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Christine's Vacation Rental Insights

33 Posts tagged with the blog tag
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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!iStock_000015355968XSmall.jpg

 

Hope you are doing well.  So I have had a “first” happen to me recently so let me set the scene and explain what exactly happened. 

 

When I take bookings for my vacation rental properties, I firmly require money down upon booking in order to solidify the reservation.  But after the down payment I am extremely flexible with my rental guests regarding the remaining balance as long as they are paid in full thirty days prior to their arrival date.  So this means, my guests pay $200, $300, or $500 down (depending on the property) and then we schedule a payment plan for the balance (but we do pre-determine it and stick to it).  For the subsequent payments, I automatically charge the guest’s credit card on the agreed upon date then immediately email them an updated invoice reflecting the payment.  The process of emailing them is just as much for my records as it is for theirs.  This way I have a clear “paper trail” if you will of all charges to their account.  It might sound like a lot of work but the process works for me and my guests appreciate the flexibility with the payment plan.   

 

Anyhow, for one particular renter, he paid the down payment upon booking.  For the remaining balance he wanted it broken up into two more payments.  I charged the down payment and first payment according to the schedule with no problems.  Yesterday I charged the final payment and per protocol, I sent him the updated invoice.  This morning I got an email from the guest and he said that there was a problem.  The fraud department of his credit card bank called him yesterday morning (shortly after I charged his payment) to verify the charges.  It caught him off guard and he never put 2+2 together that the charge was for the rental.  Only after he checked his email and saw the invoice did he realize that the charge was for the rental.

 

So I contacted my merchant account provider and found out that if he does NOT call his bank and reverse the denial immediately then it will indeed get processed as a chargeback and I get charged a fee of $25. Furthermore, it can hurt my credit standing with my merchant account provider.

 

So I guess I will need to add yet another thing to my rental agreements reminding the guests that their credit card company might call to verify the charges.  If they mistakenly deny the charged they can get assessed a fee of $50. 

 

Happy Renting!

 

Christine 

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President and Mrs Carter and Christine Karpinski.jpgHi  Everyone,

 

It’s been a little while since  I have blogged.  I have been on the road a lot in the past month doing seminars  and I managed to squeeze in a little weekend getaway too!

 

I had the pleasure of going on  the Carter Center Winter Weekend trip.  Aside from spending five days with  President and Mrs. Carter, I learned a lot about the work that the Carter Center  has been involved in.  One talk that was of specific interest to me was with Dr. Jay Hakes, Director of  Policy and Research for the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil  Spill and Offshore Drilling.  He talked about the things that went wrong (from  both BP’s perspective and the government response).  He also talked about  policies and procedures the government is putting in place to assure this type  of disaster never happens again.  I’m going to invite Dr. Hakes as a guest on my  podcast.  Stay tuned….

 

So onto my rental life… It was  a slower start to the booking year.  It seems that the renters are booking  closer and closer to their rental dates than ever before.  But in the end my  inquiries and bookings seem to be on par with last year.  Keeping our fingers  crossed that booking will continue to roll in. 

 

Living 1000 miles away from my  closest vacation rental has never seemed to be too much of a problem except for  one silly issue.  The internet!  All of my properties have wi-fi connection  because quite frankly the renters demand it.   A couple weeks ago I had a router  go out in one of my properties.  You would think this would be an easy problem  to solve, but NO!  The stores around didn’t have any routers so had to buy a one  online and have it shipped.  But once it arrived, my housekeeper figure out how  to install it.  And though I could walk her through which wire to hook up where,  she needed to get onto a computer and set the passwords.  In the end, I had to  ask my renter to hook it up. Though not optimal, it worked. 

 

That brings me to another  story.   I had a really funny call with a renter the other day.  Here’s how it  went:

 

Renter: “I cannot get connected to the  internet.”

 

Me: “Go to the start menu, press control panel, press  network and internet…”

 

Renter: “Wait, my mouse is not working”

 

Me: “Are you at the desk in the  bedroom?”

 

Renter: “Yes”

 

Me: “Okay, your mouse is not working because the desk is a  glass top, the optical mouse has to have something underneath  it.”

 

Renter: “I’ll use the touchpad on my  laptop”

 

Me: “Okay, now type in the network  password.”

 

Renter: “<frustrated> ugh, this touchpad is not good; I am  having trouble typing because I keep hitting the touchpad. Let me put the phone  on speaker so I can do this with two hands.”

 

Renter: “Okay, it’s on speaker, can you hear me  now?”

 

Me: “It’s a little garbled but we can make due.  Now type  the password into the box.”

 

Renter: “<even more frustrated> geeze I cannot use this  dog-gone touchpad.”

 

Me: “<assertively> Sir, go get a piece of paper and  put it under your mouse.”

 

Renter: “Okay wait a minute. ” Renter comes back and says, “Can  you hear me better now?”

 

Me: “Yes, I can hear you. Now type that password  in.”

 

Renter: “<now just down-right mad> I cannot work this  touchpad!”

 

Me: <Hu?  Why isn’t he using his mouse?  OMG the light  bulb goes off!> “Sir I said put the piece of paper under your mouse,  not under your mouth!”

 

Renter: “<laughing> Oh wow my mouse works now! Okay I just  typed in the password and the internet works.  Thanks!”

 

Problem solved!  The silly  things vacation rental owners have to endure.

 

I am still laughing about the  conversation! 

 

Happy  Renting!

 

Christine

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Hi everyone,

 

phil.jpg

Hope you are all going well. Last week Punxsutawney Phil predicted that spring will come early this year. Living in the South for the last 20 years of my life, I have never given much thought to any silly groundhog predictions however this year, more than ever, I really hope he’s right!  I am so done with cold weather (yes even here in Texas). 

 

And my vacation rentals have suffered too!  Last month I had to pretty much close down my cabins in Tennessee because the roads were not passable. Then bookings that I had pretty much closed ended up not booking because their kids will not have a Spring Break this year because they had too many snow days. 

 

The only positive about all this cold weather is I do believe cabin fever has set in throughout the country. People who have been cooped up in their homes under many inches if not many feet of snow are dreaming about their summer vacations. And that has translated into summer bookings for me!

 

So let’s hope the snow stops and Spring comes early so we can all get our vacation homes booked!

 

Happy Renting,

 

Christine

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Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!Wishing You a Happy Thanksgiving

Beyond being thankful for the things in my personal life, there are many things in my vacation rental life that I am thankful for. In no particular order, I am thankful...

  To be privileged enough to own vacation rental homes. Even though I have mortgages and need the rent to pay for the properties, let’s be real here... it is a privilege to own vacation rentals!

  To the vacation rental websites for connecting me with travelers seeking accommodations. I definitely take it for granted when I log into my email and find an inquiry.

  To each and every one of my guests who take care of my homes as if it were their own. Come on, this is everyone’s biggest worry when they start renting, but after four or five perfect guests, we all come to expect it. It’s really great that there are way more good people in the world than bad!

  For my housekeepers and maintenance staff. I feel like this one needs to be in all CAPS. I don’t take them for granted and really do realize what they do for my vacation rental business.

  For my credit card merchant account, which makes it quick and easy to process payments. It’s hard to remember back to the days when I couldn’t take a last-minute booking because there wasn’t enough time for the check to get to me.

  For my new remote locks, which makes it a breeze to allow my guests access to my homes. It’s the little things that make life easier. Gone are my worries about guests being able to get into my homes.

  To the many other vacation rental owners who I network with to collaboratively get things done. It’s nice to have others to lean on during times of need.

That I am doing something I love! This is an awesome industry!

Wishing you all a happy, healthy and delicious Thanksgiving!

Christine
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Under the Weather

Posted by christinekarpinski Oct 5, 2010

relying on service providers when you are under the weatherHi Everyone,

It’s been a little while since I have written a blog post. I have been a bit under the weather and took some days off to recoup. Let me clarify: by days off I mean off from my day job at HomeAway. Unfortunately, vacation rental owners never get to take “sick days.”

October is the busiest month for my cabins in the Great Smoky Mountains. I’m generally booked every single night of the month with 4-5 night back-to-back rentals. So all maintenance better be done before October hits because there is no down time whatsoever. Toward the end of September, I talk with my housekeeper and maintenance people, and we go through our checklist of things to be done before the October busy season.

So let me set the scene. It's October 1st, the first day of my busy month and I’m at home, in bed, with a terrible cold. My husband is on the sofa (also sick) and our son is upstairs in his room because, yep, you guessed it, he’s sick too. The phone rings. Everyone is feeling too icky to answer it. It goes to the answering machine and we hear, “This is your guest in your cabin, we’re having a problem, we’ll call you on your cell….click…”

My cell phone rings. Surprise! It’s my guest who says, “None of the fireplaces are working. I have checked all three and none of them will work. Is there a special trick?”

Ughhhh, no there is no special trick. It’s my bad. I forgot to have the maintenance guy come over and turn on the fireplaces (we turn them off for the summer). I call my maintenance guy to see if he can come over but he’s sick too (sounds just as bad, if not worse, than I do). I tell him not to worry; I can call my back-up maintenance man. I called him but his message says he’s on vacation (figures!). So I called my main maintenance man back to see if he has any friends I can call. He says he’ll check and then call me back. About an hour later I get a call from my maintenance man who said he just got dressed and went over to do it himself.

I was so grateful. And if he felt as bad as we did, then he gets extra kudos for helping me out in this pinch. I have said it again and again. We could not run our vacation rental business without our good help. We have to make sure that we have committed, dependable and reliable staff.

Guess who is going to get a little extra in his check this month?

Happy October!
Christine

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by Guest Blogger, Tom Kelly

My wife and I have reached a stage in life where we no longer collect kids, swim fins, rafts, fishing poles and race off to a lake in the mountains for summer vacations. Now, we seem to trail these young adults to the wonderful places where they now work or visit - and hope one year to get them all back to the lake.

What has been intriguing and surprising is the number of different languages that I’ve heard every day. It didn’t used to be that way. For example, we drove from Seattle to Jackson Hole, Wyoming two weeks ago to visit our youngest son who accepted a last-minute job at a dude ranch. On that trip, I heard more French in Jackson, more Japanese in Yellowstone and more French in McCall, Idaho than I would have ever imagined. Of course, when I mentioned my impressions of increased international visitors to our son he replied: “You and Mom just need to get out more.”

I thought about his response last weekend when we visited this popular wine country of California for the wedding of our daughter’s longtime friend. As I was gearing up my bike for a long ride through the valley’s vineyards, I overheard a young couple arguing in French about the exact location up the road in Yountville where actress Julia Roberts was conducting interviews for her new movie Eat Pray Love based on the novel by Elizabeth Gilbert.

The groom’s family had rented two private homes outside Napa. One of them was on a gorgeous estate that also hosted the wedding ceremony and reception. The day before the wedding, the owner dropped in during the preparations to see if there was anything he could do to assist. When I asked if international interest had risen, he said the number of foreign inquiries and bookings was clearly up from recent years.

“And not just here in Napa where you might expect more foreigners. We have a place in New Hampshire and European interest is up there, too.”

He said he and his wife often try to find something special from their country of origin, if possible, between bookings. Tiny bars of French soap, bottles German beer, even reference to a Belgian waffle maker have made a difference.

Why not try to make a small difference with all renters? If they know you care – and feel that they are more than a name in a ledger – they will tell their friends.

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3, 2, 1... Vacation!Hi Everyone,

I’m officially ready for my vacation starting tomorrow. I cannot be more excited to have a week of R&R from both jobs—my work at HomeAway and my rental business. The vacation rental business can easily be a 24/7/365 job if you let it. But I insist on taking time off at least once a year. If I miss out on a booking, so be it, it’s worth my sanity.

Next week, I’ll have a guest blogger. My good friend and respected writer in the second home arena, Tom Kelly will be bringing his wisdom and wit to my blog.

Tom Kelly also has a Free Webinar on reverse mortgages tomorrow, August 10th. Here’s the info on it if you are interested:

Reverse mortgages have hit the mainstream. Whether you're a senior looking for a reverse mortgage or an adult child doing the research for mom and dad, the good news is that fees have plummeted. The puzzling news—not to be confused with “bad”—is that there could well be some costs in today’s advertised “no-cost reverse mortgages.”

In this compelling FREE WEBINAR, Tom Kelly, "The Real Estate Communicator," will help you understand the upfront costs, and those incurred down the road, and explain how persons over the age of 62 can use a reverse mortgage to buy a retirement home today, taking advantage of lower prices in many areas like Florida and Arizona.

This event is scheduled for August 10, 2010. Please join us at 2:00 PM EDT (1:00 PM CDT, 12:00 PM MDT, 11:00 AM PDT). Click here to register !

I’ll see you again in a couple of weeks when I’ll (hopefully) be relaxed and tan. Turks and Caicos here I come!

Christine
   

 

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Hi Everyone,

I’ll be in Denver giving a seminar this evening. If you are in Denver, The specified article was not found.!

On Wednesday, I head back to Destin to gather more information for our new oil spill website. We’ll be formally releasing the website to everyone next week, but wanted to mention it here first to my loyal blog readers.

Saturday, I had the first snafu with my Schlage link lock. My guests called and said they could not get into the condo. Because this lock has the functionality for me to unlock the door online, I went to the dashboard and it said the door was already unlocked. I told the guests that it was registering as unlocked but they said the door still did not open.

Perplexed, I pulled out the owner’s manual and walked them through the steps to unlock the door. Apparently I missed one step in my directions... do I hear the drumroll?... “turn the knob and open the door.” I will refrain from putting in print what I was really thinking, but I am quite certain you can fill in the blanks. The funnier part is I have also had this happen with my cabins, which have keyless locks. You would think I would learn to give explicit directions. Oy!

Have a great week!

Christine
   

 

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When Nature Calls

Posted by christinekarpinski Jul 7, 2010

Hi Everyone,

Hope you all had a nice Fourth of July weekend.

I finally pulled all of my information together for my BP claim. Even though I keep meticulous books and had everything easily at my disposal, it was a fair amount of work to get it all together. Tonight my husband and I will go through it one last time to ensure we have everything we need before we overnight it to our claims adjuster. I’ll keep you posted on the progress.

So it was bound to happen; for the first time in 15 years of renting vacation homes, I got a phone call for a clogged toilet and I had to have a plumber come over and snake out the lines.

It's kind of funny because one of the most common questions (fears, really) I get from people who are thinking of renting out their vacation homes is, “What do you do if the renters call and the toilet is clogged?” To which I have always replied, “I have never gotten a call for a clogged toilet.” So how will I answer this question now?

Happy Renting,

Christine
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Hi Everyone,

I have returned from my travels to the Gulf Coast and I am back to my normal routine of working and dealing with my rentals.

After Owner’s Summit, the Schlage salesman insisted that I try the new Schlage LiNK lock on one of my rentals. As a rule, I am a bit resistant to change- and even more resistant to new technology- but since he gave me the lock and installation for free, I figured I had to give it a try.

I’ve been using the new lock now for about a month and I am surprised to report that I absolutely love it. I can change the lock code from my computer or Blackberry. I can have unique codes for my guests, housekeepers and maintenance staff. And I also receive an e-mail notification each time anyone unlocks the door.

So the Schlage LiNK salesman was a pretty smart guy, he piqued my interest by giving me one free lock and now I’m going to be buying them for all of my rentals.

Wishing everyone a happy, safe and totally booked Forth of July weekend.

Christine
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Hi Everyone,

destin, florida after the oil spill
I have been getting conflicting reports about the oil spill. The TV news makes it sound like the entire gulf coast is covered in oil. The county reports say there is no oil sheen but there are “tar balls” in some areas. So ultimately, I decided to take a trip down to Florida’s Gulf Coast so I could see for myself.

I flew into the new Panama City Airport (ECP) Sunday evening. I was pretty happy to see our flight was fully booked. Knowing the majority of the tourists go to Destin and Panama City Beach from Saturday to Saturday, seeing a full flight on Sunday was promising.

The new airport is really nice.  I could smell the newness of the paint and the carpet as I walked onto the jet way. But I couldn’t help think it’s pretty sad that this is the first new international airport in the United States since Denver’s airport, and the grand opening never even made the news because it was foreshadowed by the oil spill.

As I drove down Highway 98, the traffic started to thicken as I approached San Destin—a good sign that tourists are, indeed, in town. I arrived in Destin just as the sun was nearly setting, so I hurried out to the beach to see if there was oil. I’m not sure what exactly I expected to see but the beach looked the same as it always has. No oil or tar balls in sight. No machinery on the beaches, no workers in Hazmat suits or blue gloves. There were many families turning golden brown from a full day on the beach - and some even lobster red! This was quite a relief.

I also learned that the Doobie Brothers will be playing a free Rock the Beach Concert on Sunday, June 27 at 5 pm to be held adjacent to the Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island.  Be sure to promote this great activity to your guests!

photos of destin florida following deepwater horizon oil spillThe photos you see here are photos I took myself. I’ll be sending them to my guests and telling them so far so good.  Feel free to send your guests a link to this blog post too!

I also had the opportunity to sit down with an adjuster this morning at one of the BP claims offices.  Here are the questions I asked, along with the answers from the adjuster.

 
Q: Can I file for projected losses in rental revenue, as well as actual losses for past dates that have gone without rentals?
Yes, you can. BP views projected losses in the past. For example, if you had a week in June that was not rented but normally would have been rented prior to the oil spill, you can file a claim after that date has passed – in this case, at the end of June. This does not mean that you only have 30 days to file; the dates just have to have passed in order to be considered a projected loss. All claims are dealt with on a monthly basis.

 
post-oil spill photo from gulf coast of florida
Q: So if I have an upcoming week that is still open, let’s say July 3 through 10, I can’t file until the end of July?
That is correct. The date has to be in the past.

 
Q: What do I need to provide in order to file a claim?
Documentation of your unit name, address and any description, cancellation documentation (emails from renters, contact numbers to reach them), reservation deposits (refunded or kept, credit card statements), list of costs incurred from renters, and 2 years of tax returns. You must have your warranty deed, which may not be listed on the claims document or your claims adjuster may forget to tell you, but they cannot pay a claim without it.

Q: For tax returns, do you need the full tax return?
Yes, including the Schedule E. Not just the first page.

Q: When it comes to costs…If my home goes un-rented for 3 weeks, I still need to have a housekeeper come in to clean. Can I file a claim for those costs?
Yes, you can, if that is something you can prove that you need to do and have done in the past. Again, provide documentation.

Q: I heard you wanted documentation from the county? Do you need proof that we paid sales tax?
We need proof that you are the owner, so we require a copy of the warranty deed for each property.

Q: How do I prove what rates I would have received for weeks that go unrented?
Provide documentation of your published rental rate. We want to see a copy of your listings for at least the last 12 months. We want proof that your listing has been active for a full year.

Q: How do you prove rate increases?
Last year was a tough year economically so very few people raised their rates. But after a good rental year, they raised rates this year. It's just more documentation to provide.

Q: What about people low balling rates? Some owners might accept a deal instead of letting their home sit empty.

You can file for the difference between your typical rental amount vs. the discounted rate you accepted.

Q: For what dates do you need proof of ownership/proof or rental history?
We need 2008 and 2009 tax returns and a Profit & Loss statement for 2010.

Q: Most homeowners have filed their sales taxes for 2010, so would that be considered proof if you show that receipt?
You can bring that in and include in your file. Anything you can bring to prove documentation of your loss will be to your benefit. There is never a situation where you have too much paperwork.

Q: Do you need copies of inquiries, proving that I’ve tried to rent?

No, we just need copies of your ad.

Q: If I have an ad on multiple sites, do you want copies of all the advertising?

Wouldn’t hurt.

Q: Homeowners are trying to work a lot harder to get bookings. A lot of time, phone calls, administrative costs. Is there any compensation for my time or if I hire someone to assist?

That’s a hard one to say for sure. Doesn’t hurt to try.

Q: If I have a cancellation and I’ve processed the original rent through my merchant account or PayPal, and then I refund the money, I still get charged transaction fees. Can I file for these costs?
Yes, provide copies and proof of transaction fees.

Q: I have rental agreements with every renter that say 'no cancellations, no refunds,' etc. My renters sign and agree to it. They also have to decline travel insurance and agree to my cancellation policies. If I didn’t want to refund their money, do the travelers have the right to file a claim?
Anyone can file a claim. There is no guarantee what will happen, but they can try.

Q: Let’s say I have a rental from June 5-12, dates that have already passed. I didn’t refund their money. Can those travelers file a claim and get paid even though the beaches weren’t closed?
We haven’t had that situation occur yet. If they chose to go somewhere else and you didn’t refund their money, I’m not sure if they would get paid from BP. There are other circumstances for cancellations. It depends on when they booked. They have a right to file, but I'm not sure if any renters have gotten paid.

Q: Define oil coming to shore? Does that include tar balls?
Yes, that includes tar balls. BP is keeping track of where the oil has hit. Tar balls have hit every beach.

Q: How are most homeowners handling the cancellations?
Most homeowners are refunding the money and filing the claims themselves. This upholds your relationship with the renter, and hopefully they’ll come back.

Q: If a homeowner doesn’t refund, are you advising that they tell travelers to file a claim?
No, that is their choice.

Q: How do you calculate the projected losses? For example, normally I would book the last 2 weeks of May. This May, I wasn’t booked the last 2 weeks, but I was booked the first week. That was an anomaly. Does BP then think, well you got 2 out of the 4 weeks?
BP will generally take an average on the month. It does not mean that the “bonus” booking you received will be null and void.

Q: Are they also taking into account the rate increases? This year my rate was higher.

Yes, as long as it is shown on the VRBO listing.

Q: Let’s say I rent for $1500 and I charge a $200 pet fee. In the past, 90% of my guests have pets.  Will the pet fee revenue be included in the claim?
That’s part of your revenue; just prove you’ve done it in the past. Show how many people have had pets.

Q: I have privacy policies with my guests. What about past guests? Do you have to have their email addresses?
If it states the rental amount and pet fees on your contract, that should be sufficient.

Q: What about people new to renting and don’t have 2 years of tax returns?

The people who are new are going to have to get as much documentation they can get. Anything to show your expenses.

Q: Would it also be advantageous to get in contact with other homeowners and get their rental histories, to prove rentability of that property?
You don’t have to do that; we’re only going to go by your rental rates and what you had advertised. You have to have started renting prior to April 20.

Q: What is the process for filing a claim? Do you personally have to go through BP or do you have the authority to make the decision here in this office?
Up to $5000 is all that we pay out at a time in this office each month. Any larger claims in a given month have to be reviewed.

Q: Is it better to come into the office to file a claim or mail it in?
If you can come in, do it. May be quicker. And you can talk to someone face to face and get questions answered. Plus, you have reassurance that everything is received.

Q: Let’s say I have a cancellation and I wasn’t able to re-rent. If I came down to file a claim, and I’m staying in my own place, does that still count as an unrentable week?
Yes, still file a claim for those dates.

Q: How many claims do I need to file?
You file one claim per property. Once you start the filing, and you prove your past rental history, you just have to do a new file each month for lost revenue. As of right now there is no cap on the amount you can claim. However, claims over $20,000 go to large loss claim units.

Q: How do property managers handle the claims?
If your home is rented through a property manager, PMs can only file for their commission losses. Homeowners must file the rental income losses themselves.

Q: What about loss of property value?
Everyone is asking. At this point, they’re only paying immediate loss of income claims, no prospective business value/property value claims are being made.

Q: How many claims offices are there, and how are the adjusters assigned?

There are approximately 30 claims offices to date. The adjusters are doing their best to assign local adjusters to each claim. If you own in Walton County, but you call the national claim line, if you can’t come down, they’re trying to give you a Walton County adjuster, not someone in the Keys. Make sure to write down your adjuster’s name and contact info because they are going to be your lifeline.

Q: If President Obama and the administration change the claims process, what will happen?
We’re not sure.

I’ll keep you posted as I travel up and down the Gulf Coast this week.  I'm renting a small plane tomorrow to take some aerial shots - stay tuned for more photos!

Christine

The information in the articles, blogs or other posts by Christine Karpinski are provided to assist vacation property owners or managers generally and are based on Ms. Karpinski’s personal experiences or the information she has been able to gather. This information is meant to help the owner community; however, please note that any particular situation of any owner or manager may differ and all owners and managers are encouraged to seek professional advice to determine what course(s) of action will be most beneficial for them. Neither HomeAway, Inc. nor Christine Karpinski can provide any guarantee or warrantee that this information is complete or accurate at any point in time or that any particular outcome will result if action is taken in response to this information.

 
   
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Hi Everyone,Gulf Beaches are Open for Business

Last week I got a lot of calls from many concerned guests about the oil spill. My stance remains the same; the beaches are open so I am not honoring any cancellations (yet).

I am so frustrated with the media! When they are doing their news broadcasts, they are making it sound as if every beach in Florida is laden with oil. So besides having to quell the fears of my booked guests, I also have to combat the misinformation given by the news media. The fact of the matter is many of the beaches are open.

Last Friday I sat in on a conference call with the Beaches of South Walton County. Here’s a quick synopsis of the things discussed:

  • Currently there are lobbyists going to DC to lobby for a Deepwater Horizon relief package for local business owners. I don’t have the specifics of the package but they are discussing tax relief and economic assistance. Decisions should be made before the end of the session, which is at the end of June.
  • A Gulf Recovery Task Force has been formed. This is a coalition of tourist development councils as well as elected officials to work together to assist and protect the Gulf Coast economy. The press release states, “The immediate mission of the task force is to protect the economic security of the businesses and families in the coastal counties impacted by this unfortunate incident. They are our highest priority,” said Governor Crist. "Task force members bring together the experience and expertise that will help us put in place measures that are essential to the economic recovery of the Sunshine State."
  • The task force is also working with BP to simplify the claims process to make it easier. You must call 800-440-0858. On the conference call, vacation rental owners were called out as “a specific group” which should be protected. They reminded us to keep documentation of any and all canceled rental agreements as well as discounts given to encourage renters (if a guest cancels a rental contract, make sure to get it in writing.) They said that losses and potential losses are legitimate reasons for a claim.
  • They also announced a new Fishing & Seafood hotline (1-800-357-4273) which you can give to your guests who are concerned about eating the seafood or fishing in the Gulf.
  • They ended the conference call with a reminder to all vacation rental owners: “There is so much misinformation out in the marketplace. The core message we should all be delivering to guests and potential guests is the beaches are open for enjoyment."
Christine

The information in the articles, blogs or other posts by Christine Karpinski are provided to assist vacation property owners or managers generally and are based on Ms. Karpinski’s personal experiences or the information she has been able to gather. This information is meant to help the owner community; however, please note that any particular situation of any owner or manager may differ and all owners and managers are encouraged to seek professional advice to determine what course(s) of action will be most beneficial for them. Neither HomeAway, Inc. nor Christine Karpinski can provide any guarantee or warrantee that this information is complete or accurate at any point in time or that any particular outcome will result if action is taken in response to this information.
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Hi Everyone!

A lot has happened since I last posted a blog. We had our fist ever Owners Summit. The volcano erupted in Iceland again and the oil spill is an ongoing problem for myself and other owners who own properties in the Gulf of Mexico.

Owners Summit

The Owners Summit was a huge success! Hundreds of owners came Austin, TX to meet and network with each other and with over 100 HomeAway, VRBO and VacationRentals.com employees. My only regret was I didn’t get to speak with as many people as I wanted to. I was running around coordinating the event, speaking on a couple of panels and trying to meet and mingle with homeowners. And what I found is it’s difficult to do 3 things at once—imagine that! Anyhow, my team and I are pulling together all of our notes from the Owners Summit. Stay tuned for our June edition of the Owner Community newsletter, where we’ll highlight what we learned.

Oil in the Gulf

From the personal side, I’m just sick about it. While there has not been any sign of oil on the beaches where I own properties (Destin and Panama City Beach), I have been fielding many questions from rightfully concerned travelers. It’s very frustrating to deal with the unknown. I pitifully read emails from travelers who booked many months ago who ask, “What is the cancellation policy if there is oil on the beach? Is the rent refundable under the circumstances?” Though I don’t tell them this directly, the real answer is, I don’t know. There's not one good or fair answer for every situation. We’ll have to deal with this on a case by case basis.

From the professional side, as Director of Owner Community, I have attended meetings, conference calls, and read just about everything out there on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Let’s just say I know more about oil and ways to clean it than I ever cared to know. If you own properties in the Gulf Coast, go to last week’s blog post, read it and bookmark it. I’ll be updating that page as I learn more information.

So next weekend is Memorial Day weekend, the official start of the summer tourism season. If you are still not booked, then be sure to update your calendar and change your headline to say something like “Memorial Day Open!”

Let’s hope that everyone has a great summer rental season!

Christine

The information in the articles, blogs or other posts by Christine Karpinski are provided to assist vacation property owners or managers generally and are based on Ms. Karpinski’s personal experiences or the information she has been able to gather. This information is meant to help the owner community; however, please note that any particular situation of any owner or manager may differ and all owners and managers are encouraged to seek professional advice to determine what course(s) of action will be most beneficial for them. Neither HomeAway, Inc. nor Christine Karpinski can provide any guarantee or warrantee that this information is complete or accurate at any point in time or that any particular outcome will result if action is taken in response to this information.
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Last Updated: Friday, June 4nd, 2010 at 12:05PM

oil spill in gulf of mexicoHi everyone,

I just got back from meetings in Destin, Florida regarding the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Our CEO, Brian Sharples, really wanted me to attend these meetings so I could be educated about the situation and bring first-hand information back to all of our concerned homeowners and travelers. And of course, I also have a vested interest in this topic because I personally own vacation rental homes along the Gulf Coast.

As promised, here are my meeting notes:

An estimated 500 people congregated on Tuesday, May 4th, at 1pm. In attendance were concerned citizens who had all sorts of interests in the area. Everyone including elected officials, vacation rental owners, property managers, HOA managers, business owners, waiters, real estate agents, attorneys, doctors, and many more. Basically the community came together as they were all hungry for information on the oil spill.

Here are some of the unknowns:

No one can really confirm how much oil is being spilled out each day. There have been reports all over the place from 5,000 barrels to a million gallons per day.

No one knows when the well will be completely stopped (though preliminary reports as of Friday morning May 7, 2010, suggest that the cofferdam [containment dome] is currently in the water).

Once the leaking is stopped, no one knows how long this will take to completely clean up completely.

We aren't sure if even all the beaches will be affected.

Here are some general facts about the oil spill that I learned.


As the oil leaks out, it comes in a plume and travels with the ocean currents before it surfaces. Because of this, all of the oil may not be visible from the surface immediately.

Many of the preceding oil spills the general public hears about have happened in cold climates (Alaska, Iceland, etc.) The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is in a significantly warmer climate which will change the effects and will be significantly different. Basically the warm air and warm water assist in evaporation of the benzene and other toxic components of the oil, which I understand to mean that it will break down faster.

What is being done right now.

There are various steps being taken right now on multiple levels to minimize risks.

BP is attempting to control the situation by capping and containing the oil.

The EPA is training many groups of people to be certified in safe oil clean-up. Everyone from volunteers, beach attendants, general contractors, to heavy machinery operators are lining up to be trained.

The local, state and federal governments are all working together.

There are various methods of clean up being employed. As you likely have seen and heard on the news, here are some of the measures being taken.

Booms placed in the water to keep the oil from drifting into shore;

Controlled burns;

Chemicals sprayed on the surface to absorb the oil;

Human and Pet Hair Booms
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126536482

Hay sprayed in the water
http://www.waltonso.org/

What should I tell my travelers who want to cancel?


Keep yourself informed and deal with questions on a case-by-case basis, but here's how I've been handling these questions from my renters:

“There’s no telling at this early date what will happen and whether our beaches will be affected. The tourism counsel in the area recommended that we take it day-by-day. The bulk of the tourism season doesn’t start for 4+ weeks, which is a long way away for clean-up efforts. If you don’t mind, let's just wait and see what happens and then discuss our options.”

You can also direct them to news articles such as this one: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/04/us/04enviro.html?emc=eta1

Will my homeowners insurance or traveler’s insurance cover loss of rent?

I have heard from many owners who said they have called their insurance companies. From what I am told, they will not pay on the basis that this is not considered a “natural disaster” or “act of God”. However, the best practice is to contact your own insurance carrier to learn what your options are.

Word on the street is that BP put a reserved amount of money into a trust fund for certain losses. Here’s a link where you can find the phone number to file a claim. http://www.bp.com/sectiongenericarticle.do?categoryId=9033574&contentId=7061709

This information is taken verbatim from Bay County Florida’s website: Businesses should keep detailed records of any business losses resulting from the oil spill. Businesses, including hoteliers, sport fishing charters, watersports rental companies, etc., that may be negatively impacted are asked to keep detailed profit and loss records and track any cancellations, should a claim need to be presented. BP has established a claim system and toll free number: 800-440-0858. This system will allow people to be entered into a process to recover lost income or recoup damage-related expenses.

Where can you go for more information?


Obama Encourages Vacationing at Gulf Beaches This Summer

Maps of the affected areas:


http://edition.cnn.com/2010/US/04/29/interactive.spill.tracker/index.html


http://www.bp.com/sectiongenericarticle.do?categoryId=9033575&contentId=7061771

http://www.deepwaterhorizon.noaa.gov/#downloads


http://www.bp.com/sectiongenericarticle.do?categoryId=9033573&contentId=7061702

Updates on beach closures:

Mississippi


Harrison County: http://www.usm.edu/gcrl/msbeach/harbmon.cgi

Hancock County: http://www.usm.edu/gcrl/msbeach/hanbmon.cgi

Jackson County: http://www.usm.edu/gcrl/msbeach/jacbmon.cgi

Alabama

http://gulfshores.com/issues/

Florida

Destin: http://www.destin-fwb.com/

Beaches of South Walton: http://bswupdate.com/

Bay County: http://www.co.bay.fl.us/

Local Chambers of Commerce

MS - Ocean Springs - www.oceanspringschamber.com

MS - Hancock County Bay St. Louis - http://www.mswestcoast.org/

MS - Jackson County - http://www.jcchamber.com/visiting.asp

MS – Harrison County - http://mscoastchamber.com/

MS - Biloxi - http://www.biloxi.org/

MS - Longbeach City Page - http://www.cityoflongbeachms.com/

MS - Harrison County (Biloxi, Gulfport, Long Beach, Pass Christian) Tourism Commission http://www.gulfcoast.org/

MS – Pass Christian - http://www.passchamber.com/

MS - D'Iberville St. Martin - http://www.dsmchamber.com/

AL – Dauphin Island - http://dauphinislandcoc.com/

AL – Gulf Coast - www.alagulfcoastchamber.com

AL - Gulf Shores - http://www.gulfshores.com/

FL – Sarasota - sarasotachamber.com

FL – Treasure Island – http://www.treasureislandchamber.org/

FL – Clearwater - http://www.clearwaterflorida.org/visitor/

FL – Pinnellas Park - http://www.pinellasparkchamber.com/

FL – Tampa - www.tampabaybeaches.com

FL - Pensacola - http://www.visitpensacola.com

FL - Pensacola Bay - http://www.pensacolachamber.com/

FL – Santa Rosa County - http://www.srcchamber.com/

FL - Avalon Beach - http://www.avalonbeach.com/

FL – Gulf Breeze - http://www.gulfbreezechamber.com

FL – Navarre - www.navarrechamber.com/

FL – Pace - http://www.pacechamber.com/

FL – Niceville - www.nicevillechamber.com

FL – Destin - www.destinchamber.com

FL – Crestview - www.crestviewchamber.com

FL – Walton County - http://www.waltonareachamber.com/

FL – Panama City - http://www.panamacity.org

FL – Gulf County - http://www.gulfcountybusiness.com/

FL – Carrabelle - http://www.carrabellechamber.org/Real_Estate.aspx

FL - Franklin County - www.apalachicolabay.org


Links for up-to-date information (this is not a complete list, but please email us if you know of others we can add to this list):


http://www.visitflorida.com/florida_travel_advisory/

http://www.nwfdailynews.com

http://www.pnj.com

http://www.thedestinlog.com

http://www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com

http://www.baycountyfl.gov/outreach/numbers.pdf

http://www.waltonso.org/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertLAJIC

Facebook: Deepwater Horizon Response

Facebook: Florida Travel and Tourism

Information on filing a claim for losses due to the oil spill:

http://www.myfloridacfo.com

Important Phone Numbers:

Report oiled shoreline or request volunteer information:
(866)-448-5816
Submit alternative response technology, services or products:
(281) 366-5511
Submit your vessel as a vessel of opportunity skimming system:
(281) 366-5511
Submit a claim for damages:
(800) 440-0858
Report oiled wildlife:
(866) 557-1401
Deepwater Horizon Incident
Joint Information Center Phone: (985) 902-5231 or (985) 902-5240

One last bit of advice

Do your own research, stay on top of the news and I highly recommend you seek advice from your own attorney.

Here’s to hoping the only oil we see on our beaches is suntan oil.

Christine

The information in the articles, blogs or other posts by Christine Karpinski are provided to assist vacation property owners or managers generally and are based on Ms. Karpinski’s personal experiences or the information she has been able to gather. This information is meant to help the owner community; however, please note that any particular situation of any owner or manager may differ and all owners and managers are encouraged to seek professional advice to determine what course(s) of action will be most beneficial for them. Neither HomeAway, Inc. nor Christine Karpinski can provide any guarantee or warrantee that this information is complete or accurate at any point in time or that any particular outcome will result if action is taken in response to this information.
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