I've already seen indicators that there will be a lot more rental properties on the market in the coming year. The second home market has always been volatile in uncertain economic times, and the potential for a fall in value is prompting more owners to consider renting to ride out the storm. This will increase the competitive nature of the market and make it all the more important for owners to be professional in the ways they market and operate their rental business.
It is not difficult to do this but it does require a good degree of planning, thought and a lot of customer focus. So, what does it mean to be a vacation rental professional? Those who take this business seriously, want to compete for an extended season and value their integrity, have the following qualities:
There is no room in this market for dishonesty. Rental clients deserve to know exactly what to expect from a property and this means not hiding the negative aspects. In contrast, make it a positive benefit. A weedy waterfront may be a haven for fishermen; a property situated above a lake with lots of steps may benefit from breeze on hot days and fewer bugs; having close neighbours can create a sense of community and be great for parents who want their children to have company. My own property on a river with no access into the nearby lake because of rapids enjoys peace and tranquility because there are no fast motor boats.
Respect for renters
If you don't love what you are doing, this may not be the business for you. If you don't enjoy it, the chances are you will care less about your rental clients and their enjoyment of your property, and have a ‘take it or leave it' attitude which won't bring repeat renters or word-of-mouth recommendations. The most successful owners are the ones who treat their rental clients with respect and trust, offer value for money and listen to their clients' needs. They also remember that their guests are paying a substantial amount for their vacation and appreciate the trust given to them.
Strive for excellence
There is always a way to improve, to create that WOW effect, and to make renters feel they have made a wise choice. The best feedback to receive is, “It's all I expected and more”. Cleanliness, comfort and ambience are expected as standard, even in the humblest of properties and professional owners take this to the next level. Putting some rental money back into the property each season in improvements and upgrades will bring more guests in the long run.
Always looking for ways to add value
Adding value doesn't mean a high price tag. Sure, the addition of a hot tub or sauna, a theatre TV system or a pool table, will make your features list look pretty good, but there are other ways of adding value that cost next to nothing. A good library of books and DVDs; a guest guide packed with things to do on a rainy day, driving tours, and recommendations for restaurants; a GPS unit and a Geocaching guide, are all low-cost additions that will have your guests talking about your property to their friends.
Creating a welcoming atmosphere
First impressions count, and seasoned owners of vacation properties know this. They work at making their property welcoming and think of little things like leaving an outside lamp on for late arrivals; having the place warmed up in the cooler months; having the bedrooms look cozy and attractive, and creating a ‘Welcome basket'.
Ready to offer assistance
Many people who come to a holiday rental property are taking this type of vacation for the first time. They don't know what to expect and often need some degree of help and guidance, particularly when the features and facilities may be unfamiliar to them. Often, all they need is a bit of reassurance and a well written guest guide should answer most of their questions. On occasion, a client will need a little more assistance and a patient, friendly and understanding voice over the phone is often all it needs to resolve any problems.
Provide accurate and timely information
From the first enquiry to the follow-up letter, all communication should be accurate and prompt. Give enough information prior to the vacation to allow guests to plan and prepare; have a comprehensive guest guide that covers all eventualities and be prepared to answer a ton of questions. Experienced owners know that many people don't read the information they are given, so they repeat anything that is really important several times and in different places.
Tolerant of differing standards
However much you want and expect your place to looking as immaculate as you left it when you do the changeover, standards vary widely, and there will be occasions when those lower standards are pretty shocking. Rather than getting upset and firing off an angry email to the departed rental group threatening a big hit on their damage deposit, take a moment to think about it. It is easy to get offended and to stand the high ground on this issue, but the sad fact is, there are slobs in this world and you've just had some of them in your property. Vacation rental professionals balance the majority of good renters against the minority of bad ones, and will generally write off the additional cleaning as bad luck and just decide never to rent to that group again.
If you are just starting out, then taking a professional approach from the beginning will reap the rewards in the future. It is a rewarding business to be in, as long as you do consider it to be a ‘business' and treat it as such.