The 10 Habits of Remarkable And Successful Vacation Rental Owners

Over the past ten years in my cottage rental business as well as through this blog and podcast, I have talked at length with hundreds of vacation rental owners, many of whom have been amazingly successful.

Those who have achieved great success share a set of perspectives and beliefs andhabits.


1. Treat their vacation rental as a business and not a hobby

Successful owners talk in terms of a business. They have a marketing strategy, they understand the demographic of their rental guests, and appreciate their role as a provider to the tourism and travel industry. They have great respect for their guests who have selected their property for a vacation and work hard to meet their needs and create guest satisfaction.

tweetWould you like to know the 10 habits to #vacationrental success? @Cottageguru shares the secrets!

2. Have clear goals

According to Jeff Haden, contributing writer for

“Average success is often based on setting average goals.”

Owners who are getting solid bookings and getting consistently high reviews have decided where they want to be. They don’t just post a listing and hope for the best – there is a clear plan on how much income they want; how many weeks need to be rented; and the return on investment for all their marketing activities.

SMART goals are the key and following through on these are the way to achieve even greater success.

Often, successful owners have a goal of growing their business through buying more properties or using their expertise to manage properties on behalf of other owners.


3. Like and Respect Their Guests

You won’t find a truly successful owner using the word ‘renters’ or ‘tenants'. Guests are valued and respected and genuinely liked as clients within their business, and this generally results in repeat business and consistently positive reviews.

Joel Rasmussen, owner of multiple properties in Austin, Texas, tells us how the relationships he’s created with some of his guests have blossomed into lasting friendships. Making a personal connection works.

This doesn’t mean that guests are always ‘likeable’ – we will all experience those that are more demanding, and a little frustrating to deal with. However, appreciating the different needs of our guests and communicating to get to know them better, often results in a better relationship. Great owners know how to do this.


4. Are Responsive & Personal

Melbourne based owner and VR specialist Rex Brown cites his methods of responding to guest enquries as the cornerstone of his success and why he is beating the competition in an overcrowded market.

People want instant gratification or they will go onto the next site or the next listing. When a response to an inquiry comes back instantly, it creates a positive perception within the guests’ mind, particularly if it’s a friendly and personal reply, rather than canned and generic.


5. Treat Their Staff Well

Julia Hill is a very successful owner who walks the talk. She considers her property team – caretaker, gardener, handyman – as integral to the business and nurtures their support and commitment. Julia suggests that their ‘buy-in’ to hospitality result in happier guests and the smooth running of her rental business.

The people who support your vacation rental business are integral to success. Giving them as much respect as you do your guests will promote loyalty and impeccably high standards.


6. Market Wisely

Achieving success in this business is far more than jumping on the latest marketing bandwagon and listing in a scattergun fashion. Smart owners know exactly what the return is on their marketing spend. They monitor all their advertising, do A/B testing on their images, and target their primary demographic.

There is so much more to marketing than creating a listing. This should include a social media presence and many successful owners have chosen a platform to promote their property and their local knowledge. Niagara on the Lake owner Maria Rekrut markets her cottage on Twitter by doing this.


7. Are Constantly Learning

Those of us who share our knowledge of the vacation rental industry know that our followers are constant learners, and they are also very successful in their businesses. Whether they listen to my podcasts, are part of Matt Landau’s Inner Circle, taking a Google Plus course with Alan Egan, or attended the Vacation Rental World Summit, they are sponges for knowledge, new ideas and the experience of others.

To be successful in this competitive environment, these owners would agree that consistent learning is a part of their strategy, and also know how important it is to share and contribute their own experiences.


8. Share Local Knowledge

Travelers want more information than ever about their destinations. They also want a one-stop-shop rather than having to search through a bunch of resources that don’t give the insider knowledge they are seeking.

Successful owners appreciate they own that knowledge and share it freely. They are using blogs, Google + and creating Vacation Insider Guides. In doing so, they are becoming the go-to experts in their area. People searching for information and coming across these resources may not book the property then, but they might do at a later day, and will share what they have found with their friends, families and co-workers.


9. Network With Other Owners

Networking can come in many forms from creating relationships on forums, on Facebook groups, on Twitter or face-to-face. Oregon owner Debi Hetert finds huge value in the networking she does with other hosts she has met on Airbnb ; others attend the Home Away Summits in the US and Europe or Stay summits in Australia.

Spend a little time on the Home Away Community or Lay My Hat (which is more European based) and you’ll come across success stories laced with terrific ideas and advice.

Successful owners don’t do this business in a vacuum – they enjoy sharing, learning and putting it all into practice then sharing again with the results.

As I write this I am preparing to head to San Diego to the Vacation Rental Managers Association Annual Conference which will be three days of solid networking with other management companies and suppliers. The value of this far overrides anything I can research online and will all go towards improving my business..


10. Look For Ways To Continuously Improve

Continuous improvement stands successful owners out from their competitors. They are always looking for ways to upgrade their property; show it in a better light; improve their website or blog; create new methods to market, and stand out from the crowd.

Good is never good enough for them – only excellence will do. Great owners read their competitors reviews and pick out what guests are commenting on, then they will act on those ideas and suggestions to improve their own place. Modelling success means finding out what the best do, and then doing it better.

The more I meet and talk with such successful people, the more I learn about what makes them tick and the traits that are necessary for their continued success.


Have I missed any? What habits do you have that contribute to your achievements.   Share them with us here so we can all do a little bit better!


Heather! Thanks you for all the wonderful resources you generously share. Our VR success is a direct result of laser focused implementation of the 10 habits. Still working daily to achieve 100% in all areas always room for improvement. I feel blessed and fortunate 🙂


I am President of our Home Owners Association on a short term rental community in Florida, Highgate Park. I have seen so many owners come and go since the community was built. The ones who are still there, who have great bookings, are booked well in advance so that they can plan ahead – they are the ones who have those 10 good habits. It is time consuming to run a vacation rental business but it has those rewards too. I need to copy these to give to each new owner with their information pack when they buy. If only realtors would send out the same message. Thanks Heather

    Heather Bayer

    I appreciate that, and you are right about realtors. Some sell vacation homes to people who haven’t a clue what is involved which seems irresponsible to me… but then I am not on the end of the commission cheque.


I love this post Heather! Such a great reminder of what it takes to be a VR owner. Its all about the guest experience and those of us that are VR owners/operators have an obligation to make sure that experience exceeds expectations!

    Heather Bayer

    Thanks Alana – I know I am preaching to the converted mostly on the blog. People generally only read if they are already committed to all these traits, but occasionally someone will come along and pick up some nuggets, and we have another convert!

Andy Parr

Heather, throughout this post what you advise is bascially being personable, genuine and business-like. I couldn’t agree more. Simple advice to follow! Thanks Andy

    Heather Bayer

    Thanks Andy. Yes, simple but amazing how many still don’t get it.

      Andy Parr

      Too true. I think this sometimes indicates that ‘some’ think getting into the vacation rental game is easy. It is but being good at it is a different ball game. I know I can sometimes be a bit ‘grumpy’ (old man syndrome I think) so I have to work hard to keep that in check.

Maria Rekrut

Thanks for the mention in your article, I appreciate it.

Maria Rekrut

Love your article Heather. I would say that #9. Network With Other Owners is very important.

When you share with other owners you get a feel for the industry, especially if you network with owners in the same area.

I’ve found that many owners don’t want to network. I don’t know why not, maybe they think that talking about the business will take business away. It’s the opposite there will be more to go around and it’ll grow.

I really think it’s because most owners aren’t true business owners and are doing this as a semi hobby and therefore don’t have a clue about business principles and networking.

This is my observation after 15 years in the vacation rental business.


10. Look For Ways To Continuously Improve… I am new to the VR industry as of 2 wks. I’ve had guests book the first 2 wknds of listing my home. I plan to use my payments to upgrade and improve. Putting this money back into my home brings value and hopefully more guests & bookings. I’m VERY excited about the response I’m getting so early after listing my home. I also want to grow myself… looking for more ways to market & advertise.


    Hi Kim
    Do you mind sharing where you started marketing you vacation rental. I initially signed up with Home Away however it seems they are getting greedy and are now charging a booking fee of between 6-9% so sad they will loose but so do we as owners.

The Pink Flamingo

Love it Heather! I agree with every one of these. Especially #1!! It always baffles me that some people treat their VR investment like it’s just a side thing when they just spent hundreds of thousands on it. You could do an entire blog on just that one topic!!

Matt Pauli

Point 11 – Don’t rely on the “Big Boy” listings sites to bring you rentals. The days of VRBO / AirBnB, etc bringing you the leads / renters you need ended years ago. You need to be able to generate your own bookings via your own website / email marketing / social campaigns / referral / past renters. Ah, this relates to #1. LOL. As always Heather and Mike – great info! Aloha Matt.


I just found this article via Pinterest (re-pinned a ton!)….. Heather, can you add the Vacation Rental Success Summit under one of the points? For me it was a great networking and learning opportunity.


I just got the 1st example of things to come with one of my vacation properties today… no longer is HomeAway/VRBO (who I have been super loyal to for over 10 years) my partner… Platinum ended 2 days ago and now my listing is burried on page 3… even though I drove all my own bookings to them out of “convenience” over the last 2 years. Sadly, they sold out… Airbnb is horrible (not as a host but as my experience last month booking 3 in Spain with newbie “hosts” who had no clue what they were doing) and ended up costing more time either rebooking days in a city at greater expense (last minute) or dealing with a list of items that they should have been dealing with… think, calling a local internet provider to get internet at an Airbnb the host said had it when it never did and then the host leaving the next day out of country on an “emergency” so even after you found them (tried to help) a great internet servicer they were long gone… or pillows on the beds ripped and the inners coming out? Yeah, Airbnb allows anyone to pretend to know the business and all of us loyal to HomeAway got sold down the drain… I cannot wait for the day Karma gives them both what they are now giving me as both a vacation property owner and a guest!


This is a great list with tons of great points. One thing I can think to add is specific “metrics” relevant to the business. For example, Average Daily Rate, Avg. Length of Stay, Page View etc.

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