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Archive for the ‘Increasing Occupancy’ Category

Rental Reviews: Make Sure You’re Maximizing The Value of Each Guest Experience

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

Vacation rental homeowners consistently rank increasing rental revenues as their number one objective. Rental reviews can be powerful fuel to supercharge your revenue.

Consumers naturally seek the input and advise of others when making major buying decisions such as selecting vacation rentals. Often this advice comes in the form of customer reviews, which provides third-party validation of the vacation rental. Enlisting your guests to comment on their experience may be your path to increased bookings.

Fortunately, many online listing services such as VRBO, Homeaway and Flipkey make it easy to obtain and display guest testimonials. The key is, first, to have a plan to collect reviews and second, to feature reviews in your online listing and in guest communications.

We recommend that you contact guests soon after their departure to thank them for choosing your property and request suggestions on how their stay could have been improved. This is also an opportunity to ask them to write a review. Including a link to your review page will make it easier for guests to comment. Most guests are happy to provide feedback if requested to do so.

Once you have gathered guest reviews, it is important that you direct prospective guests to your reviews. This can be accomplished by including statements such as “highly reviewed property,” “see property reviews…,” etc. in your listing description. Additionally, in communications with prospective guests, encourage them to read previous guests’ commentaries.

Be prepared for both good as well as bad reviews. Most consumers are savvy enough to discern the validity of a bad review, however, the number of positive versus negative reviews will be an important consideration. You may want to consider listing your property on Flipkey, a subsidiary of Tripadvisor, which allows homeowners to respond online to guest reviews. This interaction between you and your guests can be particularly effective.

Using customer feedback to drive revenues is a proven marketing technique. Like most effective marketing tools it must be actively managed and promoted in order to realize the full benefit.

At VRS we recognize the importance of guest testimonials, which is why we have incorporated them into our Rental Management Plan. As part of our quality control function, we contact guests soon after their departure to thank them for choosing the property, to request feedback on the property and to request that they provide a property review.

One Frugal Girl’s Secret Is Out: Take The Fork In The Road To VRS

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

As Featured In: OneFrugalGirl.com   

Vacation rental ownership, for most of us, was never really the original intention when deciding to make that family retreat purchase – at some point it settles into a seasonal rental with unintended consequences. We backed our way into short-term rentals as a way to offset the monthly burden when we’re not using ours. If you find yourself in this same position, you already know, or soon will be coming to the realization that your mission is to maximize revenue on every rental.

The key to maximizing revenue is an equation that could make your head spin at first, but the kernel is simple mathematics: rent as many weeks as possible charging the highest seasonal rates while simultaneously decreasing commissions, fees and other related expenses. Traditionally, there have been two ways to handle the rental activity and management. So here’s the insider’s perspective.

The first and most beaten path is to hire a “full-service” management company that charges commissions between 20-40% per booking. If your property rents for $2000 per week, you’ll pay the manager $400 to $800 in commissions! This increases the burden to generate more rentals. Spoiler alert below: that simple math I mentioned above doesn’t pencil out for me.

My summer home rents roughly 16 weeks per year between May and September. A 20% commission rate would cost me $6,400 and at 40%, the commissions would tally up to $12,800! Additional fees may be charged for advertising, online listings, emergency services, inspections and maintenance. Suddenly your rental manager becomes a less than ever-faithful partner in your rental business while you’re carrying all of the risk. Needless to say, I exited that relationship.

The alternative path is doing-it-yourself. Skipping the manager and commissions makes sense for some, just realize going in that it’s nearly a full-time job. Getting your property listed on VRBO is the easy part. The day-to-day of managing your property and keeping it rental-ready for the next guest and quickly responding to inquires is stressful enough, let alone managing the rental agreements (if you don’t have one, you need one). Did I mention collecting rental taxes and filing reports? Check with your local municipality because they see home rentals as a growing revenue source.

Are you interested in finding a lower cost solution that provides the same benefits at a fraction of the cost? If so, Vacation Rental Services (VRS) is a new fork in the road worth exploring. VRS provides many of the benefits of a full service rental management company without charging any rental commissions. That’s reason enough to waive goodbye to your rental manager quickly. In lieu of rental commissions you simply pay a fixed monthly fee for the services you need.

VRS rental management includes a full-on website to attract new guests and handle rental inquiries at a fraction of the cost of traditional sources. They can handle other rental related tasks too, such as collecting rental payments, taxes and security deposits, managing your rental calendar and handling and processing rental documents – all online (someone that gets technology).

You can use their online rental calculator to compare the services your management company provides and charges with what you will pay VRS. After visiting their website at http://www.vacation-rental-services.com, you may just find yourself asking one of two questions – “Why am I paying so much?” or “Why am I dealing with the hassles?”

Click Here to Read The Article on One Frugal Girl

Rental Inquiry Response Time Study

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Promptly responding to rental inquiries is critically important to converting rental inquiries into rental bookings. Most vacation homeowners and Rental Managers (RMs) believe they respond promptly to all rental inquiries – but what really happens? VRS commissioned a study to determine exactly that; “How promptly do both typical owner-operated and RMs respond to rental inquiries?”

The average response time in the study was 8.73 hours. Less than 25% of the responses were within the ”golden” 1-hour window, the period of time regarded as most valuable to convert rental inquiries into rental income (and of course, what impression your prospective guests will have of their future experience). Surprisingly, nearly 1/3 of inquiries received no response! Not only is the initial response time important, it is obviously important to follow-up with the prospective guest. In this study, less than 5% of inquiries received a follow-up email beyond the initial email. In a time when every rental inquiry is an opportunity to generate rental income, every inquiry should be coveted.

There was a large disparity between responses from RMs and Owner-managed properties. RMs either responded promptly or did not at all. 38% of RMs responded within 1 hour, while an equally large group (36%) of RM’s sent no response, and unbelievably, only 2% of RMs sent a follow-up email. One clear difference from RM and Owner-managed responses: RM responses typically included an invitation to view other similar properties they manage

The results of this study overwhelmingly indicate that; low time-to-response, persistence in follow-up and focus on renting only your property rather than a “rental pool” are basic requirements to successfully differentiating your property from the competition and increasing rental revenues.

This much is very clear: to the extent potential rental guests typically book vacation properties that meet their requirements and responses are promptly and professionally managed, higher conversion rates and rental income should predictably follow.

Rapid Response is a core business practice at VRS. Our focus on connecting rental customers and owners “one-on-one” through technology infrastructure and lead management operating systems facilitate rental inquiry responses within 30 minutes. Rapid Response results in significantly higher inquiry conversion rates and rental income for our customers. VRS passes along the savings we’ve created in our business model to our customers, resulting in up to 65% increases in net rental income. VRS provides complementary rental income comparison audits upon request. VRS Rental Management Plans under our low fixed monthly fixed-fee program are just $130.00 per month for a 2-bedroom property.

5 Things You Should Know About Rental Commissions

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

The payment of rental commissions has been the accepted practice in the vacation rental industry for as long as owners have made their homes available for rental, but what are the unintended consequences of rental commissions? Below are 5 unintended consequences that you may have experienced with your rental manager.

1. Do you ever feel like your rental manager is not working for you? High rental commissions may be the culprit. Like any businessperson, your rental manager may be tempted to give the most attention to the person who funds his income. With rental commissions this is the guest. Some rental managers may inadvertently work for the guest at the expense of the owner.

2. Do you ever feel like your property is rented less than other similar properties? Often rental rotation policies are thrown-out when a rental manager is trying to find a property for a particular guest. This may result in your property not being actively marketed to a particular guest despite the fact that it is your turn in the rotation.

3. Do you ever feel like your always discounting your rates to book rentals? Given the competitive vacation rental industry, often rental managers have limited motivation to maximize your rental revenues. Getting the rental, even at a discounted rate, is the primary objective of rental manager. In some instances the rate may be less than you feel is acceptable.

4. Have you ever noticed excessive maintenance charges on your monthly rental statement? To keep guests happy while the guest is in occupancy, some rental manager consent to maintenance items that you may not approve. Some rental managers adopt the philosophy of “keep the guest happy at all cost.” This is of course an easy philosophy for them to adopt as the cost is passed on to the owner, while the rental manager cultivates a loyal guest.

5. Do you ever feel pressure from your rental manager to limit your personal usage to non-peak period? If your property is not rented, the commissioned rental manager is not paid. This may lead some rental managers to attempt to influence your personal usage days by encouraging you to use non-peak days.

To avoid the possible conflicts associated with rental commissions, VRS has adopted a low-fixed monthly fee billing structure. This ensures that VRS is working exclusively for you, the owner.

7 Must Do Things To Increase Rentals

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Improving where your VRBO/Homeaway property is displayed in a guest search result directly impacts the number of rental inquiries you receive and your rental revenues. Selecting the correct subscription level is the first step in managing your sort ranking. Once you have selected a subscription level, there are 7 factors that determine where your property is displayed within the selected subscription level.

1. Photos
A maximum of 24 photos are permitted on your listing. To receive maximum credit for the photo criteria, you will need to upload a minimum of 16 photos. Professional photos are recommended, but the quality of photos is not currently used to rank properties.

2. Maps
Activating the online map and using the map marker is the next factor used to determine your properties sort order. If you are concerned about security, your actual address is not displayed on your listing.

3. Rental Rates
Displaying your rental rates is also considered by VRBO/Homeaway in determining your sort order. It is recommended that rates be kept current, but the most important factor is that rates are posted.

4. Reviews
There are two criteria used to determine your property’s ranking for this category. First, is the number of reviews on your listing and second is the average star rating of those reviews. A good target is a minimum of 5 reviews and an average star rating of 4.2 or higher.

5. Updated Calendar
Maintain your calendar is an important consideration. Even if you do not have updates to your calendar, it is recommended that you log into your listing and click the button indicating that your calendar is current. It is recommended that you update your calendar weekly.

6. Tenure with VRBO/Homeaway
The length of time your property has been listed with VRBO/Homeaway is also a factor that determines your sort position. While it is not explicitly stated, it is believed that enrollment in automatic renewal is also included in this category.

7. Using Reservation Manager
Reservation Manager is an optional service offered by VRBO/Homeaway that allows guests to book and pay online. Enrollment in this optional service is factored into your property’s online sort order.

At VRS we recognize that managing a VRBO/Homeaway listing is not a passive process, which is why we have incorporated procedures that address the factors outlined above into our Rental Management plan. We continually monitor clients’ listings to ensure each maintains the best possible sort order on VRBO/Homeaway.

Increase Occupancy and Revenue: Adapt to Consumers

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Just in time for the winter travel season, the recent HomeAway vacation trends study sheds light on consumers’ desires so you can make adjustments that will increase bookings and revenues. According to the study, travelers’ top complaints when considering a vacation rental were online listings with inaccurate booking calendars and/or rental rates. The second major complaint was slow or lack of response to rental inquiries. The report also noted that the number one reason travelers choose vacation rentals over hotels is their desire to have all of the conveniences of home while on vacation.

Travelers’ habits and demands, including reliance on technology and need for instant access to information, are changing the travel industry.  It is important that property information is continually updated to ensure accuracy. Additionally, responses to rental inquiries must be made promptly and consistently to meet traveler expectations.

Of equal importance, online property descriptions should provide sufficient details to allow travelers to determine if the property will meet their needs.  Specific areas of interest include the ability to prepare meals and having ample space for the entire group.  Highlighting these areas could be the difference between securing and not securing a rental.

Renting out your vacation home does not need to be stressful. There are many options available to consider whether you are new to the rental market or your current rental management plan is not working for you. With just a few adjustments, you can modify your listing to meet these needs.

Click Here To learn more about Rental Management from VRS.

Vacation Rental Services (VRS) offers a Rental Management Plan that will ensure your online listing information is at all times current and accurate.  VRS responds to all rental inquiries within 30 minutes and has a specific inquiry follow-up plan. VRS offers a menu of services that can be designed to meet your unique needs.  All of this for a fraction of the cost of what traditional property management companies charge, so more revenue goes directly to you.

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If you could keep as much as 65% more rental income without sacrificing on service - why wouldn’t you?

If you could hire a professional vacation rental management company to end the inconveniences and hassles - and pay an affordable fixed monthly fee for services - why wouldn’t you?

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