Home For Owners/Managers Better Guest Experiences

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Nearly 65 percent of households own a pet, and many can’t imagine leaving their cat or dog behind when they travel out of town. Nonetheless, many vacation rentals do not allow pets out of concern for potential damages. Thanks to home automation, pet-proofing your vacation rental has never been simpler. If you take the right precautions, your pet-friendly rental property can give you an advantage in the rental market, provide your guests a friendlier experience, and bring in up to 30 percent more rent than properties that don’t allow pets.

Here are six ways you can pet-proof your vacation rental and make a great impression with pet-loving renters.

  1. Install Pet-monitoring Cameras

Traveling pets can be nervous, insecure, and more likely to display bad behavior in an unfamiliar place. It’s likely they will be left alone, if even for short periods of time, so making it possible for pet owners to monitor their pets remotely is a perk that can preserve your property and the sanity of your guests. Luckily, there are now plenty of awesome products that let your renters monitor their pet right from their smartphone. Outfit your rental with a Petzi Treat Cam or PetChatz, which use a camera, voice, and treat dispenser to soothe animals and prevent nervous chewing, scratching, and barking.

  1. Maintain an Efficient Temperature

As animals are susceptible to extreme temperature changes, it’s important to maintain a comfortable environment in the home. Installing a smart thermostat, like Nest or Lyric, can keep both your renters and their pets happy. Depending on the length of their stay, a smart thermostat will learn their temperature preferences and adjust to them. Offer renters access to the app and they can check on and adjust the temperature remotely. You can also use automation apps and systems to remotely control fans outdoors or indoors. While smart thermostats cost around $200, the energy savings will reduce your energy bill and save you money in the end.

  1. Add a Smart Dog Door

A dog door is essential for pets to get in and out of the property and avoid accidents when the owner isn’t around. But some renters may only want their dog, not their cat, to access the backyard, or may want their pet to access the backyard only during certain times of day. Simplify the solution with a smart dog door: only pets wearing the connected smart key can unlock the door. You’ll keep stray animals from coming inside and indoor pets from going outside. Smart dog doors cost between $80 and $150 and are generally simple to install.

  1. Connect Motion Sensors with Alarms

Just because your rental property is pet-friendly doesn’t mean you can’t decorate your home with delicate art or fragile accent pieces. If you want to avoid cats or dogs from jumping on top of shelves, getting into cabinets with hazardous cleaning materials, or accessing other potentially harmful areas, use contact sensors. When pets approach, the sensor will trigger an alarm to keep the pet away. This will protect your valuables and keep your guests’ pets out of harm’s way. While smart Wi-Fi motion sensors cost nearly twice as much as traditional motion sensors — $40 versus $20 — they are simpler to automate.

  1. Automate Toilet Seats

Most people don’t think about the potential dangers of an upright toilet seat unless they own a pet. Kittens could drown by accidentally jumping into the toilet, while dogs and cats could get sick after drinking from it. Luckily, there’s a simple solution: an automated toilet seat. This smart device ensures the toilet seat is always down when not in use, preventing any accidents. There are a few different types of smart toilet seats, including ones that are triggered by a toilet flush or by sensing motion. Smart toilet seats can cost anywhere from $70 to $300, depending on the features you want, but they are an impressive bathroom addition for humans and pets.

  1. Provide Robotic Vacuums

While the last thing vacationers want to do is vacuum, a robotic vacuum is a great smart device to offer renters who like to keep the living area fur-free and the floors clear of dirt or other messes dragged in by paws. By running a robotic vacuum as needed, your renters don’t have to worry about dirty floors, splattered cat litter, or potential accidents. Even better, renters can run the vacuum when they’re away from the house and schedule it to turn off when they return. Robotic vacuums range from $150 to several hundred dollars, but double as a renter perk and a convenient cleaning supply.

Once you’ve pet-proofed your rental property with home automation and smart devices, you are ready to impress future renters with pets and offer them a comfortable experience they’re sure to remember — and recommend to fellow travelers with pets. Remember to mention these pet-friendly upgrades in your rental listing to promote your property in a unique way and attract more renters.

Clair Jones is a community safety and home security advocate with SafeWise.com, a site dedicated to helping everyday homeowners compare security systems to find the most affordable, functional, and convenient solution for their home and family. To read more of Clair’s writing and learn about how you can protect your home from intruders, natural disasters, and everyday household safety concerns, visit the SafeWise Blog

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Guest blog by: Bonnie Dewkett

You want to provide your guests with a perfect vacation experience. But by renting your property to those you don’t know, you are also exposing yourself to risk. A security deposit is a vital component of protecting your short-term rental property. The trick is finding the balance between enough money to cover potential damages and an amount small enough to put renters at ease.

Know the Basics

Since your rental agreement may only be a week or even just a night, it’s critical that you include everything necessary to protect your investment. It’s a good idea to consult a lawyer when drafting your agreement and be sure to include a clear description of the property and key contents, conduct that is prohibited, and how the property should be left at the end of the agreement.

The first step in determining a security deposit amount is to understand the law in your city and state. Some states limit the amount you can require for a security deposit as a multiple of the rent. Other states have no limit at all.

Here are some things to consider when deciding exactly how much to charge for a security deposit.

  • Price of Rent — Consider your weekly or daily rate when determining the right security deposit amount for your rental. Standard practice calls for 10 percent of the rental rate or $250 flat, but every property is different.
  • Value of Property — A rental property with expensive fixtures, countertops and appliances will require a higher security deposit. If something is damaged or broken, it will be costly to repair. Receipts from installation and remodel projects can help you substantiate a heftier security deposit. 
  • Furnishings — The amount of your security deposit should take into consideration how your rental property is furnished. Furniture will often show wear and tear more quickly than other parts of the home and therefore need to be replaced more frequently. If you have a high-end rental with luxury grade furniture, take that into account when setting your deposit. Keep the receipts from furniture purchases to help establish a reasonable security deposit and proof of value should something need to be replaced.
  • Rental Instructions — Be sure to set clear expectations on how your guests should leave the rental upon departure. Leaving detailed instructions will help them understand your expectations and perform the tasks thoroughly. Print out instructions for areas such as the kitchen, laundry room and bathrooms, and put them in page protectors. Store them where they can easily be seen.

Another option is to print out all of the instructions for your rental property and then store them in a binder. Note the location of the binder in your rental agreement. Making cleaning supplies available will ensure that guests have no excuse for not leaving it to your specifications. Additionally, it protects you from anyone using cleaning chemicals that are not appropriate for your space.

  • Documentation — In order to set your guests at ease, be transparent in your security deposit policies. Be clear about what you’re charging and why. Provide examples of property damage or excessive cleaning that may result in deductions from the security deposit. Show that their security deposit will be kept safe in a specific account and won’t be touched until the rental agreement ends, however long or short that might be. When renters feel that they have a complete understanding of the circumstances in which their security deposit may be used, they will feel comfortable writing a check.
  • Market Standard — Local real estate agents, lawyers, and other landlords can help you determine the appropriate amount to collect as a security deposit. To keep the marketability of your property in line with others, it is important to understand what is normal and customary in your area.

Do research and see what other short-term rentals are charging as a security deposit so that you are protecting your assets and still maintaining an attractive property for renters. You should also listen to your customers. Ask for feedback and read your online reviews to understand if you can make small changes to put future renters at ease.

  • Other fees — Are you also charging any other fees for cleaning or pets? These should be considered as well, since you don’t want to scare off renters with too many costs above and beyond your standard rates. 

When dealing with security deposits, remember to be fair to your renters, recognizing that normal wear and tear is to be expected. Don’t forget to refund the security deposit to anyone who leaves the property in good condition—most states define when you need to refund the deposit, which may be as few as 14 days. Treat your guests as you’d want to be treated, and they’re likely to choose your property for their next vacation and encourage their friends to do the same.

 

About the Author

Bonnie Joy Dewkett is a professional organizer and writer for Quill.com. She shares cleaning & organizing tips for homes and businesses alike as The Joyful Organizer.

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Guest blog by: Clair Jones

The vacation rental market is booming, but it can be hard to make your property stand out — especially if there are similar homes for rent nearby. If you’re looking for ways to appeal to modern renters, home automation features that improve the comfort, style, and convenience of your vacation home are sure to give you a leg above the competition. While home automation requires an initial investment, being able to market your property as a “smart home” attracts more renters and allows you to charge more per day.

Here are several affordable home automation boosts that can instantly increase the appeal of your vacation rental in todays’ competitive market.

Home Automation to Boost Comfort and Convenience

Vacation home renters, above all else, are looking to have an enjoyable, worry-free, and comfortable stay in your home. While inspiring décor, quality linens, and a well-maintained, clean home are key, these amenities are likely available at any vacation rental. To set your property apart, consider adding a smart lighting system and thermostat that allow your guests to remain comfortable at the touch of a button no matter where they are in the home.

Smart lighting systems allow your guests to control the lighting in the entire home using a remote, or even their smart phone. Most systems allow for the adjustment of light intensity, direction, pattern, and color, while some advanced systems even allow guests to sync lighting with their favorite music or movie. Integrated lighting systems can also help you make a great first impression by welcoming guests to your home with outdoor or indoor lights that are already illuminated should they arrive after dark.

Another marketable perk of an automated rental is that guests can easily regulate the temperature of the home to their liking; depending on the length of their stay, a smart thermostat will learn their preferences and automatically adjust to them. You can also easily schedule the smart thermostat to ensure your property is warm or cool upon your guests’ arrival, depending on the weather. Most Smart thermostats cost around $200 and are easy to install yourself. As an added bonus, smart thermostats and lighting systems can cut down on energy usage, resulting in a lower gas and electricity bill.

Home Automation to Suite Your Location and Target Customer

To garner the most return on your home automation investment, you must thoughtfully consider which smart home features will appeal to your guests based on the location of your rental and the type of guest you ideally want to attract.

For a big-city property, for example, your goal may be to attract luxury renters who are travelling for business, pleasure, or a special event. Luxury renters enjoy upscale amenities like motorized shades and curtains, smart kitchen appliances, remote-controlled fireplaces, and automated shower preferences for easy adjustment of water pressure and temperature. City renters might also appreciate a high-quality automated sound system, like the Amazon Echo, or a white noise machine to help drown out the hustle and bustle of the city and set the mood.

If your property is outside of town – a cabin, island bungalo, or destination rental, for instance — and offers fewer options for nearby activities, a home theater experience can encourage guests to rent out the property longer or recommend it to friends. When tailoring your home automation investments to your property, also consider the typical weather, humidity level, and temperature of your vacation home. Installing heated flooring in your cabin in the mountains, or a misting system on the patio of your tropical villa is a cherry-on-top bonus that is sure to attract more renters.

Home Automation to Boost Your Property’s Safety and Security

Adding a home security system can increase your property’s security when it is vacant, and also helps guests feel more secure during their stay. Most home security systems easily integrate with an existing home automation hub, taking the guesswork out of setting up home security for guests and making it easy to arm and disarm the system.

Whether you just want to simplify the check-in process by incorporating smart locks that allow guests to gain access to the home without exchanging keys, or want to prevent property crime and theft by allowing guests to engage an alarm system when they are not in the home, there are a wide variety of affordable security solutions available. Along with checking on the status of your system, you can set up alerts that notify you in the event of a fire, carbon monoxide leak, or other serious issues.

By adding smart technology to your vacation property, you can stay ahead of the competition in the vacation rental market, charge a higher rate, and provide an exceptional experience for your guests that will encourage them to return for another stay in the future and recommend the property to friends. Get started with these simple and inexpensive upgrades and increase your home‘s appeal for the 2016 rental season.

 

Clair Jones is a community safety and home security advocate with SafeWise.com, a site dedicated to helping everyday homeowners compare security systems to find the most affordable, functional, and convenient solution for their home and family. To read more of Clair’s writing and learn about how you can protect your home from intruders, natural disasters, and everyday household safety concerns, visit the SafeWise Blog

Cleaning your rental property may not be the most glamorous task, but a clean space can improve your reviews online and increase repeat bookings. While the usual cleaning suspects are critical—including vacuuming, cleaning the kitchen, and scrubbing the bathrooms—sometimes the little details can have more of an impact than you realize. Here are a few easy-to-tackle but often-overlooked areas that can make a big difference in the appearance of your property.

  1. Microwave

The microwave can get really dirty in a short amount of time. Since the inside of the microwave isn’t the first thing renters see, it’s often overlooked. But when someone opens the microwave and finds it dirty with the previous renter’s food, it can sour a positive first impression. Even worse, with the amount of food allergies today, dirty microwaves can be dangerous. Here’s a simple trick for keeping it spotless:

  1. Fill a small bowl with about one cup of water.
  2. Cut a lemon in half and squeeze the juice into the bowl.
  3. Place the bowl in the microwave and cook on high for three minutes.
  4. Let the bowl sit, uninterrupted, for five minutes.
  5. Open the door and remove the bowl. Wipe down the ceiling and walls of the microwave. Sometimes the turntable can be removed and washed in a sink, if necessary.
  1. Dishwasher

Just like the microwave, the inside of the dishwasher can become very dirty, and has the potential to turn a positive rental experience negative very quickly. Take a few moments to clean it out between renters for sanitary reasons, and to avoid mold and future damage to the appliance. The dishwasher can also be cleaned while you are tackling other items around the house.

  1. Remove any excess food particles.
  2. Pour baking soda on any food stained areas and let sit for five to 10 minutes.
  3. Use a small sponge or toothbrush to wipe away baking soda. Some stains need to sit for a longer period of time than others. Bonus: Baking soda also helps cut down on food odors.
  4. Pour two cups of vinegar on the bottom of the dishwasher.
  5. Run the dishwasher on energy saving mode.
  6. Let it sit closed after the cycle is completed for about 20 minutes.
  7. Open and wipe down the inside. Vinegar will help remove food stains as well as hard water stains.
  1. Oven

Lots of renters won’t even use the oven if they are on vacation. Regardless, it’s important to check its condition between renters. If a food spill is left unchecked, it can lead to smoke, odors and even fire. For difficult food spills in the oven:

  1. Place an oven-safe bowl of water on the middle rack.
  2. Set the temperature and 450 and bake for 20 minutes.
  3. Wipe down the walls of the oven. Use towels and sponges as required to remove baked-on food.
  1. Look Up

One of the places most people forget to clean is located right above their heads. Ceiling fans, picture frames and vents all collect dust. No renter wants to turn on a ceiling fan on a hot day, only to create a dust storm. Purchase a long handled duster, and wipe all of these high and hard-to-reach areas down in between rental agreements.

  1. Smell Therapy

Even if a home isn’t perfectly clean, certain smells can give a cleaner impression. Use universally pleasing scents such as vanilla or lemon to make your rental property feel crisp, clean and warm when renters arrive. While you can use air fresheners or candles, you can also dab a bit of vanilla scented oil onto a cotton ball and place it in the air filter of the vacuum. When you run the vacuum, it will infuse the air.

Pro Tip: Create a Cleaning Kit

Most rental agreements specify leaving a space “broom clean.” The act of simply leaving cleaning supplies where renters can see them and access them encourages cleaning. Assemble a small cleaning kit on every floor of your rental home, and stock it with fresh, easily recognizable cleaning products. Make sure the product labels and instructions are easy to read. If you have special instructions on how to clean something, such as the kitchen counters, make sure to include these instructions in written form near the applicable cleaning products.

Here’s what to include in the cleaning kit:

  • Instructions for cleaning
  • Paper towels and rags
  • Window cleaner
  • Dust cleaner
  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Bathroom cleaners — toilet, shower, floor, etc.
  • Rubber gloves
  • Air freshener
  • Make sure to exclude anything that could cause damage to your property if used improperly, such as bleach.

Keeping a rental property in top form is easy if you establish a cleaning routine that encompasses all areas of the space. It is important to leave nothing out, and complete the same tasks every time the property is rented. Create a checklist for yourself, or your property manager, to ensure nothing falls between the cracks.

Some bonus cleaning advice, if you have an odor you can’t locate or get rid of, here’s a post about 20 Common Household Odors and How to Remove Them Fast.

About the Author
Bonnie Dewkett is a cleaning and organizing expert who writes for Quill.com and The Joyful Organizer. She is passionate about helping people declutter and loves to see the positive impact that getting organized has on their lives.

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Great photos? Check. Enticing description? Check. “Wow” reviews? Check. Competitive rates? Check.

And yet you still face “The Case of the Disappearing Guest.”

That is: you have a promising early exchange with a potential guest, the ball seems to be steadily rolling toward a booking, and then they simply vanish—never to be heard from again, no matter how many follow-ups you send.

With all these checkmarks working to your advantage, what the heck happened?

In my 20+ years as a vacation rental guest, I’ve been through the inquiry process many times…from the other side of the potential transaction. Allow me to be your case study.

In the below article I’m going to share with you a few of my most memorable booking experiences, and why they’ve stuck with me. (These are real-life examples, but I’ll leave out names to respect the privacy of the owners.)

In The Bookings Race, the Hare Usually Wins

We vacationed in Sandbridge, VA in the summer of 2013. We didn’t want to stay in Virginia Beach (too busy) and OBX was booked. I luckily struck on Sandbridge, a quiet community nestled between Virginia Beach and OBX. Perfect!

I searched, sent out multiple inquiries, and then sat back for the waiting game. Except this time was different. Before I’d even sent out my final inquiry I received a response from a local property manager. It wasn’t the most detailed and personal of responses, but it had one major asset: it was rapid!

Guess what? We booked her place.

When it comes to vacation rentals, ignore the “slow and steady” argument, as well as any advice that tells you to avoid the immediate response for fear of “coming on too strong.” In the race to convert a guest inquiry, the speed of response is probably the biggest factor in locking down a booking. And the easiest, too.

How fast should you respond? As fast as possible, really.

After all, the modern vacation rental guest is generally always “on,” and always ready to book. Especially the millennial generation, who were raised on instant access and fast communication. If you can manage to respond in less than 2-3 hours, then you’re right up there with the best of them (within reason, of course – you do have to sleep!).

Your Guests Have iPhones – Call Them!

It’s the age of the millennial guest, I know. But many of us gadget-crazed guests do sometimes use the phone for its traditional use!

Case in point – I was headed to Sanibel, FL last year with my family. I sent out some inquiries and received a call from an owner who wanted to know if I had any questions about the property.

Wow!

I confess; I was a little taken aback. I didn’t expect a call. But after 10 seconds of adjusting and composing, I settled in for a great chat, and 5 minutes later I’d booked a stay at his 2-bedroom condo. Afterward, I received responses via email from a few other owners. But they’d already lost out to our old-fashioned friend…the humble telephone!

Equally impressive was the phone call I received from the same owner on our first morning at the condo, just to see how things were going. This is an owner who clearly cares about the entire guest experience. Cynics may suggest the owner was somehow intrusive or snooping, but I felt only positive vibes!

(As a related aside… although I’ve never received a video response to an inquiry, I have seen many examples used by owners over at Matt Landau’s Inner Circle. Highly personal and certainly trust-fostering…a great mode of replying!)

You’re Way Cooler Than Any Guide Book

My family is taking a trip this summer to Daufuskie Island, SC. This wasn’t our original plan; I’d been looking at Hilton Head Island, but an intrepid owner sold me on Daufuskie.

If you know Daufuskie, you’ll know there are no grocery stores, and you can’t drive to the island – it’s boat transfer only. Presented with a few logistical challenges, we started to wonder if Hilton Head might be the less-stressful choice. Right on cue, the owner in Daufuskie alleviated our fears with her expertise. From boat transfer choices, to online grocery shopping options—she covered it all.

Had it not been for this owner on Daufuskie, we would almost certainly have favored the easier route of Hilton Head. And on top of that, she didn’t just give functional information; she also gave us a list of local hangouts, and even a couple of local cooks who will bring prepared food right to our rental.

No bookstore guidebook can match this kind of personal knowledge. They almost always lack suggestions for the “Mom & Pop” places that us modern guests like to frequent. After all, we’re looking for that one-off local experience to remind us where we are in the world. It stems from the same value base that led us to stay in a vacation rental in the first place!

All of this is even more relevant when you consider the person tasked with finding and reserving the vacation rental. He or she has the added pressure of the group to find the perfect stay for everyone. So lend that harried person a hand, and differentiate yourself in the process!

Personalize Your Communications

As I said, those of us looking at vacation rentals over more traditional lodging are often searching for a more personal way to travel. Yes, price is important, but it’s very often a unique experience that guests are after. You can only stay in so many essentially identical places before you crave something a little different.

Use this personal angle to your advantage in all your guest communications. For example, if your potential guest mentions or marks that they have 2 kids, elaborate on your property’s kid-friendly features in your response. Something like:

“Dear John,

We’re delighted to confirm that our villa is available for your chosen dates at the price of x.

I notice that you have two kids traveling with you. We’ve spent many happy vacations here with our own children, and we’ve got lots of amenities to keep them entertained! From the large rear garden and heated pool, to the cart of beach gear that we provide to all our guests, to the games room complete with pool table and foosball….”

Etc.

I’ve seen so many inquiry responses that simply tell me the property is available. When I find a personal touch—something that shows the owner has thought about me, personally—I will pay attention, and more often than not, close the whole thing with a booking.

No more “Case of the Disappearing Guest”!

Andy Photo Scaled AltAndy McNulty is Co-Founder of Guest Hook, the web’s first vacation rental copywriting agency, and Touch Stay, a digital welcome book to help you create great guest experiences through modern technology. Having grown up on vacation rentals, he is passionate about the industry and believes its greatest asset is the personal, 1-to-1 approaches of owners and property managers.

Invest in your vacation rental business.

The ultimate goal in listing your vacation rental is to increase its potential for profitability. You place your offer up on a site like FlipKey, get in front of thousands of interested travelers, and start making money by renting it out – right? Not entirely. In order for your listing to work, you have to run your rental like a savvy small business owner would run a successful storefront. Your home and the customer service that accompanies it must provide the things your renters want and need in order for you to reach the highest level of profitability through renting. If you’re still a bit new to the small business mindset, have no fear! Check out these 6 tips to run your vacation rental like a real-life entrepreneur.

  1. Evaluate and Understand Potential Risks

Outlining and covering your potential risks as a vacation home owner is the first step in successfully managing your rental. Small business owners take time to understand possible causes for profit loss, and find practical solutions to cover each. List your concerns first then pair each with a measure of prevention. Whether these prevention measures include contract modifications, additional security, or specialty insurance, take time to research your options and find those with the highest potential for reducing risks.

  1. Invest in Security

Speaking of security, ensuring the safety of your customers will be critical. This holds true in every industry, however, it is especially important for consumers within the hospitality industry. Many home owners fail to see the importance of a home security system. You may hold this personal preference when it comes to your home, but you shouldn’t treat your rental like your home. It’s your business. Investing in a business security system will help you provide the reassurance your guests need to enjoy a comfortable and safe stay. It will also help you protect your profits from break-ins and potentially dishonest guests.

  1. Think of the Consumers’ Needs Before They Do

Successful business owners are constantly thinking of ways they can further improve their product/service to better meet their consumers’ unique needs. Think like your consumer to get a better idea of what they will want and need during their stay at your rental. Think of the things you appreciate having during an out of town stay, and make these available to guests of your rental. Also understand your area and provide information and materials that stand to benefit visitors. Examples of this could include providing bottled water for vacation rentals located in warm climates like Las Vegas or Phoenix, or offering hot chocolate for winter travelers in Park City or Denver. The FlipKey vacation inspiration page could serve as a useful tool here to get ideas from travel guides and “best of…” galleries.

  1. Consider a Third-Party Cleaning Service

A clean environment is essential to the success of any business. As a business owner in the hospitality industry, it is your responsibility to provide a clean home. Unfortunately, you may not have the time to clean your home well enough to meet the hospitality industry’s standards after every guest. This is where a third party cleaning service can help! Online housekeeping guides like Housekeeping.com can help you find quality housekeeping services that won’t blow your rental profits. Find a service that works for you, then schedule regular cleaning appointments in between stays to ensure each guest is welcomed with a spotless vacation home.

  1. Listen to Consumer Reviews

An important part of continuously meeting your consumers’ needs is to actually listen to their reviews following a stay. Smart entrepreneurs pay attention to both positive and negative reviews and do their best to understand reviewers’ comments from the consumer’s perspective. FlipKey provides a section for consumer reviews to help you with this part of your rental management. If you’d like additional feedback from renters who didn’t leave a review, try sending a quick follow up after their stay to say thank you for choosing your listing and ask if there were any additional amenities/resources they would have found useful during their stay.

  1. Keep up on Market Trends

An integral part of managing your rental like a successful small business is staying competitive. Small business owners are constantly watching market trends and making improvements to keep up in competitive markets. Look at successful listings in your area to see what they’re offering. Check out their reviews to see what travelers are saying about their stays. Are you currently doing these things? What could you do to generate the same raving reviews? Additionally, you should keep up on what’s trending in the promotion of successful listings. How can you get your listing out in front of more interested users and by way of which avenues? FlipKey recently published an article with some great tips for using social media to promote your listing.

 

Cosette Jarrett is a contributing writer for several lifestyle and tech blogs. Her current work includes roles as the go-to tech girl at HighSpeedInternet.com and regular contributor to the Lifehack and Business 2 Community blogs. She enjoys creating pieces to help both businesses and consumers find increased simplicity and efficiency at work and on the go.

Spiral Rings of Notebook

One of the most useful items you can provide your guests is a basic guide, or welcome book, that gives a snapshot of your area. In this book, you can compile all important information into one place, helping to reduce questions from guests while reinforcing their impression of you as an organized owner. Leave your welcome book in a place where your guests are sure to find it when they arrive, like an entryway table or kitchen counter.

Make the information easy to find, by using a binder with tabs separating each section. Along with your tips, consider placing a welcome letter at the beginning of your book. This can be a short note of thanks that will help make your guests feel at home when they first arrive.

To get you started, here’s a list of items we recommend you include:

  • Essential Information
    • Emergency numbers/contact information
    • Area maps
    • Wi-Fi network and password
    • Beach/park passes
    • Garbage collection
    • Check out times and departure instructions
  • “How to use” guides
    • Appliances
    • Entertainment systems
    • Water and septic systems
  • Provided household supplies
    • Toilet paper, paper towels, linens, etc
    • Food items
  • Area amenities
    • Restaurants – include menus for takeout and delivery options
    • Grocery stores, farmer’s markets/stands
    • Local attractions – hiking trails, best beaches, amusement parks, etc
    • Local dog park or off-leash area
  • Transportation options
    • Bus routes
    • Taxi and shuttle services
    • Car and bike rentals
    • Airports, train stations, etc

Happy bookings!

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In the vacation rental industry, repeat customers can be a strong proponent for your listing. Happy and repeat customers typically provide stellar reviews, book in advance, and can provide traveler insight and tips on how to improve your property that owners may not consider. So how can you attract repeat customers? We’ve compiled some tips to help keep your calendar booked.

Before the stay

Once a guest books, it’s important to follow up as soon as possible to address any questions they may have about the property location and surrounding area. Set their mind at ease by providing up to date contact information, should any issues or other questions arise prior to their stay. While your guest may already have planned activities for their vacation, providing insider tips
and suggestions of things to do shows your guests that you care about making their experience enjoyable and fun.

During the stay

Create a brochure for your house that includes FAQ’s, house rules, restaurant/activities suggestions, and your contact information. Guests will appreciate having this information at their disposal should they need any assistance.

After the stay

Upon check out, send a thank you note to your guests. Thank you’s add a personal touch that highlight your attention to detail. Remain accessible to answer any post-trip questions your guests may have. For example, if a refundable deposit was included in the reservation, let guests know the timeframe during which they can expect their deposit back. Follow up with guests a
few months later to remind them of their wonderful vacation. Providing a special discount for repeat customers gives guests an additional incentive to rebook.

Ultimately, remaining accessible, attentive, and personal helps attract quality and repeat customers. Happy bookings!

Chocolate vs Flowers

Guest Post: Ryan Danz of Air Concierge

It’s no secret that vacation rentals are getting more and more competitive, especially in highly booked vacation destinations, and this means that vacation rental owners are having to up their game to attract the most guests. At Air Concierge, one of the ways we do this is by stocking vacation homes with a welcome package. Guests simply LOVE the welcome package and often gush about it in their reviews of the property (which means even more bookings!). A simple gift to welcome your guests to your home sets the proper tone for their stay, makes them feel welcome, and most importantly reminds them that they’re staying in a unique home, not some generic hotel room.

But what do guests really want in their welcome package? What is the perfect item, or perfect combination, that gets those glowing 5­-star reviews? Half of us here thought it would be chocolate, while the other half thought it would be fresh flowers. Both have their merits, and both are truly appreciated by the unsuspecting traveler. But we were looking for the best – the thing that would do it every single time. So we ran a test.

Over the summer we placed a box of local, gourmet chocolates in half of our vacation rental properties, while the other half got a vase of fresh, seasonal flowers, and recorded the guest response to each. We discovered that the overwhelming majority of guests preferred the chocolates!

But then we posted about the experiment on our Facebook page. In a not­so­surprising­turn, the overwhelming Facebook majority was for both chocolates and flowers! By themselves, chocolate and flowers were tied for votes, and there was even a suggestion for wine being included in the welcome package. We also shared our findings with a few other vacation rental owners and discovered local, non­chocolate food items were also a big hit (examples included salmon jerkey for properties in the Pacific North West and local maple syrup for properties in Canada – this is the perfect opportunity to show your creativity!)

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So which is really the best welcome package for vacation rental guests? If you can only include one item, go with some local gourmet chocolates (or, at the very least, a food item). Guests enjoy having a bit of something sweet to greet them after their travels, and returning at the end of a night in your town to find some leftover chocolates puts their mood in a happy place for the evening. But if you really want to up your game as a vacation rental owner, some chocolates and a simple vase of fresh flowers can be the difference between a 4­ and 5-­star review from an otherwise satisfied guest.

Regardless of what welcome gift you choose for your guests, remember that this too often neglected addition goes a long way and can bring you returns so many times more than the small cost of a box of chocolates.

Ryan Danz is the founder of Air Concierge, a vacation rental property management organization designed to improve the vacation and short­term rental home experience for property owners and their guests. Ryan is also a California licensed attorney, well­versed in the tax matters surrounding short­term rental properties and offers his insight to his clients.

delayed flight

As a customer care representative at FlipKey, I have heard from many frustrated travelers who were confused and panicked because  their reservation was canceled at the last minute. Many of these travelers  were not contacted by the owner explaining the situation, but instead received an email from FlipKey stating that the reservation was canceled and that a refund is on its way. This can lead to some tense conversations, so I recommend that the traveler reach out to the owner to discuss why the reservation was canceled in the first place. Here are some tips to avoid this uncomfortable situation:

Be forthcoming

Before canceling a reservation, reach out to the traveler by email or phone. Once payment has been made in our system, you are able to see the traveler’s personal email address or phone number and can use them in case situations like this occur.

In the email or phone call, be truthful about why you have to cancel the reservation. Travelers will understand if a pipe has burst at the property and there is water damage, or if a tree limb has fallen through the roof. However, FlipKey does not condone canceling a reservation because you received an inquiry from a second traveler for a larger amount of money.

Find an alternative

Once you have explained the situation to the traveler, work with them to try to find an alternative accommodation that fits their needs. If you have another property that  could accommodate the reservation, make sure to provide the traveler with plenty of pictures or a direct link so they can look at it before making their decision to proceed. Or, if you know another owner with availability and are able to work out an agreement, put the traveler in touch with them to work out the details.

In both situations, you’ll want to make sure that you send the traveler a new rental agreement that outlines the updated information.

Offer a future discount

If neither option is available and you have to cancel the reservation, consider offering a discount to the traveler if they re-book during different dates. Try to keep your interaction on good terms so the traveler will consider re-booking with you again once the property is available. Sometimes travelers’ dates are flexible, and if work needs to be done at the property, they can move their vacation a couple of days. Also, the traveler might visit your area often, so there is an opportunity for them to book with you again.

Understand the refund policy 

It is also important to inform the traveler that once you issue the cancellation and refund, FlipKey will release those funds back to the card that the traveler paid with, but that it will take 7-10 days for the funds to be processed by the traveler’s bank or credit card company.

While no one likes to have their plans canceled on them, it is still possible for both parties to come out of a situation like this with no hard feelings towards each other. For instance, a couple of weeks ago I received a phone call from a traveler who was contacted by the owner who canceled the reservation a couple days before check-in. The owner worked with the traveler to find alternative accommodations, but nothing was available. So, he issued a full refund and was apologetic and hoped that the traveler could book with him in the future.

When I asked the traveler if she was angry that the reservation was canceled at the last minute, she said she wasn’t. In fact, she was grateful that the owner had actively reached out to her, explained the situation, worked with her to resolve it  and was apologetic about the inconvenience. To his credit, the owner was able to take a tense situation and create an outcome that satisfied both parties.

For more information on owner cancellations and refunds, visit our Help Center.