7 Ways to Grow Your Vacation Rental Business From The Pros

vacation house mountain cabin rental window trees view sunshine

How to Own and Operate a Successful Vacation Rental Business

Have you always wanted to start your own vacation rental business, or are you looking to improve your current vacation rental business in 2021? Look no further. We’re going to cover everything you need to know to take your vacation rental to the next level!

The vacation rental industry is in a period of unprecedented growth. Your vacation rental business should be, too! In 2019, the U.S. vacation rental market showed revenue of more than $17 billion! Industry experts predict that by 2023, revenue could grow to early $19.5 billion. Shouldn’t some of that revenue be rolling your way??

Working in the short-term-rental industry means our team stays at rentals around the world. Along the way, we’ve picked up on some clever tricks from hosts that made their property memorable for all the right reasons. Today we’re sharing them with you.

  1. Treat your vacation rental like a hotel.
  2. Include a welcome book for your guests.
  3. Invest in smart home technology for your property.
  4. Keep towels clean with this simple trick.
  5. Consider allowing pets in your vacation rental.
  6. Showcase your outdoor space to increase bookings.
  7. Include luxury amenities in your vacation listing.

1. Treat your vacation rental like a hotel.

short term rental hotel window amenities

Research has found that vacation rentals are becoming more popular to travelers than ordinary hotels. That doesn’t mean that we, as hosts, still can’t learn a lot from the way hotels operate. A study by HomeAway (now Vrbo) and the University of Texas found that travelers are 73 percent more likely to remember their trip if they feel happy and excited about it during the planning stages, before the trip ever starts. So it’s all about offering your guests a great experience. 

Start by sending them a welcome message, and include a guide with recommendations for restaurants and things to do in the area. Nine out of 10 times, guests staying at short-term rentals want to experience life as a local. 

Who doesn’t love a nice welcome present? This is the part where you can get creative. You might want to leave your guests a local specialty like a bottle of wine, some snacks, or even a little souvenir to remind them of their wonderful stay at your property. It’s a small gesture, but it will make a massive difference to your guests and might even help you to get that 5-star review.

2. Include a welcome book for your guests.

short term rental guestbook welcome book sign in visitors vacation

Ever thought about creating a welcome book for your guests? Your welcome book will serve as a guide for your guests during their stay. It will inform the guests of the house rules and everything that’s available to them during their stay. 

Does your property have a few quirks? You’re not alone. Every property does! Let your guests know where the hard-to-find light switches are, which remote is the one that actually turns on the television, and info about that one burner on the stove that gets way too hot. And remember, while most of these things are common knowledge to you, your guests will have no idea. They can get frustrated when searching to find the answers. Make it as easy as possible for them. Your welcome book is the perfect place for descriptions, instructions, pictures, and all the rules your guests should follow during their stay. Just make sure to keep it short, fun, organized and easy to read. 

3. Invest in smart home technology for your property.

noiseaware indoor outdoor noise detection device sensor mobile app

Haven’t jumped on the smart-home train yet? Well, it’s about time that you do so! Smart-home technology devices are a MUST for every vacation rental owner in 2021. Not only are they adding more value to your property (highly appreciated by your guests), but they serve as a protection for your property, to make managing a vacation rental business so much easier. 

Smart locks are a simple way to make your guests’ life a breeze. They are revolutionizing how property managers and homeowners keep their guests happy. No one has to worry about losing a key again. With smart locks, all our guests have to do is look at their phones and type in the provided key. It’s that effortless! 

Ever considered using noise monitoring at your property? NoiseAware’s noise monitoring sensors allow you to have an insight into the well-being of your property without interfering with your guests’ privacy. If your guests end up being too loud, NoiseAware allows you to step in from wherever you are, and ensure the safety of your property as well as your community. Learn more about smart-home technology here.

4. Keep towels clean with this simple trick.

luxury bathroom clean towels short term vacation rental increase profits

This might seem like a random tip to you, but doesn’t every host struggle with the same problem? Of course, everyone loves white towels. They look fresh, clean, and add that hotel vibe to our vacation rentals. But sadly, most of the time, our nice white towels won’t stay white super long. It only takes one guest to wash their makeup off with your pristine towel to ruin it completely. 

Ever wondered how to keep your washcloths clean and makeup-free from guests washing their faces? It’s something you wished you thought of before all of the trips to the store for replacement towels! The answer: black washcloths. Monogram them with “MakeUp” to ensure your guests reach for the black towels instead of your white ones.

5. Consider allowing pets in your vacation rental.

vacation rental allow pets increase profits couple dogs

Who doesn’t love to travel with their pets? Pet-friendly vacation rentals are on the rise. According to Booking.com, 42% of pet owners around the world would choose their accommodation based on whether or not they could bring their pets. 

As vacation rentals typically offer more space than a simple hotel room, it makes them far more desirable for pet owners looking for a place to stay. So why not change your rules and allow pets at your property? While allowing pets at your property might mean more work for you, just think about all of the new bookings you will get. If you are nervous that someone is going to bring a pack of animals, set a limit on the number of pets and their weight limit, to make you feel more comfortable. Some hosts even ask for a picture of the pets before the stay, so they have an idea of what type of pet will be at their property.

6. Showcase your outdoor space to increase bookings.

outdoor patio pool vacation rental palm trees pergola deck

An increasing number of travelers are opting for health-focused vacations. A report by the Global Wellness Institute found that wellness tourism is now a booming $639-billion market. You want to highlight things that will help people relax and rejuvenate when staying at your property!

Have a pool or a hot tub in your backyard? Make sure to showcase it on all of the booking platforms you use! Create a little wellness oasis in your backyard that guests will love and never want to leave. Make sure to get some high-quality outdoor furniture that offers enough space for everyone to sit or lay by the pool. You also want to provide nice pool towels and consider having an outdoor kitchen area where they can grill food without leaving the relaxing space you have created. 

7. Include luxury amenities in your vacation listing.

high end coffee maker nespresso keurig vacation rental amenity

Don’t we all love to experience a little more luxury when we’re on vacation? Spending a little more money upfront to invest in a few luxury amenities for your guests will make a huge difference. Don’t worry, we don’t want you to break your bank account but here are a few suggestions on items you might want to consider getting for your vacation rental:

Having all of these products in your rental will not only increase your bookings but will give your guests the best vacation experience they can get. 

These were our top 7 tips to improve your vacation rental business in 2021! What are you waiting for? Let’s go ahead and turn your vacation rental into a place that guests won’t want to ever leave. Here’s to a great 2021, more bookings, and happy guests! 

4 “Surprise” Costs That Cut Into Vacation-Rental Profits

noiseaware noise detection press release series A funding april 2021

With vacation-rental occupancy rates and booked ADR both on the rise in the second half of 2021, the STR revenue outlook is strong, and growing stronger. But threats to profitability still loom. The most daunting of these are unexpected, unplanned-for and easy-to-neglect costs, all of which can throw a massive wrench into profit predictions. In this post, we focus on the four most problematic “surprise” short-term-rental costs. And, because we’re cool like that, we also offer our expert tips to minimize these vacation-rental expenses and maximize vacation-rental profits.

The Vacation-Rental “Fearsome Four”

  1. Unplanned property repairs or replacement
  2. Fines or penalties for violating STR-permit stipulations or local ordinances
  3. Rising and/or unnecessary utility costs 
  4. Unanticipated vacancy

1. Unplanned Property Repairs Or Replacement

Property cleaning and maintenance are regular operating expenses that can be calculated fairly easily. But major property repair or replacement? That’s another story. Yes, you can anticipate the need to upgrade an ailing HVAC system or replace an old roof, and figure these “milestone” fixes into a property’s CapEx expenses. But with the post-lockdown “revenge travel” boom comes a growing concern about another type of property repair. This type of repair is for damage that can result from larger groups finally getting out of town to relax and revel. And maybe get a little out of control. 

Reports of Airbnb “party houses” became a regular news feature in late 2020. As the great travel recovery of 2021 commences, Airbnb and Vrbo are both taking proactive steps to prevent parties and de-list problematic party houses. 

But guest groups don’t have to be throwing an official party for party-like behaviors to ensue. A beautiful location, a great house, a bunch of friends, a case of tequila and a blender, a year’s worth of pent-up celebration energy…these can lead to broken blinds, stained upholstery, cracked tiles, broken windows or damaged floors. And the cost of fixing these damages can quickly cancel out vacation-rental profits associated with high demand and strong ADR.

Pro Tip: A great way to prevent property damage and protect vacation-rental profits is to curtail what comes before it: noise. While loud music or raised voices don’t always lead to damage, damage is almost always preceded by excessive noise. A privacy-safe noise detection sensor measures decibel levels over time and sends a gentle text reminder if volume exceeds acceptable levels. The vast majority of noise events are resolved with this one initial text.

vacation rental profits group travel college students

2. Fines or Penalties for Violating STR-Permit Stipulations or Local Ordinances

Almost all cities and counties have long lists of stipulations that short-term rentals must abide by in order to receive a rental permit. These include regulations on parking, trash disposal, safety sensors and occupancy limits. By applying and paying for a short-term-rental permit, the property owner agrees to comply with these regulations. And complying with regulations means compelling the property’s manager and, of course, guests, to abide by the rules.

Some rules apply to things guests are directly responsible for. Guests, for example, are responsible for parking their cars. They’re also generally responsible for taking out trash, controlling their noise level and letting only registered guests stay at the property.

Other permit rules have to do with property location (for example, Nevada’s proposed restriction on short-term vacation rentals within 2,500 feet of any resort hotel), or fire prevention (i.e. Lake Tahoe’s requirement for inspection of natural and landscaped areas around STRs in high fire rating zones). And still other rules may apply to regular maintenance, upkeep or landscaping. 

Regardless of who is primarily responsible for complying with rules, violation of permitting rules can result in expensive fines. In many locales, an initial permit fine may be around $500, with subsequent fines doubling and tripling. Operating a vacation rental condo or apartment in Florida’s Miami-Dade County—a sizzling STR hotspot? You’re looking at a first violation penalty of $1,000, and a second of $2,500. Ouch!

To avoid fines and penalties, and protect vacation-rental profits:

Pro Tip: Coordinate and automate your property services (cleaning, maintenance, inspections) through one easy-to-use platform. We’re big fans of Breezeway, which lets property managers schedule, expedite and monitor services all from one dashboard, helping to ensure that everything is up to snuff. The platform even has a photo upload function, which lets field teams present visual proof that a service is performed right!

noise detection vacation rental house college students suitcases

3. Rising and/or Unnecessary Utility Costs

Unlike long-term leases, short-term rentals cannot pass utility bills along to tenants. Utility costs also rise year over year, and can spike during high seasons, as local electricity grids are maxed out. For this reason, it’s incredibly important to monitor utility costs closely, before they eat into anticipated vacation-rental profits. 

Installing a smart-home thermostat is one good way to avoid overspending on heating or cooling, by adjusting a property’s HVAC system remotely between guest stays. 

Other utility cost-cutters include switching to LED lighting (which, alone, can cut electricity costs by up to 75%), and swapping out high-wattage plasma televisions for lower-wattage LED TVs. Energy-star appliances also cut back on utility expenses, as do double-pane windows and good insulation. Yes, these CapEx expenses require upfront payment. But when a property’s primary guests are short-term visitors, who are not paying the utility bills, and are much less likely to switch off lights or turn down the A/C at night than long-term residents, the investment is well worth it.

Equally important is cutting cables. More than 95% of Americans own a mobile phone, so there’s little reason to have a landline in a vacation rental property. Likewise, cable TV, which can cost hundreds of dollars a month for “premium” packages with endless unwatched channels, is a cost that’s ripe for slashing. Instead, install a Smart TV system with a handful of great streaming platforms, and let guests take their pick of movies, TV shows, sports events and other screened entertainment, at a fraction of the cost of cable.

Pro Tip: Hosting international travelers at your no-landline property? Consider including a prepaid SIM card with a local telephone number as part of a guest welcome package. Mail the card to the guest prior to their visit, along with a guide to local attractions and activities, or have the card waiting for the guest at the property, along with a map, guidebook and/or a few locally made goodies.

young guests dinner party vacation rental

4. Unanticipated Vacancy

In addition to natural seasonal dips, plenty of other factors can affect short-term-rental vacancy rates. But do they have to? Maintenance neglect, ho-hum marketing and poor responsiveness to guests can lead to a non-operational property or negative reviews. And the cost of unbooked nights can quickly take a big bite out of planned vacation-rental profits.

To mitigate unanticipated vacancy, take these proactive steps toward management and marketing:

Make cleaning Priority One. Great guest reviews are vacation-rental gold. And Airbnb consistently reports that the leading factor in garnering positive guest reviews is cleanliness. In the current post-COVID travel market, cleanliness is more important than ever before, as guests seek out safe, sanitized accommodations. Have cleaning QA standards firmly in place and confirm that they are being met (see our Pro Tip in section #2 above). 

Make maintenance Co-Priority One. A broken A/C, leaky faucet or faulty shower head can lead to poor vacation-rental reviews, while a non-functioning toilet, broken window or crumbling drywall can put a property out of operation entirely. Perform necessary repairs as soon as they are needed to prevent further damage and avoid any unnecessary non-operational nights. 

Offer flexible rates. While the current travel recovery points to strong ADR even for normally low seasons, there will be times of the year, month and week when bookings dip. Lower rates during these periods may entice guests who are looking for a bargain. Consider using a flexible pricing platform to track trends and adjust pricing accordingly. 

Pro Tip: Use smart social media marketing to boost bookings, especially during anticipated travel “troughs.” Fabulous photos or video, and a caption that emphasizes special rates, plus a creative, compelling call to action (“Get Away For Less,” “Book Now For Special Rate,” “Limited Time Offer,” etc) can go far toward protecting profits against the cost of unbooked nights.

Natasha Garber covers short-term-rental industry trends, news, regulations and compliance for NoiseAware. Her posts on STR property management technology, privacy-safe noise monitoring, and licensing laws can be found weekly on the NoiseAware blog.

6 Ways to Help Your Vacation Rental Benefit From Summer Travelers

summer 2021 travel short term vacation rental swimming pool party young guest group

As vaccination distribution widens and pandemic-related restrictions lift, a 2021 summer travel boom is already underway. An increase in short-term rental bookings started even before the larger travel recovery took off. And it appears destined to continue on a sharp upward trajectory. Travel site Expedia reported that even while its overall accommodation bookings fell by 67% in the fourth quarter of 2020, short-term rental platform Vrbo, which Expedia owns, actually showed year over year growth for the same quarter. 

While Expedia doesn’t disclose specific Vrbo numbers, industry analysts estimate that the short-term-rental platform accounted for more than 40% of Expedia’s 2021 Q1 gross bookings. They further predict that Vrbo’s 2021 revenue could exceed 2019 revenue by 35%. A large chunk of that change is credited to the 2021 summer travel spike. 

What the Summer Travel Increase Means for Short-Term Property Owners & Managers

All of this is welcome news to short-term vacation rental owners and managers. Also promising: Short-term rental reservation volume is up by 400% over last summer, even while nightly rates have increased significantly over 2019 rates. 

A big-time summer travel bounceback. Strong short-term rental earnings. Higher nightly rates and a huge spike in rental reservation volume. In short, short-term rental owners and property managers are looking at a major opportunity to capitalize on the coming season’s demand. But strong demand is just part of the revenue picture. To truly reap the rewards of the 2021 summer travel boom, vacation rentals must take these steps to protect property, profits and future viability.

6 Ways to Reap the Rewards of the 2021 Summer Travel Boom

  1. Screen guests thoroughly before accepting a booking.
  2. Emphasize house rules in your listing.
  3. Enforce property occupancy limits.
  4. Clearly state noise rules to prevent noise complaints.
  5. Market with great photos, special amenities and helpful tips for potential guests.
  6. Focus on summertime features and summer travel extras.

1. Screen guests thoroughly before accepting a booking.

Get to know your neighbors, and don’t let your short-term vacation rental be a surprise to them. While 33% of homeowners report that they are not very familiar with their neighbors, nearly 50% who are very familiar with neighbors say they would approve of a short-term rental next door. 

Communicate to neighbors that your property is being rented out as a vacation accommodation. Express that you are invested in the neighborhood, and care about the security and comfort of the people who live next door to or near your Airbnb rental. 

List out the steps you are taking to ensure that guests are quiet, well behaved and respectful. Explain that you thoroughly screen guests prior to booking. Note that you have house rules that must be followed. Make sure to tell neighbors if you have remote noise detection sensors installed. You may even consider offering your Airbnb property to neighbors’ own visitors at a special “friends and neighbors” rate. And, of course, make sure your neighbors can get in touch with you should they need to inform you about anything questionable taking place at your property.

If your short-term vacation rental property or properties are managed by a professional property management company, find out how the company notifies neighbors of new STRs adjacent to them. Ask how they respond to neighbor noise complaints, and how you can expect to be informed about complaints. Get their complaint-response policy in writing, including liabilities and exclusions.

Most booking platforms accept “upon-request” bookings. This feature gives hosts an opportunity to check out the guest before booking. Before accepting a booking, make sure to:

Multiple negative guest reviews, incomplete or duplicate profiles, opposition to the security deposit, evasive answers to questions, or no answers at allthese guests may be more likely to violate noise and occupancy rules, or cause costly damage.

luxury vacation rental home pool lawn palm trees 2021 summer travel

2. Emphasize house rules in your listing.

Make sure to fill out all fields in the “house rules” section of your vacation rental listing. Clearly state what’s allowed and what is not (special events, parties, amplified music after a specific time, no smoking, only registered guests allowed at property, no photo shoots, etc.). 

Letting guests know they will be charged penalties for violating house rules is a great way to prevent noise, permit violations and neighbor complaints. These rules, and reminders about penalties, should be included in booking and pre-stay correspondence, and be on display at the property. Emphasizing and enforcing house rules is one of the ways the most profitable short-term-rental hosts mitigate unanticipated costs such as ordinance fines, legal conflicts and damaged property repair or replacement.

3. Enforce property occupancy limits.

Almost all localities that allow short-term-rental permitting have occupancy rules built into their permitting ordinances. Violation of these rules can result in steep fines if discovered. To avoid fines, as well as neighbor complaints and potential property damage, occupancy limits should be strictly detailed in listings. It’s also important to include reminders about occupancy limits and guest penalties in booking confirmations and follow-up correspondence, and to display occupancy limits clearly on property.

4. Clearly state noise rules to prevent noise complaints.

Like occupancy limits, permitting ordinances include noise rules. These may prohibit noise that is audible outside the property during certain hours. Owners and managers may also set their own noise rules, and enforce them with penalties for violations. One of the best ways to avert noise issues before they become a problem is to install privacy-safe noise sensors both inside and outdoors at the property. Privacy-safe noise monitors, which must be disclosed upfront in the rental listing, measure decibel levels and duration of noise, but do not identify specific sounds or record sounds. 

A remote noise monitoring system will alert the short-term-rental owner or property manager when excessive noise is an issue, and allow them to send a gentle text reminder to the booked guest to lower the volume a bit. In more than 75% of cases, this initial reminder resolves the issue without further intervention, preventing neighbor complaints, ordinance violations and the potential for expensive property damage.

summer 2021 travel vacation swimming pool friends inflatable swan

5. Market with great photos, special amenities and helpful tips for potential guests.

Taking full advantage of the 2021 summer travel boom also means advertising competitively. Take the time to stage your vacation rental and include special touches such as cookbooks on the kitchen counter, a fancy espresso machine, vases filled with blooming flowers, stacks of luxurious bathroom towels, and fluffy, inviting bedroom linens. Shoot professional-quality photos both indoors and out, and edit them for maximum impact. Consider including a video tour of the property. These virtual 3D tours have been shown to significantly increase booking rates.

6. Focus on summertime features and summer travel extras.

Property descriptions should include references to local attractions, dining and summer activities. They should also highlight amenities including outdoor kitchens, barbecues, swimming pools, decks and patios, and beach or lake toys. If the property is located in a hot-weather area, mention AC and/or ceiling fans. All of these marketing points can help guests “see” themselves enjoying their summer vacation at your property, and can be the deciding factor between your rental and other listings. And that can make the difference in reaping the full revenue benefit of the 2021 summer travel recovery.

Natasha Garber covers short-term-rental industry news, regulations and compliance for NoiseAware. Her posts on STR property management technology, privacy-safe noise monitoring, and licensing laws can be found weekly on the NoiseAware blog.

How To Protect Your Austin Short-Term Vacation Rental During Festival Season

austin music festival crowd visitors short term vacation rental property

Long beloved by musicians for its vibrant venue scene and enthusiastic fans, Austin has become a music-festival mecca. The city’s renowned music, film and technology festival, South By Southwest, aka SXSW, is usually held in March. While SXSW took a COVID pause in 2020, and went virtual for 2021, the live Austin festival is back for 2022. The behemoth gathering typically brings in a flood of out-of-state visitors, along with (in 2019), an economic impact of $330 million. A whopping 450,000 people, many visiting from outside the city, attend October’s two-weekend Austin City Limits festival. This popular festival draws big-name talent, and rustles up $265 million in revenue for Texas’s capital city. 

With more than 10,000 unique short-term vacation rentals spread all over the city and its suburbs, and with Austin’s sky-high hotel room rates during festival season, it’s no surprise that many visiting festival-goers opt for STRs over hotels. It’s also no surprise that parties, excessive noise, trash, and occupancy violations associated with festival revelers, can pose problems for owners, property managers and neighbors alike. 

As post-lockdown “revenge travel” heats up, and live Austin festivals are once again on the city’s schedule, short-term-rental bookings are booming. So, how do Austin short-term vacation rental hosts and managers reap festival-visitor revenue benefits while protecting against noise ordinance violations, permit penalties and property damage?

  1. Practice smart guest vetting, and pay attention to red flags.
  2. Consider requiring a two-night minimum stay for your Austin short-term vacation rental during festival dates.
  3. Make sure you state “parties are strictly prohibited” in your house rules, and set out penalties for violating this rule.
  4. Install a privacy-safe noise measurement device both indoors and out.
  5. Require a refundable security deposit.
  6. Make sure you have the right property insurance for your Austin short-term vacation rental.
college students austin short term vacation rental festival

1. Practice smart guest vetting, and pay attention to red flags.

When you use listing sites like Airbnb or Vrbo, which allows upon-request bookings, look at a guest’s history before you accept their booking. Peruse the potential guest’s reviews. Are they consistently positive? Do previous hosts describe them as being respectful? Quiet? Personable? Responsible? You can also ask the guest direct questions—within limits. For example, you can ask the guest to tell you a bit about themselves. You can also ask if they have any special plans while in town. But don’t dig for personal information like who they associate with, or if they have a college degree, or, it should go without saying, their race or religion. Also, mention your house rules, and see how the guest reacts.

If you find negative reviews of your potential guest, or if he or she seems evasive or inconsistent in answering your questions, take note, and move on. A guest who has been flagged for bad behavior or for violating house rules in the past, or who won’t respond candidly and promptly to your basic questions, is more likely to cause costly problems such as noise ordinance violations or property damage.

2. Consider requiring a two-night minimum stay for your Austin short-term vacation rental during festival dates.

Some cities and counties actually require a two-night minimum stay on holidays or dates that overlap local events or festivals. While Austin currently does not, you may want to impose this minimum yourself. Multiple-night minimums tend to weed out potential party-throwers. A two-night minimum also helps cut down on visitors who are just swooping into town for a full day (and night) of all-out festival revelry, which may include bringing the festivities and noise back to the property.

3. Make sure you state “parties are strictly prohibited” in your house rules, and set out penalties for violating this rule.

Most booking sites include “house rules” fields that hosts can customize with their own specific limits and expectations. These usually include minimum age of the primary renter, maximum occupancy, and whether special events or pets are allowed. In addition to specifying that “special events” are prohibited, make sure to state clearly that all parties are prohibited, and define what constitutes a party under your rules, and what the penalties are for violating the no-parties rule. Otherwise, guests may think that while weddings are not allowed, impromptu keggers are A-OK.

4. Install a privacy-safe noise measurement device both indoors and out.

Privacy-safe noise measurement lets you detect and mitigate excessive noise without violating guest privacy. NoiseAware noise sensors measure how loud a sound is by decibel level, and how long the sound is loud for. They do not identify specific sounds or record anything. Installing one sensor indoors, and one outdoors, is a simple process that can be done during property turnover between bookings. 

Guests must be notified up front that the property is equipped with a noise sensor. The sensor can be operated remotely through a mobile app. If noise exceeds what is deemed acceptable, the host or manager receives notification, and can send the booked guest a simple text reminding them to lower the volume. 

More than 70% of noise events are resolved with this initial text. Quickly and easily resolving noise issues has resulted in a nearly 30% reduction in damage claims by short-term-rental owners. Quick-response noise resolution also has resulted in a reported savings of $5,000 annually in unplanned costs that may include paying ordinance-violation penalties, or repairing or replacing property damaged during parties associated with festivals, events and holidays.

5. Require a security deposit.

This one is pretty much a no-brainer. If an Austin festival guest wants to book your short-term vacation rental property, they should be willing to put their money where their…er…suitcase is. Airbnb, Vrbo and other booking sites allow you to set a security deposit, and place a hold on funds through the payment method used to reserve the booking. You can then release the hold after the booking, or collect within a specified window after the booking period, if the guest causes damage. A reasonable security deposit shows that you care about your property, and gives you a measure of protection against losses. 

6. Make sure you have the right property insurance for your Austin short-term vacation rental.

Protecting against short-term vacation rental damage before it happens is key. Fortunately, rigorous guest vetting, and two-night minimums can reduce your risk. So can firm house rules and privacy-safe decibel measuring, especially during festival seasons. 

But sometimes, despite protections, damage does occur. In these cases, it’s critical to have the right kind of property insurance to cover your losses. Both Airbnb and Vrbo offer their own liability insurance. While these policies offer some protections, they have numerous exclusions that may leave you liable for out-of-pocket costs. 

Currently, Austin’s STR licensing law requires only “proof of property insurance.” But that insurance may not cover STR damages related to rowdy guests, parties, or non-property liabilities such as personal assault on property. To ensure you’re fully covered, sign up for a plan that covers all of your vacation-rental insurance needs with one policy. Having complete coverage will help you sleep at night, even if the festival’s going strong all night long.

Natasha Garber covers short-term-rental industry news, regulations and compliance for NoiseAware. Her posts on STR property management technology, privacy-safe noise monitoring, and licensing laws can be found weekly on the NoiseAware blog.

What Does Denver’s New Short-Term-Rental Regulation Mean For Airbnb?

Following in the footsteps of New York, San Francisco and Santa Monica, Denver is the latest city to impose fines on short-term-rental platforms like Airbnb for listing unlicensed properties. Airbnb, meanwhile, appears to be doing its part to minimize non-compliant short-term rentals in the Mile High City. It is also taking steps to prevent noise complaints and “party house” situations as the summer holidays heat up. So what does this mean for short-term vacation rental owners and property managers? And how will it impact the upcoming Fourth-of-July weekend?

  1. The city of Denver’s new measure is designed to compel short-term-listing platforms to be responsible for verifying property licenses.
  2. The new legislation seems to be doing what it was intended to do: purging unlicensed listings, encouraging proper licensing and generally improving the Denver short-term-rental market.
  3. Airbnb and other listing platforms are taking steps to prevent Fourth-of-July parties at short-term vacation rentals in Denver.

1. The city of Denver’s new measure is designed to compel short-term-listing platforms to be responsible for verifying property licenses.

In late November 2020, the Denver city council voted to fine online short-term-rental platforms up to $1,000 per transaction “if they help unauthorized people rent out their homes to vacationers and other short-term occupants.” The council says it took this action to prompt rental platforms such as Airbnb to cooperate with its licensing regulations by prohibiting unlicensed rentals from marketing through the platform. The new legislation, which came in part as a result of complaints about excessive guest noise and rowdy gatherings associated with short-term rentals, was scheduled to go into effect in 2021. 

Then, in February 2021, following several months of negotiation, city officials rejected a proposal by Airbnb on how to remove unlicensed or otherwise illegal listings from the site. For its part, Airbnb says the move to cease negotiations and move forward with the new legislation, and its associated $1,000 fine, came as a surprise.

2. The new legislation seems to be doing what it was intended to do: purging unlicensed listings, encouraging proper licensing and generally improving the Denver short-term-rental market.

Denver first started requiring licenses for short-term-rental operation in 2016. Since then, the city has worked to ensure that all short-term rentals and vacation rentals are in compliance, and operating under license guidelines. Colorado’s most populous city currently has just under 1,960 licensed short-term rentals. But, city officials have said, if rental marketplace platforms don’t require proof of a current license, it’s inevitable that some owners will rent out their properties on those platforms without the proper license. Without a license, a property is not subject to licensing requirements governing safety measures, trash abatement, noise mitigation, or sufficient parking spaces, or the fines levied by the city for violating those requirements. And since Airbnb controls over 90% of Denver’s short-term-rental market, getting the platform, and others like it, to cooperate with the licensing requirement is paramount to ensuring owner compliance. 

Enacting legislation that compels listing sites to show proof of license for listed rentals (and levying fines on listing sites rather than individual owners) appears to cover the most compliance-enforcement ground in one place at one time.

The good news: Since the new legislation went into effect there have been no violations cited, which means both listing platforms and owners seem to be on board with improving short-term rentals for guests, neighbors and communities.

3. Airbnb and other listing platforms are taking steps to prevent Fourth-of-July parties at short-term vacation rentals in Denver.

In response to community concerns, legislative measures, and a general recognition that “large gatherings remain a potential public health issue,” Airbnb is enforcing its “party ban” in Denver, as travelers make their Fourth-of-July-weekend plans.  

Guests without a history of positive reviews will not be allowed to book one-night stays in Denver over the holiday weekend. Airbnb notes that these types of bookings most often correlate with parties and noise complaints. The rental platform is also imposing additional “defenses” on two- and three-night stays, including verifying that the booking guest is 25 or older, and placing restrictions on whole-house rentals within a certain radius. 
Get more information on Airbnb’s “Summer of Responsible Travel,” and find out how you can prevent noise issues and neighbor noise complaints at your Denver short-term vacation rental on Independence Day weekend…and every weekend!

New Lake Tahoe Vacation Rental Ordinances – How To Comply | NoiseAware

New Lake Tahoe vacation rental restrictions have been issued in two counties—Washoe County and Placer County. The new regulations relate to parking, fire inspections and noise. A third county, El Dorado County (home to popular winter ski and summer water-activities destination South Lake Tahoe), is implementing new restrictions on vacation-home rental permitting. Here’s what the new regulations mean for Lake Tahoe short-term-rental property owners, guests and neighbors, and what you need to do to avoid penalties and fines.

Destination Lake Tahoe

With its stunning setting on the shores of 191 square miles of pristine fresh water, Lake Tahoe is one of the country’s top destinations for adventure travel, outdoor activities and weekend getaways. Nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains, this in-demand vacation destination straddles the border between California and Nevada, enticing visitors with its ski resorts, snowboard parks, and world-class hiking and mountain-biking trails. 

Over the past several years, the area has seen significant growth in short-term rentals. Washoe County alone, which includes the popular Incline Village and Crystal Bay areas, has more than 1,200 short-term rentals available to visitors for stays of less than 30 days. In Placer County, home of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows and Northstar California Resort ski areas, VRBO lists about 3,000 short-term rentals, ranging from cozy wood cabins to luxury chalets to contemporary condos.

While the growth in STRs has been a boon to Lake Tahoe visitors seeking more flexible accommodations than a traditional hotel or resort stay, residents have increasingly voiced complaints about parking, boisterous groups and noise. These concerns, combined with a need for more consistent tax collection, and fire safety in this heavily wooded region, have led to the new, stricter short-term-rental license and monitoring measures.

Washoe County Short-Term Vacation Rental Regulations

The small Sierra Nevada community of Incline Village in the northern part of Lake Tahoe has about 8,700 residents. But it is home to 90% of short-term rentals in Nevada’s Washoe County, which have been only moderately regulated until now.

Following two years of public outreach and planning, Washoe County representatives first presented new ordinances governing parking, “life safety” (aka fire safety) and noise, in February of this year. The new regulations were adopted in March 2021, and will be phased in over the spring and summer, allowing for any necessary changes or updates in advance of the winter 2021 ski season. The application period starts May 1, 2021; short-term-rental guidelines, tutorials and permit applications can be accessed here.

New Short Term Rental Regulations in Washoe County & North Lake Tahoe

The major components of the new Washoe County regulations that apply to North Lake Tahoe vacation rental properties include:

Fines for rental ordinance violations are steep, with a first-violation penalty of $400, a second-violation penalty of $700, and a third-violation penalty of $1,000 and potential revocation of the STR permit.

Placer County Short-Term Vacation Rental Regulations

Some of California’s best skiing and snowboarding can be found in the part of North Lake Tahoe located in Placer County. With 12 downhill resorts to choose from, along with miles of backcountry terrain, the region attracts snow-sports aficionados from all over the world. 

There are approximately 3,800 STRs in the county, 3,600 of which are located above 5,000 feet elevation. These alpine accommodations are some of the area’s most desirable among visiting skiers and snowboarders. In recent years, area residents have expressed increasing concern about parties, parking and garbage associated with North Lake Tahoe vacation rental properties. At the same time, the county relies on revenue generated by these non-hotel travel accommodations. Now, like adjacent Washoe County in Nevada, California’s Placer County has tightened the reins on STRs, initiating stricter permitting, occupancy limits, trash mitigation and noise control. Placer County STR owners can apply for new short-term-rental permits and permit renewals here. Here are the main ordinance takeaways:

While Placer County permit fees are less than in neighboring Washoe County, compliance-violation penalties are higher. A first citation penalty will run STR owners up to $500 per day, while subsequent rental ordinance violations are set at up to $1,000 per day.

El Dorado County Short-Term Vacation Rental Regulations

Sunny South Lake Tahoe is located in El Dorado County, and boasts most of the lake’s most expansive and accessible beaches, making it a prime summer vacation destination. With just over 725 permitted Lake Tahoe vacation homes currently in the region, the county is taking a fairly restrictive stance on growth. The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors recently voted to limit the number of vacation-home rental (VHR) permits to 900 in the county’s unincorporated areas, citing resident concerns. The board also noted that in the event that more than 900 permit applications are submitted, a waiting list will be created. Additional new VHR ordinance measures include:

The penalty for a first violation offense is set at $500. If the owner is cited a second time within 18 months, that fine goes up to $750. A third violation in the 18-month window climbs to $1,000. 

Own a short-term rental in the Lake Tahoe area? Make sure you’re compliant with all new rules and regulations, to avoid neighbor complaints and costly fines. You can also help protect your rental investment by vetting guests before accepting bookings, to avoid bad actors and out-of-control events. The best way to head off neighbor complaints before they happen? Equip your property with an unobtrusive, 100% privacy-safe noise detection device that measures decibel levels and notifies guests when their volume exceeds what’s allowed.

3 Guest Booking Tips For Post-Lockdown Travel Protection

After one year of isolation, cancelled parties, unspent travel budgets, and postponed getaways, the travel industry is preparing for what is expected to be a massive surge of revenge vacationers, looking to make up for lost time. The Washington Post speaks of the “pent-up wanderlust” that is splitting almost all of us at the seams as weather gets warmer, case numbers drop, vaccination availability increases, and travel restrictions are lifted. Sandals Resorts deputy chairman Adam Stewart said in an interview with the Post, “Summer 2021 is seeing a double-digit percentage gain in overall occupancy when compared with previous summer booking trends, including summer 2019.” 

While this surge in travel activity will increase profits and fill calendars for vacation-rental owners, it will also increase chances of property damage, HOA violations and noise fines. As an example, look no further than Miami Beach, where the recent chaos of spring break revelers prompted the city to implement an 8 p.m. curfew, and both business owners and residents expressed outrage and travelers’ boisterous and reckless behavior.

To avoid the risk of rowdy guests upsetting neighbors, or worse, damaging property and causing financial loss, owners should take the following measures to protect their rentals before, during, and after the coming market surge:

Before The Booking

With £130bn ($179 billion) annually being lost to fraud and £27bn ($37 billion) lost to property damage, per SUPERHOG industry statistics, having a cost-effective booking validation system, allows hosts to prevent problematic guests from arriving at their property in the first place.

During The Stay

After The Booking

Proactive protection increases profits and peace of mind. Smart guest screening, noise monitoring and strategic insurance coverage will help keep your rentals protected. After the previous lockdown lifts last year, an almost 50% increase in noise incidents and consequential property damage occurred.

short-term-rental-noise-pre-post-covid-lockdown-graphic

Hosts who had seen their business go from booming to bust due to the first lockdown, were desperate to take on bookings when restrictions were relaxed. Large volumes of one night stays were accepted and with that came an increase in incidents reported.

The widespread travel regulation lift is sure to have even greater consequences. Take precautions now to protect profits, property, and peace of mind later.

Hollywood Fla. Requires Noise Detection Devices For Short-Term Rentals

As of April 1, 2021, certification of a noise detection device is required for Hollywood, Fla., vacation rentals. Along with regions like Henderson County, Nev., which includes tourist magnet Las Vegas, the popular Miami-area vacation destination has made it mandatory to show proof of an approved noise monitor in all rental properties seeking short term rental approval. So what does that mean for you as a Hollywood short-term rental property owner or manager?

  1. You need to sign a document certifying that your property is equipped with a noise detector.
  2. You need to do your due diligence to ensure that the noise detection monitor is correctly installed and functioning properly.
  3. You need to let potential guests know upfront that your property has a noise detection device, before they book.
  4. You can rest easy, knowing that you’ll be able to address vacation rental noise issues within a matter of minutes, should they occur.
  5. But if the noise continues, it is your responsibility to deal with it before it becomes a problem for neighbors.
  6. It’s a good idea to have not just an indoor but also an outdoor noise detection monitor.
  7. You can be confident that you’ll have proof to defend against false noise complaints if you need to. 
  8. You can enjoy peace of mind, knowing that your guests and your property’s neighbors are comfortable and happy.

1. You need to sign a document certifying that your property is equipped with a noise detector.

Whether you’re applying for a short-term rental license for the first time, or renewing your existing license for your Hollywood rental, you will need to sign and submit a document certifying that you’re aware of the noise detection requirement, and that your property adheres to it. The document, which notes that, “The City Manager may refuse to issue or renew a license or may revoke a vacation rental license issued under this chapter, if the property owner has willfully withheld or falsified any information required for a vacation rental license,” must be notarized.

2. You need to do your due diligence to ensure that the noise detection monitor is correctly installed and functioning properly.

This should probably go without saying, but your noise monitor needs to be installed the right way and able to detect noise. Fortunately, noise detection devices are extremely easy to install. Like many other smart home devices, installation begins with downloading and opening an app on your phone. Once you click on the “setup sensor” tab, you simply find an unobstructed wall outlet within 75 feet of your wifi router, and follow the setup prompts to firmly secure your sensor and ensure that it is registering noise. Once your noise control device is installed and working properly, you can monitor it from your phone, no matter where you are.

3. You need to let potential guests know upfront that your property has a noise detection device, before they book.

While noise detection devices do not record or play specific sounds—rather they monitor decibel levels—they are monitoring devices. And, as such, rental listing companies such as Airbnb and Vrbo require that guests be notified of their presence in rental properties. Notification of noise monitoring devices should be included in the “House Rules” section of your property’s rental listing. There is currently no legal requirement that property managers or owners notify guests of noise level monitors—so, if for example, you only rent out your short-term rental property by word of mouth, you don’t technically need to alert guests to the noise control device. But it is always a good idea to be forthcoming about the device in your property, if, for no other reason, than to encourage guests to manage their volume preemptively, rather than having to take measures when it gets out of hand.

4. You can rest easy, knowing that you’ll be able to address vacation rental noise issues within a matter of minutes, should they occur.

One of the great benefits of having a noise detector in your Hollywood vacation rental is being able to take action on noise issues before they go too far, so that your property’s neighbors have a peaceful environment. As soon as your noise monitor detects an issue, your guests receive a simple automated message alerting them to the situation. Nine times out of 10, guests decrease their volume to an acceptable level, without any further action needed, making for a peaceful neighborhood, happy guests and a happy property owner (you!).

5. But if the noise continues, it is your responsibility to deal with it before it becomes a problem for neighbors.

In those rare cases where guests continue being loud or rowdy, despite receiving notifications about their excessive volume, you may need to take action. If the noise level at a property exceeds your customized programmed levels, you will receive an alert and a link to the property’s Noise Risk Score graph. The graph takes noise and turns it into data so you can evaluate the property’s risk in real time. You can then decide to message or call your guests. 80% of the time, guests quiet down within 15 minutes of being contacted.

6. It’s a good idea to have not just an indoor but also an outdoor noise detection monitor.

With its warm weather and tropical vibe, Hollywood is the perfect spot for al fresco socializing and festivities. But when outdoor revelry gets out of hand, it can be a major nuisance to neighbors and other rental guests. To prevent outdoor noise from becoming a problem, consider installing an outdoor noise monitor, along with an indoor device. Installation of outdoor sensors is similar to indoor sensors, but should be done after the indoor sensor is installed, and mounted within 100 feet of the indoor sensor. It’s also a good idea to avoid placing your outdoor noise sensor near noise-makers in your short-term rentals, such as AC units, hot tubs and generators.

7. You can be confident that you’ll have proof to defend against false noise complaints if you need to. 

While most well-maintained, well-monitored short-term rentals coexist harmoniously with their long-term neighbors, conflicts do occasionally arise. If either you or the online vacation rental marketplace where you list your property receives a noise complaint that you feel may be either unjustified or completely untrue, a noise monitor will provide you with the documentation to defend against the complaint. If the detected decibel levels during the time of the purported disturbance are within normal limits, you’ve got clear evidence that no violation occurred. If, on the other hand, your noise device shows that guests were shouting, playing loud music or otherwise being excessively noisy, you have a way to verify your neighbor’s complaint.

8. You can enjoy peace of mind, knowing that your guests and your property’s neighbors are comfortable and happy.

The most important advantage of excessive-noise monitoring for Airbnb hosts, VRBO hosts and vacation-rental owners and managers, is preventing issues before they happen. By letting guests know they are expected to keep noise within acceptable limits—and giving them a little reminder when they don’t—you can avoid serious problems including property damage, angry neighbors and visits by the police to your Hollywood, Fla. rental. And you can relax and take advantage of an excellent source of passive income, without expensive fines and penalties eating into your profits.

Ultimate Guide to Buying & Owning a Florida Vacation Rental

florida vacation rental deck balcony palm trees lawn invest

Do you own a Florida vacation rental property, or are you thinking about investing in one? Here are 8 essential things you need to know as you navigate Florida short-term rental licensing and operating regulations.

  1. What is considered a vacation rental in Florida?
  2. What permits or licenses are required to operate a Florida vacation rental?
  3. What taxes do vacation-rental owners have to pay?
  4. What are the requirements for maintaining a Florida vacation rental?
  5. As a vacation-property owner, how can I avoid fines or penalties?
  6. How often do I have to renew my rental license and pay fees?
  7. Is owning a Florida vacation rental a good investment?
  8. What Florida cities have the highest occupancy rates?

1. What Is Considered A Vacation Rental in Florida?

Florida state law defines a vacation rental as “any unit or group of units in a condominium or cooperative or any individually or collectively owned single-family, two-family, or four-family house or dwelling unit that is also a transient public lodging establishment but that is not a timeshare project.” 

That means just about any short-term rental that is not a time-share, hotel, resort, inn, bed-and-breakfast, or other rental property where the host lives on site at the property, can be considered a vacation rental. Owning one or more of these types of properties allows you to make a vacation rental offer on each.

2. What Permits Or Licenses Are Required To Operate A Florida Vacation Rental?

The state of Florida requires that all vacation rentals hold a current license issued through the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR)

The Florida DBPR issues short-term or “transient” rental licenses according to these limits:

Vacation Rental – Condominium

A license will be issued for a unit or group of units in a condominium or cooperative.

Vacation Rental – Dwelling

A license will be issued for a single-family house, a townhouse, or a unit or group of units in a duplex, triplex, quadruplex, or other dwelling unit that has four or fewer units collectively.

The location of the property/unit, the number of units involved, and who operates the property/units determines who holds and maintains the license:

A Single license may include one single-family house or townhouse, or a unit or group of units within a single building that are owned and operated by the same individual person or entity, but not a licensed agent.

A Group license is a license issued to a licensed agent to cover all units within a building or group of buildings in a single complex.

A Collective license is issued to a licensed agent who represents a collective group of houses or units found on separate locations. A collective license is limited to 75 units or less and is restricted to counties within one district.

3. What Taxes Do Vacation-Rental Owners Have To Pay?

Guests who stay in short-term rentals in Florida are required to pay specific taxes as part of their total reservation fees. The property owner, or in some cases the listing company on behalf of the owner, then remits those taxes to the state of Florida. 

Currently, Florida charges a 6% state sales tax, plus any applicable discretionary sales surtax. In addition, some Florida counties impose their own local option taxes on short-term rental accommodations, such as the tourist development tax (TDT), convention development tax, tourist impact tax, or municipal resort tax. While these taxes may be paid to the county, they are always reported directly to the Department of Revenue.

4. What Are The Requirements For Maintaining A Florida Vacation Rental?

Some Florida counties may impose their own rules on what can and can’t be inside or outside a short-term rental unit. They may also mandate the use of a noise detection device, either inside the property, outside the property, or both, and may levy heavy fines if this requirement is not met. Some municipalities also have specific cleaning and sanitization requirements between guest stays, and these are subject to changes as COVID-related recommendations evolve, so it’s important that you pay attention to notifications from your county, and actively check in on updates regularly.

In general, though, these basic requirements govern all Florida short-term rental properties:

5. As A Vacation-Property Owner, How Can I Avoid Fines Or Penalties?

These are some of the most common situations that result in fines or penalties being levied against short-term rental owners in Florida:

The good news is that it is relatively easy to avoid profit-crushing fines and penalties by properly advertising the property to ensure that rules are prominently and clearly stated up front, pre-scheduling renewal payments before they are due, vetting guests before allowing them to book, and making sure that all features comply with the most recent short-term rental rules in the property’s city, county, and, in some cases, HOA.

6. How Often Do I Have To Renew My Rental License And Pay Fees?

Generally speaking, owners of Florida short-term rentals must renew rental licenses and/or permits annually. First-time fees are often higher, and decrease when renewed on an annual basis. There may be a nominal “application fee” as well. The total usually comes out to about $350 annually, including state and local fees, but can vary depending on the property’s specific municipality.

7. Is Owning A Florida Vacation Rental A Good Investment?

Owning a Florida vacation rental—whether on the Gold Coast, Emerald Coast, Gulf Coast, Palm Coast, in the Disney World Resort area, or in legendary Key West—can be an excellent way to generate passive income in today’s booming short-term rental market. The Sunshine State is, after all, one of the nation’s hottest spots for enjoying white sand beaches, sparkling blue ocean, world-class fishing and water activities, and ecological treasures like the Florida Everglades. It’s also the country’s fastest-growing market for short-term rentals, as savvy investors respond to travelers seeking more flexible, affordable alternatives to traditional hotel and resort stays.

With an occupancy rate of 50% or higher considered optimal for short-term rental profitability, Florida is a great bet for rental investors. According to top real-estate investment analytics site Mashvisor, 2020 was a big year for short-term rental occupancy in Florida, despite the global coronavirus pandemic, and the state is poised for an explosion in short-term rental business in 2021.

8. Florida Cities With The Highest Occupancy Rates

A glimpse at 2020’s Florida-city occupancy rates, according Mashvisor’s recent market analysis:

Cocoa Beach: 66.8%

St. Petersburg: 66.6%

Key West: 66.2%

Augustine: 65.1%

Orlando: 63.8%

Delray Beach: 61.3%

Palm Bay: 61.2%

Bradenton: 60.7%

Fort Walton Beach: 59.7%

Panama City Beach: 59.4%

Fort Myers Beach: 59.4%

Fort Lauderdale: 59.3%

Fort Myers: 58.7%

Miami: 58.6%

Miami Gardens: 58.1%

Boca Raton: 58.0%

Cape Coral: 57.9%

Clearwater: 57.5%

West Palm Beach: 57.4%

Pensacola: 57.1%

Daytona Beach: 57.0%

Marco Island: 56.8%

Tampa: 56.5%

Miami Beach: 56.3%

Panama City: 55.7%

Port St. Lucie: 55.7%

Lakeland: 55.6%

Vero Beach: 55.5%

Jacksonville: 55.1%

Crystal River: 55.0%

Lake Worth: 54.1%

Destin: 53.9%

Pompano Beach: 53.6%

Ocala: 53.5%

Madeira Beach: 52.8%

Naples: 52.7%

Deerfield Beach: 52.4%

Bonita Springs: 52.3%

Sarasota: 51.3%

Key Largo: 52.2%

Tallahassee: 49.9%

The Villages: 49.9%

Coral Gables: 49.9%

Along with projected high occupancy rates and increasing interest in short-term rental investing in the state, many municipalities are issuing new rules and ordinances designed to curtail excessive noise and parties, which may cause a disturbance for neighbors. By making sure that your property is protected against rowdy guests and raucous socializing, you aren’t just being a good short-term rental neighbor in your residential neighborhood, you’re ultimately ensuring your peace of mind, and securing your property against losses and damage. And that’s what smart real estate investing is really all about!