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Friday, March 14th, 2014Offbeat St. Patrick's Day Traditions That Make Green Beer... »
When you think St. Patrick's Day, you normally think beer,...
Thursday, March 13th, 2014Top Spring Vacation Destinations for 2014 »
Spring vacations offer a great opportunity to shake off the...
Wednesday, March 5th, 20145 MLB Spring Training Destinations that Offer Way More than... »
Baseball is synonymous with springtime. As our favorite...
Monday, March 3rd, 201417 Funniest Tweets About Travel »
At times, traveling can be crazy, stressful, and downright...
Thursday, February 27th, 2014How to get more guest reviews on your vacation rental... »
A dose of reality: outside of location and price - reviews...
Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008Blizzard Internet Marketing Interviews FlipKey’s TJ Mahony »
Over the last few months, the FlipKey Blog has brought you...
Friday, May 18th, 2012Seven Reasons to Keep the Waitakere Ranges a Secret »
Today we are featuring Michelle Teillon, an avid traveler...
Monday, May 12th, 2008Vacation Rental Guest Reviews - FlipKey Negative Review... »
FlipKey is focused on helping vacation rental managers...
Wednesday, July 20th, 2011Nice and Pissaladière »
The first time I went to Nice, it was barely a stop on a...
Friday, January 18th, 2008Vacation Rentals — Gotta Love ‘em! »
As a new developer at FlipKey and a new member to this...
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by Ami Noss
At $200-500 or more, typical vacation home security deposits don’t run cheap—and for good reason: when you rent someone’s home, you’re being entrusted with the care of a major asset, often one that has emotional, as well as financial, significance for its owners. At the same time, it can be nerve-wracking to have a large amount of cash on the line while you’re letting loose and enjoying some downtime. To maintain your peace of mind regarding your security deposit, try following these suggestions:
1. Understand your rental’s required deposits and fees
The first step in avoiding the unpleasant surprise of paying more than you expected to for your vacation rental is to understand your rental’s deposit and fee structure. Some vacation rental contracts include non-refundable cleaning fees and/or pet fees. Best to know this ahead of time.
2. Know your rights
Read up on local laws regarding rental security deposits. Property owners are generally required to return deposits within a given length of time, (typically 14-30 days), and to provide a detailed list of any damages they intend to withhold money to repair. In the US, some states require property owners to provide actual receipts for expenditures they use the security deposit to cover. Also keep in mind that property owners can’t legally charge you for pre-existing damage, normal wear and tear, or for their general inconvenience.
3. Do a walk-through when you arrive
Before you unpack your suitcases upon arrival, tour the house and grounds. Note any issues in writing, and take photos as necessary. Contact the property manager or owner to report any damage that you don’t want to be held accountable for, preferably via email so that you have a dated, written record of the communication.
4. Put away the breakables
While most vacation rental owners are reasonably savvy when it comes to making rental-appropriate décor choices, you may want to stow any delicate or potentially breakable items, especially if you’re vacationing with children. Ditto anything that might invite destructive behavior, such as the decorative bowl of polished stones that your little ones might find perfect for tossing around.
5. Follow the policies outlined in the contract
Many vacation rental contracts allow property owners to keep your security deposit if you violate the house policies outlined in the agreement, regardless of whether or not the violation actually causes damage. Making sure to honor the rules regarding pets and the number of guests who can occupy the vacation rental at any given time is especially important.
6. If you break something, fess up
If you do accidentally damage something, call the property manager or owner as soon as possible. Be willing to replace small, easily replaceable items, or to call in repairmen as necessary. Promptly dealing with any issues will go a long way toward getting you your deposit back.
7. Clean up before you check out
The housekeeper is likely to be the first person to inspect the property after you leave. If you follow the checkout procedures properly, and tidy the home thoroughly, he or she will be much less likely to look for reasons to withhold your deposit—and you’ll avoid “excessive cleaning” fees.
8. Consider purchasing security deposit insurance
If you’re paying an especially large security deposit, you may want to consider buying a travel policy that includes Security Deposit Protection Insurance or Accidental Rental Damage Insurance. Purchasing this type of policy allows you to pay a small, fixed fee for the insurance instead of leaving yourself open for a potentially large rental repair bill if something goes wrong.
Ami Noss works for All Property Management, an Internet marketing service for property management companies. She loves the beach and frequently rents vacation houses on the Oregon Coast.
by Matt Landau
Searching for the perfect vacation rental is not unlike searching for the right pair of shoes: an abundance of places to look, a variety of models to choose from, and only a select few that offer the right “fit.”
While massive growth in the vacation rental industry has resulted in a paradox of choice that can make renters anxious or overwhelmed with so many properties to choose from, growth also gives renters the advantage in getting the best deal on the best rental possible. Here’s how industry experts go about making the right choice when selecting their top places to stay:
1. Determine travel flexibility
Before you begin your search, determining the flexibility of your travel dates can help weed out rentals that are booked or maximize your savings when it comes to flights or weekday (versus weekend) rental rates. Since many owners offer discounts for elongated or low-season stays, being flexible will get you the best possible rate.
2. Make your “short list”
Listing sites like FlipKey allow users to tag rentals, once you log in, as shortlist properties. Adding potential properties to your “My Picks” list helps narrow down and organize your choices. It also avoids wasting time trying to revisit rental pages you once liked but forgot to bookmark.
3. Gauge accuracy of photos
From a vacation rental marketing perspective, photos are one of the most important tools in conveying the look and feel of properties. In general, photos can say a lot about a property: poorly-staged areas or rooms shown with little sunlight tend to reflect poorly on a property whereas clean, crisp, professional images show an owner is serious about maintaining his or her rental.
4. Observe management involvement
It’s important to decide how much assistance you’ll want from the rental’s owner during your vacation. Vacation rentals vary in their owner involvement: from entirely offsite managers with do-it-yourself mantras, to on-site concierge-like managers who are around for travel advice, questions, small maintenance problems…etc. An owner with good communication who’s there when you need him/her can be tremendous insurance for a first-time rental visit.
5. Research the rental elsewhere
Checking the internet for other reviews or descriptions of your potential vacation rental can unearth out some intriguing information, either good or bad. Be sure to research the property on major search engines and on listing sites to make sure it has received good, unbiased reviews. A rental with it’s own website can speak volumes about an owner’s commitment to the rental as a business whereas a choosing a property not mentioned anywhere online is like selecting your destination blindly.
6. Ask for quotes
Once you’ve consolidated your vacation rental search down to your top two or three rentals, emailing the owners requesting quotes for your desired dates does several things. First, correspondence with the owner will give you a good idea about their professionalism and sense of hospitality, which in turn, says a lot about the property itself. Second, requesting quotes may entitle you to discounts not otherwise promoted online. Third, communicating directly with the owner, you’ll get to ask all relevant questions to the area as a whole (travel, dining, tour advice). A big advantage of choosing vacation rentals over traditional hotels is the inside knowledge your rental’s owner has to offer up. Be sure to take advantage of this resource.
Instead of choosing your vacation rental in the dark, use the growth of the rental marketplace as your ally. With so many rentals out there, being methodical about your search process and generating transparency about your potential vacation homes are surefire ways to select the best options you and your family.
Matt is a Vacation Rental Marketing consultant helping both owners and renters get the most out of their vacation rental.
At FlipKey, we’re devoted to making it easy, safe and fun to find and book a vacation rental online. We work hard to make FlipKey the most trusted website to find a rental, and we want to share our expert advice so that when you book a rental on FlipKey – or anywhere else – you can make a safe and informed decision about where to rent.
How Does FlipKey Protect Me From Scammers?
The most important protection we offer to prevent travelers from scams happens before a property appears on FlipKey. Owner background checks and extensive property authentication are just a part of our stringent and time-tested owner verification processes. This process prevents fraudulent listings from appearing on FlipKey.
A Community of Trust
FlipKey has more verified reviews from past guests than any other vacation rental site. Our patented review system ensures that reviews are left by people who have stayed in the property, and we don’t allow property managers/owners to remove negative reviews about their property. Guests can now also upload photos of their stay along with their review.
Vacation Rental Protection Plan
On top of all our security measures, we also offer an affordable travel insurance policy specifically designed for vacation rental stays that protects travelers from unexpected issues like denial of entry, inadvertent double bookings, and foreclosure in addition to many traditional travel insurance benefits. See here for more details.
Is it possible to fill your booking calendar and contribute to your favorite charity at the same time? Have you ever asked yourself how you could take a vacation and make a difference in society?
These are the questions that Mike Last and Michael McFadden have started to answer with Geronimo.com, a website that asks vacation rental owners and property managers to contribute “one spare week” to charity. I caught up with Michael the other day and had the chance to discuss Geronimo, how the service works, and where it’s going.
FlipKey: Let’s start with the basics – what is Geronimo and how does it work?
Michael McFadden: Geronimo is a service that allows vacation rental owners and property managers to donate a portion of a rental income to the non-profit of their choice without dealing with the hassle of non-profit bureaucracy. Essentially, you list a property at a discounted rate (we recommend a 20% discount) for a set period of time on Geronimo.com. The owners can get half of the rental income, and the other half is for the net donation.
The social internet provides unprecedented opportunities to connect with potential guests and market your vacation property. Vacation rental owner, author, and blogger Heather Bayer shares some great advice on taking advantage of social media to help promote your property online.
Driving Vacation Rental Traffic with Social Media Strategies
by Heather Bayer
Listing your property with good, traffic-rich sites such as FlipKey is important, and this should be at the top of every vacation rental owner’s marketing plan. What is not as obvious are the huge opportunities available to drive traffic to your listing or website with free or low-cost social media strategies. The strength of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for reaching a mass audience has never been greater. Continuing growth in all of these markets points to them sticking around a long time, so if you haven’t leaped in yet, now is the time to do it.
Before you begin, research what your competition is doing with social networking. Look at how they are interacting with clients; what they are posting and the responses they are getting. This research gives great insight into where you can position yourself in the social media scene. Here are four networking opportunities to get you started:
Despite the growth in Facebook and Twitter, a well-designed blog remains the strong foundation of a robust social media strategy. The key to success with a blog is to post regularly, allow comments and reply to them personally, and post on a range of topics to appeal to your audience. Many vacation rental owners are now using a blog platform such as WordPress to power their web site, and featuring a blog on it gives it great value overall. It’s possible to do all this for free with a site hosted on WordPress and a free theme, but for a relatively small outlay (less than $100 per year) for a hosting service and a paid theme, you can create an elegant and well-optimized site that will generate a good amount of traffic.
It’s very likely you already have a personal account on Facebook. For a professional approach to your vacation rental, you’ll need to create a Facebook Page. Here, you simply promote your property and the area, and connect with potential guests without them seeing your personal interactions. Mari Smith’s Facebook 101 for Business is a great place to start. There are a lot of companies offering Page design services – Custom Fan Page Designs do a great job at reasonable rates.
Twitter gets bad press from people who are not using it for business purposes. For vacation rental owners who want to connect with the people that really matter such as travel writers and potential guests, it is a terrific social medium. It takes some time to create a group of followers on Twitter but it’s worth persevering. As with any other social network, be careful not to use it for straight promotion of your property – it’s about making a connection, starting and maintaining a conversation, and sharing your expertise on your area. When you set up your Twitter account, follow me @cottageguru and send me a direct message with the word FlipKey in it. I’ll follow you back and add you to my list of FlipKey Tweeters.
In 2006 I wrote a short article called Travel Insurance for Vacation Rentals and posted it on Ezine Articles, the giant of article marketing sites. In 2011 that article still ranks in the top three on Google for those key words and is consistently republished on other blogs and websites. Publishing articles is a simple and effective way to create buzz about a topic you are interested in, with the opportunity to create a signature block that includes your bio and a link to your listing or site. What better way to market your property for free?
It’s not necessary to tackle all these platforms at once – take one at a time and give it a week or two of concerted effort, and then move onto the next. Just remember that having a successful social media strategy is like spinning plates: they all need consistent attention to keep them going.
Heather Bayer is author of Renting Your Recreational Property for Profit (Self-Counsel Press) and is passionate about raising standards in the vacation rental industry. She regularly blogs at www.cottageblogger.com and runs a successful membership site at Renting For Profit – The Complete Resource for Vacation Rental Owners.