Every vacation rental is unique. That’s why we love them.

Hotels can optimize their rooms because every room is identical. You can have an entire building full of beds exactly the same distance from the wall, lit by bedside lamps with the same wattage bulb, covered by linens that are bought in packs of 1,000 apiece.

But a vacation rental is different. Each room is a different size and has different assets to take advantage of, and owners spend a lot of time and energy making sure their property’s best features are played up in just the right way.

Individuality is one of the best features of a vacation rental. Which is why it may be a little surprising that we’re going to talk about the 4 things that need to be the same for everyone.

Don’t worry: we’re not about to advise you on industry-standardizing your linens or dinner plates.

There are, however, certain qualities every traveler is looking for when they stay at a vacation rental.

If your property doesn’t live up to these four critical standards, they aren’t happy. And their reviews of the property reflect their displeasure. No one wants that!

We’ve put together the four essential standards every vacation rental needs to meet – along with suggestions for how to make sure they’re in fine form for every guest.

Vacation Rentals Must Be Safe

Your guests may not notice when a rental is safe, but they definitely notice when one isn’t. If you don’t have a fire extinguisher available when there’s a small grease fire in the kitchen, or your walkway keeps turning your guest’s ankle in the dark, it can cause real problems.

We put this first and foremost because it’s not just a guest expectation: it can cause real liability issues for you as an owner if your property isn’t safe for occupancy.

Naturally, we hope you have excellent vacation rental liability coverage, but if you fail to keep up with safety regulations, your claim can be denied because of negligence. You definitely want to avoid that!

Your guests will also appreciate feeling secure and safe in a vacation property. If the back door doesn’t lock securely, they’re going to spend their vacation worrying about it – and that’s not the experience you want to provide them.

To keep your property safe, make sure all your doors and windows have working locks and that your fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are up to code and the batteries changed regularly. Provide easy-to-use fire extinguishers in the kitchen and near any heat source, and keep first-aid kits in all the bathrooms.

Make sure you pay attention to basic safety standards, too! Your walkways and stairs should be easy to navigate, and your outdoor trees and bushes should be trimmed in accordance with safety standards.

The easiest way to be sure your property is safe before a guest arrives is to perform a quick walk-through of the property, checking on all of the above to be sure they’re up to scratch.

Vacation Rentals Must Be Clean

No-brainer, right? Of course, a vacation rental ought to be clean! And yet as obvious as it sounds, it’s one of the easiest things to get wrong. The majority of guest complaints are about the cleanliness of the vacation rental.

While we’ll go ahead and assume no owner believes a guest is fine with an unclean property, there’s a reason why this complaint crops up again and again: getting just one task wrong ruins the entire experience.

For example, your cleaning service might do a wonderful job cleaning your property 100 times in a row – but on that last time, they accidentally leave behind a sink full of dirty water without draining it.

Even if the rest of the property is spotless, that guest is definitely leaving a cleanliness complaint.

To guard against human error (which, let’s face it, happens to even the best of cleaning services), we once again recommend conducting a pre-stay walkthrough before every guest arrives. A quick 10-minute walkthrough will quickly reveal any cleaning issues before a guest arrives, and you’ll have plenty of time to resolve the problem before it affects your guest’s experience.

Vacation Rentals Must Be Guest-Ready

If your guests can’t access the property when they arrive, they’re having a poor experience before they’ve even walked through the front door! Ensuring your vacation rental is guest-ready simply means double-checking to be sure everything works just as it should for your guests.

Issues accessing the property are most common and easily avoided by double-checking your method of entry. This means taking a few moments before the guest’s arrival to be sure that the key turns in the lock, the lockbox code is the one you gave the guest, or that the time you arranged to meet them is confirmed.

You should also check to be sure all the light switches and appliances are working correctly, that the electronics are functioning, and that you’ve stocked the kitchen and bathrooms. Scheduling regular property maintenance will help, but strange problems do crop up from time to time, so it’s best to check before a guest’s arrival.

We’re starting to sound like a broken record here, but once again: a pre-stay walkthrough is the best way to ensure your property is guest-ready before the guests arrive. You can even use this time to add a little welcome touch for your guests, such as turning a few interior lights on for them or leaving a welcome note. These gestures count!

Vacation Rentals Must Be As Advertised

Guests are often thrown by a property that doesn’t look the same as it did in the photos – even if the improvement is for the better. We’ve seen confused comments on many properties saying “The decor was completely different” or “We weren’t sure we arrived at the right house because the entry was yellow, not blue.”

If the difference in the advertisement and the real deal is negative, the comments go from confused to angry. “The listing said there was AC, but there’s only one window unit in the living room.” “The photos show a dining table that seats eight, but when we arrived, there were only four chairs. Where are the rest of us supposed to sit?”

It is essential to guests that what they thought they were getting matches up with what they received. And it’s easy enough to provide this for them: keep your photos and property description current, and notify any guests who booked before your decor makeover about the changes before they arrive.

You might be guessing at this point that we’ll suggest a pre-stay walkthrough. You’re right! But for the most part, changes to your property will require you to take action well ahead of the guest’s arrival. That said, there is one thing you can do during your pre-stay walkthrough to show your property as-advertised:

Match your staging to your listing photos.

For example, if your living room drapes are open in the photos, open them for the guest’s arrival. If you staged the dining room table with plates and flatware, do so for the guest. It’s a small thing, but it helps create a sense of satisfaction for your guest: yes, this property is just the way I imagined it.

What If I Can’t Do a Walk-Through Myself?

If you don’t service your property yourself, you’re in good company: lots of owners don’t live near their property and can’t visit right before every guest stay.

If that’s your situation, it’s well worth enlisting someone to perform that 10-minute walk-through with a quick checklist. Your neighbor, your cleaning service, even a close friend can help you be sure every property is prepared for your next guest – saving you any number of avoidable issues.

Having a safeguard against issues that cause bad reviews may cost a little upfront, but in the long run, it will protect your reputation, your reviews, and your business.

Announcing Evolve’s 4 Core Property Standards

We provide unrivaled flexibility for owners. We don’t ask that their properties all be just the same – in fact, we love the variety, and we enjoy the hugely varied decor our owners choose.

For the four points above, however, we’re sticklers. And we’ve just made it official by rolling out our 4 Core Property Standards for owners: every property Evolve helps manage needs to be Safe, Clean, Guest-Ready, and As Advertised.

We’ve even made it easy for owners to create their own custom checklists for their pre-stay walkthrough to ensure these basic standards are met – and we’re sharing them with you for free.

Get your free checklists here, and feel free to customize them to suit your property! It’ll give you incredible peace of mind to know your guests are always arriving at a vacation rental that meets their essential requirements: safe, clean, guest-ready, and as advertised.

We’re not flexible on the essentials we listed here, but we do offer unrivaled flexibility to owners in how they service their properties, when they block off their calendars for personal use, and when they can leave our network if they’re not satisfied with our performance Click here to learn more.