Here is a list of all the resources that Vacation Rental Owners could possibly need, all on one page. I will continually be updating this list so check back often. Enjoy!
Disclosure: Please note, some, not all, of the links below are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I earn a small commission if you decide to purchase. Thank you for using the links below – it helps offset the cost of running this site so I can bring you as many free resources as possible! Please know that I personally used or have experienced the products I recommend, and will also note the things I don’t like about products when applicable. Of course, only purchase the products that will help you succeed and let me know if you have questions about any of them.
* Note: Resources marked with an asterisk * are resources I have not used myself, but are other options worth looking into.
Listing Sites – Where You Need to Advertise
- HomeAway: The largest listing company and I recommend getting the Platinum Package for most people for maximum exposure. Read my post about “Why you should overspend on Marketing” And yes, I follow my own advice – my Cabin is listed on all five of the sites here.
- VRBO: This site is also owned by HomeAway, but is equally powerful. If you bundle both HA and VRBO together, you get a better deal. Use my coupon code “1MONTHFREE” when you sign up here to get an extra month at no charge!
- FlipKey: Owned by TripAdvisor, Flipkey is a strong player & receives my highest recommendation based on ROI. Why? They have a “free listing” model that charges you just 3% of each booking. Since they handle the credit cards, you don’t even pay a CC fee, which makes the deal even better. This makes it risk free since you only pay for bookings and is a great way to start with no out of pocket expense. Sign up Free here.
- VacationRentals.com: This site is also owned by HomeAway and is only $199 a year so it’s a smaller investment, but still a decent source of bookings. There is also less competition which is good. Use my Coupon Code “VRCJ10” when you sign up here to save 10% off your subscription.
- AirBnB: These guys do it a little different. No cost to list but a 3% fee per booking. They do hold your $ until the guest arrives, then AirBnB deposits it for you. You will need to be flexible in your business process to work with AirBnB, but it’s another good source of leads. They also provide FREE professional photos for your listing so definitely take them up on that.
- CraigsList: Love or hate this free listing site, you can get inquiries here. Be careful though, the quality can be lower and scammers operate here too. Having a personal website (or VRBO link) is helpful here so you can direct all inquires through your site rather than deal with CL email plus it makes your listing legit vs. the scammers who don’t list any contact info or websites.
- Turo: This is the “AirBnB for Cars.” Expand your rental empire with an asset you already own…your car! The beauty is that vacation rental owners know how to create great listings which produce rentals at a much higher rate than the general population.
- “7 Listing Site Secrets To Get Booked FAST”: My eBook shows you how to maximize your ROI and get every possible date of your calendar booked.
Personal Web Sites – Control Your Own Marketing
- WordPress: It’s the most popular website/blogging platform. I’ve used it on all my sites, VR or otherwise. There are other platforms, even free ones like Wix which are simple to set up, but WP offers better long term SEO (search engine) value typically.
- StudioPress Themes: This site is built on a StudioPress premium theme, as well as my own VR site Flagstaff Vacation Rentals.
- ThemeForest: Another great theme marketplace. Themes are basically “design skins” for your site so you can just plug in your own content and pictures.
- MyVR: * I haven’t used this myself (because they don’t have a built in blog) but they are beautiful websites and also offer some marketing assistance.
- Lodgify: *These guys have an affordable website platform that starts at just $9 a month with no commissions. Great for building a nice website, but hoping they synchronize with HomeAway’s sites to really maximize their offering.
- WebChalet: * Another VR website software platform. You pay a monthly fee of $15 or more for additional properties plus 2% booking fee. Not sure I like that plan but it’s quick and easy. I would probably recommend this more for owners with multiple properties.
- HostGator: You will need to host your website somewhere and I recommend and use Hostgator with their 24/7 support.
- GoDaddy: This is where I register my domain names, you can also host here as well.
Accepting Online Payment – Relying on “Checks in the Mail” Will Kill You Slowly
- PayPal: My preferred way of accepting Credit Cards since I’ve been using it before Reservation Manager (below) existed. It’s an easy way to accept payment from any listing source or your own website. The fee is 2.5% and deposit refunds are free.
- Reservation Manager: This is built into HA/VRBO and is a simple way to charge credit cards (2.5% fee) & eChecks at no charge. This is a no brainer for anyone using HA/VRBO.
- Vacation Rent Payment: * Payment processing designed for the VR industry.
Online Contracts – Paper and Fax are so 1990
- Google Forms: Free and simple! I’ve been using this for years and love it.
- EchoSign: I’ve tested it, it works great. However, I still use Google Forms which is even easier. Read my post The Top 3 Online Contract Options
Reservation Software – I don’t use any but here are some options
FREE Productivity Tools – Because VR Owners are BUSY
- LastPass: Hate remembering Passwords like I do? This password tool has saved me tons of time and frustration every week, not to mention it increases your online security big time. It also fills forms for you automatically. See my LastPass Video Here.
- Gmail: Simply the best online email service. You can run all your email addresses through Gmail so everything is in one place.
- Tout: Works with Gmail and allows you to use response templates and more. Quit writing that same email over and over.
- Rapportive: Also works with Gmail and gives you a preview of who is emailing you with links to their social media profiles. Great for screening your guests!
- IFTTT: Which means: If That, Then This. A cool tool that automates processes for you and ties multiple services together. Say you want to get a text message everytime you get an inqury? Done.
- Google Docs: This is how I track everything. Simple, color coded, and sharable with others if needed. Like Excel on Steroids. It works great for me but I would look at the reservation software above if I had 3 or more units to manage.
- Square Cash: The best way to pay your cleaning staff. It takes 5 seconds on the free app, it’s free for both parties, and they get paid FAST. No checks, no stamps, no joke! See my video here. I also use it to pay back deposits that are older than the 60 day PayPal limit for guests.
Services for Your VR
- Netflix: Forget that library of 20 outdated DVDs. Offer your guests Unlimited Movies for just $8 a month. You can also use the same account for yourself.
- Angie’s List: I love Angie’s List for finding honest service providers. If you don’t live near your VR, finding a trusted plumber or carpet cleaner can be tough. Not any longer with this service. I even did a $35,000 remodel from someone I found with good reviews on Angie’s List and it was fantastic.
- Waste Management: Don’t make your renters wheel out your trash to the curb! For about $12 a month extra WM will come and get your bins for you with their “backdoor service.” Worth every penny.
- Turo: This is the “AirBnB for Cars.” It’s a great alternative to a traditional rental car service. Not only is the selection often larger (check your city first) but the prices are usually less, saving your guests money and giving them a unique experience.
- Uber: If you have UBER in your VR area, this is hands down the best Taxi-Cab alternative to provide your guests. It’s all done on the Uber smartphone app by pressing a button and minutes later, your private driver shows up and takes you away. Use Promo Code >> uberMyTesla to get your first ride free (up to $20 off). Simply download the app on your smartphone, then add the code to the “Promotions” field in the menu.
Keyless Door Locks
- ResortLock: One of the best investments you can make to eliminate the “key exchange” hassle and increase security. It’s $272 with free shipping here. I just wish I would not have waited 5 years to do it. Don’t wait like I did!
- RemoteLock: * This one uses a WiFi connection. This gives you more control (and can let you know anytime someone enters), but you do lose that extra functionality if your WiFi goes down.
Security Cameras & Remote Monitoring
- Logitech: Along with the Keyless Locks, Security Cameras are a must have especially if you live far away. Nothing beats the ability to check your place anytime, anywhere right on your phone or laptop. This investment also pays for itself very quickly in real dollars and is also a great deterrent to bad renter behavior. See my Video Demo here. Pro Tip: Put the Security Camera prominently in your contract even if you don’t have one yet to stop people from thinking they can sneak in 7 extra guests.
- Nest Thermostat: * This super easy to use thermostat will delight guests as well as allow you full control from your smartphone.
- Nest Protect Smoke / Carbon Monoxide Alarm: I love this high tech alarm that allows distant owners to feel secure that their VR is safe with the mobile app.
- BeHome247: * Complete home automation system for owners.
Cool Items Your Renters Will Love
- Harmony TV Remote Control: Want to avoid your renters calling you on a Saturday night asking how to use the 4 remotes? Get this ALL IN ONE Remote. It’s a life saver. See my blog about it here.
- Hand Woven Hammocks: Want to add that enviable “I’m relaxing” hammock photo to entice renters? Hand woven in the Yucatan, Mexico with great prices. I recommend the all nylon models that will hold up longer in the rain/wet conditions.
- Conair Sound Therapy Alarm Clock: This clock is super user friendly, and offers the soothing sounds of nature to put your guests in a zen like state for for pure sleeping bliss.
- The Distinguished Guest: Find great buys on quality amenities specifically designed for vacation rental owners. See my Expert Interview here with the Founder, Alanna Schroeder.
Marketing Your Vacation Rental Beyond the Listing Sites
- Adwords: Instantly get paid traffic to your website by purchasing ads on the first page of Google.
- LeadPlayer: Generate tons of email subscribers from your videos. Amazing, but only buy it if you produce videos. Watch any of my videos to see how it works.
- MailChimp: Keep your VR in front of your past guests. This is a great free (up to 2000 subscribers) email newsletter service.
- Facebook Ads: If you decide to jump into social media with a FB Page, you can target your perfect traveler with Facebook ads. Of course you can also do Facebook marketing for free as well with more hands on work.
- PR Web: Paid PR can be a great way to earn links and traffic for your VR website. I wouldn’t do it unless you have your own website however.
- HARO: Use this free service to find PR opportunities for your Vacation Rental. Use Gmail filters to only bring you real leads.
- Create Killer VR Photos: Tyann is a pro & offers great tips in our Video Interview. You can purchase her eBook here if you want to take better photos yourself. Well worth the investment as great photos = more bookings.
- VacationRentalPhotography.com: * Check out his gallery to see what great images look like.
- GoPro Helicopter: * Want to showcase your VR with an amazing video like this?
Vacation Rental Insurance
- CBiz: * These guys have a Vacation Rental specific insurance program. It’s a bit more, but having the right coverage is worth more. Many VR owners are NOT covered correctly with regular homeowners insurance & it’s usually invalid for VR usage.
Travel Protection Insurance
- CSA Travel Protection: * Zero additional cost to Owner. Can replace a deposit (but I don’t recommend) Can also be used through Reservation Manager from HomeAway.
- TravelGuard: * Provide peace of mind for your renters.
Scams – What To Do
- 1) Fake inquires – They send you a fake check larger than amount due, then tell you to send back the difference. Report these to your Listing site they came from.
- 2) Craigslist scam – Watch for fake CL listings using your photos and descriptions stolen from listing sites. These scams target renters and hope to have them send $ directly to the scammer’s bank account. Report fake listings here and read up about CL scams here. These are especially dangerous since a scammed renter could show up at your door wondering why they don’t have a reservation!
- VR Owner’s Guide: Join this Google+ Community to share your ideas and learn from others.
- Vacation Rental Owners: Great Facebook group for owners only – you have to give a listing # to get in. Lot’s of interaction every day.
- HomeAway: Large active forum.
- LayMyHat: Established forum with a heavy foreign user base.
- Nextdoor.com: This is to set up or join your actual VR neighborhood’s private social network. This helps you stay on top of things happening in your area…even if you don’t live there. If you start a brand new neighborhood, you get a $25 Amazon Card Free Here!
Outsourcing – Get Help Doing Anything Online with Your VR.
- eLance: Find a freelancer for web design or any other web related work.
- Odesk: * Another solid option similar to eLance.
- Fiverr: Everything is $5. The VR Owner’s Guide and Flagstaff Cabins logo was done here!
Preventing Anti-VR Laws and Ordinances
- STRAdvocacy.org: The Short Term Rental Advocacy Center. Great place to start learning about local regulations.
- Prevention Ideas: See my blog post. Prevention is the best practice.
- Nextdoor.com: This is one of the best ways to be proactive & know what’s happening in your area…even if you don’t live there. If you start a brand new neighborhood, you get a $25 Amazon Card Free Here!
VR Industry Conferences – Network and Learn in Person
- Vacation Rental World Summit – Join a panel of 12 VR industry experts, including yours truly, June 13-15th.
- RezFest * – HomeAway Software Conference. This is for Property Managers using HA software. Skip it if you are an individual owner.
- VRMA Conference * This is geared more to Managers than Owners so this wouldn’t be the first choice for an Owner only.
- HomeAway Summit – 2014 dates are: Austin, TX May 31st; Ft. Lauderdale FL, September 27th; San Diego CA, October 18th.