The competition in short term rentals has increased, pushing up guest expectations. Long gone are the days when hosts could get away with the bare essentials. Guests expect that any rental to be as well-equipped or as a hotel with all the comfort of home. Making sure that guest expectations are met can be the difference between a 5-star review and mediocrity.
Wi-Fi & Internet Accessories
One of my first experiences with Airbnb involved a stay in Bordeaux with a hasty host rushing out the door. Instead of wandering the lovely streets and enjoying a bottle of red, I spent the better part of that evening stuck in the rental trying to brute force the Wi-Fi password through multiple combinations of characters. Not only was the password handwritten, but it was impossible to tell if the lower case "l" was the number "1" or the letter "l". I can think of nothing more frustrating for a guest than trying to decipher the Wi-Fi password. It's worth making sure that the network name and password are written in a legible font and printed.
I would highly recommend including the Wi-Fi details in not only the guidebook but in a highly visible common space like the front door or living area. You'll also want to let vacationers know where the router and modem are in case they need to reset the connection because of connectivity issues.
Streaming has become ubiquitous, meaning a blazing fast Wi-Fi connection is a must to ensure stability without buffering. Aim for a minimum 50/50 speed, which will allow multiple people to stream simultaneously in high definition. Better yet, upgrade for 100/100 from your internet service provider, especially if you are renting to more than a few guests. You can use SpeedTest.net to check your download speed.
If your vacation rental is spacious and there are dead spots without Wi-Fi, you can buy an extender for $20.
TVs are incredibly cheap. If you look at a chart of inflation and the price of goods, TVs have come way down. This is capable because many smart TV manufacturers like Roku and Amazon FireTV have shifted the monetization model from the hardware to contracting advertising inventory within the various ad-support streaming apps.
Of all the various smart TVs, the two most popular are Roku and Amazon' FireTVs. I ascribe their popularity to price, high quality and ease of use. Both are incredibly cheap with deals throughout the year. The picture quality can't be beat for the price point, with only the LG OLED's offering a noticeable difference (but at a substantially higher price). The user interface of both TVs mirrors that of smartphones, with remotes that are intuitive to understand. I would not recommend the AppleTV even if it has more powerful hardware, because the remote lacks traditional up/down/left/right buttons. The last thing you'll want to do on a Friday night is coach a guest through how to use the remote control.
Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and Disney+ should all be downloaded and pre-installed onto your smart TV. I like to make separate guest accounts so my show recommendations are not influenced by guest viewing. Check with your phone provider, as the big 3 providers all have distribution deals where they include one of the big streaming services for free. For example, Verizon has offered subscribers Disney+ for 1 year for free, AT&T has offered HBO at a $10 discount, and T-Mobile also offers a $10 discount for Netflix.
In addition to the aforementioned dominant apps, cable TV should also be included. Guests expect that they will still be able to watch their live sports and daily news shows, which are only available through the cable ecosystem. However, with the average cable bill at $200 per month, I strongly suggest cutting out the legacy cable providers and switching to one of the new live TV streaming services that cost only $50 a month, saving you over $1,500 a year.
Of the various services on the market, the three best are YoutubeTV, Hulu with Live TV and fuboTV. It comes down to channel lineup and you can't go wrong with any of those 3 services.
Not only is the nest thermostat a great looking piece of tech, but it can also keep your energy costs down and save you expenses when you're away. My favorite feature is the ability to set a lower "eco-mode" temperature automatically at night. What if you'd like the thermostat to automatically heat your home before you arrive.
The thermostat is only about $250 on Amazon, which you'll save very quickly on your heating and cooling bill. If that wasn't enough, your power company will likely have rebate offers.
As a hidden feature, you can check the status of your Wi-Fi with the thermostat.
Keyless SmartLock for Entry
One of the biggest hassles of running a short term rental is the key exchange and key return. Guests will lose keys and it's a waste of both your time and theirs. Instead, I've been using a keypad with a 4 digit pin code. It has worked extremely well for me and I wouldn't recommend anybody start renting out until a keypad has been installed.
Charging Stations and Charging Stands
People have more devices than ever. Even kids have their iPads and smartphones. Don't make it so that your guests have to crawl down on their hands and knees, moving the bed and nightstand just to recharge their devices.
There are numerous charging pads, but I like using a larger one in the common area and also so it doesn't grow legs and walk off.
Amazon Alexa or Google Home Speaker
Last and certainly not least is having a smart speaker. Most people now have one of these in their homes, and it's useful for acting as a local concierge for the area. Besides, guests will want to play music, so it's a nice touch having to be able to allow guests to play their favorite tunes on voice command.
I use the Sono line of smart speakers as I think they have excellent sound quality. You can use your Android or iPhone to hook up your preferred music streaming service to the Sonos and integrate it to Amazon Alexa.
Excellent experiences at short term rentals are all about integrating the conveniences of home with the luxury of a hotel. The name of the game is about exceeding guest expectations so you can secure that 5-star review.