Before your first guests arrive at your home, you’ll need to prepare your space. Like most of us, you’ve probably had family or friends visit your home in the past, and you’re thinking— it can’t be much different, right? But prepping your home for paying guests is a lot more involved than preparing for a traditional houseguest.
Being a short term rental host means that you’re also a small business. And you need to invest in your space like a business owner— by being strategic and smart, and thinking about your guest’s safety and satisfaction. At Bear Lake Premier Cabins, we’ve prepared hundreds of homes and cabins to be successful vacation rentals. Let’s walk through the basics together.
Edit your personal items and valuables
Items that hold value to you— whether sentimental value or cash value— should be removed and placed in a safe spot. Consider creating a locked owner’s closet where you can stash valuables and personal items. Remove all highly personal objects too— like family photos. Your cabin should be warm and inviting, but sometimes too many personal objects can make guests feel awkward or like they are intruding in your space. Edit accordingly.
Forward your mail
Investing in a local post office box can make the transition easier. Or add a locked mailbox to your property. You’ll want the locked mailbox to be a bit larger than a traditional post box so that you don’t have to check it every day. Make sure you update your default mailing address on accounts like Amazon, too.
Clean, clean, clean… and then clean a little bit more
Cleanliness has always been at the top of the list for important areas in a short term rental home. In fact, most negative reviews of rental cabins deal with cleanliness issues. With the rise of the pandemic in 2020, cleanliness is now the single most vital area to focus on in your home. This is not the area to scrimp on.
If you’re not already working with a property management company like Bear Lake Premier Cabins, then hiring a professional cleaning service is recommended. If you’re unable to hire a cleaning team, then use an in-depth checklist like this one when cleaning your rental. Once you’ve cleaned everything and you think you’re ready— have an impartial person perform an inspection of the cabin to make sure nothing has been missed.
Install remote locks
Another amenity that post-pandemic guests are looking for is a touchless check-in process. When guests arrive at your cabin, they simply enter the code into the keypad and the door is unlocked. Installing keyless locks with codes is an easy and convenient way to make the check-in process seamless for you and your guests. And they will love the low-contact process. No more fumbling or losing keys, and it’s easier to sanitize a keypad than a ring of old keys. Make sure to highlight this benefit in your listing.
Take a walk around your space and critique it for safety. Are there any stray wires, loose tiles, or wonky floorboards that someone could trip on? Now is the time to fix these small, nagging items. You’ll also want to replace old smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, and confirm the batteries are fresh. Nobody wants to deal with a chirping smoke alarm in the middle of the night.
Take a good look at your home insurance
Speaking of safety— you’ll want to beef up your insurance a bit before you begin allowing rentals. Renting your property in exchange for money is considered a business transaction, and therefore won’t be covered on a typical homeowners policy.
Vacation rental management policies cover things like liability, content, amenities (like swimming pools), and lost income. Adding an accidental damage policy will also go a long way. Talk to your insurance agent or contact one of our knowledgeable staff, and heed their advice.
Create a welcome book
Every cabin has its quirks, so creating a welcome book for your guests that explains the distinct details of your home is a nice touch. In this welcome book, you can also include local recommendations for restaurants and entertainment, brief instructions for the appliances, and schedules for regular maintenance workers— like pool cleaners or water delivery. You’ll also want to explain garbage removal procedures and provide numbers for emergencies. Laminate the pages so they can be easily cleaned, and make sure you keep it updated and current.
Consider welcome baskets
In the short term rental market, it’s important to stand out from the crowd. By providing a thoughtful welcome basket that’s filled to the brim with local goodies, you’ll be memorable right from the start. Welcome baskets go a long way with cultivating the five-star reviews that you’ll need in your tank as you move forward. For the small price to assemble a welcome basket, the return is worth it.
Perform general maintenance
Turn every light on and make sure there are no burnt-out bulbs. Confirm that the front stairs and entryway are free of debris or hazards like leaves or ice. Clean or replace all HVAC filters and make sure the A/C and heat work properly. If there’s a fireplace in your cabin, make sure it’s clean and ready for use— or clearly marked that it’s for looks only. Make sure the water filter in the refrigerator is clean and current. Tighten any loose doorknobs or furniture knobs. You get the idea.
Get to know NoiseAware
Founded by an Airbnb host who was not-so-pleasantly surprised by a “quiet weekend” guest that turned into an all-out rager, NoiseAware is an innovative technology that monitors noise pollution around your home. It can tell you immediately when something is a little too loud at your rental— and help to prevent potential damage caused by unauthorized parties or events. Totally worth the investment for priceless peace of mind.
Upgrade your WIFI
A lot of people are working from home these days and completing school tasks from home, too. Make sure your WIFI speeds are lightning-fast and can accommodate multiple devices and users. Change your WIFI password so that it’s simple to remember and enter. Make sure the WIFI log-in info is clearly visible when guests arrive or it has been communicated beforehand.
Stock up on the basics
You’ll want to supply a certain starter amount of household items to each of your guests. Make sure you have plenty of back up, too— so buy in bulk. Here are some basics to provide:
- Paper towels
- Toilet paper
- Tissue boxes
- Disinfectant wipes
- A bottle of bleach
- Hand sanitizer
- Dish detergent
- Laundry detergent (make sure to wipe these bottles down between guests; they get sticky)
Prepare for emergencies
Have a fully-stocked first aid kit on hand. Provide multiple fire extinguishers and make sure they are current on their inspections— some cities require this for rental homes, so check with your local fire department or property manager. Place an umbrella by the door. If you’re advertising your home as being family or pet friendly, consider adding stair gates, outlet covers, and door safety locks.
Step up your curb appeal
If you have an outdoor space, add an intimate sitting area. Make sure to clean out here, too— patio furniture gets grimy quickly. Add solar lighting to pathways. Decorate with attractive planters filled with low-maintenance shrubbery. Consider adding tasteful and stylish decorations during the holidays.
Update your listing photos
When shopping around for a rental cabin, most people are simply scanning the photographs. Our attention spans are short, and we tend to move on quickly when the photos aren’t great. Spend a little cash and hire a professional real estate photographer to take your listing photos— you’ll be shocked at the difference this investment will make in your bookings. Most pros worth their salt will also offer ariel photos, which takes your listing to a whole new level— literally!
It’s all about the details
Put yourself in your guest’s shoes— and add any items you think would enhance your stay. Provide a few board games, a deck of cards, and maybe some books. Add streaming services like Netflix and Hulu to your television. Decorate the living area with warm table lamps, and have convenient, subtle lighting next to the bed. Have a clean and cozy throw blanket on the sofa. Store extra pillows and linens in the closet. Buy the highest quality bedding and towels you can afford.
You don’t have to empty the kitchen
Have some basic, non-perishable pantry items in the kitchen for guest use. Think dry spices, condiments, salt and pepper, coffee filters, tea bags, Keurig pods, and hot chocolate packets. Place some local delivery menus in a drawer, along with a pad of paper and a pen. Also, replace any pots or pans that show excessive wear and tear, and inspect all dishes and glassware for chips, cracks, or stains.
We need to mention cleaning… one more time
Yup, it’s that important. Make sure you clean and sanitize all small appliances— like the toaster and coffee maker. The microwave should sparkle like it’s brand new, or as close as possible. Freshen up the garbage disposal with cleaning pellets specifically designed for this task. Clean the refrigerator ice maker— dump the old ice out. Clear the dryer lint filter. Wipe down the ceiling fans. Clean the silverware drawer— there’s always some stray crumbs there. Use a Magic Eraser on all scuff marks.
At first, preparing your home for a short term rental guest can seem a bit daunting. But once you have a few guests under your belt, the prepping process will become like second nature. To be sure you don’t overlook anything, keep this checklist handy and refer to it often.
If you’re looking for additional help in transitioning your cabin into the short-term rental market, get in touch with our expert staff at Bear Lake Premier Cabins. We have years of property management experience and tons of valuable local info to share with smart and savvy homeowners like you. Give us a call or drop us a line today.