The 5 Worst Mistakes You Can Make as a Short-Term Rental Operator

November 23, 2020

Perfecting your operations in the short-term rental industry is an art form. It takes the right combination of guest experience, industry knowledge and listing optimization. Only a seasoned veteran in the space can bring in quality guests while securing the highest average daily rates (ADRs).

For new operators, the short-term rental industry is a minefield of mistakes waiting to happen. If you make the wrong one, it can set you back in a major way. To ensure your business stays booming, you need to study other property managers. Learn from their mistakes instead of making your own. To get you started, here are the 5 worst mistakes you can make as a short-term rental operator:

1. Failing to optimize your booking channels

In a perfect world, every guest would book through your website, saving you from high commission fees by paying you directly. Since that’s rarely the case, it’s best to maximize your exposure by listing on as many platforms as possible. For the highest occupancy, list on the major OTAs like Booking.com, Expedia and Vrbo. From there, branch out to other channels that best suit your business.

OTAs like Booking.com and Expedia come out with new promotions and partner programs all the time. To increase visibility for your listings and to attract more travellers, take advantage of the opportunities most relevant to your property and your market. Pro tip: build a relationship with your dedicated account manager and ask them to keep you in the loop.

2. Operating without a property management software

Without property management software (PMS), it’s nearly impossible to grow your business, especially if you’re listed on multiple OTAs. All of your time will be tied up logging in and out of accounts, editing listings or checking reservations. A good PMS, on the other hand, consolidates multiple booking channels, streamlining the experience for you and your team.

With a single login, you can access your communications, your calendar and, of course, your reservations all in one place. Better yet, a PMS, like Hostaway, offers 24/7 support to ensure you’re taking full advantage of all the available features.

3. Not preparing for the slow season

Riding the highs of peak season is manageable. The bigger challenge is preparing for the revenue dips in the slow-season. Operators who don’t know how to handle the fiscal year’s dreary months see empty calendars, fewer guests and riskier reservations.

It’s important to prepare for the slow season during the high season, when you have a bigger budget to play around with. Put time and resources into crafting a strategy that will optimize your booking channels and increase visibility for your property listings.

Determine a target revenue for each month of the slow season, then set a deadline to reach it. Adjust your pricing and set up promotions well in advance to secure reservations with a longer booking window. This will give you the leeway to bring in higher-paying guests closer to the check-in date. If you still have availability after hitting your benchmark, you can increase your rates to make the most of those last-minute reservations.

To achieve these monthly revenue goals, consider setting up paid travel ads on your listings. With booking channels like Expedia, you can use these to target travel dates, length of stay, purchase paths and more.

4. Neglecting property maintenance

Once you’ve expanded your business beyond a handful of properties, maintaining them yourself becomes unmanageable. Instead, build an operations ‘department’ that focuses on property upkeep. Whether it’s an entire cleaning crew or a single on-call employee, this will free up your time to optimize listings and improve the guest experience.

With a dedicated team keeping tabs on your properties, you always have eyes and ears on the ground to catch any issues. This way, you can resolve problems quickly so they don’t affect other guests.

If possible, arrange for someone to perform weekly or monthly property inspections. Thorough upkeep combined with regular maintenance will save you a lot of money in the long run.

5. Not screening your guests

By not screening your guests, you’re putting your properties and your business at risk. While the majority of guests have good intentions, you’re going to come across the occasional bad egg. Having a thorough guest screening process ensures you catch these high-risk guests.

Property managers who don’t screen their guests always see more incidents. Whether it’s late-night parties, noise violations or property damage, these incidents will affect your relationship with building management and your neighbours.

To protect their properties, some operators choose to refuse last-minute bookings and one-night stays—but this eliminates a huge revenue potential. With a process in place to vet everyone who enters your property, you can cut back on these booking restrictions, optimizing your revenue while still safeguarding your operations.

Guest screening, however, can be a daunting task, requiring a great deal of time and resources. To streamline the process, use a guest-screening software like Autohost that lets you focus on what matters most: improving your operations and creating a 5-star guest experience.

Setting up for success

While it’s important to avoid incidents where you can, mistakes happen, especially in an industry as complicated as short-term rentals. What matters most is that you learn from these mistakes and overcome them. Good luck out there!


This post was written by Autohost, an intelligent guest-screening system for hospitality providers. The software runs Airbnb background checks to verify guests and protect properties, owners and communities in the short-term rental space.