Vacation rental business terms to know

Short-term rental and real estate investment glossary

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Owning and managing a vacation rental can be complicated at times, starting with the lingo. What’s reputation management and yield management? How does a damage waiver fee differ from a damage deposit? 

As vacation rentals continue to grow in popularity, understanding the fundamental industry terms will give you a leg up, plus better position your home for success. 

We created this glossary of vacation rental and real estate vocabulary to help keep things simple. Explore these three main categories to learn how to run your vacation rental like a pro.

Property management and vacation rental industry terms

Amenities

A desirable feature of your vacation home that makes a stay more pleasant and comfortable. Some of the most searched amenities at Vacasa homes include hot tubs, pools, and dog-friendliness. 

Read our guide to stocking your vacation home >

Back-to-back booking

When one set of guests arrive the same day the previous guests check out.

Blackout dates (also known as owner holds)

Specific dates when your home isn’t available for bookings. For example, you might place a hold for your own visit, or when you allow friends or family to stay at the property. With Vacasa, we don’t limit how often or how long you can place a hold at your vacation home (as long as you honor existing guest reservations, of course).

Booking confirmation

A notification that is usually sent to guests immediately after booking your vacation rental. The booking confirmation typically includes a booking number, check in and check out dates, total price of the rental, and a receipt with payment details.

Booking policy

The terms and conditions concerning items like payments, cancellations, and damage deposits.

Booking request

A booking method (popular on Airbnb and Vrbo) that first requires the homeowner’s approval before a guest can book a stay. If you work with Vacasa, we will screen guests on your behalf.

Booking window

The period of time between when the booking is made and when the guests arrive. This metric can help you track how fast or far in advance guests book.

Cancellation policy

The terms that describe how a guest can cancel, and any fees or deadlines involved.

entryway storage near glass doors leading to beach

Check-in

The time the reservation officially starts (generally, guests can arrive anytime after that). A common check-in time is 4 p.m., which gives housekeepers enough time to clean and prepare the property after a previous guest checks out in the morning.

Check-out

The time the reservation officially ends and guests leave the property. A typical check-out time is 10 a.m., allowing housekeepers enough time to prepare the property before new guests arrive.

Guest experience

A term primarily used in the hospitality industry to convey the overall experience your guests have at your property.

Guest screening (also known as security screening)

This refers to evaluating potential guests before allowing them to book a stay. Vacasa handles guest screening for all of our homes. We may establish minimum age requirements and confirm guest identities. And, we’ll automatically flag suspicious behavior.

Go over Vacasa’s comprehensive guest screening >

House rules

A set of guidelines that tell guests how they should behave while they are staying at your home, including what they can and can’t do.

Keyless entry

A method for guests to access your vacation rental without keys, usually by giving them a code to use on a smart lock.

Lockbox

A small safe that contains keys to your property and is usually attached to the front door handle or to a wall.

Minimum stay

The shortest booking that a homeowner will accept at their property. For instance, you can implement a minimum stay of 2 nights to only allow bookings of 2 nights or longer.

Off-season (also known as low season)

The time of year when travel is slowest in a destination, which can lead to fewer bookings if rates aren’t adjusted. Vacasa’s dynamic pricing algorithm considers demand when automatically adjusting nightly rates.

Operations

What’s involved in running a vacation rental, from marketing to cleaning to maintenance. Full-service property management companies, like Vacasa, handle it all for you, in addition to maximizing the revenue you make from every booking.

vacation home in telluride covered in snow

Outdoor amenities

An exterior feature of your property that can increase guest satisfaction and attract more bookings. This can include an outdoor hot tub, a balcony with a view, or a fire pit.

Owner’s closet

A locked closet in your vacation home that contains personal items you don’t want guests to have access to.

Peak season (also called high season)

The busiest time of year for tourism at a destination. This is usually when vacation rentals can command their highest rates.

Property management cost

The total amount of expenses required to manage a vacation rental, including marketing, cleaning, guest service, and repairs.

Quiet hours

Specific hours (usually late at night and early in the morning) when guests are expected to keep noise to a minimum. This is typically seen in condo communities with HOA rules.

Rental agreement

A document that spells out the rules for your guests and any penalties for breaking them. 

Get tips on creating a vacation rental agreement >

Self check-in (also known as contactless check-in)

A way for guests to check in without meeting the homeowner or property manager in person.  With Vacasa, we streamline the process by sending all necessary information—such as smart lock codes, check-in times, and parking information—to guests before they arrive.

Shoulder season

A period of time between a destination’s peak season and off-season.

Smart lock

A digital lock that allows guests to enter a vacation home using a code instead of a key. When Vacasa homeowners enroll in the Smart Lock program, Vacasa will handle the research, installation, and maintenance of the best smart lock for their home. All they have to do is cover the cost of the hardware.

Vacation Rental Management Association (VRMA)

An association for vacation rental operators and homeowners, offering networking, education, and professional development.

Vacation rental management fee

A set amount that a homeowner pays to a vacation rental manager or management company in exchange for overseeing their property.

Vacation rental property manager

A specialist hired to take care of some or all aspects of running your vacation rental. Full-service vacation rental managers (like Vacasa) will handle it all—marketing your home, managing reservations, taking care of guests, stocking essentials, cleaning, dynamic rate setting, and more.

Kitchen of Glen Ellen, CA vacation rental

Vacation rental marketing and listing terms

Availability calendar

The online calendar that shows up-to-date availability for your vacation rental. If you rent out your property on multiple channels, such as Airbnb and Vrbo, avoiding double bookings can be a challenge. With Vacasa, we’ll keep all your calendars in sync to avoid overlapping bookings and disgruntled guests.

Billboard effect

A marketing theory that says more visibility can help drive more conversions. Vacasa markets our vacation homes in several places online—from emails, to social media posts, to travel blog posts—to bring as much exposure to our properties as possible.

See Vacasa’s digital marketing approach >

Booking

Also known as a reservation. This term is used when a guest reserves a stay at your vacation rental.

Call to Action (CTA)

A prompt at the end of a marketing message (like an email, ad, or blog post) that tells the reader what action to take next. For example, “Book Now” or “Check Availability.”

Channel

A website where travelers can find and book vacation rentals. If you join Vacasa, we’ll manage your home on top channels (such as Airbnb, Booking.com, and Vrbo), in addition to our own powerful booking platform, Vacasa.com.

Explore the top vacation rental booking channels >

Channel manager

A software or company that helps you manage and sync your profiles, bookings, and details from multiple channels in one place. With Vacasa’s approach to vacation rental channel marketing, you’ll get all this and more—like optimizing your listing with professional copywriting and photography. Plus, our homeowners can benefit from our exclusive partnerships with channels like Airbnb and Vrbo.

Competitive set (also known as compset)

Other vacation rental properties that you see as direct competitors to your own. They can be similar in price, style, location, or target demographic. Examining your compset and reading their guest reviews can help you find ways to stand out and better compete for bookings.

Conversion rate

The percentage of people who booked a stay at your vacation rental property, out of everyone who viewed it online. (For instance, if 100 potential guests look at your home listing and 5 of them book it, your conversion rate is 5%.)

Digital marketing 

Advertising and bringing exposure to your vacation home through digital channels, such as social media, email, websites, and search engines like Google. 

Learn about digital marketing for vacation rentals >

Direct booking

When a guest books directly on your website or your vacation rental manager’s website, instead of on a third-party channel like Airbnb or Vrbo.

Double booking (also known as overbooking)

Double bookings refer to two (or more) reservations being made for the same nights. This is a common occurrence when homeowners advertise their property on multiple channels without the help of a channel manager to help sync calendars.

vacation rental with smoky mountain views near dollywood

Email marketing

Marketing your vacation rental by sending emails to potential guests. Content can include email newsletters, promotions, or messages targeted to former guests inviting them to book a return stay. Vacasa uses customer data to send multiple targeted emails a month to niche audiences, including dog owners, parents, and couples.

View our vacation rental email marketing guide >

Instant booking

A booking that is accepted immediately without homeowner approval or guest screening. This is an option on popular booking channels, such as Airbnb and Vrbo.

Listing 

Your vacation home’s profile within a channel. A listing usually includes a title, a description of your property, photos, and pricing. Homeowners who work with Vacasa receive a custom listing created just for their property. It includes professional photography, copywriting, and a 360-degree Matterport tour—all complimentary. 

Build the perfect listing >

Omnichannel marketing 

Marketing and interacting with potential guests using an integrated approach on various channels, such as social media, email marketing, digital ads, and a blog.

Property description

The part of your listing that explains your vacation rental in detail, including your amenities and what guests should expect. When writing our property descriptions, Vacasa’s professional copywriters tap into what amenities guests are looking for in your area and what makes your home stand out to convince travelers to book.

Reputation management

This refers to encouraging guests to leave good reviews and responding effectively to bad ones in an effort to build trust and get more bookings. Vacasa’s 30-person reputation management team responds to tens of thousands of reviews left for our homes across the web—like Yelp, Tripadvisor, Facebook, and Trustpilot.

Reviews

Feedback that guests leave about your vacation rental. Aiming for 5-star reviews—and addressing any negative feedback—can help you attract new bookings and encourage loyalty from previous guests.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

Strategies that improve your rankings on Google (and other search engine result pages) to naturally draw visitors to your website. A majority of travelers start their search for accommodations on Google. The higher your rankings, the more eyes you’ll have on your home, and the more bookings you can get. Vacasa’s in-house SEO team leverages several strategies—such as creating content around keywords and keeping up with Google’s latest search algorithms—to make that happen. 

Read up on vacation rental SEO >

interior of kauai vacation home with countertop seating, wicker furniture and high ceilings

Vacation rental finance and reporting terms

Advance payment

A portion of the total rent that a guest pays prior to their arrival. The remainder is usually billed later.

Advertised price

The price per night that is shown to a potential guest. On Vacasa.com, we provide full pricing details that break down any fees, such as a cleaning fee.

Amenity fee

An extra amount guests pay to access certain amenities, such as a pool, tennis courts, or golf course. For instance, in some markets Vacasa charges guests a $15 hot tub fee per day to cover the cost of maintenance.

Available nights

The number of nights that a vacation rental is open for bookings throughout the year. The remainder of the year is generally taken up by owner holds.

Average daily rate (ADR)

A common way to track your vacation home’s performance, ADR is the average revenue that your rental earns when it’s occupied. You can determine ADR by dividing the total revenue earned by the number of booked nights.

Average length of stay (ALOS)

This refers to the average number of nights that guests stay at your property. It’s generally measured by dividing the total number of booked nights by the number of different guests that booked with you.

Booking fee

A fee that some channels or websites charge guests for booking through their platform.

Cancellation fee

Money a guest must pay if they cancel a booking after a certain date has passed.

Channel fee

The commission that a channel charges you in exchange for listing your vacation rental on their website.

Cleaning fee

A one-time fee that guests pay to cover the cost of cleaning after they check out.

Custom fees

Any additional fee that is unique to your vacation home, such as a pool heating fee or hot tub maintenance fee.

Damage deposit (also known as a security deposit)

A refundable amount that a guest prepays to cover possible damages.

Damage protection insurance

Insurance that a guest purchases, usually at the time of booking. This one-time cost can be used in lieu of paying a damage deposit or damage waiver.

Damage waiver fee

A non-refundable fee that a homeowner can charge in lieu of a damage deposit. This fee will cover accidental damages to your vacation rental during the guest’s stay.

Dynamic pricing

The practice of adjusting your nightly rates to reflect changing market conditions, such as pricing higher during peak season or during an event. Vacasa takes this even further to maximize your revenue and occupancy. We change rates based on a billion (yes, a billion) data points, like demand, competition, weather, events, and recent trends to make sure you’re making top dollar on every booking.  

Dive into Vacasa’s dynamic pricing >

clean, white interior of folly beach vacation rental bedroom with balcony

Expenses

Any costs you pay to operate and maintain your vacation rental. Tax deductible expenses for vacation rentals can include cleaning, insurance, repairs, marketing, property supplies, and more.

Guest fee

A general term referring to any fees paid by guests that go beyond the nightly rent or taxes, such as a pet fee or cleaning fee.

Gross booking revenue

The total vacation rental revenue you’ve earned from rent, fees, and any other charges.

Minimum rate 

The lowest amount of money you’d accept for any booking. While it's easy to set minimum rates, Vacasa encourages its homeowners not to, as they can lower earning potential and visibility on third-party channels.

Learn the myths about minimum rates >

Net revenue

The total earnings that you make after paying costs such as a  vacation rental management commission or channel fees.

Occupancy rate

The ratio of nights booked to the total number of available nights.

Pet deposit

A refundable amount that guests pay (in lieu of a pet fee) to cover any possible damage left behind by their pet.

Pet fee

A one-time fee that guests pay (in lieu of a pet deposit) if they are bringing a pet, usually to cover the cost of extra cleaning.

Pool heating fee

An extra amount you can charge guests to cover the cost of heating the pool during their stay.

Return on investment (ROI)

A performance measure that determines the profitability of your real estate investment. ROI is usually shown as a percentage of your investment cost. You can calculate ROI with a simple formula: ROI = (Net revenue - cost of investment)/cost of investment.

For example, let’s say you invested $200,000 in your vacation home and the net revenue from your rental income was $250,000. Your ROI would be: ($250,000-$200,000)/$200,000 = .25 = 25%

Rental income (also known as revenue)

The total amount of money generated from each stay, including nightly rates and fees.

RevPAR

Meaning “revenue per available rental,” this measurement tracks if your revenue is trending up or down over a given period. By tracking your RevPAR daily, monthly, or annually, you can learn how effective your efforts have been to impact your bottom line.

Sales tax

Some states and cities in the U.S. require homeowners to charge and collect sales taxes from guests. These are not to be confused with lodging or transient occupancy taxes (TOT). When a homeowner works with Vacasa, we will charge guests the correct tax rates on their behalf.

Transient occupancy tax (TOT; also known as lodging tax)

A tax that guests pay to the county or city where the vacation rental is located. The taxes usually go towards improvement projects in the destination, like transportation, public parks, libraries, and environmental preservation. When a homeowner works with Vacasa, we will charge guests the correct TOT on their behalf.

Yield management

A variable pricing strategy based on many market factors, such as competition or demand. One of the most impactful yield management tactics is dynamic pricing like Vacasa’s, which adjusts rates so you’re always charging the right price at the right time, resulting in the maximum revenue for every stay.

Outdoor firepit in Warren, VT

Vacation rental FAQ

Vacation rentals—also known as short-term rentals—are accommodations that travelers book as an alternative to hotels. Most often, these rentals are houses, condos, villas, and cabins. They are especially popular with groups or families traveling together, since they offer more space, more privacy, and often a kitchen to prepare meals in.

Vacation rentals can be profitable if they’re located in the right location, and charge the right rates at the right time. Adjusting your rates to go higher or lower according to demand, competition, weather, seasonality, or even special events can help you earn top dollar from every stay. Homes in desirable travel destinations (like popular beaches or busy ski resorts) also tend to make more. 

One way to get a profitable head start is by working with vacation rental experts to manage your home. In addition to taking care of your guests, cleaning, and marketing on your behalf, Vacasa’s main goal is to maximize your earning potential. 

See how much your home can make with our rental income calculator.

It depends on how many days you rent out your vacation home to travelers. According to the IRS, if you rent out your property to guests for 14 days or more in a year, it can be considered a business. However, if you—not guests—use the property for 14 days or more, then it’s considered a personal residence. 

Get the essentials for your vacation rental business >

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Vacasa offers property management and other real estate services directly through Vacasa LLC and through Vacasa LLC's licensed subsidiaries. Click here for more information about Vacasa's licensed real estate brokerage/property manager in your state. Vacasa’s licensed real estate brokerages/property managers include: Vacasa Alabama LLC; Vacasa Arizona LLC; Vacasa Colorado LLC (Mark Graham); Vacasa Delaware LLC, 302-541-8999; Vacasa Florida LLC; Vacasa Louisiana LLC, Dana MacCord, Principal Broker, ph 504.252.0155 (Licensed in LA); Vacasa Michigan LLC, 947-800-5979; Vacasa Missouri LLC, Susan Scanlon, Designated Broker; Vacasa Nevada LLC; Vacasa New Hampshire LLC, P.O. Box 283, Conway NH 03818, Dave Grant, Broker of Record; Vacasa New Mexico LLC, 503-345-9399; Vacasa New York LLC, 888-433-0068, Susan E. Scanlon, Real Estate Broker; Vacasa North Carolina LLC; Vacasa Pennsylvania LLC; Vacasa Real Estate Corporation, California DRE #02105811, Joseph Czapkowicz, California DRE #01380722; Vacation Palm Springs Real Estate, Inc., California DRE #01523013, Joseph Czapkowicz, California DRE #01380722; Vacasa Real Estate LLC (licensed in Colorado, Daned Kirkham); Vacasa Real Estate LLC (licensed in Idaho, Oregon, and Utah); Vacasa Real Estate LLC (licensed in Maine, Michael McNaboe, Designated Broker); Vacasa Real Estate LLC (licensed in Texas, Debra Brock, Designated Broker); Vacasa Real Estate LLC (licensed in Washington, Robert Brush, Designated Broker); Vacasa Seasonals Inc., California DRE #02160171, Lisa Renee Stevens, California DRE #01485234; Vacasa South Carolina LLC; Vacasa South Dakota LLC; Vacasa Tennessee LLC; Vacasa Vacation Rentals of Hawaii LLC, 3350 Lower Honoapiilani Road, Suite 600, Lahaina, HI 96761; Vacasa Vacation Rentals of Montana LLC, Terah M Young, Licensed Property Manager; Vacasa Virginia LLC; Vacasa Wisconsin LLC; Vacasa Wyoming LLC. In Canada, this advertisement is provided by Vacasa Canada ULC, CPBC lic. number 75826, 172 Asher Rd. V1X 3H6 Kelowna, BC.