Personal Items—What Is Appropriate to Leave Out and What Isn’t

One of the trickier parts in converting a property into a vacation rental is striking the right balance between ensuring a comfortable stay for guests and having the home still convenient for your own occasional visits. It’s important to avoid making guests feel as though they are invading your personal space, but you also don’t want to give them the generic feeling of staying in a hotel. In order to find the right balance that works for you, we’ve provided some tips to help steer you in the right direction.

Things to Avoid

  • Anything that, for you, is irreplaceable. You may want to think twice about decorating your vacation home with family heirlooms, or anything of sentimental value for that matter. We’re not saying that every guest will cause damage to your home, but once these items are broken, more often than not, they are lost forever. So, it’s better to err on the side of caution with this one.
  • Computer and paper files should be kept in a secure place away from guests. Some visitors may let their curiosity get the better of them and decide to go poking around the rental just to see what each drawer and cabinet holds, so it would be wise to keep anything with sensitive information on it off of the property. If you offer a computer as a featured amenity of your vacation home, you should take the precaution of wiping your personal files and passwords from the hard drive. This can be done through software that you can find for free on the Internet, or, if you prefer, you can always hire a professional to erase any sensitive information from your computer.
  • Framed family photos should not cover the walls of your rental. While it’s nice to leave out one or two family pictures, you don’t want to create a shrine of all your fondest memories. Leaving a photo in your vacation home is a great way to connect to your renters and make them feel like they aren’t renting from some anonymous entity, but leave it at just that one. Any more than that, and it could cause your renters to feel as though they are intruding on your home.
  • Putting up signs to designate “Only for Owner’s Use” or taping off areas is something that you should also try to avoid. This could be off-putting to your potential guests and can be perceived negatively. Your goal as a vacation rental owner should be to create an inviting space for those who stay, and not to give them the impression that they aren’t trusted.

Common Solutions

  • Utilizing an extra linen closet in your vacation home as an “owner’s closet” is a simple solution for storing any of your personal effects. Avoid designating a bedroom closet to store these items so that it can still be available to your guests for use, and be sure to switch out the doorknob for one that locks. Making a couple of copies of your owner’s closet key will also help to save you any headaches in the future.
  • If you don’t have the option of turning a linen closet into a space for your personal items, consider purchasing a storage closet or cabinets for your garage. Be sure that these storage units also have locking mechanisms for your own peace of mind.
  • An outdoor shed is another option for stowing personal belongings out of sight of guests. This opens up the possibility of storing larger items, like lawnmowers, instead of just smaller items, like cleaning supplies and toiletries, which a closet would be limited to.
  • Or, if these solutions are unappealing, you can always try relying on the honor system. This would require you to notify guests during the booking process (that means before they arrive at your home!) what items are okay for them to use and which ones you’d prefer them not to use. In your rental agreement contract you could include a section that states “I provide ‘x’ in the spice cabinet that guests are welcome to use for cooking through the duration of their stay..,” so that you clearly outline, in writing, what items you supply for your guests. This will, hopefully, avoid any confusion, and it may be worthwhile to gently remind guests again on your policy of what items you provide once the booking is complete. However, this method does come with its risks as you will be leaving items unguarded for those potentially nosey travelers.

By employing any of these simple solutions it will help to limit the amount of suitcases you have to lug each time you decide to stay in your vacation home, as well as restocking trips to the grocery store. And, while being convenient for your own use, it simultaneously enables your vacation home to become a welcoming environment for all who stay.

Happy bookings!

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Bucks, Bylaws, and Obamas (Travel Tuesday)

Written by: Dan Weisman

Turning a second home into a vacation rental is almost never as easy as hanging a “for rent” sign in the window and waiting for the guests to arrive. At the very least there are local regulations to abide by, tax laws to consider, and plans to make for managing emergencies. FlipKey CEO TJ Mahony shared some of his own experiences in this blog post from 2007.

This week in vacation rental news, the media has been focused on the behind-the-scenes efforts that homeowners must make to run successful vacation rental operations. The New York Times “Bucks” blog addressed the importance of interacting with guests and being prepared. Writer and homeowner Christine Negroni stressed that doing some research in advance is crucial for both the guest and the property owner: “If they do their homework, both renters and owners can have a good experience.”

In addition to knowing who your guests are, it is also important to understand local rental regulations. Grover Beach, CA is considering an ordinance that would require property owners to apply for a vacation rental permit. If passed, violators would be subject to fines. This type of regulation is already in place in many areas, so you should make sure to investigate local laws if you are considering turning your property into a vacation rental (check out our vacation rental marketing guide for more tips on getting started).

Finally, the Obama’s “Winter White House” vacation rental in Kailua, Hawaii is now on Tweet Traveler – an interesting new service that could help vacation home renters interested in doing more with Twitter. As we’ve written before, social networking can be a valuable tool for promoting your vacation rental. Of course, a testimonial from the president can’t hurt either!

Posted in Rental Management | Tagged , , , ,