keep your listings live

Publish or Perish : why you should keep your listings live

Would you say your property management business is more like Amazon or a Pop-up store? Which one would you rather be?

The e-commerce giant is always-on, 24/7/365. A pop-up shop is only there for a short period of time. You wouldn’t even know about it if you hadn’t walked by there at a serendipitous time. It comes and goes without recall or consideration.  It’s a novelty.

There’s no debate about which business is more successful. So most short-term property managers would like their business to be more like the former than the latter. If that is the case, why would you ever turn off your listings ? 

The main reasons why you are turning off your listings

Travelers are looking for places to stay all year long

Seriously, we wouldn’t be talking about this if it wasn’t a ‘thing’ that happens all too often. You may be surprised to know that unpublishing is a very common phenomenon in the low season. OTAs like Airbnb see reduced inventory from known abodes with a history of ratings. Property management systems like RentalReady and channel managers see portfolios downsized.

We went in search of the motivations for such counter-intuitive practices. We’ve heard reasons such as the following: 

  1. “We’re looking for a longer term tenant for several months”
  2. “The owner is using the property”
  3. “A renter moved in on a midterm basis”
  4. “We’ll turn it back on just before the high season”

None of these is a good reason to take your listing down completely. If you’re looking for a tenant on a monthslong lease, RentalReady can help you with that. Our in-house channel manager connects to OTA platforms such as Homelike specialising in mid-term stays. You could attract business travelers, visiting professors, caregivers and family reuniting around a sick member, professionals on training, digital nomads or consultants on assignment. 

RentalReady’s native revenue management algorithm is designed to help your rates remain competitive for longer stays. Several customisation levers are at your fingertips. You can set up automation based upon your chosen conditions. In extremely competitive markets such as London and Dubai, the difference in total yield between mid-term and short-term can be razor thin. It’s crucial for property managers to be good at both, and equip themselves with versatile systems which effectively aid either rental type.

What are the consequences of turning off ads ?

Will the owner occupy the property indefinitely and never want to rent in the future? Is the renter staying for years? If the answer is ‘no’ to these questions, then the owner should see it’s in their best interest that when their property becomes rentable again, it’s under the best conditions possible.

If the property will become available at any time in the next year, it should remain active. Reduce the calendar if you must. Block out certain dates. Turn off instant booking. Establish stricter policies. But goodness gracious don’t unpublish the property entirely!

Top vacation rental manager GuestReady, overseeing thousands of properties across dozens of cities in EMEA, remarked a glaring difference between always-on properties and ‘pop-up’ properties. They noticed that a property available only 50% of the time (six months a year or less) versus one available at least 80% of the time (10 or more months a year) will make less money and have fewer bookings. This is something they saw in several analyses they did over time, in multiple markets in which they operate.

Deactivating properties doesn’t save money, it loses money. Just 1 night booked easily covers the costs of your PMS. That’s one of the main reasons why you should keep your listings live.

What we’ve learned from the RentalReady study

At RentalReady, we conducted a vast study looking at the effects on pop-up listings. The results were revealing, drawing a direct correlation between visibility and performance.

The period studied was from March 2019 to November 2023. While the pandemic did take place during this time, there were significant stretches before, after and during when reservations were possible. Deactivations took place pretty evenly throughout the year, with 8% happening in the Spring, 35% in the Summer, 22% in the Fall and 35% in the Winter. Re-publishing similarly happened in all seasons, with 32% in the Spring, 18% in the Summer, 24% in the Fall and 26% in the Winter.

The average time between bookings before deactivation was 10 days. The average number of days between the republish date and the first booking was 21 days. This means that when the listings went back up, it took twice as long to get a reservation. The attractiveness of the property plummeted, simply because it wasn’t able to be seen.

This wasn’t a temporary setback. It took months to get the property back near where it was before disappearing. The average occupancy rate for properties before being switched off was 59%. To eliminate seasonality from the equations of our study, we chose to look at the rate for the same month in the previous year before reactivation.

Why you should keep your listings live

listings on airbnb
Your listing is one among thousands and thousands on Airbnb or other websites..

When listings went live again, occupancy was disastrous. In the first month after reactivation, only 21% of the dates were filled on average. That means they were at about one third of the level as their last appearance.

The numbers improved as the properties became re-established. Occupancy averages grew to 45% in month two, and 46% in month three. However, you’ll notice that even after an entire new season of activity, they were still severely off the mark of 59% before they pulled the plug. Out-of-sight truly is out-of-mind.

The longer they were away, the harder they were hit upon returning. Properties in the studied set were inactive for an average of 210 days. The listings which were gone for 51 to 100 days took more time to get their first booking, and had lower occupancy than those which went missing from only 1 to 50 days. Those gone 101 to 200 days were still poorer than those absent for 51 to 100 days. Those who weren’t there above 201 days, were even worse off than those inactive 101 to 200 days.

One of the main reasons for this phenomenon is that most holiday makers like to plan ahead. According to KeyData figures on the advanced booking window, the majority of travelers reserve 1 ½ months out. That is, the average time between reservation and arrival is six weeks. This time lapse grows for OTA platforms catering to families and groups like Expedia, with an average window of 63 days and Vrbo with a 68-day window. Smaller units are reserved a bit more last-minute. 

Google data claims the window is even longer than that. They found that hotels and flights are booked 12 weeks in advance on average. 

Strategies you should consider to maximize bookings

However, travelers actually start thinking about trips long before they click the ‘book’ button. This means they are researching listings months and months before they arrive. Add the search time to the booking window, and you could easily see initiation commencing a half a year before the vacation. This is the moment when your property needs to be seen.

Keep your listings live “12 months into the future”

A best practice is opening your calendar ’12 months into the future.’ You can build up a fantastic occupancy level more than six months out if you have a unique property and play your cards right. According to Google Travel, 50% of summer holidays are booked by the end of February. Anybody who stated reason number four above, activating properties only just before high season, has shut themselves out from half of their potential demand. But they’ve actually done worse than that.

Optimizing visibility and maximizing opportunities

Within the three months prior to the trip date, the search increases for experiences (Google 2019). By not having your property visible until the last minute, even if tourists do book your property, they’ve probably already gotten everything else sorted without your help. Instead of upsells, you have opportunity loss. Those airport transfers, guide recommendations, dinner reservations and other ancillary services were all made without you, the property manager, getting a cut of any of it.

How do events and seasons affect bookings ?

Tourism has traditionally been cyclical, with the masses departing for summer vacation at the same time. This is less and less so. There are spot opportunities here and there all along the date book. 

Events are a major instigator of travel. Some are well-known and widely publicised. Others you may be completely oblivious to. Only an always-on approach will get your properties considered at the moment when travelers are looking. Demand can spike overnight.

2024 Olympics in Paris

keep your listings live for Paris Olympics
2024 Olympics are a very important event for property owners

Tickets to the 2024 Olympics went on sale the 11th of May, 2023. In the days prior, Paris demand was weak. AirDNA said in the two weeks after, demand exploded, reaching a peak of 688% above the pre-sale period. Remember, we’re talking 14 months before the event.

By October 2023, still 10 months ahead of the start of the games, overall occupation rates in Paris were already between 18% and 25%, according to Beyond. Half of the reservations were for seven nights or more. Longer stays are booked farther in advance, and the Olympics prove the rule. There was also a marked increase of 40% in occupation before and after the ceremonies, showing a desire to extend stays to enjoy the city outside the venues.

In conclusion, if you want… 

  • More bookings…
  • Reserved faster…
  • From larger groups…
  • Who pay more…
  • Which stay longer…
  • Resulting in fewer dips in occupancy…

Then publish your properties year-round!