Here are some tips on writing an accurate listing description that builds trust and guest confidence
Listen to the episode here:
How to write an Airbnb listing description that gets more bookings. Hint: Be Truthful.
John and Tim discuss what to think about when writing or editing your property description on Airbnb or VRBO.
- Show and tell
- How to organize photos and captions
- Letting your best features shine
- How to incorporate house rules
- and much much more…
Here is a link to Tim’s property listing on Airbnb if you need guidance —>
Want to know more, need more help or have an idea for a podcast episode? Reach out to us at [email protected]
Want to join our free host community and receive free educational tips and secrets? Subscribe here vacationhomehelp.com/podcast and join our facebook community of owners at facebook.com/groups/vacationhomehelp for exclusive tips!
Welcome to the Vacation Home Help Podcast, the only podcast dedicated to helping vacation rental owners self-manage their properties. Your host delivers short and sweet episodes with actionable advice, tips, and strategies to level up your hosting skills. Whether you are a complete beginner or have been in the vacation home rental business for a while, you are in the right place to get the tools you need to succeed. Here are your hosts, John Candelario and Tim Casey.
John Candelario (00:35):
So whether you’re doing a brand new listing or you just want to jazz yours up, because it’s been dated for a while, there’s some key things that you need to do to make it compelling and truthful so that the guests that are coming to your property, they get their expectations set properly, but you also want to make them excited about coming. So, Tim, with your listing experience on how you did your listing, can you speak to some things you did?
Tim Casey (01:01):
Yeah. What I tried to do, John is put myself in the shoes of the guest. And if you think about it, that guest is sitting 1000 miles away, they’re going through all the listings they see on the various platforms, VRBO, Airbnb, and they’re having to make a choice on which home they want to reserve and rent. The best thing you can do as an owner is provide them with the very best information about your home so that the guest can make good choices. One of the key parts of that is photography. Make sure the photographs of the home is what the guest is going to see. John, you’ve probably heard this the same amount of times I have, “the house didn’t look like the photos.”
John Candelario (01:53):
I’ve heard it a lot.
Tim Casey (01:54):
Yeah. So many times the owners stage things, and it’s never going to look like that for the guests when they get there, so it sets up a period of disappointment.
John Candelario (02:05):
So it should be true to the photos always.
Tim Casey (02:08):
It should be. And you shouldn’t stage a photo that isn’t going to be what the guest sees. Otherwise, they’re going to be disappointed.
John Candelario (02:14):
I’ve seen a lot of, how do you say, magic with the photos? They’re highly filtered. They put a lot of brightness or saturation and it looks nothing like the house. I’ve seen houses they’ve filtered so much that, the house is dated, it’s old furniture, it smells funny, but the pictures made it seem like it’s a brand new home. So the pictures need to be true to the experience. Don’t you agree?
Tim Casey (02:37):
That’s right. Yeah. I think that’s right. I think you’ve got to start with great photography that emotionally articulate the home. And then the information you provide the guest has to be very fact-based. Don’t exaggerate, stay away from hyperbole, really put yourself in the shoes of the guest, trying to make sure that the house is going to be perfect for their family or their group coming in.
John Candelario (03:01):
And I feel that, when we’re doing the listing description, that’s when we could really let our attention to detail shine. When you put photos, even the organization and the order of the photos counts, because if you put the photos in any random order, it doesn’t flow. You don’t get the walkthrough feeling, and it’s just a mess. And I like photos to show the best rooms first to get them excited, but then go through a more organized fashion like they’re walking through the home. So the pictures of the bedroom are with the bedroom. If it has an adjacent bathroom, it’s there, too. Upstairs is with upstairs, downstairs is the downstairs, pool photos are with pool photos. But I urge people to really put a little more attention into the organization of the photos and captions. Do you think you should put captions in the photos? What do you think?
Tim Casey (03:48):
I think captions are a good idea. And you have to remember, as an owner, your listing is the only marketing that you really have for your property, and you’ve got to find ways to set your property apart from the others, but you don’t want to do it with exaggerated information. My first recommendation would be to hire a professional photographer. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on that, but hire someone who has good equipment that can take good photographs. John, you’ve seen listings where the owner just used their cell phone and took pictures.
John Candelario (04:24):
It looks awful.
Tim Casey (04:25):
It looks terrible.
Editing your Airbnb listing photos is normal, but going overboard can make your photos look faked.
John Candelario (04:26):
So bad. And I think that the photos matter, but again, don’t over-edit, don’t over-filter. The pictures should be edited so you could show it’s best quality, but not in a way that it looks fantasy, far out of touch. And let’s talk about the cover photo, because when you scroll down the listings, you see one photo. And in your home, you have the photo of your toy story land beds. And why? Because that’s the most unique room in the house. But some people put a photo of a pool. Or they put a photo of the exterior of the front of the house, but that’s not the best thing to do is it, Tim? Because it doesn’t show you what’s unique.
Tim Casey (05:02):
It, really doesn’t. Again, I always think about, and, John, you taught me this, the cover of photo is what makes your property most unique from the others. That’s going to be your headline. It’s like the headline to the story. Start off with your headline, then tell the story from there.
John Candelario (05:19):
And the cover photo, you’d be surprised, if you look on the listings now, it’s all the same. And that’s why yours stands out. But if you have a room in your house, anyone listening that stands out, that’s what you should use as your cover photo.
Tim Casey (05:35):
I think so.
Try not to be redundant in your headline
John Candelario (05:36):
And for the headline, because you spoke to that, the photo is your headline, and I agree with that a hundred percent, but the headline also matters. Because if you tell the guests in the headline, what they already know, you’re wasting valuable real estate because that headline only can have so many characters depending on the platform you have. So if it says nine bedroom, if you have nine bedroom in your actual details, you don’t need to tell them again it’s a nine bedroom.
Tim Casey (06:05):
John Candelario (06:05):
You can, it’s nothing wrong with it, but those are characters that you can use to tell the guests about something else about your home. The same with if it’s in or Orlando, they know it’s in Orlando already. So try to use descriptive adjectives and ways to give them a visual picture in words so that they can see their property through those words.
Tim Casey (06:29):
I think that’s right. And what’s most important to the guest? Well, a lot of guests visiting Orlando, they want to know how far the property is, the home is, from the parks. Tell them that, but don’t exaggerate it. If it’s 15 minutes away, tell them it’s 15 minutes away. Don’t tell them five minutes down the road. Again, you don’t want to tell them something that’s inaccurate, otherwise they’ll be disappointed when they get there.
John Candelario (06:52):
Tim Casey (06:52):
So be fact-based.
John Candelario (06:54):
I’ve seen a lot of people say their property is in Orlando and it’s in Davenport.
Tim Casey (06:57):
That’s right. That’s exactly right.
John Candelario (06:59):
So it’s so misleading because there’s nothing wrong with Kissimmee. There’s nothing wrong with Davenport. But if you say it’s in Orlando, it better be in Orlando.
Tim Casey (07:06):
John Candelario (07:07):
Or 20 minutes from airport, and you’re 45 minutes, it’s not cool to mislead someone in that way. I wanted to speak to, in the actual description of the property, you said be fact-based. Fact-based meaning tell the truth and-
Tim Casey (07:21):
Be descriptive and illustrate through your description what is in each room
John Candelario (07:21):
…explain the facts. I’ve seen a lot of people try to jazz up the description, and they say magical castle and stuff like that, but it’s important to explain the information that they need to know that’s most important. And I think having a good bed configuration list, highlighting what’s in each bedroom, if there’s a TV in each bedroom, how many people can sleep in that bedroom, what’s a theme of that bedroom, is highly important. And if you could speak to a little bit about how you do it, because I’ve seen you do an excellent job with it, I think we can give the listeners a little more detail on how that should look.
Tim Casey (07:59):
Yeah. I think you hit some key points, John. What type of bed is in the room? What is the theme of that room? Who’s going to enjoy that style of room? I think you really want to provide them with as much information as possible. So what I’ve always done is, this is the princess castle bedroom, it’s a king size bed, it’s got a 43 inch television. So tell them the things that, as the person who is deciding what home to rent, set it up to where they can really understand what’s in each room of the home, so they can picture their family, their gathering, taking place in that house.
John Candelario (08:42):
And a little technical trick, as you write out your description of bedrooms, as Tim is saying, know that each word you type into description gets picked up by search engines. So when you look at descriptions, if you’re close to Disney, if you’re by a lake, if you’re close to the hospital, all this stuff gets picked up by the search engine. So if they’re looking for properties close to Disney, if you’ve put that somewhere in your description, it does pick that up in search. Everything you put in there gets picked up. So you don’t want to waste a space with nonsense, you want to put words that matter.
John Candelario (09:16):
And you want to paint a picture, as you’re saying, with those words so that they can feel by reading that they’re there. Just if you’re reading fiction, like Harry Potter or something, you can visualize Hogwarts. You know, you feel you’re there. That’s the type of language you want to have when you write a description. Not that you’re JK Rowling or whatever, but you want the description to show, not tell, what’s going on in the house. And I think doing that with your description is important. And in the show notes, I’m going to link Tim’s listing. So you can see how Tim does his description, because he does a great job with it.
John Candelario (09:53):
What you can’t forget is the amenities, having amenities that you have close to your property, that shows the guest what you have that others do not. So can you speak a little to the amenities you have included? I know you have a water park where you are, so you put that there, but what else do you think people should put in the description?
Highlight how close you are in proximity to major attractions, food, shopping, and bodies of water to help your guests
Tim Casey (10:13):
Yeah. And sometimes it’s the simple things. People want to know how close is the nearest target, because everyone needs to go to a target at some point for grocery shopping, whatever. How close is it to Starbucks? In my case, it’s how close is it to old town Kissimmee? Everyone loves to visit old town Kissimmee when they come here, or Disney Springs. So again, think about it from the perspective of the person coming in to visit. What are they interested in and how can you create a listing that speaks to their interests?
Use your property description headline wisely to highlight the most important features of your vacation rental to guests
John Candelario (10:47):
Absolutely. And the description is also a place where you can set expectations, too. So you can set expectations on what types of amenity you’re leaving in term of supplies, you can set expectations with house rules, you can do all of that in your description. So while it is an advert, it’s an advertisement for you. It should also set expectations at the same time. Because you can kill two birds with one stone doing it that way. And on Airbnb there’s even spots to put your house rules. So you need to take advantage of the real estate on the description you have, but do it wisely, because you can put so much information in there that’s not relevant and people will not get to the points that matter.
Tim Casey (11:25):
What I’ve tried doing most recently is, as I add things to the home to try to enhance the guest experience, I’ll go in and insert that at the very beginning of the listing. And I’ll say, “New: the Disney channel, Hulu and ESPN plus now free to the guests,” so that some of the new headlines hit the listing at the very beginning. So that individual, that maybe they’ve seen the listing four or five times, the “new” captures their attention when they visit that site again.
John Candelario (11:55):
Oh, that makes sense. It’s like an update. It’s a refresh. It’s nice. And I think it’s important to also be honest and set the downsides, too. So setting expectations about the things that are not good, because you want to sell, sell, sell to get more guests, more heads in beds. But if you set the expectation in a listing, they can’t come back and tell you you didn’t tell them that’s right. So if you’re in New York and you’re by Times Square or something, you don’t want to tell them it’s quiet. It’s smarter to say that it’s noisy, so they expect a noisy environment. Even if it’s not a good thing, it’s important to be up front. If there’s construction going on, because in Story Lake, they do construction all the time in your resort. If you don’t tell them that, and they check in and there’s construction going across the street, they’re going to be pretty livid about it.
Tim Casey (12:41):
That’s a really good point, John.
John Candelario (12:42):
Yeah. And I think just being honest about the downsides, you can do that in a tactful way and in a way that doesn’t really mess you up in terms of advertising. But if you set the expectations right in the listing, it’s doing the guests a huge favor, and it’s the right thing to do.
Tim Casey (12:57):
So, John, that brand new owner and they’ve chosen to do it themselves, and now they face the task of getting their listing on the platform, Airbnb, Vrbo, is that a pretty straightforward process for an owner to go through?
Setting guest expectations in your description
John Candelario (13:14):
It is because the platform guides you through it, but they don’t tell you how to do it better. They don’t tell you how to differentiate yourself. They want the essentials from you. So that’s why this podcast is helpful, because we want to give you the things that you may not be thinking about. Like setting expectations, Airbnb’s not going to tell you, “let them know construction’s going on.” It is something that listening to this podcast will help you be aware about, and that’s what Tim and I aim to do is create awareness about this stuff that’s not obvious. So just tune in each week, because we’re going to give a lot of these little tips and tricks along the way. But starting with getting your description refined and optimized, that’s a great start to getting more people interested in your property.
Having great listing photos and using-fact based info to highlight your strengths allow you to stand out in a competitive marketplace
Tim Casey (14:00):
And I think that’s the key takeaway. John, you and I have always committed to our audience to bring them actionable items. And I think for this podcast, the key takeaways are Vrbos, Airbnb, it’s a pretty straightforward process to follow, to put your listing on their platform. The tips that we’re offering today, number one, use great photography. Don’t dress it up too much, but use really good photography so the guest, or the potential guest, can really get an understanding of what your house is all about. Use fact-based information. Don’t use hyperbole, be very fact-based. Highlight the things that make your property different and unique. And then talk about what’s around your home so that the guests can plan their entire vacation, their experience, as a total experience. I think if you follow those key action items, you’re going to really set yourself up for success. But also understand that even once you get your listing published, you can evolve it. You can continue to work on it and improve it as you get questions from guests that you want to incorporate into your listing.
John Candelario (15:15):
Absolutely, Tim. And a real life example, I think, will drive all the points home. You just did a really good summary of what we talked about today, but in the show notes, Tim’s listing will be there, so you can see how a great description looks. And by reading through his description and seeing how he organizes photos, how he does his headline, how he does his house rules, and how he explains and illustrates what it feels like to vacation at his property, you can emulate some of the good things and put your own flavor into it so you can write a description that’s just as appealing as Tim’s. But that’ll be available in the show notes for you to study and hopefully put into practice. And I hope this was helpful for everyone today, and this will not be the last time we talk about descriptions.
Thanks for supporting us. Be sure to rate, review and subscribe to the show, visit vacationhomehelp.com and click podcast for more resources on today’s topic and more episodes that will help you level up your hosting skills. Let’s get social connect with us today by joining our growing community of motivated owners at facebook.com/groups/vacationhomehelp. As a member, you will have access to sneak peeks and exclusive free resources. You can also connect with other owners with shared interests, learn from each other, the community, and from shared experiences. Again, thank you for supporting us until next time. Take care.