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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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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How Vacation Rental Owners and Tenants Relate

Bad-Hotel-Sundance-Vacations-300x189 (1)Finding topics for this blog each week can sometimes be challenging.  My goal has always been to inform, educate and sometime entertain vacation property owners and vacation renters.  Of course the content is often commentary and almost always is swayed by my personal experiences and opinions.  I attempt to put my readers into my shoes and hopefully give them a basis to form their own opinions surrounding their individual circumstances.  The fundamentals of owning or renting a vacation home are the same worldwide with the standard expectations of owners providing a clean, well maintained, honestly represented property at a fair price, and who are caring, easy to contact and take responsibility for issues that may arise; and in turn, owners expect well behaved, clean tenants who will also be respectful of their property and considerate of neighbors.  Sounds very simple, but with vacation rentals, and pointedly … vacation rentals managed by owners, you are working in an environment without any set rules or standards.   A hotel has industry and company standards that a paying guest can pretty much count on.  Now, in the sharing economy, you have individual property owners making up their own standards … and rules.  Taking into account how very different an owner may see their property, as I mentioned in last week’s post, where a property was advertised as “totally updated,” when in reality the last updates were made twenty years ago.  Many owners live a distance from their vacation home and rely on cleaning services which may at times be questionable, especially on a property where they know that it will not be inspected.  On the other hand, an owner may find more fault with the unhappy tenants than the cleaners, when cleaning deficiencies are reported.  I am not saying that all vacation homes that you find on VRBO or owner listing sites are bad … in fact the vast majority are excellent … I merely attempt to point out the variation in people, personality and their individual standards … and with the lack of oversight, the fact is …. there are some “bad actors” out there.

Today this blog is filled with commentary and personal opinion … but the commentary is based on facts that I have noted over the past twenty years and in this post, experiences of this past week.  Early in the week we received a call and then a visit, from a couple from England.  Their story was one we have heard countless times.  They arrived at a condo that they had booked through a listing on VRBO.  They were disappointed upon their arrival to find that the condo that was dirty.  After sitting unoccupied for several months, which is typical during our hot summers, the condo was dusty, dirty and full of dead bugs and cobwebs … just in time for Halloween … but they weren’t in the holiday spirt and I can’t say that I would be either.  The entire condo had just one window and that window had a broken blind that they had to climb up on a chair to open.  The bed was so bad that the husband, with a bad back, slept in the living room chair.  The towels were old, stained and frayed.  The one TV was of the old fashioned variety and not only was their lines through the picture, but the screen was so distorted that it cut off the actors heads.  But the biggest problem was that the property was advertised to have a walk-in shower, and what they found was a standard bathtub/shower combination.  This was a huge issue since the husband, with the bad back, is not able to raise his legs high enough to get into a bathtub.  After calls to the owner with no help on cleaning, which they did themselves, towels, which they replaced themselves, broken blind, which they just left open, old bed, broken TV … the very last straw was when they walked into the condo after a trip to the store, to find that the owner had entered without their knowledge or approval, turned the air conditioning up to 78 degrees and left a very nasty note stating that they were not to touch the temperature on the thermostat or he would deduct an additional $200 from their security deposit to cover possible cooling charges.   After finding this note, they called our office.  We were able to find them a perfect condo, the Taj Mahal compared to their current rental, and finally after arriving in the U.S. a week ago, they were able to start enjoying what was left of their one month vacation.  They received no money back from the slum-lord they had rented from, but refused to let it ruin their vacation.

Now I am fully aware that there are two sides to a story … probably more aware than you.  I see this behavior all the time and find ourselves smack-dab between owners and renters and rarely do the two see eye to eye.  However in light of the details shared by our British couple, and the fact that I have met many, many “bad actors,” I tend to give the benefit of the doubt to the tenant.  The bed could possibly be a matter of personal preference, the TV could just have the wrong screen setting … but an owner refusing to clean prior to a tenant arrival, repair a broken blind, replace old towels … and illegally enter a property without twenty-four hour notice … these are unforgivable, and makes me angry as it reflects on the entire vacation rental industry.  If this story is in fact true then it’s my hope that the owner’s bad actions will someday catch up with him … “what goes around comes around,” fingers crossed.  This, in my option is despicable behavior … and I see it constantly!  Other than a bad review, there is very little that a tenant can do.

There are also many challenges for owners.  A tenant may over occupy or abuse a property costing owners in repairs, replacements and in some cases, having to turn away potential or booked tenants to make the repairs.  Tenants may break city noise ordinances and cost owners significant fines or in extreme cases, the loss of their right to rent their property.  Owners who live a distance away face the problem of finding reliable cleaners and maintenance people.  Many will look for a management company such as Vacation Rentals of the Desert, but for some, there will be the overriding desire to avoid professional management fees.  With the growth of the vacation rental industry, we are seeing start-up companies pop out of the woodwork … seems everyone has “the next best money-making idea.”  Yesterday I received a call from a local owner who had signed up with one of these “innovative” new companies.  I won’t name the company, but I’ll tell you enough to recognize them if they call.  This company is located out of state, but offers to represent and manage properties worldwide.  Their management fee is 35% and they find local individuals to check properties and arrange cleaning.  Sounds reasonable on paper … but again there is a lack of oversight, and that is precisely the issues this home owner discussed with me.  He had a handful of rentals over the summer months (surprisingly), but upon his recent visit to the house he found that there was significant damage to the property that had not been noted nor compensated for before tenant deposits were returned.  The air conditioner had not been shut off between a couple of the renters and with temps over 100 degrees, this is a big issue.  In addition, small things like burned out lights and regular maintenance repairs had not been dealt with.  But what really sent this owner over the top, justifiably,  was that his garage door remote was missing, the battery removed from the garage door key pad, the motion detectors outside the garage door disabled, and his golf cart entirely stripped, batteries, wiring, etc. and an expensive set of golf clubs had been taken from a locked closet in the garage.  None of this was found or reported by the local manager or cleaning staff.  The owner found this upon his visit.  The police believe it is an inside job.   So … looks like we are going to be managing a new property.

These are just a couple of examples of what happens all the time … and it goes back to last week’s post on the sharing economy … people are people are people.  You just don’t know who’s on the other end of that phone or email.  As I said at the beginning of this post, sometimes this blog is more commentary …. sometimes I just share my personal experiences …  and sometimes I vent … so here I go.

The above owner with the broken TV, blinds, etc.  … maybe he’s not a slum-lord.  Maybe he honestly thinks that the property is wonderful.  What if the tenant called to complain and was confrontational and disrespectful and the owner took offense and decided not to lift a finger to make his tenant happy?  It’s not right … but it’s very human and happens every day.  This week we called an owner letting her know that the vacuum was broken and we needed to replace it.  She was offended and upset (I know, we scratched our heads about how she could have taken offence), but she finally agreed to replace it.  Side story … she thought she would save money by ordering the $90 vacuum from Target … but in the long run she paid more since we had to charge her to go way out of the way to pick it up (she ordered it for picked up from a store outside our city), then we had to bring it to the office to assemble and finally deliver it to the property.  Had she let us do this we could have bought the same vacuum from Bed, Bath and Beyond, two blocks from our office, used a 20% off coupon and with that 20% savings, paid our office for the assembly and delivery!  Another owner, several years ago, visited her property and discovered that the tenants had burned up her favorite spaghetti pot.  She wanted to cancel her vacation rental listing entirely, despite the $20,000 gross rental that she had generated over the season, and the fact that accidents happen.  She stated that the tenants “did not respect her belongings.”   I immediately went out and purchased a new $25 spaghetti pot, delivered it and the property remained on our rental program for several years.  Sometimes it’s just that one “button,” that one “final straw” that set people off.   Same for tenants … people will vent.  Unfortunately I had to call a future tenant this week and report the sad news that the property they had booked, was going through some “issues.”  Seems that at this particular country club the golf course is not owned by the country club or home owners, but owned by another party.  The golf course was sold, and when the new owner was told by the city that they could not replace the golf course with senior housing, they decided to just close the club house and let the golf course die!  Unbelievable!  Of course the home owners are up in arms.  Their property values have plummeted and most owners purchased within the country club because of the golf course.  Every single property looks out on a fairway … so this affects 100% of the home owners and this high end country club is “not so much” anymore.  So I felt I had better contact our tenants to inform them of the situation since it would have definite effects on their extended vacation.  The fact that it is now in the hands of the legal system, the future of the club is unforeseeable.  With all our properties booked during their dates, my offer of a full refund or significant discount, was countered by ugly accusations and a very, very unhappy client.  Totally expected, but what was I to do in this case?  It is never known how people will act or how people will treat each other on any given occasion.   So back to the couple above, who now have to decide what to do about their vacation … look out onto a dead golf course or move?   The wife insisted that one of the primary reasons she chose this property was to be able to play golf at that particular course and to sit and look out on a beautiful fairway with a gorgeous waterfall (no longer functioning, of course).  Once I calmed her, I told her that she should check with other vacation rental companies … not owner listed properties which would be more time consuming.  Many owner’s do not keep up their property calendars and a renter could spend days waiting for a response only to discover that the property is not available.  I advised she do a google search for local vacation rental companies, and call a reservationist who would have possibly hundreds of potential properties to offer.  This close to season, chances are that most of the properties will already be booked … but they may still have a few.  This would be her quickest and safest way to go.

Vacation Rentals of the Desert is a pretty old fashion kind of company.  Certainly we have all the new bells and whistles … state of the art website and software, massive advertising budget, including VRBO and FlipKey, (can’t do Airbnb … one day I’ll explain the various reasons why this is a bad idea), fully trained and professional staff, checks, balances and standards of practice.  These are essential to running a successful vacation rental company … but the one thing that makes us stand out is the way we handle business … clients, tenants, owners and their properties.  This is where “old fashion” comes in, and we live by these rules every day …

                The customer is number one

                Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

                Treat everyone with respect

                Treat properties as if they were our own home

                Listen and give everyone the benefit of the doubt before making a decision

                It’s not always about the bottom line

                Honesty in all cases

For some owners and some companies … it is only about the bottom line.  We’re very fortunate … our properties are not investment properties …  they are second homes.  So if we feel the tenant would be a bad fit, we look for someone more fitting.  If we have a past history with a “questionable” tenant, we pass.  This is why we do not handle Coachella and Stagecoach Fests rentals.  Granted … the vast majority of fest goers will cause no problem, but about 10% will be a problem in one form or another … and we cannot gamble with our owner’s properties or our reputation.  Here’s a good example:  Last year we had a group of friends staying at a property during Coachella.  They informed us that they were in their 50s and had no intention of attending the fest.  The second night of the fest the tenants were on their back patio at 2 a.m. talking and the neighbors called the police.  Next day we received a $500 fine with a picture of the Coachella Fest bus in front of the house loading up our renters earlier in the day.  The age and profession does not matter … after partying all day, reason quickly flies out the window.  Now this property owner stands to suffer stiffer fines in the future and possibly lose his vacation rental permit because of tenant behavior … and it may not even be the tenant we screend.  It could be an unruly friend that gets out of hand or someone that they met at the fest who had no place to stay.  Bottom line is that even if the security deposit is raised to cover possible ordinance fines, my owner is one citation closer to losing the ability to accept vacation rentals.  Ultimately was the money worth the citation not to mention the extra oversight of future tenants?  Next fine is $1,000 … you better believe I’m hovering … and is this fair to our “good renters?”  I’ve been told by another management company owner that you just have to know how to screen properly!  How do you screen people today, for their behavior after partying a full day or two in the future?  There is no way.  I hate like heck to lose the rental money during these fests, but as I mentioned … the properties that we handle are second homes and my owner clients are wary of damage, fines and possible animosity from their neighbors making their own visits uncomfortable.  Sometimes the juice is just not worth the squeeze.

On my drive home from the office last night I was listening to a discussion on NPR Radio.  They were talking about Volkswagen and how they’ve lost the public’s trust.  One of the fellows in the discussion was from a large advertising firm and when asked his opinion on regaining public trust he said he thought the company was “screwed.”  He suggested an ad campaign showing the VW board members being fired and a big explosion.  Pretty drastic … but this is how important trust is to a company.  A trusted reputation is a necessity for survival in the business world … now look at how much it’s going to cost Volkswagen, and all the money they spend may not change the public’s mind.  Further in the conversation they talked about the Volkswagen Bug’s initial ad campaign … back in the 60s, I believe.  Back in those days all the cars were big, long boats.  In those days of cheap gas, bigger was better and these big cars represented success and prestige.  Then here comes the little VW Bug.  The advertising campaign was simple, but brilliant … and it worked!  In magazines they ran a blank white page and in the very bottom corner was a photo of a VW Bug with the caption, Think Small.

Simple but brilliant.  Reflecting on how our company of 130 properties competes in the big sea of VRBO, Airbnb, and large impersonal cookie cutter vacation rental companies … if we were a big national company … I think our ad might look like this:  A blank white page with our Vacation Rentals of the Desert logo in the bottom corner.  The caption would simply say … A small company, striving to be the Very Best.

Photo:  https://sundancevacationsblog.com

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What Makes A Perfect Vacation Rental?

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This week we added a spectacular new property to our list of vacation rentals.  The staff of Vacation Rentals of the Desert are all pretty excited about this new addition.  We especially love the properties that “sell” themselves … not because it saves us work but because we have full confidence that anyone renting the property will have a wonderful vacation … and after all that is our ultimate goal … great vacations!

If you own a vacation rental, you are familiar with the “minimum requirements” that you must provide … but you should also realize that there are bells and whistles that will give your property an edge over your competition.  I’ve added the property listing below and invite vacation home owners to read through the description and notice the selling points of this property.  Conversely, if you are a tenant … give us a call … we think we have THE perfect property for you …

Here are some of the reasons this property is so perfect for our particular demographic:

  • It is beautifully decorated and appointed. Corners were not cut in quality furnishings.  Furniture is of the same style throughout the home and was not purchased at second-hand stores.
  • Quality linens have been furnished such as high count sheets and plush towels.
  • The kitchen has been well supplied with great cookware and beautiful dinnerware. Tenants will find everything they need to cook and set a wonderful table whether a casual meal or Thanksgiving feast.
  • The home is well maintained. There are no broken appliances or old TVs in the garage.  The items that are old, worn or damaged have been tossed out.  No leaky faucets no cluttered cabinets.
  • The basic standards that you will find in most vacation rentals in the desert, have been provided, such as cable TV, DVD players, Wi-Fi and land-lines with free local, US and Canada calling.
  • Amenities have been added such as multiple TVs, stereos, four DVD players, movies, games, books, Wii and pool toys.
  • It has two master suites making it perfect for two couples and the third bedroom has been converted to a den that will also sleep two if needed. This makes the home more versatile.  It works equally well for tenants seeking a two bedroom OR three bedroom property … with the den adding more “living” space verses a unnecessary room.
  • It has a dedicated office space OR a dedicated children’s room off the master. This could be a bonus for parents, grandparents OR those who need work space during their vacation.
  • It is in a desirable gated country club.
  • It is close to multiple pools and spas.
  • It has a sunny exposure and panoramic mountain views.

Many vacation property owners will furnish their property with their eye on excessive wear and tear … “after all it’s just a rental.”  They will often go less expensive, not always because they are being “cheap,” but because they feel that items will just wear out quickly and need to be replaced.  I cannot tell you how many new owners have furnished their properties with low count sheets bought at Target, thin unbreakable dishes, and 99 Cent Store mugs and utensils.   Tenants recognize this right away!  Unknowingly, these owners hurt themselves and may offend their paying tenants.  These types of shortcuts can cost you bad reviews.  If you have a vacation rental than you should treat it as “a business,” and furnish the property as you would your home.  Remember … it takes money to make money … and purchases can be written off.   Even if you end up purchasing new sheets, towels and dishes each year to keep your supplies “fresh,” how much are you really spending?  Is it worth a one or two star review or losing a possible repeat tenant?  You must always keep the comfort of your guests in mind when furnishing and supplying your property.  Spending a bit more to supply your vacation home with quality makes just makes sense.  Items will last longer, guests will appreciate your home and care for it better, reviews will be better and tenants may return again and again.

The property I’m featuring today is owned by a family that loves visiting their property and entertaining family.  They enjoy sharing it with vacationing guests and realize that the same mishaps that happen in any home, are bound to happen from time to time.  The owners do not cut corners that effect their personal enjoyment of the property just because it is also a vacation rental.  This is a great mindset and a win/win for owner, vacationing guests and us as the rental company.

So take a look at this really amazing vacation home … and give us a call if you want to try it out.  It won’t last long!

Breathtaking Mountain Views Overlooking a Sparkling Lake and Double fairway!

 

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5-Star Home!! 2 Masters + Sleeping Den
Southern & Western Patio Views, Professionally Decorated

Relax and enjoy the gorgeous San Jacinto mountain sunsets from the expanded back patio. The beautifully furnished, western exposure patio offers exceptional indoor/outdoor living with dining for six, two comfortable chaise lounges, awning, gas BBQ and a built-in gas fire pit.  Click here to go to full listing …

 
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Any Rental Will Do

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On-line bookings comes with certain risks. Be smart, ask questions before booking rentals into your vacation home.

 

The vacation rental industry has certainly changed … especially in the past few years.  I’m sure this is true everywhere but here in the desert it went from then, to now … almost overnight.

Back in the 80s I managed the vacation rental side of a small, successful real estate company that specialized in two country clubs; one in Rancho Mirage, the other in Palm Desert.  Back then, vacation rental properties were scarce and not well known.   Prospective tenants paid a deposit and were put on a list based on three choices; the preferred country club, a two or three bedroom condo and an A, B or C (C being “luxury”), price point.  The booking process went like this … during the summer we would gather the reservation requests.  A seasonal calendar was mailed to the property owners with a request for them to mark any “owner use” dates and return the calendar by the end of September.  Once we received the marked calendars and the dates recorded, we (usually I), would go into a private conference room, and for several days, work reservations into the properties one by one … like fitting pieces into a puzzle.  The goal was to fit in as many requests as possible, based on the tenants three choices, with a minimum of unoccupied time between reservations.  The property calendars we used looked much like accounting ledgers and were computer printed on dot-matrix sheets that were as much as ten feet in length in order to accommodate all the months of our rental season.   When working with sixty to seventy properties and about two hundred requests of varying requirements, you can just imagine what a long process this was.

Also remember that back in the 80s, computers were not in most homes.  We used a computerized reservation system, but the entire booking process was done over the phone and through the mail.  There were no websites to look at pictures and if a client wanted to see photos of a property, we had to mail them actual 3X5 photos and request that they return the pictures.  It was not until the early 2000s that websites and property listings started to appear, after personal home computers became common.

So … this long description of what vacation rentals were like leads me to the simple point of today’s post:  once upon a time, tenants were simply happy find any available property!  Vacation rentals were just not plentiful.

This is no longer true.  Since the late 90s the industry has grown and after 2008 it has doubled, then quadrupled, and then again and again.  What used to be an “owner’s market” is now definitely swung in the opposite direction.  In my view, there are three major contributors that have driven the growth and changes in the vacation rental industry over the past fifteen to twenty years … turning the industry into a “renters” market.

  • The computer
  • An abundance of vacation rental properties
  • The owner managed vacation rental

The computer has taken vacation rentals global.  Once, vacation rental companies had to identify their potential “key” markets and pay for newspaper advertising … at best this was a costly, hit or miss proposition in light their potential world-wide cliental.  Now, companies vie for position in search engines and among ever growing competition.   There are a great number of start-up companies that promise more rental income and lower management rates but at the trade-off of poor property and occupant oversight and property damage.  Most of these start-up “tech” companies are located far from the area, promote on-line booking and rely on cleaning services as their eyes and ears.   As owner of Vacation Rentals of the Desert, a traditional vacation rental management company, it is hard for me to watch these companies gain ground, but as they grow, so does my business.   It doesn’t take home owners long to discover the importance of local, responsible oversight and management and personal tenant screening.  We hear a lot of horror stories.

Side Story:  Just yesterday we received a call from a prospective tenant inquiring about a private home with a pool.  He wanted to pay $500 for just one night so he and his friends could throw a 21st birthday party.  Would a directly an on-line booking have caught this one?  It’s doubtful.  I have personally seen the results of these kinds of parties … heck, years ago, I went to these kinds of parties.  $500 might not even touch the clean-up and repairs, much less the fines for over-occupancy without an “event permit.”  Did you know that many cities require a permit for parties at vacation rental properties and that significant fines can be levied and/or the loss of rental privileges can come as the result of not having the correct permits?  Check your local city ordinance.

As recently as five-ten years ago, when talking to property owners interested in listing their “dated” vacation home, I would explain that there was a price point for all tenants.  If the property was nice, neat, clean and provided all basic amenities, it would appeal to those with a limited budget.  This is no longer true, which I will explain further below under owner managed vacation rentals.   If a property is dated, it will most likely be passed up unless it is the very last possibility … in which case the tenant will complain during their entire stay.

The abundance of vacation rental properties has come as the result of several factors but most significantly from the recession starting in 2008.  In our area, as in many “desirable” locations throughout the United States, there are many second homes that were used only by the owners and their immediate family.  In the midst of the recession, many owners struggled to keep their second home and since the bottom had dropped completely out of sales, vacation rentals became a logical solution and a means to off-set some of their carrying costs.  Here in the desert, the number of vacation rental homes grew rapidly.  Fortunately many of our tenants were Canadian which did not get hit as heavily by the recession.  So the “rental” side, despite our economy, still brought in a brisk business.  With property values at rock-bottom and the Canadian dollar high, it was not long before our northern neighbors started buying homes and using the vacation rental income to off-set some a good chunk of the expenses supporting an out-of-country property.    I cannot tell you how many tenants we lost when they bought their own vacation home … but our inventory grew as these very same tenants listed their newly purchased homes on our rental program.  There were also “investors” who came in, flipped run-down properties and listed them as vacation rentals.   In addition, industrious couples of all ages, purchased properties in hopes of enjoying and self-managing the home as a vacation rental.  All the above were lucrative investments and all helped to grow the local vacation rental industry, but as the number of properties expanded, competition grew and “the bar” was set higher.

 When you’re the only restaurant in town, your tables are always full … add fifty more restaurants and your chef had better be amazing!

The owner managed vacation rental market grew with the above … wide-spread computer access and taking advantage of depressed home sales.  VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owners) launched twenty years ago in 1995, but it was not until the early 2000’s that vacation management companies and the general public, started to take notice.  The U.S. recession had a major influence in growing this VRBO and many on-line listing sites such as FlipKey, soon followed.  With one annual fee, a home owner could list and manage their property locally or from a distance.  This had two great owner appeals … one, it eliminated the management fee from a professional vacation rental company and two, certain owners were attracted to the hands-on interaction and pampering of their tenants … it was looked at as a fun second or retirement job … kind of like managing a bed and breakfast.  But the unfortunate truth about owner managed properties are that they generally have a negative impact on the local vacation rental industry and this fact is almost completely unknown by the owners doing the damage.  It comes in various forms but an example would be a home owner that lists his property as “for sale by owner,” then prices it way below the neighborhood comps.  Inexperienced new property owners who do not know the vacation rental market may in the long run do themselves and the surrounding vacation rental properties, a disservice by underpricing their vacation rental and causing a “race to the bottom.”  Professional management companies look at area “comps,” and even though they do not typically get together to set rental rates, they do look at market norms and head typically in the “up” direction instead of driving rates down.  Over the past few years, I have rates between owner managed and professionally managed properties, run all over the place with ridiculous variances.  A perfect and true example is a three bedroom, completely updated, newly furnished, perfectly located property that I would have listed at $4,800 per month, the owner was renting at $2,500 per month.  Lucky tenant … but now it makes it more difficult for my $4,800 property and all the other properties listed at “market” price, to compete.  Bottom line is that this owner is potentially driving the market down instead of in the other direction.  Now this may not have as much of an impact in some areas, but in a highly sought after country club that tenants seek out year after year, go with friends, associate and meet at the pools, dinners, etc. … this has a huge impact.  Those tenants who have rented directly from owners will slam their phones down in our ears, when we quote them our rates.

There has also been a huge fall-out from owner management rentals who usually are run by absentee owners who are entirely focused on their bottom line and not on the behavior of their tenants or “justifiable” complaints from their neighbors.  These are the owners that disregard the city ordinance regulations and rent their properties as party homes or a two bedroom condo to eight people.  These “problem” properties fall into the “one bad apple” scenario.  This is one of the major contributing factors to stiff city ordinances, negative press on vacation rentals and the disgruntled and very vocal neighbors that show up at every city council meeting.  It has added to owners hesitating to rent out their properties and renters hesitating to stay in particular areas.  Ultimately it reflects on all vacation rentals, whether owner managed or professionally managed and hopefully will not end in the demise of the entire industry.

So … things have changed a lot and I guess that’s a good thing.  We all have to make adjustments to these changes as they arise.  Bottom line is this … tenants no longer are happy to with just anything available.  They want the best, with all the bells and whistles and at the best price.  There is a lot of competition out there and if you are not willing to provide “the best,” someone else will.  If you think about it … isn’t that exactly what you look for in any purchase you make?

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The Power of The Review

reviewsI am always on the lookout for topics that will interest both vacation rental owners and renters  …  this article focuses more on owners, however, it also gives vacation rental guests a glimpse into some of the challenges that rental owners face.  Granted, there are owners out there who are aware of their property’s  “shortcomings” but most owners, especially the ones that manage their vacation home from a distance, are very concerned about their guest’s vacation experience and may not be aware of shortages or maintenance issues.  Perhaps a phone call to the owner, or their management company, will quickly remedy an issue and improve your rental experience and most likely save a great property a bad review.

As the owner and manager of Vacation Rentals of the Desert, I often run into issues that I was unaware of until reported by a vacationing guest.  Unless the owners actually spends time “living” in their vacation rental home, it is sometimes difficult to identify problems before they arise.  For instance … a broken toaster that the previous guest felt uncomfortable about reporting or simply forgot;  when the next guest finds that the toaster is not working, it may appear that the owner or management company simply does not care, which usually is absolutely not true.  Same for a chipped serving bowl shoved in the back of the cabinet or a torn sheet in the linen closet full of sheets.  Rarely will an owner or management company inventory and check the operation of every item within a property between each and every vacationing guest.   Unfolding every sheet to inspect for tears, pulling every dish out of the kitchen cabinet to check for chips and wear; it takes hours and hours and is usually done once a year, typically during the “off season”

If you are a vacationing guest, the best way to handle issues that arise during your stay, is to report it immediately then write your review of the property based on how the issue was handled.  That being said, I absolutely understand that you are on vacation and do not want to be bothered with repairmen or want to wait around for replacement sheets or towels, etc.  But, if the owner or management company is making every effort to find a happy solution, then you might just think back to how things unexpectedly go wrong at your own home.  It happens in every home … appliances and air conditioners break, sheets tear, dishes chip, toasters stop working … “stuff happens!”

For home owners, whether you handle your own vacation rental or list your home with a professional management company, the following article should be of particular interest to you.  The very slightest problem in an absolutely beautiful and pristine property, could result in a devastating review that plummets your property’s desirability.  Vacation Rentals of the Desert has experienced each and every one of the issues mentioned in this article, avoiding them whenever possible, but ultimately it is the owner who makes the final call on recommended upgrades and replacements.

So I encourage everyone to take a few minutes to read this wonderful article posted May 23, 2014 by Mike Bayer of CottageBlogger.   It perfectly demonstrates “the power of the review.”

 

10 WAYS TO PREVENT COMPLAINTS AND NEGATIVE REVIEWS FOR YOUR VACATION RENTAL

Oh no…..a negative review! The day you get the first of these is never a happy one and there’s always a knee jerk reaction that will throw you into defensive mode. How dare they? Don’t they know what damage publicly displayed bad feedback can do? It’s completely unfair and we have to get it removed.

But hold on a moment. Take a deep breath and take some time to consider what prompted the negative comments. Could it have been easily prevented by taking a proactive approach? Although some situations are impossible to predict many complaints arise from completely preventable scenarios and taking steps to avoid them can save you time, stress and the potential for negative reviews.

Here’s a few you may want to consider. Some have examples drawn from real Flipkey reviews.

  1. The property was not as described

Giving a misleading impression or being economical with the truth of a situation will generally come back to bite you with a complaint that the property was not ‘as described’. Nobody wants surprises and if the reality doesn’t match with the description and photos you’ve provided, because you have omitted a significant feature, a complaint is bound to follow. Being transparently open about the shortcomings of your property can bring you more satisfied customers because people appreciate honesty and candour.

Prevent this by: Being upfront with the negatives as well as the positive of the property

Click here to read entire article ….

 

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The Best Return on Your Investment

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Professional photos are key to a successful vacation rental.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To continue last week’s blog post … this week we had professional photos taken at our newest addition and this property is so amazing that not only am I anxious to show it off, but I also think it is a perfect example of that age-old saying …. “A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words.”

Click on the photo above to view this gorgeous vacation home and read about all it’s great amenities!

Happy Sunday to all my friends.

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Photos That Will Make Your Rental Shine!

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I recently received a call from a prospective new client, Tim.  Tim explained that he and his wife have a vacation rental that they were interested in listing with my company.  He told me that I could view the property on Zillow and gave me the listing number.  Based on the photos alone, I almost turned down the property … but being aware of how bad my own photography skills are, I wrote down their lock-box code and promised to visit the property and call Tim back the next day.  (See photo below)  The next morning when I walked into the vacation home, I just shook my head …. this property was absolutely gorgeous.  The photos on their Zillow listing did not even begin to do justice to this amazing home and it was not surprising that their listing did not bring in many inquiries.

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GREAT PHOTOS may very well be the number one component in a successful vacation rental listing … and my advice … never cut corners.    With this in mind, I found a great article on the TripAdvisor Vacation Rental Blog, posted August 11, 2015, that I want to share today.  For vacation rental listings, I am a firm believer in professional photography, however from time to time I have met owners who consider themselves semi-professional or photographers “at heart.”  For those of you who have a better than average camera and eye, I think  the following article will be helpful.

P.S.  This week Tim and his wife signed up with my company, Vacation Rentals of the Desert.  Professional photos are being shot this coming Thursday!  So happy to add yet another “amazing” property to our list of vacation homes.

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7 PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS TO MAKE YOUR RENTAL SHINE

Posted On 11 Aug 2015
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When your potential guests are researching for their hard-earned trip, looks matter. Your photos need to show off your rental at its best to bring in the bookings.

You don’t have to be a professional photographer to take a great picture, but it helps to get some advice from one. Grab your digital camera and read these seven top tips from our guest contributor Mike Frisbee, a TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals homeowner and photographer, who knows a thing or two about taking photos that sparkle.

1. FIND SOME INSPIRATION

First off: check out the competition. When someone else’s listing leaves you itching to book a vacation, note down what’s great about the photos and try a similar approach.  Click here to read the entire article … 

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Pretty Potty!

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Give your bathroom the “spa look” with quick, easy and inexpensive decor updates.

The past few weeks I have been posting ideas for updating and dressing up a tired vacation rental property … my summer project.  It is surprising how small, inexpensive updates, in just the right areas, can greatly enhance your vacation rental business … and again, I cannot stress this enough … if you are a vacation rental owner … you are in business!  You know the old saying, “it takes money to make money.”  This is oh so true in vacation rentals.  A photo of outdated furnishings and décor on your vacation rental listing can turn away business.   Old silk plants, and especially those dated silk flowers, dated bedding and towels … all these things show up in photos and make a property look old and uncared-for.  Always assume that your potential renters live in a nice updated home, that they see the latest trends and décor in stores and magazines.  Why would they select a dated property for their vacation?

The vacation rental business is booming and with the recent growth, there are plenty of properties out there decked out with all the “latest and greatest.”  Back when the availability of vacation rental homes was limited …. guests were happy finding anything.  That has changed dramatically in the past five years.  Now guests can be choosy and sometimes, demanding.  We’re in their world now and as any smart business owner knows, you have to find a way to keep their “customers” coming back and attract new ones.  What you are selling cannot just be available …. it must be desirable too  … and better then the rental next door.

So your friends and family say they LOVE your property.  If you allow your friends and family to stay at your property free or at a small cost, OF COURSE THEY LOVE YOUR PROPERTY!!  If they say otherwise, your feelings may be hurt and you may not invite them back.  You must look at your property through impartial eyes.  I have to do this every day.  It is difficult, but it is in the owner’s best interest that I am honest … kind, but honest.

So today let’s talk about bathrooms.  It is surprising how a few simple updates, at little cost, can go such a long way.  When your prospective guests scroll through your property photos, instead of whizzing through the bathroom pictures, they may even just take a second look.  TIP:  In bedrooms and bathrooms … the “spa” look and feel is what sells.

Below is the master bathroom at the vacation home I am currently updating.  The home owner suggested a blue palate, and I ran with it, adding color with countertop décor and eye-popping towels, to transform this nondescript and sparsely decorated, white and tan master bath to an updated spa like retreat.  This full transformation came in under $200 …. thanks to HomeGoods!

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Off Season Destinations

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Yesterday I had a great conversation with one of our property owners.  He’s been on a visit this past week, staying at his vacation rental home here in the desert.  He likes the desert at this time of the year and I thought today would be an ideal time to talk about the often overlooked appeal of off-season rentals.

Escaping from his hectic life in Los Angeles, Lou likes the “peace and quiet” during the off-season … “I can take a walk in the evening and not have to fight crowds.  I may not even see another person.”  It’s true … locals love the off-season, no crowds, no waiting in line at your favorite restaurant … or any restaurant for that matter!  Nights are balmy, sitting outside with friends … toes in the pool, a glass of wine under a perfect star filled sky … and believe me, there is nothing like the clear desert skies!  Paradise, complete and utter relaxation!  During off-season, those of us remaining in the desert can enjoy a gourmet three course dinner, then a stroll along El Paseo Drive (the desert’s equivalent of Rodeo Drive); or a block-buster movie at The River Entertainment Center and an ice cream cone afterwards.  We drop our kids off at the water park so mom and dad can treat themselves to a day at one the desert’s world-class spas.  An early morning round of golf, a shopping trip to the Cabazon Outlet Stores, a hiking trip to the Joshua Tree National Park, and the list goes on and on and on.  The thing is … no one is here but the locals so just about everything is offered at a deep discount to draw more business.  Three-course gourmet meals at five-star restaurants as low as $25!  A round of golf as low as $25!  Spas offering huge savings on spa treatments and packages!  Half price all day Tuesday at Century Movie Theaters!  And yes … vacation rentals are offered at ridiculously low rates too.

Now through September, Vacation Rentals of the Desert is offering two bedroom country club condominiums, four days/three nights for $475 … all-inclusive, no additional fees!  OK, let’s do the math … if it’s just you, or you and a spouse or you and your family … that’s $158.33 per night.  If it’s you and another couple … that’s $79.17 per couple per night or $237.50 for a long weekend … in a luxury condominium, on a golf course, by a pool!  Then with discount meals and entertainment, it’s a vacation deal you just can’t beat.  We also have three bedroom condos at $525 for three nights, perfect for the larger family or three couples … now you do the math.  If you’re in driving distance of the desert … or maybe you live here and would like friends or family to visit, but maybe not at your house … this is a great, great deal.  And don’t let the heat scare you off … we have air conditioning and lots and lots of pools!

But you may not be up for a visit to our beautiful Palm Springs desert … just about any destination has it’s “high” and “low” season.  Maybe a trip to the beach in the winter … walks on the beach without fighting crowds or dodging cyclists … picture sitting on the porch of a cozy beach front vacation home, wrapped in a warm blanket, hands warmed by a steaming cup of coffee while you watch the sun set and the fog roll onto the shore, a couple of fishing boats bobbing on the waves in the distance … maybe your “honey” is snuggled next to you, not another soul in sight.  Romantic movie stuff, huh?

Hopefully you understand where I’m going with this.  Off season destinations are frequently overlooked and often offer great value, especially if you long for peace and relaxation.  Many of our vacation rental properties vary as much as 50% from high to low season rates, as do many of the restaurants and area attractions.  Do some poking around on the internet and I’m sure you can find some of these same “off season” deals throughout the world.  Finding a destination within a few hours’ drive is a great way to take affordable small vacations throughout the year.

Finding a relaxing weekend escape from your busy life without a stressful cost … priceless!

Photo:  http://www.sultanssuites.com/project/portfolio-post-with-gallery/

 

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