When tourists come knocking at the door of your vacation rental, what will they expect you to offer? Many answers are available in "Top 10 Vacation Home Features Travelers' Seek" offered by TripHomes.com, a new vacation home rentals website. Still more insight is available from vacation home market experts RealtyTimes.com has interviewed to help you further improve the bottom line of your vacation home rental.
"Travelers increasingly turn to vacation rental homes as a home away from home for their vacation accommodations," says Justin Halloran, general manager of TripHomes, a new vacation rental website under the former WVR Group umbrella of vacation rental listing websites, also known as HomeAway.com. "Unlike hotels, vacation rental homes offer so many other advantages -- from fully equipped kitchens and plenty of bedrooms to private pools and media rooms," Halloran added. Along with additional commentary from the experts, here is TripHomes.com's list of most sought after vacation home features.
· Location, Location, Caution: Beach front, hillside, ski resort and lake front homes all have appeal. So does everything from urban living "like a local" to rural seclusion. The key is to purchase in a safe and secure location that is also appealing to visitors. "It must be beautiful and relaxing, but it also needs to be safe -- from man-made or natural disasters. Trying to create an attractive rental from the property you buy that is sitting on an eroding cliff overlooking the ocean just won't fly, no matter how beautiful the view. Ditto if the potential for flooding from high tides or rivers is present," said Amanda Sturges, director of operations at Escape Homes, a San Francisco Bay Area online clearinghouse of vacation rentals and industry services. "Also, the location needs to be popular, but not that popular. Most people don't want to be inundated with other vacationers, if they can help it," she added.
· Rooms With A View: Give visitors a stunning sun setting into the ocean or a bedroom high above the trees. Think "big sky." "People love to step out on a deck and not see anyone or anything except a great view. Even if the only view is the vast sky, the feeling people get is expansion and relaxation," said Sturges.
· Family, Kid Friendliness: Swimming pools, video games, pool tables and big-screen televisions. Pack it in for families on the go. Bunk beds are in for snoozing kids, breakables are out for kids who are wide awake. "Furnish the property to accommodate kids with not a lot of breakable knickknacks. Buy a property in a community that caters to families, meaning there are swimming pools with lifeguards, (even at ocean sites, because the ocean is often too rough for little ones), playgrounds and an abundant supply of babysitters," said Sturges. Watch for, say, retirement properties that restrict younger visitors. Conversely, if you seek to rent to couples play up quiet, seclusion and the romantic aspects of the property and location itself, Sturges added. "The next thing to look at is the demographics of the local visitors. Check out the Chamber of Commerce website to see who they are targeting. If it is primarily conventions, then a 1-bedroom property might be a good rental. If they are targeting families, you want two or more bedrooms," said Christine Karpinski, a real estate investor, author and director of Owner Advocacy for HomeAway.com, formerly WVR Group, a network of vacation rental listing websites.
· Budget Travel: Sometimes travelers just need a getaway with a roof over their heads and choose a vacation rental instead of a hotel or motel to save cash on eating out or even going out. "Sometimes, this takes a bit more digging to determine what vacationers want. For instance, I have found that cabins in the Smoky Mountains have a difficult time renting if they do not have a pool table. Colorado visitors like a hot tub and like to be on the trolley line for the ski slopes. Some vacationers want off-street parking where parking is tough," said Karpinski. "Knowing who will want to rent your vacation home and then buying based on their demands, rather than just your own family's demands, will make it much easier in the long haul when you want to rent that property out," Karpinski added.
· Dining In: Eating out can break a vacationer's budget and disrupt their gastrointestinal tract. Gathering in the kitchen and around the table for a family dinner while on vacation provides a warm fuzzy feeling for the heart and for the stomach. Eating what and how you are accustomed while away helps eliminate the "nervous stomach" feeling some travelers experience. Cater to travelers who like eating-in as a romantic experience or as a family event. Adding restaurant quality cooking appliances, equipment, swank dining furnishings, cozy decor and adequate lighting can make for quite an eating-in experience.
· Welcome Mat For Groups: Vacation homes are a great option for family reunions, wedding parties, and family vacations, provided the facilities are adequate, including lots of bedrooms and bathrooms. "A nice option is to own a few closely connected condos where individual households can stay. Groups also usually need a gathering place of some sort, like a reception room or clubhouse that can be reserved for a function," said Sturges.
· Tech Habitats: Many of today's travelers don't leave home without their electronic gear. For them disconnection is not a good thing. Look for homes built with high-speed and wireless Internet connections, plenty of phone outlets and perhaps even computer stations for guests' use. "Many people are working part of the time they are away. It allows them to extend their vacation without having to take as many vacation days. WiFi and broadband Internet is one of the hottest net trends for rentals" said Marvin Floyd, general manager of Vacation Rentals By Owner a do-it-yourself vacation rental website.
· Activities: Many travelers leave home to partake in activities they enjoy but can't, don't or won't do when they are home. "One of the important issues of renting a vacation home in a private golf, tennis or equestrian community is to know, beforehand, the additional club fees that renters need to pay for access to the club's facilities. Also, renters need to know the limitations of facility use, which typically is far less than for property owners," said Elisabeth Miller-Fox president of PrivateCommunities.com, a portal for renting and buying homes in private and gated communities. Sturges says to buy a property with well-defined recreation activities and advertise it with your listing. "It is a boon to include perks with the rental -- lift-tickets, golf fees, tennis rackets, snorkel equipment, etc.," she suggested.
· Let The Dogs In: To be or not to be pet-friendly is a good question. Some visitors are allergic to pet hair, others can't leave home without them. Because many hotels and motels don't allow pets you an attract a big portion of the traveling pet owner crowd if you offer liberal pet policies. Cleaning up after the creatures, however, can be a different story. "I think this is really an overrated 'want' as most people don't travel with their pets," said Floyd. Sturges says when pets are permitted, part of the rental has to include a substantial cleaning allowance. "A property that is pet-friendly is usually on the ground floor, not on a busy street, and perhaps with a good fenced yard. If you are planning on buying a pet-friendly property, it is a good idea to have wood floors rather than carpeting," said Sturges.
· Special Touches: Chalets, mansions, villas and a beautifully designed and decorated home are all popular draws. "Something I experienced for the first time was a vacation home with a car and guide available. I just returned from Beijing and the condo's owners provided a new Hyundai Elantra with driver and guide during the entire trip. I realize few owners will be interested in providing this, but it was fantastic and made the trip so simple and pleasurable. If you want to really set your place apart, do something like that. Upscale travelers will be willing to pay for it," said Floyd. Floyd also said vacation rental owners should make available local travel guides, maps, discount coupons and information books about the vacation rental home or condo and the surrounding area. "It's great to know the location of the Italian or Chinese restaurant. These guides are very cheap and easy to assemble and it goes a long way creating a positive impression with renters," said Floyd.