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

sandpoint_idaho

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.

idaho_sealI 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.

Headline

 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

Photos

cuddly_toy_on_bedThere’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 www.sandpointfarmersmarket.com

Text

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

horse_shoesAs 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.

Jane Probst Moore

I’d love for you to review my listings:  VRBO Listing #289955, VRBO Listing #3492770ha .  Thanks for any feedback you could provide!

Bert Simonis

Please review my website – http://www.DesertDreaming.com – thanks, Bert

montaltodiana

Hi Mike, Thank you for this useful blog!  I tried to comment but am not very good at this and I don’t think my comment went through. I wanted to suggest you look aat my site, http://www.montalto.it, which people say doesn’t do justiceto the beauaty of this place. I’ll be glad for your ideas.  Thanks!

Vasily Pronin

Very interesting to hear from you about this listing:
http://www.vrbo.com/1084166ha

KBSpaulding

Hi Heather – We loved your “Power of WOW” presentation at the summit! As new owners, we would really appreciate your feedback on our listing http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p3484428. Thanks so much… Kristi

dhertert

Thanks for this informative post. We would love it if you would critique us, too! -Debi
http://www.linkedin.com/redirect?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Evrbo%2Ecom%2F264979&urlhash=DrPt&_t=tracking_disc

Heather Bayer

mybeaucaire This made me miss France – I haven’t been there for a long time.  Your website text seem a little sterile – it didn’t pull me in to the , romance and history of the region, although it neatly laid out what I would expect.  I might kick off with something like: :” Imagine a perfect location for exploring historical Provence and the magic of The Camargue.  Take in the views from your own private terrace as you look across the beautiful River Rhone, or explore the local town of Beaucaire, stopping for a glass of wine at a pavement cafe before returning to your excellently equipped apartment…..”  I’d strongly recommend reshooting the video though, using a tripod rather than the shaky, fast moving footage you have there – it doesn’t do the property the favour it deserves.  Photos are generally good although it would be great to see the terrace with the table laid up for a meal and with some flower tubs for colour.  You used images on the video that would have been good as stills in the listing – pavement cafe; river views etc.  Think about what would make a prospective guest say “I’ve got to stay there” – what is your WOW image?

Wendy33

Wonderful to hear about our neighbors to the north of us, we have a cottage and condo about 45 minutes away from Sandpoint. Would love feedback on our website! Thank you Heather for your great blog, I always learn a lot from your insights.
Our cottage, gets filled, but this is the first year for our condo and I’m not very happy with the bookings… would love to know what I should do to improve things!
Thank you,
Wendy
http://www.NarrowsCottage-TwinLakesIdaho.com
http://www.vacationhomerentals.com/vacation-rentals/Twin-Lakes-Idaho-vacation-rental-condo-proID-48168.html
http://www.vrbo.com/434056
http://www.vrbo.com/280213
Am also on VacationRentals.com , HomeAway.com  , CottagePortal

Heather Bayer

PNVFrance Beautiful apartment – great pictures!  You have the same kitchen tile as I have in my house here in Ontario – good choice!
What a great looking place and the views are spectacular.  Your text is informative but if I was a potential guest I’d want to be inspired more.  What I got from your guest testimonilas is that the views are the wow factor and you have two separate balconies giving sun right through the day and into the evening.  People also liked the proximity of transit to get them to the heart of Nice.  Rather than detailing their travel options in your important intro text think about describing the experience they will have, how they might appreciate the ease of getting to the heart of Nice, while staying in a peaceful area; or enjoy the astonishing vista while relaxing after a busy sightseeing day. For example, instead of  “Ferry service from the port takes you to Corsica or on a day trip to Cannes.” you could say, “It’s just a ferry trip to the home of the world’s most well known film festival in Cannes – take a day out to explore what the rich and famous see”.   For visitors coming to France for the first time, the greeting they might expect from your managers together with the helpful information provided for them, could be a contributing factor to a booking decision.

Heather Bayer

Jane Probst Moore I only looked at the VRBO lisitng given the volume of requests for reviews.  This listing  just proves why professional photography works.  I was immediately wowed by the picture-perfect interior – the infinity pool, outdoor dining area etc.  The text was a little less inspiring, and as a recent visitor to Costa Rica who had no clue what to expect before I visited, I would have liked to hear more about what I would see, do and experience.  Features are great but why should I come to CR and stay here in preference to the competition?  It seems as though your guests loved the concierge service, the welcome they received and the feeling of being pampered. Having the potential stress taken out of planning trips and tours with a concierge service can be a great motivator.  I’d also like to hear more about you – why you purchased here, what you like most about the place etc.  Condos can seem more impersonal than private homes, so putting a bit of yourself in the listing could help too – your guests seem to think you were an important part of their experience, so sharing a little more could be beneficial.

VillaYasmine

Hello, I would greatly appreciate any comments to improve my listing on: http://www.vrbo.com/660794a

PNVFrance

Hi; if you can fit in the time – would really appreciate feed back on our Paris listing
http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p224052

many thanks

Star of the Sea

Any chance you could take time to reivew our resort condo site would be very much appreciated.   starofthesea-de.com

Bert Simonis

Bert Simonis Please review my VRBO site then: http://www.vrbo.com/354531

hankswest99

Please review homeaway #244372 and http://www.moosepads.com –you’ll see that I cheat and offer 2 vacation rentals on one website. Thanks–Jody West

Heather Bayer

Bert Simonis Hi Bert – I checked out both your own site and the VRBO listing.  I loved your text on the listing:
“Live in the backyard; watch the sun set behind the mountains from the provided pool floats; enjoy refreshing chilled drinks; listen to music (outdoor stereo system) or read a book under the covered patio. Barbecue on the stainless steel grill or just chill on a lounge.”
This is exactly the way to appeal to all your guests’ senses – it’s great! I’d think about including that on your web site text too.
I have no experience of Palm Springs; what is in the area, or what my family can do while there so would probably go off the listing to do some research, so you will have lost me as a potential guest.  I’d have liked the text to include what I might experience in the area and what activities are available.  I can see you have referenced some of these in the Other Activities section but a little in the text about how retro lovers would enjoy the vintage clothing stores – tying it in with the mid-Century thing perhaps – might be more appealing.  Some of your guests have mentioned how great the kitchen is, so you could touch on this in the intro text as well to encourage foodie guests who love to cook.  
The website didn’t grab me as much.  The professional photos show it off well, but the black background and smudges in the theme, had me trying to wipe them off the screen before I realised they were intentional.  I have a mild sight disorder that creates difficulty in seeing white text on black background so that could account for it, but it’s worth considering accessibility issues.

Heather Bayer

KBSpaulding I’m glad you enjoyed the presentation – thank you for the feedback!
Your Vermont property looks gorgeous and there are so many opportunities to share the wow moments.  I can see you have it all there in the text on your photos, and wonder if you could use some of this in your introductory text. Some examples:
“A hikers and bikers paradise. Trails filled with vibrant colors and fresh air”
“Amazing Fall Foliage photography opportunties, changing with the sunlight”
“There is nothing like vacation to slow down and enjoy the simple things…”
If I was rewriting the text I’d probably do it solely from the great captions you have with the photos – they cover all the senses and would appeal to many different types of people.  What you have currently is fine, but factual and doesn’t have the wow attraction that you have included elsewhere.  Within that first 30 seconds it’s important to grab them and get that “I want that’ reaction.
This text from your section on What Makes This House Unique says
‘How can one choose between the sunrise, the beautiful canoe and row boat rides during the day or the unbelievable sunsets? Luckily, you don’t have to – they are all right in front of you”  Personally, I would start with that.
In summary, you have some terrific ‘pull’ text but its hidden in the About Us section and photo captions – consider getting that out there to hit your prospective guests right from the ‘get go’.

Heather Bayer

Vasily Pronin What can I say but WOW!What a beautiful property.  The photographs are stunning and I want to be there now.
As a potential guest I found it a little unclear about what was shared if we were to just rent the smaller building.  In addition, you mention, ‘when the owner is on site’ – does that mean they occupy a part of the property or just ‘drop by’.  
I found the reference to ‘Eat Pray Love’ interesting and think this is a hook that should be in the headline.  Apart from having keyword influence it would also attract those who have read the book and want to see the places mentioned in it.  It’s in your intro text but could be better utilised by making it more prominent.

Bert Simonis

cottageguru Bert Simonis Thanks for the review. Palm Springs has literally hundreds if not thousands of vacation rentals so the goal is to differentiate yourself from your neighbor down the street as opposed to describing Palm Springs. Trust me, by the time people reach my site they have already decided to vacation in Palm Springs and I hate to waste space convincing them to come here. I’ll take a look at the black background in the website – perhaps I will swap that out for a “sunny” color!
Bert

Sandy Ridge Villas

Hi Mike,  I see that we are both from Toronto.  We would be interested in your feedback on http://www.sandyridgevillas.com  // vacation@sandyridgevillas.com.  Tom

Heather Bayer

Bert Simonis cottageguru OK -understood.  Just me then who has never thought about going to Palm Springs and wondered what we might do when there.  We are now thinking about it for next February and I’ll get on and do the research to check it out.

Shannon Bosgraaf

If you can, Please review my listings at http://www.yourbreckrental.com.  THANKS!

Heather Bayer

dhertert Hi Debi – what a beautiful place with spectacular views!  Can I suggest that you stage your feature photo a little more?  If you can’t get a shot with more light on the tub, consider taking the photo with the jets going.  That will give the image a little more movement and appeal.  I thought some of your other images would benefit from some staging too – for example you could lay up the dining table for a meal and have a photo of food cooking on the grill.  If you can, consider getting some professional photography done – I think it would be worth the cost.  
The text appeals to all the senses – it would be good if you mention the hot tub in there though since it is mentioned in all the reviews, and perhaps whale watching too.  Describe an experience guests might have in an activity and how they might feel coming  back to the house at the end of a busy day to relax in the tub and enjoy the sunset.
As with Kristi’s Vermont cottage below, the best text is in the What makes the place unique section – that was the wow for me….seals barking, smells of the ocean, tide pools, deer in the vicinity etc.  I almost missed that section so suspect that other potential guests might miss it as well.

Heather Bayer

Wendy33 Hey Wendy!  I’m glad to hear Narrows Cottage is renting well.  I know the feeling with a new place – my latest cottage took a year before I began to see decent bookings.  I just looked at one listing (VRBO/434056) and it looks fine but I think you could improve the staging to make it more appealing.    Green plants in the living area and the patio table laid up for a meal might add appeal. Your text didn’t mention some of the things that might attract guests such as the access to swimming pool and tennis courts, which might be extras that could swing a booking for the condo.  In addition, you could put a different spin on your text to help guests imagine what it would be like staying there:
“If you love golf, want access to a swimming pool and tennis courts and enjoy great views from your private courtyard and patio, this is the place for you. After you’ve finished your active day, if you don’t want to cook in the well-equipped kitchen or patio barbecue, stroll across to the nearby Clubhouse restaurant for a great meal…………”
Keep in touch Wendy and let me know how it goes.

Heather Bayer

Star of the Sea Hi There – unfortunately I couldn’t spend long on the the listing as I have a minor visual disorder that gives me eye strain looking at light text on a dark background. However I gave it as long as I could but the navigation is very confusing.  I couldn’t find any photos or information on the accommodation.  Sorry I can’t offer much more than that but if you are looking to attract rental guests I highly recommend getting a new web site built that will appeal to the demographic seeking this type of accommodation in your location.

Wendy33

cottageguru Wendy33 Thank you so much Heather! If you don’t mind I’ll plagiarize some of your suggested text, writing is not my strong suit  🙂
Not sure when I will be able to take the photos but will try to do so soon, definitely agree with you on that too, I think the outdoors table setting really helped “sell” the cottage when I did it there.
Thank you again,
Wendy

Heather Bayer

Wendy33 cottageguru My pleasure Wendy

Heather Bayer

Shannon Bosgraaf Hi Shannon – Great site – lovely properties.  As an agency owner myself with over 200 properties under management I know the issues around making all the properties equally appealing.  The quality of photography is really good but at that level I think they should enlarge so prospective guests can see a decent sized image. You’ve been able to get a ton of information into a small space for each listing and still have it readable and interesting.  I’m learning from it!

Bert Simonis

cottageguru Bert Simonis Have a look at visitpalmsprings.com – the City spends a lot of money promoting itself through that site. Have another look at DesertDreaming.com and let me know if the black amoeba are gone! When you get to scheduling that holiday next February – drop me a note!

Heather Bayer

VillaYasmine I’m really armchair travelling on this post – now in Morocco!  I can see that it’s challenging to post a listing that has flexible accommodation options – two apartments that can be rented separately or together – some duplication is going to happen, and I think you have done a good job.  However, its also a little confusing and could probably be consolidated to create a more structured lisitng.  I might consider investing in a professional writer to make it more readable and appealing. Since you have three separate tabs – one for each unit/units, I’d limit the description on each to that specific unit rather than duplicating the entire content on each one.  
  I read through it several times and picked out a few key features that would attract travellers – the ocean view, rooftop swimming pool, outdoor terraces for dining, proximity to art galleries, museums and historical sites etc., also the spacious accommodation that would make a group rental very appealing.  If it’s possible to reduce the text to some introductory comments on what guests will experience in the property and in the area, and then use bullet points to highlight the key features of each apartment, it would make the overall picture a little clearer.  Some work on the headlines would be helpful too.

PNVFrance

cottageguru PNVFrance  THank you very much for feedback – excellent suggestions. We have just had a situation where asingle guest got sick and our on-site manger really confirmed to us [and him] what a gem she is, in nursing him back from the edge!!  Have to capture that in listing!!

dublinvacationrentals

Hi Mike,
If you can find the time to take a look at our listing in Dublin, Ireland on the VRBO site, I would really appreciate your opinion.  http://www.vrbo.com/294549
Many thanks,
Grainne.

howardian78

Good…
Great article …Thanks
for your lovely post, the contents are quiet interesting. I will be waiting for
your next post on.http://www.holidaysplanner.com/popular/vacation-rental/

BushTelegraph

Hi Heather. Over to East Africa… Could you check out http://www.vipingohouse.com please.
Look forward to hearing your comments.
Thanks, Julie

CottageBabe

Hi Heather – Thank you so much
for your review of The Lake Street Cottage and your suggestions! I never
thought of adding the specific things that guests commented on, that makes so
much sense. And you are so right, our place rents quite often because we do
allow pets and have a safe place for them. (I was nervous allowing dogs at first
but find that people who travel with dogs have good dogs, or they would not
travel with them.)I added that we are a
short walk to the beach and information on the Farmers Market, the quality
linens and how close the grocery store is. Next I will dig up some new photos without
the cutesy stuffed animals and I guess I need to plan a trip up there to take
the creative photo of bikes leaning against the front porch. Sandpoint here we
come!
Thank you again and I am so glad I found your blog, lots of great info here!

CottageBabe

Wendy33

Wendy,
It is so interesting that you have 2 rentals, a cottage and
a condo in Idaho as we have the same, only 2 rentals one is a cottage and the
other a condo in Idaho! I looked at both of your places and I love that you
have crisp white bedding. It is so inviting. What a lovely cottage you
have and on the water, wow! Your cottage kitchen cabinets are exactly the ones
we had in our cottage for several years. In 2011 we took 2 weeks and remodeled
our kitchen and those cabinets on a VERY slim budget. If you are interested in seeing our“do it
yourself” kitchen makeover you can find it documented here along with before
and after photos: http://diy.roomzaar.com/rate-my-space/Kitchens/Cottage-kitchen-makeover-on-a-budgetgoodbye-1970s-melamine-hello-gorgeous/detail.esi?oid=24421604

I told my
husband I did not want new cabinets in the cottage, I love the painted
imperfect look that we got by doing it ourselves (had never done this before)
and using the existing cabinets.
All the best
to you,
Paula

Wendy33

CottageBabe Wendy33 Love what you did!! will be showing my husband…. totally know about projects taking longer than expected, we do 99.99% of the remodeling work ourselves. The next time you find yourselves in the area, if we are able it would be fun to meet up. I wish you every success with your rentals!
Wendy

Rebecca Strand Seiler

If you are able, please review my listing on http://www.vrbo.com/451174 and/or http://www.sandcastleinthesun.com.  Thank you for your time in helping me to improve my lsiting.

CurtisCottage

Hi Heather – I’ve been renting for less than a year and I’d love for you to review my listing!  http://www.curtiscottage.webstarts.com  Thanks for all of the great tips! 
Dean

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