How to optimize your listings for summer in Chicago

From heat lamps to espresso machines, AllTheRooms gives vacation rental hosting tips to top the competition during the Windy City’s peak travel season.

Chicago was the second most-visited city in the U.S. in 2018, welcoming nearly 55 million visitors. Thanks to the Windy City’s reputation for sharp gusts and long winters, a large majority of this traffic arrives during the summer months.

Naturally, this influx of people leads to an uptick in demand for accommodations. Summer in Chicago sees an average of 6,000 properties available to rent within the nine most frequented areas of the city — meaning a lot of competition for vacation rental hosts. Using data provided by vacation rental search engine AllTheRooms, we recommend a few ways hosts can set their property apart this summer.

Know the competition

Over the last two summers, the areas of Chicago with the most properties have been the North Side and West Side of Chicago, all with 1,350-1,550 properties available between June and August. However, this larger supply doesn’t correspond with the best business.

Instead, properties centrally located in downtown Chicago have seen the most success. During the summers of 2017 and 2018, vacation rentals in central Chicago were booked at an average daily rate (ADR) of $247. The numbers also reflect a wider increase in the vacation rental sphere, as ADR in 2018 saw a $56 increase from 2017.

Knowing the average daily rates for the area of a vacation rental is crucial for remaining competitive and pricing visitors fairly. It’s also necessary to understand how seasonal market flow affects how to price a property.

Chicago overall sees occupancy rates surpass 50% in the summer, while certain neighborhoods see that number reach 80%. With occupancy rates soaring, there is greater pressure for hosts to price their home appropriately.

Amenities that bring in business

Many hosts may think the main things guests seek in a rental are privacy, price and cleanliness. While that may have been the case a few years ago, nowadays, those are the bare minimum.

Instead, guests want amenities–particularly those who are leaving behind the service of a hotel for the first time. AllTheRooms’ data reveals that for listings booked for a minimum of 70% during the summer months, certain features made a big impact on occupancy rates and average daily rates.

Knowing the average daily rates for the area is crucial for remaining competitive and pricing visitors fairly. It’s also necessary to understand how seasonal market flow affects how to price a property.

The feature with the biggest effect across both categories is an outdoor heat lamp. Having heaters can increase occupancy rates by as much as 17% in the summer and bring in $67 more per night than properties without them.

Homes with outdoor living space have a significant uptick in business and incoming revenue during the summer. During the winter and shoulder seasons, apartments with a central location enjoy a more consistent flow of year-round business but don’t see the significant jump that homes with backyards do. Summer travelers to Chicago tend to be families who want to take advantage of warm weather activities and need more living space, so outdoor areas meet both of these needs.

After the outdoor heat lamps, the next feature to cause the biggest change in Chicago’s summer occupancy rates and ADR are outdoor kitchens. Hosts with an outdoor kitchen saw a 10.6% increase in occupancy and $62.10 rise in ADR. Additionally, although fire pits don’t have a huge impact on occupancy (0.9%) they do greatly increase ADR ($58.10).

Other impactful amenities include espresso machines (which increase ADR by $57.20 and occupancy by 4.1%), ceiling fans ($45.80 ADR increase) and mudrooms ($34.10 ADR increase). Meanwhile, free street parking increases occupancy rates by almost 4%; however, guests are not willing to pay extra for the feature, so it increases ADR by just $0.10.

Spruce up your property’s marketing

One of the most crucial things you can do to optimize your listing for the summer in Chicago is to market it the right way, to the right audience.

To increase visibility, hosts should adhere to some basics of vacation rental SEO (search engine optimization). To begin, ensure the property descriptions include keywords and terms often associated with a vacation rental in Chicago. To help, here is a word cloud of terms that commonly appear in listings booked 70-100% of summertime in Chicago.

It’s also worth noting that hosts should include words that are specific to Chicago as a destination. Even if the vacation rental is not within walking distance of Wrigley Field or Navy Pier, mention these attractions and inform potential bookers how far the property is from the landmark and how to arrive.

Zack is a recovering technical recruiter who traded in his suit and tie in Silicon Valley for writing in Medellin, Colombia. When not writing for AllTheRooms, the Internet’s first vacation rental search engine, you can find Zack with his nose in a book, puttering around nature or getting ultra-competitive while watching Jeopardy.

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