Fill Openings by Shortening Your Minimum Stay Requirement

    booking nightly stays at your vacation rental: is it worth the hassle?Due to the amount of work involved in taking a booking and preparing your home for guest arrival and departure, many owners prefer to deal only with renters booking for a week or more at a time.

    In some markets, however, a one-week minimum is economically unrealistic. A report by market-research group PhoCusWright shows that the average length of stay in mountain or ski destinations is just three nights, compared to a one-week average for beach rentals.

    However, even if your minimum-stay requirement is currently in step with comparable properties in your area, you might find that easing up on those requirements to allow for three- two- or even (on the rarest of occasions) one-night stays could be more than worth the trouble – particularly in a sluggish economy, because a reduced minimum stay is one special offer that doesn't cut into your bottom line.

    Advertising a shorter minimum stay allows you to reach out to bargain-hunters looking to stretch their travel dollars without slashing your rates. In fact, a shorter minimum stay could be such a competitive advantage in your market that you'd be able to charge a premium and still find travelers with open wallets but limited vacation days who are eager to book. When it comes to filling last-minute holes in your calendar, a shortened minimum stay could be the difference between sealing a booking and letting your home go un-rented.

    If you're considering offering nightly stays at your vacation rental, here are some guidelines to help smooth the process.

    Setting Dates Because weekends are the most commonly requested days for short-term travelers, consider running your weekly rentals from Friday to Friday or Sunday to Sunday. Freeing up Saturday allows you to more easily fill in gaps between weekly rentals with shorter stays. Another bonus: because Saturdays are the most popular day for checkouts, you might have more luck finding a reliable housekeeper, too.

    Turnaround Logistics
    Before you accept a shorter-than-average stay, make sure that your housekeeper can accommodate a full cleaning and linen change in the required timeframe. Some might tell you that scheduling a same-day or next-day turnaround is impossible, or it might just require buying an extra full set of linens.

    Setting Rates If your market is primarily priced by the weekend, your nightly rate should be approximately 1/5th to 1/6th of your weekly rental rate. If you find that nightly renters balk at your cleaning fee, you might consider bundling some of your cleaning fee into your nightly rate so the cost of cleaning doesn't seem exorbitant by comparison.

    Security Deposits Similarly, short-term renters might be unwilling to fork over a $500 deposit for a $500 two-night rental. The best way around this sticky situation is simply to do a pre-authorization hold on a guest's credit card. You can pre-authorize for your usual deposit amount — so you remain protected in case of damages — without increasing the out-of-pocket cost for your short-term renters.

    Accepting Payments Because weekend bookings are smaller sums of money, requiring full payment upfront is typically the easiest route for both you and your renters. In the case of a last-minute booking, you'll definitely want to require payment in full by credit card at the time of booking. Remember: for your own safety, you should never send renters complete directions to your property without receiving payment in full.
    Admittedly, accepting nightly bookings takes work, and you'll have to evaluate whether nightly renters are worth your time. But if your vacation rental business has been hard hit by the recession, short-term bookings could give you just the boost you need to make your year-end goals.

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