T.O.T. – ALL Vacation Rental Owners Need to Know

335ed1_d276eede1f154ae4ba391f6d2511658bThis week the property owners and management companies who have vacation rental permits in the city of Rancho Mirage were sent an email regarding T.O.T. (transient occupancy tax).  Besides the deadlines for tax submission, the email also reminded owners of the consequences of tax fraud which some owners may not realize they are doing right now.

Long term vacation rentals are generally understood to be rentals of one month or longer.  There may be variances in each city’s definition of the length of these rentals; for some cities it is twenty-eight nights, some thirty and others thirty-one.  You should know that booking a reservation for a one month stay to avoid T.O.T. or to satisfy your HOA (home owners association) rules on length of renter stays, is consider fraud and a felony.  In other words, if you receive an inquiry for a week, three nights, or even one night short of the minimum nights required by your city as a long term rental, and you are audited, you could be charged with fraud.  Depending on the views of your city’s officials on vacation rentals, there could be fines or more serious consequences.

This is widely practiced, but in owner’s defense … it is usually not aimed at saving the tenants the cost of tax, but more to accommodate the owner’s need or desire to only take long term, or monthly rentals.  Most cities do not require a vacation rental permit for properties that solely take long term rentals, but all should know, whether permitted or not … renting your property for one month to tenants staying less than what the city considers a long term stay, could come back to haunt you.

Cities have full rights to the names and contact information on each and every one of your tenants.  If you are audited, as more and more cities are now doing, you could be charged with fraud and a felony.  Likewise, a tenant could be charged with the same if they book your property as a long term with the intent of avoiding T.O.T.

Picture:  http://www.thetamarine.net/#!audits/c1n2c

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Advertise on Facebook to Generate More Rentals!

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Perfect picture for a dog friendly property.

I have a great article to share with you today. Whether you manage your own vacation rental home or list your home with a professional company, if you’re not on Facebook, you are losing out on a great advertising source … and it’s free! Once your Facebook Property Page is up and running, LIKE it through your personal Facebook page so that any content you post will automatically appear on your page … then share it with all your friends. Just think … you share it with your friends, they share it with their friends, and so on and so forth … and you’ve built a following. Now have fun with it but heed the tips listed below and don’t sell just the property, all the time. Post personal photos and stories from times when you and your family have visited the property or “share” area events and attractions which can easily be found in internet searches. The goal is to make your followers want to stay at your vacation home by showing them how desirable it is and what a great time they will have. In addition, Facebook is a great marketing tool that will not only build relationships with your potential guests but also generate a level of trust that surpasses that of a simple property listing.

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5 Must-Follow Tips for Marketing Your Vacation Rental on Facebook

Mar 15, 2013

by Jonathan Murray of MyVR.com

Social media isn’t just another medium to broadcast your message. It’s also a channel for building relationships and soft selling. Facebook is an excellent way to turn existing customers into repeat customers that also generate referral business. It’s a place to nurture past guests, nurture those who were interested in your home but didn’t book, and keep in touch with top influencers (i.e. family and friends who may not book directly, but will likely refer you to friends and colleagues who will book).

If you don’t have a Facebook Page for your vacation rental, set one up here. This is different than your personal profile – it’s the home base for your business on Facebook.

Then, make sure you’re following these top 5 tips for marketing on Facebook:

1. Don’t promote yourself all the time

Rookie mistake #1. If every post is “stay at my home,” “rent my villa,” or “check out my place,” you’re not going to have many fans for long. You can talk about your home once in every five posts (or less). Don’t try to sell too much on Facebook. It’s all about building and nurturing relationships with your fans. This means you’ll need to come up with other compelling content to publish, so experiment and see what fans interact with most.

2. Post photos and other engaging content

Photos have the highest engagement from fans (i.e. comments and “likes”), followed by videos, so give them what they want to see. Yes, that means having stunning photos of your home, but also include shots from the surrounding area and local attractions. Remember, people have “liked” your Page because they want to stay connected with you in some way. Not every traveler is ready to book today, so help them daydream about their next vacation and when they’re ready, they’ll let you know.

You can also post local updates, special offers and deals, recognize special occasions for travelers, ask your fans for feedback, or share personal notes. Here are 10 more specific examples for ideas.

3. Post frequently, but don’t inundate fans

You should post at least 1-2 times per week, but not so much that people are annoyed – no more than once per day. You don’t want your Page to look like a ghost town, so be prepared to commit at least 10-20 minutes per week to Facebook.

You can also use Facebook’s scheduling tool to post content up to 6 months in advance. That might be a bit overkill, but it’s great for when you’re out on vacation – just leave enough room for last-minute, spontaneous additions.

4. Understand the network-effect

Not every post you publish will be seen by all of your fans. Facebook only shows your post to a sub-set of fans on their wall. As people interact with your content, Facebook allows that post to be seen by more and more people – including friends of your fans who may not even like your Page yet. This is why it’s okay if you only have a 100 fans on your Page and all the more reason to post enticing content.

5. Track your success

The way travelers purchase on the internet has changed. They do a lot more research before they ever pick up the phone or send an email to talk to you. While you should track direct bookings that resulted through your Facebook activity, try to correlate the effect of Facebook as an influencing source on your inquiries and bookings.

For example, how many of those people who inquired on your property have “liked” your page. How many have “liked” your page after visiting your website or inquiring on your property? How many referrals did you receive from your Facebook fans?

These measurements will help you decide whether to keep up the hard work or focus your time and resources elsewhere.

6. [Bonus] Get ready for graph search

Facebook’s new feature, Graph Search, lets you search for what you’re looking for through your friends and connections. For vacation rental owners, this means more transparency for travelers about how they’re connected to you. Instead of operating on trust that you are reliable or have advertised your home truthfully, travelers can now see (and choose to rent or not rent) from owners within their network.

Travelers will also be able to search for friends who have stayed at a vacation rental in a specific location and see photos they’ve shared of their trip. It will make the research process even more transparent, drive referral business for popular rentals, and continue changing the way people rent online.

Graph Search is only available to a limited number of users, but expect it to be rolled out across Facebook by the end of the year. In the meantime, make sure to get your page live, continue building your social network, and follow the previous 5 tips to maximize your vacation rental presence on Facebook.

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FlipKey is a vacation rental marketplace with more than 300,000 rentals around the world. Find the perfect place to stay for your trip, and get great value along with the space, privacy and amenities of home.

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Desert is in High Demand

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Some call the desert “a fun place to come to” others say, “it’s something about the energy,” but for thousands escaping harsh winter climates, they call the greater Palm Springs area their “home away from home.” As the number of vacation rentals grow, so do the number of visitors and in turn, many of these visitors will purchase properties of their own. Vacation Rentals of the Desert has experienced this over and over. In the past five years we have lost at least a dozen renter-clients who after being long time seasonal renters have purchased a property and are now owner-clients, listing their property on our vacation rental program.  This “vacation rental effect” has helped our local economy, increased home sales and helped to bring back much of the desert tourism that was literally dying. Once known as “God’s waiting room,” the desert is now being recognized as a younger, more hip community. Drawing world-wide attention with mega music festivals, world-class tennis and golf championships and more recently, the rebirth of modernism, Palm Springs is successfully rebranding itself to draw a younger population. It just might be the shot in the arm that this desert needs.

Slim Aarons Poolside Gossip Palm Springs ChicThis week I found a Facebook post that I want to share with all my followers. Whether local residents or not, I think you will enjoy this short segment from one of our local evening newscasts. This story aired on KESQ, Channel 3, April 23, 2015.  “With the music festivals finishing up this weekend, the Palm Springs area is a hot spot that’s gone global. As Bianca Rae shows us, the desert is once again back in demand.”  Click on the link below …

http://www.kesq.com/desert-is-in-high-demand/32550342

 

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Vacation rentals boost Coachella Valley economy by $7M

 

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Photo: Jay Calderon/Desert Sun

This week I’m sharing an “enlightening” article that appeared in our local newspaper, The Desert Sun, on November 2, 2014.  I think it will be of interest to most of my readers … but primarily all Coachella Valley vacation rental owners.  If you were to do a web search of almost any resort city in the U.S., you’d most likely find similar articles.  As vacation rentals grow in popularity, so grows the challenges faced by vacation rental owners and their management companies.  As the owner of Vacation Rentals of the Desert, with properties throughout the Coachella Valley cities, I actively work with the city officials to ensure that the properties we manage are in complete compliance with the various city ordinances.  We promote “good neighbor” policies and keep our owners and rental guests informed of all rules and regulations.  Vacation rentals are a very Hot Topic these days and all vacation rental owners should keep informed of the ever-changing conversation and become involved with their “business asset.” 

Xochitl Peña, The Desert Sun11:13 p.m. PST November 2, 2014

Why stay in a hotel room when you can have an entire house?

That line of thinking has helped grow the vacation rental scene in the Coachella Valley into a money maker, generating close to $7 million in bed tax revenue for valley cities and about $216 million in “direct spending” in 2013.

Premiere events — Modernism Week in Palm Springs, the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament in Indian Wells, the Humana Challenge in La Quinta, and the Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals in Indio – all continue to attract an increasing number of people each year who choose to stay in homes.

Records requested by the Desert Sun showed valley cities last fiscal year brought in $6.8 million in vacation rental transient occupancy tax, up from $5.1 million the year before, which helps boost budgets and provide for city services. Coachella and Desert Hot Springs are the only cities that do not collect the bed tax on rentals.        Read full article ….

 

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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! 

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It Is Very Expensive to Be Cheap!

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Recently we added a new condominium to our rental program.  It’s a gorgeous, high-end vacation home which was completely remodeled, updated and decorated about this time last year.  My new clients purchased this condo a few months ago.  The previous owners who had remodeled the property, rented it through VRBO last season.  The condo is located at Rancho Las Palmas Country Club in Rancho Mirage.  Vacation Rentals of the Desert represents approximately 82 properties in this particular country club, and my personal experience with Rancho Las Palmas goes back to the 1980s and has spanned over thousands of rental guests.  So it was not a surprise when one of our past guests called to say she had rented this particular property directly from the owner for a three month stay.  She could not get assistance from the owner with her struggles to hook up to the internet.  She was hoping we could help her as we had in the past when she had rented through our company.   Of course we went to her rescue … she was, and would again in the future be, an excellent tenant.

We sent an employee who is internet savvy and the guest’s laptop was up and running in no time.  After our employee returned to the office, he told us that it was a fantastic property but the guest had shared a few complaints.  She had pointed out that there were no blinds in the living room and kitchen which made her feel like she was living in a fish bowl.  I found this odd since the living room faced a busy fairway and was clearly visible to street traffic as well.  The owners had hung beautiful curtain “accents” on the sides of the windows, but they could not be pulled closed for privacy.  Her second issue was the lack of kitchen supplies … cooking and serving utensils and cookware, which was very frustrating since she liked to cook and entertain.   Even though she liked the property, she said that she would not rent it again.

Season ended and our business slowed.  Over the summer this gorgeous property was listed and quickly sold.  The buyers where friends of an owner on our vacation rental program.  We were recommended, introduced and fortunate to add this fantastic property to our rental program.  In conversations with the new owners, I mentioned the issues of the previous guests.  The new owners were quick to address these issues.  They thoroughly went through our “minimum requirements” worksheet and purchased all the missing kitchen and linen items, and even added more amenities.  They asked me to contact our window treatment company for recommendations and quotes and settled on motorized blinds operated by remote control, and even changed the inexpensive faux blinds in the bedrooms to beautiful wood blinds.  In addition, they replaced the tattered awning over the back patio and are currently gathering quotes on replacing the aged HVAC unit.  I love this owner!

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The point I am trying to make in this article is that functionality is key to a successful rental property.  Just because the vacation home looks like it’s right out of the pages of House Beautiful, does not necessarily mean it is comfortable, functional or livable.  I have mentioned this point in previous posts.  Decorator lamps look beautiful, but do they give off adequate light for reading?  A big screen TV mounted over the fireplace looks perfect in the great room, but is it mounted so high that you have a stiff neck after watching the latest episode of NCIS?

I have been fortunate this summer.  I have added several properties to our vacation rental program with owners who are heeding my advice and being mindful of the comforts of their future guests.  I met with Tom and Carolyn yesterday to go over repairs and updates to their property.   A first time vacation rental home, their condominium has been in the family for many, many years.  It is a much loved second home filled with memories of family holidays and celebrations spanning three generations.  As happens to so many families who own second homes; children and grandchildren grow up and busy lives and commitments drastically limited their ability to visit.   Tom and Carolyn do not wish to sell the family home, but instead, hope to generate a little income by sharing it with vacationing guests.  The condo is … or should I say “was” dated.   Over the past couple of months they have updated furnishings, art and décor, linens, bedding, kitchen supplies, window coverings, TVs, patio furnishings and the BBQ.  The property I walked into yesterday was entirely a different home than the one I viewed when meeting Tom and Carolyn two months ago.  Not only did they follow our “minimum requirement” worksheet but they kept in mind that it would be their family’s vacation home for many years to come, so they selected décor and supplies based on quality and not on cost or trying to cut corners.  They clearly understood that spending a few dollars more on quality would not only be recognized and appreciated by guests, but would probably mean less repairs or replacement costs in the future.  These “well put together” properties will almost always generate more repeat tenants … and good repeat tenants are every owner’s goal.  I love working with these kind of owners!

Our handyman Alex, made a statement several years ago that I have repeated often … “It is very expensive to be cheap.”  This is oh so true.  An example would be the faux wood blinds mentioned above in our new Rancho Las Palmas condo.  The previous owners had bought and hung inexpensive “out of the box” blinds in the bedrooms about a year ago.  They lasted one rental season.  When raised they bowed badly and on one, the wand to open the blinds had snapped off.  This was probably frustrating for rental guests.  For a slightly higher cost, the new substantial, wood blinds were hung and will probably last for the next ten years.  This same scenario applies to almost everything in life … “Do it right the first time or you’ll end up doing it over and over again.”  Inexpensive/cheap does not work in a vacation home that most likely will go through a lot of wear and tear.  Quality is key … which does not always mean “expensive.”  I never recommend cutting corners … it almost always costs you more in the long run.

Because of blinds and a few kitchen supplies, the previous owners of the “House Beautiful” Rancho Las Palmas condo, lost a three month repeat guest and probably received a bad review on VRBO.  If the guest told us about how unhappy she was, you can bet she told her friends as well, who also rent at Rancho Las Palmas.  It’s a small community and word travels fast.  They say “word of mouth is the best advertising” … adversely, it can destroy you.  Was this a case of “expensive to be cheap” or was it a costly oversight?  To a paying guest … it always appears to be lack of care.  Now that the “livability” has been improved, and with the level of attention and care from the new owner, I’m certain this condominium will be one of our most popular vacation homes and having had a guest already … the first review was outstanding!

A very cool side story to this post.  When visiting Tom and Carolyn yesterday, I learned that they had recently purchased a historic 500 year old estate in the beautiful countryside village of Flavigny-Sur-Ozerain, France.  The purchase and renovations are feature in an upcoming episode of “House Hunters International, Renovations” on my favorite cable network HGTV.  The airing will be November 22nd at 10 p.m. pacific.  This property looks like it’s right out of the movie “Chocolat.”  It is amazing!  Unfortunately I do not handle properties outside the Palm Springs desert … but the photos I have seen of this property make me wish I did.  If Tom and Carolyn end up listing it as a vacation property, I will share details with you in a future post.

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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

 

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New Rancho Mirage Vacation Rental Ordinance

RM ConflictThis week the city of Rancho Mirage approved and passed a new, stricter vacation rental ordinance.  I am still trying to digest the changes and work on the implementation and enforcement of the new restrictions within my business.  Today I am not ready to step up on my soapbox … publically.  I am still collecting information and trying to look at the bigger picture and potential ramifications we could suffer if I were to overreact.  Since I have over one hundred Rancho Mirage vacation rental owners that I work with, and many of these owners have contacted me to ask what our input to the city was, I have decided to posted the argument I made this past Thursday, July 31st at the city council meeting.  I was joined by several property owners and residents who manage their own vacation rental properties in the city of Rancho Mirage.  Our voices were listened to but unfortunately not heard.  If you are interested in viewing the entire city council meeting, below I have attached the link to the city website and July 31st city council meeting.  The entire meeting is almost four hours in length.  To skip to the reading of the proposed vacation rental ordinance and the arguments made by residents and owners you can fast forward one hour and 05 minutes … 1.05 on the viewer bar at the bottom of the video.  The new ordinance goes into effect August 30, 2014.

Rancho Mirage City Council Meeting, July 31, 2014

Click on the following link and scroll down to the video.

http://www.ranchomirageca.gov/city-council/city-council-agendas-minutes-video/

 

Desert Sun article “Rancho Mirage vacation rental age restriction set at 30” published August 1, 2014

http://www.desertsun.com/story/news/local/2014/07/31/rancho-mirage-vacation-rental-age/13438899/

 

Following is the argument I presented at the city council meeting.

My name is Vickie Murguia and I’m the owner of Vacation Rentals of the Desert.  I manage approximately 100 vacation rental properties in the City of Rancho Mirage.  I am here to represent those property owners who cannot attend city council meetings to make their arguments in favor of vacation rentals.  There seems to be just a handful of residents that have made repeated complaints against vacation rentals.  I am here to represent the silent majority.  This includes the 100 home owners that I work with and all their renters that visit the desert and are excellent neighbors.  The silent majority also includes all the businesses that benefit from these owners and renters such as contractors and remodeling companies that new buyers hire to update and turn around vacant and neglected properties, the cleaners, the repair services and various vendors that support vacation rentals.  This also includes real estate agents that are seeking out investors and using the idea of vacation rental potential in their sales pitch.  These agents cannot voice their opinions because they work with people that are on both sides of the issue.  There are also the restaurants, theaters, stores, golf courses and all the activities where travelers spend their money in Rancho Mirage.  Just imagine the silent majority were here today … they would overflow this room.  Our desert is in the resort business.  Most of us were not born and raised in the desert.  We visited, fell in love with the desert and eventually moved here.

I do not agree with the proposed changes to the ordinance regarding minimum age and outdoor sounds.  I believe they have the potential to chase away visitors, property buyers and ultimately much needed revenue to the city of Rancho Mirage.  After all, revenues from TOT were the reason for the ordinance in the first place.  Chasing away short term rentals will lose Rancho Mirage hundreds of thousands in TOT as well as sales tax.

In the 3 years since activating the Hot Line … I have only received 3 calls from all cities combined.  My company receives a weekly report from the city of Palm Springs on Hot Line calls.  I propose that the city of Rancho Mirage also share this information with managers and owners.  This way we can better monitor any violations and identify residents that repeatedly call the Hot Line.  I believe the current ordinance is sufficient but could be better enforced by owners and vacation rental managers and that stricter laws are over-reaching and are just going to be more difficult to enforce and will chase away the visitors that are the life blood of our community and does not address the underlying issues which could probably be address by managers or owners screening their renters and educating their tenants on the current rules and regulations and informing them of the ramifications of non-compliance.

Whatever is decided, Vacation Rentals of the Desert will always keep in full compliance with the law and will continue to strive to be good neighbors.

NOTE:  This is a hot topic.  Anyone care to discuss?

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Plan a Destination Event for Family or Friends!

mothers-daySo it’s Mother’s Day and your entire family wants to celebrate mom!

Time to plan the annual Mother’s Day Brunch?  …  Yawn!

You’ve exhausted the list of possible gifts … she has everything. But actually what mom really wants is your time! Time with the family … memories!

Next year …. why not plan a weekend Mother’s Day Celebration?

A great new trend in family and friend gatherings is planning a “Destination Event” and with the availability of vacation homes … it is oh so easy and affordable. I have noticed an enormous increase in multiple property rentals for family and friend gatherings. At Vacation Rentals of the Desert we assist in finding accommodations for many celebrations and events throughout the year. If you want to plan your “destination event” in the Palm Springs area, call me … otherwise here are a few tips …

1) Choose a Location. It may be easiest for everyone you hope will attend if the location is within close proximity to most members of your group. You may find a location in your own city or choose a resort area within driving distance.

2) Finding Vacation Homes: It is best to contact a vacation rental company that lists multiple properties in a particular area. Searching “by owner” listings such as VRBO or FlipKey could take hours, even days in talking to various owners and searching multiple addresses to find properties in close proximity. Save yourself the time and aggravation by calling a vacation rental company who can focus on your desired location or recommend the perfect area for your destination event, find the ideal bed configurations and provide information on surrounding amenities. For instance, Vacation Rentals of the Desert manages over 80 condominiums in Rancho Las Palmas Country Club in Rancho Mirage California. These two and three bedroom condos are ideal for family stays and can be very economical. In additional we often can find vacation properties next door to each other or within close walking distance. You can easily do an internet search for vacation management companies in your desired area or contact the Chamber of Commerce for a listing of companies.
3) Affordable: A two or three night stay at a vacation rental home can be less expensive than hotel rooms and has the added convenience of accommodating multiple families. You will also have indoor and outdoor living areas for large gatherings and space for your celebrations, parties and BBQs.

4) Creating Memories! How many birthdays have you celebrated at a restaurant? Can you remember how you celebrated Thanksgiving five years ago? What a great family event … pack up the kids and meet your entire family; brothers, sisters, mom, dad and grandparents at a beach or ski community … maybe at a National Park, the vineyards of Napa Valley or my personal favorite … Palm Springs! No matter what the event, you are sure to make memories to last a life time … and perhaps start a family tradition.
Think of the possibilities … birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, golf groups, ski groups … any holiday, any event … what a fun, affordable and memorable way to celebrate an event with family and friends.
And to all Moms out there … I wish you a Blessed & Memorable Mother’s Day!

 

Photo From:   https://www.google.com/search?q=family+party

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The Absolute, Number One, Most Important Detail … Cleaning!

Vacation Rentals of the Desert has sparkling clean propertiesThe following is rather blunt … but I am hoping it will be 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 … who made a sandwich, licked the knife and stuck it back into the jar?  These items are viewed as dirty 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?

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