How to be an AWESOME vacation rental host!
Were you aware that there are two very different sides to hosting? And, in order to be an awesome host we really must excel in both areas.
As a vacation rental owner myself, I realized this about a year into my journey and once I really truly realized this, our overall performance improved significantly.
In this post, I'm going to cover the two sides of hosting and how you can excel in each area.
In order to really excel at vacation rental hosting, you'll need to be both a great online host and a great offline host.
When I refer to an online host, I'm referring to everything that happens before the guest enters your home – attracting them to your listing, converting the guest into a booking and the communication leading up to the check-in.
An offline host refers to when they arrive at your home and everything you do to make sure that they feel welcomed and well taken care of.
I have found in working with vacation rental owners for the past few years, that we tend to naturally excel at one side of vacation rental hosting. It's important to understand the area you don't naturally excel at so you can put your focus here to improve.
For me, I know that the online side came more naturally to me since I had been a digital marketing strategist for many years prior to hosting.
However, I realized that I was not the most natural offline host! I mean, we were okay, but there was a lot of opportunity for us to improve!
Once I really focused on improving my offline hosting skills, I became an all-around better host and the rental business improved as a result of this effort.
In this post, I’ll cover how to excel at both sides of hosting to improve your performance as a host.
Through this breakdown, you will be able to assess if there’s an area that you can improve to become a better host from start to end.
How to be a Great Online Host
Let's start with what it takes to be a great online host. As a side note, 90% of this blog is geared towards this type of content because I have found it's the area most new hosts need help with the most.
First, you’ll need a strong listing
While there’s A LOT that goes into this , I will break this into three key areas.
Strong Headline. You will need a strong headline that communicates why someone should book at your property (see this post for how to write a better Airbnb headline).
Stellar Photos. You’ll need stellar photos that pop out in the feed and put your home in the best light possible (see this post for how to have better vacation rental photos).
Skimmable Description. You'll want a description that has plenty of information but it easy to read. It should address all their main questions to help people convert them easily (see this post for how to write a skimmable vacation rental listing).
Then, it is all about great host communication
When it comes to communication, you first want to make sure that you are answering questions and inquiries as quickly as possible.
Ideally, aim to answer in an hour or so if possible but of course under 24 hours. The quicker the better; the more that the listing sites see you quickly responding, the more favorably they will rank your profile.
Then, you want to make sure that once someone books with you, all the key communications are in place to properly communicate with your guest.
These are the key emails I like to have in place once a guest has booked my home:
You’ll want the booking confirmed message to ensure that you received their booking request and thank them for choosing your home.
A pre-stay email is something that you send about four to six days prior to check-in where you can give them some more information about the home check-in details etc.
First night email.
It’s nice to have a check-in email the first night that they check in to see if everything is going smoothly and remind them who they can contact if they need anything.
The last key message I really like to include is the check-out message. Thank them again and ask how everything went and let them know grateful you are they chose your home. It's also a great time to understand if there was some kind of hiccup during the stay so that you can potentially help smooth things over before they leave a review.
Those are the key communications that I recommend to be a great online host (here's a full breakdown of how to use response templates to save time managing).
Last, it all comes down to your reviews
The potential guest is really going to want to see those reviews from others that have stayed with you and had a great time.
But, you don't have as much control over the reviews on the online side so this is where you really need to rely on your skills as an offline host.
Let's get into what it takes to be a great offline host...
(P.S. If you've decided you need to improve your online hosting skills, be sure to grab this essential beginner's guide for vacation rental marketing. It will be your roadmap to success!)
How to be a Great Offline Host
On the offline host side of hosting, there are a few key areas here that you can start to explore.
First, you need a smooth check-in process
Ideally, you have already communicated this in your pre-stay email about four to six days prior so the guest already knows what to expect and how to check into your home.
Then, ideally there's also something a really convenient way for them to enter your home whether it's a digital lock or you are meeting them there but making sure that they don't have to go out of their way to access your home.
Then, you need a sparkling clean home
The next key part probably is obvious but has to be said because this is the easiest way to get docked in a review is having a sparkling clean home.
Whether you are doing it yourself or hiring out a cleaning company, ensuring that you are really providing a five-star clean home and that it is exceeding the guest's expectations m in this area is essential.
A little gift goes a long way
The next area is providing a surprise and delight item for the guest. This would be something that you don't necessarily tell them about, but upon checking in, it's waiting for them.
It's a great way to welcome them to the home. Whether this is a handwritten welcome note or a gift basket, something that you can provide to show you've gone the extra step just for them.
It always goes over well and will likely get mentioned in your reviews to make you stand out even more.
Go above and beyond with an amenity
The last area of being a great offline host that I'll cover is providing some amenities that go above and beyond.
Of course, you want all those expected amenities and my rule of thumb here is that if a standard hotel provides it, then you should too (e.g. shampoo, conditioner, soaps, etc.).
The above and beyond amenities is really what's going to get you noticed. This is thinking about what you could provide that would help your guests enjoy the home or the area even more.
It might be a little bit of an investment for you, but it will be so worth it. And this is something that will also really get noted in your reviews.
Think about what you might be able to do to help them enjoy the area.
For example, if you have a beach house, it's perhaps investing in all those beach amenities so a wagon, a cooler, and then umbrella. All of those things that aren't as easy to travel with would go over really well.
Those are the offline hosting suggestions and if you have any other suggestions for either being a better online host or offline host, I would love for you to leave those in the comments!
I invite you to explore each of these areas and see if there are any areas of opportunity for you to grow and excel at even more.
If you've thought to yourself that you may need help with the online side of hosting, then I have the perfect resource for you!
It's called The Vacation Rental Marketing Roadmap, and it is really a nice guide for you to make sure that you're checking off on all the boxes of being a great online host and I cover some of the top mistakes that I see homeowners making as well.