Get Started Exploring the Desert

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One of the benefits of using a Vacation Rental Management company, such as Vacation Rentals of the Desert, is that we have friendly and knowledgeable staff to help make your stay the best possible.  Whether it is you first visit to the desert or you are a regular visitor there is much to see, do, and taste during your stay.  Also we know the business landscape is ever changing and a favorite business that was there last year may not be there the next for various reasons.  Have no worries as we are here to help!  Looking for a restaurant to celebrate a special occasion?  We can suggest multiple restaurants to fit your needs.  Having a craving for authentic German food?  We know where to send you.  Are you visiting the street fair in Downtown Palm Springs and need a recommendation of where to grab a drink?  We know the spots you are looking for. Being a local business these are the bars and restaurants we patronize ourselves. So instead of wading through the sea of conflicting Yelp! reviews we can provide suggestions to help you find what you are looking for.

Let Vacation Rentals of the Desert help you begin your exploration of Palm Springs and the rest of the desert. Through December of 2016, any new reservation that mentions this posting at the time of booking will receive a $50 gift card/certificate to one of your favorite restaurants.  Have dinner for two on us and start your vacation off right.  Will it end up being a favorite that you visit multiple times during your stay?  Could it be a restaurant you return to every time you visit the desert?  We hope so, and we hope it will make your stay enjoyable and one you will have fond memories of.

 

Posted by Vacation Rentals of the Desert Employee David.

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It Takes a Team

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As the calendar flips to September most people are thinking about the beginning of school and the start of football season.  For us at Vacation Rentals of the Desert it is the signal that our pre-season has begun.  September and October are spent gearing up for our season.  Properties that were re-decorated or re-modeled during the off season need to be checked, new photos need to be taken, and to make sure they are ready for tenants.  New properties added to the program will need the last minute touches to get them ready.  Items that were in storage for the summer like patio furniture will need to be cleaned and brought out.  So even though the season hasn’t started yet, we are pretty busy.

With that in mind it needs to be mentioned what a team effort Vacation Rentals of the Desert is.  Owners who rent properties on their own may think it is not all that much work, but think about how much time and effort it takes to prepare 120+ properties!  We have been lucky with wonderful staff in the past and present to go along with the wonderful businesses that help us be the company we are today.  Kathy, Joaquin, and Trish…you are the backbone of the company.  Your dedication is seen daily and our guests recognize and appreciate it.  Your hard work does not go unnoticed.  We have had wonderful seasonal staff in the past,  Michelle you fit in right away and your hard work has made it so we count the days till you are back in the office with us.  David…your work on social media and the website upkeep is much appreciated.  A big thank you is needed to Lesley and the rest of Crown Concierge.  Your hard work allows Vacation Rentals of the Desert to succeed, as cleaning and concierge services are so important to our business.  We are glad to have you in our corner.  Lastly, our handy man Alex…THANK YOU!  Your reliable and impeccable service always insures that our properties are kept up and running so our guests can enjoy their stays.

There is no “I” in team and only one “I” in Vacation Rentals of the Desert.  It takes all of us to get through the season and your hard work is always noticed and very much appreciated.

 

Posted by Vacation Rentals of the Desert Employee David

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Skip Booking Fees!

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Owners and renters of Vacation Rentals may not be aware of the recent changes to Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO) after its acquisition by Expedia. Expedia purchased VRBO to serve as direct competition to newer sites like FlipKey and AirBnB.  Prior to the acquisition, there were various tiers or levels an owner could pay for a VRBO listing.  The different tiers had different benefits which could improve placement in the listings and searches on the site and the number of photos you can have on a listing.  Now, all owners pay the same flat fee to list a property if the property allows online bookings and a higher flat fee for properties that do not.  The biggest change is the use of an algorithm to determine the listing order and a service fee of 10% with a cap at $399 per booking paid by the renter to VRBO.

For Owners these changes can drastically affect your bookings.  The fees for listing the property can be significantly higher than those they were previously paying.  The “performance algorithm” that now determines the rank of a listing punishes those who prefer to deal with inquiries off of the site or in direct contact with the inquirer.  Meaning if an owner responds to an inquiry via the inquirers contact info and not through the VRBO site, the owner does not get credit for responding to the inquiry.  The listings are now showing response rates, for example “avg. response time: 2 days.”  Using the algorithm limits what an owner can do themselves to improve their position in rankings and leaves it up to the algorithm to essentially “guess” whether a renter would be interested in the property.  In addition, some owners have already noticed less bookings as renters get “scared off” by the service fee.  The additional money on top of the rent rate is pushing renters to seek other avenues. Renters are not as affected as owners with the changes except for financially.  If you rent a property for a month at $2000 who would really want to spend an extra $200 in service fees to VRBO?  Those monies could be used for food, activities, shopping, or other ways that benefit the renter and not a company who acted purely as a middle man.

So how can you save 10% on your next vacation rental?  As a renter you can search for a Vacation Rental Management (VRM) company, such as Vacation Rentals of the Desert, in the area you would like to stay.  If you aren’t finding a company during a quick google search you can call a local visitors bureau or chamber of commerce and they can most likely give you a list of professionally managed companies to try.  For owners, you can try listing your property with a VRM company who generally only take a commission for bookings and do not charge an additional fee to the renters or a listing fee, although some may.  VRMs can also negotiate between the renters and owners, from an existing client list in addition to new inquiries, to find a rate that satisfies both parties involved from an existing client list in addition to new inquires.

Post by guest blogger Vacation Rentals of the Desert Employee David

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Discrimination In Vacation Rentals?

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A study by three Harvard researchers found “widespread discrimination” against people with black-sounding names on Airbnb. Credit Matthew Millman for The New York Times

 

Discrimination by Airbnb Hosts Is Widespread, Report Says

DEC. 11, 2015

Airbnb likes to refer to itself as less a company than a “community.” To that end, it has made trust between real people a cornerstone of its business strategy in short-term home rentals.

But new research suggests that when users get real, racism can result.

A working paper by three Harvard researchers found “widespread discrimination” by hosts against people with black-sounding names seeking rentals. Fictional guests set up by the researchers with names like Lakisha or Rasheed were roughly 16 percent less likely to be accepted than identical guests with names like Brent or Kristen.

“Clearly, the manager of a Holiday Inn cannot examine names of potential guests and reject them based on race,” the authors wrote. “Yet, this is commonplace on Airbnb.”

Airbnb, valued by investors at roughly $24 billion and based in San Francisco, said in a statement that it was “committed to making Airbnb one of the most open, trusted, diverse, transparent communities in the world.”

Last July, the researchers sent housing requests to roughly 6,400 hosts across five cities: Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Washington. Renters with names that sounded African-American got a positive reply about 42 percent of the time, compared with roughly 50 percent for white guests.

The results “are remarkably persistent,” the researchers wrote, with whites discriminating against blacks, blacks discriminating against blacks, and both male and female users displaying bias.

The authors suggested the solution is simple: Don’t require users to reveal their names.

With more than two million listings across 190 countries, Airbnb has robust data on the reliability of its hosts and guests, from verified profiles to reviews of fellow users. Benjamin G. Edelman, an associate professor at the Harvard Business School and one of the paper’s authors, argued that those metrics are what should count when evaluating whether to go ahead with a transaction.

“Compare that with whether the guest’s name is Barack or the guest’s name is Bono,” Mr. Edelman said.

“At some point you say, ‘You know maybe it’s nice to see people’s names and faces, but gee, think about the harm that this causes for some people.’”

Airbnb, a standard-bearer of the so-called sharing economy, has argued forcefully that anonymity is incompatible with building trust between users. The anxiety attached to letting a stranger into your home, the argument goes, is lessened by a name and friendly face.

“Access is built on trust, and trust is built on transparency. When you remove anonymity, it brings out the best in people,” Brian Chesky, chief executive of Airbnb, said in 2013. “We believe anonymity has no place in the future of Airbnb or the sharing economy.”

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A Great Way to Add an Extra Bed

 

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Have you seen these CordaRoy’s sleepers yet?  May be a good idea for a little extra room in your rental property.  Heck … I’m thinking of purchasing one for my home!  Has anyone out there tried these out yet?  I’d love to hear your opinion … or email me at vickie@vacationrentalsofthedesert.com

 

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Keep Calm and Do the Right Thing

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It is my belief that the recent popular quote that pops up everywhere …  “Keep Calm and Carry On,” stems from the realization that despite “an ounce of prevention”, “Murphy’s Law” often manages to foil the “best laid plans.”  How’s that for a cliché … or two?

Managing a vacation rental property is all about “keeping calm.”  When Plan A … which is the best case scenario … you prepare and everything goes off without a hitch … i.e. the property is perfect, tenants are happy, property owners are happy.  But when something does go awry, it all comes down to how you handle Plan B.

I have found that when deficiencies are reported by a tenant, people often have a knee-jerk reaction.  This ugly reaction may be human nature or it could be what we “perceive” as negative feedback, we take too personally.  For example, the reaction to a broken toaster … How did the tenant break it, or a leaking toilet when it was not leaking during the owner’s visit just days before is blamed on the tenant.  When a tenant reports an issue … our reaction and solution can ultimately define a tenant’s stay and us as vacation rental managers.  Many posts ago, I told the story of an owner who we called to report that her vacation property’s dishwasher was not working.  Even though it was within our power to make the repair without consulting the owner (it is a required appliance), due to the older age of the dishwasher, we wanted her involved in the event she preferred replacing the dishwasher rather than repairing a twenty year old model.  The owner’s knee-jerk response was to inform us that she would not repair or replace the dishwasher, but asked that the tenants wash dishes by hand.  This said after the owner had received $14,000 for the three month country club rental.

Sometimes we all have to step back and “take a minute” as they say … but it is often how we respond to “issues” that defines us.   How you or your management company reacts when forced into a Plan B, as mentioned above, defines you and the rental experience of your tenants, which is almost always going to show up in a property review that can either enhance or damage your property listing and effect future rentals.  It’s totally up to you!  This is what I do …. I put myself in the tenant’s shoes and try to do the right thing.

Everyone at Vacation Rentals of the Desert wishes you and your families a Merry Christmas!

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A Picture Pretty Vacation Home!

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Coming up with fresh new stories for this blog each week is sometimes a challenge.  With almost two years of Sunday posts, this being the 101st, sometimes I am inclined to cheat a little and just post pretty pictures.  Today I am doing exactly that … and I happen to have some very pretty pictures of a fantastic condo.  This home recently signed up with Vacation Rentals of the Desert and just had professional photos taken two days ago.

Know anyone looking for an amazing vacation home?

This home is located in Indian Wells, California in a great gated community … Casa Rosada.  It is a 2,100 sq. ft. condo with two bedrooms with private en-suites, a powder room, a cozy den with fireplace, an amazing great room and faces South, offering spectacular mountain views and lots and lots of sunshine.  This is not your “typical” vacation rental.  It has been furnished with the amenities and quality you would have in your own home.  In other words …. no corners have been cut … from the quality furnishings to the beautiful cookware and table setting … this home is absolutely flawless! 

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Micromanaging? Are You Shooting Yourself In the Foot?

 

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Today’s post addresses situations that we, as vacation rental managers, go through daily.  Property maintenance, repairs and upkeep of supplies, but more pointedly, how owners handle these issues and the charges they incur.  I will give you two examples that came up this week.  If you are a property owner, you will want to take note.

First I will say that Vacation Rentals of the Desert is perhaps a bit different than other vacation management companies.  When a maintenance or repair call comes in from a tenant, we try to contact the owner to give them a heads-up on the issue and let them know how we plan to address it, or in the event that we can speak to the owner, discuss how it can best be handled.  I believe that it is best to give owners a heads-up rather than blind-side them with an unexpected bill on their statement.

So in this first example, an older, retired couple called to report that a smoke detector is chirping, indicating that the battery needs to be replaced.  We call the owner and leave a voice mail message as well as send an email.  We call our handyman and send him over to change the faulty battery.  When changing batteries, rule-of-thumb is to change ALL the batteries.  If all the batteries are the same age, typically they will run out at the same time.  This practice will most likely save multiple trips as each battery dies out.  We did not hear back from this owner until she received a bill for $40 … and absolutely threw a fit!  Apparently she had changed all the batteries two months ago and she did not want to pay for this maintenance.  I calmly tried to explain that the majority of the charge was for the handyman fee and that between the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, four batteries were replaced.  She informed me that in the future, for non-emergency calls, she would like to speak to us BEFORE we send out a handyman.  She said that she knew people that would have done the job for about $10!  Here is my view … this was an emergency as far as the tenants were concerned.  A chirping smoke detector would drive anyone crazy!  The batteries the owner had purchased a couple of months ago … at least one was bad, leading me to think that the others would have gone soon and an additional trip charge for changing a battery the next month would have been even more irritating to the owner.  You may think that the owner should have supplied replacement batteries in the property but think again … you absolutely do not want tenants, climbing up on a chair to change the batteries, older retirees, or young … it is a liability risk to the owner in the event of a fall.  The cost for four batteries was about $15, leaving the handyman fee at $25.  Try to find a reliable handyman for $25!  Local handymen typically run from $45 to $125 per trip.  And finally … REALLY!  The tenants paid over $3,000.  Owners need to remember that there is a “cost to doing business.”

My second example comes from a gorgeous property, completely remodeled and updated, hence a high-end rental rate.  The couple staying at this property are just lovely, and when asked how they were enjoying their one month stay, only had one negative to report … no toaster.  There was a toaster oven but as I’m sure most of you know, toaster ovens do not do a good job toasting a piece of bread.  They told us that their toast came out hard as bricks.  On our “minimum requirement” list, we note that properties need to supply a toaster or toaster oven.  Not any more.  I’ve changed that … toasters are a must!  So, we contacted the owner who promptly told us she was not going to buy a toaster and that the toaster oven was fine. This time of the year is not the height of rental season.  It is difficult to find tenants for the month of November and early December … they come few and far between.  Our season does not kick in until late December … so a tenant now is a very welcome bonus to an owner’s season and generates several thousands more to their annual gross.  But … alas for this property, even after loaning a toaster, from one of our employees much less, this owner has lost a repeat customer.  The tenants have already found and secured an alternate property for next year.  Now there is no guarantee that a $30 toaster would have secured these tenants for next season, but you can bet that over the long run, there will be other tenants with the same complaint.

I know this post sounds like I am venting … and I am, I guess.  Owners sometimes ask me how they can improve their rental income and my answer is always the same … give us a nice, well maintained property … then let US manage it.  Sometimes owners unknowingly, get in their own way and cost themselves money.  Spending $30 or even $100 to secure a repeat tenants that generates thousands of dollars would seem to be a no-brainer!

There are a few important facts that owners have to keep in mind.  #1) This is a “business” and owners must learn to separate their feelings from the property when rented.  Whether you manage it yourself or have a professional … tenant’s needs and wants should not make you angry.  Basic needs are not negotiable.  Expect to spend money … continually … as you do at your own home.  When a smoke detector chirps, toilet leaks, toaster is requested … this is part of the deal and if it makes you angry, you are in the wrong business … period!   #2)  This is important for those who have a management company: If an owner constantly challenges or blocks maintenance issues, repairs, minimum required supplies and is basically difficult to work with … common sense is that when prospective tenants inquire about rentals and a reservationist has multiple properties available … guess which property the reservationist is going to push?  The path of least resistance, always … the property where repairs will be made and supplies kept up, where owners won’t call yelling and upset about repairs and the properties where the tenants won’t call upset with the reservationist that recommended that property.  This is simple human nature.  I don’t know why all owners don’t see this.   #3) For professionally handled properties … we, management companies, don’t make our money by addressing maintenance, repairs and various issues.  In fact these events hurt our company and may damage our reputation, as well as the property itself due to bad reviews.  We do not make these things up!  We do not like coordinating work and repairs, taking pictures, sending employees to verify the damage or that there is a missing item … that is not our primary business.  We do not like sending owner’s bills.  We do not like having to explain how the tenant did not cause the sink to leak or the batteries to expire in their smoke detectors or why they would need a proper toaster.  So when issues arise, most companies just want to get them handled as quickly and inexpensively as possible so that it does not ultimately end up in a bad review.

So I’m letting off steam.  This is a post I have wanted to write for years but have avoided for fear of upsetting vacation property owners.  It is very upsetting when working hard for a property owner, to watch the owner shoot themselves in the foot with a bad call.  I would say about 50% of our property owners take any “constructive” comment from tenants personally and in a negative light.  I spend a lot of time walking eggshells, soothing hurt feelings and justifying repairs and the costs associated.  It is one of the worst aspects of my job.  I really hope my owners are reading this post!

Photo:  http://hubpages.com/family/Things-My-Mother-Said

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Mythbusters: The Vacation Rental Edition

scrooge-mcduckI hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving holiday!  

Now … back to business!

Today I’m sharing a wonderful post from TripAdvisor’s blog … Vacation Home Rentals.  For years, Vacation Rentals of the Desert has listed the properties that we manage on FlipKey, the vacation rental division of TripAdvisor.  I am very happy to see TripAdvisor post articles, such as the following, that shines a positive light on the vast majority of vacation rentals. 

 

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Mythbusters: The Vacation Rental Edition

Vacation rentals come in all different shapes, sizes, and locations and, while it’s easy to become a bit overwhelmed by the variety of properties online, you shouldn’t let that get in the way of finding the rental of your dreams. Still not convinced? Here, we’ve debunked five of the most common myths plaguing the vacation rental experience.

Myth #1: Vacation rentals are too expensive for the every-day traveler, and are only available to those who swim in seas of gold like Scrooge McDuck.

The truth: Vacation rentals can be a very affordable option for travelers looking to get the most out of their money. While some rentals do range from super affordable to excessively lavish, that range means there is something available for travelers no matter what their price range. To compete against larger hotel chains, most vacation rental owners/managers offer lower rates, more amenities and no hidden fees that pop up at check-out. A 2014 study by Statista showed that 53% of respondents said that they chose vacation rentals over hotels because they actually ended up offering lower rates than hotels. So, think twice before you rule vacation rentals out based on cost – they can offer a great savings, especially when they replace a group’s need for multiple hotel rooms.

Myth #2: That luxury, beachfront villa will turn out to be more like a shoebox with a view of the highway sign pointing in the direction of the beach.

The truth: In reality, it’s only the most negative experiences, which are few and far between, that actually get any press. Although it is very common among travelers to fear that the vacation rental will be “significantly not as described” (SNAD) the majority of travelers who’ve stayed at a vacation rental have positive experiences. According toPhocuswright’s industry study, Vacation Rental Marketplace: Poised for Change, nine in 10 vacation rental guests intend to rent again and would recommend the experience to a family member or friend. Vacation rental owners and managers take great pride in accurately showcasing their properties, and if the rental isn’t measuring up to be quite as picture-perfect as the photos indicate, it will be evident in the reviews for the property.

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Myth #3: Locking down a vacation rental requires 10 different email exchanges, 5 phone calls and is overall too difficult.

The truth: With the emergence of safe, online booking platforms like ours, finding and booking a vacation rental has gotten a whole lot easier in recent years. Simply pick your destination, compare properties that pique your interest, and inquire on or book the rental of your dreams. You can even pay directly through the site using a credit/debit card or PayPal, so that your vacation is protected and you don’t have to worry about any SNAD myths coming true. Finding and booking a rental is so simple now, you’ll finally have a reason to use the Easy button gag gift collecting dust on your desk.

Myth #4: You need to bring your toolbox on vacation because you’ll be all alone if something goes wrong at the property.

The truth: Most owners/managers take preemptive measures to make sure that their property is in tip-top shape for renters, because no one likes to deal with emergency maintenance issues – even owners/managers. Rentals are typically professionally cleaned before check-in and after check-out and some are even cleaned throughout your stay, so you don’t have to worry about the state of the rental. Whether you’re renting from an individual owner or a property management company, you’ll likely have access to assistance around the clock, in case any issues arise. It could be an on-site property manager or the personal cellphone number of the owner, but either way you’ll be covered when you need help.

Myth #5: If your stay is less than 7 nights, don’t bother inquiring because no one rents for less than a weeklong stay.

The truth: As the vacation rental marketplace has expanded enormously, many owners/managers have relaxed minimum night stays making rentals perfect for weekend getaways and short-term stays. The great, unique thing about vacation rentals is that you’re often dealing directly with the property owner and every owner has different policies. Accepting one, two and three night stays is a great way for owners/managers to fill last minute openings and availability during the off season. It never hurts to ask when you find a property you love for a quick retreat from reality.

March 10, 2015  By Meg Schulte

Article and Photos:  http://www.vacationhomerentals.com/blog

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Start a New Thanksgiving Tradition!

turkey-on-grill-corrected-728x444Happy Thanksgiving!

This will be a short post today.  I’ve brought a truck-load of work home that I need to tackle.  Our rental season is here, holidays are fast approaching, tomorrow we have a new employee to start training and everyone at Vacation Rentals of the Desert is busy, busy, busy!

wedding-chefs-4I’m hearing weather reports … up north, some states are getting not inches, but feet of snow already!  So here’s my sales pitch … we still have a few vacation properties, kitchens all decked out and ready for your family Thanksgiving holiday!  Our weather is perfect … in the 70s with lots of sunshine.  No snow to shovel or family to worry about navigating icy roads on their way to grandma’s house … we’re not bundled up in coats and huddled around the fire.  While you’re slipping and sliding around in the ice and snow we’re golfing, enjoying a morning swim or bike ride.  Thanksgiving is taken outdoors with a big fat turkey cooking on the barbecue and friends and family enjoying the perfect weather on the patio while kids play in the pool and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or football game are playing in the background.

 

The perfect Thanksgiving to some … skip the cooking and exhausting clean-up, and have dinner with the Indians … at a casino buffet.  This is what my family does every Thanksgiving.  We have many Indian casinos in the Palm Springs desert and most offer an amazing Thanksgiving Feast.  With one vegetarian, a couple of picky eaters, various degrees of dieting and at least three guys with voracious appetites, the variety, quantity and simplicity of a buffet is a no-brainer for my family.  Only down side is … no leftovers, however eliminating the stress and mess of cooking for a huge family is so well worth a trip to the deli if the urge for a turkey sandwich hits. 

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So think about it … maybe it’s time for a new family tradition … something your family can look forward to all year long.  Give us a call, it’s not too late for this year or to plan for next!

I wish you all a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

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