How to Make Money on VRBO

VRBO attracts a wide range of travelers looking for the perfect vacation rental home for their upcoming trips. To make money on VRBO as a vacation rental owner, your listings should be carefully crafted with guests in mind to encourage them to book.

“VRBO is where a lot of vacation rentals are,” said Luke Knowles ofKnowles Maui, owner and operator of several vacation condos on the island.  

Sites like VRBO let guests “see what’s available and what your options are,” and the site’s name recognition offers travelers a peace of mind knowing that they will be protected in case something unexpected happens, he said.

VRBO features more than 2 million properties and, one thing that sets VRBO apart from other travel sites is that users have the ability to search by location type, such as beachside, mountain views, ski property, yachts, and others. So, vacation rental listings that include lots of detail are most likely to get noticed andhelp you make money on VRBO.

We asked Knowles and other vacation rental experts to share their VRBO tips and best practices for how to make money on VRBO. Knowles said it all boils down to the basics: create a tip-top listing and provide outstanding customer service.

Understand What Guests Want

Keeping up with travel and market trends is an important first step in setting up a VRBO listing that will generate revenue. These insights should drive the details that you include in your listing and which aspects of the home and location to highlight.

Vacationers often choose vacation rentals over hotels to create more memorable, intimate experiences. While not all travelers are the same, VRBO offers some insights that can help homeowners attract their ideal guest:

·      50% of guests travel with their families

·      65% travel in groups

·      60% arrive by car

·      33% want to spend time at the beach

·      10% travel for special occasions

Understanding what guests want will help you make money on VRBO. As you create a VRBO listing, let these insights inform the photos that you post, how you title the property, what to include in the description, what experience to provide, and how much to charge.

Invest in Professional Photography

Photos are the most important element of a VRBO listing. Strong visuals attract interestin a home, which often leads to bookings.

Knowles recommends hiring a professional photographer to help show off a rental’s best features.

“Photos and reviews are everything when it comes to getting your place booked up on VRBO,” he said.

However, it may take time to find the best photographer to get it right. For example, Knowles’ properties are beachfront, a strong selling point with guests, and he said his photographer “captures the blue” of the ocean and makes it stand out in listing photographs. But, a past photographer’s photos “washed out” the water, he said.

Knowles credits listing photos for maintaining an average 90% occupancy rate for his condos, about half of which comes from VRBO. He urges vacation rental owners to highlight a home’s best asset as the lead photo on a VRBO listing.

According to VRBO, photos can increase bookings. They should feature well-lit, clutter-free spaces and be displayed in an organized manner that give guests an idea of how the home is set up and what it offers. VRBO recommends including about50 photos per listing.

Photos also need to accurately represent the home and its vibe. Listings should include shots of full rooms, individual details, and outdoor spaces, said Seline Karakaya, a vacation rental owner ofComo’s Cabin in Lake Arrowhead, California.

“Our cabin has a mountain lodge vibe, consistent with being in a national forest on the edge of a private lake,” she said. “The decor and pristine condition of our space is a major draw for renters. Capture the details and features that make your property special, and be sure to have great housekeeping staff you can trust to help maintain the look and feel of your property.”

Highlight Best Features in a VRBO Title

Along with great photos, a dynamic title for the listing helps vacation rentals stand out on VRBO—and make money, said Steve Schwab, founder and CEO ofCasago

“When people are searching sites like VRBO or Airbnb, they are doing so visually,” he said. “If your property stands out from the rest and people click on it, it is important to have detailed content and assorted amenities.”

A VRBO title should highlight a property’s best feature—for example, private, breathtaking views, waterfront, and other features, said Tamika Todd, a vacation rental property manager and broker withPlatinum Realty, a Bermuda-based real estate firm.

“The title tells the guest the condition, size, and location in few, yet specific, words,” Todd said.

VRBO recommends keeping titles to about 70 characters and including the property type, highlighting amenities, listing its ability to accommodate different kinds of travelers, and specifying its distance to local attractions. Some examples of successful titles are “Romantic Spanish villa on the beach w/hot tub – perfect for couples!” or “Cozy ski retreat on Copper Mountain w/artist studio (Pet-Friendly!).”

Tell Your Home’s Story in the Description

As photos and listing titles grab a potential guest’s attention, a well-written description can solidify the booking and help you make money on VRBO. The best descriptions tell a story, but they should be honest and up-to-date about what a property has to offer, Todd said.

Reading the descriptions of other VRBO properties in the area is helpful in deciding what to include, and descriptions need to be revised regularly, Knowles said.

“We’ll see the way that other people might write stuff and be like, ‘Oh, we should incorporate that into what we’re doing,’” he said. “So, it’s just ongoing, just constant small little improvements that we make to our descriptions.”

VRBO provides severaltips for writing property descriptions, including:

·      Keeping descriptions to 700 to 1,000 characters

·      Organizing information into sections

·      Writing short paragraphs and brief points

·      Adding personality to convey the vibe of the space

·      Telling a story rather than just listing a series of facts

To decide which details to include, ask yourself what first attracted you to the property, and think about what attractions are nearby, who you’re targeting, and what you would want to know about a property before booking.

Encourage Reviews by Offering Memorable Experiences

Providing a unique, memorable guest experience will garnergreat guest reviews, which will attract more attention to your property and, in turn, help you make money on VRBO.

Vacation rentals with multiple positive reviews perform better than others on VRBO, Schwab said.

“Positive reviews not only build trust with the renter but positions the listing higher on the page than those without reviews,” he explained.

One way to enhance the guest experience is to offer extras, like bicycles that guests can use. Knowles, for example, created a Maui guide for guests with specifics on the area, like favorite places to eat, adventurous hikes, best local luaus, and more.

“It kind of takes your vacation maybe from an 8 to a 10,” he said. “If you do your best to provide a great experience, you’re probably going to get a lot of good reviews.”

Along with providing a quality experience, Karakaya urges vacation rental owners to reach out to guests after their stay to thank them and ask for a review.

Knowles also messages guests to encourage reviews and to ask them to send a private message if there was an issue during their stay, since negative reviews can hurt rankings on VRBO.

Set a Competitive Rate

One of the keys to making money on VRBO is to “micromanage your calendar” and “look at your price,” Knowles said. Too often, he said homes are underpriced, which means vacation rental owners are not maximizing their home’s revenue potential.

“It’s not just their rates are low; they’re $50 dollars, $100 a night low,” said Knowles, who urges property owners to pay attention to what other similar properties in the area are charging.

To set a rate for a vacation rental, homeowners should consider the price, amenities, availability, and minimum night stay requirements. VRBO offers a personalized tool, called MarketMaker, to help set prices by analyzing real-time supply and demand data, market trends, and rate comparisons. Or, many property management firms can offer a data-driven approach to setting rates.

Learn more about TurnKey’s approach to dynamic pricing here.

This type of dynamic pricing is crucial to making money on VRBO, Karakaya said. In her market of Lake Arrowhead, California, she said weekends attract more bookings than weekdays, so they adjust prices accordingly. And, to attract longer stays, they offer discounts for stays over 5 days and for repeat guests.

Seasonality is another component of rate-setting, Schwab said.

“Unless your rental is in a year-round destination location, it likely has a season,” he said. “There is a particular time of the year that vacationers will flock to your destination and other times they will not.”

And once a rate is set, it will likely need to be adjusted. For example, rates for a vacation rental in a winter escape destination should be higher from December to March when demand is high, but lowered to maintain occupancy in the off-season, Schwab said.

“You can’t set your rental rates and then assume that they will be good for years and years,” he said. “A smart owner is one who stays in touch with the market and adjusts his or her rates as needed.”

Making money on VRBO depends on understanding guest desires, setting up an appealing listing, and charging competitive rates. But, perhaps most important is offering a high-quality, memorable guest experience, which will draw positive reviews, enhance rankings on VRBO, and help you make money from the listing. 

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