At our recent Preparing Your Listing for Booking Season webinar, we got a ton of questions from our property owners & managers about all the ways they can make their listing shine. We ran out of time before we could get to them all, but we wanted to make sure we covered them for you, so here goes!
Improving Your Listing
Q: Is it better to have a short description or a long one on your listing?
A: We advise you to use a short overview paragraph at the beginning of your listing and then provide more detail in later paragraphs. That way, potential guests can get a quick overview if they’re in a hurry but have the option to get more information if they’re interested. Also, if you have frequently asked questions, make sure to include information about those items to cut down on those questions later.
Q: Is there someone at HomeAway who can critique my photos? Is it worth it to hire a professional photographer to shoot them? What’s a reasonable cost for professional photos?
A: There is evidence that higher quality photos can increase your bookings. If you decide to hire a professional photographer, think about how many nights booked would pay for their work. So if a photographer charges $200, and you charge $200 per night and get 1 extra rental because of the improved photo quality, then the effort has paid for itself. We definitely recommend at least looking into a professional photographer for your listing photos.
We actually have a network of trusted partners that have been vetted by HomeAway. They can help with everything to copywriting for your listing to taking photos to managing your property or cleaning in between guests. Find one near you at https://partners.homeaway.com/.
Q: Are there any tips for the header verbiage to draw a traveler into viewing your property?
A: First of all, put yourself in your travelers’ shoes and think about what they’re looking for. Also, make sure it’s seasonal. For example, if you’re in Breckenridge, CO and it’s ski season, you might put something like “Steps from the slopes” in your headline. We will have an upcoming webinar with our partner Guest Hook that will go into more detail about copywriting for your listing - stay tuned!
Q: We don’t offer linens at our rental - is this important?
A: Absolutely. No one is expecting to go on vacation and have to bring their own sheets. We recognize that most rentals don’t have a daily cleaning service like a hotel does, and that’s expected as part of the vacation rental experience. However, you might consider offering that as a service and charging extra for it.
Q: How do you determine what market each property is compared to in search results?
A: The market is not static - it changes by search over time. We look at similar properties in terms of size, amenities, price, etc, and we also look at where travelers have booked before when looking for similar properties.
Q: I’m enabling Book It Now currently, but how do I get moved up in search? Would I rank higher if I had a new Book It Now listing? (I had both, including a subscription.)
A: If you’ve enabled online booking, the best way to get moved up in search results is to process your bookings through HomeAway’s online payment processing.
Rates & Payments
Q: Is HomeAway changing the display price when browsing so that it includes fees & taxes? Right now, it just displays base rate per night.
A: On the property page, we currently display your average nightly rate. This takes into account your rates over time as well as taxes & fees (in some areas). We’re continuing to optimize this display, but know that if a traveler puts in specific dates which overlap with your availability, we will show them the accurate price based on the rates you’ve put in for those dates. And we will break down the rates and fees prior to them going through the booking process so it’s fully transparent.
Q: Is it better to have 100% payment upfront or break it up into two payments?
A: Vacation rentals can be a big expense, so we recommend breaking the payments up into smaller chunks to make them easier for travelers to deal with.
Q: Do you have Instant Booking available?
A: First, let’s review the difference between Online Booking and Instant Booking. Instant Booking is when the traveler requests a booking and gets an instant confirmation if those dates are available for that property. Online Booking gives you 24 hours to go back and forth with the traveler and vet them before you confirm the booking. Instant Booking is being rolled out now, and we recommend it because it makes the booking experience as easy as a hotel. If you’re going to use Instant Booking, make sure you have your cancellation policy and property rules clearly set and displayed in your listing and any rental agreements in place.
Q: Please discuss fraudulent rental requests, or renters not following the rules of the rental.
A: Fraudulent rental requests (or phishing) used to be a lot more common. Online Booking actually helps to mitigate this since the transaction is taking place on the HomeAway platform, which means we can do a better job of protecting both sides from fraudulent requests.
As far as renters not following the rules, this is why many properties require damage deposits and have rental agreements. For example, if you clearly state on your listing that they can’t throw a party and they do, you have every right to remove them from your property. And if you find out before their stay that they’re either not following the rules or not planning to, you can cancel the booking and you won’t be penalized in our search results.
Q: If a traveler requests a cancellation, does that hurt our search ranking?
A: Absolutely not. Only owner-initiated cancellations are taken into account.
Q: I will cancel a traveler if they’re late on the second billing - does that hurt my search ranking?
A: If someone is late on a payment, it’s better to reach out to them first than to cancel the booking entirely. Sometimes, people just get busy and forget - if they can quickly rectify the issue, they’ll have a better experience with both your property and HomeAway. However, if they just don’t pay up, feel free to cancel - we understand that issues come up, and we don’t expect anyone to be 100% cancellation-free all the time.
Q: Can you talk about the difference between the VRBO and HomeAway sites in terms of listing considerations?
A: All of our sites are part of a global network now, so whether you list on VRBO or HomeAway, your listing is automatically distributed to our entire network of sites. So even if a traveler prefers VRBO, they’ll see listings from HomeAway there as well.
It’s clear from all the great questions that we got that our property owners & managers are always looking for ways to improve. Our goal is to partner with you to make sure you’re always at the top of your vacation rental game. Thanks to everyone who attended the webinar, and keep those great questions coming!
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