No Small Potatoes – A Review of an Idaho Vacation Rental Listing


City beach at Sandpoint, Idaho

I met some great people at the Home Away Summit and you’ll be hearing about them over the next few weeks, in blog posts and a few podcast interviews I have lined up.  Freshest in my mind are Jim and Paula Davy who I had the pleasure of sharing a cab with on the way back to the airport.  Apart from a weird exchange with the cab driver – more of that later – I had a lovely conversation with the Davy’s and was eager to check out their VRBO listing when I got home, since I’d promised to review the text for appeal to potential travelers.


I was not familiar with the location in Sandpoint, Idaho, so did a bit of research on the area and what I found out was a great motivator to visit.  Sandpoint lies on the shores of Idaho’s largest lake, the 43 mile-long Lake Pend Oreille; it’s surrounded by mountains and in 2011 it was named the nation's “Most Beautiful Small Town” by Rand McNally and USA Today.  It’s a true year-round destination with winter sports and summer fun, and it sounds like a great place for a vacation.

I reviewed the listing for The Lake Street Cottage from the perspective of a potential guest without prior knowledge of the town of Sandpoint or the immediate area.  The place will attract a wide demographic from families to couples, activity seekers to older groups so I looked at ways of appealing to a broad range of guests.


The Lake Street Cottage – Walk to Town – Bikes Included

Given there are a lot of properties available in Sandpoint many of which are lakefront, which may give them an advantage, you should include that your cottage is in walking distance of the beach as well.  I wondered if it was really worth the text space to give the name of the cottage – here’s my suggested alternative:

Sunny & Bright Cottage Location – Walk or Bike to Town and Beach



There’s some great photos on the listing – the bedroom images are appealing although I would consider removing the soft toys.  This is just my personal opinion but it’s a little too cutesy for my taste.  I like the kitchen images particularly the one taken on an angle, which adds some style and interest.  Rather than showing an image of all the bikes lined up on the lawn, which looks a little like the outside of our local bike-sellers place, how about leaning an adult bike and a child’s bike against the railings at the front of the cottage with the caption, “Ready for a ride to the beach or farmer’s market” or something similar.

Include a waterfront photo and one of the Farmer’s Market  – there are some great ideas on


The first line has immediate appeal although extends into descriptions of the layout of the cottage which seems more than is necessary.

Sunlight streams through the many windows in this clean, comfortable, attractively decorated, 1800 Sq. Ft. three bedroom (+ loft), two bath home that is perfect for family vacations.  Pictures were taken in June 2012.

There is a contradiction here since the bedroom/bathroom count at the top of the page shows 4 bedrooms/2 bathrooms. In addition, the square footage seems unnecessary information that could be included later in the description.  The date you took the photos, although relevant, is not going to deliver a wow reaction so it may be worth omitting in favour of some text that would elicit more desire and excitement.

This following section is great since it delivers attraction to all the senses – visual people will picture the willow tree and moose; auditory processors will tune into the idea of being social on the front porch, and the touchy-feely types will enjoy the reference to relaxation.

The large fenced backyard and deck complete with a huge willow tree is the perfect setting for a relaxing get away or family barbecue. Or sit out on the front porch and chat with the friendly neighbors. In the winter moose have been seen walking down the sidewalk in front of the house!

I’d suggest building on this with some reference to the yard being great for pets.  Some of your guests have mentioned this in reviews and is an important feature for your pet owner guests.  This is a big section of the market, and creating a welcome for pets can set you apart from the competition.  Something like,

the fenced-in yard is great for kids and pets so you can relax and enjoy the lawned gardens and barbecue while the children and your pets can play in safety

It’s great to include some location information as below:

This desirable Lake Street home is located on a corner lot in the heart of Sandpoint. The house is within walking distance to all the great restaurants, entertainment, and shopping in downtown Sandpoint. A short five block walk to swimming and sunning on the Lake!

I was a bit surprised that the “Most Beautiful Town in America” accolade wasn’t mentioned here – there’s some great press on it and it seems a perfect marketing hook.

A couple of reviews commented on the Farmer’s Market being so close.  For foodie travelers where the well-equipped kitchen is going to be a draw, adding some information on where they can get fresh, local produce is appealing.  If you are including some images of the Market in your picture gallery, this reference will have more meaning.  Elaborating on the access to the lake may be helpful too, particularly when you are competing against properties that have direct access to the water.

Finally, the quality of linens and duvets/comforters has prompted guests to comment so don’t forget to mention those in your description.  When something wows your guests sufficiently for them to reference a particular feature, make sure you use that as a hook in your text.

About the Owner


As a frequent rental guest, I like to know a little about the owners – why they bought the place; if there is any interesting history, and what they particularly like about the location.  If they mention their love for an area and their enjoyment of sharing their property with travelers, this delivers an emotional element that many guests feel good about.  With media focusing on the risk of fraud in our industry, this is one way for owners to create more credibility with their potential guests.  I strongly recommend working on a brief About Us section that offers more of a human connection.

Thank you Jim and Paula for letting me review your listing and I hope the feedback is helpful.  And, yes, the cab driver who was getting creative in his fee structure probably ended up with less than he’d have made if he had left it to us to decide a tip.  It was funny and just increased my pleasure at spending the last half-hour of my Summit experience with you both.

For other readers, take a look at your listings and make sure they include reference to anything your guests have mentioned in their reviews – these are the best indicators of what makes them happy and satisfied with their stay.  They may be just what will draw your potential visitors to the listing, to book.  I’d love to see more examples, so just put the link to your listing in your comment below and I’ll take a look.