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Top 5 most important screening questions to ask vacation rental guests

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When hosting guests to stay at your property it’s incredibly important to have a good idea of what kind of people your potential guests could be.

The last thing you want is a guest who will be breaking the terms and conditions of your reservation or your property and leave you regretting the decision to rent altogether.

For this reason, it’s always a good idea to screen potential guests before accepting someone you have never met into your home.

Here are the top 5 most important screening questions to ask vacation rental guests before inviting them to reserve your home.

  1. Where are you from?
  2. How many people are in your party?
  3. What time do you expect to check in?
  4. Verify Identity
  5. What is the purpose of your trip?

Remember, when asking these questions you should word them to be inquisitive yet welcoming. Your potential guests don’t want to feel like they are on trial or you don’t want them there. They too are looking to make a decision if you and your property are right for them so don’t blow it by giving them the 3rd degree.

Where are you from?


This is always a good question because different cultures have different habits and expectations. My experience in hosting vacation rentals in Nicaragua is vastly different than that of New York City or Upstate NY.

From my experience, I’ve learned that the Nicaraguan people are more family-oriented and usually travel in groups with their families, which can at times be quite large.

Knowing where my guests are from can give me a better idea of what to expect and what questions to ask next.

In this example, if I know that my guests are from Nicaragua my next question will always be question #2.

How many people are in your party?


Many times when guests are on a booking platform they leave the amount of guest container on the prefilled number or put in an incorrect number.

On the host end, it will show up as the guest has that many people in their party.

Double-checking this with the potential guest is always wise. It’s happened to me time and time again that a guest will arrive with more guests than they had on their reservation. The myriad of excuses when this happens becomes comedic.

Whether this is intentional, which sometimes clearly it is, or a simple oversight; you can prevent this from happening by asking the question and then reiterating to them the maximum capacity of your property/rental in the conversation.

If you charge on a per person rate this is additionally important to make sure that the guest has this stated correctly and is paying the correct amount for the reservation.

Trying to update rates and request additional money while the guest is already checked in will be a headache for both you and the guest. You’re gonna have a bad time.


Also, make sure to specify if you allow children for free and if so till what age. I know some hosts that allow kids up to 6 years old for free. If you are a hotel or larger residence with more space this may be ok. But for small to medium-sized homes this may not be a good idea.

I personally set this limit to 1 year old. I set my limit to 1 because I’ve had guests with kids that I’d bet $1000 was over the age limit but to go down the road of asking for a birth certificate wasn’t somewhere I was willing to go. So I set it to 1 year old and greatly reduce parents attempting to pass off their 4-year-old as 1 and having to have that conversation.

What time do you expect to check in?



Some guests will not pay attention to Check-in times and will think they can arrive as if they were at a hotel. But all hosts, like yourself, have to maintain a schedule for check-in and check-out to allow for the smooth transition of the departing guest and the arriving guest. You’ll need time to prepare and clean the property in between guests as well as give yourself some breathing room for potential setbacks.

Even though your listing may show very clearly what times check-in and check-out are, Its always a good idea to get them to answer what time they expect to check-in so that you can ensure it won’t be before your allotted check-in time. If they tell you an earlier time you can correct and coordinate with them the best way you see fit.

Having a guest outside your property waiting is always a stressor for both you and the guest. So ask what time they want to check-in and you can rest easy there will be no misunderstandings later.

I highly suggest all hosts create a house manual to send guests immediately after they make a reservation. This can alleviate a lot of issues by making sure they get all the information and rules and regulations on your property. Without one, you’re gonna have a bad time.

You can read my recommendation for the best house manual for hosts here. With this manual, you can verify if a guest has read your house manual before they arrive: Best Vacation Rental House Manual for 2022
This is helpful to gauge if your guests are paying attention, and so you can anticipate how much more communicating you may need to do with them.

Identidy Verification



Vacation Angel requests ID’s of users who are looking to reserver properties. When receiving a request from a guest check to make sure the guest has submitted their ID for verification. You will see this in their profile.

If a guest’s profile does not have the verification you should ask the guest to submit this to Vacation Angel before you send them an invitation to reserver your property. Better safe than sorry.


What is the purpose of your visit?


This can be a very important question as it reveals the guest’s primary objective in staying at your home. Pay attention also to the dates of the reservation. Is it a holiday or is there an event in the local area? The combination of information can be very revealing if you use it wisely.

If they tell you they are celebrating a birthday, wedding, or attending an event this can alert you that the guest may have more people join them on your property later. When this happens without your consent, you’re gonna have a bad time.

When you receive an answer like this always inquire more and state clearly what your rules and regulations are for the property. Its always best to make this clear to guests right from the start. If you do not allow parties or events explain this to them and politely decline their reservation if you don’t feel it’s a good fit.

Circling back to question #1, specifically ask if they plan on having additional guests ‘for the day’. Some guests will try and take advantage of this little ‘loophole’. They will tell you the number they are reserving for yet still invite additional guests over for part or most of the day. They will tell you that their friends are just visiting and they are not ‘staying overnight’ and they won’t expect to have to pay additional fees.

But in my perspective having guests stay the day on the property is worse than if those guest just came to sleep. During the day they will likely use water, electricity, gas, heat, A/C, the pool, kitchen, bathroom and add additional wear and tear to your property. So for me, I specify that only those guests reserved can be on the property. If I don’t have a caretaker on the property I have security cameras to be able to verify the number of guests on the property and to protect myself in case of incidents or discrepancies.

Some hosts are ok with having day guests. Either way, make it crystal clear in both your listing and in your conversations whether you allow day guests or not and what the limits are on the number of additional guests being on the property.

I’ve graciously allowed day guests before and then found they were still on the property till 2 or 3 am. They are not ‘staying the night’ because they are not sleeping, right? This is logic I’ve received before.


What do you think? Are guests taking advantage of hosts when they do this or should hosts allow guests to have additional guests visit? Let me know in the comments.

Conclusion


Either way, learn from my mistakes and preemptively set very specific terms and conditions. Without them, you’re gonna have a bad time.


Guests will not always be 100% transparent and asking these questions can weed out a potential problem for yourself more often than not

I highly suggest that you always keep these questions in written form on your Vacation Angel platform. This way later, if a guest claims something and it’s not true we will all have verification of their statements to help resolve the matter. Having guests create a physical record of their statements, in itself, can be a strong deterrent.

Most guests will be amazing but when you have one that tries to Nickle and Dime you on every little detail you will be glad you set specifics in your rules and regulations and had it all documented.

I hope this list will help you in your Vacation Rental journey.

Remember that communication is a key to any relationship and as short as it is, this is especially important with short-term rentals.

Please let me know if you think I missed something or you disagree with something. I would love to hear your comments on this article below.

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