Put yourself in your rental guests' shoes.
Perhaps you live in a high-rise condo building. You have a small balcony overlooking another high-rise condo building, so the only time you can enjoy fresh air and better views is when you get away from home. You've rented a cottage and spent the last few months counting the days to your vacation, which has finally arrived. All that planning and packing is done; there are juicy steaks in the cold box; the beer and wine is already chilled and you just can't wait to get there and get that barbecue going.
You finally join that line of traffic heading north to cottage country and the excitement is high. As the jumble of buildings and bustle of the city are left behind, the anticipation of your vacation grows, until eventually you turn onto the cottage road for the final leg of the journey. You have arrived.
But what happens when your first impression of your vacation home is less than positive; when the reality of your chosen location does not match the anticipation, and that heady excitement evaporates and turns into disappointment?
This is a situation that occurs over and over again during the rental season when vacation home owners haven't applied diligence to the changeover; have neglected to check some basic facilities and paid scant attention to the first impression their renters are offered.
Maintaining the high standard of a vacation rental property is just as important in the middle and end of the season as it was when the summer started. These are the top five complaints from renters arriving at a cottage, which may remind you why this is a highly customer focused business:
1. The key is missing or code for the lockbox hasn't been set properly
This is one of the commonest causes of complaint on arrival, and in some situations we have heard of guests having to go home because they could not find the key or operate the lockbox. If you change a keyless entry, or lockbox code on each changeover, triple check that it works, and make sure there is a spare key, either with a neighbour, or hidden on the property. Then make sure you check your cell and voice mail messages frequently on changeover day.
2. The propane tank is empty
There is absolutely no excuse for this. Checking there is a full tank for each rental is a fundamental part of the changeover. Always have a spare tank provided at the cottage, and bring a full one for the changeover to swap over.
3. The property is not clean
Guests have high expectations of a clean property and will complain if it is not. Even when you ask your guests to leave the cottage in the same condition in which it was found, remember that standards vary widely. Sometimes you'll be blown away by how spotless it has been left, which makes up for the odd time that you have to spend additional time vacuuming or cleaning washrooms. I recall one of my rental experiences where I spent the first two hours cleaning the windows so I could see the fantastic view that had been advertised. It was an experience I will not forget at the start of a longed-for vacation.
4. Appliances do not work
Something that may seem minor to you as a property owner, may be a significant issue for a renter. A non-working appliance or feature can seem to assume disproportionate importance from your perspective as an owner, but for a rental guest who has anticipated using the item on arrival, anger and subsequent complaints can be entirely justified.
5. The property is not ‘as advertised'
When your rental guests only have photos on a web site to show them what to expect, those images are what they should see when they arrive. If you have shown beds attractively made up; a table laid for the first evening meal, and the watercraft lined up on the beach, make sure the reality accurately reflects those images.
Most vacation home owners that I know are highly client focused and want their guests to have a great time. They spend a lot of time making sure their property is welcoming and attractive and would be horrified if their renters were not happy. When a problem occurs it is usually a simple oversight and can be quickly corrected, and with a sufficient apology and occasional compensation, can be recovered.
Sadly there are some who are simply focused on the ‘cash cow' aspects of rental and providing the money has been paid, have no interest in guest satisfaction. From my standpoint as a responsible vacation home owner, these people – although thankfully in the minority – can be highly detrimental to the rental business and even drive people away from renting at all. If anyone has suggestions on how to regulate the industry and ensure high standards are maintained, I would love to hear them.
Photo by Mvplante on Flickr.com