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Christine's Vacation Rental Insights

21 Posts tagged with the homeaway tag
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Hi everyone,

HomeAway is bringing back the Griswolds in a national ad campaignTo start, let me thank Christine for allowing me to take over her blog this week. I thought it would be a great place to get all of you as excited as we are for our first ever national marketing campaign, which will kick off with a commercial during the Super Bowl in just a few days!

Traditionally, HomeAway has relied on online marketing to spread the word about our product – your homes – to travelers all over the world. But with the company’s 5th birthday just around the corner, we thought it was high time to cast a wider net to expand the pool of potential vacation home renters and bring more bookings to our owners.

One of the challenges of embarking on a television ad campaign, though, is that we are a web-based company. We have to get people to go from their television to our website to really consider our efforts a success. With this in mind, we’ve made the site an integral part of our campaign to encourage travelers not to settle for a hotel room when they can rent an entire home.

And who better to prove the value of vacation rentals over hotels than America’s most iconic traveling family, the Griswolds! We are thrilled to bring the Griswolds back to the screen for the start of our ad campaign – a 30-second “mock trailer” enticing viewers to visit HomeAway.com to view a short film based on the original National Lampoon’s movies. (Take a look at a sneak peek to our behind-the-scenes footage of the shoot!)

Although the 15-minute movie will only be accessible on HomeAway.com, this campaign is really meant to bring awareness to our entire industry. Last year, about 10% of travelers chose to book a vacation rental for their accommodations. While this figure has already grown over the years, we still feel there is a huge opportunity to expand your market of potential guests. By giving national attention to our special niche, we are proving to travelers just how easy it is to book a vacation rental for their next trip.

Here’s the thing, though — we know the reactions may not all be positive, and maybe some of you think we could have used this money for something else. Let me assure you that our investment in a Super Bowl commercial will have no effect on our plans to continue improving our websites. We still strive to be a valued partner in your vacation rental businesses and hope to further delight you, our customers, with enhancements to our family of websites in the coming year.

That being said, nothing great ever happens in business without some risk, and we feel that this is just the risk we needed to take to change the travel industry forever. We believe in the value of vacation rentals and are looking forward to the growth of our marketplace. Since the announcement of our purchase of a commercial airing during the Super Bowl, HomeAway has appeared in 825 articles throughout the U.S. relating to the Super Bowl. I look forward to the continued growth and awareness of our industry and this great alternative to hotels.

To prepare for all the traffic that the commercial will hopefully bring, we’re locking down all changes to HomeAway.com from February 4th through February 8th. What does this mean for you? You can still make changes to your listings (updating your calendar, rates, etc.), but these changes will not show up on the website until Tuesday, February 9th. We appreciate your patience as we prepare for an influx of travelers!

I hope that I’ve answered some of your questions about the upcoming ad campaign, but feel free to contact us to express your opinions or ask any questions in the coming weeks.

Here’s to a spike in inquiries and bookings after February 7!

Brian Sharples
CEO HomeAway, Inc.

 
   
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trading accommodations for servicesHi Everyone!

Hope you had a good first week of the year. For me I really just played a lot of catch-up. I like to call it penance for taking off time during the holidays!

Last week was a pretty strong week for inquiries, but I really didn’t take too many bookings as of yet. I think a lot of my inquiries were from looky-loos, who have just started shopping around. A lot of them were just asking for prices and availability.

I did, however, take an interesting booking. It came from a professional photographer who has been hired by the Chamber of Commerce to shoot photos of the local area. I worked out a sweet deal where she’ll be taking some new photos of my cabins as well in exchange for some free accommodations.   I'm going to contact my accountant to see how this might impact my personal use days, but it's worth it to me!  I’ll share the photos once I get them. It should be interesting to see what a professional photographer can do that I can’t.

Also this week I spent some time on the “other side” as a traveler looking for places to stay for my trip to the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver. Oh what fun it was for Last-Minute Lizzy to find accommodations! But I’m so happy I scored and was able to find a vacation rental that was newly added to HomeAway.com

Christine
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This past week I was faced with a vacation rental booking dilemma that was tough to deal with.

The History. I received an inquiry about a month ago from a woman looking to rent my cabin in January. She had specific dates in mind. I spoke with her and she seemed genuinely interested but had to check with the others in her party before booking it. But she never called back. This is pretty common, so I thought nothing of it.

A couple of days ago I heard from her again, she told me that she had ended up in the hospital. Now, thankfully fully recovered, she said that she needed a vacation more than ever. She still needed to finalize everything with the other members of her party. She then called back two more times asking various questions but still had not committed. Having spoken with her many times, I gave her an option that I don't usually give: I explained that I could give her “first right of refusal” if any one else inquired about those dates, but am unable to “hold” dates until I have full confirmation of the booking. Seemed fair.

Lo and behold the next day I get a phone call and an email from a different renter looking for which dates? Of course the same exact dates as the lady that I have had numerous conversations with. She wanted to book and pay in full on the spot.

The Dilemma. Do I allow the “new” renter to book on the spot? Or do I tell her that I have someone else who wants those dates and have her wait? Do I go with “courteous business” practices and call the first renter to give her “first right of refusal” which may or may not result in a booking? Or do I just book the sure thing? What if I give the first renter the “first right of refusal” and she does not book and the second renter then finds another property to book and then neither of them books it?

The Solution. Since I told the first renter that I would give her “first right of refusal,” I felt obligated to at least call and give her the chance to book or refuse. I explained this to the second caller (renter) and she said that she absolutely understood. But she did laugh and say, “It just reassures me that you are the person who I would like to rent from—makes me respect you more.” So I asked her what time is appropriate to call back, and she said she would wait up all night for a call from me. Out of the hundreds of cabins she looked at, mine was her number one choice. I thanked her for being so understanding and told her if I had not heard from the other renter within 3-4 hrs I would call her back.

So I called the first renter and of course could not get ahold of her. I left her a message on her answering machine. In the meantime I looked up to see what if any other cabins still had availability. Many of the cabins I looked at were booked. This made me feel much worse about having to “decide” between renters. But I did finally find one cabin that had those dates open. I double checked with the other owner to be certain her on-line calendar was correct. She assured me it was.

So in the end I called back the second renter and took her reservation. I still have not heard back from the first renter but if she does contact me, at least I have another cabin that I can refer her to if she does indeed make the decision to rent. While some owners might think this is a bit excessive, out-of-my-way to assist, I feel it's very important for the vacation rental industry in general. While our main motivation is always to rent “my home” first, I am more than willing to go that extra mile to assist whenever I can.

Happy Renting By Owner!

Christine
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Hello all! I cannot believe it's already the last week of January. Where does the time go?

All in all, January was a steady inquiry month for all of my properties. I was a bit concerned because I thought by this same time last year I had more bookings, so I looked up last year's stats and sure enough, I am at just about the same pace as I was the previous year. I suspect February will be less Looky-Lou's ("lookers, not bookers") and more people who will just call and book (or at least I hope).

Every January I try to make improvements in my properties. This year I have decided to change out my queen-sized beds (that were in my cabin when I purchased it) and replace them with kings.

We'll it's just not that easy of a task—you have to first find mattresses. Ok I have a really good vendor that I use for beds~ Velorlo. They have great quality commercial grade mattresses. Just give them a call, order the mattresses, and set up a delivery date.

The next thing I had to do was find a new bed frame. And of course I would prefer log beds because it's a cabin. If you have ever searched for log beds before you'll know my pains. There are about a million different manufacturers from the mass production places to the one-off guy who makes them in his back yard. Then there are the different types of materials—pine, willow, white cedar, red cedar, aspen, oak, cherry and the list goes on. And then you have to choose a finish, with the bark or without, rustic peeled, rough cut, smooth finish, unfinished, oiled, stained, Aaaaahhhhhhhh too many decisions! I get very overwhelmed with decisions. In the end what I did was called another owner that I know who has log beds. I asked her what she bought and then I just got the same ones. Yes it's lame, but I would have never made a decision on my own.

Now it's time to buy new sheets, new quilts, pillow shams, dust ruffles, and I'll probably have to change the curtains because the old ones won't match.

And lastly, try to coordinate it so everything is delivered around the same time.

I thought I was just going to switch the size of the beds—not so easy I guess!

Happy Renting by Owner!
Christine
   

 

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Hi all!

This week represents the official end to spring break! I hope you and your homes all survived, had tons of great renters and no beer-drinking, college spring breakers.

Within the next few weeks, our next wave of inquiries and bookings should come rolling in for the busy summer rental season. If you're already booked—great! If not, now's the time to start thinking about attracting the next wave of travelers: Change your headlines, alter your descriptions, make sure your rates and calendars are up-to-date and your photos are the best!

I have reassessed my ads and all's well except I'll have to write some new descriptions and get new photos of my cabins.

Remember a few months ago when I wrote about buying new beds? Well this week they are scheduled to arrive. This news sent me frantically shopping for new linens (remember I'm switching my beds from queens to kings, so this means all new bedding too!). The first place I went was Costco. I found that King sheets were between $65 and $100. Wow, that's much more than queen sets.

Next, I let my fingers do the walking on the Internet to do some price comparison shopping. The best prices for good quality sheets I found were on SmartBargains.com. For $40 I was able to get 400 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets w/4 pillow cases (I love the bonus pillow cases, since it seems like I replace pillowcases sooner than sheets.)

The benefit of buying Egyptian cotton is that—yes, they are very nice sheets—but now I can advertise my homes as having luxury sheets. I am hoping this will piqué the interest of a couple of renters that would have maybe otherwise glanced passed my property.

After sheets, I needed new blankets, quilts, pillow shams, dust ruffles, and mattress pads. I was able to find all of these items reasonably priced on SmartBargains.com as well. So I purchased everything in one shot and had it shipped to my housekeeper. The total damage to my pocketbook was a mere $280 per bed (including shipping and taxes), which included 2 sets of sheets (one on the bed and one spare), 4 pillows (2 for sleeping and 2 for the shams), a blanket, mattress pad, quilt, shams and dust ruffle. I think I did pretty well! Hopefully they'll make it at the same time as the beds.

Happy Renting by Owner!

Christine
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Hi Everyone!

How’s it going? Things for me are back to the usual—another situation has arisen which gives me yet more fodder for my blog posts.

Since my cabins are on wells, the drought has affected my rentals. Currently my wells are down around 16-18 feet! While I have not run out of water, thankfully, many people in the area have! Basically it has affected the quality of my water—it stinks like rotten eggs! And my renters are not too happy about that!

If you are in an area where you’ve been plagued by the drought (here’s a national drought monitor website http://drought.unl.edu/dm/monitor.html), there are some things that you could/should do to avoid complaints or worse yet, have people leave and demand their money back—yep that’s happened to me!

So the best way I can advise you is give you examples of what I have done to divert the complaints.

1. Sometimes when the water levels get low, bacteria could be introduced in your well. Have your water tested by your local health department--mine cost $50 and took about 2 weeks from application to test results.

2. Convert to charcoal water filters and change them frequently! I’m changing mine every two weeks as opposed to my regular monthly schedule.

3. Inform all renters (upon booking) that there is a drought—(and if your water stinks, like mine, tell them! It’s better to lose a reservation at the booking stage, rather than once they are already in your home. Keeping to my motto: I never want anyone in my house who doesn’t not want to be there; how will they treat my home? ) Here’s how a typical conversation with a renter goes, “I have to tell you that we’re experiencing a drought and it’s caused our well to be significantly lower. We’ve had the water tested by the health department, and it’s fine but there is a sulfur smell. Sulfur is a mineral which you find in hot springs that emits that smell…”

4. On your rental contract, attach wording about the water. I have chosen the short and sweet version just so it’s in writing. Here’s the wording I have used: WATER AND SEPTIC: These cabins are on wells and septic systems. The mineral content in the water is high. During a drought, the well water may have an odor.
5. On your directions, attach a reminder about the water situation. Here’s what I have added: I also wanted to let you know that there is a severe drought in the area. If you smoke please do so outside (this is a non-smoking cabin.) Please make sure that you extinguish your cigarettes completely and do not throw your cigarette buts outside in the woods as they may cause a forest fire. We are under extreme high burn warnings in the area. The drought has also caused the well water to have a sulfur smell. Our well has been thus far ok though we always ask that you please conserve water, and is safe to drink (we have a recent health department test report, which we can send you if you’d like to see it.) The sulfur smell is sometimes tough to get passed your nose, for this reason, we recommend bringing bottled drinking water.
So there you have it, yet another way you can learn from my personal vacation rental problems. So glad I can be of service. LOL !

Happy Renting by Owner!

Christine Karpinski
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