The snow has melted and spring has sprung, which means vacation rental owners in ski markets, like Park City, Utah and Vail Valley, Colorado, may be wondering how to make use of their off-season ski rental for the next few months.
While bookings may gain a second wind during the summer in traditional ski markets, spring and fall offer ample opportunities for ski rental owners to spruce up their homes and prepare for the next ski season. From addressing maintenance issues to upgrading your home’s amenities, there’s no shortage of ways to stay busy during the off-season.
And with the with the vacation rental industry booming in ski areas across the U.S., every day more and more people list their homes as short-term rentals. Because of this trend, the population of homes has tripled in a lot of markets, according to TurnKey Vacation Rentals’ Vail Valley and Steamboat Springs Sales Director, Whitney Elenbaas.
“With this explosion, guests are getting more and more picky about the homes they are wanting to rent,” she said. “Doing upgrades will allow your home to stand out and put your home ahead of others in your building which will maximize your revenue. Also, adding special amenities or upgraded floors and kitchens will allow for more revenue per night, as well.”
Here’s how vacation rental owners can make use of their off-season ski rental.
Prepare your home for next season
After a peak season, it’s important to deep clean your entire vacation rental, according to Elenbaas.
“If your home is rented the majority of the time in the winter, it is really important to do a deep clean of your home including carpet cleaning, window cleaning, deck cleaning for the summer, and any lawn maintenance needed,” Elenbaas said. “I would recommend dry cleaning comforters and throw blankets, repairing any small items that were worn, and go through all kitchen utensils and pans to see which ones might need to be deep cleaned or replaced.”
If you had a successful ski season, chances are you might not have had a free moment to address non-emergency maintenance issues or upheld important upkeep procedures for amenities, such as your hot tub. But maintenance is important so that your home is always in tip-top shape for the next season.
“If you don’t do regular maintenance, there is a higher probability of issues happening when guests are in-house, which will result in lower quality reviews and more work for owners or their property manager and more expensive after-hours repairs,” Elenbaas said.
Spring and fall is a great time to look over the reviews your home had over the winter and see if any of those complaints could be fixed with items added or more detailed instructions in your home.
Elenbaas said this is also the time to really clean bathrooms, especially any soap build up in a shower or tub, and to replace shower curtains as needed. If bedding looks tired, replace it before the summer.
Upgrade your home’s amenities
Spring and fall are the easiest time to upgrade amenities in your home, but Elenbaas says it’s important to keep in mind that most other homes will have the same plan in mind, so vacation rental owners should begin reaching out to vendors during the winter. “The farther out you book them, the quicker your place will be up and running again,” she said.
Hot tubs are the most popular vacation rental amenities no matter the location, according to Tripping.com. Whenever homeowners add a hot tub–or even a sauna—to their rental listing, they can also expect their guests to pay a higher price per night. Booking.com found that homes with a hot tub were able to make up to $80 a night more than homes without a hot tub in the same rental market.
“Remember that most places require a crane in the mountains so hot tubs could take longer to install,” Elenbaas said.
Homeowners can also plan to replace old carpet with hardwood or faux hardwood floors, which are easier to keep clean. Elenbaas also recommends homeowners consider making a dedicated area for skis and boots in a garage or by the front door, if you don’t have one already.
“Making it easy for guests to take off boots and hang skis will help with preventing wear and tear,” she said. Also, if you want great reviews, get boot warmers for this area, as well.”
Spring and fall are also a great time to upgrade bedding to down or alternative down bedding and sheets, throw pillows, and blankets. “The homier, the better the reviews,” Elenbaas said.
Vacation rental owners with mismatched furniture or appliances can take this time to switch to a more uniform collection, as well. Because most locals move during this time, rental owners have a better chance of selling gently used appliances.
Request and follow-up on customer reviews
Responding to each and every review your ski vacation rental receives is important. “It shows you are dedicated to building your rental as a business and wanting to put your home’s best foot forward,” Elenbaas said.
Perhaps engaging with rental reviews was put on the back burner during the winter. Now is the time to catch up on any reviews left during peak season and reach out to past guests who haven’t yet left a review.
Not all reviews are created equal, however, and some guests just won’t ever give a 5-star rating.
“Don’t get defensive or hung up on the little items – but if there are items that need to be addressed, do it in a professional manner,” Elenbaas said. “If a guest had a bad first impression but you went above and beyond to fix it, let the potential guests know in the review response.”
Create a marketing game plan for next season
The best way to ensure you increase your bookings next season is to create a game plan. Begin researching the best marketing practices for vacation rentals as soon as you have more free time after ski season ends—if not sooner. Learn about where and how to market your vacation rental and the best way to utilize social media to drive bookings for your rental.
Fall and spring are both a great time to hire a photographer to go into your rental and take lifestyle photos and evergreen content perfect for an Instagram account or Facebook page. Instagram and Facebook can provide your rental free, extra advertising and attract new customers who use social media to plan their vacations.
Rental owners can also use this time to add more info to their listing sites and create a plan with pricing for a full year and advertisements placed at important times early to get the best placements, like having ads in October and November for Christmas.
“Get and ask for referrals for previous guests and talk to locals in your area about ads in local papers or in real estate offices,” Elenbaas said. “Talk to realtors about using your home while potential owners are staying in the area to look for their new home, this will get more bookings generally in slower times when the most units are for sale.”
Begin booking for next season
Elenbaas said she is often asked by vacation rental owners when to expect guests to begin booking for the next season. In her experience, it depends on the booking.
“You should expect to get holiday time periods—Christmas, New Years Eve, Easter, Mardi Gras, MLK day, Presidents day and spring break—earlier than the rest of the season,” she said. “The remainder of the weeks will be very dependent on events in town and snowfall.”
According to TurnKey Vacation Rentals’ 2018 ski report, most guests book their homes 55 days in advance. Christmas and New Years Eve will generally be booked 6 months in advance. In contrast, many drive markets will look at the snow report and book last minute for trips on non-holiday time periods.
The offseason is also a time where a lot of events happen. Sports tournaments, for example, like lacrosse or baseball occur in the spring. Be on the lookout for corporate conferences, as well. “You can market to these events to get some rentals during off-peak times,” Elenbaas said.
Enjoy the rental yourself
If you bought a home in a ski market, chances are you picked your location because you were drawn to it yourself. There’s nothing wrong with taking time during the off-season to enjoy your vacation rental. Elenbaas recommends folks who want to use their rental plan to use it at both the end of April and May, and late September and October.
Using your own rental allows you to experience first-hand what your guest typically experiences, at well. If you find something annoying or inconvenient about your home, you probably aren’t the first person to have felt that way during their stay.
“During the off-season when owners are able to stay in the home, they can experience what their guest’s experience and might find items that work or don’t work in the rental,” Elenbaas said. “This can help to add items that will allow for a better stay for future guests.”
Elenbaas does caution rental owners that ski destination typically have a strong summer season, because of events, bike races, farmers markets, fireworks and more, so the last 6 weeks of summer can be very busy and worth having your rental ready for guests.
“Although the rates tend to be less, people tend to stay longer for vacation or you will get some good weekend rentals when it is super hot everywhere else,” she said.
If you’re proactive, it’s possible to make use of your off-season ski rental. By using spring and fall to deep clean your home, update your amenities, fix outstanding maintenance issues, and create a marketing game plan, ski vacation rental homeowners can use the off-season to prepare for the next peak season.
Want to get ahead for next ski season? Schedule a consultation with TurnKey here.