by Broderick Perkins
Vacation rental property owners will have to do more than back off on rates, offer special payment plans and stock the pantry with gourmet goodies, if they want visitors to beat a path to their door.
The continued weak dollar and economic doldrums means a second year of bargain-hunting travelers looking for the biggest bang for their small bucks.
Vacation rental property owners who want to pad their bottom line should also pad their accommodations with the whistles and bells necessary to get vacationers to beat a path to their door.
It's time to "amenity up," says Christine Karpinski, direct of the Owner Community for HomeAway.com, a vacation rental portal of 425,000 listings serving travelers and property owners alike. The Owner Community offers professional advice for vacation rental property investors.
"I'm not suggesting you spend thousands of dollars building a tennis court in your backyard. But what you can do is let potential guests know that there's one accessible to them just a block away. The idea is to give people what they are looking for in some form or fashion and it doesn't have to mean costly upgrades. It's mostly about smart marketing," said Karpinski, also author of "The Complete Guide to Buy, Manage, Furnish, Rent, Maintain and Advertise Your Vacation Rental Investment" (Kinney Pollack Press, $26.00).
"If you want to secure that booking, you need to catch people's attention the first time—and that means making sure their desired amenities are present and accounted for."
Here's a look at some of the amenities HomeAway.com travelers seek and vacation property owners, looking for a return on their investment, would be wise to include.
Internet - This is a no-brainer. It's the digital age and even on vacation, travelers need to be connected. Wireless broadband is as expected as much as running water and electricity.
Television - Likewise, with the rising popularity and falling prices of high-definition television (HDTV) a "TV" search term in your marketing will draw them in. Include the number and location of all TVs. Include details about the listings (cable or satellite) and any high-end TVs you have. If you have an HDTV and a digital video recorder (DVR) you'll attract even more guests
Fireplace - When the weather outside is frightful, a cozy fireplace makes a traveler's stay so much more delightful. If you have one, play it up in your listing. An outdoor fireplace can be a draw in warmer locations. Even portable fireplaces are a way to add warmth and ambiance to your property.
Hot Tub or "Jacuzzi" - Vacationers vacation to relax. Nothing is quite as relaxing as a hot tub, or Jacuzzi (a brand name) especially in chilly spring and fall seasons. One on the deck or enclosed porch is a plus all year round. If you own a jetted or whirlpool bathtub, that's a plus too.
Swim Facility - Pools are both a form of entertainment and exercise. If there's no pool in your backyard, advertise any shared pool in the complex or nearby swim center. Likewise advertise any nearby river, lake, or beach access.
Outdoor Space - "Porch," "deck," "terrace," "patio," or "balcony" are all popular search terms. Provide a detailed description of the outdoor space in your vacation home and include photos of the view.
Pool Table - Pool tables offer reliable indoor entertainment for as little as $1,000 -- less for used models.
Tennis - If you don't have a tennis court in your backyard, subdivision, or complex, look up local courts and include information about them in your listing.
Pet Friendliness - The Travel Industry Association, says 14 percent of all American adults have traveled with a pet in the past three years. If you accept pets you can save your guest hundreds of dollars in boarding or sitter fees -- even if you charge a pet fee or refundable pet deposit.
"Many upgrades will pay for themselves after just a couple of extra bookings. Besides, your expenditure may be a tax write-off," said Karpinski.estor.