VRS008 – 10 Things We Learned from a Summer of Rental

Well, I finally got to Episode 8 after a long hiatus over the summer and into the fall.  It seems there is no stopping this runaway train that is the business of vacation rentals and we felt it in our agency as many others have experienced too.

The busy summer of rentals took all our time and energy as we had around a 90% occupancy rate in our 200+ cottages, then I took a much needed vacation.  So, here we are in November already with a lot of catching up to do.

This episode features a ‘fireside chat’ with my son and business partner Mike.  He is the whizzkid on the back end of Cottage Blogger and Vacation Rental Success, as well as a super-successful vacation home owner.  Mike and I now in partnership to develop Cottage BLogger to the next level – me to produce more podcasts with a stellar line-up of people to interview  as Mike develops our TV channel on Youtube.

We are also putting together our first joint venture book – ‘101 Ways to Create Loyal Vacation Rental Fans,' and it's a book by owners for owners…. I learned most of what I know from other owners who kindly shared what worked for them, and I've paid it forward by sharing many tips and suggestions.  Now we're bringing it altogether in what we hope will be a great resource for anyone starting out or wanting to take their business to the next level.  Mike talks a little more about this at the end of the episode.

So…I have two properties and Mike has one, and over the summer they have all been fully booked with back to back rentals over our 10 week summer season.  As ever we learned a lot so we pulled together 10 takeaways from the season……..and we chatted about the things we both learned:

 

Heather’s Learning Points

  1. Value of being close by  – Being close to my cottages is a huge bonus and it really brought it home to me this year how important it is to have a local contact who can deal with immediate issues.  We’ve got hot tubs in both properties and it’s imperative to have someone who can check them out when something goes wrong
  2. Importance of having clear instructions for facilities such as how to use the remotes for the satellite TV – don’t expect people to intuitively understand the methods of accessing satellite.
  3. The need for good sets of linens – I’ve been on the lookout for good looking and long lasting linens and have yet to find store-bought products that make the graded.  Now I’ve found US manufactured linens from The Distinguished Guest- they are excellent quality and do well with constant laundering.
  4. Good thing we have a generator – storms, power outages etc but learned from other owners that a good power outage kit is essential to keep guests from freaking out when the power goes out.
  5. The value of reviews and what people put in them gives us some great information – for us its that our guests love the wildlife so for 2014 we'll be having a kids competition with a prize of a go-pro camera.

Mike’s Learning Points

  1. Wifi expectations – Understanding the implications and expectations of providing internet.  Guests may not appreciate the importance of limiting their internet usage so it is a good idea to ensure they are aware of any limitations in the early part of the booking process.
  2. Effectively manage your managers – Always keep on top of your service providers – for those who use property managers, Mike suggests being very clear on expectations and requirements.  In many areas cleaners may not be familiar with the ‘hospitality’ necessary to run a vacation rental and may need educating.
  3. Let go of the small stuff – The little things guests do that get under your skin – we all need to so this at some time and set aside any emotional connection to the property.
  4. Managing neighbours – Having them onside is more important than a stand off.  Mike talks about his unique location and why it’s a good idea to treat the neighbours well and make them feel valued.  At times ‘curtain twitchers’ can be your best friends.
  5. A gardener will add blooms to your reviews – The best person ever, your gardener.  The garden at Sea Breeze is beautiful and is testament to a great decision Mike made to employ someone to keep the exterior looking good.

Links

Sea Breeze Cottage

Osprey Cottage

Kingfisher Cottage

10 Steps to Emergency Prepardness

The Distinguished Guest

10 Weeks in the life of a Vacation Rental Manager

Do you have a question?

If you have a question you’d like answered on the show, pop on over to my voicemail page and leave me a message. I would like to include an owner question or two to feature on future shows so let me have yours!

Thank you!

Thank you all for checking out this session of Vacation Rental Success podcast

And finally, if you haven’t done so already I’d really appreciate you leaving a quick rating of the podcast on  iTunes.   As ever, your comments and reviews are welcome.

johnmgoing

Glad to see you podcasting again.  I’m new to the VR industry, and have been reading/listening to everything I can get my hands on.  Your podcast is excellent.  
You asked for feedback about topics to discuss – Here are several that interest me:  Taking Credit cards vs. having people pay with checks.  I’ve heard guests can deny a credit card, so it worries me to move from collecting a check to using credit cards, but I understand bookings will step up with Credit Cards.  What is your experience in this area?
In this podcast Mike talked about Wi-Fi.  I offer this in my house, but have an option to step the speed up to 10 MB.  Is there a suggested speed that I should offer?
In this podcast you talk about laminated sheets for TV explanations.  Do you have copies I can see, so I can mimic what you’ve setup?
I would like to hear a podcast or blog post about how you address SEO with your websites.  
Thanks for all you are doing!

johnmgoing

I thought about another question that maybe you could address in a future episode.  While watching one of the videos on your YouTube channel you mention that you have ways to determine (via Facebook and Twitter) whether someone is planning a party at your house.  How are you using these tools to screen your guests to find those who are looking for a party place?

Heather Bayer

johnmgoing Hi John – Great question!

Heather Bayer

johnmgoing
I wouldn’t be overly bothered about speed of WiFi – the issue is more on bandwidth you offer.  We are just putting together a new TV/DVD instruction sheet so I’ll post it when its finished. I’m looking out for an expert to interview on SEO because its such a good topic but can be horribly complicated, so I want someone who can give me a simplified version yet with enough information that will be effective.

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