Looking for a new side hustle?!
Updated: Oct 6, 2018
Have some extra space that's being underutilized? Want a quick way to earn some extra cash? Let's chat about the Vacation Rental Industry (V.R.I.)? I'm quite certain you've heard of this industry and I'm also pretty sure you have used these services once or twice since their inception - sites like Airbnb, HomeAway, VacationRentals, VRBO, Flipkey, etc..
Little Fact: Airbnb is profitable! I mean really profitable, making almost $100 million in profit last year on $2.6 billion in revenue. Who doesn't want a slice of that pie?
Let's think about this; we are inundated with photos (on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and the like) of renters posing in some spectacularly stunning "Vacation Rental" (V.R.) somewhere around the world. Filling our heads with delightful notions of booking that all-too-beautiful V.R. ourselves, so we can post photos of that same beautiful rental on our feeds. That's called free marketing ... if you style your V.R. right ... your guests will take care of the marketing for you.
All that to say is V.R.I. is becoming more and more competitive, and if you currently host a V.R., this means you need a property that stands out and is unique. It is vital if you want to secure glowing reviews, better ratings and bookings from potential renters (and repeat renters too.)
Let's talk basics first - What type of host are you?
There are three types of hosts - those that want to make a few extra dollars with their available space, those who want a stable secondary source of income, and those who want to build a profitable V.R. business that will eventually become their main source of income.
Get to know your customers!
Few V.R. rentals will appeal to all guests, and that’s okay. It boils down to you, as the host, to determine the balance between whimsicality and global appeal. Emphasizing a particular character may not work - especially when a range of personalities stay in your unit. But when a city draws a niche crowd - like wine drinkers, foodies, and travel geeks - creatively designing your rental to appeal to that particular crowd makes it more attractive and meaningful for your guests.
What's your Vacation Rental design?
I'll be honest, if you don’t have panoramic views or an unbeatable location - you are going to rely heavily on the interior styling of your property to get you "across" the finish line with new bookings. The more moxie you put into your vision, plans and execution of your design - the more successful your V.R. will be.
But before you part ways with your hard-earned cash on an Angela Adam rug or that Horchow lamp, you have to consider your audience and what they might expect from your rental. Are you targeting business travellers? If so - a more minimalist or traditional approach might be necessary. Are you pitching to young families - then a glass table or open glass shelves are probably not the best choice?
It's also important to keep your whereabouts in mind? If you’re in the center of the city, in say Berlin, London or New York, furnishing it in a Coastal, beachy theme, might not be the most suitable design choice - but now if you have a sweet spot on Malibu Beach or in Cape Cod than that theme would work perfectly well. In general, your style choices should match your location. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, but we recommend you stick with something safe and neutral. The object is to appeal to as many renters as possible.
Where to find your design inspiration!
Turning your V.R. into an inspiring space doesn't have to drain the bank account. Depending on the size of your rental - it might only require buying a few new key pieces. It might be as simple as painting the entire space with a fresh coat of paint. Or maybe updating with some new or repurposed accessories.
If you have a small area to style, consider purchasing a couple of eye-catching and/or large pieces of art. You could make an impact by hanging some beautifully framed photos of street scenes from your city or something noteworthy by a local painter. Check out Etsy, they have the best selection.
There are plenty of other places if you're lacking inspiration - home decorating magazines or online searches for designs. Pinterest and Houzz are fantastic places to help with brainstorming.
Where should you spend your money?
I understand that not all of us have a "money tree" growing in the back yard so if you're on a (tight) budget start with what you have. Is your existing furniture in great shape? Can it be repurposed? Reupholstered? Painted? If not, there are many places you can buy cool stuff that’s affordable.
I'm a big fan of IKEA in terms of styling your home - you can almost be assured to find furniture that is acceptable to most renters, it is not offensive, it is current, trendy and has a justifiable price tag. And if you already own IKEA furniture you can always "Hack" it to make it into piece with more appeal. Check out my blog post on IKEA Hacks.
If you're looking for stuff that's a little less trendy and with heaps of character, second-hand stops are a great place to peruse for unique pieces that will be Instagram-photo worthy for guests. Seek out gorgeous vintage lamps or cool bar carts or cabinets. If you are considering buying upholstered furniture take care to ensure there aren't any residual smells from the previous owners.
When it comes to the interior design of your V.R., one of the most important things you can do is to focus on getting the floors right. If your place has old stained carpets on the floor – rip up the carpets and have the old floorboards polished. Or buy some beautiful rugs and layer to hide the stains (more info on my blog post 7 Basic Design Ground Rules You Need to Know.) Guests really do care what they place their toes on. Let's make it pretty.
Proper storage space!
I can't stress this enough - provide adequate storage for guests. Add hooks to the walls or backs of doors. Consider built-in cupboards. Put a rack for shoes at the door. Make sure guests don't feel like you haven't given them any consideration by not having anywhere for them to store their stuff.
Go on, smell your V.R. Does it smell fresh? Clean? Nope? Then I would suggest using air fresheners or scented candles to add heavenly goodness back into the space. Take care not to use anything too overpowering, some of your guests may have allergies or sensitivities to scents. Tip: If fiscally possible get rid of old mattresses, carpets, rugs, pillows or couches that might contain bad odours.
Create a strategic listing!
A listing’s pictures are perhaps often more important than word-of-mouth in getting a customer to opt for your place over someone else’s.
Airbnb has a complimentary photography service that you can take advantage of to ensure your listing looks attractive and professional.
Convey only useful and compelling information about your listing. And so as not to discourage viewers keep your listing short and concise without big chunks of text - make it easily readable by breaking up paragraphs and long sentences. And last but not least - proofread your description.
Provide a great website (a simple one-pager will go a long way, one that can accept reviews is even better.*) Get on social media - this is the best free advertising you can find (create an easy to remember Hashtag and use on all social media. Example: #staycasacb.) Create a "Your Favorite Spots" booklet or bulletin board. Why? Because your guests are likely going to want recommendations (on food, coffee, city highlights)! Provide old-school maps. Because your guests are probably going to need maps (not everyone will have a data plan on their visit.) Have a how-to-do-things-in-the-rental binder available. Why? Because guests will likely need to know how to run the coffee maker, turn the TV on/off, how to reach you or your property manager in an emergency.
Even with the apparent demand for online accommodations booking and planning materials, travellers still value printed pieces. Haven't you been annoyed when you speak to a business owner, and they naturally respond, “Go to our website, you’ll find everything there”? While it’s true that you can find everything you want and need (usually) from a business’ website, how much more engaged would you have been if they merely provided a stunningly printed piece that you could carry with you?
And let's not forget the all-important "Welcome Package."
Experts say the host should spend around 10% of their expected revenue and leave the guest with a welcome package for their arrival. This package could include bottled water (sparkling/non-sparkling), treats sourced locally (could include cheese, crackers, chocolates, etc.), chilled sparkling wine/beer is always nice especially if you know your guest will not have time to run to the nearest liquor store to purchase for themselves or if they arrive late in the evening. Coffee, tea, shampoo, conditioner, soap, candles - whatever it takes to make your renters "feel like they are at home."
Keep a clutter-free space.
Remove personal items, like family photos, religious articles, etc.
Keep expensive antiques out of your rental unless you live in the rental and have great insurance.
Tie in themes with the location and surroundings.
Keep it neutral; the rental can be tweaked by adding a few essential items - such as a colourful piece of art or rug.
If you're really serious about being your own boss you might consider a website that can accept payments. You can then encourage repeat guests to book directly through you instead of the big companies. This will pass on savings to the guests and ultimately make you more money.*
Still a little unsure? design2space, inc. has a team of qualified and skilled professionals who understand your needs and wants. We can provide guidance when it comes to styling your rental, provide you with advice on your website and share tips on your rental guide. Ensuring you have the best chance of alluring new renters and gaining great reviews. Check out our "E-design" or "Home Staging" packages for more information. And please stay connected for more designer tips + tricks, resources and insider info.