7 Ways Your Vacation Rental is Bleeding Money (and How to Fix Them)

How to create a vacation rental that makes you money and is constantly booked. #vacationrentaldecor #Vacationrentaldecorating #vacationrentalbeachcottage #vacationrentalmountaincabin

Your vacation rental just isn’t booked solid, or has some reviews you wish would just go away.

You invested in this piece of property hoping to make some easy money.

Or perhaps it was handed down to you by your wickedly rich Grandma, who just adored you.

Or, this is a home you have lived in for years, but you cannot seem to get it sold—so you “AirBnB” it.

And the money you are spending on the mortgage, property taxes, utilities, and upkeep is bleeding you dry.

So, what is the real problem here?

Your Crappy Attitude

First of all, unless this is your hobby, owning a vacation rental is a business. You must treat it as a business, with checks and balances and effective marketing and managing costs. Hire someone if you need to, especially if you are not that outgoing or have poor business sense. There are people who can help you.

In addition, you must be a responsive property manager. When an inquiry comes in, you must respond ASAP. People who are shopping for a vacation rental have a very short attention span, and the vacation rental environment can be cut-throat.

Cheeseball Photography

I know you want to make money in renting your fabulous cottage/tent/sailboat/chateau. And I get that you want to save money wherever you can. Photography is not one of the corners you want to cut.

Just because you have the newest iPhone or that your nephew just graduated with a degree in photography or you know the greatest real estate photographer in town does not mean you should use them for your photos.

Your rental will be looked at across the globe. People compare! If your place looks like Charlie the Axe Murderer lives there, it won’t get rented.

Invest in the best architectural photographer you can afford. Is the rental near a city or town that has a local design magazine? That’s a good place to look first. You can also try Houzz.com for architectural photographers near the area.

Notice I didn’t say “real estate photographers.” Most of those don’t have a clue how to style your photos so people get a feel for the experience you offer them, not just the four walls and front door. Invest wisely here. It will pay off in spades.

Maintenance & Cleaning Headaches

When is the last time you went to a hotel that wasn’t pristine? I recall going to a rather nice hotel a few years ago with my sister, and when we walked in the room, I noticed the hand towel was just slightly askew. To me, that meant someone had used it. I asked for a new room immediately.

Hotels know how to make as many things in the room as maintenance free as possible, to cut down on cleaning and maintenance time.

When is the last time you were in a hotel that had a ceiling fan? (When is the last time you cleaned the one in your own home?) See what I mean? They are dust magnets and take too dang long to clean.

And they look gross when they are dusty. They break, wobble, and make noise, and are simply unbearable if they are filthy.

And honestly, I hate cleaning my own glass doors on my shower. Don’t ask me to squeegee the one in your rental so your cleaning lady doesn’t have to do it. No more glass shower doors. Shower curtains swap out easily for laundering.

Fugly Cheap Furniture and Decorating

Think again about hotels you have stayed in.

First of all, they are very minimalist. No extra knickknacks around, just the basics of what you need. From the moment you walk in the door, you think about relaxation because of the lack of clutter.

That’s how you should prepare your rental. Just the basics and nothing extra. Those little touches like artwork and fluffy white towels and linens go a long way. (Click here and here and here to find where to get good artwork cheap.)

The furniture should be current and “go together,” not stuff that you found at a consignment store or your own hand-me-downs. And it shouldn’t be too fussy or ornate (again, how much time will it take to dust those intricate carvings?)

Beds. Okay, you know kids may jump on them, and grown ups will be gettin’ jiggy on them. So, when shopping for a bed, your best bet is to go hotel-style. Get the best hybrid or latex mattress (queen size, minimum) you can afford. No memory foam beds. Trust me on this…

Buy the best white sheets you can afford (the higher the thread count, the better) and simple, easily- and quickly-laundered bedding. And, for cryin’ out loud, learn to make a beautiful bed like those in a hotel! (Check YouTube for some great videos.)

Even if it’s a headboard attached to the wall, and the mattress and box spring are on a pedestal (so stray underwear and socks don’t get found by the cleaning staff—or worse—your next guest) it will serve its purpose without being high-maintenance.

Simplicity and no broken wooden slats. And fewer guest complaints.

Same goes for dressers and nightstands. If you just use the type that have shelves for folded clothing and toiletries instead of drawers, nothing will get left behind by your guests. (I once heard a horror story of a loaded gun being discovered in a nightstand by cleaning staff.)

Hotels also don’t have full vanities where things can get left behind (underwear?) Most vanities are attached to the wall. No medicine chest and no drawers. Smart hoteliers!

Terrible Neighborhood

If your rental is in an industrial neighborhood surrounded by hobos (nothing against hobos, but you get the idea) or graffiti or has a high crime rate, this wasn’t a good investment anyway.

However, you can always mention that it’s in the heart of town, has a boho feel, no backyard neighbors, an up-and-coming neighborhood, etc. You will need to put a positive spin on the lousy location.

And if it’s near a high traffic area like a highway or train tracks, mention the noise in your posting. If you don’t, you risk getting a less-than-5-star review. Trust me on this, too.

Poor Reviews

Now, if you have readjusted according to this article, you will definitely improve your reviews.

But what if it doesn’t? Well, if the feedback from renters is valid, take it to heart and improve. Everything must be pristine and in perfect working order.

Be sure that you have thought of every possible amenity that a 5-star resort would have, right down to the 5X shaving mirror.

And if it’s not enough, you have to realize you cannot please everyone. But if there are a lot of negative reviews, something is definitely wrong, and you must work to fix it.

Lousy Marketing

No one is going to even see your vacation rental listing if you don’t market it properly. Use social media (your own Facebook page or Instagram account) so your friends and your friends’ friends see it. Use sites like AirBnB or HomeAway or Flipkey and other platforms for more visibility. Facebook has many “groups” dedicated to this.

Or just hire a company that specializes in marketing your vacation rental. They do this all day, every day!

Again, think like a businessman. Marketing is an expense to invest in.

Take your vacation rental to a 5-star level by following the above tips. 5-star reviews result in more bookings, and more bookings result in you being able to charge more. Now isn’t that good business?

Contact us if you need a little help pulling everything together!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this blog post are affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commish if you click through and make a purchase.