Today’s travelers find lots of choices when they search for a short-term rental. For your listing to attract the right guests, you need to write a great short-term rental description that captures their attention and makes your home stand out from the competition.
Rather scrub the floors than face a writing task? These steps can make the job less daunting. Even if writing comes easy, a little planning will help you create a clear, compelling short-term rental description that tells travelers what they need to know and gives them a sense of what your home is like.
Step #1. Look at your home from the traveler’s point of view
Writing is always more successful when you look at your topic from your readers’ points of view instead of from your own. That’s how you decide what content to include, what to leave out, and how to present it.
Imagine you’re talking on the phone with a potential guest who knows only that your home might be right in terms of its general location, size, and price. What questions might the person ask? What features of your home and its location might encourage the person to choose yours instead of someone else’s? The answers to those questions point you to the content to use in the headline and the narrative description on your short-term rental listing site.
Writing Tip: If you had only 140 characters in which to convey what’s best about your home, what would you say? That’s your primary message, and you’ll use it to begin the narrative description (Steps #4 and #5)
Step #2. Craft a compelling headline
If you were looking for a place to stay when you and your kids visit, say, Montreal next year, which of these listings would you look at first?
“House for Short-Term Rent This Spring”
“Spacious, Fully Furnished Family Friendly 2+ bedroom Home with Stunning View for May and/or June”
The second headline would be far more likely to catch your attention. That’s because it gives you useful information and makes the home seem appealing. It not only tells you at a glance that the home is large enough, welcoming to kids, and available on your dates. The carefully chosen words “spacious,” “fully furnished,” and “stunning view” convey a sense of what the home is like and implies that the home has everything you might need for your stay.
To craft the headline for your own listing, think about what travelers might be looking for when they search for exchange or rental homes in your area. (For inspiration, browse some short-term rental listings.) Then jot down some descriptive words to include in your headline.
Now draft a few headlines. Write quickly, and play with the words until you come up with some headlines that seem right. Once you settle on a headline to use, edit it to make sure that every word is specific, clear, and needs to be there.
Writing Tip: Show your headline to family or friends and use their feedback to make it better.
Step #3. List points to include in the narrative description
By now you have a pretty good idea of what your short-term rental listing should be “selling.” Before you start to write the description, make a list of the features and items of information to include: key facts about your home and its location, along with anything that makes it special. Just as you did with the headline, write quickly and put down all the features that occur to you. You’ll edit the list later.
Writing Tip: Don’t try to write complete sentences or put the points in order – and please don’t worry about grammar, punctuation, or spelling! Doing any of that is almost guaranteed to stop the flow of ideas. Just list your home’s features as quickly as you can.
Step #4. Write a quick first draft
Read through your list. Then start writing. Use active language to help people visualize the home and the area. Be specific and truthful. Tell them what you like about living there and why they’ll find it the perfect place to stay. Write quickly, without stopping to censor yourself or edit your writing. You’ll clean it up later (Step #5).
Writing Tip: Start your short-term rental description with a sentence that conveys the most important message about your home.
Step #5. Improve the draft
Now is the time to be critical. Use the guidelines below to make sure that your narrative description makes your home come alive and answers travelers’ most important questions.
- Be specific. Compelling writing is specific and concrete, not vague and general. If you wrote, “It’s a fabulous apartment,” would the reader know what you mean? A more useful description would be: “The apartment has picture windows that overlook the ocean, a fully equipped cook’s kitchen, and a firm, comfortable king-sized European Sleepworks bed.”
- Use active language. Active language “talks” directly to readers. Restructure wordy, passive sentences such as, “Our fieldstone fireplace is greatly appreciated by visitors on evenings that are chilly,” to make them more active, direct, and concise: “You’ll appreciate the warmth of our fieldstone fireplace on chilly evenings.”
- Be concise. Your short-term rental description tells the story of your home. But it’s not a novel, meant to be savored slowly from cover to cover. Instead, readers will scan the content quickly to pick out the most interesting and relevant points. Short sentences and short paragraphs communicate clearly and quickly, so make it crisp, clear, and to the point, avoiding the common tendency to ramble or repeat yourself.
- Use adjectives with care. Descriptive words such as “cozy,” “spacious,” “elegant,” and “comfortable” can convey a sense of what your home is like. But what a Londoner or a New Yorker might consider a “spacious” apartment can seem little more than a closet to a traveler from Colorado. One person’s idea of “beautiful” or “elegant” might seem gaudy or overdone to someone else. Also, too many adjectives, capitalized words, and exclamation points will weaken instead of strengthen your short-term rental description. Instead, use specific language to vividly describe the features of your home.
- Be truthful. Your description creates expectations in the traveler’s mind, so it should closely match what they will find in your home. If yours is a studio apartment with the bed tucked into a windowless alcove, call it a studio with alcove bed, not a 1-bedroom. If it’s a 7th-floor walkup or the “kitchen” is a corner with a microwave and miniature fridge, say so. There’s no need to emphasize your home’s less desirable features, but fudging the truth or omitting important details may result in disappointed and even angry guests.
- Edit for a final draft. Before posting the description, reinforce your credibility by checking to make sure the punctuation, spelling and grammar are correct. Once it is, you’re good to go!
Have you found other strategies to help you write a short-term rental description that makes your home stand out from the competition? Please share your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.
A version of this post appeared on the Lodgify blog. For more, see “How to Create a Great Listing,” “Five Tips for Taking Great Home Listing Photos,” and “Help Your Home Stand Out from the Competition.”