Vacation rentals are becoming more and more popular with guests, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, as they offer more privacy, a sense of security and more favorable regulations compared to hotels. As a result, vacation rentals will be more likely to recover quickly from the pandemic. Maybe you have already spotted the vacation rental of your dreams or have even bought it but feel unsure about what steps to take next? There are, in fact, a number of things to take care of between registering your property to welcoming your first guests. This can seem overwhelming and discouraging, even if your property might be the perfect vacation rental. Therefore, we have put together a guide with these 5 steps on how to start renting out your vacation rental successfully.
1. Register Your Vacation Home
In Portugal, private vacation rentals are known as “Alojamento Local (AL)” and need to be registered in the respective municipality. In general, booking offers of under 30 days qualify as a vacation rental and must be registered. To do this, you must first consider a few things.
Define its category
Currently there are four categories of “Alojamento Local”. In addition to the categories “house”, “guest house” and “apartment”, the category “room” (“Quarto”) was introduced in 2018. While the three former categories are rented out as a whole, a “room” must be part of the vacation home owner’s main apartment. Up to three “rooms” may be rented out to guests, accommodating up to 12 guests at once – the other categories can host up to 30 guests in a maximum of nine rooms.
Furthermore, if you would like to rent out an “apartment”, all associated condominium owners must approve of your vacation rental business.
Apply for a rental license
Once you have found the right category for your house or apartment, you will need to contact the local authorities, such as the town hall or the municipality offices. You will have to fill out an electronic application form, and if all requirements are met, a registration number will be sent to you by the tax office within 10 days of the application.
For all premises that are privately rented, a standardized sign with the abbreviation “AL” must be placed outside, near the main entrance (this does not apply to “apartment” or “house”). The sign measuring 20 x 20 cm can be picked up at the local “Câmara Municipal.”
The local authorities are also obliged to inspect the premises within 30 days, meaning that a later revocation of your registration is possible. In addition to this, all AL rentals must
be located in a well-maintained building
be connected to the water network or have its own properly licensed water supply system (hot and cold)
be connected to the general sewage system
be cleaned and maintained at least once a week and after each change of guests, including change of bed linen and towels
2. Minimum Requirements for a Vacation Rental
After you have successfully applied for a license, you will need to ensure that your rental meets some requirements before you start renting it out to guests.
No matter how cautious your guests are while staying in your property, there is a chance that something may break or some kind of damage will occur. Vacation home owners have recently become jointly liable with the guest for damage occurring in the building – for instance, in the stairwell or in the elevators. In these cases, it is crucial for you to have insurance to cover the damages. Lack of insurance coverage will result in your license being revoked.
Complaints and information book
All private rentals under AL rules must have a “Complaints and Information Book” (Livro de Reclamações) on display (in Portuguese, English and at least two other languages), as well as the house rules and periods of rest. This will help guests to understand the local rules and regulations and also your personal rules from the start. In case of any negative experiences, guests can also leave feedback.
Required features of your rental
Your vacation rental must also meet certain requirements with regard to its interior set-up and amenities. These are:
- Window or balcony for ventilation
- The possibility to prevent light entering from the outside
- Security devices on the doors to protect privacy
- Fire extinguisher and fire blanket – accessible and in a quantity equal to the number of occupied units
- First aid kit according to EU standard (with CE mark)
- Visible information about the national emergency number 112
- At least one sanitary facility (with toilet, bath or shower and washbasin) for every three rooms, with security device to protect privacy
- Written information to tenants about house rules and usage (e.g. for swimming pools, elevators, public areas, quiet hours, reception working hours, waste disposal, services provided, etc.) and about the operation of electrical appliances
3. Adapt it to Your Target Group
Now that you have registered your property as a vacation rental and have met all requirements to establish a successful business, you will need to think about your future guests. Depending on what kind of property you have and where it is located, there may be different kinds of guests, for which your rental is just the right one.
Define your target group
Why is it important to identify your target audience? Renters searching for a property look for specific details. Such as the property’s location, price, amenities, and more. Knowing your target group will help you increase bookings and avoid cancelations.
First, your type of property is important. A smaller apartment may be perfect for solo travelers or honeymooners but might not be ideal for bigger families. The location also plays a crucial role in defining your target group. A large property in a rural area could be ideal for groups of friends or to host events. At the same time, a city apartment may sound just right for millennials or so-called “workationers” – guests working remotely while exploring new destinations in their spare time. Once you know your target group, you can focus on how to attract your ideal
Equip your rental with great amenities
One way to attract guests is having great amenities. Fast Wi-Fi and a desk set-up can get you more bookings from guests who work remotely, and eco-conscious guests will certainly appreciate your waste separation. Outdoor amenities such as terraces, a nice dining area or a pool, will be very popular with most guests looking for a relaxing vacation.
Even if you do not have an outdoor space, you can boost your rental by having a very well-equipped kitchen, a great sound system or box-spring beds for your guests to sleep well. In addition, safety also plays an important role as families traveling with children, for instance, will appreciate edge protectors or child-proof power outlets.
Different target groups will look for different amenities and locations. Hence, knowing who will book your rental will give you insight into how to equip it.
4. Description Texts and Photos
Before listing your rental on one or several websites, you will need an informative text and convincing photos. The most beautiful property may not receive many bookings if the listing displays a boring, confusing or overly long text – nor will bland photos convince guests to book your rental.
What to highlight
Your listing should focus on the things that make your rental unique and perfect for your target group. Does it have great views of the sea? Is it only a short walk from the nearest beach? Or is the outdoor area ideal to unwind, enjoy the sunshine and relax in the pool? Think of what your biggest selling points are and highlight them in both the text and the photos.
You may now feel enthusiastic to sit down and write a great text for your vacation rental, mentioning all the highlights and why this is just the right one for guests coming to your area. Nevertheless, it might be a good idea to have a professional content writer create the text for your listing.
Professional content writers can help you attract guests by creating just the right text for your rental. It is important to know exactly what information travelers look for in a text and what amenities and surroundings should be mentioned. A very long and rather descriptive text could actually cause travelers to feel overwhelmed and look at the next listing.
A concise text providing all the necessary information and leaving out redundant points is indispensable for a successful vacation rental business.
As well as a professional content writer, a professional photographer will know exactly how to stage your property and show it at its best. The weather, time of day, light incidence and the perfect angles can make all the difference to your photos. In addition, a smartphone just cannot compete with a state-of-the-art camera.
Potential guests will know within seconds of looking at your photos whether your property appeals to them. The first impression here is crucial, and professional photos will likely captivate travelers and make them even more curious about your property. In fact, professional photos have proven to generate 5 times more bookings than non-professional photos.
5. List Your Vacation rental
As a last step before receiving your first bookings, you need to list your rental online, so that everybody looking for accommodation in your area can find it. However, knowing on what channels to place your ad and keeping track of different listings can be quite challenging as well as managing the calendars and finding a perfect pricing model. Eventually, this can lead to overlapping bookings, cancelations and personal stress.
Advantages of a channel manager
Listing your rental on the big portals such as Airbnb, Booking.com or Vrbo, and also with local agencies, can help increase your bookings and your revenue. On the other hand, this can cause multiple issues with regard to double bookings, different pricing models and lots of time spent managing the different calendars.
Using a channel manager, such as Bookiply, can be an all-in-one solution to these challenges. Here you have everything in just one tool. Your rental will be displayed on various channels while the calendars are synchronized, meaning nights that have already been booked via a certain channel will also be blocked on all other channels.
Furthermore, Bookiply will provide you with a professional text in multiple languages and professional photos for your listing. You will also have an account manager, who will be your go-to person for all matters.
With the help of a channel manager, your vacation rental will be in the best possible hands, and you will never need to worry about overlapping bookings or handle cancelations yourself.
Prices for different vacation rentals vary due to many reasons, such as property type, location and features. Although you can determine an average nightly rate derived from these criteria, having the same rate throughout the year is not a very reasonable option as prices also depend on seasonality, demand and the duration of stay.
You can also apply discounts to attract guests who would like to stay longer for an extended vacation. While the nightly rate may be lower, you will make more revenue by having your calendar filled over a longer period of time. In addition, you can add extra fees when welcoming more than a certain number of guests.
A good pricing model can be vital to the success of your rental business. A channel manager such as Bookiply also has insights into market data and can help you set the right prices for your region. For you, this will mean more bookings and higher revenues.
You are now ready to start your vacation rental business
Now that you know exactly what to do to rent out your vacation home in Portugal. You can go ahead and make your dream come true. We hope you will feel inspired and ready to take the steps toward starting your own vacation rental business. Once your first guests arrive and enjoy wonderful holidays in your home, you will know that it was all worth it.