Have you always fantasized about running your own vacation rental? Like any business, a solid plan is key. After all, it takes more than a few vacant rooms to garner repeat business, especially now that everyone’s a critic, armed with a camera. Tara MacDonald, the owner of the charming 125-year-old Ivy House, shares her insight into starting your own vacation rental.
Be On Call
Tara says when it comes to vacation rentals, a fast hand wins the game. “Your booking response time is everything. Travelling is nerve-wracking. Put your guest’s mind at ease by being available and having an impeccable response time. Answer ALL the questions and make sure you have suggestions ready to go for restaurants, cafes and things to do in your area.”
Clean, Clean, Clean
If you’re starting your own vacation rental business, cleanliness should be top priority. Loose strands of hair on the floor are your nemesis, says Tara. Have you ever checked into a hotel to find a scraggly stray on the floor of the shower — or worse on a pillow? It makes you want to run for the hills.
Invest in a really great washer and dryer onsite to help turn down your property faster. “Our laundry room runs full tilt most days,” she says. “Spend the money. You won’t regret it.”
Create a Rosy Experience
Use fresh flowers and plants over plastic. “There’s nothing worse than a dusty, plastic tree in the corner of a room,” says Tara. Healthy plants or a lovely bouquet “quite literally makes a space feel more alive.” Plants with interesting fronds in dynamic shapes are always nice — think trailing leaves or quirky springy numbers.
Don’t Over Personalize
Unless it’s your best friend staying over, put away the personal photos. “Most travellers who seek out an off-the-beaten-path rental aren’t looking for that Best Western bland. But no one wants to see photos of your cute cat or lay on a bed with a quilt hand-sewn by your great Aunt June,” says Tara. “Lean on the environment: Coastal? Wooded boreal forest? River retreat? Pull those elements into your decor and your guests will never be disappointed.”
Choose Artisanal Treats and Bath Products
Details make all the difference. It’s what makes a mom-and-pop bakery stand out from the others. Use the same thinking at your guest property. “I go above and beyond with my guests on all the little things,” says Tara. “Artisanal soaps, a pimp coffee setup, free water (bubbly is best), a basket of shared bath bubbles and a gift card to our fave local gift store.” Tara knows “a room is a room is a room but they’ll rave about the extras to friends.”
“Get yourself an amazing room spray,” says Tara. Scents are polarizing. Some people can’t stand pachouli (understandably). Tara avoids Lysol and sprays that smell strongly of bleach. Though they convey cleanliness, they’re harsh and off-putting. “You can get really nice, all-natural room cleaners and sprays like Young Living’s Thieves Household Cleaner which I love. It not only works well, but smells amazing too.” Or try Mrs.Meyer’s Basil Clean Day Room Spray, another one of Tara’s go-to products.
Give Them Value
Guests never want to feel taken advantage of. “Pick your price point. It’s never a good thing to under value your rental but charging too much can anger guests and give you a bad rep,” says Tara. “You’ll want to find that sweet spot between market value, reasonable affordability for travellers and expectation. The best guest experience is one where the traveller feels they have had an amazing stay for their money. You’ll get repeat customers this way. It’s quality of stay over quantity.”
Invest in Rest
Don’t skimp on the bed or the bedding. Pay extra for the best of both. “Personally, I want a king bed,” Tara says. She also adds feather toppers to all her guest beds and gets nice sheet sets and linen duvet covers.
Tell Us Your Story
“What’s your why?” asks Tara. Give guests a special reason to stay at your property. Adding personal details about your vacation listing is a great start. “A guest book is a perfect place to let everyone know why you decided to rent your property,” she suggests. Plus, it gives guests the opportunity to write a little bit about themselves, too.