The dishwasher is full of dirty dishes. The beds are unmade and all linens need to be washed. The laundry detergent is close to empty. If you don’t use checklists to maintain your vacation rental, your guests are likely to encounter these kinds of problems when they first arrive.
With just a few checks in boxes, your guests are more likely to walk into a place that’s spotless — and your cleaning company knows exactly what they’re responsible for.
These tools make it easy to avoid human error, cleanliness complaints, and unwelcome surprises. Because we’ve applied the expertise we’ve picked up managing thousands of properties and created three free cleaning checklists we know will become a go-to resource for you.
As we all know, it’s natural to forget things from time to time. That’s why people in high-stakes careers, like surgeons and pilots, rely on checklists to make sure things go according to plan. As a vacation rental homeowner, checklists can help you create a great guest experience, avoid unpleasant phone calls or complaints, and get the reviews you deserve.
These cleaning checklists can also be used to help support your maintenance team. Clearly set expectations of your cleaning service by using the checklists to specify what areas of the home need the most attention. Then encourage your cleaning service to fully complete each checklist at the appropriate time (i.e. before guests arrive or after they leave). This will save you the hassle of worrying about what condition the vacation rental is in when your guests arrive.
Guests pay a fee for the professional cleaning services that happen between each stay. This means they’re expecting standards similar to a hotel: a spotless home, free of personal clutter, that looks just like the pictures they saw online.
We analyzed the most common cleaning snafus and created a list that will make sure they don’t happen. You can download your free cleaning checklist here.
While it’s important that things are clean at your vacation rental, ensuring you have the right supplies and setup for every guest is just as important. Have your local contact or someone from your maintenance team perform a pre-stay walkthrough of your property — you can even do it yourself if you’re in the area – on the day your guest is arriving.
This checklist will ensure that nothing has happened to the property between the guest’s check-in and the last cleaning.
Download the pre-stay checklist here.
Sometimes, guests leave things in less than ideal condition. Make sure that everything is back in order as soon guests leave using the post-stay checklist. If something is broken, determine when it was broken and swiftly receive reimbursement from your insurance.
A post-stay checklist includes many of the same things as the pre-stay list, but it also helps you note issues that have come up during the guest’s stay — before the next one arrives.
Your cleaning service can send you the finished checklist or hold on to it for their records. If you have a guest complaint about cleanliness, you’ll have proof that your cleaning service went through each task.
Download the post-stay checklist here.
Just like any small business, vacation rentals occasionally run into problems. But with these lists, you’ll be able to prevent cleaning issues, detect damage, and make sure your property lives up to the standards guests expect of your home.
When you have back-to-back reservations, use all three checklists to ensure your turnover process is seamless and minimize the potential that an issue will be overlooked in the quick turn.
Download our FREE templates below! This download includes all three checklists: pre-stay, post-stay, and cleaning.
Evolve believes that maintaining your vacation rental should be as easy as checking a few boxes.
That’s one reason we’re constantly blogging about the industry and offering free information, tips, and market reports to anyone who’s interested. We genuinely want every vacation rental homeowner to succeed.
In fact, we can charge an industry-low 10% booking fee because our success is tied to the property’s performance. We only succeed when you do. If that sounds like a pretty different approach, you’re right. Let’s chat and see if you qualify today.
So you’re thinking about hiring a property management company for your vacation rental.
Maybe you’ve got an extra home, you just purchased a new property, or you’re exploring ways to make some extra income. It could be your first time dealing with vacation rentals, or maybe you’ve been burned by property management companies before.
A question you might be wondering is — why shouldn’t I just do this myself?
While there are owners who handle management themselves, it can be incredibly time-consuming to promote your rental, field traveler inquiries, take quality photos, write and revise the listing, answer questions about your property, vet potential guests, juggle on-the-ground services like cleaning and maintenance, and follow up for reviews.
There’s a better way. Hiring the right vacation rental management company for your home can take the stress, endless tasks, extra time, and marketing responsibilities off your plate.
But before you hire a traditional or local property manager, make sure to ask these seven questions to know you’re getting everything you need.
You’re looking for a manager who has a good feel for the local market. A great property manager will know the ins and outs of your location — high season, low season, competing rates, what types of property are most popular in the area, and how local regulations and trends are affecting vacation rentals. You can prep for your conversation with our market-by-market vacation rental performance reports.
Ask your potential manager questions about the local market and feel out their responses. If the vacation rental manager has reasonable answers to those questions, you’ve probably found a solid manager who spends a good amount of time thinking about how to help their clients succeed.
If they seem uncertain or their answers seem off, you may want to keep looking. Be particularly wary if you know about regulations in the area that they don’t; every manager should be fully aware of the status of local short-term rental regulations. And don’t base their experience on years in the business. There are quite a few longtime property managers out there who haven’t kept up with changes in the industry and don’t perform well as a result.
Many vacation rental property management fees range from 25-50% of your rental income. And, in some areas, the rates continue to rise.
Before hiring a local property manager, do the math to determine whether you can afford to pay that high of a fee and still meet your rental income goals.
Contracts are the biggest sticking point for owners who have wound up with a poor property manager. If you figure out in the first two months that the property manager isn’t doing their job well, but you’re locked in for a year-long contract, you’re going to be very unhappy for the remaining ten months of that year. You’ll also want to know the payment terms and timing. Some managers can take months to pay and, if you’re caught in an unfavorable contract, it can be a long time until you get paid.
If a management company requires a contract, ask whether there are any out clauses based on performance or poor service. For example, if the management company fails to clean the property three times in one year, or only gets you two bookings in six months, you should be able to leave their service without a penalty.
Above all, make sure any fees and agreements help you build a vacation rental business that prioritizes guest experience over short-term profit.
You’re hiring a vacation rental management company for the high level of services they provide. You’ll want to know exactly what services are included in their fee.
Specifically ask whether the fee covers marketing, photography, writing the listing, updating the listing, observing market trends, cleaning, maintenance, pre-stay walkthroughs, or in-person visits for any issues that arise during a guest’s stay.
You should also ask about any services that are not included in their fee – for example, some property management companies will charge an additional fee if one of their employees has to visit the property outside of business hours to address a problem the guest is having. Excellent guest support should not cost more.
Once you know what services the fee does and does not cover, ask yourself if you’re getting enough bang for your buck. If your management company covers everything from marketing to maintenance, the fee may be worthwhile. If it only covers cleaning and all other services are a la carte, you should probably keep shopping for a better deal.
This is an important one. Ask them how and where they’ll market your property.
Many vacation rental management companies prefer to market their clients’ properties only on their own website. These days, that’s not enough. You want to be on all the major websites with highly professional listings. No matter how popular a local manager’s site is, it’s never going to get the same amount of traffic as major online listing sites like Vrbo, HomeAway or Airbnb – which means you’ll be missing out on a lot of potential guests if you’re limited to one website. Make sure you understand their marketing plan.
Marketing is a big word that includes the photography of your rental, a high-converting property listing, framing your rental for current trends and the market, and how it is promoted.
A vacation rental manager’s 25-50% ought to cover the cost of marketing your property on at least one major listing site in addition to any marketing efforts they make to raise the profile of their own site. Listen for words like “appear high in the search results” or “search engine marketing” – these are good indicators your manager has put effort into raising and maintaining their website’s profile online.
Your manager should also actively solicit reviews from happy guests and follow up with guests who have already stayed at the property to see if they want to book again next year. Ask your vacation rental manager what they do to ensure repeat business and 5-star reviews to entice new guests to come and stay at your property.
Vacation rental managers aren’t awake around the clock, (which is just fine, because most guests aren’t either) but they should be available when people are likely to be making their travel plans: before work, after work, and on weekends.
If your manager is only available to make bookings from 9-5 on weekdays, the odds are very good you’ll be missing out on bookings from people who work standard office jobs at those hours. Believe it or not, the ideal response time for inquiries is 15 minutes, so the bar is pretty high for providing the kind of service that turns into bookings.
You should also ask if guests are able to book online and use a credit card. The vast majority of guests prefer to book online, and very few are willing to get on the phone or send a paper check in the mail. If your potential manager doesn’t offer any way for those guests to book online, you’ll again miss out on bookings.
After every stay, you should confirm that your guests left your property in good condition and that any accidental damage was documented and addressed. Be sure to ask your potential vacation rental manager how they handle issues like broken dishes or missing items after a guest’s stay.
You’re looking for a manager who performs a post-stay walkthrough after every guest leaves, takes photos of any damages for your records, and takes steps to bring the property back up to good condition for the next guests.
Your property manager isn’t expected to pay for damages out of pocket – that cost will come from the guest’s deposit or a damage protection program like Property Protection Plus (included as part of Evolve’s lightweight vacation rental management approach). However, your manager should notice the damage, report it, and speak to the guest about retaining their deposit to cover the damage if necessary.
Always ask to speak with a few existing clients prior to signing a contract. Previous and current owners can share details about working with the vacation rental managers and exactly what to expect from your arrangement.
If a manager is reluctant to give you references or isn’t enthusiastic about current clients speaking about their experience, that’s a sign this manager isn’t going to be a good fit for you. You should be able to hear or read success stories from customers who endorse the company.
On the other hand, if their current clients rave about this vacation rental manager and give you lots of insider tips they’ve learned since working with them on navigating the local market, full speed ahead! This manager may well be just the business partner you’re looking for.
The traditional models of vacation rental management are outdated. Doing it yourself is a LOT of work and, as we’ve covered, working with traditional property management companies means less control with fees that are hard to justify.
But there’s a better way. You don’t have to do it all yourself. And you don’t have to sign a contract with an overpriced property manager. Evolve is different.
Evolve’s lightweight management approach gives you total marketing, booking, and customer support, plus the power to choose your own “home team” to clean and monitor your property.
Basically, we drive more guests to your property for maximum income, while giving you more choices with fewer rules – all for an industry-low 10% booking fee.
We’ve helped 10,000+ homeowners earn more than $500 million in rental income. And we’d love to help you.
See if you qualify or call one of our Homeowner Consultants today at 877.881.7584 (and if you have more questions, take a quick look at this FAQ about Evolve).
One thing that every vacation rental owner wants is an idea of how much they can expect to make. So to help you escape the unknown — and crunch the numbers — we created a rental income calculator that will give you an estimate.
This is approximately what you’ll make before you pull out extra expenses. Income can vary based on seasonality and other factors, so be sure to use averages for your calculation.
NIGHTLY RATE: Here’s where you enter what you expect to charge on average, per night. Get an overview of the local market by checking out our Vacation Rental Performance Reports, or browse listing sites to see how much other owners in your area charge.
NIGHTS BOOKED: Use the average number of nights you think you’ll book per month.
MONTHLY REVENUE: This number is your extra income before things like taxes, utilities, and property management fees.
Just like any other income, the lower you can keep your expenses, the more money you’ll have in your pocket.
INSURANCE AND PROPERTY TAXES: Enter what you’ll spend on insurance, property taxes, and short-term insurance (optional, but highly recommended for peace of mind).
MORTGAGE PAYMENT: This is how much you pay for your vacation rental every month.
UTILITIES: Estimate how much you might pay for electricity, wifi, cable, AC, and heating every month. Be generous with the number.
OTHER EXPENSES: Toiletries and linens. Furniture and decorations. HOA and maintenance costs. There are a lot of little expenses — and hidden costs — you’ll want to factor in to build your budget.
Property managers take up to half of everything you earn (30-50% on every booking). Slide the property management fee bar to the right to estimate these fees if you plan to use a manager.
Even if you choose to manage your own property, it still costs a separate fee to list on every single online marketplace. Find your marketing cost by adding together the percentages of marketplaces you think you’ll use.
If you’re like most homeowners, this section will take the most money out of your vacation rental income potential. It will probably also seem a little overwhelming — but it doesn’t have to. Because Evolve handles the hardest parts of property management for you, including listing your home on all of the sites for free.
So go ahead: try crunching the numbers again with 10% in the property management slider, and zero marketing costs. That’s the Evolve difference.
You may not be able to change your mortgage payments or HOA fees, but you can make sure you’re earning as much rental income as possible with your vacation home when you choose Evolve.
See if your home qualifies today.
“Aren’t you just like Airbnb and Vrbo?”
We get that question a lot from people who haven’t worked with us yet. It’s easy to see why. We’re all in the same industry, short-term property rentals. You can find and book great properties on our website or on theirs. And the fact that every Evolve property appears on Airbnb, Vrbo, and other online marketplaces just adds a little more to the confusion.
So let’s clear things up and outline exactly how Evolve is NOT Airbnb, Vrbo, HomeAway, TripAdvisor, or any other online marketplace.
Airbnb, Vrbo, and similar websites are online “marketplaces” where guests find properties and homeowners find guests. Essentially, they act as a distribution channel for owners or property managers, attracting potential guests to their website but leaving the management of the properties and listings to the owners (or whoever is representing the property) themselves.
Evolve is a vacation rental management company. That means we actively manage our properties on behalf of our owners, ensuring maximum bookings and eliminating the stress of the traditional vacation rental process.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Evolve is a BIG customer of the online marketplaces. We have more than 11,000 properties listed on their sites, and we constantly take advantage of the latest strategies to ensure our owners’ properties are always positioned for maximum traffic and conversion.
Behind the scenes, we have teams of specialists working on the hardest parts of managing a vacation rental: marketing, booking, and customer service. Our teams do everything from creating search-topping property listings to dynamically setting rates to answering guest questions and asking for online reviews. We even hire professional photographers at no cost to owners to show each property in the best possible light.
As a result of our approach, Evolve properties outperform most others on the online marketplaces. So we don’t compete with Airbnb, Vrbo and the rest. We work with them–and everybody wins.
Unlike most marketplaces, we don’t offer home sharing, extended stays, campsites, trailers, or other mobile structures. Each Evolve property has its own entrance and kitchen (typically a house or condominium). A lot of Evolve guests appreciate having the comforts of home when they travel, and our properties reflect that.
We take even more guesswork out of vacation rental by making sure our properties meet our four core standards. We believe guests simply won’t have the experience they’re looking for unless the property they’ve booked is:
By focusing on properties ideally suited for vacationing and making sure each one lives up to our standards, we’re building a brand that guests can trust to have the time of their lives.
Since Airbnb, Vrbo, and the like don’t handle property management, homeowners have traditionally been forced to either hire a local company to do it or fend for themselves. Evolve is different.
We give homeowners performance-focused marketing and booking support, plus the flexibility to choose their own partner(s) to clean the property and greet guests. Evolve handles all guest inquiries, bookings, and pre-stay communications. We can also connect owners with hundreds of vetted partners nationwide that can handle cleaning and guests.
With Evolve’s help, every guest enjoys a booking experience that feels as professional as the world’s top hospitality brands. We handle all inquiries directly, resolve guest and owners questions, and communicate directly with cleaners to ensure the property is ready for every guest. Our unique approach makes vacation rental actually feel like vacation for owners and guests.
Once you work with Evolve, you quickly discover the difference between our service and all of the others. It starts with the way we charge owners nothing to join (plus an industry-low 10% management fee) and list properties on all the major online marketplaces––not just Evolve’s site. It continues with the way we market your listing and promptly handle every query, seven days a week. And it becomes clear in all the ways we make vacation rental easy for everyone.
Owners should be able to relax, trusting that their property is living up to its potential. And guests should be able to relax with an experience that feels like a big hospitality brand. That’s the Evolve difference.
Learn more about Evolve and how we can help you find success with Airbnb, Vrbo, and other online marketplaces.
Your Free Welcome Book Template is Here!
Sure, your property listing covers a lot of info about your home — but guests will still have some questions when they arrive. Like, which local coffee shop has the best ambiance? What’s that one trick to getting the dishwasher started? How should they handle check-out?
Your welcome book is the perfect place to answer common questions, and it’s also one of the most searched for vacation rental amenities. By providing essential info up front, you can free guests from encountering snags during their stay.
We think that putting together this important resource should feel easy — which is why we made you a free welcome book template. All you have to do is download it and plug in your home’s info!
Welcome books have a big impact on your guests’ experience. Here are some reasons to block off a few minutes and fill in this template.
Welcome books help others navigate your rental property and treat it the right way.
Guests want to know how to watch a movie at night or adjust the temperature in your house. Giving them a resource on how to get comfortable living in your rental is sure to make their vacation stress-free for both of you.
Welcome books provide local highlights and a sense of your personality.
The reason many guests book vacation rental properties is to immerse themselves in the location. Recommending restaurants, coffee shops, stores, and more can turn a good trip into the best trip ever. Lead your guests to the most delicious slice in town — or teach them how to avoid crowds at a local attraction — and they’ll want to book with you again in the future.
Welcome books show guests that you care.
Your advice on how to make the most of your property gives guests the friendly engagement they’re looking for. It also protects their personal space and privacy by providing valuable information without requiring personal interaction.
Welcome books help you get great reviews.
Your guests are likely to reward your thoughtfulness in their reviews. Even better, you or your guest contact may get fewer questions during their stay, and you’ll be sending new customers to your favorite local shops and restaurants, ensuring they thrive!
Sounds pretty great, right? But where should you start?
From a friendly “hello” letter to your home’s policies, these are the sections you’ll need to put together the most useful welcome book.
Guests who choose vacation rental are looking for a unique home with a real person behind it. Writing a note to personally welcome them to your property is another way to separate yourself from a hotel — and reinforce their decision to stay with you.
Make sure your welcome book provides at least one name, telephone number, and email for a local contact near your property. This person can be you, a local property manager, or even a neighbor — but they should be easily reachable, and available to come to the home on short notice. Nobody wants unanswered guest complaints to derail a pleasant stay.
You’ll also want to include contact details and addresses for the following emergency resources, just in case:
Remember, guests don’t have all of the resources they’d typically have at home. They’ll feel more at ease if they know you have their safety in mind.
Even if you send your policies in a pre-stay email, (Evolve does!) it’s still important to reiterate them at the property. Including policies in your welcome book can help you resolve common vacation rental issues and complaints because guests will have a difficult time arguing that they weren’t aware of the rules.
You should include all of the following information in your welcome book:
An in-home reference guide will help remind guests how best to enjoy your home and leave it in good shape for the next guests. Another perk of including your policies: you’re way less likely to find broken or misused items after a stay!
When your guests can’t figure out simple things like how to turn on the hot tub, they can get frustrated and wind up taking out that frustration in their review of your property. Even if every appliance works perfectly, spending valuable relaxation time figuring out how to use it is no one’s idea of a fun vacation.
Include helpful instructions for your:
This is also a good place to note any quirks of your property. For example, if the Wifi works very well all over the house, but not in the family room downstairs, make sure your guests know that. If they aren’t expecting an issue, they’ll be annoyed by it, but with a little forewarning, they’ll feel like they know exactly what they can expect, and it’s less likely to trouble them.
You know all of the insights you’ve collected about your neighborhood? Now’s the time to share your expertise — because everyone loves a good recommendation from a local! Try to suggest activities that would appeal to a range of guest types, such as family-friendly museums or romantic places for a dinner out.
Be sure to give addresses and phone numbers for each of your recommendations. Adding the amount of time it takes to get to the destination is a great idea, too. Include at least a suggestion or two in each of the following categories:
And share places where you personally enjoy going. This isn’t to say you can’t include popular attractions you haven’t visited in person. Just let your guests know that you haven’t tried them yourself, but you’ve heard good things and you hope they’ll tell you how they liked them! You can then use the guest feedback to gauge whether that activity merits a mention in your Welcome Book.
Help guests explore your area by creating a section devoted to local transit. Be sure to include contact info, directions, schedules and any other details that guests might find helpful, like:
Here’s the good news: we’ve already created one for you.To make things easier for you and your guests we created a free downloadable template. Enter your email in the form below to get your free, customizable copy. Then, type your information into our template, print the completed welcome book, and display it in an obvious area of your rental property, such as the kitchen counter. And if you’re looking to start booking more nights on your vacation rental, we can help with that, too.
Vacation rentals can be lucrative investments. They offer rental income in the short term and build equity in the long term. It’s an exciting proposition attracting more investors, especially as travelers embrace vacation rentals as their preferred accommodations.
For the third year in a row, we’re happy to share our list of the ten best places to buy a vacation rental. Our experience working with over 10,000 vacation rental properties across the United States has given us insight into more than 500 markets and how they perform.
This year, we’re including our estimated capitalization rate (cap rate) to help with rankings. Cap rate compares the net rental income generated per year against the purchase price of the property. It’s a good indicator of a property’s earning power and a reliable way to determine where you might get a better return on your investment.
To calculate our cap rates, we started by looking at the median annual rental revenue for Evolve properties in 500+ markets. We also applied yearly expenses of 30% to reflect the costs associated with operating a vacation rental. We then divided that by the median home price on Zillow for properties in each market.
If you’re looking to purchase a vacation rental property, make sure you take a closer look at these areas. Your numbers may differ based on operating costs, property values, and other factors, but this list helps shine a light on promising locations for investors.
A new addition to our list, Maggie Valley is in the Smoky Mountains area outside of Asheville, North Carolina.
It tops our list with a strong cap rate of 17.5%. Driven by low real estate costs with a median price of $155,500 and a median income of $38,949 per year, the Maggie Valley area presents an appealing investment option.
Proximity to the region’s famed mountain range is the primary tourism draw in this area. And the natural resources provide year-round activities, with hiking in the summer, leaf peeping in the autumn, and skiing in the winter.
If you’re looking at this area for a potential investment, shop around for a property that has a nice outdoor area where guests can enjoy the surrounding mountain views. Our data also shows that homes with hot tubs, fire pits, and decks typically perform better than average.
Consistently a top vacation destination for American and international travelers, Florida is an obvious frontrunner for short-term rentals. The warm weather allows for year-round tourism and lower real estate costs leave plenty of room to generate a sizable rental income.
But with so many beach towns, where is the best place to buy in Florida?
St. Augustine rises above the rest in our research with a cap rate of 17%. The median home price is $209,100 and you can earn an estimated median revenue of $50,989 in this area.
That’s an attractive rate of return, and it has the potential to increase further when you have top amenities like a private pool, hot tub, and proximity to the beach.
Rich in history, outdoor recreation, and prime beach access, St. Augustine offers great vacation rental potential for investors.
Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville have been proving their weight in gold for years. These family-friendly vacation rental destinations have a high demand for accommodations ten months out of the year and they provide a steady source of rental income.
With relatively low housing prices and few restrictions for short-term rentals, it’s no surprise that this area has become a top destination for vacation rental investors. Cabins are the preferred type of housing for regional visitors, and we found that the median home price ranges from $162,000 to $202,300 across Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg.
While the area is generally affordable, you might run into prices as high as $800,000 for larger (five bedrooms+) and more luxurious properties. Essential amenities for the Gatlinburg area are hot tubs, mountain views, and game rooms.
While the median for rental revenue is around $42,751, we do see six-figure revenue potential for larger properties in the area. If your rental is in good shape, with a desirable location and popular amenities, you stand a high chance of earning even more.
An hour down the coast from Galveston, this Texas town is known for beautiful beaches and a laid-back community. With few tourist traps or boardwalk shops, most Surfside Beach visitors spend their evenings cooking family dinners at home rather than hitting the town. That makes fully equipped vacation rentals all the more successful in this area.
We found the median home price for Surfside Beach was $136,500, which is a bargain compared to the stilted homes in the Galveston area that range from $200,000 to $400,000.
A median revenue of $29,321 gives this lesser-known area on the Gulf Coast an impressive cap rate of 15%.
If this coastal Texas town checks all the boxes for you, look for a property that offers ocean views and proximity to the beach. Fortunately, Seaside Beach is situated on a narrow tract of land, so beachfront real estate is not too hard to come by.
The Pocono Mountain region has been drawing tourists to its lakes and ski resorts for more than 100 years. With a strong demand for accommodations and a large inventory of real estate at affordable prices, it’s easy to see why this region is one of our top five places to buy a vacation rental.
The median home price in the Poconos ranges from $118,300 on the low end to $144,300 on the high end. With a property that has an open calendar, the median rental income you can expect to generate ranges from $25,058 all the way up to $40,278 per year.
We found that results vary from town to town, but we see the strongest returns with properties in Tunkhannock Township, Tannersville, and Pocono Lake.
Large lakefront properties that can accommodate a group perform best in this market. It’s also a good idea to look for houses that are updated or that you can renovate after purchasing. This traditional market has many outdated properties, and you can beat out the competition and charge a higher nightly rate with a home that has modern kitchens, bathrooms, and furnishings.
Situated in the Brainerd Lakes area north of the Twin Cities, vacation rentals in the Pequot Lakes area are hugely popular in summer months. Even better, they get bookings during the slow winter season for holidays and weekend retreats.
This market provides advantages to buyers in the Midwest because it’s a great investment opportunity where you can make strong returns, but it’s also close to home. That makes regular maintenance easier and offers the added benefit of having a second home for your personal use when you don’t have guests in residence.
While the median home price is $204,600 for properties in this area, larger homes that sleep eight or more people tend to see the best success. So it pays to invest in a larger property if you have the budget.
Something to consider with an investment in the Pequot Lakes area or a similar market is that rentals here tend to have a shorter season. With cold winter months, you face some pressure to hit your revenue goals during the high season, which requires smart pricing and aggressive marketing strategies.
Spanning two hundred miles across the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains, the Shenandoah Valley is an outdoor oasis. Visitors enjoy exploring National Parks and Forests, outdoor sports (skiing, fishing, golfing, canoeing and more) and a segment of the famed Appalachian Trail.
With an area that large, home prices and rental income will obviously vary. Still, the median home price in the markets that made our list is $227,500, earning $37,763 per year in estimated annual revenue.
To increase your income potential, look closely at the four-season resort areas of Massanutten and Wintergreen. They can expand your booking season via snow sports in the winter and water parks during the peak summer booking window.
Profit-driving amenities include hot tubs, a deck with a view (and a grill), and game tables like billiards and foosball. If you’re looking to invest in this area, the closer a property is to Massanutten Resort or Shenandoah National Park, the better.
With theme parks, specialty museums, shopping, and hundreds of shows per year, there’s no shortage of things to do in Branson. This Ozark getaway is a family-friendly vacation spot that has caught the eye of investors who want reliable returns and a lower price point.
The median home price hovers around $145,000, making this an affordable place to buy a vacation home. Our data revealed that rentals in Branson generate $24,062 in rental revenue per year at the median for a 11.6% cap rate.
The tourism season spans from March to December, so you have the opportunity to book ten months out of the year and reach an impressive occupancy.
Another benefit of investing in this area is that there are few regulations standing in the way of vacation rentals. Some areas west of Branson may come with restrictions, but the area is generally friendly toward short-term rentals.
The vacation rental inventory is a mix of condos, cabins, and homes. So no matter your budget, you can find something in this market that will perform well. Amenities that can help you succeed include proximity to popular attractions (the Shows District, Table Rock Lake, and Silver Dollar City), decks, and lake or mountain views.
For the third year in a row, Myrtle Beach makes our top-ten list. The seaside town is known for its 60-mile stretch of beaches, as well as theme parks, museums, and shopping. It’s also home to festivals, bike rallies, car shows and other events that draw crowds and drive up demand for accommodations.
Yet, Myrtle Beach is a budget-friendly place to invest. Condos frequently sell for under $100,000, and Zillow data shows the median home price is around $144,700.
If you buy in this market, beach proximity is important. However, unlike Surfside Beach, you don’t have to be on the water to be successful. Rental properties within one or two miles of the beach will also book and perform well.
When you’re buying a condo in a resort or community, be careful with association fees and restrictions. Higher fees typically get you nice facilities, upkeep, pools, and other amenities that are attractive to guests, but you may pay a lot for those add-ons.
Hot Springs, Arkansas is named for Hot Springs National Park, a treasured natural feature that draws visitors for its mineral-rich water.
A prime benefit of investing in this market is that your money stretches here. The median home price is $148,800 and generates a healthy $24,425 per year at the median for estimated annual revenue. That leaves plenty of flexibility to pocket the income or pay off your investment quickly.
For the best returns in this market, look for properties close to downtown Hot Springs or on Lake Hamilton. In our experience, waterfront homes tend to achieve higher occupancy rates and command better nightly rates than properties farther from the action.
Lake views, updated interiors, and dock access are additional amenities that can improve your performance in Hot Springs.
As always, the answer depends on your budget, your revenue goals, and your personal preferences.
You might want to purchase in a proven market like Gatlinburg or Poconos even if that means stiffer competition to get bookings. Or, you might want to buy in an area that isn’t as saturated, like Hot Springs or Surfside Beach, where you get more for your money.
We always encourage investors to think about where they’d like to visit. One of the key benefits you get from a vacation rental is that you get a second home for yourself. Where would you want to stay?
This list is a great place to start your consideration process, but it’s by no means definitive. There are many popular destinations that didn’t make our list. Think of this as a snapshot of the markets that you might want to explore if you’re looking to get the biggest return on your investment.
If you want more information, Evolve is constantly updating resources like these to help you better understand the vacation rental market:
If you’ve already chosen a property and need to get your vacation rental off the ground, let us help.
With Evolve, you get everything you need to start a successful vacation rental: professional photos, a custom listing, competitive rates, vacation rental expertise, and full-time teams to support you.
There are no upfront costs and you pay just a low 10% fee per booking. Learn more about our services and contact us to see if your home qualifies.
Have you ever thought about investing in a vacation home to use a short-term rental? We asked Daniela Andreevska at Mashvisor to share some insight on why real estate investors are wise to consider this avenue as they get started with their first real estate investments.
Looking for the best way to make money outside your 9-to-5 job? How about real estate investing?
It can be intimidating to dive headfirst into the world of real estate investment, but buying a vacation rental home is one avenue that’s gaining a lot of popularity. We think it might just be the best way to enter the real estate business and become a property investor.
There are many benefits to buying a vacation rental and we have put together a list of the top reasons that we think you should consider this as your first step in real estate investment.
If you’re a first-time real estate investor, you are probably considering all the options and thinking about what’s best for you.
Buying a vacation rental home has one clear advantage: It can serve dual purposes. You can use it as a second home and spend your own vacations there with your family, and then rent it out to guests the rest of the year.
Buying an investment property for the sole purpose of renting it out long-term does not give you this option.
One of the major advantages of real estate investing in general, and investing in rental properties in particular, is the fact that you gain a source of steady income.
How? Through rental income.
The idea is that you will be renting out your second home to guests when you aren’t using it. You’ll be making money without having to necessarily buy an “investment” property. After all, your vacation home is your second home. It just happens to make money on the side.
When you buy a vacation home and use it as a short-term rental, the money you make from bookings actually helps you pay the mortgage and other expenses (property tax, insurance, maintenance, and repairs) for the place where you spend your vacations.
In addition to making money in the short run, a vacation rental home also makes money – potentially a lot of it – in the long term.
A second home is a real estate property, and real estate generally appreciates in value over time. When you are ready to sell your vacation rental property, you can usually sell it at a higher price and cash in on the profit. The best part is that you don’t have to do anything to enjoy this benefit. Natural real estate appreciation will take care of it.
If you want to make even more money when selling your property, you can make modifications and improvements to push up the market value of your vacation rental (known as forced appreciation).
Similar to your primary home or an investment property, a second home also provides tax deductions. These apply to mortgage payments, property tax, rental income, insurance premium, utilities, and other rental expenses.
However, the situation with a vacation rental can get somewhat complicated depending on the number of days you live in your property and the number of days you rent it out to guests. So, if you decide to buy a vacation rental, we recommend that you work with a professional accountant and/or a real estate attorney to assure that you are taking maximum advantage of tax deductions without breaking any tax laws.
Investing in vacation rental exposes you to lower risk than other types of real estate investment. First, vacation homes are in top tourist destinations, so you can attract lots of guests, reach high occupancy rates, and charge a high nightly rate.
The combined effect is high rental income. And rental income is how investors make money from their rental properties.
One way to reduce your risk even further is to choose a location and a property that works as either a traditional, long-term rental or as a short-term rental. If you find that you have a low occupancy rate, low rental income, and negative cash flow, you have the option to switch strategies and become a traditional landlord.
And in the worst case scenario, if a long-term rental strategy also fails to bring you a positive cash flow, you still have a second home to use with your family. This will save you the cost of renting hotels or other people’s vacation homes until your property has appreciated enough in value to sell it. After all, if your vacation rental is located in a popular destination, appreciation should not take more than a few years to kick in.
No matter how many real estate books you read or how many real estate classes you attend, you will not become an expert real estate investor until you actually buy an income property and start managing it.
Buying a vacation rental home provides you with an easy entry into the world of real estate investment because it’s often less stressful than other real estate investment strategies, such as becoming a full-time landlord, fix-and-flip, wholesaling, etc.
While some people take on vacation rental management as a full-time job, you don’t have to do this in order to start making money in real estate. It’s feasible to make owning a vacation rental a part-time job that doesn’t take up too much of your time, especially if you use a vacation rental management service.
Management is a major concern for inexperienced investors, and it can potentially turn into a real nightmare for first-time vacation rental owners. Imagine having to clean your property, change the sheets, wash the towels, and refill the toiletries between each guest – sometimes multiple times a week – all the while working your 9-to-5 job.
Most owners don’t have time for that. Instead of handling it themselves, they’re hiring property managers or vacation rental management services to take over those time-consuming duties. Then they are free to oversee the aspects of vacation rental management they want, like talking to guests, making recommendations, and collecting rental income.
Investing in a vacation rental home is an easy entry point to real estate investment that provides endless opportunities to learn and carries lower risk than other options. But if you are a beginner real estate investor, you might be wondering how to go about the whole process of buying a vacation home as an investment property.
Here’s a list of the main factors you need to consider as you look for vacation rental properties:
Experts say that “location, location, and location” are the three most important factors in a successful real estate investment, and they are not mistaken. When buying a vacation rental home, choose places where other travelers – besides you and your family and friends – would enjoy. To check out some of the best places to buy a vacation home to start investing in real estate in 2018 based on data from Mashvisor, click here.
Regulations on short-term rentals have been tightening in many places around the U.S., so once you’ve chosen a location for buying your second home, make sure you will be allowed to use the property as a short-term rental and make sure you won’t be taxed too heavily for it.
Before buying your income property, conduct some real estate market analysis to make sure you’re not overpaying for your second home. Real estate comps are the only way to assure you can get positive cash flow from renting out your vacation home on a short-term basis.
Compare the rental property you’re considering buying with other vacation rentals around the area to see how you can stay competitive while making money in real estate. Predictive analytics can also help.
Mashvisor’s rental income calculator allows you to conduct all the necessary analyses you need in order to make the best real estate investment decisions quickly and easily.
More people are buying vacation rentals as their first real estate investments because it’s a sound financial decision. The demand for vacation rentals is at an all-time high and continues to grow. There’s low risk, because at the end of the day, you have a second home where you can vacation for free. And with new cost-effective vacation rental management systems, you have access to the help you maximize the return on your investment.
Daniela Andreevska is the Content Marketing Director at Mashvisor. Mashvisor helps real estate investors quickly find traditional and Airbnb investment properties.
So you’re interested in Airbnb property management. Congratulations! Searching for Airbnb management means (at the very least) that you’ve got a great vacation rental property and it’s ready for guests. It could also mean a few pretty different things about your current situation:
At Evolve, we talk to people in each of those situations every day. And while our conversations often start with a simple question—“Can you manage my Airbnb?”—we’ve learned that the answers are almost always more nuanced.
The short answer is yes, Evolve specializes in vacation rental property management and, assuming the home you want to rent meets our standards, we can manage your Airbnb. But that’s only half of the equation.
The other (possibly more important) half is what you hope to gain from Airbnb management. What are your goals for short-term rental? How do you think about your property? As purely an investment or as a nostalgic part of your family? Do you value the experience guests have as much as you value their payments?
It’s clear to us that Airbnb property management is a pretty personal decision.
Tip: Think of your Airbnb as a business and decide what kind of business partner (i.e., Airbnb management company) you need to be successful
Let’s face it, the short-term rental industry is not what it was a year ago, never mind ten years ago. As you can probably imagine, a lot of that is due to the incredible rise of Airbnb.
In short, Airbnb has branded vacation rental as its own. Most people refer to renting an “Airbnb” now, rather than using more generic terms like vacation or short term rentals. It’s impressive, to say the least, and Evolve is proud to partner with Airbnb for all of our vacation rental listings (as well as all of the other major rental sites). The Airbnb online platform is incredibly valuable to both owners and renters but focusing only on their website or app can make it appear that that’s all there is—owners and renters.
In fact, there are actually three distinct choices for Airbnb property management. You can be your own host (DIY), you can hire a local property manager to run it for you (think contracts and high commissions), or you can choose flexible Airbnb management from Evolve (more on that later).
Again, there is no “wrong” way—many owners on Airbnb are extremely successful Superhosts. On that same note, many owners who hire local property managers love it and do it over and over again. It all comes down to personal preference. The biggest point is simply that the idea of an Airbnb these days is bigger than Airbnb itself, so you should take the time to explore the diverse styles of Airbnb property management.
And for the sake of this discussion, we’ll focus on complete and private homes, like condos or houses; no shared or less permanent spaces.
Tip: Do the research and be sure to consider all types of Airbnb management; you may be surprised how they compare to each other and to your preferences
Some owners look at their vacation rentals as investment properties, making decisions based more on numbers than on emotions. Others see their vacation rental properties as family businesses, focusing on making guests feel welcome and at home. Still others are somewhere in the middle, enjoying their vacation home as a personal escape but also prioritizing income to help with the cost of ownership.
There is no right or wrong way to look at owning a vacation rental, just different goals for different situations. For example, you may be more tolerant of an outdated kitchen than your guests would be, which can hurt bookings. That might mean that more income is less important to you than keeping your home “as is.” That’s a good thing to know before talking to Airbnb management companies.
While many Airbnb property management companies will make it easy for you to turn over management of your home to them, you might want to think deeper about what you want and how you approach property management for one of your most important assets. Any unmet expectations or misaligned goals in your relationship with your Airbnb management company could make renting your vacation home feel more stressful than successful. Here are the three ways you can go about Airbnb property management.
Tip: Decide your financial and personal goals for your Airbnb first, then search for a management solution that will best support those goals
If your vacation property is conveniently located and you have the time, relationships, and experience needed to run a short term rental business, then DIY might be right for you.
When you boil it down, running an Airbnb is really just two big jobs: attracting guests and supporting their stays. If you feel like you can master all the modern marketing and pricing strategies needed to attract guests, while offering an amazing in-residence experience to every guest, then you can do it yourself. Just keep in mind that you’ll likely spend up to 50 hours of your time just getting your property up and running, never mind marketing, guest support and the rest.
Here are some quick pros and cons of do-it-yourself Airbnb management. Overall, the biggest advantage of DIY is control over every part of your rental business.
|• Control over every part of the business||• Accountability when things go wrong|
|• Close relationships with guests||• 24/7 inquiries and problem-solving|
|• Personal pricing/income strategy knowledge/effort||• Income tied to knowledge/effort|
|• No fees for management||• No management guidance|
|• Contract your own (or DIY) cleaning||• DIY Cleaning|
|• Customized online marketing||• No marketing guidance|
Keep in mind that you can be successful with DIY management and yet still see upside with professional Airbnb management, like this Sedona couple who doubled their income with Evolve. Again, it comes back to your goals.
Tip: If you want control over every part of your vacation rental business, do it yourself but be prepared to constantly educate yourself on the rapidly changing short-term rental category
If your vacation home is located far away from your primary home, you’ve probably looked into hiring a local property manager. They often bill themselves as local experts who can offer a full suite of services for attracting and supporting guests.
While it seems impossible to manage a distant Airbnb any other way (more on that next), you should at least be mindful of two big challenges in working with local property managers: the fees you pay (can range from 25% – 40% of each booking) and the support you’re promised. Not many local companies can be as good at marketing, rate optimization, and customer service as they are at cleaning, maintenance, and all the other specialized demands of managing a vacation rental.
Here are some quick pros and cons of local property management for your Airbnb. Overall, the biggest advantage is having a local contact for your remote property.
|• Turn over remote property to local business||• Long-term contracts|
|• Low owner effort||• High fees and markups|
|• No 24/7 inquiries and problem-solving experience||• No control over guest experience|
|• Professional pricing/income strategy||• Income tied to local expertise|
|• Contracted cleaning||• Cleaning service mark ups|
|• Local marketing contact||• Unknown national marketing reach|
Local property managers may be local experts but your online listing is competing worldwide for bookings. Be sure to understand the marketing capabilities of any local vacation rental management company so you can avoid the mistakes Jim made before choosing Evolve.
Tip: Attracting guests to your vacation rental is harder than ever with all the choices guests have online. Be sure to dive deep into the marketing capabilities of any local property management company before committing to a contract.
Evolve makes vacation rental easy for you and your guests. Our fresh approach to Airbnb management gives you total marketing, booking, pricing, and customer support, plus the power to choose your own “home team” to clean and monitor your property.
We’re committed to creating great experiences in the homes we manage, so we take the lead on guest inquiries, bookings, pre-stay communications, and post-stay reviews. Plus, we back every stay with 24/7 support and our Rest Easy Promise.
Basically, we drive more guests to your property for maximum income, while giving you more choices with fewer rules—all for an industry-low 10% management fee. We don’t force you into long-term commitments and we only make money when you do, so our business goals are always aligned. If you’re looking for more flexibility and fewer rules, talk to Evolve.
Here’s how Airbnb property management from Evolve Vacation Rental works.
|• Trust your property to national experts||• Put our data and expertise to work for you|
|• Choose your own “home” team||• Coordinate stays directly with your team|
|• Tell us all about your home||• Handle all inquiries and support stays|
|• Want to maximize income year-round||• Put SmartRates pricing to work for you|
|• Want your home listed everywhere online||• Promote you on every major marketplace|
If running an Airbnb boils down to attracting guests and supporting their stays, then you need to ask yourself how important each of those are to you and your personal and financial goals. That answer should help you decide the right style of Airbnb management for you.
If your priority is income, you should ask yourself who has the experience and expertise needed to attract the most bookings to your online listing(s)? Or who can offer hotel-like hospitality and in-residence support to your guests, assuming you want five-star reviews and repeat customers?
If the answer is you, great! Good luck and we wish you speedy Superhost status.
If the answer must be an Airbnb management company, then be sure to ask the right questions of any potential partners. Remember, you’ll need total marketing, booking, pricing, and customer support to even be found online these days. And once guests are staying at your property, they’ll expect 24/7 support and the promise that, if anything is off about their stay, someone will make it right.
We mean it. This isn’t a sales pitch. In fact, we encourage you to check out our five reasons not to join Evolve article if you think we’re just in it for the clicks.
But if you are thinking about partnering with Evolve and have questions about this or any other aspect of managing your rental property, feel free to see if you qualify for Evolve’s services to learn more. There’s no pressure at all and we genuinely want to help you if we can.
Social media is a wealth of information, advertising, and connection. With so many people using social media for nearly all facets of life, it should come as no surprise that using it to help market your vacation rental is a smart way to keep up with the growing competition.
To help you out, we’ve created a high-level guide to walk you through best practices for marketing your vacation rental property on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Social media is the first and only place where people across the globe can gather to interact and share what they care about with the click of a button. For this reason, it’s a great way for homeowners to attract prospective guests and connect with past visitors.
Billions of people (potential guests!) use Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to look for travel deals, conjure up dream vacations, and of course, find vacation rental reviews so they know where to stay.
Using social media for vacation rental also gives you an invaluable opportunity to interact with guests before and after their stay, and will lead to an enhanced, more personal experience for you and your visitors. Guests can even use social media to post their own pictures and experiences of their stay, which can provide you with free advertising on multiple platforms, shape your home’s “brand” and give it a greater internet presence.
Facebook is a great place to start with your social media efforts. Not only does it have 253 million users in North America alone, but it’s also uniquely suited for businesses. You can think of it as a ‘catch-all’ platform for travelers because it’s the hub for most ages and demographics.
You’ll want to create a Facebook business page for your vacation rental that is different from the one where you have “friends” now. You can share your favorite amenities (have a firepit for s’mores or a game room in the home?), photos of the rental, property reviews, and more. Be sure to include a link to your Evolve property listing on your page so that travelers can book your property when they’re ready!
To get marketing value out of a Facebook Page, you’ll need to post often and strategically (you can see what works best for your page in the insights section). Your insights page is completely unique to your business page and is only visible to you. You’ll get to see what days and times your followers are most active and what posts get the best response. These “insights” will help you plan out posts to get the most out of your page.
Out of all of the platforms, you can expect Facebook to attract the most guest inquiries and views. That’s because Facebook pages are often a one-stop-shop: they provide viewers with a place to see photos, learn about your vacation rental, see reviews from former guests, interact and engage with you, and so much more.
The more active you can be in providing professional and prompt customer service, the more people will be likely to book your property. Similar to listing sites, users can see how quickly pages reply to questions and messages, so being responsive is important!
Facebook best practices:
Instagram is a great platform to use to highlight the aesthetics of your home, especially for homes that have amazing views or incredible decor. Instagram is ideal for interacting with other users’ visual content.
Creating an Instagram for Business account and sharing pictures is just the first step. Instagram business accounts, like Facebook business pages, will give you more audience insights, as well as provide a space for potential guests and past visitors to interact specifically with your vacation rental brand. The content you share should show the best aspects of your home and promote photos taken and shared by your guests! You can also post photos of local attractions, your favorite spots around town, and pictures of your property.
Hashtags are the best way for Instagram users to find your page. Add unique hashtags to your Instagram posts, but also use hashtags that relate to the content of the post, such as the town, the restaurant name, and anything else to make your post more searchable.
For example, if you’re posting a photo of your Pigeon Forge cabin, you can use hashtags like #pigeonforge #tennessee #pigeonforgecabin #vacationrentalcabin #tennesseevacation. You’ll also want to be sure to add your general location (like Pigeon Forge) to every post so that other people exploring pictures of that area will see your photo.
Branded hashtags and Instagram usernames are incredibly important for your online presence and brand awareness. For example, a quick search of @evolvevacationrental or #evolvevacationrental will reveal a ton of beautiful Evolve properties. To create a branded hashtag and username, think of something easy to read, short, and unique to your property. If your home has a name, then you should use that for the username (and branded hashtag!). If it doesn’t, just make sure that the username and branded hashtag you choose clearly convey what your property offers. Or start thinking of a fun name for your home!
Let your guests know that you have an Instagram account prior to their trip or upon arrival (include your account name in your welcome book!) so they can tag your property in their photos, or even use a branded hashtag. This is a great way to show future guests what it would be like to spend time at your rental. It also means that your current guest will be sharing your property with their own friends and family.
Instagram best practices:
While not quite as traveler-centric, Twitter is still a great way to network with other vacation rental homeowners and stay in the loop of breaking news and new advancements in vacation rental technology. It’s also a good way to find relevant content to either retweet or share on Facebook.
Twitter posts have a short lifespan, so the network is best used to share real-time updates and smaller announcements that may not be as relevant for the Facebook demographic.
As a homeowner, you should post content that is specific to your area and to your vacation rental. Have a free weekend that isn’t booked yet? Tweet out to guests that there’s still time to book. The county fair was just announced? Let your followers and other locals know the news.
Think of Twitter as less of a way to get more bookings and more of a way to become a voice for vacation rentals in your town and become part of a greater homeowner community. Share your wisdom, get advice from others, and interact directly with local businesses.
Twitter best practices:
As a vacation rental homeowner, you’re running a business. And your business is built on creating guest connections and guest experiences that are exactly what they wanted and more. Social media gives you the opportunity to accomplish this, although it does take a bit of work.
With that being said, we’d recommend only creating accounts on social media platforms that you know you’ll keep up with. There is nothing worse than a traveler finding your page and seeing that it hasn’t been updated in months. Without frequent updates, it may seem like property is no longer in operation.
If you do decide to take the plunge into the world of social media, we’d love to help make your time worthwhile. Be sure to tag and comment on our Evolve social media accounts as an extra way to boost your online presence. We’ll be sure to keep an eye out for opportunities to help share your posts and promote your property further:
We only succeed when our owners succeed, and we want to help provide the best tips to do so. Social media marketing will help you put your vacation rental in front of potential guests quickly and efficiently. If you’re thinking about partnering with Evolve and have questions about this or any other aspect of managing your rental property, feel free to see if you qualify for Evolve’s services to learn more. There’s no pressure at all and we genuinely want to help you if we can.
America’s national parks are some of the only places where you can still feel like a true explorer as you watch the big sky expand above you, surround yourself with nature, and connect to simplicity. Every park has its signature landscapes, climates, flora, and fauna, which can make it difficult to choose which one is right for your escape.
We’ve got you covered. Light a fire, brush up on your John Muir quotes, and dive into our picks on where to head, sorted by region. And before you pack up your trail mix and hit the road, make sure that the place you’re headed out to enjoy is open — many of the parks are still in phased reopening due to travel restrictions.
Sit overlooking thousands of rock formations and watch the light catch so many shades of red at Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park, roughly an hour-and-a-half drive apart. These parks are home to otherworldly desert landscapes, narrow slot canyons, river oases, wildlife, and more. For a sunset with postcard views, drive to Bryce Canyon’s Sunset Point and enjoy a moment of peace after a day of adventure.
Our Hiking Pick: Zion Narrows Riverside Walk is an easy way to get close to the water and experience the park’s colorful canyons. Peekaboo Loop Trail in Bryce Canyon is a challenging climb that offers views of mesmerizing rock formations.
Stay Here: Find your perfect cozy getaway near Zion (in St. George, Hurricane, or Kanab) or Bryce (Northview, Duck Creek Village, and Escalante).
Hitting the trail in Arches National Park is a little like walking on another planet. Over 2,000 rock arches live inside the park waiting to be explored, and beholding these real-life phenomena in person is unforgettable. Seek sun by day as you view the world anew through the lens of an arch, then gaze up to a night sky dense with stars.
Our Hiking Pick: There’s a reason the Delicate Arch is one of the most popular hikes in the park. It’s a more challenging climb, but you’ll be rewarded with views of a massive arch that frames the desert terrain.
Stay Here: Find an Evolve vacation home in Moab, the gateway to Arches filled with whimsical charm.
At Yellowstone National Park, geothermal features such as Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Spring send off dramatic plumes of steam and spray, and you can spot bison, elk, moose, and wolves all year round. But this popular park also has more quiet outdoor areas where you can find sanctuary amid towering waterfalls and rivers, like Undine Falls.
Our Hiking Pick: Midway Geyser Basin Trail lets you take one hike and get up close with two geysers.
Stay Here: Find a home you’ll love in peaceful Montana towns like Big Sky, Pray, and Red Lodge.
To visit Rocky Mountain National Park is to experience the heart of Colorado: the grandeur of mountains capped with snow, winding roads that open up to vistas that stun the senses, and crisp, cool alpine lakes in the center of it all. Turn on some local bluegrass and take a drive up Trail Ridge Road into the mountains. Hike out to waterfalls like Alberta Falls, or enjoy a leisurely walk out to Bear Lake.
Our Hiking Pick: Emerald Lake offers pristine lake views for a moderate climb.
Stay Here: Experience small town charm in Estes Park, home to adorable candy shops and eateries or the scenic Grand Lake.
Glacier National Park in Montana is another world — you can drive or hike to your heart’s content and experience the park’s rugged mountains, forests, and lakes. Look out at mountain goats, bighorn sheep, glaciers, and sprawling verdant hills from the famous Going-to-the-Sun-Road. Once you’re ready to stretch your legs, take the hike out to Avalanche Lake to watch the mountains reflect off the water or head to the crystal-clear Lake McDonald.
Our Hiking Pick: Bighorn Sheep might greet you as you walk along Hidden Lake Trail, one of the most-loved stops in the park. As with any of these suggestions, do check to make sure the trail is open before your visit.
Stay Here: Find a vacation home near Glacier in Kalispell, where you’ll soon be curling up to look at some of the best photos you’ve ever snapped.
Wander into California’s Yosemite National Park to experience a magnitude of beauty: towering waterfalls, meadows that roll out into the horizon, and giant sequoias. In a word, Yosemite is classic — and hosts the views that might come to your mind when you think of iconic nature photography and old black and whites of the mountains. The park is extremely popular in the summer, and September and May can be ideal times to visit. In those months, temperatures are still mild and roads are generally open so that you can experience the park’s sites and trails such as the views at Half Dome and Glacier Point. Want to get a feel for Yosemite before your trip? Check out the documentary Free Solo, which follows a professional rock climber in his free solo climb of Yosemite’s El Capitan.
Our Hiking Pick: Visit the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias to experience the largest trees you’ve ever laid eyes on.
Stay Here: Find a vacation home in Mammoth or Groveland that’s the perfect woodland retreat.
Step right into a real-life fairytale as you wander lush forests, snow-covered peaks, and fields of alpine wildflowers. Visit the Pacific Northwest’s Mount Rainier National Park to see the Paradise area, where purple and red flowers blossom to frame the Tatoosh Mountains, or stop by Sunrise, the highest point in the park accessible by vehicle, complete with cascading views that pay off the drive.
Our Hiking Pick: On the Grove of Patriarchs Loop, you can gain stunning views of the forest without big elevation gains.
Stay Here: Find a vacation home in Packwood, or opt for the big city life in the greater Seattle area.
At Olympic National Park on Washington’s west coast, you can admire the Pacific from mist-covered beaches, and hike (or drive) to magnificent views at Hurricane Ridge, which could be mistaken for Switzerland on a clear day. To experience a lush rainforest without ever leaving the states, traipse among ancient trees in the Hoh Rainforest.
Our Hiking Pick: Hike to Sol Duc Falls for an enchanting afternoon.
Stay Here: Discover vacation rentals that fit your group in Port Angeles, Port Townsend, or Hoodsport.
Journey into the wetlands of South Florida’s Everglades National Park to experience the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. Find yourself surrounded by layers of green forest and marsh as you look to wildlife, or catch a glimpse of manatees and turtles on an airboat or Shark Valley tram.
Our Hiking Pick: The Anhinga Trail highlights the best wildlife in the park and is perfect for a quick stop and hikers of all levels.
Stay Here: View some of our favorite vacation homes near the Everglades, including Miami, Fort Myers, and Naples properties.
A wonderland of wildflowers is waiting for you at Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountain National Park, which is home to more than 1,500 kinds of flowering plants and wildflowers that make a show here every spring. Discover their beauty — and local wildlife as well — from the Cades Cove loop road or visit Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the park.
Our Hiking Pick: Though it’s a bit more of a hike out, Mouse Creek Falls via Big Creek Trail offers an easy grade and idyllic waterfall views.
Stay Here: View some of our favorite vacation rental homes available near Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, or Gatlinburg.
Walk through a geothermal wonderland with over 47 springs (that come out at an average temperature of 143 degrees). Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas is a place to hike and experience this natural phenomenon up close, but you can’t actually bathe in these springs due to their extreme temperatures. Don’t fret — a relaxing soak at Bathhouse Row or the Buckstaff Boathouse awaits you after a long day of hiking.
Our Hiking Pick: Sunset Trail takes you through some of the more remote areas of the park so you can soak in the views without the crowds. But don’t go too far out, because this trail is out and back.
Stay Here: These vacation homes in Hot Springs will put you in the vicinity of the park and give you a relaxing place to unwind.
Shenandoah National Park is a place to rejoice in views of the night sky, experience the height of fall foliage, and take unforgettable drives, like the celebrated Skyline Drive. Choose from over 500 miles of trails, including one of our favorites, Dark Hollow Falls.
Our Hiking Pick: Bearfence Viewpoint is the one of the best places in the park to enjoy a well-earned snack with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Stay Here: Choose one of these Evolve homes and rest easy in Massanutten.
Feel the ocean mist as you ascend the coastal hiking trails at Maine’s Acadia National Park. The park, which is lovingly referred to as the “Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast,” is a reveled place to experience East Coast charm. Come fall, make your way up Park Loop Road to get a front-row seat to the tapestry of changing colors, complete with views of the bay. Reach the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest point along the North Atlantic, for a sunrise impossible to capture on film. In warmer months, you can view the park by kayaking or canoeing Jordan Pond’s crystal-clear waters or hear the clap of the tide at Thunder Hole.
Our Hiking Pick: Jordan Pond Loop Trail is a beginner-friendly way to behold Acadia’s quintessential coastal views.
Stay Here: Evolve’s vacation rental homes will give you the perfect base for your Maine adventure.
After a day on your feet, a hot shower and a place you can enjoy the view is a must. Evolve has vacation homes near these national parks and beyond — and our Rest Easy Promise gives you the confidence that every home will be as good as you saw online.
EXPLORE ALL HOMES HERE
This March, a common concern surfaced for Evolve homeowners: If guests weren’t traveling, how could they still earn rental income? The months that followed brought many unpredictable moments. One thing many of us at Evolve wouldn’t have predicted was the complete turnaround in bookings — and an unexpected speedy recovery during a time when nearly every other industry was down. Come June 2020, our gross booking value was up 60% compared to last year. You might be wondering why.
Well for one, guests are seeking out private vacation rentals right now. When they stay with Evolve, they depend on arriving at a place that’s professionally cleaned and safe. We give them a way to return to the vacations and people they love with an added layer of confidence.
But there’s another big factor at play here that’s less obvious on the surface — our in-house pricing algorithm, SmartRates.
Every day, SmartRates works hard behind the scenes and analyzes billions of data points (yes, billions) to make sure our owners are always earning as much as possible with pricing that is still approachable to guests. When it came to COVID-19, SmartRates was just the tool we needed to make sense of all the rapid changes in the market — and adjust prices accordingly, in real time.
Here are just a few of the many things SmartRates tracks:
Overall Demand: SmartRates detects changes in the market demand and adjusts nightly rates accordingly, never dipping below the nightly minimum.
Seasonality: SmartRates accounts for seasonal occupancy trends in the area, decreasing nightly rates during “off season,” and increasing them in “peak season.”
Last-Minute Bookings: If demand is low and the competition is high, SmartRates will reduce nightly rates (again, never dipping below the minimum).
Current Trends: We adjust our prices based on current trends. Right now, guests are looking for private, more remote properties.
Similar Properties: SmartRates assesses how homes with similar amenities and bedroom counts are priced and makes sure our homes are priced competitively.
Check out the SmartRates page on our website to learn more about how this tool gives our homeowners a leading edge.
Once SmartRates gathers the data, our teams step in to make sense of it and help our owners earn more. During COVID-19, Evolve’s regional revenue experts were able to use learnings from SmartRates that made the difference between a sustained slump in the market to Evolve having one of our brightest spring seasons yet and getting ahead of the recovery.
In March, when stay-at-home orders were suddenly put in place and traveler demand drastically decreased, we made the decision to reduce our rates across the board. SmartRates allowed us to make swift adjustments and turn down the rates on several markets at the same time.
SmartRates in March
Many homeowners outside of Evolve stayed at their normal rates at the start of COVID-19, while Evolve dipped our rates down in anticipation of market changes. This led us to convert at much higher rates than the marketplace at large, and thus rank higher in searches. Pulling down our prices by an average of 15% in March was one of the best decisions we’ve made for our homeowners, as these conversions continue to help our listings rank higher on websites like Airbnb and Vrbo — which has led to a record number of bookings at higher rates for the summer season.
SmartRates in April
Come April, guests had their eye on booking future trips and planning ahead as a way of daydreaming. They were in search of homes with pools and private recreation centers in more remote places that fit into the new world of social distancing. They also wanted larger homes with areas to spread out and relax, as many of the activities they might normally do while traveling remained closed. SmartRates helped us quickly find the places most likely to perform based on the larger trends we had assessed and raise the prices on those homes.
SmartRates in May and June
The strategy we set up at the beginning of COVID-19 has paid off enormously. The high conversions for March and April help us continue to top search results, and now we’re in the prime spot to raise rates, because in many cases, we’re offering just the kind of travel that guests are trying to find. The week of 6/21, for example, our rates were 17% higher year over year. And compared to the rest of the market, Evolve homes received 30% more bookings on average.
As always, our goal during COVID-19 has been to follow what the market is doing and position our owners to succeed — and it was exciting to see this same strategy work during one of the biggest challenges the travel industry has faced.
The process of setting rates is intricate — which is exactly why homeowners trust us to set their rates for them. Prices change every day and that’s normal and planned — all the more reason no one person could ever keep up.
We only earn money when our owners do, so our interest lies in both of us earning as much as possible. There’s no way a single homeowner, even versed in the business, could research over a billion data points and then carefully analyze everything that might be affecting the numbers. To do this would be more than a full-time job — and that’s the last thing we want to put on their shoulders when we’re trying to make vacation rental easy for everyone.
If you’re thinking about partnering with Evolve and have questions about this or any other aspect of managing your rental property, feel free to see if you qualify for Evolve’s services to learn more. There’s no pressure at all and we genuinely want to help you if we can.
As a short-term rental management company (and not just a short-term rental listing site), Evolve Vacation Rental is uniquely positioned to understand how both owners and guests are doing in this crazy time. The last four months have been a learning experience, to say the least, and we’re happy to share what we’ve learned each step of the way with these updates.
The short story is that volume of inquiries and bookings in June stayed extremely elevated, causing some delays in response time. On the other hand, the record-breaking weeks we’ve had mean we’re still outpacing 2019 performance overall. We’ve created demand for our properties, raised rates, and more owners are benefiting. Here are the biggest takeaways from June for Evolve homeowners.
The quick recovery in our category has been fortunate–and necessary. Many of our homeowners rely on their vacation rentals for income and couldn’t afford to have a depressed summer. So while early spring was an unpredictable and harrowing time, the continued rise in demand means that gross booking value for our properties is now 60% higher than last year.
That kind of activity is more than the simple desire travelers have for private, professionally cleaned homes. It also speaks to our brand promise, our pricing strategy, and our strong relationships with our partners like Airbnb, Vrbo, and Booking.com. Everything we do for our owners, we do for ALL of our owners, so everybody wins.
When it comes to short-term rental income, rates follow demand. The idea is that you’ll be more successful in the long run if your listing performs well on the top marketplaces. More bookings equal better online rankings for your property listing, which in turn attracts even more bookings. Eventually, you can raise your rates to take full advantage of that demand.
The past few months have proven this beyond a doubt. We lowered rates to attract whatever bookings we could, then once the bookings started coming in, we knew our properties would be ranked higher. Eventually, we could charge higher rates based on the popularity of our listings. The biggest enabler of that strategy is SmartRates. The biggest enabler of that strategy is SmartRates and we do a deeper dive into our unique approach here.
As you can see, we ended the month with average daily rates for our homes up 17% compared to last year. While SmartRates can look confusing on a day-to-day basis since pricing constantly changes, it’s all in service of building enough booking momentum to justify higher daily rates. As you can see from the consistent increase in June rates, it works.
Eventually, all of those earlier bookings in late April/May were going to turn up in our data as check-ins and stays. It looks like that time has arrived.
Toward the end of the month, more than 10,000 guests checked in to Evolve properties, the most ever. Usually, the weekend before a holiday weekend is slower, but this year the weekend before July 4th is just as busy as the holiday weekend. Clearly, more and more guests are arriving to Evolve homes ready for a stress-free summer escape, thanks to the combined efforts of Evolve, our homeowners, and our cleaning partners.
Even better, we see the demand for our homes in summer 2020 already exceeding the summer of 2019 right through the end of August. This is more than a single month bump. This is the summer, depending on circumstances related to COVID-19.
While we’re grateful for our current business successes, we know that we’ve fallen short on service. Even beyond the complete cratering of demand for short-term rentals in March, cancellations are still up 500% and we’re fielding significantly more inquiries per booking as guests try to better understand the homes and areas they want to visit. None of this is an excuse; it simply illustrates how even a swift recovery can be challenging.
This crisis has shown us how we can do better in the short-term—growing our teams, more automation in our systems, etc.—but also in the long run. We’re committed to not only solving today’s service problems, but to building a better company that can truly live up to our mission to make vacation rental easy, no matter the circumstances.
If you’re an existing Evolve owner, know that we’re proactively working on your behalf to make the most of this surge in demand. If you’re thinking about partnering with Evolve and have questions about this or any other aspect of managing your rental property, feel free to schedule a call with one of our Vacation Rental Advisors to learn more. There’s no pressure at all and we genuinely want to help you if we can.
Stay well and let’s take care of each other.
Evolve Vacation Rental was founded nine years ago on the simple idea that renting private, clean, and fully-equipped homes is the best way to travel. All that was needed was a better approach to helping owners manage their homes and support their guests. Fast forward to today and travelers are agreeing wholeheartedly, booking Evolve homes at a furious pace as the country reopens for the summer.
It’s not surprising that people would prefer private homes in response to an outbreak. What is surprising, though, is the speed of recovery. At our low point in March, no one would have predicted that trips would be up more than 700% by the end of May. In just two months, Evolve has moved from rock-bottom to a record-breaking volume of bookings.
As always, thank you to everyone on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis and essential workers everywhere. Special thanks to the professional cleaning companies we work with every day to help keep our homes clean and our guests safe. We appreciate you and hope that the data below reinforces how vital your efforts are and how quickly we all may recover from this crisis.
As April ended, we saw promising growth in traveler inquiries and gross bookings while cancellations continued to decrease. The May numbers leave no doubt that we’ve turned it around, at least for the foreseeable future.
Traveler inquiries have stayed elevated throughout the month of May. It’s no surprise based on the growth in demand, but the acceleration has been challenging. We’re already shifting some of our existing team members to help with traveler inquiries and will be adding new hires to traveler and guest teams so we can help everyone as quickly as possible.
We’ve already broken the all-time record for gross bookings in a week by more than 25% and every week builds on the previous success. Our peak was May 15 when bookings were up 218% compared to the same date last year.
As cancellations continue to decline (especially for trips booked after March 14, which are at normal cancellation levels), we expect more records to be broken as summer bookings increase.
And the bookings are widespread, as we see a huge increase in bookings per property overall compared to the same time frame last year. We’re now seeing twice as many bookings per property as we did at this time in 2019.
Best of all, average daily rates for Evolve homes are actually up 3% compared to a year ago. As we tell all of our new owners, higher rates follow higher demand; this trend happily proves it.
The other clear changes we’ve seen are the length of time before booking and the length of the stay. Basically, travelers are booking shorter stays in a more last-minute fashion.
Shorter booking windows may be due to simple cabin fever as people are allowed to finally venture out after staying at home. Also, a lot of uncertainty surrounds the opening of the country, so travelers may not want to book too far ahead and, as a result, are asking for more flexibility for canceling and/or changing plans than ever before. Part of the trend is seasonal, too, but overall the average booking window continues to drop and is already 45% shorter than it was in 2019.
The reasons for shorter stays are less clear. We’ve all heard of city dwellers escaping for long-term sheltering, but the trend we’re seeing supports shorter stays than usual.
Lastly, cancellations are finally stabilizing. As we mentioned earlier, trips booked after March 14 (with full awareness of COVID-related restrictions being implemented), have been at relatively normal rates for a while, but cancellations of trips booked before March 14 are still elevated. Overall, our average cancellation rate is now around 30% which is still higher than normal, but it’s a far cry from March’s punishing 80%+ cancellation rates.
It’s clear now that our focus on offering only fully-equipped, private vacation homes will speed recovery for our owners in the second half of the year. Here are some of the ways we’re helping:
To say that our company has been stress-testing over the last few months would be an understatement. But the late April to May time frame has shown that our business strategy is the right one. More than ever, people want to escape to private, professionally cleaned homes that are fully-equipped for their stay. And everyone at Evolve is still working every day from their homes to make that happen for our owners and guests.
If you’re an existing Evolve owner, rest easy knowing that we’re proactively working on your behalf to make the most of this surge in demand. If you’re thinking about partnering with Evolve and have questions about this or any other aspect of managing your rental property, feel free to schedule a call with one of our Vacation Rental Advisors to learn more. There’s no pressure at all and we genuinely want to help you if we can.
Stay well and let’s take care of each other.
Small towns invite you to amble their enchanting, colorful streets and spoon cold ice cream on hot summer days. When you’re away from it all, you can crack your window open and hear the crickets singing or ocean waves lapping the shore. These destinations offer the chance to slow down and celebrate the simple things — and that’s just why they hold so much allure to travelers.
Now, we invite you to indulge your wanderlust and travel into the heart of America’s best small towns.
Taos is a vibrant community where art is alive — a place where you can toast to the sun as it drapes over the terracotta buildings. Head to Taos for bold flavors, rich history, and sweeping views of the Sangre de Cristo mountains.
SEE: If you want to feel your stomach drop while towering over your surroundings, visit the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, the fifth highest bridge in the United States. Another stop you’ll want to experience is the Taos Pueblo, where you can tour a Pueblo that has been inhabited for over 1,000 years. No trip to Taos, New Mexico is complete without a visit to the forbidden art gallery by D.H. Lawrence located at the Hotel La Fonda de Taos). While you’re in town, spend an afternoon touring the Taos Historic District on foot. When you’re ready for a nightcap, follow the neon sign into Taos Inn and ask the bartender to deliver your favorite tequila.
Traveling with a car? Take the road trip down to another small town — Santa Fe, New Mexico (approximately 90 minutes away) — and experience Meow Wolf, a gallery that begins in a Victorian house and transports you into a surreal wonderland. Before you head back to Taos, stop to admire the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum for a study of the iconic painter’s work.
MOVE: Despite its eclectic, desert ambiance, Taos is a destination for skiing, and Taos Ski Valley is the place to hit the slopes. You can also find outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, or hot air ballooning at the scenic Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. For those looking for an uphill challenge, Williams Lake hike makes for an unforgettable climb. After a long day in the sun, wind down at Ojo Caliente Spa’s hot springs, perfect for anyone over the age of 13.
EAT + DRINK: Authentic mole, homemade guacamole, and New Mexico’s renowned chili await you at La Cueva Cafe. Once you’re ready for something sweet, satiate your sugar fix at Chokola, a small-batch chocolatier famous for sipping chocolate. Lattes are a form of art at Elevation Coffee, so be sure to indulge in one as you wander the town.
SLEEP: Find your dream vacation rental and rest your head at the base of the Sangre de Cristo mountains.
Breckenridge is one of the best small towns in America, and it’s anything but sleepy. Come winter, skiers and snowboarders flock here to fly down fresh powder at lightning speeds. In summer, Breckenridge transforms into a natural playground for spotting wildlife, hiking, biking, and experiencing a pocket of the mountain that hums with energy.
SEE: If you’ve ever wanted to meet a real-life fairytale character, say hello to The Breckenridge Troll, also known as Isak Heartstone. The downtown area of this mountain town is home to a classic Main Street perfect for passing an afternoon with apple cider in hand as you stroll quaint shops, charming coffee houses, and bars and restaurants.
MOVE: Travelers from all over the world come to hit the slopes at Breckenridge Ski Resort and the nearby Keystone and Copper Mountain — and if you want to fly the mountain by way of sledding or tubing, there are plenty of places nearby to do it. Those who are looking for more tranquil outdoor adventures can head out for a hike at the wildflower-lined Cucumber Gulch (check for trail closures).
EAT + DRINK: After a day of adventure, you might be craving something hearty like a burger or mac and cheese — both of which are on the menu at The Canteen. To drink in local flavor, head to a local brewery like Broken Compass for a pint or two. And whether you’re in search of a sweet or savory snack, Crepes a La Cart serves up irresistible crepes — you can even order a s’mores crepe here.
SLEEP: Take in the area’s best views and sip cocoa in one of these Breckenridge vacation rentals.
The oldest city in the United States is also one of the most memorable. History buffs and beach dwellers fill their days here with museums, decadent food and drink, and tranquil afternoon naps along the Atlantic.
SEE: Grab an afternoon history lesson at the Castillo de San Marcos Monument, where you can explore a fort rich with centuries of history. Overcome your fear of alligators at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, the only place in the world that’s home to every living species of crocodilian. For a quick offbeat stop, make way to the storied Love Trees, which are said to bring everlasting romance to their visitors.
LOUNGE: St. Augustine is more about slowing down than moving around — letting the sun cast over you and the waves tickle your feet, or diving right into the water as the sun goes down. Visit St. Augustine Beach for uninterrupted views of white sand and take a long walk, collecting shells along the way. If you’re still looking to bike the coast, Crescent Beach has hard-packed sand perfect for getting a sweat on.
EAT + DRINK: Coffee is best when it’s paired with a snack, and at The Kookaburra Coffee, that snack is a delectable Aussie Pie. If you’ve got a hankering for a big breakfast, find a seat at Maple Street and spread some housemade jam over rich, buttery biscuits. Dig your fork into a fresh catch at Catch 27, where seafood is the star, accompanied by local produce.
SLEEP: Make dinner and open your window up to the ocean breeze in St. Augustine. We think you’ll love these great places to stay.
Traverse City, Michigan is the cherry capital of the world, and with it comes all the charm you might expect. Summer brings long days on the edge of the lake and refreshing local microbrews. In winter, Traverse City is the place to find your holiday spirit while skiing, sledding, and playing board games next to the flicker of a fire.
PLAY OUTSIDE: Traverse City is a destination for that timeless summer lake trip — where a day easily slips by as you sit near the edge of the dock. You can find your private view of the lake on the Empire Bluff Trail, which will lead you up to a perch where you can marvel over a coastline that you might mistake for a tropical beach. This trail is a part of The Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes, so if you’re ready to channel your inner child, you can climb your way up the dune itself (it’s harder than it looks).
If you’re looking for something a little more low-key, you can lounge out in the sand along the waterfront at Clinch Park and bask in the views of Lake Michigan. But after a day of admiring the lake, you might be itching to get out on the water. At TC Watersports, you can rent jet skis or a boat for the whole group. You can also kayak your way to some of Traverse City’s best beers on a Kayak Brewery Tour.
When winter sets in, you’ll feel like you’re walking inside of a holiday movie filled with snow-covered trees and warm, cozy coffee shops. Spend the day at Shanty Creek and race down the slopes on skis, spin your way down them on an alpine sled, or admire your surroundings from a flat path on cross country skis.
When you’re ready to take a break, sip microbrews in a lit igloo or next to a heated campfire at Hop Lot (winter only).
SEE: Dive beneath the surface of Traverse City by walking through a brick steam tunnel crafted in 1883 on a tour of what used to be the Traverse City State Hospital (currently known as The Village at Grand Traverse Commons). After the tour is over, head to another place that will let you venture beyond surface appearances at Teetotallers Wholesome Refreshment, a hidden tea shop speakeasy.
If you consider yourself a cinephile, be sure to plan your trip around the Traverse City Film Festival and catch the next big hit on a small-town screen.
EAT + DRINK: One Traverse City old-fashioned candy stop has something that makes it hard to miss: An oversized, welcoming fudge box on the roof. Step inside Doug Murdick’s Fudge for a slice of local history that comes with irresistible smells.
While you’re in town, there’s a trail you’ll definitely want to follow — the Old Mission Peninsula Wine Trail. Michigan shares a latitude with celebrated grape-growing legends like Burgundy, Alsace, and Bordeaux, which means you can toast to the day with a glass that will become a memory.
When you’re ready to wind down the day over a nightcap and some conversation, head to Trattoria Stella for irresistible burrata and hand-rolled pasta.
SLEEP: Find your place on the lake and start relaxing as soon as you check in. These Traverse City vacation homes give you a luxurious way to enjoy your surroundings.
Hot Springs, Arkansas is filled with historic hangouts, natural beauty, architectural marvels, and geothermal waters. It’s rare to get a full vacation experience amid the humble roots of a small town, but here, you will.
SEE: History lives in every room of the old-school cool Arlington Hotel, a hallmark of the city that used to be frequented by Babe Ruth and Joe DeMaggio. Head to Bathhouse Row to admire the architecture of antique bathhouses (you can even drink a beer in the Superior Bathhouse) or indulge in a dip and a spa day at Quapaw Baths.
GET OUTSIDE: One of the best photos of your trip can be snapped at Garvan Woodland Gardens. The gardens are home to Anthony Chapel, an architectural marvel that soars into the surrounding oak trees with floor-to-ceiling glass walls.
Once you’ve snapped a few photos, hike your way around Hot Springs National Park, where the geothermal temperatures climb to 143 degrees. If this heat has you craving something more refreshing, Hill Wheatley Park is a well-loved spot to go for a swim in Lake Hamilton.
EAT + DRINK: The cupcakes at Fat Bottomed Girl’s Cupcakes are so celebrated that they’ve appeared on the Food Network — so you’ll want to grab one as your midday snack (or hey, even breakfast). If you’ve got a hankering for pizza, Deluca’s is the best stop in town. By night, find a seat at Arkansas’ oldest bar called The Ohio Club, which formerly served as a haunt for gangsters like Al Capone.
SLEEP: Choose a casual hangout overlooking Lake Hamilton, or book a place with a hot tub and slow down under the stars. These Hot Springs vacation rentals offer something for everyone.
Fall under the spell of Mystic, Connecticut, which still feels untouched by time. This is the place to soak in quaint New England, celebrate maritime culture, and trade the bustle of the city for a peaceful way of life.
SEE: Start the day by strolling this seaside village’s historic downtown, home to independent shops and restaurants like Main Street Soap Emporium. Then, gather some picnic supplies and a bottle of rosè and rent out a Mystic River Cruise to get out on the water.
Once you’re ready to wind down, lounge on the sand at Williams Beach Park or cool off inside the Mystic Seaport Museum, an interactive museum where you can see the last wooden whaleship in the world.
ATTEND: If you’re headed to Mystic, plan your trip around one of this small town’s charming festivals to get a real taste of local life. Grab a coffee at the Green Marble Coffee House and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at the Mystic Irish Parade, where bagpipes sound through the streets.
Wander downtown Mystic and support local artists at the Mystic Outdoor Art Festival. If you’re looking for your holiday spirit, it’s waiting at the Holiday Lighted Boat Parade, where colorful lights illuminate the river and Santa arrives by tugboat.
EAT + DRINK: Before you even leave, you’ll want to watch Mystic Pizza starring Julia Roberts — and once you unpack, you can visit the real Mystic Pizza for a slice. Grass and Bone is also a must, where you can stock up on fresh meats and sourdough bread from the market or grab lunch to go. For dinner, eat oysters out of a darling blue house called Oyster Club and let New England charm enchant you.
SLEEP: Rest in an adorable Mystic vacation home that’s big on charm.
After a day exploring America’s best small towns, you’ll want a hot shower and a place to enjoy the view. Evolve has vacation homes near these places and beyond — and our Rest Easy Promise gives you the confidence that every home will be as good as you saw online.
EXPLORE ALL VACATION HOMES HERE
As the first full month of spring, April showed surprising signs of life in the vacation rental space. It’s a remarkable contrast to March, which now seems to be the brunt of the cancellation crush. Before we dive into the data, we once again thank those on the front lines of the COVID-19 health crisis and offer our condolences to anyone suffering from the virus. We appreciate and support everyone working to keep us all safe.
As much of America (and the world) stayed home in April, something shifted. Whether it was the beginning of the end of stay-at-home orders, the national conversation about reopening the country, or just isolated people dreaming of future travel, inquiries and bookings started to come back — very suddenly. If March was a slide, then the back half of April was a trampoline for Evolve. During the month, we saw:
It’s already a cliche to say that we live in unprecedented times. But the speed of change in the vacation rental space has been just that. In March, the massive volume of guest cancellations strained our resources. Now, the flood of inquiries for new bookings in our homes is threatening to be just as disruptive.
We’re not complaining at all. Recovery in any form is everyone’s goal. We just didn’t anticipate it beginning so quickly after such a difficult March. It’s dizzying, but also heartening. Let’s look at the larger short-term rental travel trends we saw this month.
The short story here is that traveler demand has suddenly reappeared. The first half of April was a continuation of March, down by almost every measure. Midway through the month, everything changed. Let’s look closer.
The slump of new travel inquiries that began in March continued into the first half of April. In fact, April 11 was actually the lowest point of the year so far with guest inquiries down 280% compared to the same date last year. Surprisingly, it became a completely different story just two weeks later.
In just a four-day span (April 17 – April 20), guest inquiries to our Travel Advisor team saw a dizzying rebound, from being down 88% compared to last year to being up 94% compared to last year. That trend has continued and inquiries have consistently outpaced last year’s volume since then.
While the speed of recovery has been unexpected, we always assumed the appeal of booking a private home would allow the vacation rental industry to rebound quickly when the demand for travel returned. The second half of April is a strong sign that it might already be here.
As positive as that about-face is, inquiries are just that. A potential guest who calls or submits a question about a property isn’t guaranteed to commit to booking it. True recovery needs more than inquiries; it needs inquiries that convert to confirmed bookings. So far, we’re getting more questions than conversions from potential guests.
Historically, a healthy conversion rate is above 20% of inquiries for Evolve (at least one out of five inquiries books a stay). The conversion rate at the end of April of 2020 was averaging below 15%. The feedback from our Travel Advisor team fielding the spike in inquiries is that potential guests have a lot of questions about flexibility for cancellations, cleanliness in our homes, and how to find the lowest rates.
So it looks like the demand for travel is growing, but people are understandably being more cautious in planning. The unpredictability of travel and/or short term rental restrictions means guests want reassurances about cancellation policies. Lingering questions about virus transmission means guests want information about cleanliness. And rates are always a year-round concern.
Our team is working very hard to answer every question, build confidence in our homes and cleaning standards, and convert more inquiries into stays when appropriate.
Similarly, the second half of April was a reversal from the previous weeks for gross bookings. In early April, gross bookings were continuing at the low levels from March, with April 4 as the low point for booking volume for the month.
Sure enough, the second week of April was the turning point. Gross bookings steadily increased starting on April 13 and continued throughout the month, ballooning 432% from the low on April 4 to the high on April 29. Even better, during the last few days of April, gross bookings were actually up by about 30% on a year-over-year basis.
While this is good news, the total gross booking volume for the full month of April is still well below what it was last year. The increase in new bookings is a great start, but we likely won’t see “normal” occupancy rates until cancellations return to historical levels.
The trend of cancellations in April is less surprising.
Cancellation volume was still extremely high in the beginning of April. Not only was April 2 our lowest point for guest inquiries; it was our highest cancellation volume for the month. Not a healthy or sustainable combination. Fortunately, it didn’t last.
You can see that by month’s end, cancellation volume had eased up to less than half of the early high point. The easing of some stay-at-home orders nationwide and more clarity on those orders that remained seem to have been a factor, making more guests comfortable that they could leave their plans in place.
There’s also a general consensus in the travel industry that road trips and private accommodations will be the near-term future of vacations — a good sign for vacation rental owners.
So we’re not out of the woods yet. Cancellation rates are still well above normal as travel bans and event cancellations continue to impact plans. For example, Florida made the baffling decision to extend restrictions on short-term rentals “indefinitely” while allowing hotels to open. As long as uncertainty like that exists, cancellations will remain elevated. But the numbers are improving.
As always, Evolve’s main goal for owners is to position them for success. We’re starting to see positive signs that our focus on offering only fully-equipped, private vacation homes might speed recovery for our owners in the second half of the year. Here are some of the ways we’re helping:
All in all, it’s a tale of two Aprils. We’re glad that some recovery has begun and that heaviness of March has lifted. Everyone at Evolve is still working every day from their homes to do the most for our owners and guests. So it’s nice to see some positive trends.
If you’re an existing Evolve owner, rest easy knowing that we’re proactively working on your behalf to navigate this crisis successfully. If you’re thinking about partnering with Evolve and have questions about this or any other aspect of managing your rental property, feel free to schedule a call with one of our Vacation Rental Advisors to learn more. There’s no pressure at all and we genuinely want to help you if we can.
Stay well and let’s take care of each other.
Since day one, Evolve Vacation Rental has required that all of the properties we manage meet four standards: safe, clean, as-advertised, and ready for guests. These days, the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 outbreak make cleanliness and safety even more important. In fact, we need to raise our standards to create the right experiences for our guests. Our success depends on it.
No one is certain how the COVID-19 crisis will unfold. We do know, however, that the impulse to travel is strong and will return. When travel resumes, guests will likely have higher expectations. We believe that they’ll see private homes as a reassuring choice for lodging — but they’ll also want to know our homes are cleaner and safer than ever. It’s up to all of us to make that happen.
We’ve asked our owners and cleaning partners to prioritize safety for every guest experience. Every guest who books an Evolve home should understand immediately that we’re taking cleanliness very seriously and feel confident that they can count on our homes to be 100% ready for their arrival.
Whether you’re a homeowner or a professional cleaning provider, it’s important for you to understand what restrictions or guidelines are in place in your area. For example, cleaning staff may be required to wear a mask while working in the home.
As you know, rules and recommendations differ by area and are updated frequently, so there’s no one correct answer nationwide. It’s up to you to know the local guidelines, apply them correctly and consistently, and stay up to date on changes. As a foundation, please review this CDC guide to cleaning and disinfecting a home. Then check with your local government for specific guidelines in your rental area. Owners, be sure to consult with your cleaning partner to make sure everyone is on the same page.
There’s a lot of uncertainty about travel right now, making bookings more unpredictable. Combine that with the reported shortages and longer delivery times of cleaning and safety products and you need to start planning now for later bookings.
Take inventory now so you can replace supplies as needed before bookings bounce back. If you’re a cleaning business, think about if and when you want to add new homes to your roster; that may mean more supplies. Most of all, be sure everyone understands the difference between disinfecting and sanitizing chemicals.
Again, there’s no one-size-fits-all recommendation for cleaning products. However, this list of disinfectants from the EPA and frequently asked questions about disinfectants are a good place to start. Your local suppliers may also have recommendations for you. Be sure that everyone cleaning a home understands:
Every rental property needs a “deep disinfection” before (and between) welcoming guests. This is the most important of our standards to raise for the duration of the COVID-19 situation.
Our recommendation is that any deep disinfection be performed by professionals with the training and proper supplies for the task (owners likely do not have). Here are some things to keep in mind during any cleaning.
Be sure to disinfect all areas likely to have been touched, including (but not limited to):
Clean all dishes and flatware (not just what was previously used) after every checkout and be sure to use any available sanitizing setting when using the dishwasher.
Special care should be taken with bedding, linens, and other soft materials, such as:
Safety is not only for guests — it’s for everyone involved in the guest experience. Make sure housekeeping teams understand that this higher standard of cleanliness is the “new normal” and that sessions may take longer, may involve personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks, and methods may change over time. It’s for everyone’s well-being.
Obviously, the minimum is that all cleaning team members should be trained in proper hand washing and anyone who shows symptoms of COVID-19 should not work. But Evolve standards are not about minimums; they’re about professionalism. Owners, make sure your cleaning partners:
If you’re an existing Evolve homeowner or service partner, we’ll be there with you, answering questions from interested travelers, coordinating check-ins, and making things right for our guests if anything is off. We’re also doing all we can to minimize the COVID-related impact on your bookings and business. But none of it will matter without our owners and partners taking our core standards—safe, clean, as-advertised and ready for guests—more seriously than ever.
Thank you and stay well.
When you visit Hawaii’s Big Island, you can stand at the base of waterfalls that tower above you. You can drink it all in as you walk the shoreline on beaches lapped by milky blue water. And when you’re ready to wind down, you can look up into a sky of more stars than you’ve ever seen.
The Kona Coast is the drier side of the Big Island, made for serene beach days. Find a vacation home here and spend mornings sipping Kona coffee and evenings looking out over the shore. Here’s how to make the most of your time in this tropical paradise.
Kona Coast is home to some of the most famous beaches in the world — from accessible white-sand beaches, to remote hideaways near lava fields that can only be reached with a winding drive. You can experience a unique coast made up of black sand at Punalu’u Beach. Beaches such as Kika’ua Point, located on a still lagoon, are great for families, while others, such as Kuki’o Beach, are home to resident sea turtles. Kua Bay Beach, also known as Manini’owali Beach, offers some of the most breathtaking white sands. Whichever Kona beach you choose, don’t miss the sunset — this is the best part of the day to sit in the sand and take in the views.
Snorkeling in the Kona Coast is a good excuse to dip into the ocean and peer below its surface. Watch colorful fish dance at your feet at Kealakekua Bay, an underwater marine sanctuary known as one of the best places to go snorkeling in the islands. You can also see a monument to Captain Cook, who died here in 1779. The best snorkeling spots in the bay can be hard to reach unless you want to hike, kayak, or join a snorkeling tour. Honaunau Bay and Kahaluʻu Bay also offer exceptional snorkeling. Needless to say, the Kona Coast is a diver’s paradise as well.
You can choose to either snorkel or dive for one of the Kona Coast’s most iconic experiences: manta ray night dives. The manta rays, whose wingspans can reach up to 20 feet or more, are attracted to the light from divers’ flashlights, and you can join them for a swim.
This side of the island is more protected from trade winds, which makes for calm waters, ideal for kayaking. It’s a great way to go where bigger boats can’t and experience the beauty of the Kona Coast up close, from black lava fields to quiet coves, pristine beaches, colorful coral reefs and green cliffs plunging into the ocean.
If you’d rather have someone else drive, a variety of boat tours are available, from whale-watching to deep-sea fishing, parasailing, and more.
On the Big Island of Hawaii, waterfalls plummet down into crystal pools as rainbows reflect around them. You’ll want to explore these natural wonders, but they are a bit of a drive as most of them are on the other side of the island (just under two hours away). Pack a lunch and make your way to Rainbow Falls, which is just a five minute drive from downtown Hilo. Akaka Falls State Park also makes for an incredible photo opp — be sure to snap this dramatic water feature from all angles. If you’re feeling up to the adventure, find an adrenaline rush as you soar over a 250-foot waterfall on a Skyline Hawaii Adventure.
The Big Island is home to the otherworldly Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, which is a day trip from the Kona Coast. While there’s not currently a lava flow, there’s still so much to see at the park, including a cave-like lava tube you can walk in called Thurston Lava Tube. For a sweeping overview of the park, hop in the car and take Crater Rim Drive, with plenty of scenic stops along the way. When you’re in need of a break, taste wine inspired by your surroundings at Volcano Winery.
Find new appreciation for your morning cup when you visit a Kona coffee plantation like Heavenly Hawaiian, where vibrant red coffee cherries line the lush green valley. Take a tour to pick up insights on the drying, processing, and roasting process. Then, enjoy a cup overlooking the scenery and feel the even, calm buzz this smooth brew brings. You’ll come out of your afternoon with new expertise on how coffee is made, and hopefully a few bags to bring home — the showrooms sell bags of coffee varieties and local snacks like macadamia nuts.
On the Big Island, you’re an ocean away from light pollution, which makes for uninterrupted night skies. Make your way to the Mauna Kea Observatory, the highest point on the island. The Visitor’s Information Center sits at 9,200 feet (below the summit of 14,000). You can park here, grab a snack, and let your eyes adjust to layers and layers of stars. Be sure to pay attention to the roads as you wind up the mountain — cows like to sit on the roads here at night.
Whether you want to walk on a black sand beach, explore botanical gardens, or anything in between, you can find your own paradise on the Kona Coast. For more details on visiting, get The Hawaiian Islands Travel Planner.