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Nobody likes to be the bad guy.
Doling out a list of regulations is not the most rewarding part of owning or managing a vacation rental, but it’s a necessary one. And even after you’ve set your house rules, it’s a crapshoot as to whether your guests will actually heed them.
It goes without saying that to get guests to follow your rules, you need to make sure they read them. Let’s be honest: most guests’ eyes gloss over when they’re handed a list of things they’re not allowed to do. House rules should be laid out in the property listing and also reinforced in the house manual.
So how do you get potential and registered guests to pay attention to your do’s and do not’s? Here are five ways I've found to be effective when writing your STR house rules.
Give them personality.
Who says your reader needs to yawn their way through your house rules? Believe it or not, your brand voice can shine when you’re laying down the law—and I recommend letting it.
Not only does employing your brand voice make your house rules far more interesting, it also makes them more human. Guests are likely to have more respect for rules if they seem like requests from an actual person.
If you’ve taken a playful approach to your other copy, there’s no reason you can’t throw a few jokes into your STR house rules. Which of these sample house rules is more memorable?
“The front door must be shut at all times to keep animals out.”
“Please keep the front door shut. If you don’t, you may find that the local bird population will be joining you for your stay.”
By using the latter, you’re not only helping the rule to stick out in guests’ minds, but also showing them what kind of host you are—one that’s warm, friendly, and invested in their good time.
It’s natural instinct: when we’re given a rule, we want to know why we need to follow it.
Show your guests you’re not just on a power trip by giving a reason for the house rules that govern your STR listing. You don’t need to write a thesis—just a quick phrase will do.
Explain that you’ve set quiet hours because you want all of your neighbors to enjoy a good nights’ sleep. Or that guests aren’t allowed to bring a pet because you want to be able to comfortably host any future guests with allergies. Or unregistered guests are not covered by insurance in case anything happens.
Write your rules to take the focus off the restriction they’re setting, and put it on the courtesy that they provide instead.
Make them readable.
No matter how much personality you put into your rules, they’re still that: rules. Make it easy for guests to breeze through them, get the information they need, and move along.
I recommend a, one page maximum, bulleted list with no more than two short sentences per rule. If you find yourself exceeding those limits, think about how you can state your rules more simply. For example, instead of saying:
“Please keep shoes off the bed, sofas, chairs, coffee table, hardwood floors, and bathroom tile to prevent any staining or scratching.”
You might say:
“We like to keep our floors and furniture scuff-free, so please leave your shoes at the door.”
One more tip for legibility: to make extra important information stand out, use bold text, but use it sparingly. Too much can give the impression of yelling.
Present your house rules at the right time.
Start telling your potential guests your house rules too early, and they’ll pass you by for another more laid-back competitor. Tell them your rules too late, and you’re setting yourself up for a lot of headaches. So when is the right time to fill them in?
Your listing description is where you make guests fall in love with your rental. Unless you have rules that could be a total deal-breaker for many guests—like that you don’t accept any children under the age of 18—the listing description is not where you lay down the law.
If you have pretty strict rules by most guests’ standards, and you don’t use instant booking, you may consider attaching them to your first booking email. Otherwise, attaching them to a booking confirmation gives guests plenty of notice—and the chance to cancel immediately, should they decide that your rental isn’t a good fit.
You’ll also want to have a physical or digital copy of your house rules easily available in your rental, so that guests will never have a question about what’s allowed during their stay.
Craft your list of rules.
You’ve read through our rules for writing your own readable rules and are ready to put pen to paper. But what rules do you include? The exact rules depend on the rental, but here are some general categories that most Airbnb hosts use when crafting their own rules. We’ve also included some house rules examples to get you started.
Make it clear in your house rules the exact check in and check-out time to avoid any uncomfortable situations between guests if one comes too soon or doesn’t leave soon enough. Something like this offers the reason why this rule is important: “Please don’t check-in before 4 p.m. and be sure to be checked out by 10 a.m. so that we can have plenty of time to assure each guest has a clean and fresh space to enjoy.”
Provide extra incentive to your guests to not lose their keys by spelling out the cost for a lost key right in the house rules.
Depending on its location, the parking situation for some rentals can be a little sticky. Offer plenty of information of where parking is located, how many vehicles guests can park there and any other details on the parking situation.
You may have certain areas of your rental that are off-limits to guests. While it may seem like a good idea to not even mention these areas, out-of-sight doesn’t always mean out-of-mind. Try keeping it light but firm: “Please respect our off-limits areas. You know what it’s like to have your mother-in-law snoop around your closets and junk drawers.”
Parties and extra guests
It may be your guest’s party, but you might be the one crying if the celebration gets out of control. Better to be safe than sorry and completely ban parties or events of any size or type, as well as not allowing extra overnight visitors.
Even if you don’t allow parties, you will still want to enforce a noise curfew to keep the noise levels down and keep the peace with the neighbors. Something like “We like our neighbors and they like us, help us keep that way and please respect the noise curfew of 10 p.m.” lets guests know why this rule about quiet time is important.
When laying out the rules for extra guests, be precise about how many guests are included in the rental price and any additional fees for extra overnight guests.
Food and drink
Breakfast in bed is a nice gesture, but your guests should leave this act of kindness for their own homes. You may also want to ban food and drink from the living room and other living areas to avoid having to get salsa stains out of your sofa and extra cleaning for your housekeeping staff. Try saying it in a funny tone: “Please keep all food and drink in the kitchen otherwise we’ll have to put plastic covers on all the furniture, and no one wants to relive that interior design period.”
While doing dishes ranks high as one of the most-dreaded household chores, requiring your guests to do their dishes before they check out will save you time and money. Let guests know the clean up process whether it’s hand-washing or running the dishes through the dishwasher.
Some owners prefer to avoid any smoking-related issues and ban smoking completely on the property. If you do decide to allow smoking outdoors or in certain areas, be sure to be very clear about what areas are allowed. Keep it simple but specific: “Please do not smoke anywhere except the outside patio and please dispose of all cigarette butts in the provided containers.” This might be a good place for using bold to make your point.
Equipping your rental with a washer and dryer can bring in more renters but also means potential damage to another expensive appliance, so provide clear instructions on using them. If you do offer guests access to the washer and dryer, you can ask that they wash their own towels and bedding to save you housekeeping time and money.
You may offer pantry items, condiments, cleaning supplies or other staples for guests to use, so it’s helpful to explain these offerings to guests and any rules regarding them. “Murphy’s law of traveling says you will forget something, so please help yourself to any of the toiletry items in the bathroom closet” lets your guests know you’ve thought of everything.
When removing garbage and/or recycling falls on your guests, be specific on the process and provide all the necessities (like trash can, trash bags, etc.) to make it easy for guests to follow through on this rule.
It’s also helpful to tell guests the extra cleaning fee upfront to deter any thoughts of treating your rental like a frat house.
Kids and Pets
If your property is pet-friendly, spell out the guidelines for bringing furry friends clearly in the house rules. The same goes for children.
Sometimes you have a unique rental situation that calls for a unique set of rules. While they may seem wacky to guests, these quirky rules can go a long way to help you avoid expensive and time-consuming issues.
Fake tanning and makeup products can wreak havoc on towels and sheets. You can save money by asking guests to please remove any makeup or product before using any of the home’s linens.
Guests who move the furniture around can damage the floors and the furniture itself so you might want to make a rule banning the moving of furniture. “We like it when our carpet gets those furniture divots so please do not move our furniture during your stay.”
Help save a little money on your utility bills and ask guests to turn down the air-conditioner or heater when they leave the rental for extended periods of time.
A stay of less than one month would be considered a short-term rental. Anything over and above a month is regarded as a long-term stay. Your preparations will vary depending on the length of stay.
How to Prepare for a Short-Term Rental
A short-term stay could be anything from a few days to a few weeks. However, the preparations to undertake are similar.
To make it a successful venture and earn some extra money hassle-free, you have to consider several dos and don’ts.
Must-Haves for Great Hosts
These are the bare minimum requirements to ensure a successful rental experience. Without them, you’re headed for a disaster! They include:
Make sure all the features of the property you’re renting are clearly shown to a potential renter. Creating a false impression of what to expect will leave the guest disappointed and you’ll be slated during the review. Ensure the photographs are of good quality to give the guest a favorable impression of the accommodation.
Renters may have questions before and during their stay. As a host, remain responsive and assist your guests with any queries they might have. This is an important part of creating the sense of a home-away-from-home experience for the visitor. Repeat business and good reviews are critical and often based on how responsive the host is.
Provide guests with information
Guests want as much information, up-front, as possible as this makes their selection process easier. Giving them the particulars in advance can also help avoid nasty surprises. Communicate all important information ahead of time, so they know exactly what to expect from your property and from you as a host. You can even use email templates or autoresponders to save time. You should always include information about check-in and check-out times, so guests can plan ahead to make travel arrangements. Also, be sure to leave them some brochures, maps or lists of things to do during their stay.
Ensure the accommodation is clean before check-in
The cleanliness of your property says a lot about you as a host. In anticipation of your guests’ arrival, you need to make sure every last detail is clean. If you use the property for some part of the year, ensure you remove any personal items for the duration of their stay to avoid loss or destruction. Accidents happen, and you don’t want to ruin your experience as a host because some of your prized possessions disappear or break.
Think like a hotel manager
Revisit your own experiences of staying in a hotel. What are some of the basics a hotel provides? You aren’t expected to bring your toilet paper, linen, or towels. Using this as a guideline, think like a hotel manager and make sure you provide essential amenities for your guests.
Plan for an emergency
Anything can happen to your guests during their stay. An emergency might happen on your property or on the one next door. Your guests need to know how to handle it. Have an emergency plan that shows your guests what to do should something occur. This should include an evacuation map. Provide a list of telephone numbers to call in the event of an emergency.
Nice-to-Haves Every Good Host Should Consider
In addition to the items on the list that make up the bare minimum, there are extras you might want to include. These nice-to-haves can help make your guests’ stay more enjoyable and may even affect the review they leave you.
An automated check-in system
The aim of successfully renting out the property is to make the stay as hassle-free for your guests as possible. Including an automated check-in process is a way of making things easier for all parties. For example, installing a simple key lock box or a smart lock can allow you to give access to guests who arrive late after airport delays or unexpected traffic.
Ask for additional feedback
Not every guest is going to write a review on your website. But without reviews, you will lack feedback for your business. Feedback is vital to make sure that you’ve done everything necessary to ensure a pleasant stay for the visitor. Any information your visitors provide can be used to improve your service for the next time. Just like hotels do, provide a feedback form which covers essential aspects of the guest experience and ask each guest to complete it before they leave.
Go above and beyond the basics
In addition to sheets, towels, and toilet paper, think of other items you could provide for the guests. If possible, the items should be unique to the area to create fond memories of the stay. For example, leave a bottle of local wine for your guests to enjoy.
Instead of visitors having to ask questions of you constantly, give them access to as much information as possible. Leave instructions for the use of various appliances in your welcome book, as your oven may be a complete mystery to your visitor! Try to anticipate your guests’ needs and provide the necessary manuals in advance.
Pitfalls Every Host Should Avoid
Avoiding certain actions or behaviors which could result in unhappiness on both sides is a must. Intentional or not, they could result in a less-than-favorable review which could signal the end of your new income earning plan.
Promises you can’t keep
Pictures of the property on your website or listing sites should always correlate with the accommodation. False advertising is a big no-no – your guests must get what they paid for. If they don’t, you’ll be bombarded by complaints which can not only affect your online reputation but also the future of your business.
Showing up at your property to collect something you left behind is very problematic. Doing it without arranging it beforehand with the guests is not allowed and can cause friction. Instead, make sure you’ve taken everything you’ll need before you vacate the premises and allow guests to check in.
A failure to be responsive to the needs of guests can leave them highly dissatisfied. Try to make sure everything possible has been prepared and provided to eliminate the guests’ need to contact you. If, for whatever reason, they do contact you, don’t ignore them.
What to take away
A lot of the preparations for letting out your property to visitors may seem time-consuming. As a host, remember to keep your eye on the prize. Short-term rentals are a fruitful way of earning extra money, and having a good online reputation for future guests will be worth all the efforts you make!
There are obviously many advantages to owning a vacation rental, or millions of people wouldn’t do it. It’s why platforms like Airbnb and VRBO have grown exponentially over the last decade. It’s probably why you’re reading this article in the first place.
Let’s look at a few of those perks now:
You make extra income
The biggest perk of owning a vacation property is simple: You make money. Airbnb hosts alone earn upwards of $900 per month on average, while hosts in the most in-demand cities can make four times that or more. And that’s only on one platform. Dozens of other vacation rental sites exist, opening the door to even more earnings if you play your cards right.
Here are some of the best vacation rental platforms you might want to consider listing on:
You have your own spot to get away
Having a vacation rental means you get to vacation there, too. Use the property for your friend’s bachelor party, host a girls’ weekend, take your kids for a summer vacation, or host the annual family reunion. (A quick pro tip: Buy in an area you’ll want to visit more than once.)
You can write off a lot of your expenses.
If you rent the home out for more than 14 days, it’s considered a business for tax purposes. That means you have to pay taxes on the income it brings in. But it also lets you write off many of the expenses you’ll incur to repair and maintain the property.
You can deduct almost any "ordinary and necessary" cost of doing business. You can even write off hosting fees charged by Airbnb and other platforms.
Here’s a good list of items you might consider writing off as a rental investor:
- Hosting fees
- Cleaning costs
- Supplies (toilet paper, K-cups, and so on)
- Occupancy taxes
- Insurance premiums
- Utility costs
- Lawn maintenance
- Property management fees
- Mortgage interest
This isn’t an exhaustive list, so talk to a financial advisor or accountant to maximize your deductions.
You have a new nest egg -- or even a future retirement home
A vacation rental can be a great way to build long-term wealth and ensure you have healthy finances upon retirement. Sell it and use the cash to cover your future costs of living, travel, healthcare, and more. Or keep it and enjoy the relaxing retirement you’ve always imagined. Either way, you win.
Whether you own a house or you are planning to purchase one in the future, it is understandable that you should want to be thorough when it comes to your largest asset. Is it worth the price? Does it need a lot of renovations?
It is quite common for most property owners to encounter home repair issues, like replacing the broken tiles in the bathroom or the heater and air conditioner not functioning properly.
To make sure that you avoid any potential issues before putting your home on the market, you need to get a pre-listing inspection.
What’s a Pre-listing Inspection?
A pre-listing inspection is a professional assessment of your home’s property. It is exactly like the home inspection a buyer will order when they are attempting to purchase your home. This is done by a professional home inspector.
Once they are done inspecting the property, they will give you a thorough inspection report. This will contain actual findings on what areas of your house need to be improved.
But why is it important to conduct a pre-listing inspection for your home? Here are five reasons why.
#1 Notice any hidden problems
If you think that your house is in great condition, a pre-listing inspection will detect any unknown issues that you may not have noticed before. It can be floor cracks in the foundation, slow drainage around the house, or even moisture in the attic. These issues will likely come up for the buyer’s inspector so it’s best for you to know about them ahead of time so you can mitigate and resolve them first.
#2 Set the right price
For most homeowners, setting a price for your house is not an easy task. It is important that you have conducted a pre-listing inspection beforehand to get all the facts about your home. It’s easier to assess the true value of your home when you have all of the facts. Plus, if you fix the issues that present themselves, you will be able to command a higher price knowing that your home is in the best shape possible.
#3 Avoid buyer negotiations
Before a buyer decides to close on a home, many will first do a buyer’s inspection to check if there are any issues that have not been disclosed by the seller or hidden from view. If you didn’t perform a pre-listing inspection and fix errors beforehand, there is a good chance that they will try to negotiate the price down to a lower value.
Or worse, they might never proceed with the transaction and cancel the purchase.
By conducting a pre-listing inspection, you get to have a head start and have these issues taken care of beforehand.
#4 Have a smoother real estate transaction
As a seller, you need to convince the buyer that the value of your home is worth their time and budget. By presenting them detailed information about the property through the pre-listing inspection report, you are letting the buyer know what they should expect.
A real estate transaction is complex and has many unknown factors. A pre-listing inspection is reducing the number of unknowns, making it smoother and easier for everyone.
#5 Assure the buyer’s decision and confidence
Most buyers are skeptical when it comes to buying a house. They are unsure about the house’s condition, which might lead them to negotiate a lower purchase price or pass on it altogether in favor of a home that may only seem to be better.
When you conduct a pre-listing inspection, you are giving an assurance to the buyer that the house is in great condition. There will be less fuss and stress to both parties, which fosters a mutual sense of respect and trust.
It may very well be the reason someone chooses your house over another!
The property value of your home is determined by its current condition. When it has repair issues, the estimated price that you have in your mind might go down.
Plus, the chances of a buyer wanting to proceed with the real estate transaction will become slimmer. Their skepticism and hesitations may affect their decision, which does not look good for both sides.
That’s why a pre-listing inspection is recommended for all homeowners who are planning to sell their house in the future. The fees for a professional home inspection and subsequent repairs might sound like a lot, but it is better than the buyer finding out on their own and derailing the transaction.
As a vacation rental owner, it’s tempting to think that once your booking is confirmed, all you have to do is sit back and wait for your guests to arrive.
But, really, we know that in order to maintain that five-star rating, we need to do more.
The days, weeks, and even months between a guest booking and their arrival date, form a key and memorable part of the whole guest experience. It’s time to start making first impressions and to prepare your guests for what to expect once they arrive.
If you get the pre-arrival process right, you’ll set the tone for a fantastic stay. Want to know how to perfect your pre-arrival process? Keep on reading to find out.
1. Send a “handshake email”
Over the years, vacation rentals have become known for their warmth and personality. Nowadays, guests expect to be treated like a real person – not just a booking confirmation code. That’s why it’s important to meet these expectations from the get-go. And the pre-arrival “handshake email” is a great way to start.
Reach out with a friendly welcome email that thanks your guests for choosing your rental. You can also use this opportunity to express that you hope the holiday meets all their expectations.
This first “hello” is also the time to share a little about yourself. Guests feel more at ease when they arrive at their accommodation if they know a little bit about the person who's hosting them. You can be brief, but be sure to include details that relate back to the guest experience.
For example, outline what you love most about your rental and why you were drawn to your destination. If you have social media accounts dedicated to your business, invite them to follow, so they can get a deeper sense of where they’re going and what you’re all about.
It’s easy to streamline this handshake email, too. Just make this email the first in a series of custom, automated emails that you send to your guests when they book.
2. Help them get acquainted with the area
The hosting experience shouldn’t end after your guests have left your property to go exploring. In fact, providing a great guest experience means stepping also into the role of “de facto destination expert.”
Whether your guests are seasoned visitors who summer with you every year, or newbies visiting for the first time, you can make their holiday planning more enjoyable by sharing your detailed knowledge of the destination.
And this means going beyond the normal big hits and major highlights. For example,
- Is there a family-run restaurant down the street that has the best tacos you’ve ever tasted?
- Or is there a not-to-be-missed local festival that’s happening while they’re in town?
Consider compiling all your best information into a local guide to make it easy to share with every guest when they book. You can create a digital guide book where you can host all this extra, valuable, information.
3. Let your guests know what to expect when they arrive
It’s easy to underestimate the importance of simple check-in instructions. But, while often overlooked, this element of guest communication can go a long way when it comes to putting your guests at ease.
So, before your guests set off to your accommodation, they should already have every detail they need for a stress-free journey. This Includes: :
- Directions from the airport or major highways
- Information about navigating your complex or property
- Parking instructions
- Directions on how to use your lock
I'll be the first to admit that providing these nitty-gritty details in a clear and concise format can be challenging. But with a little effort, you can create check-in instructions that will make your guests feel relaxed and at ease – rather than overwhelmed and stressed out…
4. Provide answers for any frequently asked questions.
If you’ve been hosting a while, it’s likely you’ve been asked the same questions by your guests time and time again. Common questions might include:
- How well does the WiFi work?
- Am I allowed to use the chef’s kitchen to host a dinner party?
- Is my dog allowed to join me on my holiday?
Further to this, the pandemic has also created a whole new category of frequently asked questions. In the age of Covid, guests may have a laundry list of concerns during the booking process, such as:
- What are your cleaning protocols like?.
- What attractions are open near the property?
- Are there any other restrictions I need to know about?
You’ll make a lot of guests feel more comfortable by sharing an FAQ before guests arrive (and save yourself the headache of answering the same question a thousand times!
5. Gather all of your information in one place
You can spend hours perfecting the information to share with guests, but it’s not much use if your guests can’t find it when they need it. Scattering information across multiple different emails or messages can result in frustrated guests having to piece the check-in puzzle together themselves.
To avoid these frustrated guests, compile all of your information into a digital guest book that can be accessed from any device. Then, make this guidebook available across all the communication you have with your guests.
These digital guest books will still allow you to send personalized email sequences to your guests while avoiding confusion about where to access information. And better yet, you’ll be able to share all this useful information with every guest who needs it.
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