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Insider’s tips for luxury vacation rental owners

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Taylor White is a fantastic podcast interviewer, host of the Overseas Property Insider Podcast. If you are interested in international real estate, overseas mortgage financing options, tips on increasing your vacation rental returns, strategies on house sitting, how to exchange your home for someone else’s, tactics to travel hacking success, ideas involved in budget travel, and how others are overseas living, this is a show that you have to subscribe to.
Taylor was kind enough to invite me on his show talk so that I could share vacation rental tips for owners with his audience. You will find here the transcript of this interview.

How Thibault came to doing luxury vacation rentals in St. Barths and in Bali

Taylor White: Hey Podcast listeners. welcome to the overseas insider podcast, I’m your host, Taylor White. Moments from now, you’ll be hearing from a vacation insider that will reveal exactly how he is maximizing his 4 vacation rentals for profit, 2 in Bali and 2 in St. Baths, and detail exactly how you can do it too.
If you’re looking to travel the globe, stay at unique spaces in over a hundred and ninety two countries while becoming a host by renting out your spare bedroom or spare villa, then this episode is just for you.
I’m excited as always to speak with another great vacation rental insider when I sit down and speak with Thibault Masson who is walking the talk as he oozes experience renting out his own 2 vacation villas in Bali Indonesia and another 2 in Saint Barths and without question is coming to your ear buds someplace a bit warmer, tropical, and with a much cleaner ocean breeze than you or I.
Join Thibault and myself and you will learn:

  • The in’s and out’s of direct bookings
  • and why Thibault believes this is one of the fastest ways to increasing your bottom line.
  • He lists out a few of his go-to vacation rental websites – and reveals which ones give him the biggest return.
  • He shares some awesome tips in getting local and international media
  • And how you can take your own vacation rental business to the next level.
  • And much more.

Instead of telling you more, let’s jump into the call with Thibault in the  island of Saint Barts.
Thibault, what’s going on? It’s Taylor White, I’m excited to have you on the podcast today straight from Saint Barts so we can get to know you personally. Tell us more about yourself.
Thibault Masson: Well, Hi everyone, Hi Taylor. Thank you for having me on your show. It’s an honor and a pleasure. I’m very happy to be here to share tips about how to increase booking in overseas properties.
As you said, I am in St. Barts right now, a little island in the Caribbean and I’m actually in one of my villas. Kate Moss, Beyoncé and Leonardo DiCaprio have all gone so it’s just me. As my house is empty, I’ve moved in. I have lived in several countries. For instance, I studied for several years in the US, so I have always been interested in traveling and living overseas.
Taylor White: So Thibault, I know that you have 2 stunning villas in Bali, 2 in St. Barts, have a few of your own websites and have been cited as a man to watch in the vacation rentals industry by Beth Carson, but tell us about more about you professionally.
Thibault Masson: Well, I’ve been renting out villas to guests for about 15 years now. Tt started out as a side business and now it’s a full time job. As you said, I have 2 houses in St. Barths and 2 Bali. Actually, I bought 2 of them from somebody else who had built them, 1 in Bali (Villa Adagian)and 1 in St. Barts (Villa Domingue). I built the 2 others, so, 1 in Bali that was finished in May (Villa Bulung Daya) and a new 1 that’s coming up in September in St. Barts (Villa BelAmour).
Before getting into villa rentals, my full-time job used to be an online publisher. I used to own a plus size fashion magazine (online) and had versions in French, in English, both in the US and in the UK. I sold all that business about a year ago and now villa rental is my full-time business.

Tips to get results from Luxury Vacation Rental By Owner (Direct bookings)

Taylor: So, as one to watch in the vacation rental industry, and owning several vacation rentals yourself, I really want to pick your brain on what works and what doesn’t. So we can help listeners on their own business.
First off, let’s talk about one tip that I know you used extremely well and that’s direct bookings. What could you share about your experience about direct bookings?
Thibault: Well, I know that a lot of people who invest overseas want to get a good return on their money. A great way for that is to do vacation rentals by owner (VRBO. And, of course, if you do direct bookings, you do not have to give out a commision to anybody. You just get the money and keep it.
But, I must say, getting direct booking is not easy, it’s not for everyone and it’s not for, actually, any property in any place.
It could be really hard to pull it off if you have a property overseas. It’s probably easier if you have a property in the same area as where you live. But when you live in a country A and your property is in country B, while you’re targeting tourists from country C, it’s really hard.
In my case, for example, the first villa that I had in St. Barts was quite difficult to manage directly. I used to live in mainland France, in continental Europe, while St. Barths is here in the Caribbean and I was targeting Americans. So, it was a bit tricky. This is why, for this first villa, I relied on villa agencies to get rental bookings.
The main channels for direct bookings is basically listing sites like Homeaway and I think we’ll talk about this later on the show.
But, for direct bookings you should also have your own website. It’s very important. Of course, you can have your website and you allow people to book your villa. But you can also have a simple, non-transactional site, just to be out there, because you have to be visible online to get direct bookings.
Why? Because, especially with overseas properties, you’re asking strangers to trust you.
They may have to wire thousands of dollars to your bank account in a country far away. They have to be able trust you. They have to know that you exist, that you do own the property and that you will be out there when they arrive.
So, having a website and being visible in social media is very important, even for a luxury vacation rental. You want to make it easy for people to google you. You want to make it easy for them to know about your background, that you really exist, that they can trust you. It all makes it easier for you to get their bookings.
So, to get direct bookings, you have to be willing to be out there. If you don’t want to say too much about yourself, it’s okay too. You can build sort of an online version of you where you share only what’s relevant to potential vacation rental guests. You don’t have to tell about what you ate last night or things that happened with your girlfriend.

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Vacation Rental Listing Sites: Use them, know them, but stay personal

Taylor: So then there are several main rental sites that people can use. I’ve had on the show Jon Gray from Homeaway that also owns VRBO.com. There’s Airbnb. I’ve just had on Kirby Winfield who’s the CEO of Dwellable, which is a vacation rental application. What are some of your favorites and why?
Thibault: I list on all those: Homeaway, VRBO, Airbnb. Dwellable is very interesting. I think people should really listen to your podcast because as you could tell, each site, each app, has a different person behind it and has a different culture. As a vacation rental owner, you want to understand what the corporate culture is at each of these companies.
Airbnb is really a website where people can connect to each other, so making your personal profile stand out is very important there. Homeaway is more about the properties themselves. So you really have to understand the culture of every website, so that your listing actually matches the type of people who visit these websites.
So I will start off with the main rental website which is Homeaway / VRBO. As an overseas property owner, you have to use these sites.
Homeaway owns VRBO, they are a global player. Basically, they bought out all the number 1 sites in every country, in France, in Germany, in the UK and they just did this in Australia as well.
So, if you have an overseas property, the good thing about Homeaway is that you get to list your villa once and then it is republished in their whole network, in maybe 25, 30, 35 different countries. That’s very good because it means that you can reach a lot of different people.
But, at the same time, you need to diversify, you need to be careful, because, just as I have said, sites merge. Homeaway is buying everything up here.
Look at what happened two weeks ago in France. Homeaway had bought a while ago the #2 website for vacation rentals in France, called Homelidays. They already own the #1 vacation rental site, called Abritel.
They’ve just merged the 2 sites under 1 technical platform. Instead of having 2 suppliers of guest inquiries, you really have one. Your #1 and #É suppliers just merged. And one of the site will probably disappear in the future, to save money to the Homeaway Group.
So, as an owner, you have to be careful and follow what’s going on in the luxury vacation rental industry. Listen to podcasts such as this one for example to make sure that not all your eggs are in the same basket.
By the way, you have to answer under 2 hours to booking enquiries. I know its not easy, but the faster you answer the better. Of course you have to sleep some time!  For overseas rental enquiries, it is sometimes hard to be fast enough, due to the time difference.
Most of these sites now have vacation rental apps. It’s not difficult to answer from your mobile phone and you can save a lot of time.
You should have email templates ready to use. I always have email templates ready that say things like “Yes, the villa is available and here’s what you’ll find”  or “No, it’s not available, but how about next month?”. I have these templates available in several languages.
You just don’t send the template as it, you customize it to tailor to your guest’s needs. You know what i do? I google the name of the person asking for the booking. I google their name, just as they will google mine. Sometimes, I find out about their job or find out that they have kids or even in the message they send over, they’ll tell me “oh, we’re coming over and we are bringing 3 kids”. So what I’m going to do is customizing my templates, and mentioning that “IF you have kids, I can get you a cot set up for free”. Say everything that makes your message more personal.
Again, this is a direct booking, the booking they get from me, so I want to show them that I care for them. Especially with overseas properties, I won’t be there to welcome them, my team will be. But still I want to bring a personal touch. Save time with templates and customize your replay with a personal word.
Want more tips? Read part 2 of this interview : Vacation Rental Marketing for Luxury Property Owner.

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Thibault is the founder of Rental Scale-Up. He owns vacation rentals in St. Barths and Bali. He also leads innovative projects for companies within the vacation rental industry. Feel free to reach out to Thibaut Masson on Linkedin.

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