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How to stand out in the Okanagan's short-term rental market

It’s no secret that Kelowna is a tough housing market for owners and renters alike. The average selling price of a single-family home in Kelowna is at an all time high, with statistics from the Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Board reporting a $734,197 average selling price in March of this year.

Factoring in the steady migration of younger people from the Lower Mainland to the Okanagan to take advantage of relative affordability, the booming rental market shows no signs of slowing down. To combat rising costs, more and more homeowners are turning to both long and short-term rentals through companies such as Airbnb, HomeAway and FlipKey to supplement their mortgages.

Short-term rentals are booming. Even a survey of local Kijiji listings shows that those looking for long-term housing are, for the most part, out of luck: most Kelowna listings on the platform are for short-term rentals.

Long story short? The vacation pool is crowded. Here are a few ways to help your listing make a splash.

Invest in photos

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” is a cliché for a reason. No matter how great your space is, no one will book it if your photos don’t do it justice.

Seriously consider hiring a professional photographer — either through your own network or through a service like Airbnb itself — to boost the attractiveness of your listing. If you do insist on taking your own images, keep in mind that lighting, composition and tidiness are key when creating images that viewers find appealing. Airbnb even has some tips for taking high-quality photos on their blog.

Emphasize your property’s key benefits

When it comes to your introductory message and the description of your place, you should focus on the features of your listing that offer prospective guests the most personal value. FlipKey — with the help of their parent organization, TripAdvisor — even offers an online resource library that addresses questions such as how to develop an online persona to help sell your space.

Start by ranking the selling points of your listing in order of attractiveness to your potential customer. Then, take the top points and incorporate them into your headlines, your introductory paragraphs and any other places in the listing that stand out to your reader through format and design.

Protect your investment

As much as we’d all like to hope that every guest will be a good one, the law of averages says otherwise. For every perfect guest, you will inevitably come across one that is… not so perfect. For this reason, you need to ensure that you’re covered in the event of property damages or liability incidents.

A simple way to ensure that a worst-case scenario won’t mean the end of your short-term rental business is to buy additional insurance. Most insurance policies don’t cover short-term rentals, so BCAA Home Insurance offers extra optional coverage for short-term rentals that fit the bill, with flexible, affordable coverage based on the type of housing (shared vs. private), the number of rental units and the number of days you plan to host.

Keep it clean

If you rent out your listing looking less than its best, it’ll start to show in your customer reviews. That’s why it’s vitally important to thoroughly clean your rental property between each and every guest’s visit. It’s worth considering a third-party cleaning service that allows you to schedule regular cleaning appointments between stays. Keep in mind that you can adjust the cleaning fee on your listing to recuperate the extra cost.

Listen to your clientele

You can perform general market research until you’re blue in the face, but the most valuable insight you’ll ever get into your guests is directly from the guests themselves. Customer reviews, both positive and negative, are critically important information.

Reviews are also important because they can make or break a listing. Too many negative reviews, and you’re going to see a decline in your bookings. So, make the most of that feedback and incorporate it into your service.

Set a fair price

Don’t get greedy when it comes to the price of your listing. Do your market research by seeing what comparable listings are going for in your region, across multiple different short-term rental companies, and price your listing competitively. After all, price is one of the key factors that customers consider before purchasing a product or service. Only after they’ve mentally accepted your price will they delve into the details of your offering.

If you’re a new host, it’s worth cutting down your price to jump-start your business and build up your reputation through positive reviews. Once you’ve built a solid reputation, you can raise your price and start playing around with pricing differently during peak seasons.

If you’re a homeowner looking to make the most of your spare room or second property through a short-term rental service, you’ll first have to ensure that your building allows short-term rentals, and then you’ll need to differentiate (and protect) yourself. Take these tips, go forth and host responsibly.

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