Musings on being a rental guest

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I wonder how many vacation rental owners have experienced being a rental guest.  That means doing the whole search thing – scouring web sites for that perfect spot; contacting owners and asking questions; checking availability; signing rental agreements and sending money; and then hoping the reality of the property matches the promise of the listing.  Until you have done so, it’s difficult to put yourself in your guests’ shoes and create a listing and a relationship with potential guests that will give them confidence enough to book with you.

If you haven’t done this and it’s not in your plans to take this type of vacation this year, here’s some helpful pointers and advice from rental owners who have experienced being a guest.

Be honest and upfront about potential negatives

Hiding aspects of your vacation home that may turn off visiting guests does no one any favors, so make sure you are transparent on anything that could impact a booking decision.  This could mean describing the proximity of nearby properties; mentioning less desirable aspects of a waterfront etc.  Then focus on the positive side – a weedy shoreline in a river property could be a haven for fishing enthusiasts; a property in a residential area may have the advantage of being close to shopping and restaurants.

Update amenity lists and photos

When potential guests arrive at your property, they expect to see the same facilities and features that were shown on the listing.  This doesn’t necessarily mean updating photos each time you change the soft furnishings or bed linens, but if something breaks and you don’t replace it, or you change the bed configuration make sure you not only update the listing but let any guests know who had already booked.  I learned the hard way on this one when I replaced a set of bunk beds with a double and a twin.  I never thought of the impact this would have on the seven year old guest who had been so excited about being allowed to sleep in the top bunk during his family vacation!  Even a small change can have a big effect on your guests ‘experience.

Keep availability calendars up to date

When potential guests find your property online and it shows available for the dates they want, it can be very disappointing to find out that it is already booked.  From a renter’s standpoint this doesn’t do much to instill confidence in a listing.  My thoughts are often along the lines of, ‘If they can’t be bothered to keep the calendar updated, how can I trust them to be diligent in managing their property too?’

Pick up the phone and make a connection

There is a personal aspect to renting someone else’s home and it can be disconcerting to go through a rental process without actually talking to the owner. Some are OK with this, but given the higher potential for scams and fraud via internet transactions, picking up the phone to answer an inquiry can create a connection that no impersonal email can ever do.  On the occasions that a rental owner has answered my email inquiry with a friendly phone call, I’ve been far more inclined to book with them.

You could always plan a fantasy vacation and go through the process of searching for, and finding the dream property to see how easy it is….or not.  Then apply your learning to your listing and your dealings with potential guests.  You may be surprised at how powerful and effective this exercise can be.


Heather Bayer is Director of Owner Community at She has been renting her vacation homes for over 20 years and is author of the book ‘Renting Your Recreational Property for Profit’.

Posted in Bayer's Blog, Tips for property owners

3 Responses to Musings on being a rental guest

  1. Kelly says:

    I absolutely disagree with phone calls. As an owner of 3 vacation rentals, I’d go nuts if I had to play phone tag and calculate time zone differences w/potential guests.

    I answer emails quickly and efficiently — and the email trail allows me to refresh my memory on the guest and their needs. Before high season, I can be corresponding with a dozen or more potential guests simultaneously!

    Plus, the email trail protects both myself and my guests against any misunderstandings, especially when corresponding with people from different cultures.

    I’ve had guests lose out on my place because they insisted on calling me instead of emailing. I could have answered their questions immediately in an email; instead, I had to wait until it was an appropriate time to call them…only to leave a message and start the whole time-consuming phone tag over again! In the meantime, my place booked by a guest who emailed.

    As a vacation rental guest, I always want to deal with emailed responses, so I have on record what I’m promised. Anybody can say anything over the phone; I trust owners who are willing to put promises in writing.

  2. HBayer says:

    You make an interesting point about phone vs email contact. I guess it’s just a matter of reading between the lines and assessing whether a request or question could be better answered on the phone or not. Whatever method, getting the response out quickly can make such a difference though.

  3. Annew says:

    Brilliant tips, particularly about keeping calendars up to date. Please, dear owners, keep your calendars current. It makes us all look so much more professional!

    However I do disagree about phone contact. Things may be differ from your part of the world and the UK. I used to follow up guest enquiries by phone, but you very quickly get the message that they’d rather deal with everything by email. Annoying I know, but different strokes etc…! About 95% of my bookings are closed by email.

    The most important thing IMHO is to reply as soon as possible to email enquiries by email. I’ve definitely noticed that I get a response from potential guests (either positive or negative) when I respond within a couple of hours of the original enquiry.

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