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10004 Views 34 Replies Latest reply: Mar 2, 2012 9:06 AM by marilyn RSS
Contributor 39 posts since
Jul 25, 2011
Currently Being Moderated

Jan 9, 2012 11:33 AM

Grass is greener on the other side, low booking, what should I do?

My neighbor who also has a home for rent called me and asked me to take some of her guests since her family wanted to use the vacation home, she expressed that she is booked almost solid for the next 6 months and I only have 4 rentals in the same period.


She is sending me two of her guests and I will honor her rate and contract, but I am depressed, why am I not renting as much as her?


My published rates are similar, my home is beautiful and I always respond quickly to all requests.


Any ideas?

    • Have you updated your pictures?
    • Review your daily and weekly rates
    • Have you completed the description and ammenities?
    • Do you offer what others offer (entertainment options, pool table, etc)
    • Have you created a video?


  • Contributor 39 posts since
    Jul 25, 2011

    Send us a link of your property so we can have a look.

  • bobbie32 Senior Contributor 1,084 posts since
    May 21, 2011

    Where does your neighbor advertise? 

  • anja Senior Contributor 1,560 posts since
    Aug 9, 2011

    Hi 'lovetravel'.....without being able to compare your property with your neighbor's, it's not easy for any of us here to offer a justified answer. But, my first thoughts were:  -different price?  -different view?  -different kitchen and/or bath?  -pool or hot tub?   Any number of factors could be making the difference.  You need to make a thorough comparison of what she offers against what you offer and then try to meet her standard.  P.S. you and/or she might want to consider giving those two sets of guests that are transferred to your place a little extra "bonus" they do not feel "baited and switched" (!!) for having a lodging change put upon them.  Even if your house is "gorgeous"...people are so sensitive these days...and they just might be annoyed.  So, to thank them for "understanding" , maybe a real nice "welcome basket" loaded.....bottle of wine, cheese, crackers...something nice.  This is what I did when I had to "move" some people once to another place:   I gave them a $50 "gift card" from one of the beautiful resorts near my place....that they could use on anything in the resort. They loved it!!!

  • loscuatrotulipanes Community All-Star 232 posts since
    Oct 7, 2011

    I get this question a lot. My fleet of rentals are booked solid year round and I always get emails, "what are you doing that we are not?" from neighbors and other owners in the neighborhood.


    The short answer to why we are booked is, "because we have been going at this full time for 5 years." Which is to say, there is a huge power in reputation, word of mouth, and "dues" of doing good business. Nothing in the vacation rental world happens over night.


    This being said, here are some techniques from my report to speed up your progress (ie. stuff your neighbor is probably doing, that results in more bookings).


    1. Construct your own website: do not rely on listing sites for all your bookings

    2. Get professional photos and video tours of your properties

    3. Offer free nights to influential locals

    4. Register with and get featured in major journalistic publications

    5. Apply to Google Maps and Google Places (this gets you featured at the top of a search for local accommodations)

    6. Submit content about your property to press release sites and article directories

    *7. Become an expert: One of the best way to drive bookings is to become an expert in your neighborhood or region. Of course, you need to get some expertise first (this is up to you). Once you have established yourself as a leader (perhaps the expert in all activities in your region or the expert of historical tours) you give your rental a huge Value Add. This generates more bookings.


    In general, don't expect to start generating bookings overnight. The similarity or differences of your listing page and that of your neighbors could be vast or minimal: but what it really boils down to is generating a surround sound effect of publicity about your rental. Do this and you'll be the one doling out referrals


    Matt is the author of DIY Vacation Rental Marketing - 54 free and inexpensive ways to increase your property's bookings in just 3 days.

  • New Member 5 posts since
    Oct 31, 2011

    You can have a video produced by for only $199-will certainly help in advertising your rental.  They are on the vendor community page-look at their site to see some of the videos they have produced

  • loscuatrotulipanes Community All-Star 232 posts since
    Oct 7, 2011

    Great thread! To answer a few questions...


    1. Reporters CERTAINLY DO write featured articles about individual properties. I know because my first property was one of them. I have had success with The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Travel + Leisure, GQ, and a number of others. Just prove that you are running your rental like a business and they'll respect it.

    2. I don't understand why you can't afford to offer nights. When I started out, we use the barter technique for everything from plumbing services to television ads. Giving away free nights or trading them for a valuable service is one of the things that makes property ownership great. Everyone loves a few nights of vacation!

    3. Maybe Google Places charges in some places. Where I live and work (Panama) it is free. @Citrusisle, I would also be careful to say "I am cancelling because I am getting no leads" because Google Places is hard to track. Do you have walk-in guests (ie. guests that call up and say, "hey we're in town and we need a place to stay")? There's a good chance that they come from Google Places as it's searchbase is geo-sensitive: much like a hyper-specific phonebook. You may be getting business from them without explicitly knowing it. Just a thought.

    4. Videos: I simply found a local videographer and traded him and his wife three nights in my rental in exchange for his lovely work of the unit. I have also borrowed a friend's nice video camera with great success. In the big scheme of things, $199 is about the cost of a two nights stay. @StayAtTremblant, for you that is less than 1 night in peak season. If the video generates 2 bookings, you've made your money back.


    To sum up, I know most people don't have all day to spend dawdling with video cameras and Google Places and PR sites: most of us have other jobs or are retired or just don't really care. But if you really want to maximize your rental profit, you need to spend some time doing these things and thinking about it like a business. Think about your costs (ex. the $199 video mentioned above) as investments the same way you might think of an upgrade to your rental. Your investments will pay for themselves over and over again if you pick them wisely. I'm not saying you should use every service that you're pitched. But good marketing investments like videos, photos, websites, and the like are worth their weight in GOLD.


    Matt is the author of DIY Vacation Rental Marketing - 54 free and inexpensive ways to increase your property's bookings in just 3 days.

    • Active Contributor 543 posts since
      Aug 25, 2011

      Hi loscuatrotulipanes,

      Points well taken!


      >> But if you really want to maximize your rental profit, you need

      >> to spend some time doing these things and thinking about it like a business.


      This is an entirely truthful statement.  But we must also weigh the ROI of doing any of those things.  The fact of the matter is that for many of us the time / effort / cost will outweigh the benefits.   Just keeping calendars up-to-date, replying to requests (including the VRBO / HA "bulk requests") and managing the existing bookings takes far more than the time I, personally, have available.


      No excuses here.  I'm very proactive and hands-on with my rentals -- but the reality of a full-time job and other committments means that Marketing and Sales of my rental via the sites where I advertise needs to be efficient and some of the suggestions, above, are far too time-intensive to offer sufficient ROI (for me anyway).


      It wasn't this difficult to manage a rental property five years ago.  VRBO / HA have changed the game and it will, undoubtedly, force some of us out of the business.


      >>@StayAtTremblant, for you that is less than 1 night in peak season.

      Only Christmas & New Years (two very short weeks) can even get close to those prices for us.


      >>If the video generates 2 bookings, you've made your money back.

      I hear you -- but to clarify, it needs to be 2 bookings that I (and this is key) woluldn't have otherwise closed and, in addition, the time spent doing the video needs to be better spent doing the video than doing other things with that time (maintenance, updating ad copy, maintaining site calendars, etc..)


      Anyway, I appreaciate your feedback.  I think I have quite a different perspective than some other owners due to our location, low ROI for HA / VRBO ads compared to larger properties, work situation, etc.  



      • amyg Active Contributor 323 posts since
        Dec 10, 2010

        Lovetravel, please post links to your neighbor's and your listings so we can do a side-by-side comparison.  Anja is right--we can't help you without being able to see what visitors to your listings are seeing.  If your rates are similar, your home is attractive and you answer rates promptly and yet your rentals are a fraction of your neighbor's success, something is amiss.


        When I work with other owners to help them figure out why they aren't doing well, we discuss dozens of things that can impact their bottom line.  The top reasons I've found for underperformance, in no particular order:


        Interior needs attention:  modernize, upgrade, declutter, too many white walls, furniture issues


        Exterior needs attention:  refresh painted surfaces, improve landscaping and view, create living space


        Photos:  not level, too dark, bright light from outside, lack focal point, beds not perfectly made, angle or framing of photo is not well thought out, photos lack personality or staging


        Listing title/headline is not written from traveler's perspective, does not use all available characters and has no click-thru power


        Rates: not competitive with market; not in line with property's attributes; too simplistic or complicated


        Response time:  more than 3-5 hours from initial inquiry or phone call


        Emailed replies to inquiries are generic and not memorable


        Hopefully these can spark some ideas for you to consider.  If you post your links, I'll be glad to give you some specific feedback.

        • anja Senior Contributor 1,560 posts since
          Aug 9, 2011

          Excellent response from "amyg".   LoveTravel:  do post those two links. You can't get better advice than here.

        • New Member 10 posts since
          Jan 13, 2012

          Excellent advise all.

          amyg, are you suggesting a phone call rather than an email response to an email inquiry?

          • lrbaldwin Active Contributor 757 posts since
            Feb 16, 2011

            I make a quick determination whether I would like to rent to an inquirer.  For example, if they show 4-8 adults and no children, I simply email them with answers to their questions.  If they indicate that they are involved in a wedding, large reunion, or school related event, I email that we rent only to small families.  If I have an interest in the inquirer, I ALWAYS give them a phone call, usually within an hour of their inquiry.  If there is no phone number listed, I email and give them the link to our personal site that has lots more information and pictures, and I ask them to call me or email me their phone number and a good time to call them.  This year, I have had a 100% conversion from inquiry to booking with those with whom I've had a phone conversation.  Though I email those with no phone number, I seldom hear back from them.  That's OK, probably wouldn't want them as guests anyhow.  I wll NEVER rent to anyone with whom I have not spoken.




            • New Member 10 posts since
              Jan 13, 2012

              I guess I blew it on my first inquiry. I emailed her back. And, it was a perfect little family of five. Shoot!

              Thank you so much for the advise, Irbaldwin. I won't make that mistake again. The inquirer sent the email yesterday around 6PM. I responded within 10 minutes. It would be too late to call now, right? Can you tell I'm a total newbie?

              • lrbaldwin Active Contributor 757 posts since
                Feb 16, 2011

                No, it's not too late.  Many folks use VRBO because the like the personal attention they get from owners as opposed to being treated like a number by agencies.  Go ahead and call.  What can you lose?



              • bobbie32 Senior Contributor 1,084 posts since
                May 21, 2011

                Yesterday, I get an VRBO inquiry from a gal that wants to book only 2 nights.  I e-mail her back, but then get a notice that the e-mail was undeliverable.  I immediately called telling her the problem and she books - thankfully she provided a phone number.  I also think it is a good idea to call to just check if they got the e-mail.  You never know and e-mails can get lost in cyber space.  But I usually give it a little longer - like a day.  Recently I had a gal e-mail wanting to book a couple of nights for a delayed honeymoon.  I e-mailed her back.  I check my tracker and could see that someone was accessing our website over and over again for a couple of days and I was able to put two and two together and knew that it must be the same gal.  It took her almost 3 days to decide to book with us. 


                When an inquiry does not have a phone number, I suspect that it might be the competition trying to get info like policies, rental terms or whatever.  This has indeed happened, thus I do not send out any paperwork until I have the address and phone number of the potential renter.  The potential renter always has time to review all policies and terms prior to making payment and signing the rental agreement.  The competition can be sneaky, so beware. 

              • Active Contributor 543 posts since
                Aug 25, 2011


                I wanted to provide you with a quick counter-point to lrbaldwin's reply.

                First, I'll state that lrbaldwin's approach is by far the most effective way and, if you can do it, proceed with that approach. 


                The downside is that is entirely dependent upon your availability to reply immediatly &/or to spend the required time to make the phone calls.  This, simply, is not within the realm of possibility for some of us due to other committments.


                However, please know that you CAN run a very successful rental business with very high customer satisfaction without replying immediately and without phoning to speak with guests.   More and more travellers use the internet (texting, facebook, e-mail, web) as their primary means of communication so it does, in fact, work very well.


                I own two small properties (one-bedroom) and field about 50 rentals per year at each (100 rentals).  Of these, I communicate with 100% of them by e-mail (it is how I send them the rental terms and how I get their acceptance to the terms).  Of those, 80+% of them pay by electronic means (PayPal, Interac e-mail payment) and only about 5% of them do I ever speak with on the phone.


                This is, in fact, many guests preferred method of dealing with an owner and it can work very well.


                The faster you reply, the better.

                If you can phone, you can solidify some bookings (it's a good differentiator).


                However, if you're unable to do that, do this:

                     - reply ASAP

                     - anticipate your guests questions and answer them proactively in your first e-mail

                     - have the e-mail contain absolutely everything a guest would need to say "I will book with you!"

                     - point them to your website with additional information, pictures and details


                So, you definitely didn't do anything wrong!  We all have found success paths that work and it will simply take a while to discover what works best for you in terms of your time and conversion to a successful booking!




                • New Member 10 posts since
                  Jan 13, 2012

                  Thank you stayattremblant. Honestly, that was my instinct. Especially since when I book vacations, it is almost always online. But I will definitely give it a try both ways. I really like your suggestion of anticipating questions.

                  Warmest regards,


                • amyg Active Contributor 323 posts since
                  Dec 10, 2010

                  Peter, good post and tips.  I have 7 properties to book and there's no way I could call everyone personally.  I would estimate that I talk with only 10% of our guests by phone and it's mostly because they call me.  I only call if my email to them bounces back, time is of the essense as in a last minute booking situation or I'm returning their call.


                  Emails are the most efficient and expedient way for me to communicate with our guests.  I have email response templates for each property so all I have to do is plug in the inquirer's name (at the salutation and close), their requested dates and the rate information.  On a good day when I'm buzzing along, I can have an email response back to the inquirer in less than 10 minutes.  The reply contains our logo, is personalized, answers their questions (if any), contains a breakdown of the cost, has a link to our online booking page, and my signature with all contact information.  In the closing line, I do invite guests to email or call me if they have further questions but most use email...very few follow up by phone.

                • marilyn Active Contributor 459 posts since
                  Nov 9, 2011

                  Most people today have smart phones and so their emails are received immediately where ever they may be.


                  You might consider one so that you receive your inquiries and can respond in kind quickly.




          • amyg Active Contributor 323 posts since
            Dec 10, 2010

            Hi Memel,

            Sorry if that wasn't clear.  What I meant to say was that if someone emails or leaves you a voicemail, that you respond promptly in the same manner. Most of our inquiries are by email but occasionally I'll get a voicemail on my phone if I've stepped out.  I have been guilty of not calling people back right away so that's one of my resolutions for 2012.  I'm lightning fast on emails but I get sloppy on returning phone calls sometimes--especially if I get home late at night.  It's easy to forget to return the call the next morning


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