The owners of Show Boat Villa are no strangers to Outer Banks, North Carolina. Since they were kids, they’d always vacationed in the area with their parents.
Eventually, their family built a beach house and started renting it to others when they weren’t using it themselves.
“Mom and Dad started us on a tradition of building homes designed to be perfect for us – and also welcoming to others.”
Now, a generation later, the children have grown up and followed in their parents’ footsteps, having built a beach house in Kitty Hawk with that ethos in mind.
“When guests rent our home, they feel at home because we’ve designed it that way.”
The Outer Banks is a unique destination in that most of the vacation stock consists of private homes or “cottages”. In general, there are not many hotels or condos, just a few motels.
“In years past, the only way to book a vacation home was through one of the local agencies here, that also provide services such as cleaning and linens, laundry etc.”
People tend to visit the Outer Banks to experience the traditional beach home as a family, all together in one big house that they rent for a week or two, rather than own. But, for Show Boat Villa’s owners, they were concerned that not listing with an agency would put them at a disadvantage.
They soon discovered that, with the evolution of the web, more and more guests are seeking out homes to rent directly from owners. Working with homeowners can often personalize the guest experience and may even save a little time and money.
“We learned that having a customer-friendly website would be the perfect way to spread awareness of our home and stand out among the hundreds of property available to rent here.”
What they liked most about Lodgify
For the owners of Show Boat Villa, finding Lodgify was the missing puzzle piece to help create their brand and an online presence for their business.
“What we love about Lodgify is how custom and professional our site looks without the expense of building one and maintaining one from the ground up.”
As well as their own website and the direct bookings they receive, they appreciate the possibility to connect with other booking sources.
“The best thing is that our calendar and rates can synchronize with popular booking sites like Airbnb.”
As a result of their website and listings, they have been constantly increasing their revenue since launching back in 2018.
How they found the process of creating their own website with Lodgify
The owners of Show Boat Villa found it very easy (and even a fun process) to build their site, upload pictures, descriptions and features.
“Anyone can do it because you don’t need to translate from code or HTML like you would when building a site on your own. It was fun to create and customize the site and to see it perform seamlessly was also a joy.”
Although the process was mostly straightforward, they still valued being able to connect with the support team for assistance.
“One of the appealing draws of Lodgify is having live customer support a phone call away to get started. Every site has its unique features and it was so helpful to have a friendly person at Lodgify to help get the site up and running.”
How they got their first bookings
While Airbnb is one of their top-performing channels for this year, they also receive a fair amount of interest directly through their website thanks to its position in Google search results.
“Last year, a couple from Virginia who have booked homes on the Outer Banks for years saw our website on Google and called to book. It was late in the season when much inventory was either booked or pricey. It was rewarding to be able to host such a sweet couple, make them happy and provide them with a lovely vacation.”
Other channels that generate traffic and bookings
The owners have a property manager, Joe Lamb Jr. who is sending a lot of traffic through to their website.
In addition, thanks to Lodgify’s channel manager connections, they can take care of multiple listings on popular vacation home search sites like Airbnb, Booking.com, HomeAway and Vrbo without any added stresses or worries about overbooking.
“We’re also on Facebook, Twitter, etc. We haven’t seen much activity at all from social media. But perhaps those are contributing to awareness but not to direct bookings.”
How Lodgify helped them grow their vacation rental business
Historically, they have never struggled to book their villa – renting around 20-25 weeks from April to September each year. However, this often came at a price, such as offering discounted rates or buying promotions to feature on other sites.
“This year was our first full season and by March, we were already booked for 18 weeks, without any discounts or promotions involved. We’re looking forward to being more profitable in 2019 than in recent years!”
After vacationing as guests in the Outer Banks for many years before diving in themselves, Show Boat Villa’s owners have a lot of advice for anyone starting out in the industry.
“Every vacation destination market is different, so our advice is to start a rental in a place you know well, have stayed in several years and feel comfortable with first.”
As well as this, they recognize the importance of making sure the primary motivation of this type of investment should be for pleasure. Particularly, for enjoying family time together and making the most of the second home they’ve built.
“Don’t treat it solely as a source of income because that alone may fall short, depending on real estate values, volatile weather and economic swings.”
They also offer a lot of practical advice when it comes to maintaining the property, especially for owners who don’t live local to their rental property.
“Develop strong ties locally so that you are not a complete “absentee” landlord. Work with local providers who know the area and can help you with repair, landscaping, pool and cleaning and banking services best. You will find it so much easier and more rewarding to become a local, then you can offer your guests a more complete experience based on your insider knowledge and passion for the place.”
The final piece of wisdom they would like to share with other prospective owners is about getting one up on the competition to truly increase bookings.
“Consider adding unique features for your guests that your competition doesn’t. For example, our house is on a golf course, so we began by offering guests four free rounds of golf with each booking. Focus your attention on ensuring relaxation, fun, adventure and mutual good times for you and your guests and you’ll be successful.”