Creating a profitable vacation rental business, even if it’s just with one property, can be challenging. There’s a lot of work that goes into preparing your property, optimizing the marketing, and finding the best guests. However, if you are able to pull things off, it can be well worth the work.

Unfortunately, many VRBO entrepreneurs make a small handful of mistakes that doom their attempts to failure before they even begin. Luckily, with a little bit of research and preparation, you can easily avoid these fatal errors.

Here are the 8 most common mistakes that will kill your vacation rental business before it even begins.

1. Treating Your Property Like a Hobby Instead of a Business

This should go without saying but running a vacation rental property is a business. Even if you have an experienced company managing your property, you still need to maintain a proactive and entrepreneurial mindset regarding your property. This isn’t a hobby. It’s not a simple pastime that will passively make thousands of dollars without any effort. It’s a business that requires time, attention, and energy. If you really want to succeed at the VRBO game, then you need to treat it that way.

2. Failing to Screen Potential Renters Effectively

If this is your first rental property, then you’re probably ready to jump the gun and get your first renters into the house. Before you do, however, you need to take a step back and make sure that you are properly screening all potential renters. We’ve all heard the horror stories about crazy parties and wild weekends effectively totaling expensive properties and I’ll be the first to tell you, this is not something you want to experience for yourself.

Luckily, screening out potential vacationers isn’t a particularly difficult task. By having a few conversations over the phone (not by text or email), you can quickly ascertain exactly what the other person is looking for and whether or not your property can provide it. Don’t jump on the first inquiry you see. Instead, do your due diligence and make sure that the people who will be vacationing at your property will treat it with the same TLC that you would.

3. Listing on Too Many Websites

There are (literally) thousands of vacation rental sites that you can use to list your property. But only a handful of them are actually worth your time and money. I recommend finding 3-4 high quality listing sites and services (free & paid) and then hyper optimizing your property for each of these services. By going deep instead of wide and using a paid service, you will be able to attract more high quality vacationers and spend less time worrying about the logistics of your business.

4. Pulling a Rental Price out of Thin Air

I know, I know, the value of most things is completely subjective. However, when you’re deciding on a weekly rate for your rental property, you must be as objective and accurate as possible. If you randomly decide on a price that “Feels” good, it might be too low, attracting low caliber renters, or too high, resulting in a high vacancy rate.

As you shop around town and compare other listings in your area, make sure that you’re cognizant of how the other properties are being used. Is the owner renting the property out to spring breakers and party animals? Quiet and respectful older couples? Or families looking for a quick getaway? Your target market will, to a large extent, determine the price that you can charge. So do your research and make sure that the price you choose reflects both the quality of your property and the quality of the tenants you want renting it.

5. Not Requiring a Deposit for the Stay

Anyone who has been in the VBRO space long enough knows that there are plenty of renters who will conveniently “Forget” to bring money with them and promise that they will pay you whenever you return to collect the keys to the property. To no one’s great surprise, these renters are also the types of people who will conveniently “Forget” to pay you for their stay before jetting off and leaving early.

If you’ve made a habit of collecting payment upon arrival without charging a deposit fee, this needs to change immediately. Asking your guests to provide a 25% deposit and full payment that will clear to your account before their stay begins is an standard industry practice and will ensure that less than honest individuals do not take advantage of your hospitality.

6. Failing to Go “Above and Beyond”

When you treat your VRBO like a hobby (as we’ve already discussed) you are typically operating from a fast cash mindset. Your goal is to make as much money as quickly as possible. And that’s fine. But if you really want your business to succeed in the long term, you need repeat customers, 5-star reviews, and a small group of raving fans.

To achieve this goal, you need to go above and beyond what is expected of you as a vacation rental owner. Be sure to provide the finest amenities that you can afford, a few “Secret” bonuses (like a pool table or jacuzzi that you don’t promote on the listing site), and any support that you can (a list of restaurants, coupons for local stores, etc.)

By doing just a little bit more than your local competition, you will stand head and shoulders above the other properties in the area and ensure that you have a steady stream of vacationers for years to come.


Owning a VBRO property can be an exciting and lucrative opportunity. If you do it right, you will be rewarded with great renters, steady cash flow, and plenty of fun along the way. By avoiding these 6 common pitfalls, you will be ahead of the game and well on your way to a self sufficient, income generating property that will work for you for years to come.