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Choosing a Villa Rental website to advertise your property

Choosing the company to advertise your Croatian Villa is a difficult decision. First decide whether you want to pay up front or advertise for free (but the company take a percentage of your total income.) If you expect to take more than £8,000 -£10,000 in rental income then the upfront route is the best but will the upfront company generate you enough leads to earn £10,000? On the assumption that you want to maximise turnover (without slipping into higher rates of Croatian taxation) then the payment method is less important than the traffic at the website.

The next question is do people search by country, or just for a villa anywhere? My experience is that the majority of traffic comes from the latter source. I ran a Croatia specific villa rental site for over ten years and was highly ranked for Croatian search phrases but could not generate for my customers the same return in bookings that the big hitting "general" companies could achieve, if looking for traffic volume then you can exclude Croatia specific websites.

The final thought is currency exchange and transfer; if you are British and you end up with lots of enquiries from people wanting to pay in Euros then you will be faced with costs of upto 3% which you have to carry or pass onto the renter (and vice versa).

The big two showdown is between Home Away (who own Owners Direct & Homelidays) and Trip Adviser.

Company Name Alexa Ranking Cheapest price for 12 months of advertising Google position for search phrase "Holiday Rentals" Comments
HomeAway 3,000 £249.00 1 Partner of Owners Direct – generates mostly European renters
Owners Direct 19,000 £199.00 2 Partner of Home Away – generates mostly British renters
holidaylettings 8,000 3% 0r £329 3 Part of Trip adviser
Homelidays 14,000 £249.00 4 Part of HomeAway.co.uk
Trip Advisor 8,000 3% 0r £329 5 Uses HolidayLettings
Holiday Rentals Worldwide 1.9M Links from your homepage 6 Free if you have your own domain
Casamundo 29,000 12% 7 German market
Villa Renters 102,000 10% 8  
HolidayRentals.com 42,000 £82.00 9 One guaranteed booking included
National Trust Holiday Cottages 499,000 POA 10 No Croatian listings

(Correct as of 2014)

Make your advert work

Once you have selected who you are going to advertise with; spend a lot of time getting your advert right. A lot of people looking to rent will input their basic requirements and then sort by price from cheapest to most expensive. Get yourself to the top of that list by providing very low prices in the period that you never have any bookings. You may charge £1000 per week in August but if you put in £200 per week in January then you that is how the website will rank you: "With prices from £200 per week."

Copy the pricing model of the airplane industry and charge less when you have no bookings and slowly increase the weekly cost as you get one or two bookings. Easy Jet and Ryan Air have clever algorithms to do the calculations, you just to set aside a regular time every month to assess how business is progressing and whether it is time for a price increase. (Presumably by this stage in the book you will have thought to make sure that your official price lists are still accurate.)

After price people will look at the lead photograph you have chosen; this is essential to get right but if you work through a website like Owners Direct you will be shocked at how poor people are at getting this right. Hopefully you have taken the perfect picture already when your property was looking its best but spend some time on the internet looking for images from around your area, on websites like Shutter stock or Istockphoto. You may be fortunate and find a general aerial shot that shows your beach off to a staggering effect that will cost you £2-3 to purchase. Use Photoshop software to point an arrow to your property and you will have a fantastic lead photograph. Whilst shopping for images collect great ones of the local attractions as well to add to your listing. Another great way to encourage bookings is with videos, hopefully your own, but if not then check out You Tube.

The final and most important video to consider making is a virtual tour of your property. Most large commercial villa rental companies now allow you to upload a video of your property and if you are proud of the outcome then paste a website link at the end and upload it at You Tube and it might just generate an unexpected booking. Your final opportunity to get someone to click on your page proper is with an eye catching strap line. You often find you have unused characters to use up in the title box –so keep going until you have used all the words up with superlatives and descriptive phrases. There is nothing stopping you changing this every week to make it topical or different.

"Fed up of the Arctic English weather? Try Supetar where the sun never stops shining"

"The best Christmas present? A downpayment on a fortnight by the crystal clear Adriatic"

"Do something new this Easter- learn to windsurf on the Adriatic coatline"

"We think we are your best priced option in Dubrovnik –check out our prices"

A lot of people spend a lot of time getting their adverts correct and then fail by not responding quickly and professionally to enquiries. Have a document that has more personalised information already written , that you can quickly make fit the enquiry. If someone contcts you because they have two young children that long response about the cot, the safe beaches and the lack of traffic that you have already written will impress, if the reply is in their inbox before the end of the day.

Have a clear set of instructions about deposits, refunds, security deposits and final balances, so that things don't unravel closer to the summer season. I provide a six page document that I send when the final balance is paid about the detail of the house and what they need to pack and where to hire a car. If it is possible ask your housekeeper to provide a welcome basket for guests on arrival. I go for usefullness rather than chocolates and wine. My basket contains a large loaf, butter,milk,eggs and some fresh tomatoes.This is always appreciated paticularly if the guests have arrived late and the shops are closed, it is a minimal cost and gets the relationship off to a good start.

I also have all my favourite restaurants listed for food and as much advice as I can offer because this final attention to detail will pay off with the best prize of all: a good review.In these on-line times a good (and a bad) villa review can be the most important thing to happen to your season. Ask for a testimonial after the holiday that you can physically add to the website , or direct them to the website and tell them that you would really appreciate their feedback.

If at the end of this process you find yourself in late June with no bookings then my weapon of last resort is to use Ad words on Google and pay to get your website clicked on until the season is filled.

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