Managing Your Vacation Rental

Top Ten Mistakes in Managing a Vacation Rental

Written by Joan Talmadge
4.1/5 - (8 votes)

Managing a vacation rental property can be rewarding as well as challenging. Based on 22+ years of vacation rental experience, we’ve created a list of the 10 most common mistakes in rental home management.

  1. Loading on extra fees for your guests.

    A vacationer sees your rate initially and then is shocked and disappointed to see a much higher rate once the additional fees have been added.  The lodging tax alone is enough to make them blink. Read more about Pricing and Marketing for the 2020 Season.

  2. Not updating your pictures.

    The quality of online pictures has vastly improved over the last few years, even from cell phones.  Because good quality pictures are vital to the success of booking your home, be sure that you have large, clear, current, and appealing photos. Read about how to take new interior photos in the off season.

  3. Charging the same price for every summer week.

    Some summer weeks are more popular than others (e.g., the last two weeks of July and first two of August are the most popular). So it’s best to tier your prices to reflect the relative demand from vacationers. Read more about not charging a flat rate throughout the season.

  4. Not updating the calendar regularly.

    If vacationers see an outdated “last updated” date on your listing, they may well think that the pricing and availability are not accurate and move on to the next listing. Read about 5 reasons to keep your calendar up to date.

  5. Not responding quickly to inquiries.

    If you are slow to respond to an inquiry, you might lose out to another homeowner who does respond right away. Read more about the importance of responding quickly to inquiries and how the Text Alert feature can help.

  6. Not contacting your guests shortly before they arrive or welcoming them.

    Especially if you sent information to them months ago when they booked, send an email with directions, how to get into your home, and the check-in time.  Remind them of the amenities your home provides and, more importantly, what it doesn’t have (e.g., linens or towels).   Read more about pre-arrival communication with your guests.Also, greeting them when they arrive with a welcome note, an information book, and a welcome gift will go a long way towards creating a positive first impression on your guests. Read more about welcoming your guests with gifts.

  7. Not checking in with your guests after their arrival.

    Leaving your phone number with an invitation to call you is not sufficient. Be proactive. Call or text your guests shortly after they arrive to see if everything is ok and if they have any questions.  It’s the best way to avoid an unnecessary bad review and ensure a positive one.  Read more about making your guests feel valued.

  8. Not returning the security deposit promptly.

    This can create anxiety and even result in a negative guest review.  As soon as you know that the guests left your home in good condition, return the security deposit. Read more about how returning security deposits fosters positive reviews.

  9. Withholding some of the security deposit for minor things.

    Expect wear and tear.  If you do withhold some or all of the security deposit, be sure to document the damage (even take pictures) and notify the guest, in writing, as soon after their departure as possible.  Even if you feel completely justified in withholding funds, keep in mind that the backlash from your guests may not be worth it. Read more about withholding security deposits.

  10. Not asking for guest reviews.

    Guest reviews foster credibility and trust and thus strongly influence the decision-making process of prospective guests. Your guests are much more likely to write a review if you ask them to. Read about how to solicit guest reviews.

At the risk of sounding “preachy,” we are in a very competitive vacation rental market these days! In order to succeed in filling our homes every season, our listings must be as attractive, informative, and up-to-date as possible. And we must manage our rentals in a way that creates such a great vacationer experience that our guests will write glowing guest reviews and want to return. By avoiding the above missteps, we can achieve success despite the new taxes and growing competition.

About the author

Joan Talmadge

Joan Talmadge - My husband Jeff and I created in 1997, shortly after buying our Cape home. My background includes teaching fifth grade for 8 years and writing and editing educational publications for 15. I get great joy from helping fellow homeowners successfully rent their homes. Jeff and I are proud to have two of our three grown children working for, truly a family-run business. For me, the Cape and Islands are magical all times of the year -- whether it's walking on Nauset Beach, playing golf, or enjoying family and friends. Email Joan


  • I would like to rent for one or two weeks this summer. So may I sign up for your 3 month subscription. And will you explain the Chatham tax to me. Thank you.

    • Hi Peggy,
      Yes, you can certainly renew your subscription for 3 months. You would be exempt from the tax (which is 12.45% in Chatham) if you rent for 14 days or less out of the calendar year.