A Week in the Life …

 

shutterstock_213699160We’re over the hump and summer is finally winding down.  Many of my readers know that May through September are the quite months of the year here in the Coachella Valley.  With temperatures soring into the 100s +, only the hardcore “heat lovers” chose to vacation in our brutal heat.  Locals tend to stay inside with their air conditioners blasting away.  We run from our air conditioned homes to our air conditioned cars to our air conditioned offices or restaurants or theaters; perhaps jump in the pool for just a few minutes and then head back to the air conditioner … if we’re lucky.  Many locals work outdoors with long sleeve shirts and hats to battle the sun’s burning rays, they drink gallons of water to keep hydrated and seek shade for frequent rest periods.  I marvel at how they cope with the constant heat.  Never the less, during the summer, life in the desert generally slows down and seasonal residents and visitors head for cooler areas.  With the reduced population and less customer traffic, many restaurants and some retail stores will close for a month, two or the entire summer.  Some businesses will reduce their hours … such as Vacation Rentals of the Desert.  During “off season” we drop to six hours a day, six days per week.  But don’t think we have time to dilly-dally … we’re diligently working on the upcoming rental season.  Despite the summer perks of buzzing around the desert in light traffic, immediate seating at our favorite restaurants, and room to swim in our community pools (despite the fact that the pool water is warm enough to be considered a spa), most year round working residents are busy in the summer months preparing for “season.”

Personally … I am grateful for the seasonal aspect of the desert’s tourism business.  The summer allows my company to regroup, take a deep breath and work on ways to improve and expand business.   It gives us the time to review properties and advise owners on ways to increase their property’s desirability.  It offers a “down time” for property owners to renovate, redecorate, repair, replace and prepare for their future guests without costing them the loss of potential business.  In some respects … summer is the busiest time of the year!

It is true that we do not have many vacationing guests during this time of year …. This August, a whopping total of eight, which by the way is twice what we had August 2013, but that does not mean that we were sitting in our air conditioned office twiddling our thumbs.  So here you go … a real taste of a busy vacation rental office during “off season” and an actually account of the past week at Vacation Rentals of the Desert.   A Week in the Life ….

We had two air conditioning problems.  At over 110 degrees, air conditioning issues are an emergency!  One was user error but still took a visit from the office, the other was a clogged filter that froze up the system and a service tech had to be called in to defrost the coils and replace the filter.  This A/C issue, yesterday, involved more than one dozen phone calls between the guests, the owner, our handyman, an on-call service tech and his answering service and our office.

We had a sink leak at o-dark-thirty which flooded out a guest’s kitchen and caused a great deal of anxiety to both the guest and the office employee who was awakened from a dead sleep.  This also took a great number of phone calls between the office employee, guest, owner, handyman, and gate guard at the country club entrance.  Problem solved with a new sink pipe and a lot of cleanup.

Guests this past weekend also called to report that the spa was not working.  Really!!  110 degrees after dark and they wanted the spa … I’m just saying!  They paid for the use of the spa … they are absolutely entitled.  Our handyman was sent out in the evening.  Parts were needed but stores were closed and it is too dark to deal with the electrical issues.  This involved many calls … one of which was a call to apologize to an unhappy guest and a promise for prompt service first thing in the morning.  $700 plus in repairs, we got the spa back up and running only to have a heater gasket burst and the pool-side patio flood.  The same guests were also unable to get the Wi-Fi running and of course “when it rains it pours,” the batteries went out on the garage door remote.  Thankfully the handyman was able to remedy all issues and the tenants departed happy … especially since we refunded some money for the spa issue.

We also had keys that did not work … an owner rekeyed without telling us.  A window that would not open, a garbage can the guest did not like, a garage fan that was not working, a garage door remotes that had to be quickly purchased and programmed to have ready for an arriving guest after owners replaced the opener unit and left with the one and only remote, a screen that had to be replaced, carpet cleaning, replaced burned out fluorescents, toilet leak, garbage disposal jam, a garbage disposal replacement, shower head replacement, hot water heater coupler repair, atrium screen replacement and a jammed lock box.  We also had to pick up mail twice at an unoccupied property for a traveling owner who was expecting an important package.  All of these took multiple conversations with owners and/or guests, creating work orders, scheduling and sometimes meeting handymen, contracting services and security gates for entrance passes.

We also have four properties in the midst of major remodeling or renovations that we monitored, took periodic photos and emailed to owners to keep them updated on progress.  I had to meet a window/blind treatment company to measure, take pictures and report back to owner with my personal recommendations, including estimates on three alternative choices, for a large three bedroom condo.  We also scheduled estimates for a new air conditioning/heating unit replacement as well as an awning cover replacement.  And we met with a contractor to inspect the outcome of a new Formica installation before approving final payment.

Trish and Kathy answered approximately sixty rental inquires via email, countless phone call inquiries, entered a number of new reservations, collected rental payments and signed rental agreements, answered numerous questions from guests arriving in the upcoming months, issued supplies and keys to cleaners, handymen and service techs, inspected properties, answered owner questions, and … and …. and ….

Kathy “opened” eight properties, getting them ready for arriving guests, and “closed” four, inspecting and securing them after guest departures.  She visited The Lock Shop at least three times to make duplicate keys, tagged them and checked to make sure they worked on the doors.

I spoke on the phone and then met three prospective owner clients.  This took hours in phone conversations, emails and visits, but was time well spent since we signed up all three properties.  Then our office worked on building and listing the properties, creating guest books, making duplicate keys, taking pictures and/or scheduling photographers.  Finally Trish and Kathy were sent to personally view the properties so they could better describe the homes to prospective guests.

I spoke at length to two possible future clients who wanted opinions on best locations to purchase a vacation rental property and this week I spent literally hours of time on the phone with owners concerned with the new vacation rental ordinance in Rancho Mirage … and rightly so.  This is a subject I will expand on in the future.

I’m sure I am forgetting something … lots of somethings probably.  I’ll remember them immediately after posting this blog and I’m sure to hear about it on Tuesday when we return to the office after the Labor Day weekend.  But I think you now have a sense of the pace of a medium size vacation rental company.  To be successful we have to always be looking at “the big picture.”  We have to know what our competitors are doing, and do even better.  We have to know what is going on in the industry and utilize all the latest tools at our disposal.  We have to work quickly and efficiently and address all guest concerns immediately.  Sometimes it seems that we are in two places at one time.  Yes… we are super human in that respect … we never make mistakes, we address issues before they become problems and we all have memories like elephants!  That is how I hope our clients see us.  LOL … let’s just say, Vacation Rentals of the Desert is blessed to have employees that love their jobs, love the clients, take pride in their work and always strive to do their very best.

If you do not know them already … please let me introduce our cast of characters … Kathy is our “go to” for running around the properties, getting them ready and running office errands … she is the Energizer Bunny.  Trish is our “stay at home” gal who staffs the office when everyone else is running and hers is the welcoming smile that greets everyone when they walk through our office door.  Joaquin is our “money dad” and deals with everything accounting as well as licensing and permitting, insurance issues, legal matters and computer technical support.  David is our “social media expert” and handles all of our Facebook posts and advertising, posts all pictures, keywords and engine search data to our website.  He is also the fellow who introduces our blog on Facebook every Sunday.  Alex is our “jack of all trades” handyman.  If he cannot fix it … he has a relative who specializes in it … with crazy low service rates and unbelievable savings to our clients.  And of course we cannot forget Lesley, owner of Crown Concierge who embodies the meaning of  “super women.”  Lesley deals with the dirty job of cleaning.  She coordinates and schedules all cleaning which is no small job.  Come February 1st and March 1st when we’ll have somewhere between forty and sixty departures at 10 a.m. and only five hours to have the properties cleaned for the forty to sixty 3 p.m. arrivals, Lesley seems to conjure up cleaners from thin air to complete the task, with a “sparkling clean guarantee” to boot.  We all scratch our heads at how she accomplishes this, year after year without fail and seemingly, with ease … but we count our blessings that she there takin’ care of business!  And then there’s me, Vickie … the one that writes this blog … and a few other things when needed.

Because of our amazing staff, our wonderful and caring property owners and excellent guests, our busy “off season” and even busier “season” are challenging, never boring and beyond rewarding.  Don’t think for one minute that we are twiddling our thumbs over the summer months … just because we don’t have a full house doesn’t mean our house is not full.

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