Rentini provides useful and exciting travel insights. From adventures to marketing tips for vacation rental owners, we want to help you travel as it's meant to be – easy, refreshing, & fun!

Posts tagged ‘increase rental bookings’

The Features That Kept Us Busy for a Year

One year and counting - Rentini anniversary Time flies. It’s has been an incredible year-long ride since we officially launched our new website last year.  Not only have we  learned a lot, we’ve also realized that customer feedback is a huge source of inspiration. Thank you for contributing your time and efforts to becoming a valuable part of the Rentini community.

Do you remember some of these milestones and new features we’ve developed along the way?

We Are In 70+ Countries and Counting

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that a single platform could be a common marketplace for people from such diverse cultural backgrounds. We are all in the same business and our love for the vacation rental experience is without boundaries. Who wants to stay in a cookie cutter hotel with their entire family? No wonder vacation rentals are becoming more and more popular for travelers across the globe.

You Told Us, We Listened

The most exciting part of building a vacation rental platform is that all of you, our great customers, are also seasoned entrepreneurs. You are smart, experienced and full of fresh ideas about improving the business. We took many of your ideas and developed them into useful tools that will help you run your business even better. Below we listed a few features that came out of your valuable feedback. Keep pouring it on us, we do listen!

The Lowest 2.4% Credit Card Processing

The lowest 2.4% credit card fee for vacation rentalsI hope you don’t miss out on this one! After negotiating with our merchant bank, we secured a 2.4% credit processing rate, which is a better deal than PayPal or VRBO. Paypal charges approximately $30/month plus 2.9% – 3% per credit card transaction. VRBO charges somewhere in a range of $400-$1,000+/year and 2.5% per transaction. We are so happy to save our clients on credit card fees with a low 2.4% flat fee on Visa, Master Card and Discover credit card payments.

Calendar Synchronization Tool

calendar synchronization tool

This is an awesome tool we launched last year. Recently redesigned, today it is even more user-friendly. No one wants to update their calendars on the zillions of vacation rental sites manually. This tool takes the headache away from busy owners/property managers. Synchronize Calendar with Homeaway or VRBOJust copy/paste a link from HomeAway / VRBO and never worry about double booking again.

Reservation Confirmation: Accept, Reject, Discuss More

Accept, Reject, Discuss function within the homeowners inboxEveryone has his or her own style of running a vacation rental, but after regular feedback, we realized one thing is for sure: Homeowners and Property Managers want full control over the situation.  In response, we developed a better way to handle reservation requests. When accepting or rejecting vacation requests, no word is final until homeowners or property managers say so and there is a 24-hour time frame to do so.

Automatic Damage Deposit Processing

Automated Damage Deposit ProcessingNo longer do you have to refund damage deposits manually.  Now it’s as easy as 1-2-3. Just check it out:

  1. Two days prior to check-in, the guests’ card is automatically authorized for the amount of the damage deposit.
  2. The owner will then get an email confirmation and issue check-in instructions for guests.
  3. 48 hours after check-out, the damage deposit will be refunded to the guest’s card if no damages have been incurred.

Pro Plan: Links And Direct Contact Info

Rentini started off as a transaction-based platform on which we charged 1% commission plus a $5 reservation fee. Quickly, however, we learned that some of our users were not happy to pay a commission for each payment processed via Rentini.  In order to accommodate our homeowners and property managers, we began charging a small monthly fee of $9/month and, in return, we list all their contact details in the ad. This way, homeowner & property managers are able to use their normal reservation flow. This change has been awesome for Rentini and it has also been great for the homeowner & property managers who are pleased not to have to introduce a new element to their existing business procedure.

Pro Plus Plan: No Commission And Unlimited Listings For A Single Monthly Payment.

It couldn’t get any better for property managers and homeowners who have multiple listings. List all 20 properties and pay no commission to Rentini for payment processing. Every Pro Plus subscriber gets all of this for a flat $20/month fee along with access to many exciting features on the Rentini platform not accessible under a free plan:

Testimonials

New feature Testimonials Based on the research done by TripAdvisor, guests’ reviews are the second most important thing after photos that travelers rely on while making their selection. At Rentini, all reviews are verified. We also added a Testimonials feature that is an easy way for new listing owners to improve their credibility.Request testimonials from friends and vacation rental guests This feature also allows homeowners and property managers to contact their previous guests or personal friends to solicit testimonials.

Last Minute Deals

Last minute deal promotional banner for rental property This could be the most celebrated new feature of the year! Last minute gaps are not easy to fill, especially because travelers are accustomed to getting a deal on last minute bookings. At the end of the last year, we introduced a feature to promote properties with last minute availabilities on our homepage.  As a result, we received a great return on new bookings and lots of happy customers.

Hints And Videos Are Added

Read hints to avoid confusionThe first few months after our official launch were tough. Many features that looked obvious to our engineers were not as user-friendly as we thought. As a result, we included a short explanation next to each entry field. If you are ever in doubt regarding what a field or sentence means, just roll your mouse over the question mark icon and the hint will pop-up. The same goes for video tutorials.  After adding a video tutorial on every page, we managed to improve our conversion rate by 45%.

Custom Cancellation Policy

Homeowner have templates they can choose from or create their own - customized - cancellation policy

This was one of the most requested features in the early days. Originally, we had 4 pre-designed cancellation policies, but we learned that homeowners and property managers didn’t want to fit into cookie cutter solutions.   After realizing we needed to be more flexible on this topic, we allowed homeowner & property managers to upload his or her custom policy.

Reply To Inquiry From The Email Inbox

Another thing we learned about homeowners and property managers’ business challenges is they all want to simplify the inquiry reply process.

At Rentini, we developed two ways to reply to messages from a potential guest:

Whether you reply via email or the Rentini messaging page, all communication is stored in your Rentini account. The only trick to remember is that when you reply via email, the recipients address is encrypted for privacy purposes. But, don’t fret.  We know how to deliver your message to your guest.  Just hit the Send button!

Craigslist Ad Generator

Your Craigslist Vacation Rental Ad Generator Many homeowners and property managers have a love /hate relationship with Craigslist. Many say that there are a lot of scams and others don’t want to deal with low-ball inquiries. Despite its issues, Craigslist can still be a very effective advertising platform for your vacation home. With 60+ mln unique visitors per month Craigslist is one of the most visited classified sites on internet. At Rentini, we developed a simple tool to generate a professional Craigslist ad in a few clicks. It’s a great way to promote your last minute availability or just improve your ad’s SEO in the long run. More visits to your ad page means more love from search engines.

We Love Our Unique Properties From All Around The World

The beauty of our vacation rental business is that all the properties are very unique.  Whether it is a stunning villa in Paraty, Brazil, a private boat in Barcelona, or an agritourism villa in Tuscany, Italy, they are all inspiring…and your personal touch is what makes your guests enjoy it so much!

There are many more features being developed,which are great additions to our core functionality. Thanks again for your patronage during the last year!

Do you have a feature in mind you know could be useful for your vacation rental business? Share it with us by leaving a comment below or by sending us an email at feedback@rentini.com.

2 simple ways to update your vacation rental calendar

Vacation rental availability calendar reservation blocking

Don’t Wait to Update Your Vacation Rental Calendar: Time Blocking and Reservations

Like many of my neighbors and fellow owners in Hawaii and Lake Tahoe, I love surfing, skiing and snowboarding, so why would I own property anywhere else?  It comes as no surprise that, like me, most vacation rental owners buy homes in the places they like to visit themselves.  And they visit a lot.

During my first year of owning a pad in Maui Kamaole, Hawaii, I visited 5 times. I stored my two surfboards in the closet, bought an annual pass on ATA airlines and eventually realized the importance of manually updating my vacation rental calendar.

In my previous post I talked about a very simple way to setup automatic calendar synchronization, once and forever. Here we discuss how to update your calendar manually.

At Rentini we have two options for updating calendar:

1)   Create a blocking – an easy one step process

2)   Create a reservation  –  a two step process which requires you to record payment.

There are multiple ways to add a reservation or time block to your calendar. The most intuitive would be by following navigation tabs:

  • Rentals >> Blocking >> Add Blocking
  • Rentals >> Reservations  >> Add Reservation

Another way of adding a time block or reservation would be by opening the monthly calendar page from the Dashboard or on Edit Listing page.

Select a month and roll your mouse over any date until an Update button appears. Click on the Update button or anywhere in that cell. A new window will pop-up, which will let you choose a type of action. Available options are:

  • Add Blocking
  • Add Reservation
  • Add Rate

We will discuss how to add different types of rates in future posts. For now, let’s just focus on blockings and reservations.

Time Blocking

Rule of thumb: Use blockings to mark dates unavailable.

To block, choose your start and end dates and hit the Update Calendar button. You can also put in a note for future reference, such as “My last minute getaway!!!” or “Uncle Sam promised it’s his last trip this year

The process is a bit more complicated with reservations as there are a few different scenarios worth considering.

IMPORTANT: Keep in mind that the dates on your calendar will not become unavailable until payment is submitted by the guest or the homeowner marks the reservation paid manually.

Reservation on Guest’s behalf: You are Expecting Payment

You may create a reservation on guest’s behalf and assign a custom rate to it (optional).  Let’s say someone calls you and says, “I would like to rent your place. How do I proceed from here?”

All you need is their name and email address.  Just open Rentals >> Reservations and click Add Reservation button. Select the Yes option for email notifications. This way your guests will receive an email invitation to pay the required amount as well as all future reminders. This is convenient, as you do not need to remember important dates to remind your guests about payment dues. The system sends out reminders automatically.

If you do not want them to receive automatic reminders,  just select the No option for email notifications.

Reservation on Friend’s Behalf

If a friend of yours wants to visit and you only want to charge them a cleaning fee, they may leave a check for the housekeeper or pay in advance.

To facilitate the pay in advance option, just click Add Reservation and enter $1 into the Custom Rate field (sorry, the system doesn’t allow to enter $0).  Select the Yes option for Email notifications and then hit Update Calendar. An email invitation will then be sent to your friend so he/she can pay online. Once they complete the payment process, the dates will be marked unavailable.

Reservation Payments

If a guest calls you and wants to submit a payment, you may accept credit card payments over the phone. However, it is important to note the recent PCI compliance standards, which do not allow keeping your guests’ card on file unencrypted.

Protecting cardholder data is also good for your business because PCI security prevents stolen customer data, and:

  • Prevents lawsuits
  • Saves you money

Rentini payment portal becomes handy when you need to accept payments and stay PCI compliant. We incorporate all the latest standards, which could also be another selling point for those guests who are concerned about Internet fraud and unauthorized credit card abuse. Working in IT data security for 13 years taught me to keep my hands away from sensitive information wherever possible. When a vacation rental guest offers me their credit card over the phone, I politely refuse to accept it. Accepting payment via a PCI compliant online system gives you the piece of mind that you won’t be liable for any data breach.

If you have any suggestion on how to make our reservation system better, please leave your feedback in comments!

Happy rentals!

6 Simple Reasons to Love Your Vacation Rental Website

Escapesolutions.rentini.com , A template based website created by Peggy Yelland for her 11 properties

Don’t Wait to Reap the Benefits of Your Vacation Rentals: Get your own website!

In the past we discussed the importance of a vacation rental website and were delighted to see how this topic struck a cord with our readers.

Drawing from my own experience managing vacation rentals for the last 9 years, here are 6 reasons why I have a vacation rental website:

1) Website name is unique

Your vacation rental website must have a unique domain name if you want to make an impeccable first impression.    You can’t rely on the random ID number assigned to your listings.  Just think about it — who would remember those six digits a month later?

Names like http://www.WaipouliBeach.com or http://www.HeavenlyCabin.com are memorable.  Numbers are not.

You may even want to take it a step further by printing business cards.  You never know where you will meet prospective renters! Some guys will even print them overnight.

2)   No competition

While I have befriended many of my fellow homeowners, I understand that those residing in neighboring locations compete with me for renters. Therefore, it is best not to give your potential guest a link to a vacation rental listings site with zillions of other choices. Instead, you want to lead them to a place where no other competition exists – your own vacation rental website. Once your client is on your website, it’s your job to convince them that your rental is the best and that they should proceed with booking immediately.

3)  A Call to Action with a Book Now Button

In online marketing, every page or message should have a Call To Action. But, now you may be wondering what a Call to Action even means.  In simple terms, it is a quickest way to make a sale.  For example, ‘Book Now.’  This will increase your conversion rate, a term that describes how many users buy vs how many users visited your website. You can also increase your conversion rate if the Call to Action is in the right place, of the right size and in the right color.

The ‘Book Now’ option is also something that world travelers are so used to. Airline websites have it, hotel websites have it, restaurants have it, even activity desks providers will give you an option to book a tour right away.  Somehow it’s not that common in the vacation rental industry. Influential bloggers like Matt Landau think that 2013 will change this for good. I hope so!

In my particular case I rent out short term rentals. I want my users to come to my website and rent my property. Then, I want them to have a great time during their vacation, visit my favorite restaurants and experience things that I love to do when I visit my rental.

4)  Stay in Control with Real-Time Calendar

First thing’s first — I don’t consider a vacation rental booked until I got money in my pocket. I hear a lot of whining from fellow homeowners after they’ve come across an unreliable customer. The guest promised to send a check but the check never arrived.

If you agree to keep your rental dates on hold for a week until a guest’s check arrives, you are giving up control of your own business while giving your potential customers the time to find a better deal.

Make your guests compete for your place.

For example, If I have three inquiries for the same time period, I never give the same quote. The first customer to inquire receives the lowest quote, the next one receives a higher rate and all others the highest rate possible. I tell everyone that dates could be booked anytime by anyone. When people are aware they may lose your deal, they tend to act faster. Often times the highest quote I give triggers the payment first. So it’s a double win. I get a booking faster and it’s sold for more.

5)  No limit on the most essential things:  Photos, Reviews, Calendar

I hate when someone limits my abilities in anything. 24 photos limit on my listing? Who came up with this magic number? What if I have a nice shot #25 from my best customer and I would like to upload it? Do I need to remove one of my nice looking photos? The magic of your own website is that you are in full control of everything. Not only can you upload numerous photos but you can add long activity descriptions on the guests’ toDo list. And all these things combined work well for converting your visitors into paid customers. Research shows that 30% of travelers make their booking decision based on photos and reviews. You as a homeowner should have full control over these marketing tools.

6)   Organic Google Search Traffic – Yours Forever!

This one is not very obvious at all. We advertise our vacation rental properties on zillions of different websites. We put our time, sweat and money into making it look better, while not always realizing that we are improving a vacation rental listing site and not our own. At some point, when we have to discontinue advertising service, all our previous efforts become wasted. Search engines, such as Google, Bing, Yahoo etc., work day and night crawling and analyzing the great content of the world web. Once your ad is shut down, it’s gone for Google. Put all your efforts into making great content on your own website and let Google discover and index it. This is a real asset that will stay with you as long as you want it to. Over time, it only becomes more valuable!

and of course, the social!

I almost missed out on one of the most important item – social engagement! It’s so big with latest changes in role of social signals in search algorithm. It will require a separate blog post. So stay tuned!

Do you have your own vacation rental website?  Let us know your success story!

In case you would like to create a vacation rental website, you can do it in 3 simple clicks at Rentini.  Here are some of the Rentini’s templates (remember it could be your own domain name or a subdomain of rentini.com) :

ModernLakeTahoe.rentini.com

WaipouliBeach.com

ItalyMountainCabin.com

Introducing Last Minute Deals on Vacation Rentals by Homeowners

Don’t give up on upcoming vacancies, we’ve got a solution!

It’s never too late to make some memories, or money when it comes to being a vacation rental owner. That’s why we have created a last minute deals program that allows our homeowners to offer travelers last minute discounts on vacancies for their vacation rentals.

Fill vacant dates on your calendar
Each week on Tuesday at noon EST, registration for our last minute deals page will open. There you can let us know your desired last minute dates and rates. We will then publish the new rates for travelers the following day (Wednesday) along with spreading the word about your great deal across as much of the internet as can.

Blog about your last minute deal

If you want to take your deal (and overall listing) one step further, we are accepting blog posts from our homeowners regarding their vacation destinations. Take a look at these posts to get some ideas. Notice how we talk about the culture, activities and overall lifestyle of the destinations. By attracting travelers to the destination itself, your property will be featured as the perfect accommodation for travelers to go and experience everything for themselves. This is done through linking keywords and photos to your listing, as well as simply culminating your post with a “Where to stay” sort of ending.

So feel free to submit your own to blogger@rentini.com and we will review it for publication.

High Quality Photos Make a Difference in Booking Your Vacation Rental

As the old saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words”.

Here at Rentini, we believe,

“a quality photo could be worth a thousand bookings”…

A better picture brings more bookings

A better picture means more bookings: Waipouli Beach Resort & Spa

We are always exploring new ways to help market properties in an effort to bring homeowners more bookings. That’s why we conducted a survey of travelers regarding how they search out the right vacation rental. We found that 8 out of 10 vacation rental bookings are influenced more by images of the property versus the description of the property. People want to see what they are spending their hard earned money on. Makes sense right? Anyone can try to sell you a “Stunning 2 bedroom, 2 bath home with all the necessary commodities”, but only so many homeowners can actually show you high quality photos of how stunning each room actually is.
For example, between these two properties, where would you rather stay?

Property images
Here? or Here?

Believe it or not, those are photos of the same living room. While the first photo may make you think your looking at a small loft in Brooklyn, the latter photo clearly shows the elegance of this beautiful vacation home in the Hamptons.

Furthermore, according to research done by Trip Advisor; properties with more than 20 photos get 150% more engagement. This should be reason enough to spend the $200 (on average) for a professional photography session for your vacation rental. After all, photos last forever so you should see that cost returned to you within the first booking, and then the next, and so on.

These are reasons why we have created a contest on Pinterest to give 5 lucky homeowners a professional photography session for their homes. Pinterest is currently the fastest growing social network in the world, read more about its benefits in our social media property marketing series here.
Contest instructions and details can be found here for both homeowners and travelers.

Increasing Search Visibility For Your Listing

How Do You Get Your Property Listing Seen?

Vacation home owners list their properties in hopes of gaining more exposure for their rentals. As with the arduous search for a life mate, we’ve all heard that “getting out there” is the first step. So it is with the often challenging world of securing guests for your vacation rentals. Listing is a homeowners’ way of “getting their rental out there”. But, of course, listing your vacation home is just the first step.

Optimize Your Vacation Rental Listing

Property listings require cultivation. Many homeowners listing their properties may not realize that how they create their listing affects how likely it is to be seen. This is because search engines use algorithms to internally rank the relevance of web pages including your property listing page. Here are some tips towards optimizing your vacation rental listing:

  • Write a thorough, detailed description. A single line isn’t good enough.
  • Use many keywords that describe your property (e.g. near the beach; close to outdoor activities; center of Nashville; ocean view, beachfront, etc.)
  • Use formatting to make things easier to read:
    • Use bullet points.
    • Separate paragraphs.
    • Don’t turn your description into a ‘Christmas tree’. Take it easy on colors and bold font. Search engines like Google will penalize you if your description looks ‘spammy’.
  • Upload multiple high quality photos and add descriptive tags.
  • Complete your owner profile. Not only will this make the transaction more personable, it will enhance your page ranking as well.
  • Include all appropriate interests and activities near your property.
  • Include amenities including ones unique to your property.
  • Create a website – this will help broaden your exposure.
  • Link your account with your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
  • Be social – share your listing and website on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social networks. The more popular your page is, the higher it ranks.
  • If your property is in another country, try adding some description in the local language of that country. So if you have a villa in Madrid, add some lines in Spanish.

If you follow these simple steps towards making your listing as pretty as possible, the more likely it is to be viewed by prospective guests. Remember that the more visitors you have to your listing will contribute to the ranking of your page by search engines. Increased bookings should follow.

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