Getting a rave review and repeat customers on a rental site such as Airbnb or VRBO is a two-step process that will test just how well you're able to present yourself to complete strangers -- and maybe your recall of Psych 101, too.
You want to attract a certain caliber of renter (i.e., not crazy), so your ad needs to send out the right signals. But you also need to keep those renters coming back. And we're here to tell you: It's not quite as simple as throwing together some Ikea bookshelves and calling it a day.
There is a science to this, reveals psychologist Liz Chamberlain, with the Colorado Center for Clinical Excellence. Master it, and you'll be on your way to some five-star reviews -- and plenty of extra cash.
Here are four ways to ace the vacation rental market.
1. Target your ideal renter
Ask yourself first: Who do you want in your vacation home, guesthouse, or -- gasp! -- spare room?
"Think about what kind of energy -- for lack of a better word -- you want to invite in," Chamberlain says. "A couple? A family? A group out for a party weekend?"
If you want to create the ultimate romantic getaway, for example, start setting the scene in your listing.
In your post, use pictures that present the space as warm and cozy, Chamberlain says. It will send a clear signal: Couples wanted.
And, of course, it also shows that you're a thoughtful host who'll do everything to ensure your guests have a comfortable stay.
2. Don't overdo the decor
Your guests probably sought you out because they didn't want a sterile hotel. But beware of going overboard in the other direction. You'll want to strike a balance: comfortable but depersonalized, so anybody might feel at home.
First, avoid the tendency to overload your couch with pillows and blankets -- you're aiming for cozy, not crazy.
"If there's too much clutter, it suggests there's no room for your guests and that you don't really want them there," Chamberlain says. "If it's too sparse, it's not a home -- it's little more than a hotel."
It should go without saying, but that giant framed portrait of Ronald Reagan over the living room fireplace needs to come down, stat.
"Anything that shows a political or religious belief will make people uncomfortable," she says. "Put away the crucifix or the big Buddha -- anything that might cause feelings of conflict or dissonance."
3. Welcome your guests with a surprise
It's not imperative that you be there to greet your guests when they arrive, but there are a few ways you can make a good impression. Why bother? It'll put your guests at ease and hopefully make them feel a connection to you and your space.
"People want to see a little of their host's personality," Chamberlain says. "There can be a disconnect, because you're having guests in your home but you're not there. So maybe leave something to serve as that symbolic transition."
Sure, a bottle of wine is a terrific go-to welcome gift. But you can also consider leaving a special treat for them to discover (some cupcakes maybe?). Or give them something to think about: "Leave out a journal and suggest your guests leave a note about their stay before they leave," Chamberlain suggests.
4. Simplify the stressful stuff
You may have inherited your mom's constant state of worry, but there's no need to project that onto your potential guests.
"If they see an earthquake kit or fire extinguishers while scrolling through the photos in your ad, it might put the wrong image in that person's head," Chamberlain says. "It's all about when you show your hand. Don't include those things in the pictures, but make sure they're available and handy once the renters get there."
Another thing: Avoid having an entertainment system that requires an advanced degree to operate. Most people will be traveling and not spending all day watching Netflix, so if you have to plop a 1,000-page instruction manual on the coffee table, consider simplifying.
Bottom line: There's nothing to be gained by intimidating your guests or revealing your own mad scientist tendencies. Save it for your shrink. And thank us later.