How to Create a GREAT Vacation Rental Listing

Your short-term rental is facing more competition than ever. To attract guests, you need to do more than have wonderful amenities and take fabulous photos. How? Craft a clear, vivid description that makes your home stand out. Use this guide for creating a description that sets your home apart from other short-term rentals in your area.

Consider the guests’ point of view

Once travelers see your listing, they already know that it’s in the right location, is the right size, and is within their budget, so you do not need to answer those questions in the narrative description. But what other questions are they likely to have? What features make your home special? What might travelers love about living there?

Create a great headline

Headlines help readers of news articles quickly spot stories that interest them. In the same say, a great home listing headline helps people quickly spot homes that seem right for them.

Which version of this headline is more useful?

“Apartment for Short-Term Rent During Holidays,” or

“Newly remodeled 2+ Bedroom Apartment in City Center, December 15 – January 2.”

Did your eyes skip right over the first version? The carefully chosen words in the second headline – “newly remodeled, “2+Bedroom,” and “City Center,” along with specific dates – convey far more useful information.

To create great headline, think about the guests who might be looking for a home like yours. What might grab their attention? Note some descriptive words to include. Then, writing very quickly, draft a few headlines. Try them out on a friend or two. When you’ve chosen a headline to use, rewrite it so it is specific, clear, and concise.

Draft the narrative description

Keeping the guests’ point of view, make a rough outline with all the points to include. You don’t have to worry about writing complete sentences or using correct grammar – that will come later.

Now think back to the traveler’s questions and write a quick first draft. “Talk” directly to the readers, keeping the language friendly and casual.

Help travelers “see” your home and the area. Use active, specific language to highlight your home’s best features. Be honest and include important negatives, but couch them in positive language: mention “the single flight of stairs from the garage to the house” or the “sliver of lake view from the bedroom window.”

Don’t forget to include details about your neighborhood. Are you in a lively, urban area with lots of cafes, restaurants, and shopping? On a hilltop with a view of the mountains in the distance? Is the area safe at night? Is there good public transportation or easy access to a freeway?

Edit the draft

Once you have a draft that feels right, read it through. Then edit it carefully. Look for the following:

  • Vague language. Ask yourself what you meant by vague phrases such as, “It’s an incredible home.” Be specific: “We have a southern exposure so the apartment is bright even on overcast days.”
  • Wordy, passive sentences. Instead of, “The deck is a place where cocktails can be taken while watching the setting of the sun,” “You’ll love having cocktails while watching the sunset from our deck.”
  • Long short sentences and paragraphs. Write so readers can easily scan the description and pick out the important points. Keep your sentences and paragraphs short, and edit out unnecessary details.
  • Overused adjectives and emphasis. There’s nothing wrong with using carefully selected descriptive words such as “charming,” “spacious,” “luxurious,” and “delightful.” But a home that one person finds “charming” might seem cluttered or “cutesy” to someone else. A home that a city dweller finds “spacious” might seem cramped to someone who lives in the country. Also, overusing adjectives, capitalized words, and exclamation points can weaken your description. The more specific the language, the better.
  • Misleading statements. The description creates expectations in guests’ minds, so make sure it matches the reality. Fudging the truth or omitting important details may result in disappointed and even angry guests.
  • Errors in punctuation, grammar, and spelling. No matter how good your description, those kinds of errors make you seem less credible. Proofread carefully before posting!


Janis Fisher Chan has taught professionals, academics, business owners, authors, content developers, bloggers, and others write clearly for specific audiences. A published author, passionate traveler, and previous owner/operator of TravelOnTheHouse, an informational web site that featured tips and advice for people who want to make travel affordable by swapping or to rent out their homes.

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