VRS194 – Dynamic Vacation Rental Pricing Explained with Andrew Kitchell of UseWheelHouse.com

Do you adjust your pricing according to the seasons?

I’m sure you do, if as is the case up here in Ontario you have clearly differentiated high and low periods of occupancy.

When demand is super-high and inventory is low you’ll have a much higher rate than at times when there’s a lot of properties available with a much lower demand.

This is the traditional method of pricing and it’s usually coupled with a rough comparison of similar properties in the area – a sort of wet finger approach that’s worked in the past.

But that was when we were all advertising on the old VRBO, and happy with the status quo.

However, now we have significantly more properties on the market and this makes it ever more important to price competitively, and move the rates up and down in accordance with changing criteria.

Andrew Kitchell of Wheelhouse.com joins me to explain how adopting a strategy of dynamic pricing can impact different types of vacation rental owners and increase occupancy levels.

We discuss how to analyse a property to establish it’s unique aspects and how the addition of a simple amenity can make a big difference in occupancy in some areas.

We talk about:

  • How dynamic pricing models are changing the way we present our properties
  • The importance of knowing what guests want the most in your area
  • How rural markets are growing and need to align with practices adopted in urban areas
  • Data science and how it is impacting our industry
  • What you need to know to price your property according to demand
  • How Wheelhouse.com can help owners and managers be more successful at pricing competitively.



VRS193 – Mid Summer Madness – A Diary of A Vacation Rental Property Manager

This week’s solo episode reflects on how this business has changed over the past twenty years, as I deal with numerous issues at properties through the first 6 weeks of the summer.

Back in the good old days we dealt directly with our guests, often took their cash when they arrived, trusted they would clean up before they left, and hoped they’d let us know if something broke down and needed fixing. It was an easier relationship with guests who were far more tolerant and forgiving of human error. They took more responsibility and showed greater self-reliance when things went wrong.

When the power went out, they saw it as an adventure; if something broke they fixed it as best they could and soldiered on until it was repaired; if it rained, they played board games and rummy, and spent hours on jigsaws even when they knew there were pieces missing.

OK – that’s enough of reminiscing the good old times.

Now we deal with a completely different perspective on our rental business and for those of us who have been in the business for a lot of years, we have to be attentive to this and stop bemoaning the changes and begin to recognise we are in a new era of the business of being accommodation providers. We have to stop clinging to the old ways of doing things and embrace new technology, appreciate the expectations of a new market and adapt accordingly, and learn how to market better in an increasingly competitive environment.

I share some of the problems that have been raised this season so far and talk about:

• How we have to deal with increased drama and occasionally group hysteria
• Why an appliance breakdown can lead to a ‘disaster’ scenario
• Power outages and what happens when the wifi goes down
• The importance of an emergency plan – be prepared for every situation
• When guest forget to leave or arrive a day early
• When to be tolerant and the cost of doing this business
• Emergency planning and being proactive
• Why some people should not be in this business
• Tinfoil hat neighbours and coping with the oddballs
• How we are planning for a new season

VRS192 – 10 Sure-fire Ways to Upset Your Guests at Check In

In this solo episode I’m getting back to some basics as I talk about the first 30 minutes your guests experience at your property, and why that is so important to the overall enjoyment of their vacation and to the review they subsequently may write.

There is a magic that accompanies arrival at a vacation rental.  It’s the culmination of months – sometimes years of planning – and all your guests have to go on is the 20 – 30 photos on a listing and the text that attracted them to the property in the first place.

All their expectation have been set, the anticipation and excitement is huge and everything should go according to plan….but so often it doesn’t.  And all it takes is one thing to take the whole group out of their happy place and into another state of mind.

In this episode I explore what can go wrong in the first 30 minutes and how attention to detail and a few little adjustments can make the difference between a successful vacation, and one that is dogged by memories of a poor first impression.

VRS191 – Airbnb Mastery with Eric Moeller

Today’s guest is an investor, home renovator, and Airbnb entrepreneur; the host of the upcoming Airbnb Mastery Summit and founder of Hometel – a luxury property Airbnb management service.

Erics expertise in home renovation and investment is rooted in an early interest in the topic after reading Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad at age 17. From there he went on to score his first mortgage at 19 and renovated his first home while living in the basement. The next two became vacation rentals on the in-demand Jersey shores, and it looked like his future was going to be an easy run….until 2008.

Losing everything in the market crash didn’t deter Eric. In fact, if anything, it fired him up to learn more about investment and to achieve even greater heights, and in 2015 he made his way to San Diego – home of so many startups and entrepreneurs, where his investment portfolio grew. With his eye firmly on the short-term rental market, but ever watchful of the ups and downs of real estate, he founded Hometel, specializing in leasing luxury homes and converting them to profitable short term rentals on Airbnb.

Eric is also the host of the Airbnb Mastery Summit – an online event that brings 20 real estate investors, Airbnb and general vacation rental experts together. Over three days from 11 – 13 August 2017, you can get free access to the event. After that time, the replays and videos will be offered as a package for a reasonable fee. This is a great event full of outstanding information that shouldn’t be missed.

In this episode Eric shares:

  • How his early interest for property investment became a passion for short-term rental and the Airbnb model
  • Why he feels the market is right for buying distressed property, renovating, and posting on Airbnb
  • What an investor should consider when evaluating rural markets
  • The must-have features in all rental homes
  • His views on market saturation
  • The factors owners need to consider when planning an exit strategy
  • Why he founded Homtel and how this works
  • The line-up of speakers for the Airbnb Mastery Summit


Airbnb Mastery Summit



VRS190 – The Vacation Rental Adventures of Travelling Matt Landau – Part Two

Part 2 of the Adventures of Travelling Matt (Landau) takes us to Italy, and Matt’s journey to Rome, the Umbrian town of Guardea and Le Marche in the eastern Italian region of Ancona.

Matt’s telling of the trip takes us to out of the way places and shares his experiences of visiting a renowned silversmith’s workshop, taking a Vespa tour, playing with a local soccer team where he nearly flattened the 70 yr old linesman with an errant kick, and meeting an medley of amazing people along the way.

From Henrietta Kiss, the Hungarian-born owner of Treasure Rome, to Bob and Ian, proprietors of a beautifully restored farmhouse and Debra Haddock whose vacation rental challenges we all share, Matt’s essays draw us into the unique, yet familiar arena of our business, with a European flair.

Throughout the episode, Matt reflects on the similarities that vacation rental owners across the world share and demonstrates how personality, commitment and the drive towards hospitality can make an owner (and a property) stand out.

And just some of the things Matt talks about…

  • How personal passions are the conduit to creating memorable travel experiences for guests
  • The network of locals that create a win-win for guests and the community
  • Why regular discipline of the business needs to be offset by having fun and enjoying life to the full
  • How a host’s personality plays a major role in the success of a business
  • Cultural immersion on steroids while playing with the local soccer team
  • How an entrance to a vacation rental can have a huge impression
  • The magic he experienced with the artisan who made a fisherman’s ring for the Pope.
  • Espresso, chocolate covered hazelnuts, focaccia and plenty of gelato!

And so much more, as Matt reads from some of his wonderful essays on the trip.

Links mentioned in this episode

Treasure Rome – Henrietta Kiss

Casai Dei Fichi – Bob and Ian

Casale Pratto Del Coccinelle – Debra Haddock

VRS189 – Wicked Awesome Vacation Rentals with Maria La Barbera Lamb

This episode in our Successful Owner Series introduces the owner of Wicked Awesome Maine Vacations – a small property management company comprising the owner’s three houses, one belonging to a cousin, and two third party homes. When I heard that, it reminded me of how my own property management company started – three of my own, my sister’s place, and one of my neighbours who wouldn’t pay any commission but wanted to give me a head start in the business.

There’s a big difference though between the way Maria is growing her company and my shaky start in the business. She is aiming for quality from the get-go…I was less picky, which resulted in building a foundation of less than stellar properties that had to be culled a few years down the road, when my standards gene kicked in!

Maria talks about the values that underpin her company and why it’s so important to create something that guests will want to come back to over and over. She also shares her thoughts on targeting guests in an area not as well-known as a vacation destination. Finally, we discuss her views on gaining independence from listing sites and the tools she is using get there.

In this episode Maria shares:

  • Her story of the start of Wicked Awesome Maine
  • How identifying her target guests helps with marketing
  • The tools she uses for distributing blog posts
  • Tips for anyone thinking of starting a property management company

Links from this episode:

Wicked Awesome Maine Vacation Rentals

VRS188 – The Vacation Rental Adventures of Travelling Matt Landau – Part One

Have you ever been a guest in a vacation rental in a location you are unfamiliar with? I’ve asked this question of many home owners to find that most have never experienced what it’s like to be a guest. And you should do this, at least once.

Owners will often say they’ve stayed in their own house and been to all the local restaurants, shopped in the nearby grocery stores and hiked the trails they recommend, so know what it will be like for their guests, but with respect, that doesn’t give the same experience they will have.

Until you’ve arrived at a strange airport or driven along unfamiliar roads, tried to find an address that’s not on a GPS, and negotiated entry via a fiddly lock box, you don’t really know how a first impression is made. It’s often not the bright white towels in the bathroom, or the beautifully made bed that delivers the first impact.

So, when I heard that the founder of the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog and the Inner Circle, Matt Landau, had just come back from a month of travels in Europe, I wanted to hear about his experiences in unfamiliar territory, and what it was about the places he stayed that really made his journey successful and enjoyable.

Matt visited Spain and Italy, and stayed in a five distinctly separate vacation rentals, from a resort-style condo in Marbella, to a city pad in Barcelona and a villa in Umbria. He met the owners and property managers, their friends and relatives, and the local people who helped him discover the culture of each area he visited. He also had the opportunity to connect and network with many other vacation rental professionals along the way.

Matt says his mom told him he needed to write everything down so he wouldn’t forget (Mom’s are always right!), so he reads from his trip essays which captured so much of what he experienced. In the first part of this two-part episode Matt talks about the Spanish part of the trip and his visits to Barcelona and Marbella.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Picasso Suites – Barcelona

Vacation Marbella

VRS187 – The 2017 Vacation Rental Hospitality Survey with David Jacoby of Hostfully

The death knell of property managers may be sounding if some vacation rental experts are to be believed. Martin Picard of VReasy talked of this at a VR Tech conference in Rome earlier this month. OTA’s are taking over much of what a property manager does, from marketing properties to an array of consumers; offering best matches for a guests criteria, and promoting their own brands, and the traditional role of a property manager may soon be reduced to the cleaning element.

Instead of rolling over, many PMs and independent owners are fighting back by doing the one thing that an OTA cannot – offering personal hospitality and relationship building.

In a survey compiled by the digital guide company, Hostfully, property managers were asked about their perspective on hospitality, what they currently do and what they would like to offer guests if time and resources allowed.

President of Hostfully, David Jacoby, joins me to talk about the results of the survey and what PMs can do to pull back control and cast aside the anonymity the OTAs are threatening. We also discussed the work of the Home Sharers Democratic Club of San Francisco, an organisation with the aim to:

“Organize the home sharing community to work politically to bring about fair and reasonable laws and regulations concerning home sharing and the sharing economy and for the promotion of the welfare and well being of home sharing hosts and their guests.”

In this interview David talks about:

  • The challenges property managers face in a time of OTA dominance
  • What is on property managers’ wish lists
  • The peripheral industry bridging the gap between PMs and guest wants
  • The 84-point gap between mainstream software and what PMs would like to offer
  • How managers (and owners) can streamline communication & deliver what OTAs cannot
  • A 4-point plan for initial communication with guests
  • Short term rental advocacy and the need for owners/managers to organise in the face of pending legislation

Links to sites mentioned in this episode

Home Sharers Democratic Club of San Francisco





VRS186 – Vacation Rental Marketing Automation Explained with Jason Beaton of Airtight Marketing

I’m joined today by Jason Beaton of Airtight Marketing to talk about jargon in online marketing. As we build our vacation rental businesses, most owners realise that simply listing isn’t enough. We’re at a time in our industry when control over how we market and advertise has been wrestled from us, and without being overly dramatic, we’re at the mercy of a few behemoth listing sites. Don’t comply with Instant Booking and you’ll end up struggling at the bottom of the listing feed; comply, and you may rank higher, but take on the added risks of accepting reservations with no prior connection with guests.

Many independent owners don’t want to go that route so in looking for alternatives, realise they need to learn about online marketing. This comes with a steep learning curve because there is a lot to take on board, not least of which is the jargon.

The online marketing world has a language all of its own and we hear it every day. From funnels to landing pages, re-targeting to back-end automation, there’s a new vocabulary to learn, and it’s really worthwhile understanding what it all means and how it hangs together.

Whether you want complete independence from listing sites – and many have achieved this and lived to tell the tale – to getting a broader understanding of how to get there eventually, we can all take away something from this episode with an online marketing expert.

Besides having a lot of experience in the world of digital marketing, Jason is also immersing himself in our own niche of vacation rentals. He braved the full weekend of the Vacation Rental Success Summit (for the second year) , and co-presented a day training course with Mike Bayer as mentioned in VRS185. This means he’s in a perfect position to explain all the jargon and give us an insight into automation processes as they can impact us, and propel us forward to more autonomy.

In this episode Jason talks about:

  • What marketing automation means and how it can streamline our business
  • Definitions of funnels, automation, opt-ins and Call to Action (CTA)
  • How an investment of $9 per month in an email platform is worth every penny
  • Landing pages and how to use them
  • The difference between remarketing and retargeting
  • What AB testing is used for
  • Why the term ‘above the fold’ has less impact in the world of mobile marketing
  • The importance of Google Analytics

Sites mentioned in this episode:

AirTight Marketing

Thrive Themes

Lead Pages

Optin Monster

Click Funnels

Optimize Press

Thrive Leads



Active Campaign


Google Analytics

VRS185 – Are you planning on building a new vacation rental website?

Are you planning on building a new website, or want to make some changes to your current one? If so, this episode could be for you.

The topic came about in response to a request from Sanjiv Sandhu, a member of our Vacation Rental Formula Facebook Group (VRF members only), and at the start seemed a simple list-based question:

What are the key elements for an amazing website?

That seemed easy – a great home page; amazing photos; easy to access rates and availability; an amenity list; an About Us page to help create a relationship; FAQs; a blog with consistently delivered posts; quality content; easy navigation…all with well-written copy.

Well maybe not that easy or simple, but given that list, most owners could start creating their website without too much difficulty.

Then I came across a post on the Say NO To VRBO Facebook group, and it gave a different perspective on it.

Here’s the post:

“I say this to be helpful, not critical, so please take it as such.
I made a Facebook post on one of the Facebook pages sometimes mentioned here, asking blindly for rentals over Thanksgiving. I mentioned a state I wanted to visit, but I wanted fresh ideas on locations. I did ask for NO VRBO links.

I got a few great ideas.

And I got some horrible websites.

Here are some of my complaints:

*i have no idea where this is located (no map)

After getting frustrated I asked one lady about a map. She said you click this, hover over that, scroll down, and click map. Ok…right. I should have known that.

*i have been on the website 10 minutes and I still don’t know if you have a pool

*so much STUFF I can’t find the basics

(All these plug-ins like weather and 10 other things make it so busy and overwhelming I just want to leave the site. I am NEVER coming to your site to check the weather. I have an app for that. That’s just one example but I’m at your site to see your property. Not 50 other links about what the dolphins had for dinner last night and how he sun’s ray can damage your skin).

*some links don’t work

*one lady I told her NONE of her links worked from PC. She said they work from phone and mac and to try back later. Ok I did. They don’t work. ?

In my opinion less is more. Within 20 seconds on your page I want to see a map, pictures, rates, a calendar, and an amenity list. If you have tons of rambling text I am not going to read any of your text

I agree with a lot of this, and some I disagree with, so thought it would be interesting to speak directly to the poster and ask her more about what she looks for in a vacation rental website.

So thanks to Danica Thornburg Connell for posting, and for joining me to talk about it in greater depth.

The remainder of the episode explores some of the issues Danica raised in our conversation and covers:

  • What is useful and what is not on a website
  • Why it’s important to know your personas and speak to them in your website content
  • Whether less is more – the arguments for and against
  • The 8 key elements of a website (my personal opinion)

Links mentioned in this episode: