10 Things Vacation Rental Hosts Need to Consider Before Shooting their Homes

On any given night, two million guests are staying in other people’s homes around the world thanks to Airbnb. Vacation rental websites like Airbnb, are responsible for connecting guests looking for a place to stay with hosts that have homes for them to stay in. Currently on Airbnb, there are more than five million active listings globally – that’s more listings than the top five hotel chains combined have rooms!

With that being the case, competition can be savage. There is no shortage of options for guests looking for a place to stay. How then do vacation rental hosts rise above the sea of competition and differentiate their listing from the thousands of alternative options available to prospective guests?

Getting booked begins with having a great listing. Whilst there are literally hundreds of levers available to hosts for improving their booking rate; having an inviting, professional and informative listing is simply a non-negotiable. And the first thing a guest looks at when reviewing a listing is its photos.

Listings without professional and engaging photos simply won’t even make the shortlist of properties to be considered.

Airbnb listings with professional photos tend to get booked 24% more often than listings without professional photos and earn 40% more than other listings in their area without professional photos.

Whether taking photos yourself or seeking the services of a professional photography service, there are key considerations to keep front of mind prior to taking any snaps of your place. Below we outline 10 things every vacation rental host needs to consider before shooting their homes.

1. Clean Your Home as if a Guest Were About to Arrive

You may think of your photoshoot as simply taking a few quick pics to be uploaded to your listing, but these photos represent how guests are going to be imagining your space. It’s a fair assumption that if your home were ever to look its best, now would be that time. Clean your home as if an excited guest with high expectations were about to arrive: Landscape your garden, remove dishes and cleaning products from the sink, wipe down counter-tops and table surfaces, ensure open closets are neat and tidy and make beds like they do in hotels. Don’t be left with regret upon receipt of your photos for not having done everything to show off your home in its best light.

2. De-Clutter Your Space

An offshoot (pardon the pun!) of preparing a clean and tidy home for your photoshoot is to de-clutter the space. Your photos need to illuminate your property’s personality and remain authentic to its true character. At the same time, your guests are unlikely to have an interest in that stack of magazines that have accumulated over the last few years. Make sure to de-clutter your space, remove unnecessary items from tables and countertops, and conceal any exposed electrical cabling.

3. Put Your Best Foot Forward

One of the six review criteria that a host is rated on at the conclusion of their stay is accuracy. Naturally, guests expect the place they book to look like the home they walk into shortly thereafter. This expectation should not hinder hosts from putting their best foot forward. Use little staging tricks like purchasing decorative pillows, adding beautiful flowers or displaying a bowl of fresh fruit to help prospective guests envisage a life they could otherwise be living themselves.

4. Highlight Unique Features

Many guests choose to book through sites like Airbnb because they are not looking for cookie-cutter accommodation options. These guests frequently seek something unique, special or memorable in a way that hotels (even a nice one!) simply are not. Make sure that your home’s personality jumps off your listing and captivates the attention of prospective guests. The easiest way of doing this will be in your photos.

5. Brighten up the Inside

Maximize the amount of natural light by shooting in the day and opening all blinds and curtains. Turn on all lights, including surface lights (like those on your stove). Make sure to replace any light globes that may have burnt out and ensure flashes do not show up as reflections on surfaces when taking any photos.

6. Capture the Outside too

Letting prospective guests know about your amazing location or the local area can be just as important as getting them excited about the stay in your actual home. Include photos of your local neighborhood and any key attractions or places of interest close by to you too. The best time to take photos outdoors will be the first and last hour of the day’s sunlight.

7. Take Photos in Landscape Orientation

Whenever possible, take photos in landscape (instead of portrait) orientation. Pictures should ideally be composed for their intended display medium, and landscape-oriented photos simply display better on Airbnb.

8. Upload One Picture Per Room

As a rule of thumb, only upload one picture per room. Unless additional photos capture additional features that should be brought to the attention of a guest, a smaller number of high-quality photos will focus prospective guests on the key visuals that support booking your place. Depending on the size of your home, 15-25 photos is considered a good number to include for your listing.

9. Use Photo Captions Effectively

Whilst a picture may tell a thousand words, your photos’ captions help to fill in the blanks. Good photo captions complement good visuals and reinforce all the great things guests can already see with their own two eyes. Use photo captions as an opportunity to explicitly communicate key selling points that may not be obvious from the pictures alone, or to paint a picture of the phenomenal experience guests are likely to have.

10. Sequence can be as Important as the Photos Themselves

As strangers who are yet to see your home, prospective guests need as much hand-holding as possible in helping them understand your space. Use your photos to create the closest thing possible to a guided tour of your home. This can be achieved by sequencing your photos in an order that makes its way logically through your home. Hosts typically start with the most captivating photo, which is commonly the lounge room or master bedroom. The first photo is also frequently the ‘showcase photo that gets featured in the booking site’s search results, so make sure it’s a winner!

Previously, listings with good photos stood in contrast to listings with bad photos. The growth and professionalization of vacation rental booking sites like Airbnb have stepped-up the game and elevated the benchmark for what guests have come to expect. Great is the new good, which mean that good photos no longer even cut it. Ensure that obtaining great photos becomes a critical ingredient in your recipe for getting found more often, winning more bookings and making more money on vacation rental sites like Airbnb.

Written by: Evian Gutman

Evian is the Founder & CEO of Padlifter – the one-stop-shop for getting found more often, winning more bookings and making more money on Airbnb. He is the author of the best-selling book ‘The Definitive Step-by-Step Guide to Making Money on Airbnb’ and is an Airbnb Superhost that has hosted over 500 guests.

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