19 Replies Latest reply: May 24, 2012 10:16 PM by newbernroundhouse RSS

    Is an owner website effective, and when are welcome gifts advisable?


      We are owners of a mounain cabin in Georgia and are just coming off a rental management contract, so we are real newbies to renting by owner.  I note that a lot of the VRBO ads refer the people to the owner's individual website, sometimes even as to determining availability.  Is the cost of a website really worth it?  Also, since we have a lot of weekend renters from Atlanta, I don't see the desirability of a welcome gift.  Does anyone have any thoughts as to the length of the rental before such gifts are provided?

        • Is an owner website effective, and when are welcome gifts advisable?
          tyann Contributor

          Yes, I would definitely recommend setting up a personal website for your vacation home. Not only are you then able to showcase your home with additional pictures and information, but it also gives more validity to your vacation home. You can also tell guests more about yourselves, which guests do like to know. Your personal website can also give guests a feel of your home with the website style. Here is our website: www.vacationhomeinbranson.com.


          The initial set up cost can be nothing (a free blog or one page site done by yourself), or a few hundred to thousand for a web designer (depending on how intricate of a site you would like).


          For welcome gift ideas, see the thread on that subject. There are lots of great ideas, costs ranging from a couple dollars up to a hundred dollars.


          Tyann Marcink

          Nature's Retreat and Canyon Retreat | www.vacationhomeinbranson.com

          Website Design and Photography | www.marcinkdesigns.com

          Handpainted Children's Room Decor | www.littleelephantcompany.com

          • Is an owner website effective, and when are welcome gifts advisable?
            New Member

            Mooreva, you're on the right track and the good news is the technical barriers to create your own vacation rental website have been removed, along with the cost.  We've spent the last year developing Webchalet.com which allows owners like you to create a vacation rental website in minutes, complete with all the functionality of your standard directory listing. 


            Technical requirements: it's no different then setting up a directory listing. 

            Cost: there's no development fees, just $9.99 monthly hosting.

            If you're still considering a website, please check us out.  There's a 15 day free trial.


            Extra benefits to your own website:

            -Google places: have you googled [ "your town" vacation rental ], and noticed all the dots with alphabetical letters on the google map and often listed first in the organic search?  If you have your own website google will display you there before anyother properties and it cost you nothing.


            good luck.   erik

            • Is an owner website effective, and when are welcome gifts advisable?

              I recommend getting a website.  There are several vacation rental templates out there. Also, I recommend using Wordpress with the template since it's a content management system that will help when you need to update your website.


              We have a website and it allows us to put more information that we can't put into VRBO and Homeaway. The extra information definitely has helped get more rentals.

                • Is an owner website effective, and when are welcome gifts advisable?

                  Wordpress is awesome.  You can check mine out www.benddesertdweller.com.


                  I take reservations on it and even accept reviews.


                  It's free and easy to use and very easy to update.  There is a step by step awnswer to every question with there support system.


                  The only thing that I have had trouble with is an interactive calender but all the rental sites are very good about that.

                    • Is an owner website effective, and when are welcome gifts advisable?

                      Also, gifts, yes, yes and yes.  I provide a large chocolate bar at one rental and a chocolate bar and a bottle of wine will be the gift at the newest place.

                      I get comments all of the time that people love the candy.  It gives off a good feeling and is part of the first impression.


                      Just imagine yourself as the traveler and think how nice it would be come home to something sweet after a long day on the road.


                      Also, if there is a celebration...honeymoon, new baby, birthday, I will always leave champagne, flowers, things like that.


                      Have fun with it and if you can do something homeade, even better!

                      • Is an owner website effective, and when are welcome gifts advisable?

                        Wordpress - are you all talking about the wordpress.com, which I understand is more of a blog and is less flexible; or are you talking about the full WordPress?  And, is there a monthly charge with these sites?  Thank you all for the invaluable information.


                        Re gifts, do you still recommend gifts for just a 2-day, weekend rental?  I guess chocolates would not break the bank, but champagne and flowers seems a little over the top for a weekend rent.  On the other hand . . . it is good customer relations.

                          • Re: Is an owner website effective, and when are welcome gifts advisable?
                            Active Contributor

                            I do my web site through google sites.


                            I like it because it's free, and it's easy to edit.




                            I don't even have to log in to anything special.  Whenever I'm logged into my gmail account (which I always am), the view I see on google sites is my editors view, whenever I visit the page. So all I have to do is click edit and make whatever changes.


                            Now, when it comes to setting up forms for taking reservations and payments, and for people submitting reviews, etc ... google sites, so far, seems TERRIBLE for that.  Unfortunately!  Yes, I tried and it was unwieldy and awkward and absoutely awful.  (This was in Fall 2010, maybe it's better now, but I haven't tried again.)  Google sites' awkwardness with "forms" is the reason why I have no forms on my web site for guests to enter any information.


                            But ... if you look at our web site, you'll see that we have all of our listings noted on the left hand side, in the side bar.  On our availability page, I have a google calendar posted ... and I have a link to the the HomeAway listing, where the person can go if they want to submit an inquiry.


                            Here is our vacation rental web site that is maintained on google sites.




                            Our Noe Valley neighbors web site is also on google sites, you can check that one out here:




                            So .... even though it seems that google sites does not have all the cool "sign up forms" that WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, and other Content Management Systems would offer ... it still works for me.


                            I like that everything is integrated into google, and I don't have to log in with different accounts.  Also I've tried downloading the full versions of Drupal and Wordpress on my computer, and there was a big learnig curve.  I really didn't have the patience for it at the time (it was for a professional organization, not for my vacation rental). 


                            For my vacation rental, I really want it to be "no muss, no fuss," because I have other things I need to be doing (like posting on HERE!  Ha ha, just kidding).  With Google Sites, it was so easy ... I just picked a template and got rolling.  I'm not 100% happy with how the web site looks, but it's good enough, especially considering how easy it was to set up, and how easy it is to update and maintain.


                            For welcome gifts, there's a very active thread on this, which you might like to check out.





                            We do provide flowers for each guest.  We either make a bouquet of flowers from our garden out back or we buy flowers such as a bunch of tulips or daffodils, which are often less than $10.00 per bunch.  They look very pretty when you set them out in a nice glass vase. 


                            We also provide dairy-free, gluten-free vegan chocolates for each guest ... I hope they are acceptable to most people's food allergies.  You can read more about the welcome gifts that we and other owners provide, in the link above.

                            • Re: Is an owner website effective, and when are welcome gifts advisable?

                              Wordpress: Yes, I use the free blog site and the only expense would be purchasing the domain.  $9.99 a year or so.


                              I am happy with it and there are ways to make it look professional.


                              Gifts:  If it's a short stay, the flowers or chocolates do well.  Generally, the Champagne is for longer stays(4+ days usually).

                        • Is an owner website effective, and when are welcome gifts advisable?
                          New Member

                          We have found that having a personal website http://www.firstgreen.co.uk is a great way to provide further information and it is also a 'trust signal'. I don't think we will ever be in a position where we don't need homeaway ads as they also bring in the bookings, in addition to our website.


                          When first staring out I would concentrate on advertising on portals, then build a website.

                          • Is an owner website effective, and when are welcome gifts advisable?
                            New Member

                            Congrats on doing it on your own!  The first thing you need to do before thinking about a property web site is GET PROFESSIONAL PHOTOS.   Your property listing and your individual property web site will not  shine without professional photos to showcase your vacation rental.   With professional photos, you will stand out.  Find a professional real  estate or architectural photographer in your area and have them shoot  your rental.  We have people tell us they booked with us because our  photos looked amazing so don't skimp on your photography.


                            As for the web site, make sure once you have the amazing photos, you  display them well on your web site.  We just updated our web site to  lead with our photos.


                            See http://www.GoKoOlina.com.


                            People are visual.  Yes,  you can have a lot of descriptive text on the page, but let your images  pull them in first.


                            Wordpress is the way to go.  There is www.wordpress.com and www.wordpress.org.  You want the .org site where you download and install the site on your own server / hosting company.  A domain name will cost you less than $10 a year.  Search for discount codes wherever you decide to purchase the domain from.  Also a lot of hosting company have built in one-click installations of Wordpress.


                            Good luck!


                            • Re: Is an owner website effective, and when are welcome gifts advisable?
                              New Member

                              I say yes. Definitely your own website.

                              Not only is it a great way to further showcase your home, you can list  other links to areas of interest for potential renters that are not  available through sites like Homeaway or VRBO.

                              In addition, I find it's easier to just give potential  renters/guests/neighbors/colleagues the web address rather than a  property ID#.

                              As far as welcome gifts. A must! Regardless of the length of the rental.  A a welcome card and simple bouquet of flowers will do in a pinch.

                              Feel free to check out my web page. It's pretty simple and didn't need a web designer to do it.


                              • Re: Is an owner website effective, and when are welcome gifts advisable?
                                Active Contributor

                                When we started rental about 6 years ago, we had our own website started and I put one on VRBO.  Initially, I regretted having both - I thought our own website was a waste of time and $$.  Now, not so much.  Clearly I get the majority of our responses from VRBO, however, because of all the changes with HA/VRBO that I'm not real wild about and because of the steady increase in price, I'm trying to steer people to our own website.  When I send all my preliminary information/contract, I include our own business cards.  I have a supply of these business cards at our VR.  When I send a thank you note returning the security deposit, I include another business card. I saw a suggestion on this post about including the website address in our response to VRBO inquiry - I'm going to incorporate that into our form response.  I'm trying to do anything I can to use our own site instead of VRBO....

                                • Is an owner website effective, and when are welcome gifts advisable?
                                  New Member

                                  Yes, your own holiday villa site is definitely worthwile - provided you have the time and determination to make it stand out from the crowd!

                                  We created our own websites for our villas in Thailand, the rural Thai villa Gecko Villa, the traditionally Thai villa Green Gecko, and our Rice Paddy Villa, and they are effective. an additional - or alternative - avenue would be a blog for your villa.


                                  Photos, as discussed above, are important! Your text is one thing - and should describe the area around your holiday home and detail things to do there - but photos are crucial in painting an honest picture of your villa to potential guests.


                                  In terms of welcome gifts, our properties are unusual in that they offer fully catered holidays, and guests are met by a local Thai family who look after them and show them around, creating the most personalized holidays. But if you are renting a property on a standard basis, then yes, definietly go with a welcome pack of foodstuffs and drinks upon arrival, perhaps a local guidebook, and soemthing unique to the area to remember your holiday by.

                                  • Is an owner website effective, and when are welcome gifts advisable?
                                    skiandglee Active Contributor

                                    Definitely get a website.  I have hundreds of photos on my sites as opposed to the 5 pics I pay for on VRBO.  It's your advertisement brochure, a chance to show them what you have and why they should rent from you.  You can have an ad supported website that costs you nothing per month and nothing per year.  If you would like me to create one like mine, you can see examples that I made at my site www.vacationrentalhelper.com.


                                    As for gifts, I never did but recently started including a $5 jar of cinnamon honey roasted almonds (as I am addicted and misery loves company!).  I tie a bow and a handwritten card to the jar that welcomes them to my hosue and to please enjoy these almonds with my compliments.  I think it sets the tone right from the start that you are a caring homeowner.



                                    • Is an owner website effective, and when are welcome gifts advisable?

                                      In our research study over 18 months, we monitored 3 properties reservations without a website (for 6 months) then with a website (for 6 months). Occupancy rose by an average of 220% (yes, an average of 220%). The owners reported that having a website allowed them to do the following:

                                      - Convey exptertise in some area of specialty (the town, activities...etc) via a blog

                                      - After the initial investment, aquire new leads cost free

                                      - Appear more professional

                                      - Attract plugs in major media publications

                                      - Hone in on high-converting keywords with regards to optimizing their homepage

                                      - Maneuver reservations manually into best fitting time slots

                                      - Many, many more reasons.


                                      The quick and resounding answer (from me and everyone above) is YES!!! If you want to increase reservations in the new millenium, you NEED a website of your own. As for gifts, our Boost Occupancy Report 2011 determined that the best gift upon arrival (and, in fact the cheapest) was cold beers.

                                      • Is an owner website effective, and when are welcome gifts advisable?

                                        At the risk of repeating a lot of points above - we too have found having our own web site effective. Certainly not a replacement for vacation rental listing sites like HomeAway, but we receive a respectable 12% and 8% of our business through each of the Sunset Beach Bliss and Beech Mountain Bliss respectively. Like sfvacationhut we have made these with Google Sites for free, although we were able to get forms and availability calendars to work with Google Docs and Google Calendar. Perhaps Google has improved things in recent years. I recently wrote a post on setting up a vacation rental website that might be interesting.


                                        We don't currently leave out welcome gifts. We are considering doing this for our off-season month long bookings. We'd like to make something branded with our web site, but haven't decided what yet. Will check out some of the other threads referenced above. Thanks,



                                        • Re: Is an owner website effective, and when are welcome gifts advisable?

                                          Being on the prospective guest's side of things - an owner run website is great support to what one might have already come across on a rental site.  It confirms and comforts in their research.  Thus I have been making a site for my rental.


                                          Re. gifts - I'm still very new at this business, just booked my first VRBO rental last weekend (went GREAT!) but I do plan to eventually have 'gifts'  We were doing more of a one room rental, not quite B&B style, but I'd stock the fridge with eggs, juice, milk, fresh fruits, maybe have muffins baked, all for them to use if they wish.  Right now I have made a connection with a local gal who makes soap, she's doing custom guest bars for me and integrating our logo.  http://www.etsy.com/people/wantless  I'm attempting to grow some luffah gourds this year and if the harvest is good I can add a sponge, grown right on the rental property, as a gift too.  I may pick and chose who to give gifts to, but if it begins showing in the reviews regularly I guess future guests will expect it and if not provided may upset them.  So I'll just see how it goes.  We charge on the higher end for our area so I figure some goodies would be appreciated.  On a slightly related note, I'd love to do package deals, like anniversary weekend specials including wine, etc. maybe hire in a massage therapist on site.  Anyway I ramble now becuase this is something I'm working on too!