Functional Beauty!


17Every week for over a year now, I have sat down on Sunday morning to write a story for this blog.  Most weeks I have a topic in mind, however sometimes the events of the past week will force themselves to the forefront of my thinking … which brings me to this week’s topic. 

Vacation Rentals of the Desert has a very unique non-exclusive management agreement with many of our home owners.  We developed this idea during the recession to allow vacation property owners the opportunity to off-set their management costs by participating in the rental process … to a degree.  I have found that this system has worked well for our company and have a handful of properties with owner booked tenants as well as tenants acquired through our company.  The property that I will describe in today’s post is a gorgeous, newly remodeled and furnished condominium that joined Vacation Rentals of the Desert this past summer.   The new owners, when purchasing the condo, agreed to honor a three month booking from the sellers.   As new owners to our vacation rental program, we provided a minimum requirement list and after viewing the mid-century decorated property with the owner, I made several recommendations towards improving its functionality as a vacation home.

One of the first things that I noticed was the lack of window coverings.  In the main living and dining areas there are large sliding glass doors that look out onto a patio and the fairway beyond offering a gorgeous unobstructed view to the outside world … and an equally unobstructed view of the inside and its inhabitants!  It was easy to identify a privacy issue.  The decorator faux drapes framing the sides of the windows were removed and motorized blinds installed.  Problem solved.

Recessed canned lights are fitted throughout the condo adding to the clean modern feel, but the lack of lamps present a problem for guests trying to read, or when one person is reading and another is watching TV.  This was easily addressed by purchasing a couple of standing lamps with directional lights.  These lamps are a favorite trick of mine and I believe should be standard in every vacation rental home.  They can be easily moved to wherever needed and then stored away in a closet when not in use.

Another area of concern was the beds … specifically the height of the beds.  Personally I do not remember beds in the 50s and 60s being so low to the ground.  Lower than today, for sure … but mattresses on the ground were pictured with peace-sign bedspreads and shown in hippie pads, not as a “decorator” detail.   True mid-century modern would be a full size bed in the master bedroom with short legs screwed directly into the box springs.  Anyone remember those?  But I don’t see that going over well today.  Despite the beds being so low, and based on the fact that the condo had been a rental the previous season, the owner and I decided to take a “wait and see” approach for the time being.

Their tenants arrived and settled in.  Typically we do not become deeply involved in an owner acquired guest, but we are always happy to assist if needed.   It wasn’t long before we realized we should have been pro-active regarding the beds.   One visit with the guests showed that height was not the only issue here.

The condo has a king in the master suite and queens in both of the guest bedrooms.  All three beds have fabric frames and headboards.  None of the three beds had box springs!  The mattresses where sitting directly on the frame slats and sunk down into the frames snuggly.  The mattresses where great … new pillow tops of great depth, but practically sitting on the floor.  Making a bed meant getting on your hands and knees …  and to tuck in the comforter you inevitably scrapped your knuckles.   For a short term guest … probably not a big deal.  Who makes beds when they’re on vacation?   For a three month guest living in a property, it’s a big problem.  The guests also mentioned that the mattress covers would pop off during the night and sleeping with sheets and bedding coming apart was a struggle.  Taking a closer look at the bedding, we discovered that the mattress cover was made of a plastic, waterproof material that was very slippery.  This was compounded by silk sheets and silky comforters!  There was so much going wrong here you had to laugh.  The beds were absolutely gorgeous but when you pulled the comforter out from the tight frame to turn in for the night, the bedding slipped all over the place … taking on a life of its own!

I shouldn’t laugh … the guests were not happy.

I promised that I would speak to the owners and see if we could get the problem remedied as quickly as possible.  Once explained, the owners completely understood and I was enlisted to make the necessary purchases …. Three sets of box springs, all new mattress covers and two new sets of sheets per bed … 100% cotton!  The beds are fabulous.  They now look and act as beds should.  The four inch box springs lifted the mattress just level with the tops of the bed frames, increasing the height … but not so much that it takes away from the mid-century look.  The cotton bedding is also easier to keep on while sleeping and the guests are no longer chasing their bed all night.

So when furnishing your vacation home, it’s not only about beauty.  A beautiful piece can also be functional.  I always recommend that owners stay at their vacation home for a minimum of one week before their first paying guest.  Sleep, cook, and entertain if you can … really live in the property.  If something doesn’t work, change it immediately.  It is better that you discover the problem rather than hearing about it in a bad review!

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Inventory, Update, Replace


Joss & Main


Today I would like to continue last week’s post, “Dress Up for Success.”   Since all of the properties that my company, Vacation Rentals of the Desert, represents are second or vacation homes, not investment only properties, I have run into one particular problem again and again.  To quote a paragraph from last week’s post; “… over the years, supplies such as linens, towels and kitchenware, purchased piecemeal, have become a hopeless, disorganized hodge-podge of misfits.”

Very often if a guest calls to report that something is broken or damaged … for example a toaster that burns the toast instead of popping up or a stained sheet, the vacation management company will deliver the newly purchased replacement and not retrieve the damaged item.  So unfortunately these damaged items usually end up back in the kitchen cabinet or linen closet for the next guest to find.  Over a period of time you have cabinets and cupboards full of damaged, unsightly and miss-matched items.

The property I dressed up last week had eight fitted king sheets and six flat sheets.  Most miss-matched, some worn, some torn and some just plain old outdated and ugly.  A couple of sets were acceptable … and these were the ones that were currently being used.  After purchasing two sets of sheets per bed, I tossed all the rest.  Similar in the kitchen … two partial sets of silverware, three sets of glass with no more than four of any set that matched.

Because our property owners visit their properties on and off throughout the year, I have always left the inventory and replacement of supplies primarily in the owner’s hands, except where needed during occupancy.  It has now become apparent that I will have to offer our assistance.    A full inventory of your vacation home supplies is necessary each and every year.  To do a thorough check takes hours and can be daunting … especially here in the desert where the interior temperature of a closed up property during our off season can run 100 degrees.

This is what an inventory consists of:  Remove all pots and pans and examine inside and out.  Replace any with burns or scratched Teflon … ask yourself, “if this was not my pot, would I use it.”  If not … replace.  Count silverware and make sure you have complete matched settings of at least eight.  If you have a larger property then you will have more place settings to consider.  Regardless of the size of your property, less than eight place settings and your guests will have to run half loads in the dishwasher and probably after every meal.  Remember … your guests are on vacation.  Dishes should be counted and there should be no chips, crazing, cracks, knife marks and all should match.  Seven dinner plates, eight bowls and six salad plates … not good.  Visit HomeGoods and spend $40 on new dishes … then take the old ones to Good Will.  Don’t leave them in the cabinet or you’ll end up with a hodge-podge mess.  The same goes for utensils, serving ware, glasses and coffee mugs.  You should not leave coffee stained mugs in the cabinet … and logo or novelty mugs are just tacky and appear to be “cheap” … unless, of course, they’re from Starbucks!  Weed out the aluminum pie tins that people save and the plastic butter tubs, etc.  It’s OK for your own home … not for a vacation property.  Wood utensils are gross in a vacation rental and your tenants will probably not use them … would you? And please, please, please do not make your purchases at the 99 Cent Store!  As tempting as it may be, you’ll lose repeat guests … people recognize quality.

Towels, sheets, bedspreads, blankets, pillows, mattress pads … all should be perfect.  No stains.  Toss the old ones … there is no need to keep them even for rags.  Rags after washed, always seem to end up back in the linen closet.  The next guest will reach in for a clean towel and … surprise … minutes later you or your vacation rental manager are on the losing side of a phone call from an unhappy guest.

Beds need to be stripped to check out mattress covers and flip the mattress to check for stains and damage.  Hangers should be resupplied, batteries replaced in flashlights, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and TV, electronics and ceiling fan remotes, fire extinguishers checked, brooms and mop-heads replaced, toilet brushes replaced.  Everything, everything, everything check, check, check and double check.

If you have an inventory list or minimum requirement list from your vacation management company, it will make this job much easier.  Some companies require all bedding, linens, towels … replaced every year!  I don’t think that is necessary, but looking at these items with a critical eye … or the eyes of your paying guests, is absolutely necessary every year.

Some people hate to throw things away; it’s wasteful.  I get it.  If you feel this way … take the old items home and use them yourself or donate them to Good Will.  Some people are frugal … but I cannot stress this enough … You! Have! Competition!  Your neighbors would be happy to take care of your guests in the future.  The vacation rental industry has become very, very competitive.  There are plenty of property owners out there that “get it” and will provide newer, shinier homes with more amenities for less $$.  It’s a business.  People are not going to pay Saks Fifth Avenue prices at K-Mart.  Gone are the days when people were just happy to get away on vacation.  Vacation rental guests have high expectations and are not afraid to voice them … loudly.  When you look at your rental income, you also have to look at “the cost of doing business” and if you have to spend a few hundred to make several thousand … that is part of the deal.  Once you put the rental money in your pocket that is not where “the buck stops,” that’s just were it begins.

Here’s a question for you … what if you were required to provide a complete inventory list to each of your vacation rental guests and the guests in return were asked to look over the list upon their arrival and report any missing or damage items.  How would your property fair?

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Dress Up for Success

20150207_164344_resized_1I’m trying to figure out how we’re suddenly in the middle of busy season!  Thursday the Sideman’s and Whertheimer’s stopped by, Friday the Burtons!  These three couples are among my dearest, repeat guests and they are here again already … surprise!  I’ve been so busy that “season” snuck up on me!  Hello ….

We were also blind-sided this week by a negative review of one of our properties … and that is the topic of today’s post.  This particular property has been under my watch for at least a dozen years.  I immediately inventoried the property, then contacted the owner and had an honest discussion about her beloved vacation home.  Through the years the property has become “tired.”  This has reflected in the number of rentals and the decrease in rental rate.  At this point the property desperately needed some TLC.

The owner of the property lives locally.  In the past when called, she has personally addressed these shortages.  But over the years, supplies such as linens, towels and kitchenware, purchased piecemeal, have become a hopeless, disorganized hodge-podge of misfits.

However this time, with a little encouragement, the owner relinquished the shopping to me.  Once I explained the need for completely new bedding and new kitchen supplies, she put the project into my hands.  Yeah and …. Uh-oh!  The busiest time of the season and I have a major project!  With guests arriving this week, I’m looking at a full weekend of shopping, decorating and instructing cleaners.  Oh thank goodness for the cleaners!  You may think I’m crazy to jump into such a project at this time of the year … but the last property I was allowed to “dress-up,” immediately increased in desirability and doubled in occupancy, so the time and effort will hopefully pay off for both the owner and Vacation Rentals of the Desert.

I will not go into too much detail on what was updated in the kitchen (basically because I still have to work to do), but I will tell you that everything was purchased at Bed, Bath & Beyond with several 20 percent off coupons, and Home Goods.  In past posts I have mentioned the boxed sets of white porcelain dishes …. $40 for eight complete place settings.  It just doesn’t get any better than that.

As for the bedrooms … I was working with a king in the master and two twins in the guest.  The master king is low to the floor, yet a newer mattress and box springs.  I needed height as well as comfort and beauty to give this room more of an updated look.  The walls are a light peach; the décor is traditional with a scattering of antiques.  Finding the right bedding was not easy.  I would have preferred a comforter and duvet, but found that the local stores had the limited choices of modern, country quilts or solid colored duvets.  None of these would work with this room.  I finally settled on a thick mattress cover, my favorite white damask sheets, a thick winter blanket and a fluffy printed comforter which matched perfectly with the bedroom décor.  The room has completely transformed.









In the twin bedroom I chose the same; mattress cover, white damask sheets and comfy blankets.  The spreads again were limited, so I chose white coverlets that can easily fit in the washing machine.  With hot water and bleach, the coverlets should stay looking new for at least a couple of seasons.

Of course all beds were dressed with new pillows, pillow protectors, shams and decorative throw pillows.  The before and after pictures show how just a little change can go a long way.  It is vital that a vacation home has an inviting bedroom … this is major in “selling” your property to a potential guest.  It is also essential that reservationist feel confident in the properties they are representing to a potential client.  If an unhappy tenant contacts them with complaints about the property, it is only natural that the reservationist will think twice before recommending the property.

I hope this post inspires vacation rental owners to look at their property with a critical eye.  I’ve already spent six hours tossing out miss-matched dishes, silverware, bedding and towels.  I recommend that this be done at least once a year.  That oh so cute cup with a tiny chip … toss it or take it home.  I guarantee  your guests will not see it as anything more than a chipped cup that they will not use.

Happy Sunday everyone and I’ll see you next week.

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Cleaning Schedules … Not as Easy as You May Think




Today’s post is short and sweet, however sweet might not be the right word …  

The majority of our guests at Vacation Rentals of the Desert are monthly.  This is because we host many of the “snow birds” that are escaping their cold northern climates for our gorgeous winter season.  So the first day of each month, November through April, are typically busy guest arrival days.  We actually have about sixty booked arrivals coming in the February 1st!  So to say that life has been busy these last few days, is an understatement.

Some guests will be arriving to properties that have been recently occupied, some have not been occupied since last April and some are what we call “back to backs.”  A back to back is a property where tenants are departing at 10 a.m. and new tenants are arriving at 3 p.m. on the same day.  For the properties that have been recently occupied; they are clean but have set for a period of time so they will need a touch up with dusting, mopping and patios cleaned.  We schedule these for a “pre-clean.”  For the properties that have not been occupied, we contact owners and arrange to do a deep clean with windows and screens.  Depending on the size of the property, this clean can take up to two days.  Then the properties that are back to backs will need to be cleaned in a five hour period of time … spotless before guests arrive.  Sometimes this takes a bit of magic … especially if there is a lot of laundry.  Three people can clean a property in no time flat … but laundry refuses to be rushed.

Needless to say, scheduling consists of a lot of phone calls and coordination.  The office staff contacts outgoing guests to see if they enjoyed their stay and whether they would like to return next year.  At the same time we will give them key return information and find out what time they plan to depart.  If they are departing a day or even hours early, we contact our cleaning service so they can schedule cleaners to arrive earlier than they would for a back to back cleaning.  We then contact all the arriving guests to wish them a good trip, give key receipt information and find out what time they plan to arrive.   Cleaners can then be delayed for late arriving guests.

Ideally cleaning is schedule just prior to guest arrivals, but even with several cleaning teams, it is all a matter or coordination and working around rain (which we had on Friday), repairs, carpet cleaning and then, wet carpets, etc.  Once the cleaning schedule is set into motion, one small hick-up can launch the entire schedule into oblivion.  I know I’m being a bit dramatic, but in the moment …. aaaawwww!

So here is what happened …. Cleaners were scheduled two days prior to guest arrival to do a full clean after owner’s departed.  A carpet cleaning service was schedule immediately after.   The cleaners show up at the property only to find that the owners are still there and have decided to stay an additional night … they are having such a good time.  I love, love, love these owners, and it is there home after all, but OMG, this started a chain reaction!  This one little change affected six cleaning teams that needed to be adjusted, about twelve property cleans needed to be rescheduled and me getting on my knees to the carpet cleaning service to beg them to squeeze us into their own busy schedule.  In addition the owners reported a few last minute repairs had to be fitted in and we had to contact the arriving guests to advise them that the carpets would be spotless … but may still be damp when they arrive.

The point of this post is not to whine and complain.  If you are a property owner with a vacation rental company, please know that your management company understands that you are the owner and that you have every right to occupy your property.  But also understand that coordinating cleaning and extended services will sometimes take some lead time.  Most vacation rental companies do not employ their cleaners hourly, or even exclusively.  It is of great importance to let your company know of any change or possible delays in your arrivals or departures as quickly as possible.  This is sometimes a difficult subject for companies to discuss with an owner … but it is extremely important.  Because of the last minute change of departure mentioned above, I will always be a bit skeptical when scheduling this owner’s departure cleans.  In the future I will probably check, double check and call them before sending cleaners.

I owe a big THANK YOU to Lesley Boniface, the owner of Crown Concierge of the Desert, for getting us through this past week’s cleans and one tiny little hick-up that launched her schedule into oblivion.  Crown is our cleaning contractor and handles 100% of our cleaning as well as providing our guests with excellent concierge services.  Without Crown we could not do what we do!  Hey Lesley … another February 1st is history!  Is it time for a glass of wine yet?

Have a wonderful Sunday and hope ya’ll are enjoying the Super Bowl.

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