What Makes a Good Vacation Rental Listing?

An effective listing can seem a challenge but it is imperative that they are done well in order to attract guests and maximize revenue. Let’s take a look at ‘what to list’ and ‘how to list’ a vacation rental property.

Selecting your stock

Many vacation rental managers will take on as much stock as they’re offered and this isn’t unreasonable, after all, stock generates revenue. For those subject to onboarding constraints or buying/leasing their portfolio however, certain types of stock should be prioritised. Data can provide insight into which type of property is king in a given market – which are most commonly booked and those that achieve highest return on their value. The graph below shows that in San Diego for example, the biggest return on value is made on larger properties, and that for 2 beds the return is relatively poor. We can even use data to analyse which locations or features are most desired. All of this can help in selecting the most profitable stock.

Property value and rental return in San Diego by bedroom

Create your listing

The best listing will contribute greatly to perceived value at a maximal sale price. What this looks like varies depending on the consumer, which can be inferred from data on channel demographic, or segment. Through understanding the customer in each segment, we can engage by tailoring titles, descriptions and features. Platform constraints aside there are certain key features which are acknowledged as important.

Title and description

Titles should be short and sweet, descriptive and grab the attention of your target audience, while descriptions are a point of connection with potential guests – put yourself in the guests’ shoes; think about what attracts them and details that set the listing apart.

Example of what a rental title should not look like

This title is taken from a poorly performing San Diego listing. The consumer is already looking for somewhere to rent and the title offers no additional attractive information. The title below meanwhile, taken from a top performing San Diego listing, grabs consumers with sought after features, concisely and immediately highlights key information.

Example of what a rental title should look like

Think about keywords for your market. Using San Diego as an example, think of the ‘hottest’ words in top-performing San Diego listings.

The key is to engage with personality and substance through a description whilst being clear and concise – typically users spend only 15 seconds absorbing a page. Swap an uninformative ‘amazing’ to something actually descriptive. Update your listing to include local events and remember local tips are received well. One warning – be absolutely sure not to exaggerate – a disappointed guest means bad reviews and a bad outlook for your occupancy. If in doubt, check out some top-performing listings and give different edits a try whilst tracking your views and conversion.

Listing Features

Segment data can also help us to boast the most desirable amenities for that particular platform or area, and illustrate effects on ADR. In the US, Brazil, India, Italy and Mexico, guests ranked amenities as more important than shopping/dining, location and culture. That is where the international similarities end however – 59% of Australians elected coffee machine as the most important amenity, meanwhile, the majority of countries rate pools a top amenity but people in the US, Australia and Canada prefer free parking. Trends exist and it is beneficial to understand your consumer segments.

Location is a major motivator for travel and is often undersold on OTA descriptions. If some aspect of your location, such as your proximity to a landmark or even your rural remoteness, makes you different or attractive make sure to stress it in your description.

Clear sleeping arrangements, layout and host profile are also important to consider. Floorplans or virtual tours, as seen below, are helpful and research has shown them to boost early bookings, while hosts perceived as trustworthy – females over 50 are the winners here – see a marked increase in bookings.

What’s the first thing you look for after you click on a listing? For the majority of people, the answer is pictures. When trialling Airbnb’s to identify why NYC was struggling for bookings back in 2009, the founders had an epiphany. Gebbia observed, “The photos were really bad. No one was booking because you couldn’t see what you were paying for”. They rented a $5,000 camera and went door to door, taking professional pictures of as many listings as possible. This more than doubled bookings on these listings, and by the end of the month Airbnb’s revenue in the city had doubled.

Badly framed, low quality images with cluttered backgrounds do more harm than good while quantity, quality, consistency and consideration of images inspire trust and give a visual understanding of value. Pictures speak 1000 words – see the same room photographed in 2 ways:

Example of how your vacation rental floor plan photos should look like

Major OTA’s agree that a high number of top quality, thorough images is most pivotal in a listing’s success. As your first and often only chance to grab the shopper’s attention, a listing’s lead photo is of particular importance. 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual and we process it 60,000x faster than text. People read on average only 28 percent of the words on a web page, so it’s probably worth investing in your photography!Read up on how to take the perfect Airbnb photos in this handy guide.

In conclusion

So the crucial elements in optimising listings to help maximise your revenue:

  • Where possible, use data to inform stock decisions

  • Reflect and highlight segment choices in listing features

  • Invest in your photography

  • Look at examples, try different approaches and be sure to track performance and tweak to maintain success

Start optimizing listings today