Guest article from 2021 Book Direct Show headline sponsors, Zeevou.
Almost all vacation rental managers are fed up with feeding online booking sites like Airbnb by paying hefty commission fees to get bookings. However, it’s a pity that many of them are still too dependent on OTAs and find it impossible to survive without them. They can set their business apart just because they think getting direct bookings is not easy to implement.
One of the most significant mental blocks this group of hosts might hold is the phobia of direct booking scams and hosting bad guests without the protection that some OTAs offer.
What Terrible Incidents Might Threaten Your Vacation Rental When Taking Direct Bookings?
As you can never figure out who your guests are and how they intend to use your property, partygoers, troublemakers, property destroyers, fraudsters, identity thieves, and criminals might target your vacation home. Just the idea of one of these nightmares is enough to scare hosts off from accepting direct bookings.
Whether or not the bookings coming from online booking sites are safe or how reliable OTAs’ guest-screening processes are, are not the subject of our discussion. Here, we will provide you with some guest screening methods to help you overcome the fear of direct booking scams and property misuse, hoping that all hosts can stand on their own feet and start getting their commission-free safe and profitable direct bookings.
Guest verification and evaluating prospective guests can help you avoid most incidents that can harm your property and its belongings or your VR business’s status.
Personal Information and ID Verification
You can find out more about the people who have booked with you by calling, messaging and emailing them. You might also screen their social media profiles like Facebook, Linkedin or Instagram to know your guests a bit better.
Collecting contact details like their home address and credit card info as well as asking your guests a few questions to find out the purpose of their trip, the number of guests coming and where they are coming from, can also help you spot the guests with red flags. For example, one-night bookings, weekend stays and last-minute local reservations tend to be risky and need to be handled with extra caution.
Verifying the identity of each guest may seem like a hassle, especially if you manage multiple properties. Moreover, it might put your guests off if they’re asked too many personal information questions simply for wanting to stay in a vacation home for a few days. In addition, it may feel like you need to be a detective with many years of experience to be able to recognise a suspicious case only from their personal information or pre-booking communications. However, you do need to ensure that your property is kept safe – after all, you are handing the keys over to them for a small amount of money! So how can you overcome these hurdles?
Background checks and running thorough credit verifications can decrease the risks of troublemakers showing up at your property up to a great degree.
As a host, you may not have access to estate databases or records. So, you can get help from professional online background check services.
However, a background check solely is not a reliable indication of whether somebody will commit a crime on your property or not. Nevertheless, it is the most basic measure to spot the red flags in a guest’s case.
Never hand in the keys to your guests unless you are a hundred per cent sure that they have read your house rules from A to Z and backwards. Set expectations with guests by explicitly stating your house’s Terms and Conditions and get them to sign these.
Avoid rule-breaking guests and increase your chances of hosting the most charming people by setting the ground rules in advance.
Ensure that your manual is comprehensive and reflects the most significant rules of your property, including check-in and check-out instructions, safety and security measures, parties, damages and breakage penalties, cleanliness guidelines, number of guests staying and neighbourhood considerations, as well as children and pet restrictions.
Have a well-written list of property dos and don’ts, update it from time to time, and add new rules when necessary.
Authorise Security Deposits
Setting up a damage deposit for your property is one of the proven ways to safeguard your vacation rental when taking direct bookings.
Authorising security deposits provides a financial guard for your vacation rental to cover damages, breakages and missing items from a property and retaliate against excessive cleaning fees and repair charges caused by guests. Moreover, it helps ensure that guests feel more vested in safeguarding their property as they feel that part of their money is at stake.
Temporarily holding an amount of money on a guest’s credit card helps you collect guest credit card information for validation and determine the strength of a potential guest’s credit and works as a deterrent for your guests from breaching your rules damaging your home.
Just ensure you charge your guests with the proper deposit amount based on your rates, amenities and the size and location of your vacation rental. Be careful to refund their security deposit or charge them as damage fees right away after their check-out. If you decide to keep one, make sure this is mentioned clearly in your listing. Airbnb now also allows you to handle security deposits off-platform if you are using a channel manager.
Get Short-term Rental Insurance
Renting your home to people you don’t know comes with numerous risks, from deliberate damages and broken or stolen items to accidental mistakes that can peril your property building and any of its furnishings, your rental income and liability. So, buy appropriate insurance with as much coverage as you can get to safeguard your investment property.
The type of insurance you need highly depends on the type of rental business you run. However, anyone who lets a property out must have short-term rental insurance, and homeowners insurance can’t provide comprehensive protection for your vacation rental.
Equip Your Place with Smart Security Devices
A house equipped with recent security devices like smart locks, CCTV cameras, and noise sensors is less vulnerable and rarely aimed at by unsavoury or troublesome visitors.
You can generate lock codes from your mobile device or computer for your smart locks and monitor who enters your property or get notified by any noise detectors if the noise levels in your property exceed a particular threshold. This way, you can accept direct bookings with peace of mind as your property can protect itself.
Sign a Host-Guest Contract
Asking your guests to sign a rental agreement upon booking is a safe way to shield yourself when taking direct bookings. A rental agreement is a signed contract between a host and guest, including the terms and conditions of the booking, check-in/checkout dates and times, early check-in or late checkout fees, and other essential house rules that the guests need to confirm and sign off before their stay.
Ensure that your contract is legally binding and have it signed before you let guests stay at your property.
Fortunately, vacation rental hosts managing their properties remotely using self-check-ins can send their contracts as PDF files via email to their guests and have them signed using digital signing solutions like Signable.
OTAs will always be a part of your distribution mix. However, relying on online booking websites alone is getting stuck in second gear- moving slowly forward but not getting anywhere in the highly competitive vacation rental market. This is why you need to join the Direct Booking Revolution!
But how can hosts protect themselves while they allow strangers in their homes? While manual guest screening is a time-consuming and tedious process, luckily, countless products, solutions and services are out there to help you take the hassle out of verifying your guests.
Zeevou’s automated booking confirmation process in which the guests are asked to confirm and provide additional information after placing a booking can fully automate the collection of guests’ personal information for you.
Zeevou gives you an SEO-friendly website for free. It not only enables you to take direct bookings with live rates and availability but also provides you with a 5-Step Booking Confirmation Process that helps you make your direct bookings as safe as possible.
This automated booking process ensures that any unmet conditions are fulfilled before check-in instructions are sent out. This provides complete protection for you as a host. As soon as a booking hits Zeevou, an email is sent out to the guest. It informs them of the booking requirements that have already been met and the still-outstanding steps. These booking steps can pretty much help you weed out problem guests from the start, as many of them may request to cancel themselves at this stage, and you can resell the night as quickly as possible.
Like many other features in Zeevou, 5-Step Booking Confirmation Process is highly customisable. You can decide which steps to activate and which fields you want to display or mark as compulsory for the guests to complete in Step 1.
Moreover, Zeevou enables you to ask your guests’ permission for future marketing efforts and to comply with GDPR requirements; it allows them to unsubscribe from any marketing emails sent through Zeevou.