate photography
Not being biased here but this should have been number 1. The Airbnb platform is designed in a way that your photos are the first thing that potential guest will see. We live in a world where images rule our every day life, some may say this is not a good thing. However for you as a vacation rental host, can be a very good thing. They say an image is worth a thousands words, so you have to wonder what words are your images telling your guest?
Take a good look at your images much like how you looked at your copy writing on your page. Objectively consider if this is a place you would rent if you were looking for a place in a foreign country. The good news is you can search other listing similar to yours and then compare their images. Which is better? If you find yourself saying this place looks good or it seems so clean and open. Maybe looking at the place you may say its cozy its so reminiscent of the islands. What ever the words maybe, if they are positive words then you have to consider how you can get guest to view your page the same way. On the other hand if your think your images are more appealing then you can move on and not worry about upgrading your images.
Speaking of upgrading your images, I mentioned that you really need to hire a professional photographer who understands real estate photography. This was said intentionally. Too many times I find myself re shooting a vacation rental because the host hired a friend who has a camera or they see someone taking photos of people and believe they can do the job. This is no so. Portrait Photography (the image capture of people) and Real Estate/Vacation Rental Photography (the image capture of houses and homes) are two TOTALLY DIFFERENT THINGS. The techniques used to capture both are vastly different as they are two different genres of photography. Before you hire a photographer ask to see their portfolio, take a look at their tract record of photographing real estate and in this case vacation rental properties.
4. Consider an overall theme.
When I mention to my clients that they need a theme I often get a bewildered look. Theme? what do you mean theme?
A theme is simply a way to tell a story and to build ambience in a way that your guest feel a certain way. For example having an island theme is not as easy as one may think. Often its believed that because we live on an island and the listing is near the beach its automatically considered an island theme. Not so. You have to take some time and decorate your listing to reflect the island life. What images do you have on the wall? What color sheets are on the bed, What type of furniture do you use? What color are your walls.
This may seem strange because we all think our places are beautiful to us and that’s the problem. You are not renting the unit to yourself, you want to gain bookings from a particular set of people. You can go with a boating theme, beach theme, modern theme, technology theme, outdoors man theme any theme you like. There must be an understanding however. By doing this you will cut down on the amount of people who will be interested in your listing but at the same time you will increase your bookings for a particular type of person. Themes help you focus your efforts especially when it comes to decorating, writing your copy and capturing your images.
5. Offer better amenities and services
Amenities can be standard. Tv, bed, chairs, tables etc etc but sometimes you have to step up your game. I have seen old CRT televisions in rooms, old furniture that were not cleaned or maintained, outdated and loud air conditioners and so much more. Look you are trying to make a few dollars here and the only way you can book more guest is if they give you a good review and those reviews pile up. How do you expect to get that good review if your place is not up to standard. Yes we live on an island but that doesn’t mean we live in huts. Spend the money and upgrade your appliances Refrigerator, toaster, coffee maker, air conditioner, cordless phones, televisions with cleaned remotes that work and for goodness sake offer a computer work station with stable wifi and corded internet access.
When you travel don’t you still want to be comfortable in the hotel or vacation rentals you stay in? What makes you think that visitors to the Bahamas don’t want the same thing. Again as before take some time and offer as much amenities and services as possible. Speaking of services you can make a maid service an option with an additional charge, offer an island tour with a local taxi driver. There are many simple things you can do to make your guest experience one to remember.
6. Be responsive
This is listed last but its just as important as all the other 5. Being responsive not only speaks to responding quickly to guest questions via the website but to their questions and concerns while at your listing. Be available, that’s the best way I can explain it. Its much like point #1 take care of your guest even before the become your guest.
A quick and simple way to be responsive with the website is to download the Airbnb app. This gives you access to your listing, and you can chat with potential guest directly on your phone any time of the day. This is something I find older host have a hard time with. They are not computer savvy and prefer persons call them, unfortunately that is no longer the world we live in. People send emails or send messages via various applications on their smart phones. This means that you may be getting messages late at night, however keep in mind we all do not live on the same time. It may be early morning where your guest is and they are sending a message to ask about something that will solidify them booking your unit. Answer them!!!
I once did a vacation photo session for a guest and the mentioned that the only way they knew how to contact their host is through the Airbnb platform. I mention this because wouldn’t it make sense if you gave the guest a number they can call to contact someone in case of an emergency or if they need help? This is all a part of being responsive, be available and ready to answer your potential guest as well as your current guest.
These are just a few things on a long list of minor adjustment that can be made to help you gain more bookings on your listing. I started working for Airbnb back in 2010 and in those 8 years Ive watched the listings rise from under 100 to thousands. It has become increasingly difficult to stand out among all the new listings. Even if you divided your listing into categories you still have hundreds of other listings that offer potentially the same thing you do. You have to continually adjust to the changing market and learn what to do in order to get that extra booking every week,