Summer in the Lowcountry is peak season for vacation rentals -- typically, more than 60 percent of a property's annual short-term rental revenue comes from the summer rental season.
But even with high summer demand, current economic conditions require an effective marketing plan for rental properties. Guests want to know exactly what they will get when renting a home or villa. Here are a few marketing suggestions for owners of vacation rental properties: Use professional photography and video to showcase the home's best features and create a sense of confidence in the quality of the accommodations. Vacation rental properties should be well-maintained, have a fully equipped kitchen, clean carpets and flat screen TVs and DVD players in each bedroom. To attract families, bedding should include a king bed in the master bedroom and twin beds in a second room. Other essential items include a commercial-quality sleeper sofa, higher thread count linens and high-quality towels throughout the home. Amenities such as pool access, wireless Internet, a nice outdoor grill and direct check-in with an electronic lock will keep guests coming back year after year. Repeat guests are key to maximizing rental income.
If your property is not fully booked for the summer, here are some tips to drive last-minute reservations. Adjust your rates so they are slightly below the short-term rental market for comparable properties. Ask your vacation rental manager to do a rate analysis or check for-rent-by-owner websites such as VRBO.com or flipkey.com. Make your rates are as competitive as possible. Consider offering incentives that add value to prospective renters. A $50 gas card or two complimentary beach cruiser bikes can make a renter choose your property over others. If you bring your own pets when you spend time in your property, think about marketing your vacation rental as pet friendly. Statistics show people who travel with pets stay longer and spend more on vacations than those who don't. A pet-friendly property can generate as much as 30 percent additional revenue annually. List your property on websites designed for people who travel with their pets. Finally, there is a lot of demand from guests who want to stay less than a week. To best price your property for nightly stays, take your weekly rate and divide it by five. This will give you a slighter higher nightly rate for those three- or four-night stays to cover your variable expenses including housekeeping. Make these nightly stays available to book within 14 days of arrival, so as not to displace any potential weekly stays. Your vacation rental nights are perishable, so it's better to get the property rented for less than a week than let it to sit empty.
Robert Stenhammer is the president of vacation rental company Hilton Head Accommodations. He is a member of the board of directors for the Hilton Head Island/Bluffton Chamber of Commerce and has an MBA in hospitality and tourism. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org