RentalSpot.com to Attend VRMA Annual Conference


2014-10-02 17:02:17 by: Sean Harvey

RentalSpot is headed to sunny San Diego for the Vacation Rental Managers Association Annual Conference Oct. 26-29, 2014.

With more than 900 of the industry’s top leaders in attendance last year, the VRMA Annual Conference is the largest event in the professionally managed vacation rental industry. It offers the latest tips, information, and strategies available through educational sessions and networking opportunities. The ideas and techniques we learn at the VRMA Annual Conference can be immediately implemented to improve our business, provide better value to homeowners and boost guest satisfaction.

We can't wait to share all the great ideas we pick up there!


5 Reasons To Book Your Summer Vacation Now


2014-09-30 16:24:42 by: Sean Harvey

5 Bedroom home near Santa Rosa Beach FL

Chances are you just got back from vacation. You’re still basking in the not-so-distant memory of lounging by the pool and listening to the waves crash upon the shore. Take a moment to relish...nice isn’t it?

So why not book your next vacation now? Crazy, huh? Not necessarily.

Studies show that taking vacations lead to healthier, happier people. You exercise. You diet. You do all the proactive things experts tell you to do. If there is one thing to be proactive about it’s rest and relaxation.

Here are the 5 reasons you should book your next vacation today and not tomorrow.

1. Google Says So

Using the power of Google Trends, we analyzed the search pattern for terms such as “vacation” and “vacation rental.” The result is a summary view of the number of times a particular search query was used.

As you can see from the figure below there is a definite seasonality to searches for vacation related topics. Searches peak from January to July with a corresponding decline from August through December.

If we assume the early bird does indeed get the worm, the best time to book your next summer vacation is September through November. By doing this you’ll have the very best destinations and vacation homes to choose from.

2. Strike While the Iron is Hot

Take a moment and think back to your most recent vacation. Hopefully it wasn’t that long ago. Remember the feelings of relaxation and calm? The immediate time following a positive experience is the time one is most likely to continue with good habits and actions. As time rolls on, these feelings will become less and less memorable and, consequently, your need to revisit these emotions with another vacation will become more and more diminished.  

Vacations make you feel good. Keep those good feelings alive by booking your next vacation destination now and not later.

3. Cash Flow

By booking your next vacation earlier in the year, you give yourself more time to absorb the total cost of the vacation*. For instance, if a July vacation costs you $5000 and you pay for it in February. You’re essentially paying $1000/month prior to the vacation. If you book that same July vacation in October, you’re now paying $555/month. Nearly half.

*This concept applies whether you pay for your vacation with cash or credit card. Either way, you’re still giving yourself enough time to save more for the next vacation.

4. Your Boss Will Appreciate It

Trust us. Your boss will appreciate the long notice, and you’ll most likely get your vacation time approved.

Being proactive about your vacation time allows your employer and clients to better plan projects throughout the year.

5. Pre-Trip Happiness

As we previously mentioned, studies show people who take vacations are happier and healthier than those who do not.

It’s because of a unique phenomenon researchers call “Pre-trip Happiness,” a general sense of happiness, excitement, and anticipation that increases as the vacation date approaches. “Pre-trip Happiness” can stay with an individual for months before a planned vacation.

In summary, by booking your vacation rental 8-9 months in advance, you beat the crowds, manage your money better, make life easier for your boss and, most importantly, you’ll be happy doing it.

Thanks for reading,

Team RentalSpot


How to Write a Vacation Rental Listing


2014-09-23 15:12:58 by: Sean Harvey

In our third, and final, piece about creating a great rental spot we’re going to cover what could be the most overlooked aspect of any great rental listing - the vacation rental listing description.  Do you want to know a secret? Nobody reads your description. It’s literally overlooked.


What?


Yup. Potential renters visiting a property on RentalSpot.com or FlipKey or HomeAway rarely read the property description. It’s true.  Potential renters surfing online for that next great vacation rental skim a listing in mostly this order:

 

  1. They look at the property images

  2. They look at the location map

  3. They look at the price

  4. They skim the policies

  5. They go back to the images

  6. They go back to the map

  7. Then they might read your Shakespeare of a description

So the description you slaved over for 3 days and poured your heart and soul into is a waste of time?


No. Hope is not lost. Descriptions are an incredibly important ingredient in creating a great vacation rental listing.  Let’s think about why.



Creating a Narrative

Just like a great Hemingway novel, we need to paint a picture. We don’t need to go overboard, but we need to provide the potential renter with a few juicy tidbits (1-3) about why they should choose your rental over the next one.  Going back to our post on great titles, you need to think about what makes your rental special. You’ve already done great work in coming up with a title. Use this as a starting point.  Do you have a great location? Large porch? Great view? Write down 1-3 key phrases that highlight these special points.


SEO

There is that word (err abbreviation) again? It’s true, if the listing site has done it’s best to structure a page well - like we have at RentalSpot.com - the description is a very important element in how the page ranks online and onsite.  If you include some great adjectives, hit the high points and inject juicy keywords you stand a better chance of having your listing rank well.


Authenticity

The description of your property gives you a chance to be yourself and demonstrate your knowledge of not only the property, but also the destination.  This is your chance to share some insider knowledge.


Legitimacy

The description of your property is a clear indicator as to whether or not a renter can trust you. If you skimp on a description or use bad grammar, the potential renter might perceive an element of “sketchiness” and click to the next property.

 Now that the blinders are off let’s create a great description.

Writing Your Description

Before we begin, we need to steer clear of a couple common mistakes.

  1. Do not use excessive punctuation in your description. Avoid exclamation marks (!). Avoid using a lot of them (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). We know your rental is great. Let’s not scream it. 
  2. “Can” versus “Will” - Actively sell your visitor. Yes, they CAN have a great time, but we think they WILL have a great time. Use this difference in language to hook your visitor and actively sell them on your property.

Keep the length of your description between 150 - 180 words. No more. In a 12 point font this creates a nice paragraph and should give you enough room to cover the juicy essentials.

First, revisit your list of interesting key phrases. Perhaps they’re:


Great Trails & Great Food

Awesome Trails Outside Your Door

Large pool with built in bar

 

Make sure that you include some of these phrases in your description. Let’s try it, shall we?


Great trails and great food are right outside your door at this great property in [location here]. Located near the cities downtown area, you will enjoy the nightlife and then retire to the pool after dinner. Did we mention the pool has a built in bar? (bartender not included).


Well that’s a great start, but we have a few more elements to put in. We’ve covered our key phrases and could probably put in some more - don’t be afraid of a little repetition.  Next, we need to inject some SEO magic.


Sometimes it’s always easiest to write a full description and then tailor it for SEO.  The keywords and phrases you need to always write for are:

  • vacation rental
  • {location} vacation rental (example: Breckinridge vacation rental)
  • vacation rental in {location} (example: vacation rental in Breckinridge)
  • vacation rental {property type} (example: vacation rental cabin, etc)
  • {Geographic feature} vacation rental (example: Beach front vacation rental)
  • {Geographic feature} vacation rental in {location} (example, Lake front vacation rental home in Lake Tahoe

Before:


Great trails and great food are right outside your door at this great property in [location here]. Located near the cities downtown area, you will enjoy the great cuisine, nightlife and then retire to the pool after dinner. Did we mention the pool has a built in bar? (bartender not included).

 

After:

 

Great trails and great food are right outside your door at this beautiful {location} vacation rental home. Located near the cities downtown area, you will enjoy the great cuisine, nightlife and then retire to the pool after dinner. Did we mention the pool has a built in bar? (bartender not included).


Notice how we replaced the phrase “great property in [location here]” with “beautiful {location} vacation rental home”. This is a good first start to inserting some SEO magic in our description. It’s best to make sure you use one or two variations in your description. Don’t be afraid to embellish with some more adjectives.


The author admits to not being an English major, however, the grammatical style is sufficient and thus conveys legitimacy. You can pick-up very quickly that 1) I know what I’m writing about and 2) I’m not some scammer sitting in a dark basement half way around the world.

Now we need to add some Authentic elements in our description. We need to demonstrate our authority on the location and the destination.  Travelers embark on journeys to experience something new. More importantly they want to have an Anthony Bourdain style experience that includes experiencing something off the beaten path.  Give them some help!


Before:

Great trails and great food are right outside your door at this beautiful {location} vacation rental home. Located near the cities downtown area, you will enjoy the great cuisine, nightlife and then retire to the pool after dinner. Did we mention the pool has a built in bar? (bartender not included).

After:

Great trails and great food are right outside your door at this beautiful {location} vacation rental home. Located near the cities downtown area, you will enjoy the great cuisine, nightlife and then retire to the pool after dinner. Did we mention the pool has a built in bar? (bartender not included). Our favorite spot is called the Happy Pirate just 2 blocks away on Main Street. Everything on the menu is great, but the lobster roll is to die for. Just two blocks away! Did we mention the great selection of microbrews? You will enjoy dinner at the Happy Pirate and then wake early for a great ride on Great Steam Roller trail. This 10 mile ride takes about an hour and is of moderate difficulty. The trailhead is directly across the street from the house.


Do you see what we did? We nearly doubled the length of our description with intimate knowledge of our location. We informed the potential renter about our favorite place to eat and a little recreational insider knowledge. Knowledge is power and by providing more knowledge about your vacation rentals particular destination, you increase your chance of the potential renter renting from you than someone else.  You’ve immediately given them multiple reasons why your rental is better than the other guy’s.


When trying to think about what information is important it is very helpful to understand who your renter is.  The Cottage Blogger has a great post about creating a customer profile. This is something we’ll cover in later posts.


Last Step : Edit

Before you submit your property description you need to edit and probably edit again.  Review the description for grammar and spelling. Perhaps you can squeeze in another key phrase for SEO value. Perhaps you can sweeten the description with some choice words that really paint the picture.


Let’s add some sugar.


Great trails and great food are right outside your door at this beautiful {location}
vacation rental home. Located near the city’s bustling downtown area, you will enjoy the great cuisine, hopping nightlife and quietly retire to the pool for an after dinner cocktail. Did we mention the pool has a built in bar? (bartender not included). Our favorite spot is called the Happy Pirate just 2 blocks away on Main Street. Everything on the menu is great, but the lobster roll is to die for! Don’t forget to sample the large selection of microbrews on tap.


At the {name of vacation rental}, you will enjoy dinner at the Happy Pirate and then wake early for a great ride on the Great Steam Roller trail. This 10 mile ride takes about an hour and is rated moderate difficulty. The trailhead is directly across the street from this vacation rental home.  

 

There we have it. It’s not Shakespeare. It’s not Hemingway. It is concise, SEO friendly and paints a brief, but authentic picture about all the great experiences a renter will have.

If the potential visitor is skimming your page and just so happens to read your description they will be impressed. They will also be excited about chance to experience an aspect of the destination only residents know about.


If the potential visitor only skims your page, Google and other search engines will key in on some very popular phrases and phrase patterns.


Happy Travels,

Team RentalSpot

 


RentalSpot.com Offerings Expand with HomeAway Software Distribution Partnership


2014-08-15 10:53:21 by: Sean Harvey

Charlottesville, VA ­ - August 13, 2014 ­ RentalSpot.com®, the online listing site for independent property owners and renters, today announced a distribution partnership with HomeAway Software®, the professional management software arm of HomeAway, Inc. (NASDAQ: AWAY),which brings properties distributed through HomeAway Software to be listed for rent on RentalSpot.com. The partnership is a milestone that further establishes RentalSpot.com as a popular nationwide vacation property listing service in the U.S.

RentalSpot.com will add an estimated 8,000 properties to their quickly growing catalog of vacation rental listings through the partnership with HomeAway Software, giving RentalSpot.com customers access to more prime vacation rental properties in Hawaii, South Carolina, Florida, and the western U.S. RentalSpot.com is adding new properties on a daily basis and anticipates this rate to increase in the coming weeks as owners and renters begin planning for fall and winter vacations.

“RentalSpot.com has grown immensely since we launched the service in 2010,” said RentalSpot Founder, Tobias Dengel. “Our partnership with HomeAway Software is not only exciting because it marks another positive step forward in our growth, but also because of the increasing number of new vacation properties now available to our RentalSpot.com community of users.”

 "We are pleased to partner with RentalSpot.com and provide our customers with more distribution opportunities" said Bill Furlong, vice president of HomeAway Software.

About RentalSpot.com

 Founded in 2010, RentalSpot.com is the only free online vacation property listing service for independent homeowners and renters. Rentalspot.com hosts over 15,000 properties in the US and internationally. Community members and users enjoy RentalSpot.com’s free­to­list advertising model, map­based property searching functionality, and the ability to collaborate with friends and family when choosing their desired vacation destination online. Properties syndicated by HomeAway Software® are subject to a 10% commission.

About HomeAway Software

HomeAway Software is the leading provider of property management software for professional vacation rental managers. HomeAway Software solutions consist of powerful productivity tools that automate key vacation rental management tasks, streamline operations, and help vacation rental managers maximize their online potential through world­class websites, booking engines, and the industry’s leading distribution programs. HomeAway Software is part of HomeAway, Inc. (NASDAQ:AWAY) the world’s leading online marketplace of vacation rentals. 

 


Creating a Great Rental Spot : Part 2 - Taking Great Photos


2014-06-13 14:05:12 by: Team RentalSpot

Admit it. You’re not a photographer. That’s okay - neither are we.  However, we need to do the best we can. Even a free vacation rental listing needs to be well presented.

Great photographs of our property are the single most important asset we have to convert Candace (our customer from the previous post) to book our property or at least inquire about booking.

If our photos are sized incorrectly, rotated the wrong way, fuzzy, out of date or dark we’re going to have trouble gaining inquiries. And, as we know, inquiries lead to bookings.  Who wants to book a property they’ve never visited if the place looks dark and creepy? Not Candace.

Thankfully we live in a time when taking great, high resolution photos is well within our reach - probably in our pocket.

When marketing your vacation rental, having a great digital camera can save a lot of headaches. If you don’t have a digital camera don’t be afraid to use a smartphone. Any iPhone® or Android® phone or device comes equipped with a camera that can do the trick.

Now that we have a camera, we need to think about what kind of shots we need. To make a great spot we need the following photos:

  • An exterior shot of the front of the house (best at a slight angle)

  • Photos of each bedroom

  • Photos of the kitchen and living areas

  • Photos of great views or geographic features

  • Photos of great amenities like pool tables, decks, large TV, etc

  • Other photos that might attract our target customer

The Best Time Of Year

Great photos take a little bit of planning. Before you take your photos think about when your vacation rental looks the best and, again, what makes it special. Does it look great in the winter? Is it right on the slopes? Have you planted lots of flowers? Maybe Spring and Summer are the best times. This is important. We want to present our rental when it is at it’s very, very best.

We do suggest you take photos in the winter, fall and spring based upon your target customer and peak rental seasons. Doing this gives you the needed assets to keep your vacation rental listing up to date, fresh and inviting to vacation rental seekers.

Now that we know the best time of year, let’s think about the best time of day. Here are some things to think about.


1. When do your bedrooms look the best?

2. What time of day does your house look beautiful?

3. When does your kitchen look most inviting?

4. Does that great view look best in the morning or the afternoon?

 

In photography there is a concept called “The Golden Hour”. This is the time of day when the sun is at the right angle to cast great light without shadows or harsh glare. The golden hour typically occurs in the morning and late afternoon.  Use this site to calculate the golden hour for the desired location.


If this seems like a lot of work - it is.  However, a little thought and planning goes a long way. Let’s look at some examples.

 

Exterior Photos

 

The photo above is beautiful. The sun is setting in the background. The colors are warm and inviting. Now granted this photo was taken after the golden hour, but illumination provided by the interior lights really makes this property stand out. Also, notice how the perspective of the house is at an angle. Taking the photo from an angle creates asymmetry. Asymmetry is more interesting visually.


This photo is not bad, but it could be better. The owner did a lot of things right. The shrubbery is a lush green and the blooms in front are really nice. Great! However, if this

photo was taken in the morning or late afternoon, the light would NOT be as harsh and the colors in the photo might be more vibrant. Thus creating a more striking visual.  

Also, this photo was taken from a “straight-on” perspective. A couple steps to the side could have created more asymmetry.


Scenic Photos

That is just a great view. It was taken around the golden hour. While there are some shadows, it allows the potential renter to picture themselves sitting and looking at this gorgeous view. Wow. Nice job!

Interior Photos

When taking photos of bedrooms, it’s always best to take the photo at an angle. Meaning, don’t shoot a photo of the bed “straight-on”. Also, VERY IMPORTANT, turn on as many accent lights as you can. Avoid using the overhead light.  Even if it’s 3:30 in the afternoon, the more lights you turn on the better results you will have.  


If you don’t turn on the lights...you might get something like this.



This could be a great photo with just a little more light.


In Summary

At RentalSpot.com, we love helping you increase your inquiries and bookings and we love doing it for FREE. If you have any questions about taking photos, please email support@rentalspot.com

Let’s do a quick review:

  • Buy a good digital camera or use a quality smartphone

  • Take photos at the right time of year when your house looks great

  • Take photos during the right time of day

  • Angles are interesting. Symmetry is boring.

  • Turn on the accent lighting!

  • Take photos at different times of the year

  • UPDATE : Never take a photo with someone sleeping in the bed.


Next week, we’re going to talk about writing great descriptions.


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