How to host pets at your short-term vacation rental
- May 16, 2018 | Jennifer Sokolowsky
Americans love their pets — and more and more, they’re taking their beloved animal companions with them when they travel.
Out of the 85 million families that have a pet, about 37 percent travel with their pets every year, up from 19 percent a decade ago, according to a survey by the American Pet Products Association (APPA).
This is a big market. And although traditional hospitality properties are increasingly catering to pet owners, their needs are typically underserved by the short-term vacation rentals available through platforms such as Airbnb, HomeAway, or VRBO. This is true despite the fact that short-term rentals might often be more attractive to pet owners than other kinds of accommodations.
Short-term rentals, especially whole-house properties, can provide the kind of space, comfort, and access to outdoor areas that make it easy for people to travel with their pets. Yet it can be hard to find a short-term rental that allows pets to come along.
Many hosts are worried about damage to their property from allowing pets or are concerned that it might require extra work or hassle to host pet owners. But opening up your short-term rental to furry friends can offer plenty of rewards. Here are some reasons you might want to consider allowing pets at your property, along with best practices to help avoid negative experiences for you and your pet-loving guests.
Limiting the competition
Depending on the area, generally, there are far fewer properties that allow pets than properties that bar them. This means less competition for you and can represent a distinct advantage that can lead to higher booking rates — even in your slow season — and enthusiastic referrals from grateful pet owners.
Earning higher rates
If you’re one of the few properties in your area to allow pets, that competitive advantage can allow you to charge higher rates for stays. This could be in the form of higher overall rates or charging a special fee for pets.
More long stays
Pet owners may be more likely to bring their pets with them for longer stays, and you can benefit from that by offering them a place where they and their pets can be comfortable for a longer length of time — while still paying short-term vacation rental rates.
Is your rental suitable for pets?
Although allowing pets in your short-term rental has potential benefits, you need to carefully evaluate whether it’s an option that will work for you. Although most pets are well-behaved, animals can and do chew on things, make messes, and knock things over. If this would be a big problem in your space, it might not be the right choice. Some things to consider:
- Do you have outdoor space where it will be OK for pets to relieve themselves? If not, would you be OK with potty pads inside the property or is it easy for owners to take pets outside?
- What is your flooring like? Hard surfaces such as wood or tile may be more conducive to hosting pets. But if you have carpet, are you willing to deal with the occasional accident?
- Would you be OK with pets on your couch and/or chairs? A sturdy, dark-colored sofa may be more appropriate for paws than an antique chaise longue.
- Are you willing to allow pets on beds? If not, you could always state in the rules that pets are not allowed there — a rule that may or may not be followed.
- Do you have furnishings or décor that could be damaged by an errant swipe of the tail or that might pose a hazard to furry friends?
Policies and procedures
Once you’ve decided you want to allow pets, there are some precautions you can take to minimize the impact of any potential pet damage.
Make sure you specify which kinds of pets you allow and make it clear that you must be informed of which kinds of pets your guests want to bring with them. It’s a good idea to state that pets must be licensed and vaccinated. Keep in mind that certain breeds of dogs, for example, are not legally allowed in some communities.
The contract your guests sign should carefully spell out rules for pets and who’s responsible for damages should they occur. You may also want to increase the amount of the security deposit or cleaning fees you collect from guests with pets.
You may also consider instituting a nonrefundable fee for pet stays. Such fees are usually subject to local lodging taxes, so keep that in mind when collecting lodging taxes from guests.
Besides stating rules in the contract, it’s good to post any house pet rules — or local laws regarding pets, such as leash, barking, or pooper scooper ordinances — in the rental so that they’ll be very clear to your guests during their stay.
Before you start hosting animal companions, you’ll need to prepare your home so that it’s pet-friendly. Some things to do:
- Prepare surfaces such as floors and furniture. This might mean removing area rugs or adding slipcovers.
- Remove anything at pet level that is edible or could be damaged or broken.
- Install pet fences in places where you want pets to be off-limits.
Welcoming your furry guests
Just as little touches can make a big difference to your human guests, extending the spirit of hospitality to pets can create a great experience that results in glowing reviews and more business. Some ways to make sure your animal guests are comfortable:
- Provide food and water dishes.
- A pet bed will be much appreciated (and perhaps make for less wear and tear on your furniture).
- Offering a welcome gift to your human guests? Leave a basket of pet treats or chew toys for your animal guests as well.
- Let your guests know if there are pet amenities nearby, such as dog parks or pet stores.
- Extra services such as dog walking can make a pet owner’s stay even easier and generate extra revenue.
Making the most of paw-portunities
Hosting pets in your short-term rental takes some thought and preparation. But it can also be a way for you to maximize the success of your business — while creating a great experience for pet owners and their animal companions.