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The Perils of DIY Vacation House Rentals

  • 2016-11-08

If you have been thinking about vacation house rentals as an easy way to bring in extra income, keep reading. Between Airbnb and Homestay, just about anyone can enter the short term rentals market. Everyone has a story about a friend, family member or neighbour who has ‘made a killing’ renting out their second bedroom. Many will wax lyrical about the cool experience of meeting people from all over the world.

The Perils of DIY Vacation House Rentals

Is it really that easy, though? While it may seem that vacation house rentals are the solution to just about every financial problem, taking the DIY approach can end up costing you far more than you ever imagined in the long run.

What No-One Tells You About Vacation House Rentals

You hear about the fun stories of young, trendy world travellers. You hear about rooms being rented out for just a week in the year. You hear about how easy online platforms have made everything. What you don’t hear about however is the realities of vacation rental. Doing it all yourself may work for some people, of course. For many new property investors, the DIY route offers a number of potential pitfalls. These include the following:

  • Guests expect a high level of service that is akin to a hotel. The exception to this is the budget traveller, who is used to backpacker lodges and other low-cost accommodation. Providing your guests with everything they need for their stay is not always as easy (or cheap) as it seems. Will you be able to stay on call 24-7 to handle any and all queries, complaints, requests and issues? Do you have the capacity to provide round the clock concierge services? Can you provide daily housekeeping? Unless you are able to take on the role of managing your rental as a full-time job, you will likely be unable to compete with a managed vacation rental.
  • Marketing and promotion can be a full-time job on its own. Do you have time to actively promote your property across multiple channels? While also managing your property and catering to your guests? Simply adding a listing to Airbnb or Gumtree is not going to ensure a consistently booked property. During the busy summer season, your bookings may naturally increase. Once winter arrives, you will need to have a solid promotion strategy in place if you want to maintain a booked calendar.
  • Guests need to be carefully screened. No-one likes to think of being scammed, but just like any other online transaction, bookings need to be carefully screened before they are confirmed. This can be challenging for first time investors. How do you know what to look for when screening guests? How can you tell suspicious Airbnb guests from genuine ones?
  • Managing your bookings can be challenging. Sure, there are online tools to make things a little easier. You will still have to think ahead, 99% of the time. What will you do for cancelled bookings? How can you keep your calendar full all year round and still get time to enjoy a stay at your vacation rental yourself?
  • The short term rental space is highly competitive. Not only competitive, but also rather cut-throat. In Cape Town alone, there is a large number of 4 and 5-star properties to be found. Standing out from the competition is often difficult if you have no idea how to position your property correctly. Relying on word of mouth alone is never a good tactic. Why should guests pick your property over a similar property that has a better listing?


You may be able to easily wear multiple hats as a property owner. It may be possible to juggle the management, marketing, strategy, screening and scheduling if you plan to give up your day job and manage your rental full-time. Even then, without experience and solid expertise in vacation house rentals property management, you will soon discover that it is nowhere near as easy as it seems.

The choice is simple… you could either dabble in rentals once in a while to meet people and expand your horizons. Or, you could take your property seriously and invest in a short term rental manager who can help you get the results you want. The benefits of working with an expert are numerous, from increased bookings to higher income potential.

If you’re ready to get serious about vacation house rentals, contact Totalstay today to arrange an evaluation of your property.