An article in the Huffington Post caught my eye this week as a couple of serial vacation rental guests delivered their criteria for reserving a property. Five Rules for Choosing a Vacation Rental gives their must-have list before they book a place and it interested me as there’s a couple of points that I wouldn’t necessarily have thought of being that important. On second look however, there are some great points that we can all learn from.
Tim and Lynne Martin have been travelling the world and living in vacation rentals since selling their California home three years ago and blog about their experiences here. Over this time they have compiled a list of the five things that must be in place to create confidence in their choice of property.
I’ve noticed in my own purchasing decisions that reviews play an important part in just about anything I am considering buying from an electric toothbrush to an RV site on our latest road trip. For our trip to the Bahamas in January we didn’t look at any properties that did not have several reviews. Whether you agree or not about the value of reviews, this is how the majority of people buy and we cannot ignore the growing reliance on them. Buyers are very savvy too – they look at the quality of the reviewer as well as the review itself – so posting the best comments from your guest book is not the best idea unless there is a way of verifying the reviewer. The Martins’ Rule #1 advises travelers to read the reviews carefully.
Lynne suggests that guests thoroughly research their location before booking and I would agree with this wholeheartedly, but also understand that owners in some location do not want to advertise their specific location prior to a booking. This is an issue in areas where properties may be in remote or rural locations where advertising a property as a vacation rental could pose a security risk. In addition, she mentions ‘annoyances’ that an owner may not have control over, such as neighbor noise. What is important is to be transparently honest about privacy levels and the potential for any local disturbance, as well as offering a Google Earth location so that guests can look at the surrounding area and make their decisions based on what is in the area.
The example Lynn uses is a Berlin apartment where the listing didn’t mention there was no oven, no microwave and only a charcoal BBQ. While it could be argued that applicance requirements vary with cultures, for anyone offering a property to an international market, it’s important to make it clear what is provided and what is not. Guests need to be able to make an informed decision without having to make assumptions and have them proved wrong. It comes down to expectations since we’ve experienced a rise in guests expecting a dishwasher, laundry facilities and hi speed interent as standard in our Ontario cottages, when only a few years ago these would have been considered luxuries.
This rule presumes that travelers do not have their own means of transport which is probably true in some instances, but moreso in a city location. When my son and his wife stayed in a vacation rental in Barcelona a few years ago, the property information was very explicit about the lack of parking spaces for their rental car and suggesting they don’t bring it into the city and use the local trams and buses instead. Once again, this comes down to the owner supplying accurage and comprehensive information and the guests asking the right questions. We will often ask guests what is important to them about their vacaction; what they want to do, and where they would like to visit. The answers often indicate how much research they have done, and occasionally prompt us to suggest our place is not for them. For instance, we had a booking from a family from the US, and in the comments section on their booking form they asked how far the nearest casino was and if they had to drive or could they walk to McDonalds and Starbucks. Since our place is 50 minutes from the anywhere with any choice of fast food and the local Casino is over 2 hours away it seemed best to advise them to choose another, more urban location.
Lynne’s advice for anyone wanting internet connection is as follows:
If you expect a strong, consistent broad band connection which will allow you to use Skype and stream entertainment without a hassle, tell them so right up front!
I could not agree more with this but find that many owners will blithely declare ‘hi-speed internet’ on a listing without noting any restrictions, and then complain and charge a damage deposit for any bandwidth overage. If your guests have unlimited internet at home and their kids stream video and download TV and music, they will expect to do the same if you do not warn them of any restrictions beforehand. Don’t leave it until they arrive to find this out or you will have some very unhappy campers on your hands.
I say this as I sit in a fifth wheel in an expensive RV park in Alabama that offers ….yes…as you expected..’Hi-speed internet’.
Hmmmm….we have a booster outside our window and don’t have a speck of a signal. And the owners response….’we’ve been having problems with the Wifi for the last couple of years”. So, as you can imagine this is a particular bugbear of mine.
If you have any internet issues, be they restrictions on usage or potential for slowdown or outage, be upfront and honest. Many guests are happy to be without or to use the internet sparingly, but there are those, like the Martin’s and myself for whom it is an absolute necessity.
I love to hear what guests feel about their experiences in their vacation rental homes as quite often it can be surprising that what is important to them doesn’t always match up with our expectations.