Props to Caroline, who understands that her Santa Fe vacation home doesn’t need to be sold merely on a photo of the property. (Would you be able to resist the destination above? Didn’t think so.) The owner, who has been a VacationHomeRentals.com client since 2006, spills her secrets for making vacation home renting work through on- and off-seasons.
Q: What advantages does VacationHomeRentals.com offer in terms of marketing your property?
A: I like the fact that there are fewer advertisers than on some other sites like VRBO, and that the listing has a picture which makes it stand out. I find that sites like VRBO, which are all text are very difficult to focus on, you get overwhelmed by all that writing and therefore nothing really grabs your attention. I also like the various ways one can access a specific area of the country. The whole visual aspect of VHR is, in my opinion, very user-friendly.
Q: What reservations did you have – if any – about listing on this site and how have your perceptions changed since listing?
A: I didn’t really have an reservations as the introductory price was right (free) and I started to get inquiries almost immediately so when it came time to actually cough up money, I was more than happy, plus the annual fees are some of the best online. Since listing I have really appreciated the incredibly fast and friendly help I have received if I have had any problems or questions. I also find the whole owner interface very easy to use and incredibly informative. I love being able to check the statistics and update the calendar and pictures with ease. I also think potential renters find it an easy site to use – though I can never quite figure out how they find the site as it never shows up on any Google searches I do. That may be my one compliant about VHR – that the site does not show up toward the top of any Google search I have tried. I would love to see this remedied.
Q: Your property listing isn’t as deep as some of the others, but the apartment is stylishly decorated and the photos showcase it well. What other tricks have you found in getting renters in?
A: I change my lead photograph with the seasons – I like to put up an interesting photograph – not one of the room – but one that gives a feel for the area, be it a nature photograph, an event photograph or a cool image. I think the contrast from pictures of rooms or exterior property shots tends to make my place stand out on the page.
Q: You have a lot of user reviews. What weight do they hold with prospective renters? Do you think it’s better that past clients do the selling and not you?
A: I think the reviews are really important. Thankfully all of mine have been great, which helps. But I do notice that when I receive new inquires they often comment on the reviews I have received in the past, so they obviously read them and are influenced to make an inquiry because of them. It also helps me see what people really notice and appreciate and what I might be missing or could add or what I have spot on. On average about 10 percent of the people who look at the listing actually click on the reviews, so I assume more than 10 percent skim over them.
Q: As the economy falters, have you had more success finding customers since your space is priced moderately and do you predict a shift in the frequency people take vacations and the types of vacation homes that they rent?
A: I have noticed a fairly substantial drop-off in inquires in the last two months, so I do think everyone is in a holding pattern right now until we can figure out what is going on with the economy. I also think right now people are reining in their spending as we are fast approaching Christmas and the election, both of which are affecting people’s consideration of what they do with their money. Since my property is in a very popular destination area I think I may be less affected than other parts of the country, but even so it is going to be very slow for the next few months.
Valerie Moloney is your resident blogger and the Expansion Markets Editor for Citysearch.com, who oddly enough, feels panicked when asked, "What's the best place to eat in Chicago?" or her favorite, "It's my birthday. Where should we go with a party of six?" No stranger to travel--and traveling with kids--she is a young mom who ODs on the Internet when it comes to planning family trips or buying clothes. Here's hoping she finds you the vacation you deserve.