How we got 60 Reviews and created a loyal band of repeat guests - Vacation Rental Formula

How we got 60 Reviews and created a loyal band of repeat guests

This week saw a milestone at Osprey Cottage and our 60th review.  It was from a group who have been to the cottage before but this was the first time they had posted a review so it was a delight to hear from them.  Since we have had such great success with this property, I took some time to reflect on why it is so popular and attracts a really loyal group of guests who come back year after year.  In fact some visit several times every year.

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So, what’s so special about it?  Apparently it is not the location.

When I bought my first property in Ontario the first realtor we used said we’d have a real problem renting a river cottage, because ‘everyone wants to be on a lake and go boating’.  I’ve since bought four properties all located on rivers because they are better value for purchase, and every one of them has been super-successful.

I wanted to explore why this is – what we are doing that brings an annual gross income of over $50K that allows us to pay all the expenses and mortgage and leaves room for improvements which over the years has significantly increased the property value.

osprey_cottage_exteriorOsprey Cottage is a modest property – it has 3 bedrooms, with ensuite bathroom to the master bedroom, and a second full bath.  It’s open plan, and there’s a fireplace for the winter, a good-sized TV with satellite service, high speed internet.  It rents for $1875 per week in summer and $1225 in low season.

And it has a hot tub……which is the draw in winter and why our bookings have gradually increased year over year in the low season.

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In exploring the reviews there’s a clear pattern in what guests like and why it makes them come back time and time again.

They love the welcome

We do a couple of things on a consistent basis.

Guests always arrive to a place that is welcoming – there is classical music playing on the stereo; the fire is lit in winter; lights are on; the temperature is just right and the place smells clean and fresh.

We use natural scents – nothing that comes out of an aerosol can or can be plugged into a wall  – instead there are small bowls of bicarbonate of soda located on cupboard tops (out of sight) that have a few drops of essential oils added on each changeover.

Here’s a great tip from our supplier of essential oils:

Try a few drops of a calming scent on a used dryer sheet and put in your airing cupboard to gently scent your linens. Add a few drops of a fresh scent to a saucepan of simmering water to take away cooking smells from your kitchen and carefully carry it throughout your home to deodorize your rooms – so much better than a chemical spray.

A personal letter greets each group of guests – using their names and welcomes them to the property, wishes them a wonderful vacation and encourages them to call us if they have any issues or questions.  We usually phone as well to make sure they arrived safely and answer any immediate questions.

The nice touches of music playing and often a phone call to make sure everything is OK, where the person calling knows your name, these are the little things that make this cottage stand out.”

We epecially appreciate the exceptional service provided by Phil & Heather who get every detail just right from the surprise basket of baked goodies and fresh blueberries upon arrival to their check in phone call to make sure everything is OK & to your liking.”

There’s a seasonal and individual gift – even for the dog – our gifts range from a pot of fresh herbs and produce from our local farmers market in summer, to locally produced maple syrup and a jar of home-made maple nut crunch in winter.  We have a chocolate factory close by (now who doesn’t need one of those!) and often leave jars of assorted chocolates from there.  A bag with a tennis ball, dog tag with the cottage address/telephone # on it, and a couple of home-made doggy treats, greet the four-footed guests.

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The beds are the very best

A good part of a vacation is spent sleeping so the most important furniture, at least to me, are the beds.  We have always made sure that the mattresses are supremely comfortable that bed linens are of the best quality.  We’ve tested a lot of different sheets, thread counts etc., and I’m happy to say I have found a supplier of US made linens that I will be using from here on.

I change out the duvet covers and bedspreads regularly giving a different look for each season, and it seems to go down well with our guests.

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Check out  The Distinguished Guest for a range of bed and bath products that I personally endorse having tried them out.  The sheets wash really well, and after a few times through the laundry need barely any ironing. We have a limited time offer of 20% on their range so if you want to order use the Discount Code:  cottageblogger20


There are lots of amenities

When I’m at a vacation rental I never want to be missing something that would have made the stay more pleasant.  That’s why it is so important to pay attention to every request, suggestions and comment your guests make.  This year we supplied an ice cream scoop, a salad spinner, trays for taking food and drink out to the garden, and a couple of small outside tables to place beside the lounging chairs – all these as a result of guest suggestions.  Mostly however, we think we must have just about everything.

Other things that get mentioned are:

the well-equipped kitchen had everything we needed for a complete Thanksgiving dinner”

the  kids loved the fishing equipment and caught several sunfish off the dock”

we spent hours on the paddleboat and going up and down the river in the kayaks seeing all the wildlife, even the ospreys”

I’ll leave the last note to a satisfied guest who I think has said it all and encourages us to believe we really have got it right – even in a place that ‘no-one is ever likely to rent’.

And if you wondered, we never used that realtor again!

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This is just my story and it will be part of our new book

101 Ways to Create Loyal Vacation Rental Fans.

There is still time to get your contribution to us and let the vacation rental world know how amazing you are at making your guests vacation the best ever.  Don’t be shy and give it a go….download our Information Pack, write about what you do best and be a published author.


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