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christine.jpgIt is with great sadness that I tell you this will be my last blog post with HomeAway. 

 

Nearly seven years ago, when I met Brian Sharples and Carl Shepherd (co-founders of HomeAway), they were new to the vacation rental industry.   They had a million questions and spent a huge amount of time learning about this space. I was happily working on my own, writing books and holding seminars when they offered me a job – which I declined.  

 

I was  very concerned about the individual owners — I wanted to make sure that the owners were considered and protected as they grew the business.   And  I could see that this company was on its way to doing some incredible things.  For these reasons, I joined the HomeAway team in 2005.

During my tenure at HomeAway, there are many things that I am especially proud of.   I created the Owner Community website (www.OwnerCommunity.com), a resource center for vacation rental owners.  I conducted countless seminars for vacation owners, a weekly podcast series, created over a thousand articles, and championed and executed HomeAway’s first-ever owners conference (HomeAway Summit).  In November of 2010, under my direction a new community forum was built so that owners could finally communicate with each other online (www.community.homeaway.com ).

 

I also worked behind the scenes as an internal consultant for products and services pertaining to vacation rental owners. Basically, my role was to make sure that the voice of vacation rental owners was heard internally (even when it wasn’t easy to hear). And I was an advisor to the executive team– who relied on my perspective for a myriad of key decisions that helped shape and influence what HomeAway has become today. 

 

When I joined HomeAway, it was a very small company—only a handful of employees.  Today it’s a large corporation with over 900 employees.   We have come full circle and it’s time for me to once again work on my own in order to develop concepts and ideas for the vacation rental industry which I am very excited about. 

It was a pleasure working with, for and on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of vacation rental owners over the years. I look forward to continuing our relationships as we work together to make the vacation rental industry better and bigger than it is today.

Please keep in touch via my website, www.howtorentbyowner.com , via email Christine@howtorentbyowner.com and via Facebook 


All the best,
Christine Karpinski

Happy Renting BY OWNER! 

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Hi everyone,

 

Here’s the continuation of my kitchen remodel saga. moneyeyeSmall.jpeg

 

My next step after choosing materials was to interview contractors who could actually do the work.   I really wanted someone who had experience in installing Ikea cabinets and conventional cabinets.

 

So just like anything else, finding a contractor in the area who is reliable is quite a challenge. This property is in Florida which is an advantage—the state has gone through many hurricanes and has had its share of fly-by-night contractors coming into the state and ripping off people, so thankfully, they were forced to enact some pretty stringent laws for working as a contractor in the state of Florida. But laws or no laws it still doesn’t mean they are the “best”. This search, as with any others started with other owners. I called a bunch of people I knew to see if they had or knew anyone that could do the job for me.

 

I also talked to my HVAC guy and asked him if he had any recommendations. His response was, “don’t go with anyone who advertises in the yellow pages! There’s so much work from referrals available in this area that contractors don’t need to advertise. If they advertise then you should worry.” I thought that was interesting and pretty sound advice.

 

I found and interviewed three different contractors. One showed up in a suit and tie with a clip board. I know you should not just a person by their appearance but…I expect a contractor to show up in jeans and a tee shirt (or polo shirt) and you know… have a little dirt under their nails. To me the suit and tie was just a bad sign! And it seems my instincts were correct. When I mentioned things I wanted done, his eyes met mine and I think I actually saw dollar signs in his pupils.

 

The next person I interviewed was from a company. He was professional and knowledgeable and there were no glaring reasons to not hire him but there were also no glaring reasons to hire him.

 

The third person I interviewed came in and I instantly felt like he was the right one for the job. He was professional and knowledgeable but also came in with suggestions and recommendations for me.  You know just the stuff like “you shouldn’t do this because it will cost too much… doing this will not gain much… or did you consider this?” While I have ideas of what I think I want, what I am looking for in a contractor is someone who will offer suggestions and alternatives.

 

So contractor # 3 is the guy I chose! That is until the last wrench got thrown into my plan. After I had chosen the cabinetry, and contactor, but before I had ordered anything, I got a phone call from a prospective guest. He wanted to book the months that I had “shut down” for construction. I quoted him the full rate (plus cleaning + pet fee) and he said, “I would like to go ahead and book it.” My response was, “Ummmm now? You don’t want to shop around?” He said, “Nope looked at a bunch and I like yours the best.” So I had to make a snap decision: turn down a great booking and go ahead with the renovations or table the renovations until next year and take the bird in the hand.” I took the booking. Now who was it that had dollar signs in their eyes? Yup it was me and I’m not ashamed to admit it!

 

So the kitchen remodel saga is officially closed until next year.

 

Happy Renting!

Christine Karpinski

www.howtorentbyowner.com

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As I blogged about last time, I am in the very beginning stages of a kitchen remodel. The last couple of weeks have been spent seeking cabinets.

 

Step one was to figure what kind of kitchen cabinets I would want to purchase and install. I found is the price and quality are all over the map—from the basic to the high-end designer. While I would never install Ikea cabinetry in my primary residence, I didn’t rule out Ikea completely. My husband and I went to Ikea and looked at their kitchen cabinets. I have to say I was quite impressed with the look and function of their stuff. They have a lot of different add-ons to explore. But looking more closely, their cabinets, while faced with real wood are mostly made up of MDF or particle board. Since this particular condo is located on the beach, I am not too sure how particle board would hold up to the moisture and humidity.  But the one thing about Ikea that cannot be beat is their price. This project can be done on a real tight budget and it would look good and be very functional. But do I want to sacrifice quality for price? It is a rental after all. And lastly the cabinets come in flat boxes completely unassembled. Tack on the shipping costs and the extra labor to assemble and it might not be worth. I’m going to have to do some research on this one!

 

Next we went to Home Depot and Lowes to check out their cabinetry options. We found they both have something in all price ranges and quality. Ikea beat out Home Depot and Lowes both in the “price” category by a long shot! If we decide to go with a lower quality cabinet, then we will for sure buy them at Ikea. If however we decide to go with an upgraded quality, Home Depot or Lowes would be in the running.

 

While watching a show on HDTV there was mention of a cabinetry shop online. So I quickly went online and found them. The company is called CliqStudios.com.  Their prices seem to be about half those of Home Depot and Lowes and the quality is similar to the middle to . I spoke with a design consultant over the phone and had them send a sample to me. The kicker is these cabinets are built in Minnesota and then shipped (shipping is free).  Coordinating the delivery to fit the construction schedule could be a nightmare.

 

Lots to of stuff to consider! Stay tuned next blog post will be about my interviews with contractors.

Christine Karpinski

www.howtorentbyowner.com

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I hope everyone had a wonderful (and booked) Labor Day weekend. Memorial Day and Labor Day signify the unofficial beginning and end of iStock_000006930189XSmall(2).JPGsummer. I often wonder what other countries use to signify the beginning and end of their summer. How do they know when it’s okay to take out their white shoes and white slacks and when they have to put them away (does anyone besides my mother-in-law still follow this rule?) if they don’t have days that signify their start and end of summer?

 

I am in the beginning stages of doing a total kitchen and bath renovation for one of my vacation rentals. The condo was built in the early 90’s and it still has the original kitchen and baths. There have been many people who have updated their kitchen (you know with new cabinets, new appliances, and granite counter tops). Even though my kitchen and bathrooms are still in good condition, they do look dated, especially compared to the ones that have already been updated. I figure if I want to remain competitive, I feel like I must do the renovations.

 

I started my research by going through some of the listings in the complex and looking at photos of other people’s places that have already done renovations. When I found a kitchen I loved, I picked up the phone and called the owner (I didn’t know them). I asked them where they got theirs, how much it cost, who did the installation and how long it took (from the ordering of the materials and installation). The owners were gracious enough to share their experiences with me.

 

Then there’s the can of worms that this opens. Can I really just do the kitchen and baths or will I have to end up replacing the flooring (because the old stuff looks dated)? Then how about the ceilings? It still has the popcorn ceilings and I’d love to get rid of that too. And while I’m at it, it would be nice to add crown moldings. Oh and window treatments, it’s about time that I should get new drapes made too. Oh….this is NOT good. You know how it goes, figure out a budget and then plan on doubling it.

 

Since this property is booked particularly well, it’s going to be tricky to time the renovations properly. I want to be sure to optimize the time the property will be out of commission. The other tricky part is getting in there to measure everything so I can place the order (since it’s pretty well booked for the fall). I determined that November and December would be the optimal time for me to have the work done since historically these are my two slowest months and the rates are the lowest in those months (so if I do have to turn down a booking, I won’t be losing too much money. I’ll keep you updated on my progress here on this blog.

 

Wishing everyone tons of bookings this fall!

 

Christine Karpinski

www.howtorentbyowner.com

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Hi Everyone,

hurricane.jpg

Let me start by saying my heart goes out to everyone who has been in the path of Hurricane Irene. Irene has impacted many communities, especially in the Caribbean Islands and New England.

 

Having been through hurricanes with my properties in the past, I thought it would be appropriate to dedicate this week’s blog post to some quick pointers for dealing with the aftermath of a hurricane:

 

  • First and foremost, safety should be your number one concern. Don’t put yourself or your renters into a situation that is not safe. Pay close attention to warnings and ordnances in your area.

 

  • If you haven’t already, call (or email) all guests who are scheduled to come in the next few weeks and give them a status update (even if you have no effect).

 

  • If you must cancel guests due to arrive, figure out your plan of action. If your home is uninhabitable (extreme damages, no public services such as power, phone, water, etc.), in my opinion, it is right to refund guests or allow them to re-book.  While your rental contract might have a clause that says you do not refund due to hurricanes, it is my opinion that clause would only pertain to guests due to arrive (or already renting) while the hurricane is in process. I do not believe it would cover you for damages due to the hurricane after the storm.  (Disclaimer: I’m not an attorney; you may want to consult with your attorney if you do not plan on refunding or re-booking guests due to arrive.)

 

  • Check your insurance policy to see if you have coverage for loss of rent due to damages. Many insurance policies for rental properties have loss of rent coverage.

 

  • Don’t be too reactionary. While your situation might look grim right now, you would be surprised how quickly clean-up and restoration of services (water, power, phone, etc.) can happen. Don’t hastily cancel guests scheduled to come 3 months from now.

 

  • Contact your insurance company. File a claim ASAP. You don’t have to wait for repair estimates, as soon as you know you have damage open a file.

 

  • When assessing damages, be sure to take photos and/or video of all damages prior to cleaning up or repairing. It will make your insurance claims much easier if you documented all damages.

 

  • Be compassionate to your service providers. While your housekeepers and maintenance staff might be your lifelines during normal circumstances, have patience with them now—their first priority will be themselves (remember this is only your second home; their primary residence may have also been impacted by the storm).

 

  • Keep detailed records of all cleaning and repair costs.

 

Again, my thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by the storm.

 

Christine Karpinski

www.howtorentbyowner.com

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Hi Everyone,

 

With the end of summer season right around the corner, now is the time of the year that I look my 2011 revenue to see how things compare to the goals I set. wifi.JPG

 

For most of my properties, I am on target to reach my goals (and happy to report, a couple properties are ahead of my goals.) But, there are a couple of properties that I had to “step it up” in order to keep myself on target. So what does “step it up” mean to me? Well that means that I have to be more diligent about calling and emailing renters as soon as they inquire (you know—the early bird gets the worm).

 

Everyone hates last-minute openings and I am no exception. As the dates grow nearer, your chances of getting a booking decrease significantly. I still had some openings for the end of this month so I’d better get a move on it because once those dates have passed the opportunity is gone. To entice renters, I decided to run a special. For the last 2 weeks of August and first couple weeks of September, I ran “Rent 3 nights, get the 4th night ½ price” or “Rent 3 nights, get the 4th night free” (of course, Labor Day weekend is excluded).

As soon as I ran that special, the bookings started to roll in which put me back on track to meet my goals for 2011. Sometimes it just takes a tweak her and a tweak there to get those bookings!

 

I’m going to close today’s blogpost with a funny thing that happened to me this week.

 

I was on the road and I received an inquiry from a prospective renter. In the comment’s field, they asked if there was free wifi in my cabin. I responded with my Blackberry, "Yes the cabin comes with free wifi".  The renter responded, “Thanks but already have one wife; I cannot handle two.”

 

A bid confused by their response I scrolled down to the original conversation. Apparently the spell-checker on my Blackberry changed the word "wifi" to "wife". So my response to them actually read, "Yes the cabin comes with free wife."

 

They ended up booking

 

Happy Renting by Owner! 

Christine Karpinski

www.howtorentbyowner.com

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Hi Everyone!

 

cancelled.JPGHope you’re having a great summer rental season.

 

Last week was another “first” for me. This time it was not with my vacation rentals but with my seminars.

In 15 years of doing vacation rental seminar and traveling all over the US, Caribbean, and Europe—I have never had to cancel a seminar (well, I did have to cancel one when my appendix burst—but at least the people had a week’s notice).  I’m often on very tight travel schedules but the travel gods have always been with me. That is, until last week… I had a seminar in Boston on Tuesday and then I was onto Dallas for another seminar the next day. I made it to Boston with no problems. We had a full house and it was a great group. Then the next day I went to the airport to head to Dallas. We boarded our flight on time but within a short time of being seated they de-planned us and told us we were being significantly delayed.

 

The airport was mobbed and apparently there was bad weather all over the place that had grounded many planes (the weather in Boston was fine, but the receiving airports would not all us to take off). In the end, I never made it to Dallas. I’d like to express my apologies to all who were scheduled to attend that seminar. I’m sorry I missed it too.

 

On the vacation rental front, fall bookings seem to be coming in at a steady pace. For a couple of my properties I am on the road to have the best rental year ever! Perhaps this is because I don’t work full time for HomeAway anymore (I am just consulting now), so I am home to answer the phone and emails quickly.

 

Last week I got an inquiry from someone who wanted to rent one of my properties in the Gulf Coast for 3 months—January, February and March and they wanted a monthly rate for all 3 months. Even though I have these dates open, I turned them down. Why, you ask? Because I looked at my rental history and each year I have rented the entire month of March on a weekly basis. The four weeks in March alone can yield more than the monthly rate for 3 months. When booking vacation rentals, it is very important to know your past booking patterns otherwise you can make some big mistakes that end up costing big $$$ in the end. So while a booking may look promising, be sure to evaluate whether or not it would be worth it in the end.

 

Happy Renting!

 

Christine Karpinski

www.howtorentbyowner.com

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Hi Everyone!

 

I’m down in Destin for my “mid-summer’s dash in and refresh” time for my properties. This is the time of the year when I check up on housekeeping and maintenance issues, and I also restock my cleaning products, cleaning supplies, etc. In my cards this week I see some trips to the Wal-Mart (cleaning supplies), the furniture store (to replace a damaged chair), the linen store (to replace a comforter) and what trip would not be complete without a trip to my local Home Depot! And of course, I’ll sneak in a bit of beach time too.

 

It’s so refreshing to see all the tourists back in Destin this year. Remember these blog posts from last year? http://community.homeaway.com/blogs/christine/2010/05/07/gulf-coast-oil-spill-update It’s hard to believe that this same time last year Destin was a bit of a ghost town. The BP oil spill was a devastating disaster with no end in sight.  How quickly we all forget. Let’s just say I am so happy that the worst of this is behind us. It seems that our loyal tourists are back this year.

 

With the amount of tourists in town, I would venture to guess that most owners here are having a pretty good rental year. But I know, at what price? Though the tourists are back, it seems that the oil spill created or should I say has exacerbated a monster—bargain hunters!

I did an inquiry analysis for my properties and from what I can tell; it’s getting harder and harder to get quality bookings. In the past it used to take me 6-10 inquiries to get one booking. This year for my Destin properties, it seems to have doubled, tripled and even quadrupled. The one common denominator is people are shopping around for bargains. Do you think if we all double our rates next year and then run specials, “50% off” the renters would go for it? Ha! Probably not; but it’s nice to dream about it.

 

Christine Karpinski

www.howtorentbyowner.com

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Hi Everyone!

 

homeaway IPO Exposure.jpg

Congrats to HomeAway for a successful IPO (Initial Public Offering) last week! As a former employee (one of the first employees), I was watching the IPO very closely. While you may not think the IPO has an impact on you if you didn’t purchase any shares, but as owners/advertisers on their sites, I beg to differ. When a company goes public, it garners a lot of national and international press, which in turn should help gain more exposure for the vacation rental industry. I think the IPO is great for everyone.

 

Hope you had a great 4th of July weekend. I was on vacation last week staying in a property in the Finger Lakes in NY that I found on vacationrentals.com. It was a great property that was very well equipped. The weather was perfect for us, it was in the low 70’s all week. I thought it was funny that everyone kept apologizing for the cool temperatures but for us it welcomed reprieve from the Texas +100 degree heat.

 

As for my rentals, bookings are doing very well this year. I had another first happen to me—my guests who were staying in one of my condos got robbed. What happened was they left the door unlocked and they were sitting on the balcony with the sliding door closed (a hurricane door).  They had their wallets sitting on the nightstand in the bedroom which is just inside the front door. Apparently someone came in while they were on the balcony and stole the cash out of their wallets. The robber didn’t take anything else, no credit cards, not their Mac Book or iPads or iPods which were also sitting out in plain view. It sounds like it was a petty thief but nonetheless, I still took all the necessary steps that we would with any type of crime. I had the guests file a police report; we reported it to the on-site security and notified the HOA. And even though it was not a forced entry, I had a locksmith come over and re-key all the locks. I figure for $60 it’s worth the peace of mind for both the guests and me.

 

Don’t forget to check out this week’s podcast, I think it’ll be of interest to you, it’s about competing with property managers on VRBO.com. You can listen to it here.

 

Happy Renting by Owner,

Christine Karpinski

www.howtorentbyowner.com

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beach chairs.jpgHappy Summer! Hopefully your vacation rental properties are fully booked for the summer. I know mine are!   This is the time of the year when most of us can sit back and not have to answer emails or phone calls. Right! Who am I kidding? Though the vacation rental business used to be a “seasonal” business, it seems that now it’s becoming a year-round business. While this is great news for our business, it means more work (and more revenue).

 

Last week I got a call from my guests who arrived at one of my properties. They arrived around 10 pm and called to say that the gas fireplace in the master bedroom was on and it was about 100 degrees in the bedroom. Couple that with outside temperature of around 105 degrees and the air conditioning could not cool properly. This fireplace has a regular wall switch that just turns it on. Apparently, the housekeeper must have switched it on by mistake and during the bright summer sunshine illuminates the room, it would make it nearly impossible to see the flames.

I am supposed to have the fireplaces turned off between April and October (for precisely this reason!).   It was my bad—I totally forgot to instruct my HVAC company when they came to do their regular spring maintenance. The next morning I had the HVAC company come over and check the AC to make sure it did not seize up AND turn off the pilot light.

 

Another thing I did this past week was go through all of my insurance policies and make sure that they all had the proper information. This is a task that everyone should do each year upon renewal of policies. In reviewing my policies I found that many of them had the wrong information.  Some of the things that were wrong were the number of bathrooms, number of HVAC units, carpeting listed instead of tile and/or wood flooring.  When I asked my insurance broker why the information was wrong (I know they had the correct information at one time) their response was the companies sometime just revert to their default settings. God forbid anything catastrophic happened to my property, my policies would not have paid the proper costs because they would have had the wrong info. So the moral of this story is, go check your insurance policies. Go through them with a fine-tooth comb and make sure all of your information is correct!

 

Have a great summer!

 

Christine Karpinski

www.howtorentbyowner.com

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Hi Everyone,

 

Hope your summer rentals are going well. Last weekend my son graduated from high school. We had twenty family members come into town to celebrate the major milestone in his life.  Since we have a large home, we generally just have the family stay at our home but it was just not possible for us to house twenty extra people in our home.

 

Being in the vacation rental industry, my first recommendation for accommodations for the family members was, of course, a vacation rental. Low and behold, there was a huge 10 acre ranch (vacation rental) right around the corner from our home that they were able to rent. I never even knew there was a vacation rental this close to our home. We’ve driven passed it a million times but never knew it was a VR.  I’m happy to say no one had to stay in a hotel.

 

Having the family stay in a vacation rental was really nice. It gave them (and us) the privacy of their own bedrooms and bathrooms and the extra living space that comes with a vacation home.

 

So the next time you have family come into town, you might want to look for a vacation rental near your home. Here are some of the advantages from our experience.

 

  • I did break the rules and called the owner to see if it was okay to preview the home before booking it. She obliged. I was happy we looked because we found the house was closer than we thought and it was waaaaay nicer than it appeared on VRBO
  • As wonderful as it might be to have visitors from out of town, it’s also very nice to have them leave each night (and come back the next day)
  • It was nice to have the extra refrigerator space for drinks and such for our party
  • It was great to have the extra trash cans—I don’t know about your municipality but here in Austin, we only get one trash bin and they will not pick up anything extra that’s not in the bin
  • After everyone left, it was nice to just leave the sheets and towels in a heap and have the housekeeper take care of them. After guests leave my house, I usually spend a day washing all the extra bedding and towels!

 

This worked out so wonderfully that we went rented a vacation rental for our niece’s graduation in upstate NY at the end of this month. We found a place a mile from their home. I’m sure they will appreciate us NOT staying in their home too!

 

Happy Summer!

Christine

www.howtorentbyowner.com

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Hi everyone! phone and calendar.jpg

 

Okay so I might be late to this party but I have to share my newest discovery for making my vacation rental business easier.

 

At home I have one of those one-price, bundled packages for my telephone, cable and internet. The telephone is what they refer to as “digital phone service”, also known as VOIP (voice over IP).  I recently discovered my voice mail has the capability to send me (via email) a digital version of my voice mail messages.  With my phone provider there was an extra charge of $2.95/month. 

 

When I travel, I generally have my phone forwarded to my cell phone so I don’t miss out on any bookings.  When I am in-town but otherwise just out of the house (running errands, shopping, walking the dog, etc.), I don’t forward my phone calls.  In the vacation rental business, timing is everything, especially with last-minute bookings.  When someone is looking for a place to rent at the last-minutes, they don’t have the time to wait for you to call back.  Generally speaking, if they don’t get you on the phone when they call you, they’ll just move onto the next owner.  I can’t tell you how many times over the past 15 years working in the industry I have lost a booking just because I called the person back a few minutes too late. 

 

Now when someone calls my home phone and leaves a message, I get an email sent to me with an attachment I can open and listen to on my cell phone! To remain successful in the vacation rental industry, we all have to step up our games especially as it becomes more competitive and saturated with properties (I read somewhere, I don’t remember the source, that something like 100,000 new vacation rental properties are added to the internet each year).   

 

Call your telephone service provider and see if this service is available to you.  If not, you may want to look into changing providers so you don’t miss out on any bookings! 

 

Have a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend. 

 

Christine Karpinski

howtorentbyowner.com

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Grand Cayman 7 mile beach.jpgHello everyone!

 

Last week I was in Grand Cayman working for the Cayman Islands Tourism Association.  So for this week’s blog post I figured I would give you insights from the “renter’s point of view”.

 

The island is a beautiful place with some of the friendliest people around.  I stayed at the Meridian on Seven Mile Beach, in a lovely beachfront condo with a large private beach.  I had to laugh because the Ritz-Carlton was just a couple doors down.  Their guests were lined up like sardines on the beach who needs the Ritz?  Our beach was so much better—I love vacation rentals! 

 

I cannot take anything away from the beautiful beachfront location or the well-appointed condo but one of the amenities that I appreciated the most while there was the phone.  I know it sounds silly but they had a Vonage phone which I could make calls to the US at no charge—so I was able to take bookings for my rentals free.  If I had used my Verizon cell phone it would have been $2.00 per minute!  While this is not necessarily an amenity that guests would look for in a rental, for a mere $25 per month, I think its worthy of having and advertising this extra touch for your guests, especially if your home is outside the US.

 

I found all the written materials inside the home about “what to do” were mainly for things in the tourism district.   While I love to see and do the things that all the tourists do, I also like to explore other parts.  The most common question I like to ask is, “tell me the best places that the locals like to hang out”.   Because I was there for a Tourism Association gig, I met owners and property managers from all parts of the island.  One property manager was gracious enough to take a day and show me the other parts of the island—where I got to experience the deep history and culture of the island.  I truly believe if I had not ventured out of the tourist district, I would have left with a different impression of the island. Thanks Bo Miller for showing me the other parts of your island!

 

So if you are looking for a great place for your next vacation, I would highly recommend The Cayman Islands. 

 

Happy Renting,

 

Christine



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Hi Everyone,

iStock_000005845473XSmall.jpg

I hope you are doing well. 

 

Just as I always have, every Sunday evening I sit down and work on my vacation rental business for a few hours.  I generally update my vacation rental listings, send my housekeepers an updated cleaning schedule, input door codes into my Schlage link locks, charge credit cards, send updated invoices showing that I charged the guest’s card and send directions to my guests.  And last Sunday was no different than a usual. 

 

Monday morning I received a reply email from an updated invoice from one of my guests.  It said, “Christine, my credit card company called me on Sunday to verify the charges for the rental payment.   I totally forgot about the rental payment and I did not recognize charge so I denied the charge.  This morning, I checked my email and only now did I realize that the charge was for the rental.  Can you please verify whether or not the charge went through?”

 

Okay so this is a first!  I have never had anyone deny the charges (on purpose or by mistake).  So my first call was to my credit card merchant account company to see whether or not the charges did indeed go through.  As of that moment, it had.  But they told me if the card holder denied the charges, it would show up on my account as a charge back.  My best bet would be to call the card holder and have them immediately call their bank and see if they can authorize the charges.  If the renter is not able to get the denial reversed, it would show up on my merchant account as a chargeback, which would have fees associated with it and could affect my credit standing (and rates).  Since all of this happened on a Sunday, there’s a good chance that it will indeed be able to be reversed with no problems.  I contacted the renter immediately and had him call his bank.  This time, everything worked out—disaster averted.

 

But this got me thinking.  I have had my personal credit card company call me to verify charges that I have made.   It seems that the fraud departments are becoming overly cautious.  If this happened once, it could certainly happen again. 

 

So, yet again my rental agreement enters its next evolutionary phase—I added another clause to my rental agreement stating if the renters deny the charges (even by mistake), then there will be a $50 fee added to their balance.  I have also altered my “verbal spiel” when taking reservations.  I am now telling  my guests that there is a chance that their credit card company may  call to verify the charges and if they do, be sure to approve the charges! 

 

After renting my homes for 15 years, even I still have to tweak my agreements on occasion. 

 

Happy Renting by Owner!

 

Christine Karpinski

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taxdeductions.jpgHi everyone!

 

If you are like most successful vacation rental owners, tax day means sending a check rather than receiving a refund, which also means that we’re the least likely to send our tax returns in January. 

 

Over the past few weeks, I have spent a considerable amount of time gathering information to send to my accountant so she can do my taxes.  After several years of being a vacation rental owner, I pretty much have the process down to a science.  But the only thing we have not figured out is how to do it quickly!

 

After I am done sending all the spreadsheets to our accountant, I also take this opportunity to look at my bills and see if there are any places where I can cut some corners.  And I also make it a point to set up schedules and budgets for maintenance and capital improvements for the current year. 

 

While looking at my bills for one of my properties, I noticed that my power bill increased significantly over the prior year.  I also noticed I had three service calls for in 2010 for the air conditioner and one already in 2011.  The HVAC system is over ten years old.  I called my HVAC guy and talked to him about it.  He said the unit could last another couple of months or even years but it was definitely nearing the end of its life.  I decided to go ahead and replace the HVAC system now rather than chance it.  This will accomplish three things: it should lower my power bill, since the new one is much more energy efficient, it takes care of necessary capital improvements for 2011 taxes and it is preventative maintenance.

 

I also looked at my cable, internet and phone charges for some of my older properties.  I tend to do my research when first setting up all the services, getting the best rates, but after everything is in place, I just pay the bills and never think about it again.  Now days, many companies offer bundled services—one rate if you use the same company for everything.  So I called the cable company and I ended up saving $80 per month with one of my properties and $60 per month for another property that’s a savings of nearly $1700 per year!

 

One quick reminder for all the vacation rental owners who filed and received compensation for the BP and/or GCCF loss of income claims:  You are required to claim any money you received from your claim.   You should have gotten a 1099 for all payments but even if you didn’t, you still should claim that income. 

 

If you still have not filed your taxes, you have one week from today to do so—taxes must be post marked by April 18, 2011.  Be sure to check out the list of deductions that you can take for your vacation rental property here.

 

Happy Renting!

Christine Karpinski

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