VRS281 – Getting Ready for Another Season of Vacation Rentals

It’s that time again! Another winter comes and goes and here we are getting ready for a new season of rental. Doing an annual audit makes a lot of sense and it’s an exercise we encourage our owners to do in the spring. In this episode, I share how we do our annual check and what’s important to cover.

The best time to do this is not on a lovely warm day when the sun is sparkling on the water, the happy sound of children playing fills the air, and the barbecue is sending out wafts of mouth-watering aromas. It’s a much better idea to carry out a systematic analysis on a cool, cloudy day when your judgment won’t be distorted or swayed by the beauty of the surroundings.

To start off with, you need to take off your owner hat and put yourself in the role of a hyper-critical guest arriving at the property for the first time. As you know – at least I hope you know – guests will explore your cottage, outside and in. They will open all drawers and cupboards that are not locked or sealed. They will look under beds and behind furniture. No nook will be left unexplored, no cranny will evade investigation.

it is a simple truth that we are a curious species and put in a new place, we generally want to check out the territory, establish our boundaries and mark it as our own – even for a temporary period.

Your guests are your most thorough supervisors, checkers, and auditors, so it's really worth making sure your guests don’t find any shortcomings you would not wish to find yourself.

With this in mind, you need to do the same, but you are going to do it with a note pad in hand and do a tour checking every corner, drawer, window frame and toilet bowl with a perfectionist’s eye.

Doing an audit at the start of the rental season may uncover a few things that are certain to be spotted by your eagle-eyed guests. The following should help ensure you miss nothing:

THE AUDIT CHECKLIST

Exterior

– Arrive at the property as if you were a guest for the first time. What is the first thing you notice? How inviting does it look? Think of two things you could do to make it look more attractive. Do an initial walk-around. Are there any areas where you store things that are unsightly or need cleaning up? Does the siding need cleaning?

– Is the approach clear of debris, leaves and fallen branches? What could you do to improve the approach to the cottage? A new sign with the property name? Hanging baskets or flower tubs outside the door?

– Is the exterior neat and tidy? Are tables/chairs stacked or laid out neatly? Are items stored in an unsightly way under the deck?

– Is the waterfront clean and clear of clutter – is the dock in good condition – are there any areas that need repair? Do you have a lockable storage shed where you can store items you don’t want your guests to find or use? If there is anything you don’t want to be touched or used, then make sure it is out of sight, or clearly marked ‘Not for Use by Rental Guests’.

– Are decks and docks free of rotten wood and exposed nails and screws? Replace and repair as required.

– Look at the property critically from the outside. Do you need to power wash the siding? Are the windows clean? Would the frames benefit from repainting? Does the barbecue need to be replaced? Is it clean and functioning correctly? Have you provided a brush to allow your guests to clean it?

– Check all patio and outdoor furniture and dispose of stained, mildewed and broken chairs. Check umbrella – is it clean and free of mildew and stains. Do the same for tables.

– Are your boats/kayak/canoe/paddleboat in good condition with no leaks or weak spots? Are oars and paddles in good condition? Do you have a complete safety kit for each boat? Are lifejackets/PFDs approved and functional?

– Are there any materials or items stored outside that could pose a safety risk for children? For example, rat or mouse poison, fertilizer, paints, flammable liquids, etc.

 

Inside the Property

The following is an excerpt from a post on the Properly website and describes Durk Johnston’s ‘Follow the wall’ technique.

Essentially, it is just using the wall as the roadmap for the cleaning practice by literally touching the wall as you move through the property. It ensures that every part of the property is looked at in a systematic and orderly way, including the closets, cabinets, under furniture, and behind doors.

In the hospitality industry, both the housekeeper and then the inspector practice following the wall. When following the wall, either to clean the property or to inspect it, there are several things to remember.

1. Scan from top to bottom as you move through the property.

In other words, start looking at the top corner of the wall and continue all the way to the bottom of the baseboard.

2. Use furniture, counters, or differences in flooring to create invisible walls.

This ensures you check every part of the property. (If you don’t do this you risk missing kitchen islands or the furniture in the middle of the room.

3. When checking dressers or cabinets, start scanning at the bottom and work your way up.

This allows for a more efficient flow around the property.

4. If there are multiple levels to a property work on each floor as its own section.

5. Finish the route in the kitchen (or at least have the kitchen as close to the end as possible).

The location of the kitchen which is where you will be finishing shall determine which hand you will follow the wall with.

Following this pattern creates a repeatable process that allows for quality and speed to follow as the work is completed.”

Source: Follow the wall – the foundational cleaning procedure

 

– Enter the property as if for the first time. What is your first impression? What does it smell like? Does it feel damp or smell musty? Walk through each room and record your impression in a notebook. Then do a more thorough and methodical search checking all appliances for cleanliness; carpets and rugs for stains and wear; drawers and cupboards for mess and clutter; bathrooms for lime deposits and hard floor cleanliness; window frames for bugs and dirt.

– Check the lighting throughout the property. How ambient is the interior both day and night? After dark, does the place feel welcoming and cozy, or dark and gloomy? Is there sufficient lighting in living areas and bedrooms for reading?

– Are children's toys, games, and books generally clean and in good condition? If you have any toys or games you don’t want to be used, remove them. Buy a lockable chest or cupboard to put in the basement or storeroom and clearly mark it ‘Owner’s Cupboard’, or something similar. Check all board games and packs of cards to ensure they are complete. Plan to purchase one new board game each season.

– Do you have sufficient plates, cutlery, and glassware for the maximum number of people you will accommodate, and do you have spares? Do you supply serving dishes, casserole dishes, pie plates, mixing bowls, etc?

– Do you have a good range of small appliances such as a blender, food processor, waffle maker? What about upgrading? Vitamix, Instant Pot, Keurig?

– Do you have sufficient plastic plates, cutlery, and glassware for outdoor use?

– Are your cooking pans and utensils in good condition? Is there a large pot for boiling corn or cooking pasta? Do you have a slow cooker (often asked for)? Are non-stick pans in good condition? Do you need to purchase new fry pans?

– Bedrooms: Are the mattresses comfortable – not too soft and not too hard? Are they clean and free of mildew and damp smells? Check for evidence of bed bug activity.

– Do the bedrooms look attractive? Are comforters or bed covers clean and fresh? Check all pillows for stains – replace if necessary. Check the mattress covers too and replace any that are stained or worn. If you supply linens, consider buying new sets for the new season.

– Assess the condition of your towels. Are they still soft and white, or are they getting a little grey and looking tired.

– Move the beds and check underneath. You may find more than dust bunnies! Vacuum thoroughly.

– Thoroughly check the bathrooms assessing any grout mildew, whether the shower doors need lime treatment – or even if they need replacing.

– Check all your cleaning supplies. Your guests won’t clean unless you provide the supplies and equipment for them to do it. Restock with paper products – toilet paper, kitchen towel, coffee filters; laundry detergents; bathroom and kitchen cleaning products, and furniture polish.

– Technology – do you have ample charging stations? There should be at least one in every bedroom.

– Check your Welcome Book. If you still have a paper document, is it neat, typed, easy to read and presented in a friendly tone? Is it up-to-date? Are the contact telephone numbers still correct? Have you bought any new appliances or equipment that may need explanatory notes in the guide? Is the Guide dog-eared, grease-stained or otherwise unsightly? Do you need to buy a new binder or Guide cover? Is it time to go digital?

– Renew your tourist information. This is all free from your local tourist office. The only thing you may need to buy is a map of the local area, and make sure you label it with your name and a request to leave it behind when your guests depart.

– Make sure you have working smoke alarms on each level of the property, and a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.

 

So, there you are – a complete audit.

Make sure you document everything – it makes it easier to plan any updates from furnishings and furniture to kitchen and dining equipment. For those who do a bi-annual inspection, the documentation will come in very handy to remind you of the dates of changes.