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To greet or not to greet - that is the question

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“When renting a vacation rental, do you want a detailed meet and greet from the owner or would you rather just get on with your holiday?”

This question appeared on Twitter this morning and it was very topical since we were discussing exactly the same thing yesterday while we were preparing our cottage for our next rental guests.

Thank you to @la_vache for raising this issue, as the decision you make regarding it might have an effect on how your guests treat and respect your property.

I tell a story in my book about one of my earlier experiences in renting a cottage in Ontario.

“Some years ago, ten of us arrived from the UK on a late February afternoon for a touring vacation starting with three nights in a very large property. For anyone who has travelled back from Europe, you’ll know that you feel pretty jaded after getting in at 4 pm EST (which is 9 pm back in the UK), queuing for immigration, wrestling the throngs in the baggage hall, waiting another hour in the rental car line-up, then hitting the highway in the height of the rush hour! We were beat! So the prospect of getting to this luxury villa, relaxing by the fire, even getting in the hot tub, was very appealing. We arrived, almost as planned, at 8 pm (1 am back in UK), to be met by the owner. I have no quarrel with people being proud of their homes and liking to show them off, but this bordered on the ridiculous. An hour and a half later, the owner was still explaining the heating system – that was after instruction on using the washer and dryer, dishwasher, barbecue, how to operate the showers, where to find the cues for the snooker table, what the optimum temperature of the hot tub was, and going through three pages of instructions of what not to do. By the time the owner had departed, we were exhausted.”

Think of the last time you bought a car – if it was a new one, you’ll understand the urge to just get in and drive away. The last thing you want is the sales representative issuing reams of instructions on how to maximise fuel efficiency, change the windscreen wipers, and check water levels.

You have already seen the specification, and probably had a test drive, so all you need is a good manual, and a phone number to ring should you have any questions. The same goes for a vacation home.

I hear the chorus of ‘it’s not the same – this is our property that we are giving over to strangers, and they need to know all the quirkier aspects of it’. With good planning, a thoroughly written guest guide, good screening of prospective guests, and a commitment to why you are in this business, you should feel comfortable in at least letting them settle in for a couple of hours, or only spending a very short time with them on arrival.

If you do want to show them around, we would suggest making it a very brief tour. Your guests just want you to go away, so they can explore in their own time, perhaps clean up after a long journey, and as they are on holiday they’ll be wanting to relax with a cold drink! So resist the temptation to regale them with stories of the last time the septic blocked up, or about the racoons in the attic last summer. Put any warnings in the guest guide, make sure you send a copy for them to read before they arrive, have a prominently displayed copy in the cottage, ask them to sign to say they have read and understand the instructions, and leave them be. They will appreciate you, and your home, all the more for that.

“Renting Your Recreational Property For Profit:”(Published by Self-Counsel Press)

We have just made the decision that we’ll meet our guests at Osprey Cottage this year, to briefly handover the cottage guide and point out the cottage boundaries, as it’s easy to stray onto a neighbours’ land. We’ll leave the telephone number so they can call if they have any more questions, and we’ll make a judgement about how much information and guidance they want.  As @margaretbavaria said in a Twitter post this morning,

“Some of our guests need a lot of support. Our contact is very much driven by them.”

We did a quick survey in the office yesterday and looked at the problems and issues we had last summer with some of our cottage guests. Without exception, all of the issues occurred in properties where the guests had not been met by an owner or a representative of the owner. My view is, that when guests are personally welcomed, they feel a connection with the property owner and are less likely to disrespect the property in any way. It was also pointed out to me that the owners who take the time to create a welcome, either in person, or with a welcome gift and note, are more customer focused in their approach to the rental business, and will experience fewer issues anyway.

I’d be interested to hear what my readers think about this issue. Do you meet and greet? Do you welcome your guests in any other way? Do you simply leave them to find everything out for themselves and hope they will call you if they have a problem?