How to Maximize Short-Term Rental Income

canyons living room

Make your guests feel at home, but not like they’re at your home

With Sundance and busy holiday ski weekends just around the corner, this is the time of year to maximize short-term rental income.

Making the most of your short-term rental seems to boil down to two pivotal things: 1) outstanding photography; and 2) positive reviews and lots of them. Get those two things right, and you’ll likely see bookings increase and optimize your nightly rate.

I talked to two short-term rental property owners (and former clients) about how to excel at photography and reviews in order to maximize short-term rental income. Here are their tips.


One of the big perks of a rental for visitors is being able to cook and eat at “home” while on vacation

Photography that sells short-term rentals

Would you want to stay in a darkish room that looks like it’s inhabited part-time by a hoarder? Of course not. Park City local Graham Anthony, who owns two properties that he exclusively rents out on AirBnb and VRBO, recommends hiring a pro for the job. Look at this as an investment you’ll see returns on via more bookings at higher prices.

Consider these tips for visually capturing your property at its best:

  • Stage your property or hire a professional to do so. Remove clutter as well as any family photos, valuables, or personal effects. Graham emphasizes that eliminating these items from the premises not only prevents people from feeling like they’re crashing at a stranger’s home, it also means your stuff won’t get stolen by bad apple guests.
2847 W Deer Pointe Dr bed 2

Go seasonal with your photos or go home

  • Use seasonal photos. At least procure separate summer and winter photos. A visitor coming to soak up the Park City sunshine won’t want to see a photo of a snow-covered deck. And a family heading here for a ski vacation will likely be lured by that view of snow-covered trees from the bedroom window.
  • Get the light right. Photograph during the day so your home is lit by natural light. Open up all the blinds and turn on all the lights.
  • Don’t disappoint. If you include photographs of your home looking clean, impeccably decorated, and free of clutter, that is what renters will expect. “Don’t make it look better in the pictures than it really is,” Graham cautions. If that means getting new shots if you make big changes, then so be it.
park meadows living room

Staged your home for AirBnB photos? Make sure it looks as impeccable as it did for the photo shoot, i.e. that fireplace better be working

How to get more reviews on AirBnB and VRBO

Compared to mastering the photography component of your home, earning positive reviews is a slightly more complex nut. Here’s how to crack it:

  • Communicate beforehand. AirBnB may make it difficult to do so since it doesn’t allow for the exchange of phone numbers or personal info. Use AirBnBs/VRBOs lines of communications to send or attach a document with info such as entry instructions, what amenities you’ll offer in the kitchen/bathroom, etc. Graham warns that getting a PDF attachment through can sometimes be a challenge, but your guests will appreciate it.
  • Answer questions quickly. Candace Smith*, who also rents her properties on VRBO and AirBnB, recommends responding to inquiries promptly from both potential and booked guests. “During an event (like Sundance), potential guests may have questions about the location of the unit and/or local transportation to and from screenings and events,” Candace explains.” Skiing guests may have similar questions about how to get from your property to the resorts. Download the AirBnB and VRBO apps to your phone so you stay on top of communication and try to respond within 24 hours if not much sooner.
  • Provide a welcome basket and info kit for your guests. “During ski season, we have things like hot chocolate, water bottles, microwave popcorn, and the brochure for the ski runs in our welcome basket,” Candace says. “Small treats often put smiles on guests’ faces upon arrival.” She also puts together a “Welcome to Park City” binder with her recommendations for skiing or dining.
Canyons kitchen

A well-stocked kitchen rakes in rave reviews that will help you maximize short-term rental income

  • Pimp out your kitchen. Graham says a stocked kitchen is one of the most common pieces of positive feedback he gets about his rentals. For many families, staying at an AirBnB or VRBO instead of a hotel is so great because everyone can cook together and spare the expanse of dining out for every meal. Not only does Graham fill his kitchen with spices, syrup, and coffee creamer, but with equipment like blenders and slow cookers.
  • Under-promise and over-deliver. That’s Graham’s motto when it comes to short-term rentals. Exceed expectations and you’ll draw high praise.

Armed with superior photography and these review-earning tips, you’ll be well-positioned to earn top dollar from your short-term rentals on AirBnB and VRBO this winter. You can check out some more tips for renting your place out on AirBnB here. And if you’re looking for a prime investment property to rent out on AirBnB and VRBO projected to pull in up to $1,679 in nightly revenue, this Old Town townhome might be right up your alley.

*Name has been changed.

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