Vacation Rentals and the Sharing Economy

teaserbox_945368409

After taking a reservation from a wonderful gal that we’ve become acquainted with over the past few years, I received the below email, which inspired this article.  Our staff met her as an owner’s guest during a couple of her visits to one of the properties we manage.  She called yesterday looking for a property to rent for her family next month during the Thanksgiving holiday and luckily we found her a spectacular property that met all her needs.

I have to tell you:  before I called Vacation Rentals of the Desert, I looked on line at VRBO … and I just felt uneasy about accepting at face value what the owner was saying.  I also realized that I was checking out properties a little late in the game.   

That said — I have friends who have rented through VRBO and have had tremendous success. 

I think the fact that I had spoken in the past to your company (from a friend’s unit that you manage, regarding a maintenance issue and also in regards to a neighbor having fallen in the unit next door and reporting that to 911 and to your agency) made me feel very comfortable in trusting your company’s sense of what might be the right thing for me to rent this fall!

Many, many thanks to you and Kathy!  As recommended in your email, I’ll be in touch closer to arrival regarding keys, etc.

 

Of course I responded to this email with our thanks and further explained to her that I too had been in her position last year and had similar feelings about dealing with owners I did not know.  I wrote about this in a blog titled “Girlfriend Retreat,” dated June 8, 2014.  Today I’ll share some of my mixed feelings on what is now being called the “sharing economy.”

Watching HGTV, which my followers know is one of my biggest addictions, I love the shows that demonstrate how it is affordable to own a second home if you take in a certain amount of vacation renters.  These are great shows and do a lot to build the industry but my only caution to those who have interest in buying with an absolute need to rent the property … “due diligence” is a must.  These shows do not take into account things such as year round utility costs including Wi-Fi and TV cable, property maintenance such as pool service, gardening and home repairs or upkeep of supplies and cleaning.  Nor do they include the costs of advertising, HOA fees, commercial liability insurance, warranty programs or an emergency fund in the event of a major issue such as a broken hot water heater or HVAC that interrupts rentals for a period of time.

If I owned a vacation rental, which I don’t, I can say for certain that I would handle the property myself, doll it up and pamper my guests.  It can be fun if you do it correctly … but it’s what I do every day.  I know the rules and regulations; I know the cleaning requirements and know what makes tenants happy and how to avoid upsets.  BUT I would manage it myself only if I lived close to the vacation rental … otherwise I would definitely look for assistance from a professional vacation rental management company.  Trusting a cleaning service, friends or family, is just too big of a risk and a responsibility that I would not put on someone I cared about.  Vacation rentals can be fun … but they are also very demanding and dealing with rental clients, neighbors and city ordinance regulations these days, can have you jumping through hoops day and night.

Returning to our client’s email above and her hesitancy to work with someone she did not know … I will share with you some of my experiences with property owners.  This year alone I turned down about five properties.  Owners inviting me to their vacation homes, wishing to list with Vacation Rentals of the Desert, but having substandard properties.  I really, really hate turning down a property and always try my best to convince these owners to take the necessary steps to bring their properties up to speed.  Sometimes it works, but more often than not … I get excuses why the property is fine how it is.  Here’s just a few …

I walk into a property with carpet at least thirty years old; stained and worn.  Foil wall paper on the walls and in the bathrooms, it’s even on the ceilings.  The living room sofa is 1970s plaid with Early American furniture.  Anyone old enough to remember spindly-leg Early American furniture?  The flowered bedspread in the master matches the flowered curtains that are faded from the sun.  I could go on, but I won’t … I’m sure you get it.  This property was too far gone and I had to explain to a really nice lady that our customers are looking for a more updated property.  She offered to purchase throw rugs to cover the carpet stains, but insisted the living room furniture was fine and she loved the flowered bedspread and claimed that it had been very expensive … yes, thirty years ago!   She told me that all of her friends and family who had stayed there, loved it.  Of course they would …. who would want to upset this really sweet lady.  Ultimately I had to walk away from this property wishing the owner, sincerely, the best of luck.

Another property that I viewed; the owner lived full time at the property but would move in with a friend when it is rented.  He would need to lock one of the three bedrooms and the garage, for his personal possessions and insisted on doing all of the cleaning, before and after guests.  The place is very dirty but he insisted that he was an excellent cleaner.  I explained that maybe the locked garage would be okay but not the locked bedroom.  Tenants are spooked by a locked room … closet okay, room no.  Also I told him that we needed to use our cleaners due to sanitation requirements and guarantees.  When he would not agree to these requirements, we parted ways with a handshake.

On another occasion I received a call from an owner describing her property as totally updated and she was certain we could ask for top dollar.  Upon walking up to the property, I could see that the bedroom window coverings were mini-blinds … some bent … oh no!  But she’s was absolutely correct … it was completely updated … in the 80s!  Mauve carpet, mini-blinds, 1980’s pastel southwest furniture, 1980s appliances.  She explained that she has been renting it herself but was tired of getting complaints from tenants all the time.  I looked at her website listing and she had described her property as “completely updated throughout.”  It’s not a wonder that her tenants were unhappy.  It was clearly misrepresented.  I passed.

The dated property scenario happens over and over again, almost as much as the “completely updated” story.  Many owners do not realize how competitive the vacation rental market has become.  For every dated property, there are ten updated properties with all the new bells and whistles.  When vacation rental owners say that their friends and relatives love the property, and they all say this … I think, but can’t point out the obvious … how many friends tell you that your butt looks big in that dress or you walk funny? They don’t want to cause hurt feelings, or risk not being invited back.  People are very tolerant of shortcomings when they’re staying free or at the cost of a cleaning.

There is also the “eye of the beholder” to take into consideration.  I wrote about this in an earlier blog post titled “Hopelessly Stuck in the 80s!,” posted January 12, 2014.  Many owners who purchased and decorated their vacation homes years ago, view the property through very different eyes than you and I.  Their homes are filled with memories and they do not see any of the shortcomings, only the property that they love.

There was a time, when tenants were happy to find any home available for their vacation, but that was some years ago.  Now, with the vacation rental boom and the variety of properties readily available, an updated, well maintained property is extremely important.  As recently as a couple of years ago, I would take on dated properties, pricing them accordingly, with the thought that there is a price point for every tenant.  I have found since then that dated properties are a lose/lose situation.  Despite informing tenants before they book, that the rental rate is low because it is a bit of an “ugly duckling,” dated but well maintained and squeaky clean … we will still get complaints.  Often it doesn’t matter how much you clean … “old” just looks dirty.    On the other hand, the property owners will inevitably know a neighbor who is making more money on their property of the same size and not taking into consideration the dated condition of their property, ask us why they are listed at a lower rate.  So I no longer take dated properties.  Sometimes the juice is just not worth the squeeze!

If you are a vacation rental owner, and I have said this many, many times … drag a stranger, your friend’s acquaintance, a property manager, over to your vacation property and ask for an “honest assessment.”  DO NOT ask a friend.  DO NOT ask a relative.  A friend or relative will NOT give you an honest answer.  They will not risk hurting your feelings.  If your furniture, beds or décor are twenty years old … your prospective tenants will see this and your vacation rental business will suffer.  If they do rent … you will get complaints and the tenant reviews on your website will be bad and discourage future business.

There are very, very few properties that can pull off a dated look.  The properties that can are mid-century modern and maybe some vintage, antique filled Victorians.  1970s, 1980s and 1990’s era furniture are not desirable at all.  If you are doing mid-century modern you should be careful about how much original furnishings you are adding to the home.  A few vintage pieces here and there, some art, lamps, etc. are usually okay … but not the entire house.  I have seen it … it never works.  It looks old and shabby.  You will want your beds and living room furniture to be new.  Remember that the vintage pieces you buy are over fifty years old and may break.  One of the properties we manage has a very expensive Eames chair.  I have grown to hate this beautiful chair.  Twice it has broken.  Once with a tenant sitting in it.  The breaks were not due to misuse, it came from fifty to sixty years of butts in and butts out.  Excessive wear and tear.  A reproduction would have been equally attractive, less expensive and safer.

A clean property is THE number one priority.  It doesn’t matter how much you’ve spent on dolling your property up … if it’s dirty … that’s all the tenants will see.  One dead bug laying in the entry of an otherwise spotless home, can upset tenants to the point that they think the home is insect infested and want a full refund.  You must make sure that the home was been well cleaned and sanitized, and that someone checks the property just prior to your tenant’s arrival.  You will also want to make sure that you immediately address any cleaning issues that a tenant may report … I stress immediately!  Likewise for maintenance issues and repairs.  If your property is listed on a website than your tenants have “The Power of the Review,” another recent blog post for you to read, dated August 30. 2015.  With the review, tenants have the power to make or break your vacation rental’s success.

I have done many inspections after an owner has said that they would have the property cleaned for an upcoming vacation rental, only to find that the toilets were dirty and the sheets needed to be washed … hair on the pillows and the corners of the sheets popped off the mattress, don’t lie.  I have a computer file filled with these photos where I’ve documented the issues and then had to rush our cleaners in to do a proper job before the tenants arrived.

If you are a prospective renter and have read this far … you probably get the message.  Most people who list on VRBO are wonderful owners, I won’t get into Airbnb, but there are the few vacation rental owners who are only concerned about their bottom line.  I understand the appeal of the “sharing economy,” and applaud all the conscientious vacation rental owners, but seeing what happens from our view inside the professional industry … I’m waiting for the “other shoe to drop.”  I would not advertise that I make the best lasagna in town, which I do, and open my front door to paying clients nor would I cross into Mexico to get a less expensive facelift.  There are some situations where the risks are too high … I’m not a lucky gambler.  I often wonder how there can be so many people who are willing to risk their vacation money … but again, I’m not a gambler.  I’m very happy to pay a little more through a vacation management company for my peace of mind, knowing that I will have certain guarantees and that the company has a valuable reputation to protect as well as a full team of professionals with one main objective … to make me happy.

Photo:  http://whitehousecleaning4u.com/

3af380b7437c8dde1d2f6def5fa373Logo Vector Final 11-24-09

 

Advertisements

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 ….

 

3af380b7437c8dde1d2f6def5fa373Logo Vector Final 11-24-09

 

 

 

Why Should You Go With a Pro?

Java Printing

The following is a post I am sharing from the Vacation Rental Managers Association’s Blog dated April 23, 2015 by Trisha Howarth. There are many reasons to consider professional management of your vacation home. Trisha has just about summed it up … but there are additional benefits and you will find a few below her post in the comments section. The final comment I submitted yesterday. As a vacation rental owner, there are many points mentioned below that you will want to consider when making your decision on professional or self-management.

Why Should Homeowners Go With a Pro?

Thinking about renting your own vacation home? Here are some things to consider.

It may be tempting to place your home on a “for rent by owner” website and attempt to handle the rental of your home without using a professional agency. While saving on agency fees may be tempting, are the savings really money in the bank?

Time is money. The value of having an agency handle rental for you allows you to focus on the enjoyment of your second home versus the rental and maintenance aspect associated with home ownership. Filtering inquiries, booking reservations, greeting guests, servicing the guests while they are in your home, maintenance calls, trust accounting, tax submissions, and marketing all take a large amount of time. How does the return on the time it takes to do all these items compare with your regular earning potential during these hours or to the value of time spent doing things you love?

Security of your investment is key. On-site personnel is essential for assuring that your home is in good order and guests have left the home as they found it. What if something does happen during a guest’ stay? Handling collections and legal issues surrounding damage or an event can be difficult especially if the issue isn’t caught in a timely manner. How will you know if your home is secure and maintained without hiring some to check it for you?

Attention to you and your guests are the focal points of a professional agency. Vacation rental management companies are in business to bring agency, homeowner and guest together in business transactions that benefit all parties. It is what they do. Agencies hire full-time employees and provide them with professional and legal training as well as stay knowledge about industry trends. Agencies also have systems in place to take care of owners and rental guests. Some agencies also may have an attorney on staff to assist in daily decisions regarding rental receipts and advise on issues that arise.

Exposure through marketing brings awareness and results in bookings. When you list your home with a website provider you become limited to one stream of exposure. A professional agency may list your home on the very website you are considering and pay the associated fees; however, an agency invests money in many forms of advertising including web, print, direct mail and public relations.

Satisfaction comes in many forms. In the short-term the savings may seem worth it; however, peace of mind is worth something. “For rent by owner” sites taut booking results, but what about your personal experiences with rental guests and the overall experiences of the guests themselves? Taking the worry out of maintaining a home you visit several times a year, the challenges of customer service and all the various components of renting a home is what a professional agency does.

Before listing your home on a “for rent by owner” site, research rental agency firms and weigh your options. Vacation rental management companies with proven track records can offer a way for homeowners to enjoy their second home instead of manage it.

 

Comments

By: William LeMasters

On: 04/28/2015 12:31:37

Additional benefits of professional management comes with stronger vendor relationships that a management company develops which results in faster response times and better pricing on repairs and supplies.
Additionally a management company works with larger data blocks and can be more effective setting and adjusting pricing to maximize revenue.

By: Erin Mitchell

On: 04/28/2015 13:34:58

William brings up a very good point. Strong vendor relationships is huge and can ultimately make or break a guest’s experience if something does go wrong. We have had last minute issues with pools, appliances, AC- you name it and our strong relationship with certain vendors helps us solve these issues much quicker. In Hawaii, this difference is especially exaggerated as there is a very small vendor pool to call as it is and repair parts are often not in stock.

To add to the point about “Time” – No matter what, someone always has a question in the group (where’s the extra TP, can you recommend a cab, what time is sunset, do the trees block the view, etc.) and having a professional manage your property means you have some available to answer the many questions a guest has and at all hours.

By: Vickie Murguia

On: 05/23/2015

Another advantage would be in handling city ordinance regulations and the oversight of short term vacation rentals. It is difficult for an owner to manage their property from a distance when city ordinances have strict monitoring regulations. Many cities require a responsible party be available twenty-four hours a day and within an hour’s drive if a code enforcement violation is received. It is also beneficial to have an advocate of vacation rentals present at HOA and City Council meetings to represent absentee owners and their rights. Attending these meetings, I have noticed that some of the most vocal complaints from residents opposed to short term vacation rentals, site absentee owners who manage their properties from a distance and feel that there is no oversight of the tenants reflecting a lack of concern for their surrounding neighbors. Vacation Rentals of the Desert makes it a practice to pass out our business cards to neighbors of the vacation home and encourage owners to do the same. I have found that when neighbors feel that their concerns matter and have a local professional company that can be contacted directly, it has often circumvented complaint calls to city officials, and saved the owner costly fines. It will also generate a better relationship between the vacation rental owner and their neighbors.

3af380b7437c8dde1d2f6def5fa373Logo Vector Final 11-24-09

Spot Cleaning Carpets

carpet_cleaning

This week I want to talk about carpets again.

One of our rental guests called to report that she had tracked mud into the master bedroom.  Having found a bottle of carpet spot remover hidden in the back of a utility closet, she attempted to clean the carpet herself. The carpet turned blue. Yikes!

If you are a guest in a vacation rental home … please don’t use spot cleaners. If you own a vacation rental home … please don’t leave spot cleaners for your guests. There are so many variables when it comes to spot cleaning a carpet. The kind of stain, how long the spot remover has been sitting in the cabinet, the type of carpet, manufacturers recommendations and most important of all … making sure you do not leave any residue. Removing the residue is very difficult and if not fully removed, the residue will act like sticky glue, grabbing everything on the bottom of shoes and will most likely become a permanent stain. In many cases the carpet will look beautiful after professional carpet cleaning, but the spots will quickly return once people start walking on it again.  So the bottom line … saving a little money by spot cleaning may cost you the price of a carpet replacement!

Below are a few visual examples.  The carpet photos with the blue spots is the results of the spot remover our guest (mentioned above), used to remove the muddy footprints. We had our carpet cleaners immediately go out and do a thorough cleaning. Hopefully these spots will not come back.

The second set of photos is of a vacation rental property where the owners spot cleaned the carpet themselves. The carpet is pristine after professional carpet cleaning, however within days the spots return and they are appalling. This carpet will be replaced after this rental season. In the meantime we have laid down area rugs to hide the unsightly carpet.  Pretty nasty … huh?

20150303_145554_resized20150303_145610_resized

IMG_4383IMG_5501

3af380b7437c8dde1d2f6def5fa373Logo Vector Final 11-24-09

Today!

Dr-Seuss-TODAY-iS-YOUR-day-Your-font-b-MOUNTAIN-b-font-is-waWell today is here!  Our single busiest day of the year … so I’ll keep this short and sweet since I need to head out the door.  Today … all hands are on deck!

Today we have about forty-five properties with people coming and going and thirty-four of these have a five hour turn around between guests!   Not an easy task, but all properties need to be checked after guests depart and again before guests arrive.  All have to be cleaned, fluffed and fussed over because every one of our guests deserve to arrive to a thoroughly clean vacation home after their travels.

This past week has been all about timing!  We have talked to each of our guests and know their precise time of departure, whether early or at the appointed 10 a.m. hour.  We have contacted our arriving guests as well and know the times of their flights (barring airline delays) and have their ETAs.  Cleaners have been tightly scheduled to fit the timing just so.  The first day of January, February, March and April have always been challenging.  These are the most popular arrival and departure days of the year and organizing these days takes a great deal of work.  Keys, garage door openers, gate transponders and gate passes to be returned, logged in and then logged back out again.  Gas and electric meters to be read on homes with private pools.  Pool heat to be turned on, or turned off.  Properties to be inspected, damage reported and addressed.

So … today I ask that my readers say a little prayer for my staff, cleaners, handymen, departing and arriving guests.  I’ve got a glass of red wine with my name on it … but first I’ve got to make it through … today!

3af380b7437c8dde1d2f6def5fa373Logo Vector Final 11-24-09

Cleaning Schedules … Not as Easy as You May Think

shutterstock_248436262

 

 

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.

3af380b7437c8dde1d2f6def5fa373Logo Vector Final 11-24-09

My Favorite Finds of 2014

Always+ElegantIt’s hard for me to believe that today I celebrate the first anniversary of this blog!  The year has flown by … and my family and co-workers do not seem at all surprised that I’ve had so much to say.  I, on the other hand, was not certain that I was up for the challenge … but it seems there must be a direct correlation between talking and writing, much to the amusement of my husband/editor who gleefully wields his editing pen every Sunday morning.  In other words … I have a tendency to go on, and on, and on a bit.
In researching topics of interest for Some Place Like Home, I have made some wonderful discoveries.  Most that I have yet to share with you because they did not warrant a full article.  So I thought it might be fitting in this last post of the year to share some of my favorite finds of 2014. 

 

 Joss & Main: https://www.jossandmain.com

8-Piece+Pierce+Comforter+SetLaurie+Sheet+Set+in+Teal4-Piece+Willard+Comforter+Set

Oh my goodness do these folks know how to make a bed!  Love, love, love all the wonderful bedroom collections.  Sheets, blankets, comforters piled high … pillows, shams … makes you want to dive in and take a nap.  If only every bed in every property we managed had such a luxurious and inviting look!  Property owners, this is exactly what you are striving for; this is the look that sells prospective tenants.  Makes sure to sign up for their emails; Joss & Main have frequent sales.

Restoration Hardware: http://www.restorationhardware.com

prod3250243prod690947_F11prod2460862

If you can afford a good piece of furniture or two … I recommend this decorator quality store.  Their furniture, light fixtures and accent pieces work with almost any decor and are always the latest in style.  If the $$$ turns you away … use this site for décor inspiration, then try to duplicate “the look.”  My personal favorites … unique chandeliers that make a BIG statement and the fun industrial-meets-traditional-meets-shabby chic furnishings.  And, Restoration Hardware carries the very best spa/hotel quality bedding.

How to Insert a Comforter Into a Duvet:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aviWdkOHDU4

duvetcover

 

This is just “too cool.”  Ever struggle with stuffing your comforter into the duvet cover?  Even with two people this can be a total pain in the butt.  For years I bypassed beautiful duvets covers, settling for standard bedspreads to avoid the hassle of stuffing the comforter back in after washing.  Recently I learned that many luxury hotels have entirely eliminated the top sheet!  They make up beds with a flat sheet, then a duvet over a comforter and perhaps a coverlet on top … or not.  They wash the duvet covers with the sheets assuring pristine clean bedding.  I have a couple of owners doing the same thing.  My initial aggggggg was replace with an OMG when I saw this video.

How to Fold a Fitted Sheet:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-a2FR1iwqg

fittedsheetMy readers may remember an article I posted on July 27th titled “One of the Coolest Things Ever,” which included a video on how to easily fold a fitted sheet.  No more messy linen closet after watching this video (I confess … I watched it at least a dozen times). 

On Line Shopping

amazon.com, overstock.com, lowes.com, homedepot.com, costco.com, samsclub.com, ebay.com.

Anyone who knows me … knows I love to shop; but with other people’s money … not so much.  OK, sheets, blankets, dishes … they’re fine.  But when it comes to home décor like furniture, art, window coverings and even appliances … the pressure is on.   Most people have their own unique taste, budget and preferred manufactures.   I love on line shopping because out of town owners can easily make purchases for their vacation home on line and arrange delivery to the property, management company or in some cases, arrange for store pick-up.  The owner can make choices based on their own taste, at the price point they want and it takes the property manager off the hook.  Everyone’s happy!  I love to shop, I love to decorate … but honestly … owners want me to be doing what I do best … working in the office, filling their vacation home with tenants and helping them make money.

I’m sure there are many, many more wonderful finds out there ….. please share your favorites.

Happy New Year my friends! 
See ya’ll in 2015! 

 

3af380b7437c8dde1d2f6def5fa373Logo Vector Final 11-24-09

The Absolute, Number One, Most Important Detail …

958433      . . . . Cleaning!

As we approach the holidays and a great number of guest arrivals, cleaning concerns are in the forefront of my mind.  Vacation Rentals of the Desert gives owners the option of doing their own cleaning, using their personal cleaner or enlisting our cleaning service.  Thankfully most of our owners use our cleaning service who are skilled in the cleaning requirements of a vacation rental property.  For the few owners that choose to handle their own cleaning, we provide a list of requirements and will schedule an inspection of the clean prior to the guest’s arrival.  This system works well most of the time.  Many owners have very high expectations themselves … but for a few, we will unfortunately have an uncomfortable conversation.  Pointing out areas that are missed can be embarrassing for owners that have spent hours and hours cleaning, and they may take the news on a personal rather than professional level.  A couple of months ago I inspected a property after the owner had cleaned.  I always take my camera, and on this occasion it came in handy.  I probably took two dozen photos to back up our need for additional cleaning.  The issues ran from a dirty toilet to food drips on the kitchen trash container; a dirty coffee maker to crumbs in the bottom of the toaster oven, etc.  The owner was greatly offended and wondered “if he should not do vacation rentals in the future.”  After a heart-to-heart, I am hopeful that this owner will see that the cost of a professional cleaning is more than worth his time and trouble. 

So I felt that today I should rerun my very first blog post, dated December 31, 2013.  I cannot say it enough … You can give your guests a huge discount; you can leave them treats, theater tickets, gifts …. none of this, absolutely none, nothing, nada, period, end of story …. will compensate for a dirty property.  Cleaning is the absolute NUMBER ONE most important, not to be circumvented, never to be taken lightly, detail in running a successful vacation rental property!

Question:  You arrive at your hotel room, enter the bathroom, lift up the toilet seat and find yellow stains around the Porcelain rim.  What do you do next?  

I rest my case!

Please read on ….

 

Dec 31, 2013 

Vacation Rentals of the Desert has sparkling clean propertiesThe Absolute,

Number One,

Most Important Detail

 … Cleaning!

 

 

The following is rather blunt … but I hope to create an “Ahh Haa” moment for my readers.  As a vacation rental manager it is one of the most critical aspects of my business and may be the single most import advice I will ever share.

The absolute, number one, most import detail in a successful rental property … and I cannot stress this enough … is cleanliness!  Cutting corners by hiring a cleaner at a lower cost can ultimately cost you much more than a few dollars.  Once a guest has found one area overlooked they will certainly be looking for more and with a much more critical eye.  If the oversight is not addressed immediately this quickly progresses to a second problem … an unhappy guest who will not only give your property a bad review costing you future bookings but your guests will now be less forgiving of any of the properties shortcomings and most certainly will not become a repeat tenant.  All this to save a few dollars?  I will say this many times throughout my future posts … “It is very expensive to be cheap!”  My company,Vacation Rentals of the Desert, guarantees our cleaning service.  If an area is overlooked we immediately schedule the cleaners to return.  We have checks and balances to assure this does not happen but on the rare occasion when something is overlooked, our reaction is prompt and courteous.  There are many areas that may easily be overlooked by cleaners who are not trained in vacation rental cleaning such as organizing linen closets and under kitchen and bathroom sinks.  Identifying and throwing away undesirable items such as used bars of soap, dated or open dry goods, refrigerated containers that are open or are not in squeeze bottles.  Say you have an open jar of mayonnaise or jelly in the refrigerator.  To a first time vacation rental owner this may seem like a convenient condiment for their guest.  Now put yourself in the guest’s shoes … their thoughts … who made a sandwich, licked the knife and stuck it back into the jar?  These items are viewed as gross and definitely unwanted.

As a vacation rental manager or private owner preparing a property for guests, you must have the ability to look through your guest’s eyes and view the property on a less personal level.  Toiletries such as toothpaste, toothbrushes and used shampoo fall into the same category.  These items are unsightly and give the guest an uncomfortable feeling of being an unwelcome trespasser.   I have found hemorrhoid creams, feminine hygiene products, condoms and even a set of false teeth in a jar under bathroom sinks, undergarments in bedroom drawers, personal letters and bills in desk drawers … this is definitely too much information (TMI) and can easily sour a guest’s vacation.  Ceiling fans, light fixtures, baseboards, screens and slider tracks, spotted shower doors, plumbing fixtures and windows … all are critical in presenting a clean and welcoming property.  The owner of our cleaning service puts it this way, “every surface must be touched and cleaned.”  This advice you can take to the bank … cutting corners to save a few dollars on cleaning will, not may, but will cost you future rental income and added stress in dealing with unpleasant guest complaints.   Is this worth saving $10, $50 or $100?

3af380b7437c8dde1d2f6def5fa373Logo Vector Final 11-24-09

Who’s Minding Your Business?

The Pros & Cons of an Owner Managed Vacation Rental

shutterstock_65009158I receive many calls throughout the year from new property owners asking about our services.  Many are researching the pros and cons of professional vacation rental management verses listing and managing their properties themselves.  There are many things to consider … the biggest … how much spare time they have to spend managing their property, particularly if they do not live in the area and whether they have a reliable, trustworthy person they can call upon 24 hours a day.  The primary issues to consider are cleaning, maintenance, tenant assistance, emergencies, overseeing the property while occupied and city/state laws and compliance.

As a vacation rental manager for over eighteen years, I can tell you from personal experience that there is much more than a 50/50 chance that issues will arise during a guest’s stay.  Even the most meticulously clean, well maintained property will have the occasional issue.  When a guest calls, the “manager” of the property MUST answer.  Most of the time the call will be a minor issue; the guest cannot find a needed item or the guest cannot figure out how to use the cable TV remote, etc.   Here are just a few of the more serious scenarios to consider … and all are true stories.

A tenant calls in a panic to report a bad leak is flooding your property or an overflowing toilet has flood the hall carpet.  These kinds of emergencies must be addressed immediately and if you are an owner managing your property … do you carry your cell phone with you all the time?  Sleep with your cell phone by the bed?  You must!  If you do not hear the phone at midnight because it is in another room …. you can imagine how upset the tenant will be in the morning when you finally call them back … they may even have gone to a hotel and expect you to reimburse them for the night’s stay as well as their inconvenience.   An owner will also be worried about the damage to their property.  Who should they call to take care of the repair and damage?  What if the guest cannot get the garage door open and they end up calling a taxi … they are going to expect reimbursement.  Do you have someone reliable you can call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to assist with emergencies and make good, sound decisions?

I have personal experience with owners who have set up their cleaners to not only clean and maintain their property but also handle 24 hour emergency services.  This does not always work out well in an emergency situation as in one case where the owner could not reach the cleaners on Thanksgiving Day to ask for assistance with an emergency at their vacation property.  The guests called the owner to report that the breaker would not flip back on and they had a stuffed turkey in the oven that they could not cook.  The cleaners were at a family gathering and did not hear the phone.  With no assistance from the owner, the rental guests tried to use a heavy duty extension cord they found in the garage to run the electricity to another outlet in the home.  Thank goodness this did not work… it could have been disastrous to the guests and the property.  The guests ended up taking their family to a restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner and the owner not only paid for their entire meal but also for the turkey and fixings that went unused.

An even more disturbing occurrence, and I have two owners who experienced this scenario prior to joining Vacation Rentals of the Desert, was finding that the designated cleaner or friend that the owner arranged to manage the property in their absence, rented out the property unbeknownst to the owner and pocketed the rental fees.  Unfortunately I have heard this story over and over again.  Or … and this happens even more often … the designated “manager” allows their friends or family to stay at the property without informing the owner.

Who’s minding your business? 

The above are just a few stories associated with absentee ownership and every vacation rental owner contemplating owner management verses professional local management should be aware and weigh the pros and cons.  Professional management will definitely cost you a percentage of your rental fees … but in the long run, is the peace of mind and cost of your time worth the price?

Following are some of the other benefits that come along with professional “local” vacation rental management.  These are the benefits we offer at Vacation Rentals of the Desert.  Most of these benefits apply to all professional companies however this is a good check-list to use when interviewing for a management company that suits you and your property.

24/7:      We manage vacation rentals 24/7.  We respond quickly and professionally to guest inquires, vacationing guests and homeowners.  Also, we respond to emergencies 24 hours a day.  We provide all guests with our after-hours emergency number and we provide a guest book with important information about each particular property.

Guest Services:  From reservation inquires to booking; from check-in to repair calls; from concierge services to housekeeping and inspections; we take care of guests and vacation properties 24 hours a day.

Marketing:    Who knows better how to market your vacation home than a professional manager?  Who has more marketing dollars to spend on advertising?  And strength in numbers?  We live here, we participate in our communities, and we are part of the tourism efforts.  Local events, holidays, and customer base of thousands of guests who often return year after year as repeat customers.

Internet Marketing:    We know Internet Marketing!  We know Search Engine Optimization!  Our website is attractive, easy to use and up-to-date.  We know how to help guests find your property online, easily, when they are planning a vacation in the area.  We manage email marketing to past guests, social media marketing, listing sites and a variety of other internet marketing strategies that will lead browsers to our website and to book our properties.

Promotions:    Print, radio, internet, travel bureaus, chambers of commerce, email blasts and Facebook, pre-arrival and post-vacation emails, guest surveys, low-season promotions, rental brochures and rack cards …. We are hospitality experts who promote the area and your property!

Reservations Made Easy:    In person, online or on the phone, our reservationists know your property and know how to promote it to inquiring guests.  Whether paying by check or credit card, Vacation Rentals of the Desert makes it easy for guests to book your property in a secure, professional environment.  Rental and refund policies are clear and professional.  We absorb the credit card fees into the cost of doing business … a savings to our homeowners.

Additional Services:    Travel insurance, additional housekeeping services, golf cart rentals, linen services and much, much more … professional managers offer guests everything they need for a great vacation.

Housekeeping & Inspections:    We employ trained, skilled housekeepers who keep your vacation rental home cleaned to industry and sanitation standards.  Inspectors are in your property before and after every guest, ensuring consistency, quality and making sure that everything is in order.

Maintenance:    We make sure all properties are in great shape at all times; are clean and in good repair.  We offer professional maintenance services with a timely response to maintenance problems and after-hours requests for emergency services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  We use reliable vendors who are qualified to handle practically any situation, at fair prices.  We offer guest plans to cover against accidental breakage/damage.

Money:    As professionals, we maximize the return on your investment property or second home, earning you money when you aren’t using it.  Professional marketing and excellent guest services earn guests’ loyalty and repeat visits.

Records:    We keep the records … from revenues to repairs; from lodging tax to 1099s … you’ll receive professional accounting of what is happening at your property.

Communication:    We let you know what’s happening … from property repairs and marketing initiatives to local issues and industry standards.  We know the vacation rental industry and we’ll keep you informed.

Security:    As professional managers, we are the constant “eyes and ears” for your property.  Instead of sitting empty year-round, vacation homes are lived in, checked and maintained during tenant occupancy.  We meet your guests and we’re available if a problem arises.

Accountability:    As your vacation rental manager, we are primarily accountable to you, the property owner.  All guests are required to sign a detailed rental agreement and review the policies.  We primarily rent to families or adults and do not handle “party houses.”  We do everything we can to protect your home and your investment and to be good neighbors.

Local Connections:    We maintain relationships with HOAs as well as local city officials and agencies … from tourism boards to the police, city compliance officers, City Councils and Chambers.  We are constantly making sure our homeowners views are taken into consideration and that their vacation rental property is viewed favorably.

Good Neighbors:    As professional vacation rental managers, we understand the importance of being good neighbors.  We maintain connections to property owner’s associations, your neighbors and neighborhoods; we keep guests informed about subdivision rules as well as local laws and ordinances.  We patrol our properties in order to enforce policies that do not allow overcrowding of your home, house parties and parking violations.

Local Advocacy:    Professional vacation rental management keeps homeowners’ best interest in mind at all times.  We advocate for clean, attractive communities and we participate in our chamber and tourism boards, planning commissions and other local and tourism related organizations.  We sponsor and volunteer for location initiatives that promote the positive impact from tourism.

Consumer Confidence:    Booking a professional managed vacation rental through a member of the VRMA (Vacation Rental Managers Association) is a seamless process, as all members are held to the highest standard, and committed to quality hospitality, professionalism and industry excellence.  Vacation Rentals of the Desert is a member of the VRMA and the owner serves on the Communication Board.

Time:    Vacation Rentals of the Desert will save homeowners time, worry and simplify the business aspects of vacation rental ownership!  We just about do it all! 

3af380b7437c8dde1d2f6def5fa373Logo Vector Final 11-24-09

Is Your Vacation Home Emergency Ready?

 

BvzDRp7CEAEP3D0This morning Napa, California was “a rockin’ and a rollin’!”   Many northern Californians were abruptly awakened by a 6.0 earthquake at 3:20 a.m. Sunday morning.  California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency.

This is the height of rental season in the Napa Valley and surrounding areas.  Just think of all the vacationing guests who may have experienced their first earthquake in the wee, dark hours this morning.  I found the kitchen photo in a “Tweet” about today’s earthquake.  I wonder how the rest of this home fared and how the occupants are holding up?  Whether this is their first earthquake experience or not, I am certain they are pretty shaken.  What a mess to have to deal with … and what if this was a vacation rental property?  How would a guest deal with the power outage, in the dark, as they are stumbling through a “broken” home?  Who would deal with the clean-up and security of the vacation property?  The guests?  I doubt it.  Most likely … they’d hit the road before the sun came up!

There are no real ways to fully prepare for unforeseen emergencies.  Earthquakes, severe storms, tornados and power outages often arrive unexpectedly.  However, Vacation Rentals of the Desert recommends a few supplies that will be helpful and appreciated by your guests in the event of an emergency:  A flashlight in each nightstand, a flashlight in a kitchen “junk” drawer along with replacement batteries, a fire extinguisher, emergency candles, matches and perhaps a couple of gallon jugs of water in the pantry or garage.

Keep Safe my friends.

“Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and the unpredictable.” ― Gen. George S. Patton

 

3af380b7437c8dde1d2f6def5fa373            Logo Vector Final 11-24-09

%d bloggers like this: