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Starting a vacation rental business: Top Tips & Tricks

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Advice for new vacation rental hosts


Starting a vacation rental business is never easy, especially when it involves property. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by competition, and the ever-lurking suspicion of a guest trashing the building, amongst countless other worries. The vacation rental (VR) business can be infinitely rewarding, despite its difficulties.

By managing an incredible vacation rental property, you automatically benefit your guests with incredible memories.

This article will walk you through what to expect and advise on how to translate those expectations into a successful and prolific business.

If you are busy setting up your new VR, quickly find out everything you need to know through the below slides:

Know the Law

A useful starting point for structuring a successful vacation rental property is considering it as a business. Treating your property as your business will help you mentally frame it in your mind as part of your career and an important part of your work.

It’s also a logical step considering that your property is technically a small business and can be considered as such by legal bodies. In line with this, ensure that you know the laws and regulations surrounding vacation rental in your area, as it can vary from state to state.

 By ensuring you know the legalities of the rental industry inside and out before you begin marketing, you’ll be able to protect yourself from any loopholes and ensure that you’re starting completely informed. Pay special attention to insurance, integrate disclosures within your description if necessary, or have cleaning fees as part of the total cost.

You’ll also benefit from finding out any legal specifics, for example, some states require smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors throughout rental homes. You’ll have time to prepare and plan for any additional purchases in advance and avoid disgruntled guests.

Woo your Guests

Almost anyone can purchase a beautiful rental property and advertise it online, and an awful lot of people do. This means that no matter how lovely your vacation rental property is, it’s very likely that you’ll be advertising it alongside countless properties that are just as great. Managing competition can be tricky, your main aim will be making sure your home is attractive for guests.

A great way to do this is to have a strong sense of style, creating an appealing, beautiful space that guests can see themselves relaxing in. It’s much harder to want to visit a home with an old sofa and mismatched table than a sprawling corner settee and coordinated furniture.

It’s important to be prepared to spend on furniture and consider hiring an interior designer if your budget allows for it. It’s highly unlikely that spare furniture you find on Craigslist will encourage your guests to splurge out on a getaway. Focus on creating a space and marketing scheme that is tailored to your potential guests’ comfort and needs.

Starting a vacation rental business: Things you cann't overlook

Walk-in their Shoes

To be truly successful as a vacation property owner, you need to fundamentally understand your market. Who visits the area that your property is in? Are there different guests depending on the season? If guests change depending on the weather, for example, if you have a property that has skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer, ensure your advert and the images you show transition alongside the seasons. A guest looking for the perfect ski destination is not going to be enthused by an advert emphasizing a summer-filled day. Stay relevant and keep your guests in mind at every step.

A fantastic (and somewhat luxurious) way to understand the guest experience is to book yourself into a vacation rental get-away with someone else’s property. Staying as a self-aware guest will help you absorb exactly what works and what doesn’t, helping you improve your property.

Gathering a first-hand experience and researching this way is not only informative and constructive but fun too! Why not invite a partner or some friends along for the trip, making it a group activity to analyze the experience, cumulatively picking up on different aspects?

An important factor to bear in mind is to book your vacation rentals in a variety of settings, even throughout the year, to help gather a more reliable view of what it means to be a guest. It’ll also help you identify different facilities that can be helpful for guests at different times of the year.

What Motivates You?

By identifying what exactly you’re running your vacation rental business for, you’ll a renewed sense of motivation and purpose that may have faded slightly under stress and pressure. Don’t be afraid to create a checklist or even write down some aims you have for your business.

Whether it be running a successful vacation rental to help others have happy memories, or paying off your mortgage, having a concrete idea of why you’re running this will help put things into perspective. Having a written list can also be an invaluable resource for when you’re feeling a little overwhelmed.

Deciding what success means for you will enable you to think constructively and critically about the decisions you make, ensuring that every step you make it towards a definite goal. 

Hospitality Rules

It’s important to realize that running a vacation rental property is part of the hospitality industry. Your main goal will be to ensure that your guests have everything they need to not only have fun but stay safe and healthy.

This doesn’t mean that you have to be on hand to take care of their every whim, but it does mean that your property needs to be secure, safe, and have adequate facilities. If a guest contacts you in advance about disabilities it’s your responsibility as the manager and owner of the business to have prepared solutions to ensure their comfort.

Exaggeration does not pay off in the hospitality business, advertising a spacious villa online, and walking guests into an urban bungalow will not go down well. Focus on an honest representation of what your property can realistically offer instead of trying to sell an idea. This will ensure you can reliably and consistently deliver your guests’ expectations and will improve your reputation.

Tied up in Admin? Ask for Help!

After spending a fortune on purchasing and preparing your vacation rental it might feel impossible to part with yet more cash on admin. It might be a good idea to set things up yourself initially to cultivate a thorough understanding of your business, but if you’re getting swamped down in numbers there’s no shame in hiring an assistant.

Turning to a professional to help with administration or managing guest reviews will ensure you’re on hand to deal with any other discrepancies and developments with the property.

Seeking help might not always be a permanent solution either, maybe you just want a hand getting started so you can take the time to ease yourself into new ground and then later take the reins yourself. Whatever your reasons, if you have the financial leeway, admin help can be a lifesaver.

Reviews are your Reputation

Your business’ reputation will wholly depend on what your guests feel about their stay though this includes marketing strategies. To ensure that they have the best possible things to say about your property, it’s important to consider anything and everything they might find wrong with the property and amend issues and faults before they can damage your reputation.

 Focus on the small details and deliver where you can. If you can’t quite afford chocolates on pillows why not watch some YouTube videos and learn how to fold towel swans? If a guest mentions the stay is for a special occasion a card from the host can be a thoughtful touch. Whatever’s in budget and manageable should be executed. Capitalize on any opportunity to make your guests’ stay special.

A good marker for your property being ready is taking a break from it; whether it be a week or 2 days and walking through the door. Does it blow you away when you walk in? If not, what you could you change that would add that ‘wow factor’ to the place? Stay diligent, critical, and focused at every step, working constructively even with negative reviews to improve and deliver excellent vacations.

Time is of the Essence

Questions from potential guests should never be put off; reply as soon as you can with a considered and thorough response. Vacation-goers tend to message more than one property at a time and by replying quickly you’ll put yourself in prime position.

No matter how quick you are to get your first guest through the doors, it might take a while to make your money back on your investment. Vacation rental properties are rarely booked year-round, and although you might have a fully booked summer, be prepared for slower seasons and bookings at other points in the year. Your business will be a long-term investment, this means that you will make your money back eventually but depending on factors that are out of your control: for example, the economy, the weather, and public events, this might be slower or faster than your competitors.


We hope this article has addressed some of the worries you might have had about starting as a vacation rental property owner. From insurance to towel swans, we’ve sought to explain the do’s and don’ts of the industry to prepare you for your new career.

It can be an intimidating business but is r realistically an extension of hospitality, treat your guests well and you’ll do just fine.

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