Guest Authors: Alfred and Emily Glossbrenner
How does FullyBookedRentals help independent property owners?
Our goal is to give owners the information, advice, and informed commentary they need to advertise, market, and manage their properties as profitable vacation rentals. And the word independent really is at the heart of what we do. We do not accept advertising, commissions, or referral fees, or do anything else that might be seen as influencing our recommendations.
In fact, as one FullyBookedRentals member recently suggested, we strive to be "the Consumer Reports® of the vacation-rental industry." That covers a lot of territory: furnishings and amenities, where to list your property online, how to create your own Web site, booking and management software, credit card companies, and much more.
How is your content different from other online resources available to vacation rental owners?
First, the vast majority of what owners will find at FullyBookedRentals is fresh, Glossbrenner-written material derived from our own experience and expertise as vacation-rental owners and authors who have been following the industry for nearly a decade. We not only know what owners need, we anticipate it, and we create expert, unbiased content accordingly.
Second, at FullyBookedRentals we also "filter the fire hose." There is indeed a great deal of breaking news and information for owners of vacation rentals on the Web. But it is widely diffused, not necessarily accurate or reliable, and certainly not unbiased. We constantly monitor the field and let our members know when some significant development—like vacation-rental bans—comes into view.
Third, we are not only experienced vacation-rental owners, we are writers who have made a living as professional communicators, with a particular focus on the Internet, for nearly 30 years. As a result, our content is better organized and better written than anything else one might find on the Web.
Our bottom line at FullyBookedRentals is this: If you are truly serious about turning your second home or investment property into a profitable vacation rental, and you want the best, most up-to-date information on how to go about it, check FullyBookedRentals. We do the research so you don't have to.
What would be your advice to vacation homeowners considering renting out their home?
The first thing a would-be vacation-rental owner must confront is what we call "the Goldilocks Syndrome," as in "who's been sleeping in my bed?" This doesn't apply to owners who have bought properties as investments and have always intended to rent them out. But it surely applies to those who own a second home and are considering the rental option.
We tend to take a "tough love" approach: Remember this is your second home, not your main nest. If you have certain things that are irreplaceable or precious to you, lock them up in the "owner's closet" when renters are using your property.
Your next decision is whether to pay a property manager or handle everything yourself. In the recent past, you had very little choice: You pretty much had to use a property manager and pay fees ranging from 15% to 50% of your rental income.
The advent of vacation-rental advertising sites and management tools for individual VR owners has changed everything. Today, you really can advertise, market, and manage your vacation rental on your own. Or you can do some things yourself and purchase others—like cleaning services and checking guests in and out—from a property manager.
FullyBookedRentals is very much about helping vacation-rental owners take advantage of the full range of possibilities now open to them.
What are the most common mistakes that vacation rental owners make?
The biggest mistake most new vacation-rental owners make, in our experience, is not realizing that they are in the hospitality business. They get caught up in the notion that they are entering into a landlord/tenant relationship, when in fact, the role they will be playing is much more akin to being the host at a small inn or bed-and-breakfast.
The best attitude to adopt if you want to be a successful vacation-rental owner is this: "You're a host, not a landlord. And the people who rent your property are your guests, not your tenants."
A host doesn't ask guests to sign a multi-page rental agreement with overly complex legal jargon of the sort normally found in long-term lease agreements. A host is accommodating, so if a guest asks to check in two hours earlier than the set time, and there is no conflict with the cleaners' schedule, the host says, "Well, of course..."
The neat thing is that when you adopt the mindset that you're a host and convey that to your renters, by the time they check in, they'll view themselves as guests in your wonderful vacation home. And they will treat the place accordingly. So it's a win-win situation.
Another very common mistake is being penny-wise and pound-foolish when it comes to accepting credit cards. Many new VR owners don't want to pay the 2% to 3% that credit card companies charge. So they insist that their guests pay by check. That's one of the best ways we know to put a property at a competitive disadvantage, particularly when it is so easy these days for an owner to be granted "merchant status." Credit card fees are simply a cost of doing business.
What is the biggest challenge to marketing a vacation rental property online?
A great question with a deceptively simple answer: The biggest challenge to marketing a VR online is standing out from the competition.
To do that, you might assume that you'll need to create your own Web site and then master SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in hopes of getting it onto the first page of Google. But that's not what we would recommend.
What you should do instead is go to the sites where your competition is advertising and study the listings for properties most similar to yours. Then put your time and effort into creating a listing for your property with superb photos, a thorough and honest description, and possibly even a floor plan.
Be sure to include information about your rates, cancellation and refund policies, and whether you allow smoking and pets. And keep in mind that your goal is to convey to prospective guests what's special about your place. The vacation-rental business is not about selling identical hotel rooms or condo units. It's about persuading someone to choose your property over all the others they may be considering.
You must be absolutely certain that your online advertising copy makes your "unique selling proposition" crystal clear. Do not be shy. Put it right out there in the first sentence or two of your property description.
And remember: Standing out from your competition is an art, not a science. Every location is different. In our opinion, the key thing is to resolve to take the time and effort and energy to make your property stand out from the competition. Do not just put up an online listing and hope for the best. Be proactive!
What do you think about FlipKey expanding its services to independent vacation rental owners?
We think it's great! And that is not just a courteous, polite response. At FullyBookedRentals, we do not believe that having a single venture-capital-fueled company roll up the entire online vacation-rental advertising industry is a good thing.
We have interacted with many of the folks at this company over the past few years. They are smart people. And they are doing a lot to raise awareness of the vacation-rental option. But a monopoly—which would seem to be what they are reaching for—is never good for free markets, particularly emerging markets like the vacation-rental industry.
So we're happy to see FlipKey and its parent company, TripAdvisor, enter the field. After all, competition is at the base of our free-market system.
FullyBookedRentals offers a wealth of top-quality free and member-exclusive content, including sample rental agreements, forms, and checklists, and an annotated, unbiased guide to the best vacation-rental resources. Annual membership is $49.95, but we've arranged for our FlipKey owner community to try FullyBookedRentals FREE for 90 days. To take advantage of this special offer, enter the promotion code FLIP3 during the sign-up process (no credit card required).