Learning how to keep your Vacation Rental booked year-round is important for true financial success. If this is your first or second year with your rental, you will be surprised how fast inquiries and bookings slow down from one day to another. You went from dealing with a boatload of inquiries, bookings, guests, to double checking if your listing was still afloat on Airbnb.
Though not ALL businesses have High and Low seasons, our field of hosting travelers definitely does. Here are some easy tips to combat our slow Airbnb season.
PRE-TIP OF MY TIP:
I know you already update and check your calendar and listing DAILY, right? If you’re not, you can’t complain if your Airbnb listing isn’t popping up first in your area or if Airbnb isn’t sending you some inquiring love. If you forget them, they kind of forget you. So, update your calendar and play with your listing DAILY. Trust me, you won’t go blind, and it works.
Before we get into my REAL TIPS, I want to make sure you know the seasons of your business.
YOUR VACATION RENTAL SEASONS:
Your PEAK season is when you can’t keep up with ALL the inquiries, ALL the bookings, and ALL the guests! Yay for Peak season! Sometimes, you need to hire your cousin or sister to help out, but you’re busy and loving it.
Is Peak season sustainable year-round? It depends on who you ask.
Then there is the shoulder season (the season between High and Low), where you can relax, have a quiet meal without the constant “bing” interrupting you, or worrying about guests checking in and out. You worry a bit because you’re not booked a month in advance, but you’re still getting booked. You’re not hiring a squad for help since YOU can keep up with the tasks, so you’re breaking even.
Then comes the dreaded slow season! You know it’s coming, but you pretend it’s not. Soon, it’s at your doorstep like a “guest,” except this one doesn’t pay. Once it arrives and settles in, you start wondering, “Will I survive?” “Will I pay my mortgage/rent!” “How long is this ‘guest’ staying?” Forget hiring your cousin or sister. Now you might have to move in with them…and soon! Oh, and forget your plans for expanding the empire. Right now, it’s all about holding down the fort. Literally!
Yeah, the slow season can be harsh!
In New York, the high season starts April until October. November is busy but more like a shoulder season. Yes, Thanksgiving gets booked for the holiday and so does Christmas and New Year’s, but those few weeks in between are my weird shoulder season.
Have you noticed not many people travel between Christmas and New Years? See? Weird.
Then, the cold and dreary winter months of January, February, and March come in, and my guests go out. Gone. Luckily, after six years of being an Airbnb host, I know how to keep my house booked…just enough not to worry about moving in with relatives. Enough said.
TIP #1 FINANCIAL STRATEGY:
Have one! I know the financial implications of the slow season, and I know the minimum that I need to stay profitable. Regardless of whether I have a guest or not, I will have the same fixed expenses.
Expenses with or without a guest:
- Heat/Gas – I have to heat the house whether I have a guest or not.
- Electricity – During the winter, it remains constant since I don’t have the air conditioner expense.
Expenses that increase with guests:
- Food I provide for guests
- Housekeeping If I’m not available
- Cleaning Supplies
- Provisions: Toilet paper, etc.
Do you break down ALL of your expenses? If you don’t, I offered a webinar, “How Much is That Airbnb Costing You?” that will give you some invaluable info.
I’m also a firm believer that if I’m still making a bit more than if I had a long-term tenant, I’m good.
So before anything else, figure out how much you need to make because this will help you out with my other tips.
TIP #2 INSTANT BOOKING:
A necessary evil. I confess that I was resistant at first. Just like many hosts, I did resist it.
However, a few slow weeks turned me around, and I haven’t looked back.
WHAT IS INSTANT BOOK?
Instant Book lets guests who meet your requirements automatically book your space. Do note that Instant Book will apply to all available dates on your calendar.
Easier Superhost Status
Books Without Reading
Doesn’t Follow House Rules
INSTANT BOOK: Who can book?
On Manage Settings > Click Manage Listing & Calendar > Hover Left side > Booking
TIP #3 HOUSE RULES: (Set in STONE or SAND?)
Just like you, I have a set of “House Rules” beyond the “Enjoy my home” because that can lead to a newspaper headline. My House rules are simple:
• Remove your shoes.
• No pets – sorry, fido has to stay home.
• No parties, no outside visitors or overnight guests without previous approval from your host.
• Do not engage in illegal activities anywhere on the property.
• If you break or damage something, please let me know and arrange for its replacement or repair.
• Do not leave any food out that will attract uninvited pests. Our home is pest-free, and we intend to keep it that way with your help.
• No smoking – also, don't discard your cigarettes in the house trash cans. They get stinky.
• Recycle – I get fined by the city if we don't recycle properly.
• Return all keys.
House Rules set in STONE… But during the slow season, some were set more in SAND.
My “No Pets” became “Yes Pets:” I had guests who were having construction done in their home and needed a place to stay for about a week. They had a dog, and I said yes. We spoke about it, and I was very clear about the consequences of any noise, damages, etc. At the end of the day, I never even saw Fido.
Another rule set in STONE that was now set in SAND:
These guests were throwing a party. They made it very clear that the party was the only reason they wanted my home. Thankfully, they had a good review from another gathering they had had at another Airbnb, which made it easier for me to say yes.
What happened before I said yes?
I was very clear with the expectations. We discussed the time frame for the party. I gave them noise boundaries, trash instructions, and other house information. I informed my neighbors about the party and of course they had my information, just in case there were any issues.
The guests were in my age range- over 40 – so the gathering was a bit tamer than with college kids. The party happened, and I came home to a pretty clean house, everything in order. They weren’t college kids, but over 40 can still be a toss up! Trust me; I know.
In the end, your House Rules are for THEM…but at times, they’re for YOU,
After all my years hosting, I’ve acquired a few sure fire ways to keep ALL my seasons working for me. I’ve learned to take advantage of my slow season to prep for my high season. I do repairs, upgrades, get rid of old linens, towels, etc. During the spring, I do my yearly ”Spring Clean Your Airbnb Challenge”
And also update my “House Manual,” an essential part of my hosting business.
I take care of all those items that take a back seat during my high season- yes, season change FAST so do NOT panic – because I know soon enough that the high season will be back and I’ll be calling my crew again for HELP. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Join my upcoming course to get more tips on how to get ahead of every season of your Airbnb.