A Great Way to Add an Extra Bed

 

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Have you seen these CordaRoy’s sleepers yet?  May be a good idea for a little extra room in your rental property.  Heck … I’m thinking of purchasing one for my home!  Has anyone out there tried these out yet?  I’d love to hear your opinion … or email me at vickie@vacationrentalsofthedesert.com

 

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A Picture Pretty Vacation Home!

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Coming up with fresh new stories for this blog each week is sometimes a challenge.  With almost two years of Sunday posts, this being the 101st, sometimes I am inclined to cheat a little and just post pretty pictures.  Today I am doing exactly that … and I happen to have some very pretty pictures of a fantastic condo.  This home recently signed up with Vacation Rentals of the Desert and just had professional photos taken two days ago.

Know anyone looking for an amazing vacation home?

This home is located in Indian Wells, California in a great gated community … Casa Rosada.  It is a 2,100 sq. ft. condo with two bedrooms with private en-suites, a powder room, a cozy den with fireplace, an amazing great room and faces South, offering spectacular mountain views and lots and lots of sunshine.  This is not your “typical” vacation rental.  It has been furnished with the amenities and quality you would have in your own home.  In other words …. no corners have been cut … from the quality furnishings to the beautiful cookware and table setting … this home is absolutely flawless! 

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Mythbusters: The Vacation Rental Edition

scrooge-mcduckI hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving holiday!  

Now … back to business!

Today I’m sharing a wonderful post from TripAdvisor’s blog … Vacation Home Rentals.  For years, Vacation Rentals of the Desert has listed the properties that we manage on FlipKey, the vacation rental division of TripAdvisor.  I am very happy to see TripAdvisor post articles, such as the following, that shines a positive light on the vast majority of vacation rentals. 

 

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Mythbusters: The Vacation Rental Edition

Vacation rentals come in all different shapes, sizes, and locations and, while it’s easy to become a bit overwhelmed by the variety of properties online, you shouldn’t let that get in the way of finding the rental of your dreams. Still not convinced? Here, we’ve debunked five of the most common myths plaguing the vacation rental experience.

Myth #1: Vacation rentals are too expensive for the every-day traveler, and are only available to those who swim in seas of gold like Scrooge McDuck.

The truth: Vacation rentals can be a very affordable option for travelers looking to get the most out of their money. While some rentals do range from super affordable to excessively lavish, that range means there is something available for travelers no matter what their price range. To compete against larger hotel chains, most vacation rental owners/managers offer lower rates, more amenities and no hidden fees that pop up at check-out. A 2014 study by Statista showed that 53% of respondents said that they chose vacation rentals over hotels because they actually ended up offering lower rates than hotels. So, think twice before you rule vacation rentals out based on cost – they can offer a great savings, especially when they replace a group’s need for multiple hotel rooms.

Myth #2: That luxury, beachfront villa will turn out to be more like a shoebox with a view of the highway sign pointing in the direction of the beach.

The truth: In reality, it’s only the most negative experiences, which are few and far between, that actually get any press. Although it is very common among travelers to fear that the vacation rental will be “significantly not as described” (SNAD) the majority of travelers who’ve stayed at a vacation rental have positive experiences. According toPhocuswright’s industry study, Vacation Rental Marketplace: Poised for Change, nine in 10 vacation rental guests intend to rent again and would recommend the experience to a family member or friend. Vacation rental owners and managers take great pride in accurately showcasing their properties, and if the rental isn’t measuring up to be quite as picture-perfect as the photos indicate, it will be evident in the reviews for the property.

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Myth #3: Locking down a vacation rental requires 10 different email exchanges, 5 phone calls and is overall too difficult.

The truth: With the emergence of safe, online booking platforms like ours, finding and booking a vacation rental has gotten a whole lot easier in recent years. Simply pick your destination, compare properties that pique your interest, and inquire on or book the rental of your dreams. You can even pay directly through the site using a credit/debit card or PayPal, so that your vacation is protected and you don’t have to worry about any SNAD myths coming true. Finding and booking a rental is so simple now, you’ll finally have a reason to use the Easy button gag gift collecting dust on your desk.

Myth #4: You need to bring your toolbox on vacation because you’ll be all alone if something goes wrong at the property.

The truth: Most owners/managers take preemptive measures to make sure that their property is in tip-top shape for renters, because no one likes to deal with emergency maintenance issues – even owners/managers. Rentals are typically professionally cleaned before check-in and after check-out and some are even cleaned throughout your stay, so you don’t have to worry about the state of the rental. Whether you’re renting from an individual owner or a property management company, you’ll likely have access to assistance around the clock, in case any issues arise. It could be an on-site property manager or the personal cellphone number of the owner, but either way you’ll be covered when you need help.

Myth #5: If your stay is less than 7 nights, don’t bother inquiring because no one rents for less than a weeklong stay.

The truth: As the vacation rental marketplace has expanded enormously, many owners/managers have relaxed minimum night stays making rentals perfect for weekend getaways and short-term stays. The great, unique thing about vacation rentals is that you’re often dealing directly with the property owner and every owner has different policies. Accepting one, two and three night stays is a great way for owners/managers to fill last minute openings and availability during the off season. It never hurts to ask when you find a property you love for a quick retreat from reality.

March 10, 2015  By Meg Schulte

Article and Photos:  http://www.vacationhomerentals.com/blog

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Start a New Thanksgiving Tradition!

turkey-on-grill-corrected-728x444Happy Thanksgiving!

This will be a short post today.  I’ve brought a truck-load of work home that I need to tackle.  Our rental season is here, holidays are fast approaching, tomorrow we have a new employee to start training and everyone at Vacation Rentals of the Desert is busy, busy, busy!

wedding-chefs-4I’m hearing weather reports … up north, some states are getting not inches, but feet of snow already!  So here’s my sales pitch … we still have a few vacation properties, kitchens all decked out and ready for your family Thanksgiving holiday!  Our weather is perfect … in the 70s with lots of sunshine.  No snow to shovel or family to worry about navigating icy roads on their way to grandma’s house … we’re not bundled up in coats and huddled around the fire.  While you’re slipping and sliding around in the ice and snow we’re golfing, enjoying a morning swim or bike ride.  Thanksgiving is taken outdoors with a big fat turkey cooking on the barbecue and friends and family enjoying the perfect weather on the patio while kids play in the pool and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or football game are playing in the background.

 

The perfect Thanksgiving to some … skip the cooking and exhausting clean-up, and have dinner with the Indians … at a casino buffet.  This is what my family does every Thanksgiving.  We have many Indian casinos in the Palm Springs desert and most offer an amazing Thanksgiving Feast.  With one vegetarian, a couple of picky eaters, various degrees of dieting and at least three guys with voracious appetites, the variety, quantity and simplicity of a buffet is a no-brainer for my family.  Only down side is … no leftovers, however eliminating the stress and mess of cooking for a huge family is so well worth a trip to the deli if the urge for a turkey sandwich hits. 

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So think about it … maybe it’s time for a new family tradition … something your family can look forward to all year long.  Give us a call, it’s not too late for this year or to plan for next!

I wish you all a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

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Things to Consider When Considering Pest Control

vlcsnap-2013-05-29-23h55m12s89Antmania!

So today I wanted to talk about pest service … extermination.  Often my weekly posts will reflect events of the prior week.  This week it’s all about ants.  We had about six properties with ant invasions since last Sunday’s post.   You wouldn’t think ants could cause such a commotion, but to our tenants, it was like … The Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  The worst case … an emergency call at about 8 p.m. one night.  The tenants reported that their kitchen was literally crawling with ants and they either wanted us to move them to another property or to a hotel.  Since we didn’t have a property to move them to and the option of a hotel was not only costly but would further inconvenience the tenants, we sent our handyman over with a big can of Raid and the hope of solving the problem until the exterminators could be called the next morning.  Surprisingly, there are no 24-hour emergency extermination services!  Thank goodness, the tenants were troopers and settled in for the night without any further problems.  First thing the next morning, our exterminator went over and found a huge nest under a stone slab in the interior atrium and slayed the offending critters.  He later told us that he had never seen such a bad case of ant invasion inside a property!  So the final cost … besides the inconvenience to the tenants … the emergency handyman fee and a can of Raid, the exterminator, about $60 in lost pantry food, the cost of cleaners for a deep clean in the kitchen to remove dead bodies and insecticide, and the tab for two breakfasts at a near-by diner, where the tenants escaped during the cleaning.  I guess we’ll see how tolerant the tenants are when we receive their review.  In this case there was nothing that the owner could have done to prevent the invasion … nothing was overlooked, the property was spotlessly clean … it was just the time of the year … reseeding of the golf course.  Happens to us every year, but this year has been particularly bad and may also have something to do with our current drought.

So this is just a story to demonstrate how things can suddenly go wrong and quickly get out of hand.  The appearance of creepy crawling critters is very disturbing to vacationing guests, but bugs are a fact of life wherever you go.  How quickly they are addressed … now that is up to you and will definately be reflected in the tenant’s review.  I have found that a small pest control company is often more desirable than a large nation-wide company when it comes to fast service, and in the vacation rental business, everything needs to be dealt with fast.  The small, local pest control service we use is not only more accessible, but can fit in emergency service quickly.  For example, I have the owner of the company we use, Insect Eliminator’s, on speed-dial.  This past week, I called him immediately after sending our handyman out to deal with the ants.  I left a voice message hoping he could squeeze us into his morning schedule … which he did …  and by 8:30 the next morning he was knocking on the tenant’s door.   We have many clients who are signed up for monthly service through larger pest control services such as Western, and it typically takes a day or two before they send a tech to deal with an emergency.  I prefer mom-and-pop size services for just about everything.  I’ve found that they often provide a more personalized service, are more accessible and flexible and have more competitive rates … all of which are important when managing a vacation rental home.

This finally brings us to the topic of monthly pest control.  I often am asked by new vacation property owners whether they should sign up for monthly extermination.  My usual answer … maybe no … or at least not until you find that you have an ongoing pest issue.  Basically I have found that most tenants do not want to be bothered by an exterminator during their vacation and many are afraid of or are allergic to the chemicals in the pesticides.  If you decide to sign up for a monthly service you will want to make sure that the service tech calls you first to set up an appointment.  When your exterminator calls and your vacation home is occupied, then you understand how tricky this can be.  You will have to track down your tenant for approval and a time that is convenient for them.  Not everyone will be keen on the idea of a contractor, even if bonded, entering the property when they are out.  So with this in mind, you can see why I prefer an “as needed” scenario over monthly service.

Ahhh … the many joys of vacation rentals!  This week …  Antmania!

Picture: http://www.disneyfilmproject.com/2011/11/tea-for-two-hundred.html

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Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite!

 

Why you absolutely need pillow protectors!

 

article-new-thumbnail-ehow-images-a07-k4-v7-prevent-pillows-turning-yellow-800x800With all the bed bug stories on TV and in magazines you better believe your guests are inspecting  your beds with a magnifying glass.  Surprisingly it’s not bed bugs they are finding but something almost as disturbing … stained pillows and mattresses!  I’ve said this before … one open-mouth sleeper and the pillow is ruined.  Might as well throw it away.  Short of replacing pillows between each guest … and there are those who do … it is best to purchase quality pillow protectors.  Guess what a spilled cup of coffee looks like on a mattress?  A mattress is an expensive furnishing to replace so protect, protect, protect.

My company, Vacation Rentals of the Desert, requires pillow protectors on all sleeping pillows, including the extra pillows you store in the closet, AND mattress covers, including sofa-beds.

The protectors are relativity inexpensive and can be washed between guests.  I usually pick up quality pillow protectors and mattress covers from Bed, Bath & Beyond.  They should be water resistant but NOT plastic.  The plastic covers will definitely protect your pillows and mattress but will most likely be removed by your guests.  They are very uncomfortable, hot and make all kinds of sounds when moving around in your sleep. If you’ve ever spent a night in the hospital you will understand.  If they are removed, their purpose is defeated.  I would also avoid the low end protectors.  You will be basically paying “lip service” to the idea of a protector.   This would be equivalent to using two pillow cases and provides very little protection against moisture, oils and sweat.  My opinion … you’re wasting your money … and be prepared for phone calls from your guests!

I found the following information on http://www.ehow.com  

article-new-thumbnail-ds-photo-getty-article-81-9-78634363_XSHow to Prevent Pillows From Turning Yellow

Pulling off your pillowcase only to find a yellow-stained pillow underneath can be a bit disheartening. After all, your pillow is where you rest your head for the night. Pillows turn yellow from body oils, sweat and saliva that seep into the pillow while you sleep. Since you can’t really control these natural bodily functions, take other preventative measures that will keep your pillows from turning yellow.

 

  • 1  Keep a pillowcase on your pillows. Wash the pillowcases once a week along with your sheets.
  • 2  Put a zippered pillow cover on your pillows over the pillowcases. Not only will these covers help protect the pillows from yellowing, they will also help to keep dust mites out. Remove and wash the pillow covers once a month. Take note that pillow covers are different from pillow cases. They are made of materials that don’t allow body oils and other fluids to seep into the pillow itself.
  • 3  Wash your pillows three to four times a year. Check the label on the pillow to see if it’s machine washable or needs to be hand washed. Make sure the pillow is completely dry before putting pillow cases back on.

Read more: http://www.ehow.com/how_8000487_prevent-pillows-turning-yellow.html#ixzz2vVIOC4Bc

If stained pillows are your biggest concern you are lucky … your guests could be finding bed bugs! 

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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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Vacation Rentals and the Sharing Economy

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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/

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Got Your Panties in a Bunch Over Vacation Rentals?

NeighborMrsKravitzWhy is everyone so angry?

I found the following posted on Facebook by 95.5 the Rock, radio station, April 19th.  I have copied it word for word.  Click on the picture to go directly to the Facebook post or read below.

Screenshot_2015-06-29-18-57-37_resizedThis was in a mailbox in Arizona…how would you respond to something like this?

Dear “Neighbor”

You just moved into this neighborhood a year ago, and I wanted to give you time to correct this problem on your own, but you are apparently too inconsiderate to do so.  Every day this week, when weather has been nice and windows are open, you proceed to let your small child run free in your backyard and laugh and giggle and carry on without end.  This is very disruptive for my two dogs and my bird who sits next to the window and like to look into your yard.  Perhaps you could ask him to tone it down a bit, or at least limit his outside time to 15 – 20 mins a day so my dogs can be outside without seeing him running around.  If this kind of behavior persists, I WILL CALL THE POLICE!

Really???  I don’t remember there being so much anger twenty or thirty years ago … or is that just me?  I’ve been accused of wearing rose colored glasses a time or two.  But I remember a time when people were not so sensitive; when children’s laughter was a good thing, when live and let live prevailed.  If year-round neighbors cannot get along, there “isn’t a hope in hell” that vacation home owners can expect to get along with year-round neighbors.  This letter burns me up on so many levels, but it is a typical example of the nonsense complaints I hear from year-round neighbors.

Here are a few complaints that I’ve received …

A local resident called me to complain that the tenants in the vacation rental home next to his house let loose about six helium balloons … just let them fly off into the sky.  I told him that this was not a violation or against the law.  His response was that people do not behave like that in his neighborhood.  Turns out this tenant had rented the house to celebrate a sixth wedding anniversary and the six balloons released by their children represented six decades of marriage and a wish for many more years to come.  But people don’t behave that way in this neighborhood.  Shame on these tenants!

The next city over at another vacation rental property, the neighboring resident called to explain that two teens were throwing a football in the middle of the street.  The property is located on a quiet cul-de-sac and when I asked whether the teens were blocking traffic or being disrespectful in some way, the resident told me no, but he did not think it was appropriate behavior and once again I heard that people do not behave that way in his neighborhood.  I for one grew up throwing a football in the middle of the street and can think of about a million things I would not want to see a teen do … but throwing a football in the middle of the street is not one of them.  Shame on these teens!

originalI’ve received dozens of calls, days and night, reporting open garage doors and trash bins set by the curb on the wrong day.  These kind of calls are typically relayed with such over-the-top anger that it would humorous if the caller wasn’t so serious.  Really … an open garage door is cause for such agony?  I just don’t get it.  I live in a nice neighborhood and I see this kind of thing every single day and never would I think of complaining or reacting as if I was in fear for my life.  But if it’s a vacation rental … that is an entirely different story.

It’s just a small presentage of residents but they make a lot of noise … the vocal minority.  But why all the anger and hostility?

Why?  Sometimes we get legitimate complaints which should be reported.   Unless you live in the country with acres around your home, chances are, you’re going to have a “bad” neighbor at some time or another.  Unfortunately we can’t choose our neighbors.  There just isn’t any kind of interview process where you can “test drive” the neighborhood for compatibility prior to purchasing a home.  Sometimes you get a great friend; sometimes you get Mrs. Kravitz!  At least with a vacationing tenant, if you get a bad one, they’ll be out shortly … and most likely not return.  It doesn’t work that way with a year round renter or owner.  There have been many times in my life where I would have been greatful for a vacation renter rather than the person that lived on the other side of my back yard fence.  I’ve moved a lot and experienced way too many Mrs. Kravitz types.

Why?  Many neighbors are angry because they think that the owner of the vacation rental property is making a fortune.  I hear this a lot at HOA and City Council Meetings.  The neighbor finds the property listed on the internet, or “knows someone” who tells them how much they saw the property listed at per night.  They always take the nightly rate and multiply it by 365 nights!  Oh don’t we all just wish!!  Here in the desert we are lucky to get four months cumulative in rental bookings.  There are many factors that these residents are not considering.  A nightly rate is the highest cost … the longer the property is rented, the lower the rate.  Example:  $450 per night for 365 nights … $164,250.  I can assure you that that is just not happening.  More like two nights at $450 so that is $900 for the weekend, two to three weeks out of the month if they are lucky.  During season that same property rents for $6,000 per month … but like I’ve explained … it will not rent at $6,000 per month for twelve months.  Still the owner is lucky to get four months of bookings with a combination of nightly, weekly and monthly renters.  For a property that rents at $450 per night/$6,000 per month … it’s probably a property valued in the $400,000 to $600,000 range.  Now think of the carry costs.  Mortgage payment on a $600,00 home plus utilities including full cable, Wi-Fi and phones, electric, gas, water, trash, twice weekly pool service and once weekly gardening if it’s a home, HOA fees if it’s in a country club, cleaning, upkeep, etc.  Bottom line … owners are not making a living from their vacation rental home.  Chances are that the home is an investment towards their retirement waiting till the day they can move into the property.   Or it may be a vacation home that they use on and off throughout the year and they do vacation rentals to offset some of the costs of owning a vacation property.  Here in the desert … vacation rental homes are not huge money makers … our “season” is simply too short.  So why are the neighboring residents so angry at the thought of the owner making money?  Jealousy … I don’t think as much as … why should they make money and I have to put up with the bad behavior.  Like putting the trash bins out on the wrong day or hearing kids splash around in a pool that is not typically used … bad neighbor!

Why?  I have actually spoken to several residents who have no complaints about the tenants and in fact have made friends with many vacationers.  When I asked one particular resident why she stood with the group that did not like vacation rentals, she told me that her “neighbors” don’t like them and she was only trying to be supportive and not oppose these friends that she lives with year-round.  It’s what everyone says in the neighborhood, she told me.  When I pointed out that she rented properties from Vacation Rentals of the Desert each year around Thanksgiving for family overflow, and asked what she would do if a ban on short rentals was mandated she responded; I will just rent directly through a home owner and the HOA and city won’t know.  This is an inevitable truth … if short rentals are banned, owners will go underground and rent out their properties anyway.    A ban will not eliminate short term rentals … and these rentals will have no accountability, no regulation, no oversight, will not pay the transient occupancy tax to the city and are extremely difficult for authorities to prove, charge and stop.  I’ll give you an example of the “friendship effect” at yet another of the properties I manage.  Two neighbors approached me a couple of years ago and expressed great anger (hostility really), at the owner renting the property.  I will also note that the new owner remodeled the entire property and the home went from a run-down house with dead landscape to a show place home, which also improved the property values of the surrounding homes.  Anyway as I was saying, the neighbors were angry about rentals and said that they were going to complain to the city ordinance officers so much that the owner would have to sell the property.  They also shared that they had no problem complaining and often called city ordinance to report the lady who lived directly behind the vacation rental home.  Apparently she is an artist who played her music too loud when she was painting in her back yard.  I personally found this to be true on several of my visits to the property.  Some time went by and sure enough, I started getting calls … but from the tenants, not the city.  The neighbors were shouting across the back walls for the tenants to stop jumping in the pool and making noise.  Code Compliance was called and actually got after the neighbors, threatening to issue a fine for the nuisance calls they were making to the city.  I was at the property for one of these calls and the neighbors met me by my car … the two neighbors that originally approached me plus the lady who played her music too loud when she painted!  Guess they all found common ground in the “agonizing ordeal” of dealing with vacation renters and now her loud music was no longer the source of their anger!  Really???  Come on people … live and let live!

So … the city has their monthly City Council Meetings and the residents complain about vacation rentals.  So … the city throws more rules and regulations into the ordinance to quiet the residents.  In the long run, with more rules to violate this just gives the residents more reasons to call city ordinance.  So they write in another regulation instead of dealing with the source of the problem.

I think a better way of handling this problem would be to talk to local residents about the importance of vacation rentals and try to get a handle on all the exaggerated hostility.   Of course, rental owners and vacation rental companies should be included in these discussions since they will need to take responsibility by educating and monitoring tenants at their properties.   We need to defuse the “over-the-top” anger and work together because vacation rentals are a great source in bringing money to local businesses, jobs to all the various people needed to service these properties,  generate needed tax money for our cities and is great for tourism and real estate sales.

To residents I would say … most vacation renters are exactly like you and if the opportunity presented itself, would probably be good friends.  They are on a hard-earned vacation in our wonderful desert, pretty much the same as you were many years ago.  They may even fall in love with the area and buy a property; perhaps retire here, just like you.  Remember your own children jumping into the pool and splashing around, remember your family BBQs?  Most likely these folks are YOU … just some years ago.

I wish we could all get along together just enough to fix this situation … unfortunately this is happening everywhere.  So why are people so angry these days?  I guess it’s always been this way.  After all, it was over fifty years ago, in 1964 when Mrs. Kravitz first appeared on Bewitched.   I guess the better question would be … what “if” we could all get along and make this work?

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Blue-Eyed Handyman

handyman

Ready for another funny story? 

This one happened about ten years ago, before I started Vacation Rentals of the Desert.  At the time I was managing another small vacation rental company here in the desert.  Of course vacation rental companies of any size must have a good handyman.  Someone who can climb up on a ladder to change a light bulb, repair a leaky toilet, remove a blockage from a garbage disposal, replace smoke detector batteries … small jobs that do not require professional plumbers, electricians, etc. or their higher service fees.   It is also important that a handyman work well with people.  Providing professional, polite, prompt service with a smile is essential.  This was Peter!  On top of all that … Peter was charismatic, funny, smart and very handsome, which we viewed as a huge bonus.  But was it really?

Here in the desert, the vast majority of our vacationing guests are retirees from Canada and the Northern states, with stays from one to six months.  Peter was perfect in every way!  Peter was a retiree from the aerospace industry and it was easy to see that he did not need to work … Peter liked to work.  He was well liked by our guests and instantly accepted as an equal.  He was a guy’s guy and even though I won’t say he was a lady’s man, I will tell you he was a really big hit with the women … and this is where the problems began.  It took a while, but I started to see a pattern … some of our guests liked Peter just a little too much!  It hit me one day after answering a phone call from Mary Ellen, a single lady from Canada staying with us through the winter months.  She called to say that she need “that handsome blue-eyed man” to come over right away to take a look at a sink that was draining slowly.  Hmmm … my mind flashed back to a few other service calls from Mary Ellen in recent weeks, and suddenly I put two and two together.  Did Mary Ellen have a little crush on Peter?  Wow … what to do, what to do?    After a bit of digging through work orders I started to see a pattern … and found another two possible “crushes” going on.  I spoke to Peter, and he was absolutely clueless, but he did admit to being invited for drinks and to dinners by several of our vacationing guests, both women and couples.  He politely turned down all these invitations thinking that it would not be appropriate … and I whole-heartedly agreed.  But now I had to ask Peter to tone down the “charm” and pay a little more attention to the attention he was getting.

Ultimately I was forced to have an awkward conversation with Mary Ellen and a couple of other guests about excessive service calls and the type of issues that our office staff might possibly handle instead of sending Peter.  I did not want owners being charged for frivolous issues or for an abundance of calls spread out over a period of time that could have been handled with just one service call.  I can tell you that these were very delicate conversations … I did not want to embarrass or anger the guests or lose their future business.

Mary Ellen returned to the desert for several seasons following our “conversation,” and over time we became quite close, business-wise.  Years later she told me that she had had a serious crush on Peter and in fact, had asked him to become her companion and travel with her around the world, which Peter had politely turned down.

Peter continued on with us for many years until he truly retired and moved out of the area … but while he was our handyman, I kept my blue eyes wide open!

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Photo:  http://dojoblog.net/small-business-ideas-handyman.html

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