Skip navigation

Join the Vacation Rentals Conversation!

Get answers to all of your questions from fellow owners and travelers.

Join the CommunityX

CommunitySeek, Ask, and Share in the Vacation Rentals Community

No Vacancy: Maximizing ROI

2 Posts tagged with the property_managers tag

How many of your bookings in 2011 have been from referrals?  Or more to the point, how much of your revenue in 2011 is from referrals? 


Are you content with your answer to these questions?  Wouldn’t it be nice to have one or two more referrals each year?  In this blog we’re going to look at five ideas that, when used together effectively, will help to drive incremental bookings through referrals. 


  1. Be Worthy of a Remark – The best form of advertising for any business is a customer testimonial via word of mouth.  Give your guests a reason to tell anyone who will listen about their time in your home. Whether it’s your attention to detail, your amazing collection of board games or your 120” home theater screen, give them something to be excited to tell others about.
  2. Get “Real” Business Cards – Invest a little money and have some professional business cards on heavy stock printed up (rather than the cheap looking “print at home” variety). Business cards are often the first impression someone gets when hearing of your business.  Include your and listing numbers along with a one-liner or a few key words that articulate the reason why someone should consider calling you for their next vacation.   
  3. Implement a Guest Referral Program – Give your guests and others who know about your business a reason to refer people to stay with you.  Money is always a great motivator, it’s what we’ve used for several years now.  We pay $15/night to any person who refers a booking to us, that’s over a hundred bucks for a week long booking.  Cash is a good reminder and incentive for someone to mention your business.
  4. Ask for Referrals – Without being pushy, ask your guests and those acquainted with your business to refer anyone who they think may be interested in staying with you.  With our business we do this a couple different ways.  First, in each of our homes we have placed an 8.5 x 11” acrylic stand with a full color flyer in it that talks up our referral program and encourages our guests to take several cards to hand out when they are back home. The acrylic stand has a built-in business card holder and our property managers make sure they are always full. Second, in both the checkout email and in the handwritten “Thank You” cards (remark worthy) our guests receive we remind them that we have a referral program and point out that if they enjoyed their time in our home the best compliment they can give us is to refer us to a Loved one.
  5. Stick with the Plan - Given the nature of our business, long sales cycles and relatively few annual transactions, referrals can be few and far between.  But, that makes each referral even more valuable to business such as ours.  Angela and I diligently performed the actions above for nearly a year before we actually booked our first referral.  Yes, we frequently discussed whether it was worth the extra effort, but that first referral payment we made for $105 on a 7-night booking that was clearly incremental (and off-peak!) made it all worth it.  You are planting seeds that may or may not bear fruit down the road, but at least you are giving them a chance to bear fruit if you keep planting.  


The Bottom Line:  Referrals are one of those areas of business that can seem easier said than done.  But each referral is an incremental booking, which can be the difference between a good month and a great month.  Word of mouth is the most powerful form of advertising for any business.  Giving your guests a reason to tell others about their experience in your home, and making it easy for them to do so, is an effective and inexpensive way to maximize your revenue. If you will give them an experience that is worthy of a remark, and if you make it easy for them to refer you to others, your bottom line will reflect your efforts.


Here’s to bigger bottom lines…






Some vacation rental homes are right next door to their owners; others are across town or possibly across the country or the world.  Ours happens to be 1,353 miles door-to-door.  The ideas below have helped us overcome the distance so the miles have no impact on our business.


For those who manage their own properties on-site there are some nuggets below that you may find useful.  For the rest of us who are not close enough to be on-site at our properties full-time, let’s start with our first and most important tip for managing from afar.


Screen shot 2011-06-29 at 11.51.41 AM.png

1.    Hire a Property Manager you can trust. Find someone who will look after your house like it’s their own. Personally, we manage the rentals with two wonderful property managers who are both homemakers and empty nesters, happy to apply their skills to delight our guests.  At $30-35/hour they are each a key ingredient to providing a memorable experience for travelers; and they are worth every penny. Depending on your level of involvement and the time you have to manage the manager, you can either hire a property management company or contract out the work to an individual.


2.   Make your guests’ needs just a phone call away.  Ensure someone is always available to your guests via phone whether it’s you or your PM, or ideally both.  People always appreciate getting through on the first try and they will tell others how easy you are to work with.  We had recent guests commenting on how a quick response “made them Love us and the house even more!”  Problems + Responsiveness = Even MORE Love?  How cool is that? 


3.    Establish a strong support network.  Identify people you can rely on for maintenance appointments, and identify backups where appropriate, from the trades you deal with regularly:


  • Cleaning Service
  • Handyman
  • Groundskeeper or Landscaper
  • Pool Technician
  • Laundry Service
  • Plumber
  • Heating/AC Repair
  • Electrician  


When selecting your vendor partners ask questions specific to your business situation like:

•    How quickly can you respond to my home when I call? 

•    What are availability and rates during non-business hours?

•    Can you contract as a commercial account for priority response times or reduced rates?


4.    Utilize picture messaging. See what you otherwise couldn’t.  Nearly everyone carries a phone capable of sending photos. If you are dealing with your PM or a vendor and think to yourself that you wish you could see what they’re talking about, ask them to send you some photos on the spot.  


5.    Visit your home as a guest. The best way to identify opportunities to create delightful memories or potential guest frustrations is to experience your home as a guest.  Pay your PM to set the home as usual so you can know first-hand the experience your guests are having when they arrive.  Our guests have appreciated the guestbook entries we leave from our visits mentioning the improvements we made to the home or new places we discovered in the area.


6.    Love thy neighbors. Make it a point to personally meet all neighbors who might have interest in knowing you are running a vacation home.  Give them your personal contact info and reassure them that you set clear expectations with each of your guests about noise and disturbances.  Ask them to call you first for any reason regarding your home, and store the number they will call from in your phone so you can pick up immediately if they should call.


7.    Give them a personal touch.  Allow your guests to make a personal connection with you.  We often ask our PM’s to leave fresh flowers or tasty treats along with a card signed from “Angela and Michael” for groups at check-in.  I know some other owners have had the inverse experience, but several of our guests have also commented that the family photo we leave in the home made them feel welcome, as if staying with extended family. 


The Bottom Line: The distance between you and your vacation home doesn’t have to interfere with your ability to create exceptional guest experiences.  A property manager you can trust, a support network of people who understand the needs of your business and some creative thinking will pay dividends when managing your vacation home from afar. 


Plus…the tactics above can make adding your next vacation home that much easier.


We would all value YOUR thoughts and ideas on managing from afar, feel free to share them below.