Are Dogs Chewing Into Your Vacation Rental Occupancy & Profits?

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Should I allow pets (dogs or cats) at my vacation rental?

There are 3 types of vacation rental owners out there when it comes to pets. Which one are you?

First is the dog or cat lover with their own pet at home. This owner brings Fido or the Kitty up to the family vacation rental every single time. They wouldn’t even think of banning pets.

The second group is comprised of VR owners who may be allergic to pets or don’t want to have to deal with the extra cleaning of hair & possible accidents due to expensive carpeting, rugs or furniture. This group will never even consider allowing pets.

This post is for the third and final group of VR owners who are caught in the middle. They see both sides and want to make the best “business” decision.

Let’s break this down with a simple pro / con list.

Pros of Allowing Pets at a Vacation Home:

  • Increased revenue potential (Per night)
  • Increased occupancy (Won’t have to turn away dog lovers)
  • Seems like an obvious way in increase revenue 2 ways
  • Possibly more repeat business?

Cons of Allowing Dogs or Cats at a Vacation Home:

  • Extra time booking (discussing if that type of pet is allowed, what rules are)
  • Extra management time (pet clauses in rental agreement)
  • Extra cleaning time for cleaning crew (may have to pay them more)
  • Potential for damages (either chewing or from accidents)
  • Neighborhood issues – Noise from Barking
  • Neighborhood issues – Dogs going in neighbors yards, owners not knowing (or caring) to pick it up
  • Some guests (like those with allergies) will avoid your vacation rental

Carpet Spots Gone! Or It's FREE - FiberCare

Sometimes even normally housebroken dogs will have accidents in new places.

Now that we have the pros and cons listed, let’s take a look at how allowing pets affects occupancy rates.

The Conventional Wisdom:

If over 65% of U.S. households own a pet (36% Dogs & 30% Cats) wouldn’t it be foolish to NOT allow pets?  You would think that pet friendly vacation rentals would get lots more rentals, right?

Not so fast!

The April 2014 Pet Occupancy Study

Let’s dive into some real-life occupancy numbers with a little research I recently did on VRBO.com back on March 10th.

I decided to take a look at 3 completely different VR markets. A little mountain town – Flagstaff AZ, where my cabin is.  The beach was the next destination, so I picked San Diego CA.  Lastly, I wanted to include a big city so I picked Chicago IL.

To make the study fair, I selected the top 10 listings in each market after I used VRBO’s filtering that allowed me to select the same size & style places and select if they were Pets or No Pets.  For example in Flagstaff, I chose 3Br Cabins/Homes and compared the top 10 Pet-Friendly to the top 10 No-Pet cabins.  I wanted everything to be exactly the same except for the pet issue.

I then looked up the occupancy of the April calendars of each of the 20 VRs in the 3 cities.  Of course, some calendars may or may not be accurate, but hopefully those evened themselves out over the course of the study.

Does it pay to allow dogs?

While this certainly isn’t a large enough study to be conclusive, it definitely broke some common misconceptions.

In each city, there were less pet friendly rentals available compared to the no-pets rentals which by itself should have produced greater occupancy as the simple laws of supply & demand dictate. However, the opposite was in fact the case!  In each city the occupancy level for the no-pets vacation rentals was actually higher! In fact it was most glaring in Chicago where there were 97 vacation rentals that did not allow pets, compared to only 22 choices for a pet owner.  Yet those 22 still had significantly less occupancy than the no pets options.

So could it be true that allowing pets actually hurts your occupancy when all else is equal?

Based on this evidence, here is how I would advise someone considering the pet/no pets question.

First, consider your neighbors and the anti-vacation rental climate in your area. If VR’s are already on shaky ground, I would advise against it. All it takes is one neighbor who is kept up at night by a barking dog to complain to the city. Or what about the cranky neighbor who’s had it with VR guest’s not knowing the property lines and letting dogs leave a gift on their property? Read my popular post for more on Preventing Anti-Vacation Rental Laws.

Secondly, can your vacation rental itself handle it? Some vacation homes are more suited for pets than others simply based on the type and quality of the carpets/furnishings.

And finally, are you prepared to spend more management time on each booking if you allow pets?

I urge you, if you do take on pets, please charge a decent fee for pets so you are compensated for your extra time and effort! Remember, if guests have to make other arrangements, it will cost them in either house-sitting or kennel fees. If you are allowing pets to stay free, you are taking a loss in time, money, damage, and potentially even occupancy levels.

In full disclosure, I’ve done it both ways. I allowed dogs for several years. I’ve since had a no-pets policy and keep getting more booked every year. I’ve also been making constant improvements to both my marketing and the cabin itself so I can’t pin the increases on the no-pets policy.  I must admit I “thought” I might be giving up some occupancy as I often turn requests for pets away. I did this to avoid the hassle & cleaning issues as well as to keep things as frictionless as possible with my neighbors which is a local issue. However, with the quick research I did above, I’m even more convinced I’ve made the best business choice for my situation.

Personally, I’m really glad there are owners that do allow pets. This makes lots of guests happy and creates a good name for our industry.  That said, I want to empower owners with the knowledge that going pet free probably won’t hurt (and may even help) their occupancy levels if they so choose.

Enough about my thoughts. I want to hear about YOUR opinion. What do you think?

Want to discuss this topic LIVE?  I’m hosting my weekly #VRHangout March 19th at 9:30pm EST.  It’s a Google Hangout (a live video chat with up to 10 people at once) Just go HERE to join the Hangout.  You can also just watch the live broadcast without participating if you would like (but I’d love to have you join in!)

DogHangout

This study also proves without a shadow of a doubt that more people would prefer to be in San Diego in April than either Flagstaff or Chicago. I think we can all wholeheartedly agree with that!

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Comments

  1. Hi Steve,
    Thank you for your research. It was very interesting to me, especially since my rental is a 3-bedroom house located in north San Diego County, Oceanside to be exact (not sure if my place was included in your study). We are “no-pets” and we have 21 nights booked in April. My reasons for going “no-pets” were the extra cleaning time and potential for damages. We did recently consider a 3-month rental to a couple with a small dog since I would build in carpet cleaning in the rate and time (they decided on another property, which was fine by me).
    Jody

    • Thanks for stopping by Jody! Haha that’s funny, I wonder if that is one of the ones I counted? But either way, you are doing great compared to most, good job!

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