The newsletter for and by rental home owners:
how to use the internet to get more bookings

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My Hat
Wherever I lay my hat, that's my home
  10 tips for internet pics  |  Owner's Secrets  |  Who Are We?  |  Subscribe to Newsletter

Your step by step guide to more bookings

Paolo pic I only advertise my house on the internet, and I'm booked for 11 months of the year. How do I do it? Actually I'm not quite sure, but I must be doing something right, so I'm going to tell you what I do know.

Everything my friends and I have learned about getting more rentals over the internet will be at your disposal through the Lay My Hat newsletter, because we all have the same goal in life - more bookings!

Whether you use holiday rental sites, or your own website, or (perish the thought) you don't use the internet because you don't know how: read on - we'll tell you how to do it, how not to do it, and invite you to share your ideas too.

I reckon between us we must know everything there is to know about renting holiday homes - it's just a question of getting together to discuss it. That's what this newsletter is all about. If you find it useful, please click here to subscribe to future editions now.

Subscribing is free, so what's the catch? There isn't one - if you want to know what's in it for me, there's some stuff about it towards the bottom right. But basically I'm just a rental-owning enthusiast. Perhaps you are too?

Paolo De Paolis signature
Paolo De Paolis
Editor, Lay My Hat

UPDATE! Since I wrote this newsletter, the Lay My Hat forum has been launched. It's where rental owners talk about anything to do with the business of rentals, and plenty else besides! See the forum by clicking here.

Top tips for photographing your property

Is a picture really worth a thousand words? Probably a bit more. One really good picture of your holiday home can sell it on an immediate, emotional level, and then a renter will forgive any negatives that may follow. It's like love at first sight - you can't explain it, you just know when it's happened.

And yet...we keep seeing pictures on the web that simply aren't doing their job. Pictures only a cave-dweller would find appealing. So these are the golden rules of photographing your home - follow them and you simply can't go wrong.

  1. You MUST take photos on a sunny day, no ifs or buts: unless bad weather is one of your selling points, don't let renters think they'll have anything but perfect weather. If you can't get there yourself, get a friend, a caretaker, even a renter to take at least one exterior photo when the sun's shining.
  2. The best time of day for photos is during the 'golden light' of early morning or early evening, especially for exterior shots.
    A view in Golden Light

    Golden light...

    Same view, spoilt by poor natual light

    ...not so golden light.

  3. People or no people? There are two schools of thought on having people in your pictures. On the one hand, a pleasant, smiling face makes a property more personal and that may make someone hit the enquiry button. On the other hand - do the people in the picture make you want to be there? Or do they put you off your dinner? Make sure they are in tune with the spirit of your home and 'adding to the dream'.
  4. Think about focal points in pictures: fireplaces, comfortable furniture, beautiful windows with views are all good focal points. TVs and fridges are usually bad focal points. And please, please, please do not put cars in your pictures!
  5. If the best thing about your home is its location, for instance because it is two minutes from the sea or the piste - why not use one of your pictures to show that? Give people something to dream on.
  6. Don't just show interiors of your home, no matter how beautiful it is. If you don't show outside photos, it looks like you are hiding something. If the exterior of your home is nothing special, what about the view? Psychologically, an ad or site with only interior pictures is claustrophobic and unappealing.
  7. Don't use flash (unless you really know what you are doing). Get as much natural light into a room as possible.
  8. Make a small room look bigger by standing on a chair when you photograph it.

    Make a small room look bigger by standing on a chair when you photograph it.

    Small rooms - use a fisheye lens on your camera to get everything in the picture. If you haven't got one, stand on a chair in a corner, so you're looking down at the room.
  9. Don't take photos in winter if it means no leaves on the trees - bare trees look cold and unwelcoming.
  10. Show your strengths. If your kitchen is cramped, show something else; if your main bedroom is vast, show that. People will look for the good things and fill in the blanks in their minds.

Find this useful? Disagree? Tell us what you think, and send in your best tips for photographing your home - email us at

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Owner's Secrets

These are so good you should really keep them under your hat...

Owner's secret #1

It is a universal truth that people love to watch films on holiday. They'll happily sightsee and explore from dawn to dusk, but at the end of the day, what many people want to do is just put their feet up and watch a good film. So here's a tip that won't cost you much, but will bring you repeat visits from grateful renters.

Buy 10-20 blank videotapes and fill them with classic films - two to a tape. These films are on all the time on television, at all times of day. In a few weeks you'll have a classic movie library which you can promote as a selling point.

If your rental home doesn't have a VCR to play the films on, buy one! They are incredibly cheap these days, and the cost will soon repay itself when renters decide they want to return to that place with the movie library.

Owner's secret #2

Why not get your renters to write a comprehensive guidebook for your area, with restaurant reviews and ratings, day-trip advice, and a great mass of useful suggestions you may not have thought of? How, you ask? Incredibly easy:

You've probably got a guestbook in your home, for renters to write their comments about their stay. All you have to do is rename it a 'Suggestions Book', and on the first page explain that the book is for guests to write about what they particularly enjoyed during their stay - favourite places, restaurants, activities, shops, etc.

What you'll get is an invaluable, always up-to-date guidebook that you don't even have to pay for. Renters love the chance to share their opinions.

And best of all, people will not only do all that for you - they will also write the glowing endorsements of your home which you would get in a normal Guestbook. So go on, get your guests working for you.

Join the Suggestions Book discussion at the Lay My Hat forum.

Do you have any good owner's tips? Let's share what we know about holiday rentals - email your tips and suggestions to and we'll discuss them in future newsletters.

Coming soon...

In the next Lay My Hat newsletter, we'll tell you how to make your site more 'findable' by search engines, and how to write un-putdownable descriptions of your home, to get those enquiries rolling in like never before. There'll be more Owner's Secrets, and rental tips galore.

Then we'll work through the whole renting process, from responding to enquiries; to how to treat your renters; to after-stay tips.

However, you will only get all this wonderful advice if you subscribe to the Lay My Hat newsletter. (Unsubscribing is just as easy if you change your mind).

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Picture Perfect 

Top tips for photographing your property. Full story here.

Always make it sunny
Use the 'golden light'
People or no people?
Fireplace good, car-park bad!
Show off your location
Don't just have interiors of your home
Use as much natural light as possible
Stand on a chair...
Don't take photos in winter!
Highlight your strong points, leave out the weak ones.

Who are we?

We are four holiday home owners who decided, after one bottle too many, to sort out the problems of the world once and for all. Starting, obviously, with a proper newsletter for fellow rental owners: a real source of great advice, and a place where people can swap ideas, ask questions and get answers.

And that's why you're reading Lay My Hat. We want it to be a place where rental owner can speak to rental owner. Between us, we know absolutely everything there is to know about renting a house -it's just that we haven't been able to talk to each other before.

So we want to hear from you - email us with your tips or queries, comments, suggestions, and what you think (good or bad) of Lay My Hat. Let's get together and sort out the problems of the world, starting with year-round rentals for everyone....

Email us at this address:

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Are you making the most of the internet?

Are you standing out from the sea of voices on the internet? Are you getting the bookings your home deserves? If you're not sure, let me take a look.

The chances are that you are not a professional travel copywriter - not many people are - but by a stroke of good fortune, I am. That means I am paid to make places sound so appealing that people cannot resist the urge to go there at once.

I can give your web presence a complete health-check: from minor tweaks to total rewrites, I can help you get more bookings, and it won't cost you the earth.

The internet's an incredible tool, but you have to know how to use it. Email me if you want your place to stand out from the crowd.

There we are, just a little soft sell to pay the bills...

Privacy Policy

A privacy policy tells you how we intend to use the information you give us about yourself, which in this case is your email address when you subscribe to the Lay My Hat newsletter.

Our policy is that we will not share your email address or personal information with anyone. Really. We promise. Not one person or company in the whole world will be given your email address.

So you won't get any junk mail as a result of subscribing, or 'specially selected offers you may be interested in', as they say on the internet.

Click here to UNsubscribe from all the information in Lay My Hat newsletters.

Click here to subscribe to future editions of Lay My Hat.

We will always make it easy to unsubscribe if you change your mind.

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The Lay My Hat newsletter is free (mainly because I didn't realise how much work it would be). However, my wife is not happy. As she puts it: "Why do you spend all your time on that ****** newsletter when you should be earning money to buy me shoes and handbags?" So to appease her, if you found Lay My Hat especially useful, you have the option of making a small donation towards its upkeep. Just click on the button below, no amount is too small. PayPal is free to use and secure. But please don't feel obliged - how many shoes can one person wear anyway?

Copyright 2003 Paolo De Paolis. All rights reserved in all media.