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The Golden Rules of Renting a Vacation Home

Created on: Sep 15, 2010 3:09 PM by community-editor - Last Modified:  Feb 12, 2014 10:58 AM by beth

You’re no stranger to rules. After all, to run an effective vacation rental business you depend on rules— without them, guests would always show up early and your housekeeper might never show up (that’s a recipe for disaster if we’ve ever heard one). While we have expectations of our renters, our renters also expect things of us. Here are some rules to live by when renting your vacation home.



1) Respond to inquiries
It seems simple enough, right? Well, you might be surprised by how many travelers send requests to owners and get delayed responses or no response at all. If our industry wants to compete equally with hotels, every owner must respond to their booking inquiries as soon as possible. Click here for helpful hints and advice on how to best respond to inquiries.


2) Honor posted rates
It happens all the time— your rental season has come to a close and you forgot to update your listing rates for the new year. While it’s a simple oversight (you’re not trying to bait and switch!), travelers will see these rates and inquire. At best they will be annoyed and pay the extra money anyway, but at worst you could lose the booking. In this case, it’s best to honor the rates on your site at the time of inquiry. Guests will appreciate the gesture.


3) Keep your calendar up-to-date
How many times will the Owner Community drive this point home? Sorry, but until each and every owner has an accurate and up-to-date calendar online we’ll continue to stand on our soap box about this one. Inaccurate calendars continue to hold vacation rentals back as preferred lodging for many travelers. While the benefits of staying in vacation rentals outweigh hotels in various ways, many travelers get frustrated after finding that their preferred dates aren’t available when the calendar indicates otherwise. This is when they might simply book a hotel room.

4) Send reservation confirmations, invoices, check-in and check-out policies and rules

We travel a lot for seminars and try to stay in vacation rentals whenever possible. You wouldn’t believe how many times we’re ready to check out, and we say to each other, “Now what?” By sending your guests paperwork that explains the booking process from beginning to end, you make expectations crystal clear. If you want the dishwasher turned on before we leave, we can do that… but we need to know!


5) Equip your house with essentials and amenities
Vacation rentals come in all shapes and sizes, so you should always consider what the essentials are for the area in which you own. For example, if you own property in an adult-only community, bunk beds and porta-cribs may not be necessary. However, if you own in Disney without these things, you might be sabotaging your own rental fate. Start by reading our list of 13 essentials to get an idea of the basics every vacation home should have, no matter the location.



1) Ignore city and state rental or zoning laws
This is the fastest way to land yourself in hot (make that scalding hot) water and do a major disservice to our industry. When renters see that you are collecting city and state taxes, for example, it confirms that you are a lawful business working with the local government. By following all the laws in your area regarding short-term renting, you are legitimizing your own business and the industry as a whole.


2) Embellish your listing
So much of the vacation rental experience is subjective. One man’s sprawling mountain estate can be another’s cozy log cabin, so stick to the facts. Do you have a hot tub or pool at your home? Do you have an ocean view? Are you a quick five-minute walk to hiking and camping? Put your strongest attributes in your headline and display them prominently in the listing. But always be honest! Don’t purport to have a beach view when it’s really a beach view obstructed by the building across the street. By being truthful about what your property has to offer, you will attract visitors that are best suited for you and your home.


3) Cancel without a just cause
Scenario: your extended family is coming into town and needs a place to crash, so they ask about your vacation rental in the area. You have renters schedules on those dates but they didn’t book a long stay anyway, and you would really rather accommodate your family. This is not a just cause to cancel on your renters! You already signed a contract with your guests and travel may have already been arranged— it is your duty as much as it is theirs to honor that contract.

4) Enter home while guests are there

There are some owners who just can’t stay away. If that’s you, then maybe you should re-examine the reasons you have chosen to rent your vacation home. Remember, your home is a vacation for someone else. We can all agree that someone barging in on you isn’t exactly relaxing or “getting away from it all.” Save the plant watering and the light bulb-checking for another time when you don’t have renters in the house, and extend your guests the same courtesy that you would want extended to you.

5) Slack on returning deposits in a timely manner

After renters have departed from your property, send your housekeeper over immediately to clean and check for any damage done to the property. If no damage has been done, refund their security deposit immediately to show that you appreciate their respect for your property. (In some states it’s not an option— there’s a law that you must return the deposit within a certain number of days.) Those renters who took care of your house deserve to be treated with the utmost respect— plus, your attention to detail and speedy service may win you future bookings from them.


We encourage every owner to make their own rules to help them run their business effectively and gainfully. However, by establishing some industry standards, we believe we can make the vacation rental business even more appealing to travelers of every walk of life.


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