By The Hospitable Team
There’s a big question bubbling away among hosts right now: is adding a hot tub to your STR property worth the money? What about a fireplace, kitchen, or home gym?
There are over 20 amenity filters on Airbnb, so guests can customize their searches to include almost every detail of their perfect stay. Upgrading your property with popular amenities could be the answer to making your listings stand out and getting more bookings.
But hold on, investing in big-ticket amenities can be expensive. And what’s to say a hot tub won’t be a total wash? We’ve spoken to real hosts about which amenities they recommend (and which ones they say to avoid). Let’s take a look at their advice.
Hosts recommend using Hospitable.com.
Why should you consider upgrading your amenities?
If you’ve read our Airbnb host checklist, then you’ve already got the basics covered. Your vacation rental is kitted out with everything your guests need for a comfortable stay. The reviews are good and your guests are happy, but is your property getting booked as often as you’d like?
If you’re missing out on bookings, it could be because your STR needs upgrading. Here are the top 3 benefits of investing in your amenities:
1. Get more visibility on OTAs
With all the search filters offered by Online Travel Agents (OTAs) like Airbnb and Vrbo, it’s easy for guests to find exactly what they’re looking for. If you don’t have popular amenities like a TV, your property won’t stand a chance of being seen. You could even include self-check-in to widen the net and attract guests who need more flexibility, like business travelers.
2. Differentiate yourself from your competitors
There are some amenities that guests expect to find. Wifi, for example, isn’t necessarily going to make your property stand out from the crowd. However, if a potential guest is choosing between your property and one other, having additional amenities like aircon could be what secures the deal.
3. Increase the value of your rentals
Many guests will consider paying a little extra for something special, so adding popular amenities means you can increase your nightly rate. The most expensive Airbnbs boast luxury amenities like pools to attract guests who don’t mind splashing out on a remarkable stay.
Which amenities are worth the investment?
Every vacation rental is different, and there’s no single amenity that’s perfect in the eyes of all property owners. One way to be sure you’re making a worthwhile investment is to hear from the hosts who did it first (and learn from their mistakes!).
We’ve spoken to hosts with all types of rentals in many different locations, and the following recommendations are based on their first-hand experience.
Here are the top amenities that hosts say are worth the investment:
Hot tubs are very popular with guests. Whether it’s for a romantic getaway or a girls’ weekend away, lots of guests will consider spending a little extra for the luxury of a tub. Hosts especially recommend installing a hot tub if you want to boost your winter bookings. Basic hot tubs start at around $3,000, but opting for a more efficient model may be worth the extra cost in the long run.
To help minimize maintenance costs, it’s a good idea to give guests a list of rules like “always keep the cover on while the tub warms up” and “please shower before use”. Some hosts also recommend looking on Craigslist, where you can find secondhand tubs for a discounted price—or even for free!
One host remarked that there’s a “huge benefit” to installing a hot tub. He said, “Those that have them enjoy a 15% boost in occupancy. You can find them for free on Craigslist and if you run an enzyme + ozone sanitizer you have very little maintenance.”
Best for: cold climates and luxury stays
Upfront cost: $5,000—$10,000
A pet-friendly space
Believe it or not, a ‘pet-friendly space’ is the most popular amenity on Airbnb. Guests are more likely to search for properties that have a pet-friendly space than a kitchen—or even wifi! You may think it’s way too much extra hassle to host pets, but it’s a sure way to increase your bookings.
One host said, “We allow pets because there’s a huge need.” She explained, “We get more guests because of that. The spaces that do not permit pets are typically because the owners are not pet owners themselves, and don’t want the pet hair when they come back!“
Of course, even good dogs come with the risk of mess and damage. Hosts recommend accepting pets on a case-by-case basis and communicating with pet-owners ahead of time to establish the breed, type, and the number of pets coming to stay. You can also include a pet deposit fee at the time of booking to cover any additional cleaning costs or accidents.
Best for: beach properties and rural stays
Upfront cost: $50—$200 for a bed, food and water bowls, treats, and toys
The digital nomad trend is booming: the number of people choosing to travel while working remotely has doubled in 2 years. A dedicated workspace can be super attractive to remote workers and business travelers. And attracting these guests is great for booking longer stays and making sure your property doesn’t sit empty during the week.
However, there’s no point in offering a workspace if you don’t also have fast wifi, so you should consider upgrading your internet package if you want to offer a workspace. Hosts also recommend getting an ergonomic chair and a monitor to go that extra mile.
Best for: urban apartments
Upfront cost: $100—$500 for a desk, lamp, and comfortable chair
Private patio or balcony
A private outdoor space is a must for warmer climes and makes even small urban apartments feel more spacious. An artfully arranged photo of your patio or balcony on a sunny day will look stunning on your OTA listing, too.
However, it’s not always possible to install a balcony, and you should definitely speak to an experienced contractor before you consider this option. If you already have a private patio or balcony, be sure to add it to your listing so that people searching with this filter will find your property. Hosts recommend adding some outdoor chairs, solar lights, or a potted plant, to make your outdoor space even more appealing.
Best for: warm climates and urban apartments
Upfront cost: $600—$2,400 to install a small balcony with room to sit
An indoor fireplace
There’s nothing cozier than gathering around a fireplace with a hot drink at the end of the day. A fireplace is a major selling point for off-grid stays, winter bookings, and cold climates. But retroactively fitting a fireplace into your STR property is basically impossible, right?
It would certainly cost a fortune, which is why an electric fireplace is a good alternative if you don’t already have a usable chimney. Before you get started, ask an electrician to assess your wiring to make sure your property can accommodate that upgrade.
Best for: cold climates and rural stays
Upfront cost: $1,000—$4,000 for an electric, wall-mounted fireplace
Using Hospitable.com is an excellent alternative to burning out from hosting routine.
Which amenities should you skip?
Top of the range kitchens
Many guests choose STRs over hotel stays because they like the flexibility of self-catering. But that doesn’t mean you need to install a designer kitchen. Hosts find that most guests hardly use fancy appliances and are happy with the basics. If you don’t offer any kind of kitchen at all, at least include a tea and coffee making station. You could also consider teaming up with local eateries to offer guest discounts.
TV streaming subscriptions
TVs themselves are highly sought-after amenities, especially in properties that are designed for families or longer stays. But you don’t necessarily need to pay extra for Netflix.
“We only provide TV (Roku) in some of our properties (depending on the owner),” explained one property manager. “We do not provide streaming services, as most folks already have their own favorites they can log into.”
As long as you have a smart TV with apps like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video, guests can log in to their own accounts to watch their favorite shows.
Expensive home furnishings
Hosts advise against spending a great deal of money on homeware. Of course, a stylish, well-furnished property will attract more bookings and be worthy of a higher nightly rate. But most of the time it’s possible to find nice, affordable alternatives to high ticket items without guests even noticing the difference.
“No one is going to pay you more for your $5,000 sofa if they can find one that looks the same for a fraction of the price” advised one host. “Every amenity or purchase should be treated and evaluated as an investment.”
If you have an eye for home decor, you could even visit second-hand stores or flea markets to find unique items to spruce up your stays.
Gym equipment can be very expensive, and often misses the mark when it comes to short-term holiday rentals. Most guests aren’t interested in working out at home on holiday, especially if your property has lots of local options for hiking or water sports.
The only case where you might find gym equipment will improve bookings is if you’re hoping to attract long-stay bookings from business travelers and digital nomads. But in most cases, local recommendations for yoga classes and enjoyable hiking trails will do the job.
How do I know an amenity is the right investment for my property?
Before you take the plunge and invest in that expensive hot tub, consider your property type and target market. Some amenities are going to be much better suited to a certain location or clientele. For example, an outdoor BBQ grill is perfect for a beach house that gets booked out all summer, but it might not be ideal for a cozy wood cabin in an alpine village.
Pro tip: Analyze your STR market using a site like AllTheRooms. This will help you see which properties are performing well in your area and whether they have any popular amenities giving them the competitive edge. You can also see if the average nightly cost of a listing with a particular amenity like a hot tub will end up covering the expense of that amenity over a year.
“Do your homework on your market. Act like a renter and go searching. Do you find a weekend you’re open has a lot of other houses that are also open with hot tubs? Or are all those taken and all that’s left are non-hot tub houses?” – Anonymous host on the Airbnb Profit Club Facebook group
What can you do if the advertised amenity is out of order and your guest requests a refund?
You’ve taken the risk and installed an expensive hot tub at your vacation rental property. But the worst-case scenario has happened: the hot tub breaks down and your guest is upset. They say it’s the main reason they rented your property and they want a refund. What now?
A lot of hosts worry about expensive repairs and unhappy guests when offering amenities like hot tubs and swimming pools. But there are a few precautions you can take to avoid difficult confrontations.
Here are two top tips from experienced hosts:
- Estimate a refund amount based on similar properties. Compare the nightly rate for similar properties in your local area that don’t have a hot tub. Base your refund on the difference in cost and let your guests know how you came to the amount.
So should you add a hot tub to your STR?
You could definitely increase your nightly rate by getting a hot tub or similar luxury amenity installed at your property. But it’s important to consider whether it will actually boost your occupancy rate and pay for itself over time.
The one most important recommendation hosts share for anyone thinking about investing in expensive amenities is to do your research. If you find out that other properties in your area are getting more bookings and charging significantly more per night, take a look at what makes their property different from yours. Sure, it could be a hot tub. But there are other ways to make your Airbnb stand out too, like taking quality photos.
Finally, being a great host is about understanding your guests. So the question to ask before making any investment decision is: will my guests love this?
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