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From curb appeal to communication

The rules for running a successful vacation rental

By Eric Bay

We’ve all done it — spotted the perfect dream house while driving idly down Beach Boulevard and imagined the possibilities.

If we owned a vacation rental, we tell ourselves, we could stay whenever we want and share our beautiful property with vacationing renters to pay the bills. Piece of cake, we can do it!

Eric Bay, professional vacation property manager in the Mississippi Gulf Coast

Not so fast. While the dream can become reality, realizing it requires consistent work. Here’s what you should consider if you’re an aspiring vacation rental property owner:

• Curbside appeal, critical in showcasing a new listing, needs constant maintenance. The grass should always be freshly manicured, the pool always sparkling and the trash never seen. Online pictures must be eye-catching and the house always “show ready.” From the moment a potential renter browses your listing on VRBO or Airbnb to the second they arrive, you are selling their dream: a perfect vacation in your home.

So, organize your team (yes, it takes a village), and get ready. This includes a property manager, lawn and pool service, on-call maintenance, ready-to-call service professionals, quarterly pest control and, the key to your success, responsible, reliable housekeeping services. Urgency and reliability are essential. Guests expect a customer-centric, professional attitude and immediate response.

• The work begins during staging and set up, which should be designed and laid out with intention. No question should be left unanswered, and no needs left unfulfilled. Make everything visible and accessible, from the coffee to the extra linens, from the WIFI password to the TV and thermostat instructions.

Pro tip: Set up your home with Wi-Fi-equipped thermostats and personalized entry code door locks.

• Your online photos always should be professionally shot and answer questions in advance. Are linens provided? Is there a Keurig? How about soaps and shampoos? Showcase all the amenities and conveniences. Remember, you bought your dream, and now you are selling theirs.

• Online descriptions should sell the dream, too, and offer specifics. Mention parking, pets, pool toys or beach chairs, basic directions and proximity to what a vacationing family will need, including golf cart rental, grocery stores, the best beach bar, family casual light fare or nicest finer dining options.

• Communication is key. Immediately welcome newly confirmed guests and set their expectations early, explaining the pre-arrival process and what to anticipate during their stay. Be appreciative and welcoming. Typically, three days prior to arrival, send all the necessary check-in and check-out instructions, which should be simple, easy and non-stressful; it is vacation after all.

So now your reservation is set. Guests know what to expect and arrive to a perfectly maintained exterior. They enter their personalized door entry code and are greeted with an ideal temperature, sparkling clean surroundings and a worry-free atmosphere. All their questions are answered in advance, and your property manager will handle any small issues that may arise.

When done right, owning a vacation rental can be as smooth and satisfying as a scoop of your favorite-flavor ice cream — the ultimate win-win.

Eric Bay has been a professional vacation property manager in the Mississippi Gulf Coast and New Orleans areas since 2014. Reach him at

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