What's in store for us on Airbnb and VRBO in 2019?
It's the start of a new year, which means we need to have a game plan on how 2019 is going to be even better than 2018.
As a vacation rental homeowner myself for over five years, I love this time of year, I love getting a fresh start, and I love reviewing back on the previous year, and really looking at what worked really well and what didn't.
Every year that I have done this I have been able to outperform my previous year, and I do not intend to break that streak!
In today's post, I am going to review the three ares that I look at this time of year so that I can increase bookings and rental income year over year.
Part #1: Focus on the fundamentals
At the start of the year it can be easy to get sidetracked on new shiny objects, or maybe new tools that you want to add, but the first step is just making sure you are still doing the fundamentals correctly.
When I say fundamentals the first part of this is timely responses, you want to make sure absolutely that you're responding within 24 hours, but I like to say aim for under an hour if possible, and immediate is even better.
We are living in a fast paced world and our potential guests are moving quickly, so they are likely shooting out lots of responses, or lots of inquires all at the same time, and sometimes the first to respond is the first to get the booking. So, first things first let's just make sure we're doing the fundamentals well, and that we are responding quickly.
The second part of fundamentals is providing a stellar experience. Of course, we want to aim for a five star review for every single guest that we have if possible, and I like to reflect back on, how is the experience I provide for my guests? Am I delivering against this, and what can I improve upon to make this an even better experience for my guests?
The last part of fundamentals is being a reliable and trustworthy host. Hopefully you didn't have to make any cancellations last year, and if you did it was an extenuating circumstance, but those are the key fundamentals.
By doing these fundamentals well you are going to earn those badges, and you are going to be seen as a trustworthy and reliable host.
Part #2: Reflect and Refine
Reflect and refine takes the first step a little bit deeper. You first want to look back on the previous year and understand what you need to fix before you can grow. I like to really dig deep into a few key areas:
1. Conversion Rate.
Conversion rate is going to be how many of your inquires are you converting into a booking? Are you getting a lot of inquires that aren't going anywhere, and aren't turning into bookings? If so, you may have some opportunities to adjust that.
The first adjustment could be just going back to your response time, if you are not responding as quickly possible, ideally under that hour time frame then they could just be moving on to other properties that are getting back to them quicker.
Sometimes this is a quick and easy fix, but then sometimes you just need to go back and really look at the messaging that you're using.
When someone first inquires with you and says, "Hey, I'm thinking about booking at your place, but I'm wondering are you pet friendly?", maybe you just shoot back to them with, "Hey, yes my dates are available and we are pet friendly."
If so, you are missing a key opportunity to continue to sell your place, so you could say, "Hey, thanks for your interests in our fantastic property, it sits just steps away from the lake, and I see that you're wondering if we're pet friendly and we absolutely love having pets at our home, etc, etc." You can just take that a few steps further to further sell your place.
2. Review Breakdown.
Next, look into your review breakdown. And if you're on Airbnb, then this is great because they give you a lot of information that you can dig even deeper.
If you go to your profile on Airbnb and go to progress, then you get your overall review score and then you can see that you can breakdown into each area.
For example, our overall score is a 4.8, but I want to see how I can get that to a five, so what area am I missing out on a five-star review? A couple years ago, I noticed that I was getting dinged on location, which was kind of odd because we had a really great location that was close to the water in a prime spot. When I dug a little deeper I noticed that there were comments about our gravel road. People were coming and were disappointed that our property was located on a gravel road in some situations.
So, I went back to the description and up at the top I set some expectations, and I said, "Something you should be aware of, this home sits on a gravel road, so if you're coming by motorcycle or RV it could be a little more challenging for you to access."
Ever since I did that I get all five-stars and that seemed to help with that. And so, I can see now when I dive into my location it tells me that my last five ratings were five-stars, so I know that I'm doing well there. But that's one example of how you can really reflect and refine based on your ratings breakdown.
You can also go into every single one of your guests individually and look at how they scored you in every single one of these categories. It's really helpful to just take a little bit of time and dig a little bit deeper overall how you performed in 2018 in all of these categories.
3: Occupancy Rate.
Another important area to review is your occupancy rate. You want to look at what your overall occupancy rate was for the year, and then you can use a tool like AirDNA to compare that to your market's occupancy rate.
If you go into AirDNA there is a free account, and then you can also sign up for a paid account for more data and insights, but you can use the free account as a starting point to see what your occupancy rate was, and how it compares to your market.
Occupancy rate is another really great area to reflect on, because you want to make sure that you can continually improve this, especially if your market is at a higher occupancy rate than what you've been seeing.
Part #3: Be a Trailblazer
The first part of being a trailblazer is to be an early adopter to new platform roll-outs.
Pay attention to the listing platforms that you're on, and look and see what they are rolling out, because a lot of times if you are an early adopter to some of these features, you could possibly be rewarded by ranking higher in the feed or standing out in it.
One example I remember of this was when the platform started rolling out the instant bookings, a lot of homeowners were hesitant to try this new feature, and they were a little worried about how it was going to work.
Since we were one of the early adopters on this, I noticed that our ranking increased and we received a lot more bookings because not as many homeowners in our area where using it at that point. So, pay attention to roll outs and be willing to test and try some new things.
The other part of being a trailblazer is really providing a unique experience, and yes, there are a lot of extreme examples that aren't going to be realistic.
You have a home, you don't have a airstream, or a house boat, or something really cool and exotic, and if you do...that's awesome you will definitely be unique and standout in your market!
But, for a lot of us we have what we have and we need to figure out how we can provide a unique experience with our house, even if it isn't an extreme or exotic house.
For us, this was just really a simple investment in water toys since we have a lake house. We noticed that there are thousands of properties on our lake that are on Airbnb and VRBO, but not a lot of them were providing ways that guests could really access the lake, like kayaks, and paddle boats.
A few years ago, there weren't that many homes offering those items, so we took that as an opportunity to invest a little under $1,000 to provide those water toys, and it is a great way for us to be unique in our market, and really stand out.
So, take some time to evaluate how you can continually provide a unique experience that they can't get from just anyone in your market.
A new year is a perfect time to revamp your marketing strategy for your vacation rental property by looking at three key areas: fundamentals, refine metrics and looking for opportunities to be a trailblazer.
If you're just getting started on Airbnb or VRBO, and you want to make sure you have a great year in 2019 be sure to check out my free online class, it's called Four Steps to Create a Profitable Vacation Rental, and I go over ALL my best tips and tricks for setting your listing up for success!
Also, please comment below what steps you take in the new year to prepare your rental for success. If you have any questions, I am happy to answer them in the comments below.