RISMEDIA, February 11, 2011Theres one undeniable truth about vacation home renters: The early bird gets the wormand shes willing to pay top dollar for it. Thats why smart vacation rental owners set out to make their properties attractive to these oh-so-lucrative early birds well ahead of time. Yes, now is the time to start getting your ocean-view condo or woodsy cabin ready to stand out in the cyber lineup. And according to vacation home expert Christine Karpinski, that means one thing: Its time to amenity up.
Once your home is passed up, most people wont go back to view it again, warns Karpinski, director of Owner Community for HomeAway.com and author of How to Rent Vacation Properties by Owner, 2nd Edition: The Complete Guide to Buy, Manage, Furnish, Rent, Maintain and Advertise Your Vacation Rental Investment. If you want to secure that booking, you need to catch peoples attention the first timeand that means making sure their desired amenities are present and accounted for.
Karpinski outlines the following list of top amenities that renters are looking forand how you can make sure yours are coming up in their search:
1. Pool. It should come as no big surprise that vacationers enjoy taking a dip in the pool while on vacation. Pools are a form of entertainment in and of themselves, so when people go on vacation, they typically look for some body of water in close proximity. Even if you dont have a pool in your own backyard, advertise the shared pool in your complex or a nearby community pool.
2. Hot tub. Hot tubs have become a must-have amenity in many markets, especially those with cooler weather. Having a hot tub in your listing can even increase the shoulder season rentability of propertiesespecially in areas with chilly spring and fall seasons. In other words, that hot tub on the deck or screened-in porch could mean more renters all year long.
3. Jacuzzi tub. Just like Kleenex and Google, Jacuzzi is a brand name that has become the generic term for its category. While many travelers may use the word interchangeably with hot tub (meaning the outdoor variety), others search for the term Jacuzzi when seeking a whirlpool bathtub. In other words, if it has warm water, jets and bubbles, chances are people are calling it a Jacuzzi, so keep that in mind when putting your property listing together.
4. Pet friendly. According to the Travel Industry Association, 14% of all American adults have traveled with a pet at some point in the past three years. Although it may not be a traditional amenity, accepting pets at your vacation rental could significantly increase your bookings. Remember, it costs hundreds of dollars for guests to board their dogs or hire a sitter. Even if you charge a pet fee or a refundable pet deposit, it will still cost guests far less than leaving their four-legged friends at home.
5. TV. Even with the rising popularity of HDTVs, just plain TV remains a popular search term that people use in their hunt for that perfect home. In your description, include the number of TVs in your home, taking care to mention any located in bedrooms. (Many travelers look for this detail). Also, it doesnt hurt to include more details in your listing about any high-end televisions you may have. Cable and satellite TV also rank highly in traveler searches. If you have an HDTV in the home, make sure you upgrade the box and pay that extra five or so dollars for those HD channels. Your guests will enjoy having themand of course dont forget to highlight in your advertisements that you pay for HD channels.
6. Tennis. If you dont have a tennis court in your backyard, subdivision or complex, consider looking up local courts and including information about them in your listing. Many vacationers understand that tennis courts could be considered a hard-to-access amenity; if your home does have court access, shout it from the heavens. This just might be the amenity that reels them in.
7. Internet. Even on vacation, travelers still want (and need) to be connected, and wireless Internet has become the preferred method. If you dont already offer a WiFi connection, contact your local cable or phone company for more details. Its fairly inexpensive to add this amenity to your home and, in this day and age, its as much of a necessity as running water and electricity.
8. Pool table. Pool tables are especially popular in certain ski and mountain regions because they offer reliable indoor entertainment.And if youre looking to put your money on something that will make a big statement at a reasonable price, adding one to your home will do just that. Obviously, you dont have to go top of the line and shell out $25,000 for a high-end pool table. Check out your local sporting goods store and youll likely find a perfectly nice model for around $1,000. If this still seems like a lot to spend, ask around and search the classified ads for used tables. Chances are youll come across people willing to sell theirs for next to nothing.
9. Fireplace. When vacationing in a cooler climate, renters look forward to cuddling up by the fireplace after a long day outdoors. If you have one, be sure to really play it up in your listing. For slightly warmer destinations, an outdoor fireplace can be a huge draw for off-season travelers. And while adding a full-fledged fireplace, chimney and all to an existing home may prove to be prohibitively expensive, there are plenty of portable fireplaces that you can pick up at the home improvement store that dont require a contractor and construction crew to install.
10. Porch. No matter what type of outdoor living area you havea porch, deck, terrace or patiobe sure to provide a detailed description and photo(s) in your listing. Another popular search term is balcony, so dont forget that keyword when posting a photo of your view. Add the appropriate outdoor furniture and you have an inviting bonus living space that renters will love. And dont forget to include pictures of that stunning view.
Sometimes it really is a good idea to invest a few thousand dollars to make your home more desirable to vacationers, concludes Karpinski. Many upgrades will pay for themselves after just a couple of extra bookings. Besides, your expenditure may be a tax write-off. If youre considering adding amenities to your vacation home, let these top requests from actual travelers guide you. When peak season gets here, youll be glad you listened to them.