Most critical: Reviews from your guests!

ReviewsI am stating this as a personal opinion but I really do believe that reviews and testimonials are the most important details you can provide about your vacation rental (besides the basic information on where, what, how big and how much). If you are anything like me, after finding a list of accommodation choices, gear choices or recipe choices, I go through the reviews and find out what others think about this. So whether I am reading about the actual experience of someone using the “luxury kitchen” in a vacation rental, the “sleeping bag that keeps you warm to -10C” or the “easiest-ever apple pie”, I find that the most authentic validation comes from people who have tried it out.

I understand that some skeptics question the truthfulness and true origin of (positive) reviews. However, I believe that website technology has advanced enough to ensure that these reports are from genuine customers.

What is your approach to testimonials and reviews? How important are they in your purchase decisions?

This article gives a great overview on how to consolidate and encourage reviews of your vacation rentals.

Industry Outlook

We have done the research for you!

Vacation Rental Industry Outlook

Interested in reading up on developments in the vacation rental industry? Consider the following sources and reports:

Private Vacation Rentals on the Rise (especially luxury accommodation).

2013 Review and 2014 Industry Outlook (with lots more links to yet more sources!).

Quarter 1 of 2014 VRMA report (including growth and regulation).

And … one of the most useful ones with the best visuals, this infographic from Netamatix. Did you know that 83% of users are likely to inquire about a property with 20 or more pictures? Let’s just say “We told you so!” while referringto our most recent newsletter:

newsletter pic

More pets, more guests!

Dog FriendlyIt really works: Yes to Fido means Yes to $$$!

The fact that pet owners often encounter obstacles vacationing with their pets while staying in hotels or resorts means that you can gain a huge advantage by accepting pets into your vacation rental.

Consider the numbers: 62% of US households (as an example) include at least one pet. That’s 83.3 million dogs in the US alone. More people than ever travel with pets (about 30 million people per year in the US) and are looking for pet-friendly arrangements. This infographic gives a good overview of the trends.

We do understand that there are some issues to consider and manage. Some people have allergies; however, this apparently only affects less than 10% of the US population and even people with allergies might still consider renting your pet-friendly property after it has been cleaned. Cleaning could take a bit longer and cost a bit more.

Now consider that you can greatly increase your bookings, especially off-season time periods, and attract a lot more guests to your property. It has been estimated that your occupancy will increase by 10 to 50% by accepting dogs, and by charging a bit of extra per night for a pet you instantly collect the money for carpet cleaning should it be necessary.

The benefits and extra income you gain from accepting pets in your property will outweigh those drawbacks. Just one extra booking will probably make up for the additional cleaning expenses, and any wear and tear can be minimized by communicating “pet rules” such as no pets on furniture, no leaving pets alone in the house or strict pick-up rules for outside areas. Pet owners are typically very grateful that they can share their vacation time with all parts of the family, including their pets, and will be considerate and appreciative.

The great (vacation rental) outdoors!

Victoria, BC #204148

Victoria, BC, Canada – ID 204148

Love a sizzling BBQ on the patio? A soak in the sun in comfy lawn chairs in the backyard? So do your guests.

Often overlooked, the outdoor area of your vacation rental is a big selling point and can be the deciding factor for a guest when choosing a rental. Depending on the location of your vacation home, guests might be looking for that private hot tub on the balcony of a ski property or the clean pool outside a summer rental.

Here is what we recommend:

  • Include high resolution pictures of the outdoor area of your rental in your property listing. Guests want to imagine relaxing or playing there!
  • Show the main features, such as a BBQ, pool, lawn area, outdoor furniture, kids play area, maybe even a glass of wine on the table or hiking trails on the property. Offer everything that makes your property unique.
  • Photograph (or describe) the outdoor area at different times of the day, for example when it is used for a big family breakfast, a shaded retreat on a hot day or at night star gazing.

Once you have set up and promoted the outdoor area of your vacation home, consider the tips in this article to keep it clean and welcoming. Details such as candles and lighting can make a big difference!

As always, we invite you to share your experiences and recommendations here!

Touching on the destination and activity trends …

If you haven’t already done so, now is a great time to review the travel trends and predictions for 2014, and update your property listings and descriptions to reflect them.

Two of the more comprehensive reports are listed here. First off, Trip Advisor’s travel trends for 2014 give you a good idea about where people are planning on going, what their long term plans are and how much they are going to spend. For example, travelers from Europe and North America stated that they are going to spend less on vacations this year. With vacation homes being more affordable than hotel stays, especially for longer trips, now is a good time to incorporate this into your vacation home promotion.

Travelers also plan to take trips within their own country more, a great marketing approach to advertise your vacation home nationally.

Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach

The results of the Summer 2014 survey, also by Trip Advisor, shows that 22% of US travelers are planning on renting a vacation home for their summer trip. That is great news! Further, respondents listed the following as the top activities:

  • Swimming / watersports – 49%
  • Visiting a historical event or sight – 49%
  • Going to a park or national park – 46%
  • Sightseeing tours – 46%

If your vacation home can cater to those activity needs, make sure your pictures and writeup reflect that. With a reported 66% of US travelers vacationing domestically, and Myrtle Beach topping the list of destinations for the summer, it is time to get those travelers booked into your beautiful vacation home!

Honour that view with clean windows

Clean WindowsWhether your property looks over the snowcapped Rocky Mountains from Canmore, the skyline of New York City or the azure ocean in Mexico, you want to make sure that this view is framed by sparkling clean windows! As a guest, it really puts a damper on the much-anticipated relaxation when one has to look through dust and dirt from months or even years of rain and wind.

For that reason, we collected a few recommendations on how to make sure your guests get to enjoy the best view you have to offer. Clean windows do not have to mean hours of strenuous work with toxic chemicals! The consensus is that it doesn’t have to be hard or time-consuming when you follow a few rules (and have a few tools handy). Natural solutions such as vinegar are much more environmentally friendly and easier on the budget than harsh chemicals. And there is lots to learn from the professionals who do this every day. Time to invest in a squeegee!

How to get sparkling windows for vacation rentals

No more newspaper, rubbing and elbow grease

Martha Stewart’s Window Washing How-To

Tutorial on how to clean windows with vinegar – our favourite!


Details do make a difference – Pay attention to delight your guests!

snackDetails matter when preparing your vacation home for guests.

Sometimes those details are noticed consciously, such as an inviting bed with the corner of the comforter folded open, a welcome basket of treats or a cozy blanket draped over the couch. Sometimes, details incur subconscious reactions, such as a fresh (non-chemical) smell in the air or the sun streaming through open curtains when your guests arrive.


Eva Whitney has put together a short article with more great examples of where details matter, such as the folding of towels or neatly arranged dishes.

Do you want to share your experiences with “details that matter”? Where do you go the extra mile to make your home inviting for your guests, and which “attention to detail” has received positive feedback from your guests? Share your comments with our owner community!

The results are in!

Thank you to all respondents for sharing your thoughts and preferences with us!

As many of you know from our previous posts and maybe because you also received the newsletter: We conducted an online survey to determine specifically what guests are looking for with regards to communication with hosts, amenities and kitchen supplies.



Pre Stay Communication

Communication: Pre-stay phase

Respondents stated that it is important to them to receive email responses from the hosts within 24 hours (58% of respondents). It is critical to 51% of respondents to get responses within 3 days in the pre-stay phase (inquiries, booking, instructions). Phone calls during this phase are important to 43% (critical to over 15%). Text message contact and mailing of documents do not seem to be as critical (see graph). Interestingly, the text option received the highest number of “do not care” responses.

During a guest’s stay, email communication becomes critical for a larger number of guests (54%), and so does availability over the phone (40% critical, 48% important). It appears that guests trust that any issues can be sorted out over the phone. It does not seem as critical to them to have a manager on site.

During Stay Communication

Communication: During guest’s stay


Well, we sure can’t live (or vacation) without our WiFi toys anymore, or so it seems. Free WiFi access tops the list of expected amenities at a vacation rental (87%). This is followed by a washer/dryer (78%), an outdoor sitting area (73%), Cable TV (72%) and a BBQ (52%). Check out the graphic below for ratings of other amenities. To make your rental more attractive, consider adding one or more of options that are rated high, therefore improving your bookings over your competitors.

AmenitiesKitchen equipment

Lastly, we asked respondents about the items they expect to see in your vacation rental’s kitchen. Not surprisingly, generous cooking equipment with enough pots and pans, a microwave and dishwasher is requested by a high percentage of respondents. Since vacationers also love to enjoy a glass of wine when relaxing, make sure to stock wine glasses in your kitchen (72% expect those). As evidenced in the graph below, other items are a lot more “optional” but could make the difference that sets you apart from another rental in the same area (e.g. invest in a butcher block or coffee grinder). I have found that those details can make a big difference; for example, I always ask if I have to bring my own coffee grinder and always opt for the rentals that have one, especially if I have to fly to that destination.

KitchenPlease share your thoughts, questions or comments on this with us.

Survey & Dishes

There are lots of websites, articles and lists that claim to know what guests of vacation rentals are looking for. But we decided we wanted to know directly from our guests what is important to them. So we have been conducting an online survey (quick and painfree) that was first distributed in our May newsletter, to ask guests about priorities and preferences. We will compile this into nice graphs for you, and we trust that you will find it helpful for your own vacation rental operations.

The survey can be found here. If you want to share your opinion as a guest of vacation rentals, please take 2 minutes to fill it out. This will help us generate useful information. It’s quick and online. Thank you. We will compile the results on June 10. Check back here after the results have been analyzed.

DishesLastly, here is one random tip that a vacation rental owner shared with me recently. I noticed that she was using a cup at home that was the same as the cups in her vacation rental. When I pointed it out, she said: “Oh, we always buy two sets of dishes for the rental so that we can replace broken dishes with the same kind.” Such a great idea to avoid the often random collection of plates and cups!


iTravex – Host guests, travel often!

If you are already a user of iTravex, I don’t have to explain the benefits to you. If not, consider trading your vacancies for get-aways in locations you select and times your choose.

Example: You own a vacation home in Arizona or rent out a basement suite in Aspen. Your property is listed on but you have not opted into the free membership to iTravex that the OwnerDirect listing comes with as an added bonus.


As soon as you do, other owners like you can see your property in the iTravex listings. Let’s say it is near the end of the ski season in Aspen and your suite is empty. A couple from Denver (who own a condo in Maui that is listed on wants to spend a week there to enjoy some spring skiing and time away from work. After they inquire about your suite, you all decide to complete an iTravex transaction. Your suite usually rents for $300 a night, so your agreed iTravex points total is 7 * 300=2100 points. The couple transfers those points from their iTravex account to you, pays a 10% transaction fee ($210) as well as the cleaning fee you stated. Off they go onto a nice week-long trip to Aspen, all for $210 plus cleaning fee – while your property would have sat empty otherwise.

Now you start getting excited about the 2100 points in your iTravex account. The summer will be busy but you are thinking about a trip to Italy in the fall. You check the iTravex listings for Tuscany and Umbria, and send a few inquiries to properties that look romantic and are centrally located in the best wine region. A few days and some messages with the owner later, you have booked a week-long stay in a stone villa in Tuscany for 1800 points (and have paid the fee of $180). A win-win situation, trading your vacancies into vacation home stays in your dream locations.

I have been a regular user of iTravex, and have stayed in iTravex properties in Maui, Sun Valley ID, Missoula MT, Silver Star BC, Canmore AB and more. It works and is a great way to travel affordably. It works best in the off season when properties are not booked up with cash rentals, and closer to the travel date. iTravex is also incorporating new tools in the near future, such as Decision Day (the owner can determine on which day he/she would like to decide about the iTravex reservation) and a new website dashboard. All the information about your property from transfers to iTravex without any extra work for you.

If you haven’t explored this opportunity yet, just opt into iTravex from your dashboard.