As vaccination distribution widens and pandemic-related restrictions lift, a 2021 summer travel boom is already underway. An increase in short-term rental bookings started even before the larger travel recovery took off. And it appears destined to continue on a sharp upward trajectory. Travel site Expedia reported that even while its overall accommodation bookings fell by 67% in the fourth quarter of 2020, short-term rental platform Vrbo, which Expedia owns, actually showed year over year growth for the same quarter.
While Expedia doesn’t disclose specific Vrbo numbers, industry analysts estimate that the short-term-rental platform accounted for more than 40% of Expedia’s 2021 Q1 gross bookings. They further predict that Vrbo’s 2021 revenue could exceed 2019 revenue by 35%. A large chunk of that change is credited to the 2021 summer travel spike.
All of this is welcome news to short-term vacation rental owners and managers. Also promising: Short-term rental reservation volume is up by 400% over last summer, even while nightly rates have increased significantly over 2019 rates.
A big-time summer travel bounceback. Strong short-term rental earnings. Higher nightly rates and a huge spike in rental reservation volume. In short, short-term rental owners and property managers are looking at a major opportunity to capitalize on the coming season’s demand. But strong demand is just part of the revenue picture. To truly reap the rewards of the 2021 summer travel boom, vacation rentals must take these steps to protect property, profits and future viability.
Get to know your neighbors, and don’t let your short-term vacation rental be a surprise to them. While 33% of homeowners report that they are not very familiar with their neighbors, nearly 50% who are very familiar with neighbors say they would approve of a short-term rental next door.
Communicate to neighbors that your property is being rented out as a vacation accommodation. Express that you are invested in the neighborhood, and care about the security and comfort of the people who live next door to or near your Airbnb rental.
List out the steps you are taking to ensure that guests are quiet, well behaved and respectful. Explain that you thoroughly screen guests prior to booking. Note that you have house rules that must be followed. Make sure to tell neighbors if you have remote noise detection sensors installed. You may even consider offering your Airbnb property to neighbors’ own visitors at a special “friends and neighbors” rate. And, of course, make sure your neighbors can get in touch with you should they need to inform you about anything questionable taking place at your property.
If your short-term vacation rental property or properties are managed by a professional property management company, find out how the company notifies neighbors of new STRs adjacent to them. Ask how they respond to neighbor noise complaints, and how you can expect to be informed about complaints. Get their complaint-response policy in writing, including liabilities and exclusions.
Most booking platforms accept “upon-request” bookings. This feature gives hosts an opportunity to check out the guest before booking. Before accepting a booking, make sure to:
Multiple negative guest reviews, incomplete or duplicate profiles, opposition to the security deposit, evasive answers to questions, or no answers at all—these guests may be more likely to violate noise and occupancy rules, or cause costly damage.
Make sure to fill out all fields in the “house rules” section of your vacation rental listing. Clearly state what’s allowed and what is not (special events, parties, amplified music after a specific time, no smoking, only registered guests allowed at property, no photo shoots, etc.).
Letting guests know they will be charged penalties for violating house rules is a great way to prevent noise, permit violations and neighbor complaints. These rules, and reminders about penalties, should be included in booking and pre-stay correspondence, and be on display at the property. Emphasizing and enforcing house rules is one of the ways the most profitable short-term-rental hosts mitigate unanticipated costs such as ordinance fines, legal conflicts and damaged property repair or replacement.
Almost all localities that allow short-term-rental permitting have occupancy rules built into their permitting ordinances. Violation of these rules can result in steep fines if discovered. To avoid fines, as well as neighbor complaints and potential property damage, occupancy limits should be strictly detailed in listings. It’s also important to include reminders about occupancy limits and guest penalties in booking confirmations and follow-up correspondence, and to display occupancy limits clearly on property.
Like occupancy limits, permitting ordinances include noise rules. These may prohibit noise that is audible outside the property during certain hours. Owners and managers may also set their own noise rules, and enforce them with penalties for violations. One of the best ways to avert noise issues before they become a problem is to install privacy-safe noise sensors both inside and outdoors at the property. Privacy-safe noise monitors, which must be disclosed upfront in the rental listing, measure decibel levels and duration of noise, but do not identify specific sounds or record sounds.
A remote noise monitoring system will alert the short-term-rental owner or property manager when excessive noise is an issue, and allow them to send a gentle text reminder to the booked guest to lower the volume a bit. In more than 75% of cases, this initial reminder resolves the issue without further intervention, preventing neighbor complaints, ordinance violations and the potential for expensive property damage.
Taking full advantage of the 2021 summer travel boom also means advertising competitively. Take the time to stage your vacation rental and include special touches such as cookbooks on the kitchen counter, a fancy espresso machine, vases filled with blooming flowers, stacks of luxurious bathroom towels, and fluffy, inviting bedroom linens. Shoot professional-quality photos both indoors and out, and edit them for maximum impact. Consider including a video tour of the property. These virtual 3D tours have been shown to significantly increase booking rates.
Property descriptions should include references to local attractions, dining and summer activities. They should also highlight amenities including outdoor kitchens, barbecues, swimming pools, decks and patios, and beach or lake toys. If the property is located in a hot-weather area, mention AC and/or ceiling fans. All of these marketing points can help guests “see” themselves enjoying their summer vacation at your property, and can be the deciding factor between your rental and other listings. And that can make the difference in reaping the full revenue benefit of the 2021 summer travel recovery.
Natasha Garber covers short-term-rental industry news, regulations and compliance for NoiseAware. Her posts on STR property management technology, privacy-safe noise monitoring, and licensing laws can be found weekly on the NoiseAware blog.