How to Book Travelers Who Are New to Vacation Rentals

    first time vacation home rentersThe number of travelers booking vacation rentals has continued to grow over the years, with continued awareness of our industry and improvements to vacation rental websites that make it easier for travelers to find and book properties, we should start to see more and more newcomers to the world of vacation rentals.

    What does this mean for you? To help ensure that these new renters become “vacation rental enthusiasts,” it's important that we do our best to make them feel comfortable, trust that we are legitimate, and show that our homes really do exist!

    Here are a few ways to ease these newbies in:

    • Be patient and thorough with communications. Chances are, someone who has never rented a property from an individual will have more questions than your veteran vacation home renters. Before you get frustrated, think about the first time you used a website like Craigslist or eBay where you felt nervous entering a transaction with a complete stranger. With that in mind, try to take the questions in stride, provide as much information as possible, and be prepared for a little more hand-holding. These newbie renters might just turn out to be repeat guests.
    • Explain why travelers should trust that your vacation rental business is legitimate. Have you ever been asked, “How do I know your home exists?” Well, for every one who verbalizes it, there are likely hundreds who may think it but are afraid to ask. Once again, new vacation home renters might be a bit leery about booking a home that they came across on the Internet. Whether they’re concerned about Internet scams or just apprehensive because they’ve never done this before, you should try to be proactive in reassuring guests that you run a legitimate business and your home really exists. To do so, you can explain to your prospective renters that HomeAway and VRBO go through a thorough due-diligence process before accepting subscriptions for any property listing. Secondly, point them in the direction of the  Book with Confidence Guarantee, which will essentially protect their vacation rental payments that are made via HomeAway Payments and our payment check-out.
    • Fill out your listing as completely as possible. Do you offer a coffee maker? Does your house have an iron? Of course these are basic items that you provide, but if they are not listed on your ad, travelers might actually assume you don’t stock these necessities. One of the best ways to encourage more inquiries from first-time renters is to update your listings with the most thorough and up-to-date information about your home. Although we can’t guarantee that all travelers will read and absorb every detail of your listing, it’s one of the easiest ways to help reduce questions from prospective guests.
    • Use a rental agreement. Although we encourage you to be as thorough as possible in your listing(s), you probably don’t want to use that space to spell out all of your home's rules and policies. You should utilize the House Rules section of your listing where you can add up to 3 custom rules in addition to some standard rules. To help avoid some of the confusion that newbie renters may feel, send a detailed rental agreement and require that it be signed and returned in a timely manner, usually 24-48 hours.  This will help answer some of their questions and assure them that you are running a reputable operation.
    • Keep your calendar up-to-date. One of the biggest hindrances to the vacation rental booking process is the ambiguity as to which properties are actually available. Even as vacation rental websites make it easier for travelers to search for available dates, it won’t do them any good if the homeowners’ calendars aren’t updated! As more and more owners update their calendars, travelers will have more confidence as they surf the Web for available properties. Bonus: it may mean fewer inquiries to respond to when you’re already booked.
    • Showcase quality photos. What’s the quickest way to send a newbie renter running for the door? Dark and dingy photos on your listing. When travelers book a hotel room, especially from a well-known chain, they basically know what to expect; when they book a vacation rental, there’s always a bit of uncertainty. Make sure you’re setting the right expectations (and creating the best first impression) with top-of-the-line photos. It may even warrant an investment in professional shots.
    • Respond quickly to inquiries via the sites secure communications system. One of the best ways to build that relationship with your prospective renters is to respond quickly to their questions.
    • Accept credit cards. Think about the last time you booked accommodations for a vacation. How did you pay? The vast majority of the time,  that answer is going to be “credit card.” So, if you’re not offering your guests the same courtesy, via HomeAway Payments, you should rethink your payment options. You can easily accept credit cards through HomeAway Payments and your guests will appreciate the added protection. The idea is simply that newbie renters will not only feel more comfortable with the transaction, but it could also build their confidence in your relationship and your vacation rental business.
    • Charge appropriate taxes. Most markets require vacation rental owners to collect and remit sales and or transient occupancy tax for each booking. In some cases we are required to collect and remit these taxes for you, read more about that here. Although this means that your renters are technically forking over more dough, they should consider this a good thing — you are following a standard business protocol.  Plus, this further proves that you are a legitimate business in the eyes of your city, county and/or state.
    • Encourage past renters to write a review. Once again, think back to your last vacation. Did you consult friends about places to go or where to stay? Or perhaps you visited a website to check out reviews on sailing excursions or area restaurants. Even in our daily purchases, we like to receive feedback that we’re making the right decision. The same goes for your vacation home. Although you can sing the praises of your property till the cows come home, reviews will help foster trust and credibility with new renters when they read all the comments from satisfied (or even ecstatic!) past guests. HomeAway now solicits reviews on all stays that are made through the site and you have the opportunity to review your traveler too!


    There’s no need to be overwhelmed by all the things you can do to help encourage first-time renters to book your home. Just remember to be upfront about your processes, policies and expectations, and be prepared to provide more answers to all the additional questions you’ll likely receive. Keeping these pointers in mind will provide vacation rental beginners with the assurance they need to book your home with confidence.
    Last Updated April 11, 2018

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