Standing Out From The Crowd

Updated: Mar 27, 2019

Key Design Elements for a Successful Short Term Rental

It has been incredible to see the growth of Short Term Rentals and the market share they now command. As more and more investors see the gold mine of opportunity - more and more investors are jumping in. What does this mean? According to the statistics website Statista, revenue in the vacation rentals segment will amount to $14,458m in 2019 and is only expected to rise every year. With ever-increasing competition, what are you doing to stand out from the crowd?

In this article, I will give you key design elements that will help you do just this. Keep in mind, some of these are relatively simple and do not require much effort. You will need a keen eye and the ability to be honest with yourself. Any one of these alone can make a significant impact on ratings, guest satisfaction, enhance your listing images and maximize your bottom line.

A Sense of Place:

This one is HUGE and something many Hosts regularly fail to address. Most guests are traveling - whether driving one hour from a nearby city or flying from halfway around the world - to stay in your space. As many hosts typically live in the same town or state they own their rentals - it is easy to forget that someone is coming here to experience your city. What are you doing to enhance the identity of your hometown? There is no need to be super kitschy (unless that is what you are going for), but simple touches go a long way. Local artwork showcasing nearby attractions, an overall color palette that is inspired by the local surroundings, or amenities such as soaps and lotions from local businesses are examples of simple and thoughtful touches. What is the story you are trying to sell?


This element is another KEY design feature that Hosts overlook. Light can make or break a space. Most hotel brands have a lighting designer or consultant on the project from the very beginning. A well-lit home sets the overall tone of the environment. This notion is valid for either day or night. During the day, walk your property. Is everything evenly lit? Do your window coverings allow the natural daylight to stream in and liven up the room? At night, can you safely walk around the space? Alternatively, is your lighting working against you making the rental feel dark and seedy? Your home should have multiple sources of light in each room. It won't break the bank to add a few lamps.

Quality Furniture (Where it is necessary):

"You get what you pay for." Is it necessary to purchase a $5,000 designer Wingback chair? No, but don’t be surprised if six months after you started renting out your space the sofa you paid $300 for looks like a sloppy mess and the dining chairs you found at a discount retailer are broke. You have a true hospitality space you are managing. Look for brands that say "Contract Grade" or "BIFMA Approved." These pieces have extra support built into their framework and are rated for use up to 250 pounds. Go for quality on the furniture that you want to last you five years. (This is the standard life cycle of a typical hotel room.) Invest more in quality pieces up front, and you will not be replacing them as often.


Have you ever stayed in a hotel where the bed was hard as a rock, they gave you two small pancake pillows and a cheap comforter, and you woke up the next morning tired and aching? I have - and I NEVER went back. Don’t do this to your guests! Have your guests RAVE about how comfortable your accommodations are. Ideally, provide a good quality mattress, at least four pillows per queen/king and two pillows per twin, a quality comforter or duvet and an additional throw blanket. All in down if you want to WOW them.

Where's the Juice:

How many electronic devices to you have access to you right now? Your kids? Your spouse? How many of these travel with you? A typical family of four can travel with something like two cell phones, two iPads, backup chargers, maybe a DSLR with a battery pack and a laptop. Does your space have enough available charging ports? Hotels have been integrating these within their rooms for years. As much as possible make it clear where they are located. Integrate thoughtfully, don’t just stick a random extension cord in a corner and hope your guest finds it.

Social Media Moment:

Were you aware that as of July 2018, nearly 60% of Airbnb users are under the age of 35? So what do those Millennials love more than anything? Sharing. They post about almost everything.

(Disclaimer - I am technically a millennial but as I am on the cusp I can both speak Millennial and Gen X. The later of which my husband is - and what I love to remind him of almost daily.)

What does this mean for you? Walk your space - where is that photo opportunity to snap a selfie that screams "Look at me, I am at this amazing rental in Awesome City!" It doesn’t have to be something grand. We stayed in an adorable Airbnb in Flagstaff recently and on one of the walls were oversized rustic "FLG" letters. Every time one of your guests snaps a photo and shares it to a social media platform - they are giving you FREE marketing.

Final Thoughts:

There is so much more I could touch on and will do so in my upcoming blog posts. The burgeoning short term rental market is exciting. It has given the opportunity for many to become boutique hoteliers. As the market becomes ever more competitive what are you doing to make sure you are a guest's first choice?

Have a question about one of the notes above or something completely unrelated? Send over a quick email. I am here to help you! Email me a link to your listing and I would be happy to review and send you some constructive feedback. Just be prepared to receive it. Sometimes it takes an outsiders eye to point out the glaringly obvious.



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