Category: Vacation Rental


3 Reasons Floor Plans Are Great Virtual Tours

The interactive floor plan tour addresses multiple issues with a single product. Whether searching for a home to buy or a vacation property to rent, the average shopper is searching dozens if not hundreds of listings – up to five a day. If you combine that with the fact that the brain can process images in less than 13 milliseconds, then the importance of providing clear, distinct visuals on a property becomes a top priority.

1. Move properties quicker.

Virtual tours are known to draw in offers faster and even allow for sight unseen purchases. When open houses were suspended in many states, real estate remained an essential service. When in-person schooling went all virtual, short term rentals and vacation properties reached capacity. When time is of the essence, information is critical.

Providing property information, such as that which is provided in the floor plan tour, can bring in offers faster, bring in higher offers and reduce time spent showing the property to buyers who are not a good fit. What makes the floor plan tour different from other tours is the ease of use in combination with the detailed visual information. No other tour product combines the size of the room with the photo of what the room looks like in one glance.

2. Increase shopper satisfaction ratings and reduce bad leads.

Time is of the essence for both real estate agents and reservation agents. If the viewer sees that the layout of the property will not work for them, that saves a ton of time for both the user and the agent. Quickly discovering what will not work is just as important as learning what will. The Interactive Floor Plan Tour is the easiest way to see where rooms and features are with relation to other areas of the property.

Several agents have told TruPlace that the floor plans have saved their clients time by weeding out properties that will not work for them. And reservation agents have reported a 30% reduction in guest questions by providing this information up front to potential guests.

3. Communicate a lot of information in a small amount of space.

The Mortgage Reports states that home buying selection happens mainly on two things:

  • Is this a good value
  • Will this work for me?

The second question gets answered using the Interactive Floor Plan Tour. An Interactive Floor Plan Tour communicates quickly and easily whether or not this property will work for the person viewing it.

These days, deciding to view a property in person is not taken lightly. Providing layout information in addition to the images informs the person viewing hundreds of properties of the details they need to know to make a decision.

Most property website pages have to convey a lot of information about the property on one page, knowing the viewer’s attention space is very short. The viewer will likely look at these details in this order:

  • Bedroom count
  • Location
  • Price
  • Photos

Knowing that viewers can filter by bedroom count, location and price, the most important element on that property’s page will be the visuals. Without much room to convince the view to look further, the Interactive Floor Plan Tour is the best use of this space.


The Best Website Experience for Vacation Rental Companies to Give their Guests

How many vacation rental companies have mapped out their guest’s experiences from the “search” start? How many of them put themselves in their guest’s shoes and take a long, hard look at their website, on desktop and mobile?

With 50% of website traffic coming from a mobile device, and likely first-time users are higher than that, it’s critical to make sure the visuals and navigation are optimized for this experience.

In Google Analytics, which is where most of this data is accessed, visitors to a website are called users and their visit is called a session. How quickly users leave their session is called a bounce. If users leave their session quickly, that’s bad. That’s a high bounce rate. You want users to stay and look around for awhile. Longer session durations lead to conversions and conversions are bookings. And bookings are revenue.

Great visuals in a great user experience will attract new users, increase their total number of sessions and keep them from bouncing.

Here are three visuals for vacation rental companies to check on the mobile version of their websites.

High Quality Photography That’s Easy to See

Some property managers spend a huge part of their marketing budget on photography and then don’t check the mobile version to see that it’s not showing the whole image. Users should be able to see the exteriors and interiors quickly and easily. These are the photographs that will sell them on the property. Looking at these photographs should inspire them to look for additional information on the property page.

Property Layout That’s Easy to Navigate

This is a new era in vacation rental history. Photography along is no longer enough. Thanks to the pandemic and the evolution of virtual tour technology, guests want to see the layout of the property. This detail is increasingly important as the duration of stays become longer and the type of experience the guest is looking to have becomes more diverse. Short-term stays are now working stays, learning stays, and not just vacation stays. When multiple generations use these trips as the only time they might see each other in person, it’s so helpful to know how far the bathrooms are from the pool, or how close the Wi-Fi router is to a desk. Is all of this information easy to navigate to on a mobile device? It should be. Competitors in top beach and mountain markets working with TruPlace already have many of these features in place.

What’s Around the Property?

Since guests won’t spend their entire time on the property they are renting, they will want to quickly and easily find out what else is nearby. If this is hard to do on the mobile version of a vacation rental website, the user is likely to bounce at this point. Some property managers have figured out how to use photographs to tell a story, provide more information, and keep users on their property pages longer. For example, one company in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, added photos of bikes being stored in a closet on the ground floor of the property to their floor plan tour. This showed the guests where they could locate the bikes when they arrived. At the end of the photo carousel showing the property were photos showing local bike paths right outside the house, and a bike rack near shops where they could store bikes while getting lunch and shopping.

If the user has a good experience visually with all three of these areas, Google Analytics is likely to show a desktop session from the same user a short time later. That’s when the rates and calendar of availability will be important. But if the user never makes it past the virtual tour because it’s not displaying correctly, they’re a lot less likely to stay on the property and book.

The reality is the most guests browse on a mobile device and book on a desktop – for now. Vacation rental companies should make sure their visuals are not only optimized for desktop, but for iPads and iPhones as well. A good user experience on the website won’t just lead to lower bounce rates, it will also lead to repeat bookings.


Spirit of VR Roadshow: Last Stop, The Florida Panhandle

As a record-breaking named storm named Eta hoovered in the Gulf of Mexico near South Florida, the Spirit of VR Roadshow, a first-of-its-kind industry event, gathered in Panama City Beach. This would be the final area for the event, which had started in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Not only had the hurricane season been unusually active, but COVID-19 cases were increasing and a major election had not gone the way most residents in the panhandle had hoped. Despite all these tensions, property managers were still willing to come out and meet, to talk about what challenges their guests were facing (and causing).

The Spirit of VR Roadshow

Spirit of VR Roadshow Sponsors (TruPlace, Xplorie, Silicon Travel, Beyond Pricing, RealTech, and Brivo)

On Nov. 9, 2020, the Xplorie-driven van pulled into the waterfront venue of Papa Joe’s Bayside, which is now an outdoor event space that held nearly 500 people over the summer. With beach chairs, fire pits, food trucks and even a football goal post, the space felt tropical and relaxing. And relaxation was one thing vacation rental managers in this area were ready for. As of the event, most of them were still at 50% occupancy, and it wasn’t due the recent influx of IronMan participants. “That’s just how things have been going,” said one manager who has about 148 rentals. “We have not slowed down since Labor Day like usual.”

Like Usual?

Nothing about 2020 will be referenced as “like usual.” The Sheraton in PCB was at 70% occupancy the first week of November, which has never happened in its 34-year history. One waitress at Sharky’s beachfront bar and grill, which boasts a large outdoor seating area where you can step on the sand from your table, ended the summer with more than $20,000 in tips.

Another rental manager said she had to go knock on doors of the FEMA trailers, which are still occupied with victims of Hurricane Michael, looking for cleaning crew help because she couldn’t turn over the units fast enough for new guests. Several crews working in the industry to clean vacation rentals had tripled their prices over the summer as well. Some property managers still recovering from Hurricane Sally received visits from event sponsor, Silicon, which helped them repair or replace damaged routers.

No Longer a Secret

What was once known as Florida’s best kept secret, the turquoise waters and white sand beaches off 30A became (and stayed) a respite for those who had been pent up for too long. Boasting a healthy mix of single family homes, townhomes and condos, the rentals near Miramar saw record-breaking numbers right up until Halloween. With no mask mandates and 100% capacity at restaurants, this location was just what drive-to guests were looking for.

The Grand Sandestin, a sprawling 2,400-acre resort town, where the last stop on the roadshow gathered to meet, welcomed several managers to enjoy Hammerheads Creole cooking, cold brews and a demonstration of Xplorie’s new Alexa-powered guest experience. The voice-powered program allows guests to ask Alexa for everything from the WiFi password to recommendations for local restaurants and entertainment. Event sponsor Brivo, formerly known as Parakeet, was also on hand to share ways their locking system can help in contactless ways.

New Normal

TruPlace's Rebecca Lombardo and Greg Manson at the Spirit of VR Roadshow

TruPlace’s Rebecca Lombardo and Greg Manson at the Spirit of VR Roadshow

Standing outside that evening of the last stop in Destin, FL, one would hardly know there was a global pandemic occurring. People were calm walking around the outdoor shops and restaurants, enjoying the sunset from their balconies, and pushing strollers through the wide Baytown Wharf walkways.

Hearing from the vacation rental property managers in this area, it’s easy to understand how 2020 impacted each area very differently. These folks were thankful for how they had come through it, so far. And for those of us meeting with them face to face, we were grateful they were able to come out and chat for a few hours.

After all, hearing from Seashore Vacations that the manager, who also runs the front desk, has a layaway program and tells prospective guests he’s got properties for every budget: Chevy, GMC, and Cadillac, is just something that doesn’t translate well over Zoom.


Spirit of VR Roadshow: Myrtle Beach, SC

There’s good news and bad news coming out of Myrtle Beach, SC heading into the fourth quarter of 2020. The bad news is that bookings since April never reached pre-pandemic levels. Even now, with many markets seeing an extended shoulder season, the streets are mostly empty along the Grand Strand. A few travelers taking a long weekend can be seen coming in and out of high rises along the coastline – a couple of which came all the way from Europe. For the most part, this market lost revenue when closures hit in March and never recovered it in the months following.

Why Low Bookings?

Myrtle Beach, SC is primarily a drive-to vacation rental market, which should have worked in its favor, as people stayed off airplanes for the majority of 2020. A couple of factors worked against this though.

  1. Myrtle Beach was a “hot spot” for spikes in COVID-19 cases in June and July. The vacationers trying to stay safe while still getting away, preferred destinations with plenty of accommodations for families, even extended families. The preference being single family homes, hopefully not too close each other. Myrtle Beach has even spread of condos, townhomes and single family homes, so not as many options for the 2020 preferences.
  2. Golf courses limited access deterred groups. It was like a one-two punch for this popular four-season market. Even though the golf courses where allowed to open, a major draw for this area, they could only do socially distant parties per government regulations.
  3. Most of the counties folks drive from to reach Myrtle Beach remained open for business – meaning restaurants and venues were hosting guests locally. This was not the case in drive-to locations for Outer Banks, NC. Those drive-from markets were in a take-out only or very limited capacity mode for many weeks.
  4. “Zoom-school,” as it is fondly referred to by parents, allowed drive-from visitors to stay in the Outer Banks while still working and doing online classes. Schools in drive-from markets for Myrtle Beach went back to school at the end of summer either totally in-person or split between in-person and online – an option Outer Banks visitors did not have.

While Myrtle Beach is considered a four-season market, it is not seeing the visitor traffic to its vacation rental websites, nor the advanced bookings it had last year. What property managers say they have their eyes on next is the upcoming election, as they expect the economy to move one way or the other based on its outcome.

Vacation rental companies here are toying with some lower than average rates for spring to entice visitors to return if conditions are conducive to do so. Brainstorming ideas in a vacuum is hard though and most of the contacts we spoke with had not been in contact with many of their peers.

Next top on the VR Roadshow is Panama City Beach, FL. Follow our journey on Facebook, or reach out to any participating sponsor for more information.

Special thanks to our sponsors Xplorie, Beyond Pricing, Brivo, RealTech, and Silicon Travel.


Spirit of VR Roadshow: Stop 1. Outer Banks, NC

“It’s unbelievably busy.”

The most common comment we heard at the first stop on our Spirit of VR Roadshow, which is a four-city tour sponsored by six companies: Xplorie, TruPlace, Brivo, BeyondPricing, Silicon, and RealTech. Since all industry events for 2020 have been cancelled, the Spirit of VR Roadshow emerged as a late-year, progressive move to get industry professionals together in a safe, socially distant environment. These roadshow stops are like amped up tailgating with food trucks and locally crafted beverages.

It was therapeutic for our clients to be able to come out to Sanctuary Vineyards on Oct. 27 and share their experiences with the rest of us in the industry. As vendors supporting these clients, we’ve heard a range of anecdotes depending on where in the U.S. our clients are located.

For Outer Banks, NC, their 2020 has been a roller coaster, but one that is ending on an up note. One company told us they had about 100 properties booked last year for Thanksgiving and this year they have over 250 booked.

Several managers shared that they have more than made up for the “shut down” in March and April, as well as most of May, when the entire island was closed to outside traffic – meaning if you were not a full time resident, even if you owned a house there, you were not allowed to enter.

What Shoulder Season?

Normally after Labor Day, traffic and visitors to this small, friendly area leave for the year. Instead, this year, they bought homes and stayed. Or, homeowners who normally rented their property out for nine months a year, decided to stop renting altogether. This conflux of activity has drained local cleaning resources and stretched restaurants thin.

Homeowners who would normally refurbish or reshoot their properties during this time of the year are doing neither. The number of available properties to rent is going down and the demand is going up. If you own a rentable house in Outer Banks and want to sell it, now would be the right time.

Cheers!

Spirit of VR Roadshow Set-UpVacation rental managers who were able to make it out to the event were thrilled to be able to share stories and bottles of wine. Many of us have not seen each other in almost a year. The mood was relaxed as the sun peaked out from gray October skies and we all enjoyed a hearty “Southern Parfait” from the Coinjock food truck – comfort food perfect for the end of a long, stressful season. In addition to the fun and food, the Spirit of VR Roadshow raised $475 for the Children & Youth Partnership of Dare County at this stop.

The next stop is Myrtle Beach, SC. We’ll report on what the mood is like there next.


New Single Property Website Designed to Showcase Homes Multiple Ways

There’s a saying that good design is good business. Since our clients are the business of selling or renting homes, we wanted to offer them a good design within which to do so. We’re introducing the new single property website that showcases real estate in multiple ways on an intentionally simple and clean page. The focus is on the property, not the design or graphics. The intention is to impress the person renting or buying, to inspire them to take the next step toward converting. This is more successfully accomplished by adding less, not more to the real estate webpage.

One Home Many Views

Going beyond the still photograph has allowed us help sell or rent properties sight unseen. Today’s immersive visuals, such as 3D tours and video walk throughs of homes, provide more information and a better look at every nook and cranny. With so many options for viewing a property, a single property website that hosts them all in an easily accessible layout can be incredibly helpful.

It’s Pretty, But It Also Works

One of the most successful marketing software companies added landing pages to its offerings because it knew how powerful a singular focus and call to action could be. In fact, most Fortune 500 companies use landing pages to convert. That’s essentially what this is – one singular, vertically scrolling page offering multiple opportunities to reveal unique aspects of the house that might catch someone’s eye. With as many properties as people shop these days, it’s advantageous to give a property every opportunity to be matched with the right buyer. We’ve also refreshed our interactive floor plan tour colors to coincide with the fresh, streamlined look.

It Starts With Amazing Photography

Showcasing a piece of real estate using a single property website will further highlight the quality of photography used on the house. To make this website page look its best, start with TruFusion HDR photography. The webpage itself should actually be an afterthought once the stunning visuals have made an incredible first impression.

Devil’s in the Details

A few features of this property website that were not an afterthought include the lead capture form at the bottom of the page. Every good marketer knows a timely call to action is priceless. The branded version will have a lead capture form allowing the viewer to send a message to the realtor with contact information for immediate follow up. To optimize the viewer’s experience, regardless of what device it’s being viewed on, each section is designed to softly align with the screen without requiring a manual adjustment. And, of course, sharing is key. There are social media and messaging icons for sending out the webpage to others.

View a demo of our new single property website for real estate, which is complementary with every order.