Attracting Renters Using Online Booking Tools.

Steve’s rental unit is full most of the year. Here’s a summer view of the property. Credit: Steve Bell.

So, once you purchase the right house, how do you rent out the guest unit?  You could rent on a long-term basis, but we found that to be a problem.   A long-term lease gives the tenant a lot of time to mistreat the apartment.  In the past, we rented to a long-term tenant.  She was sweet, but she was busy.  Over time she neglected cleaning, so she left us with a lot of work at the end of the lease.  As a landlord, you can write security agreements into a lease, as well as periodic inspections, but these too can be problematic.  In any case, we have found that short-term renting is much better.  During short stays, even guests with less-than-ideal neatness (we have only hosted a very few of these) do not have enough time to create much extra work. 

For advertising purposes, we started by listing on airbnb.com and vrbo.com, both of which get tremendous traffic.  We rented our apartment most nights.  If, for some reason, demand starts to fall, we can explore other sites and other advertising media beyond website listing.  We created an entry on airbnb and vrbo without any professional help.  The sites include cell phone photos that we took ourselves.  To see our apartment, simply type “airbnb 36134350“ or “vrbo 1695325 “ into your browser. (Each website assigns its own unique identifying number to every listing.  The preceding numbers are ours.)

Since December 2019 through the end of September 2020, except for a stretch when we stopped accepting guests due to COVID, we rented out our attached apartment for the majority of nights.  We have been amazed by the demand, and especially delighted by the strong interest of summer visitors.   We don’t spend that much time managing reservations, because the websites nicely facilitate the rental process.  They provide a simple channel of internet communication, descriptions of the property and community, delivery of owner established rules, reservation management with calendars, seamless payment processing, renters’ reviews of their stay, and many other services.  As an added bonus, we can invite friends and family to the apartment when we want to as it is simple to black out the calendars on airbnb and vrbo.  

Supply The Basics

The apartment must be fully equipped with towels, bath mats, down-filled comforters, duvets for the comforters, fluffy pillows, hotel style soaps and shampoos, first aid kit, fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, etc.  And for the kitchen: silverware, plates, bowls, napkins, wine bottle openers, cutting boards, pasta strainer, coffee grinder, coffee maker, etc.  All-in-all, a lot of stuff to promote a blissful stay (buying on amazon.com saves us trips to Bozeman).  Guests want to save money by preparing many of their own meals rather than paying hotel room service or resort restaurant prices.  There is a good grocery store, nearby.

As mentioned above, the apartment has a separate entrance.  Check-in and check-out are self-service.  We leave the door unlocked before guest arrival, and airbnb or vrbo has already collected all monies before the departure day.  The combined effect is that we often never see the guests.  It’s not that we don’t love them, but due to COVID risk, separation is best for everyone.  Guests are appreciative of this, too.  Many resort visitors prefer an alternative to the common spaces of hotels, elevator buttons, shared door handles, and other opportunities to get sick.  All communication is over the internet by email, cell phone conversations, or texting. 

Before COVID was a concern,  we would often invite guests for a drink to chitchat around our fireplace.  Guests come from all over the U.S. and the world. They share fascinating experience and knowledge.  The company enriched our lives and we looked forward to it.  When the COVID pestilence is a fading thought,  we expect to accept invitations to visit our new friends. And very soon, we hope to be able to resume hosting friendly fireside visits. 

One final note about your rental unit: clean really, really well.  We try to make everything squeaky clean or better.  We have been thanked for this by our guests, who frequently indicate that cleanliness is very important to them. We are hoping that they will remember and return many times.

Editor Note: In Part 3 of this series, Steve will describe tips on operating a rental.  If you have questions, just leave a comment below.

3 Comments

  1. Avatar Bee Muzerall says:

    Before we moved full time into our home in the White Mountains of NH we rented it out but used a management company, as we lived 5 hours away. Yes, we did pay a commission for their services, but they saw to the cleaning and maintenance, as well as plowing and shoveling. They also vetted the potential renters which was quite helpful. As the short term rental market has fired up it is facing quite a backlash here, and many towns are looking at stricter regulations on them. In some part the backlash is due to irresponsible renters, as well as negligent owners, so folks interested in renting short term should be well aware of their local restrictions and regulations.

  2. Vermont is also tightening up on vacation rentals and in particular the Town of Killington is placing more and more restrictions on property owners and short term rentals. It is going to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. We barely break even on our rentals so that we can afford a vacation home for our use. These restrictions on top of the Covid restrictions is going to depress the market

  3. Tks for your note, Bee. As far as guest vetting is concerned: On vrbo and airbnb, every guest and host gets a review for every stay. So I can access reviews on every guest who requests to use our apartment. Unlike many reviews on the internet, these reviews can be trusted, because the websites are the curators of the databases. airbnb and vrbo permit reviews to be entered in the database only when money has changed hands, that is, a true stay has occurred.

    Every locality is different. In Big Sky, for many reasons, the likelihood that a government entity in Big Sky would impose restrictions on the rental market is slim to none.

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