Top 3 Tips for the Slow Season:
Dear hosts today we have a different episode. I asked two top vacation rental educators in the industry to answer the pressing questions from my Facebook Group The Hosting Journey. I selected two of the five questions. Yes, the other three questions will be answered in a future episode I just didn’t want this episode super long.. The questions are:
What are your top 3 tips for the slow season? If you were to start over again what would you do differently?
Vacation Rental Experts:
Before there was Airbnb, there were Vacation Rentals and there was Heather Bayer. Heather has been on the vacation rental scene since 2005. She has seen it all, and she has been sharing it with a community of vacation rental owners since then. Heather and her son, Mike, run the Vacation Rental Formula comprehensive website, where you will find over 300 podcast episodes, blog posts, videos, and everything else you can imagine.
In addition, Jasper Ribbers from Get Paid for Your Pad. Jasper was one of the first to come to the podcasting scene to talk all about Airbnb. Yes, dear hosts, he has been interviewing folks and companies for a long time and even wrote a book with the same name Get Paid for your Pad.
Heather Bayer's Slow Season Tips:
Thank you so much, Evelyn, for inviting me along to contribute to this episode. You ask what my top three tips for the slow season are and this is something that we ask all our owners to do in the slow season and it's a bit of a no brainer really. It's doing a complete audit of your property, going room by room and checking everything. Bed linens, pillows, towels, blankets, etc. Kitchen equipment.
My particular bugbear is fry pans. I went to a rental in bend, Oregon last year and in an idle moment I looked in one of the cupboards and pulled out 13 old frying pans. Not one of them had their Teflon intact. So things like that.
You know, what does need replacing and whether it needs replacing now or needs replacing in the future? Well, that's fine. Just make sure you note it down and then you can fit it into an overall budget. So that's it. Doing a complete audit of the property.
Diversify and Create Content:
Secondly is building content for your website. If you've got one if you haven't got one, I strongly recommend that this is something that you work on in the low season as well because as I'm going to mention, we need to diversify. We need can't just rely on one platform anymore. It ain't gonna work.
Diversification means listing on other platforms and also having your own website, and when you have your own website, you need content, you need stuff that tells your visiting traffic to your website about your location in your area and you become a content provider for your area.
No Website? Think Social Media:
If you don't want to build a website, think about creating a YouTube channel and making some videos of your location because the more you can do to drive traffic to your listing, if that's all you've got, then you've just got to do it. So get out and social media, obviously Instagram, your Facebook page, your Pinterest boards, whatever to drive traffic to that location. But it's such a great thing to do in the slow season is begin to make some video to answer your guest questions. To showcase a little bit in the local area and just to bring all your knowledge to that audience.
Jasper Ribbers' Slow Season Tips:
Well, my philosophy has always been, I'd rather have people in my apartment than have it be empty because, for every booking, I believe there's a direct value. You know the money that you're making directly, but I think every booking has a future value, which is a little bit harder to calculate.
But you know, if somebody stays at your place, they can come back, they can recommend your place. It's just for having a booking helps with the, you know, position in the search engines, you get a review. My philosophy is in the slow season as always, I'd rather have a full house, I'd rather have full competency even if it's a lower price point.
What's Your Occupancy?
Essentially what I do is I just decrease the price until I had almost full occupancy. Right. Typically aiming for around 82 to 90%. A couple of things that I'll do to fill up the calendar is number one, I'll reach out to everybody in my network and let them know like, Hey, you know, it's the slow season. If you want to like to stay in my place, they can give you a good deal. Right?
I've reached out to family, friends and all of that just to see if somebody that I know is willing to stay at my place and then I'll give them a good price. But at the same time, it's, it can be really helpful to have friends stay at your place cause they can give you honest feedback and you know, obviously they're going to leave you faster review and all of that. That's something I'll do.
Got a Booking?
I'll reach out to when I get a booking and I know it's going to be difficult to book the days around it. In the slow season, I'll reach out to people and say, Hey, do you want to stay a little bit longer? So if I get like a free day booking, I'll hit them up and say like, Hey, um, you know, I'll give you, I'll give you a really good price if you want to extend your stay a little bit. So if you want to accommodate earlier, two days earlier or you want to leave a day or two later, I've been able to fill up some extra days that way.
Because you know when people book on Airbnb, sometimes they haven't booked their travel yet and sometimes they're flexible with their dates. And so when you offer them, you know, let's say like an extra couple of days at a, at a 50% discount or something, and sometimes they'll jump on that opportunity.
That's something that I will be doing around the slow season. Dear hosts, what do you think of reaching out to upcoming guests and letting them know that they can extend their stay? I might need to do that. Now, here is my answer to my top 3 tips for the slow season?
Evelyn's Slow Season Tips:
First, do you have a financial strategy? What are your expectations for the slow seasons? Even better do you know your seasons? Or were you unprepared for it? And went the bookings stops you were whatttt.
Preparing for the slow season is imperative. You need to be ready for it. Know your numbers.
What is the minimum amount that you need to make during the slow season to cover your rent or mortgage, utilities, and other fixed expenses? This isn’t the time for you to make bank. Now you know that you can lower your price that low, but it doesn’t mean that you will.
Then what is your goal do you want to pay your bills or do upgrades? You can lower your prices
In your listing description mention that you have a winter or summer (whatever your slow season is) special like this, your guests will know.
Reach Out to Previous Guests:
The second tip is you can reach out to previous guests that have stayed in your space in the past. If you keep a record of all your previous guests you’ll know who comes when so you have a record and their reason. If people come to visit family or work you can let them know of your special.
Another tip is to take a long term guest like a travel nurse. Donna Bourtin a member of my FB group the hosting journey and I go deep into the world of the travel nurses in Episode 60: The Travel Nurse Market Everything You Need To Know a must-listen if you’re interested in getting into that market. You can also get someone who is relocating to your area.
I have a client who takes college students because his high season is only the summer months.
Renovations and Upgrades:
Something that you know I do is renovations I close down the house down and do those big projects that need to be done. I have to prepare for them, right now I’m close for 6 weeks. The project is big so since the summer I closed down the weeks for this renovation. I’m actually doing a few renovations at the same time.
I’m going through the house seeing what needs an upgrade, a paint job. This is the time to do this.
I’m also updating my 5-star House Manual adding some new pages, deleting restaurants that closed down. You know you don’t have time to do any of those projects when you’re in the middle of the high season between cleaning, check-in guests and answering emails.
Also, reach out to some professional photographers and offer a few free days for the exchange of photos. They can promote you in their Instagram page and you’ll have content
A bonus tip why don’t you take a trip. A lot of hosts don’t like taking a vacation while their vacation rental is open so why not close it down and go on a vacation.
If You Were to Start Over What Would Jasper Do Differently?
What I would do differently is when I started like I wasn't aware of the opportunity on Airbnb, the way I started was I just kind of figured out a price that I thought was reasonable for my apartment and then I just charged at that price for quite a long time.
For like six months or something. At some point, I started realizing I could actually charge higher prices and it wouldn't hurt my occupancy and so I, okay, let's raise the prices and see where the sweet spot is, where occupancy starts to drop and eventually I started using the third party pricing apps. If I were to start over again, that will be something that I would definitely do differently. I would, you know, really optimize the prices versus just charging one price for every single day, which is what I did when I started.
If You Were to Start Over What Would Heather Do Differently?
What would I do differently? Oh my God, so many things, but then it's been 17 years since I started my property management company. The first thing I think if I was starting again, because I mean it's a whole new different world now, but I would definitely be more structured about planning.
I do quarterly and annual plans and have a five-year plan with plenty of goals. We winged it a lot when we started out and probably because it was a very different environment then there was wasn't the networking and the Facebook groups and the podcasts and other areas to get knowledge,
In fact, was nowhere to get any knowledge. You really just had to go with the flow and make it up as you went along, which is what we did, but so I'd definitely be more structured.
Secondly, I'd be very discerning about the technology. I'm using the so much out there right now. It's tough to find the one that's going to work, so if I was starting again,
I wouldn't have the bright shiny syndrome that I've always had. I would be more disciplined in choosing the technology I was going to use and definitely trying it out. Doing any free trials you can and certainly asking other people what's their best technology platforms.
Hire the Right People::
I would also hire people according to their skill set to make sure I had the right people in the right chairs. If you're going to hire, do it carefully and do it probably without sourcing first and then feel your way into more permanent hiring and then networking with the best learn everything about the business from those who've been in it for a while. As I say, when I started, I didn't have that luxury of being able to network with people, so if I was starting again, I would launch myself into learning from everybody.
If You Were to Start Over What Would I Do Differently?
If you have been listening for a minute you know that Javier and I just started La Casita in Puerto Rico and I talk all about it on Episode 94: Lessons Learned From Building the New Airbnb La Casita. It feels like I’m starting over. This is what I’m doing differently:
Using technology right away, because I was already using iGMS for Eveland NY it was so easy to set up all of my automation emails. Yes, of course, I used my Language of Welcome templates to write my emails but I also use igms for the automation part. Remember IGMS FREE for up to 4 listings.
Dear hosts It took me too many years to get into automation and technology and now there is no turning back. We’re also using technology for security cameras and to check air conditioner usage. .
Right Tools, Right Away:
We also created a 5-star House Manual before the guests even arrived. I know of the importance for my guests to have the information they need at their fingertips. Believe me they use it all the time.
I’m also doing deeper market research about the guests who stay in the neighborhood. You have to know who is your ideal guest. The days that you can set up a listing and forget it are over. Your design, photos, descriptions, and marketing strategy has to align with your ideal guest.
When we started La Casita we knew what was important to the guests because we read the reviews of the competition. That’s all market research.
Keep a tighter look at my numbers. We want to make sure that we’re profitable. There is a difference between making money and profitable. I’m right now reading profit first and I’ll tell you all about it in a future episode.
What are You Doing?
I want to thank Heather and Jasper because they just answer what are the top three tips for the slow season and if you were to start over again, what would you do differently. Now! which tip are you going to implement? Let me know on the Facebook group, The Hosting Journey.
In another episode, we will answer,
- Mark has had becomes competitive. What can we do to make our listing stand out?
- You can only be into platforms, which ones and why and
- where do you see the vacation rental heading in 2020.
Remember what you are working on to make 2020 the year that you won. What is your vision? What are your plans? I want you to create a year possibility..