What to Include in an Auto-ResponderWe recommend setting up an auto-responder for all inquiries so your renters can receive some form of information right away. While it can be easy to get carried away — including everything from the name of your builder to the kinks with your guest room toilet — you don't want your initial contact to be overwhelming. You just want to provide the renters with some general information right off the bat. At the very least, assure your guests that you will respond in a timely fashion, provide a link to your personal website or back to your listing so they remember your home, and include your contact information.
How to Answer Detailed QuestionsSometimes your renters will treat you like a travel agent, asking question upon question about the area and things to do. Others want to know anything and everything about your home itself. For inquiries where the renter is asking a multitude of specific questions, it is sometimes best to just pick up the phone and call. Typically you can give clearer, more detailed responses during an actual conversation where you can be sure you are addressing the question properly, and in the end, it could save you some time. Also, if you find that you are continually receiving the same types of questions, save some responses in a document on your computer so you won't have to type your answers over and over again.
For a checklist of what to include in your detailed correspondence, view our Checklist for Responding to Vacation Rental Inquiries.
When to Keep It Short and to the Point“How much, and are you available?” Does that sound familiar? Think about the renters that are scrolling through hundreds of listings and sending inquiry after inquiry. Chances are they might just ask you the very basics. For inquiries like these, a quick response is of utmost importance. In fact, in a survey conducted by HomeAway, owners that respond within the first three hours of receiving an inquiry are about 2.5 times more likely to get the booking than those that wait 24 hours or more. You probably don't have to spend a lot of extra time providing details that they may not care about; instead, you can save that information for your introductory phone call. Simply tell them what they really need to know and click send!
How to Respond If You're Already BookedIf you receive inquiries for dates that are already reserved, you should still respond to the inquiry out of common courtesy. Some renters have expressed their frustration at the lack of response from vacation rental owners, so responding to all emails is key to building confidence in our industry. You can also use this opportunity to suggest alternate dates, or urge them to contact you again in the off-season. You never know if they might come back to you later on when you are actually available.
How to Handle Scam InquiriesBeing a vacation rental owner is fun, but it's also important to keep your antennae up and watch for red flags. When you receive an e-mail that seems suspicious, you need to go with your gut. Here are some signs of a scam inquiry:
Too much information up front
Confusing or unusual information (like a honeymoon with children)
Request for specific dates and then saying the dates are flexible.
Payment will be sent for an amount greater than the charge for the rental and you're supposed to send the balance to another party.
Mentions of Western Union, Moneygram, wire transfer, cashier check, money order, etc.
Some inquiries might be worth investigating a little more, though. For example, if you receive an inquiry with some grammatical errors, you may not want to discount it right away. What if he's just a really bad typist? Or what if she's just from another country and doesn't speak English as her first language? These people can still make great renters, so you may not want to judge too quickly just based on someone's writing ability. Pick up the phone and talk to the person to gauge whether or not he/she would make a qualified renter.
How to Respond When Renters Ask for a DiscountSome travelers out there like to test the waters to see if the vacation rental owner is willing to be flexible with his/her rates. Whether the renters are asking for a specific discount or simply telling you their budget, you have a few options for how to answer, depending on your own flexibility and your likelihood for receiving another booking for that time frame.
First, address whether or not the dates are available. Then, you have the right to tell them that the rates are firm, suggest a less expensive week or weekend in the off-season, or you can provide a counter-offer. Keep in mind, though, that this could open the floodgates for a series of negotiation emails. It is important to determine whether this particular booking is worth it to you. If it is last-minute or a weekend in the off-season that is unlikely to book, perhaps. Otherwise, you might just want to stand firm. In general, when an inquirer asks for an outrageous deal, it's probably best to stick to your guns because it might end up being more trouble than it's worth.
How to Tell If Renters Aren't Right for Your HomeWhile it would be nice to be able to book every inquiry you receive, in reality, it probably won't happen. Some renters will decide against your home, but you will likely also want to decide against some renters. Let's say you have enough beds to comfortably sleep six, but your renters assure you that they can squeeze in eight because the fourth couple won't mind bringing sleeping bags. That may be a situation you want to avoid. Just remember who your target renters are, and do your best to try to keep those renters happy. Bending your rules can not only be a liability, but it could also lead to some unhappy guests that you won't want to deal with down the road.
Every e-mail you receive will vary to some degree, but knowing what to look out for and preparing some responses ahead of time will save you time and possibly money in the long run.