I recently scoured listing sites and sent out inquiries to short-term rental hosts in Berlin. What an eye-opener! It’s been a while since I’ve experienced the process from a guest’s point of view. I was quickly reminded that the way you reply to short-term rental inquiries is key to your success as a host.
Tip #1. When you get an inquiry, respond right away
I was pleased and impressed with the hosts who got back to me quickly; with the others, not so much. A quick response puts you at least one step ahead of the competition. Delaying for a day or two might mean missing out on the booking altogether. Check your email often for inquiry alerts. Your listing site might also offer text alerts, which can be helpful if you’re often on the go.
Tip #2. Read inquiries carefully before you reply
It didn’t take me long to realize that lots of people send out inquiries without having read past the headline. Our listing clearly states the number of beds, the location, the dates the home is available, the minimum rental period, and the price. I still get a fair number of “junk” inquiries: A family of four for our 1-bedroom condo or a couple who needs a place immediately when the calendar shows that it won’t be available for two months. I also get inquiries from brokers fishing for new properties to handle and, occasionally, scammers looking to make a quick buck.
Now I read inquiries carefully before I respond. Those from people who are clearly not a good fit get a polite message with a brief explanation of the reason (“Our home isn’t large enough/isn’t safe for toddlers/isn’t available on your dates/etc.”). The obvious scam (“Hello, my name is Bernard…”) goes into my junk mail folder. Brokers get a “thanks but no thanks” message.
Tip #3. Be polite and friendly
I crossed one Berlin rental off my list as soon as I got the host’s response. Ignoring the questions I’d asked in the inquiry, he (or she – I couldn’t tell) wrote little more than “It’s available. Book now or you’ll lose out.” The apartment looked perfect in the photos and it was exactly where we wanted to be. But the host’s rude, abrupt response clearly signaled that this was not a person I wanted to deal with. Not a person I could trust.
It’s a fact that first impressions count. A polite, friendly response makes a positive connection that can mean the difference between a guest choosing your place and someone else’s. Keep in mind that email can come across as rude, abrupt, or even demanding so write in complete sentences, and use “tone” words such as “please,” and “thank you,” and “we would appreciate.” NEVER USE ALL CAPS, which, as you can see, comes across as shouting.
Tip #4. Answer the guest’s questions – and be honest!
No matter how detailed your listing, most guests ask questions in their initial inquiry: is the area safe at night? Noisy or quiet? Is there public transportation? A washer and drier? A coffeemaker? What size is the bed? Some might ask about pets, others about discounts. We’ve had guests ask how many stairs there are from the garage to the main part of the house. Some ask about the layout and specific location of the house, the size of the TV, whether there’s an outdoor grill, or parking, and more.
The questions guests ask give you useful clues about what’s important to them, so try to give them complete, accurate answers: “Yes, the rent includes hi-speed wireless Internet, and we have a full-size washer and dryer.” “We are a 20-30 minute drive from the university, depending on the time of day.”
Clarify any vague or confusing questions. “How big is your home” might mean “How many people does it sleep?” or “How many rooms does it have?” “Is the area lively” could mean “Is it noisy” or “Are there cafes, bars, and restaurants nearby?”
Finally, be truthful, even if that means losing the guest: “If you have to travel during commute hours, it can take up to 45 minutes to get across the bridge.”
Tip #5. Ask questions of your own
One guest might include lots of information in the initial inquiry. Another might say little or nothing about themselves, the size of their group, or their reasons for traveling to your area. If you think your home is right for a guest but need more information to be sure, it’s fine to include questions of your own in your response, as long as you ask them clearly and politely. Common questions might include the number of people in their group, the ages of any children, their reasons for coming to your area and whether they’ve been there before.
Tip #6. Keep it legal!
When responding to inquiries and deciding whether to accept a booking, you must treat everyone equally. That means not asking questions about or basing a decision on a person’s race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, or disability.
Tip #7. Clarify key details
To avoid wasting both your time and the guest’s, clarify details such as the dates, the maximum number of people, the total amount of the rent plus any fees, when the rent will be due, and the security/damage deposit, if any, and other information guests need before they book. For example: “Just to clarify: The earliest you would be able to move in would be late in the afternoon on August 31, and you would have to leave by 10 a.m. on September 30.” “The security deposit is fully refundable if there is no damage.”
Tip #8. Offer helpful information
If the initial inquiry gives you a sense of what the people are looking for, mention a few things that might “sell” them on your home: easy freeway access, a supermarket right down the street, the great park two blocks away, proximity to the wedding or conference they plan to attend, or the peace and quiet that’s perfect for working on their novel.
Tip #9. Remind guests which home is yours
Guests often send out several inquiries at a time. Save a little back-and-forth by including the listing number with a detail or two that refers to the home or its location: “Thanks for asking about renting our 2+ bedroom Parker Street home (listing #61110).”
Tip #10. Save time with templates
If you live in a big city or a popular tourist destination, you’re likely to get lots of inquiries. Save yourself time by developing “templates” for the messages you send most often. Once the templates are available, it takes only a few seconds to customize them for a specific guest.
Top #11. If possible, set up a conversation
When we found what seemed like the right apartment in Berlin, the host and I engaged in a lot of back-and-forth email before we felt ready to make a booking. I felt frustrated by the process of trying to get my questions answered, and I’m sure she felt the same about having to answer so many questions.
A phone, Skype, or WhatsApp conversation would have streamlined the process, making most of those emails unnecessary. I’d booked through Airbnb, which blocks direct contact information, so that wasn’t possible. But when it is, try for a conversation. The process of asking and answering questions during a direct conversation helps to clarify expectations, increases confidence and builds trust for both you and your guests.
Tip #12. Follow up
Even if guests decide to take another short-term rental, send a nice note thanking them for considering your place and encouraging them to get in touch the next time they visit your area. Who knows? The place they chose might not work out, and if it doesn’t they might decide to take yours after all.
Any other tips for replying to inquiries? Please share them with us in the comments or on our Facebook page.