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Christine's Vacation Rental Insights

12 Posts tagged with the oil_spill tag

Destin-005.jpgHi everyone,


I am finally back in the office from my whirlwind trip that included  visiting a college for my son, redecorating my vacation rentals, and  hosting the “Revive the Gulf” Symposium in Destin! Though it was  jam-packed with activity (and I’m certainly glad to be home), it was  also great to accomplish so much during one trip.


As promised, below is my recap of each of the sessions of our  Symposium. To start, here is a look at who attended:



  • A majority of the owners in attendance owned property in the local  area, but we also met quite a few with homes in Alabama and Mississippi
  • A significant amount of owners have been renting for more than five  years
  • Many of the attendees owned more than one vacation rental property
  • About half of the attendees had already filed with the Gulf Coast  Claims Facility


1st Session: State of the Vacation Rental Industry in the Gulf



Tom Hale, Chief Product Officer of HomeAway, Inc.



Tom’s presentation focused on the efforts HomeAway made to help boost  inquiries in the Gulf Coast following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill,  which included increased pay-per-click advertising, targeted emails to  Gulf Coast travelers, a dedicated

oil spill  response website

, and customized banner ads throughout our website.


But perhaps more importantly, Tom shared some of HomeAway’s plans to  continue to promote the Gulf Coast and the entire vacation rental  industry in 2011. The owners seemed most excited about the improvements  to the Owner Dashboard, our upcoming Super Bowl commercial, the sneak  peek of our new listing analysis tool, and most of all, VRBO phone  support! Phone support, with click-to-call technology, is currently in  test mode, but it should roll out to all customers sometime early next  year. Stay tuned for more info!



2nd Session: Restoring Tourism and Economic Activity



Pamela Watkins, Beaches of South Walton



Pamela spent her session telling us all the things that the visitors’  bureau has done with their BP claims money to help boost tourism and  restore the image of the area following the oil spill. Pamela felt  strongly that the media didn’t necessarily portray the true state of our  beaches, so the media is the best way to correct that perception.


So, with their payments from BP, the Beaches of South Walton invested  in the following marketing efforts:



  • Community workshops
  • Dedicated websites
  • Seaside newsletter
  • Television and radio commercials
  • Employee training
  • Satellite media tours to 60 stations nationwide
  • Celebrity PSA campaigns
  • Partner co-op campaigns
  • Rewards programs
  • Back to the Beach concert


What I found even more interesting, though, was the study that the  Beaches of South Walton conducted with travelers who visited the area in  2009 but didn’t return in 2010. Here is what they found:



  • 48% who traveled this summer but not to BoSW sited the oil spill as  their #1 reason
  • 15% who had booked cancelled
  • 85% never made a reservation this summer
  • 49% of those who went somewhere else said that their experience  wasn’t as good as BoSW; 41% said it was about the same; 10% said it was  better
  • 83% of those who did return intend to come back again in 2011; 6%  have already made reservations
  • 66% do not plan to make their reservations sooner than a few months  before their trip
  • 16% think the beaches will still be impacted next summer


Although there were some minor negative findings in the survey results,  overall it gives me hope that bookings will be just about back to  normal for next summer.



3rd Session: The Claims Process



Caroline Adams, Buzbee Law Firm



The Buzbee Law Firm has been involved in the oil spill since day one,  representing many rig workers, oystermen and shrimpers in addition to  vacation rental owners. When it came to our group and the claims  process, most people have filed for 1-6 month payments. No one has filed  for a final payment, and Buzbee recommends holding off on that as of  right now. Most people were paid about 2-3 weeks after submitting their  claims, if not sooner.


So, if you are among those who have not submitted your claim yet,  Buzbee recommends submitting your emergency claim with the following  supporting documents:



  • Description of business losses due to spill
  • Records showing gross revenues for 2010
  • Letters of business cancellations
  • Maps or descriptions of the area
  • Financial statements for 2007-2010
  • Signed income tax returns for 2007-2009
  • Details on efforts to mitigate losses
  • Daily/monthly occupancy information 2007-2010
  • Documents of insurance/collateral source payments from government  entities



4th Session: Recovering from the Oil Spill



Christine Karpinski, Director of Owner Community for HomeAway, Inc.



Ok, I’m not going to toot my own horn too much, but here are the main  points I addressed in my session. For more information on these topics, I  encourage you to read the articles I’ve linked below:



  • Stay firm on your cancellation  policy, and be up front about it with guests
  • Have confidence when speaking to your renters! Hundreds of owners  sent checks back to travelers unnecessarily; we must change this whole  mentality and have more confidence in our business as a group.
  • Encourage guests to purchase travel  insurance. Although most natural disasters aren’t covered, several  companies made exceptions for the oil spill.
  • The oil spill created some bargain-hunting monsters, but you just need to know how to deal with them.
  • Don’t undercut  your neighbors’ prices. None of us want to see a price war break  out.
  • After you’ve met your booking goal for the year, consider raising  your prices. It’s perfectly fair to raise prices once a year, but  be sure to leave them that way. Rather than cutting prices later, you  can always run a special.
  • Don’t scrimp on silly things – be sure to provide  the necessities like spices, detergent, a hair dryer etc.


So that just about covers it. If you have additional questions, I  encourage you to become a member of our forum on the Gulf Coast Response  Center website. I hope this event provided some much needed reassurance  for the future of our rentals. Here’s to a successful 2011!


Happy Renting,




The HomeAway Revive the Gulf SymposiumHi everyone,

As many of you know, I own properties along the Gulf Coast, so the oil spill has continued to effect me after the oil stopped flowing. And I know that I'm not the only one-- many Gulf Coast homeowners have endured a particularly difficult summer this year following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. To show our continued support for our owners, HomeAway is hosting a special event on November 6 and 7.

You are invited to a FREE symposium dedicated to Gulf Coast vacation rental owners, featuring Tom Hale, Chief Product Officer of HomeAway, Inc. We’ll also have other industry experts onsite to share insights and advice on recovering your rentals, and I'll be speaking as well.

In addition to learning from our panel of experts, you’ll have the opportunity to meet other homeowners just like you, facing the same challenges and striving to keep your properties booked and your beaches safe and beautiful for future guests.

We would love to see you there. To ensure that we have enough seating for everyone, pre-registration for each guest is required. Sign up today to save your spot.


Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa
4000 Sandestin Blvd., South
Destin, Florida 32550

If you're joining us from out of town, consider renting one of the many Destin properties available on our family of websites.

Or, if you'd prefer to stay at the hotel, we have a discounted rate of $109/night available for Symposium attendees.  Just call 850-267-9500 and mention our group.

Saturday, November 6, 2010
Speaker Sessions: 1pm to 6pm
Networking Reception: 6:30pm to 7:30pm

Sunday, November 7, 2010
Listing Workshop: 9am-12pm

Learn about our speakers and topics*:

• Tom Hale, Chief Product Officer of HomeAway, Inc., will kick off the weekend discussing the state of the vacation rental industry in the Gulf. Learn how HomeAway plans to promote your properties on, and for a successful 2011 rental year.

• Christine Karpinski, bestselling author, Gulf Coast homeowner and Director of Owner Community, will share her own advice and experiences about recovering from the oil spill, standing firm on your rates and dealing with bargain hunters.

• Caroline Adams of Buzbee Law Firm will be onsite to answer questions regarding the BP claims process.

• Representatives from the Beaches of South Walton will share what local tourism boards are doing to stimulate economic activity and restore tourism in the region.

• And finally, our Listing Workshop will demonstrate how you can improve your own marketing efforts to attract visitors to your areas once again

Register Now  
If you have any questions, feel free to call the Owner Community at 512.505.1544 or email

Hope to see you soon,


*Speakers and topics are subject to change.



Home Sweet Home

Posted by christinekarpinski Aug 24, 2010

Home Sweet HomeHi everyone,

I’m back from my vacation. I stayed in a vacation rental property in Turks and Caicos and had a wonderfully relaxing vacation. Everything with my rentals was smooth sailing while I was totally unplugged from it all. Check out this photo we took from our rental (this was the private walkway down to the beach).

I came home to find out that the process for filing claims with BP has changed yet again! We now have to resubmit a new claim application because Feinberg’s office has officially taken over the claims process. Like it was not painful enough to do it once, now we all have to do it again! If you own in the Gulf Coast, be sure to re-file your claims. For all oil spill related information, be sure to go to our oil spill website.

This week I’m in The specified article was not found. for a seminar. If you live in the Bay Area, come join me!

Happy Renting!


Hi Everyone.

My rental life has been pretty quiet. This is a welcomed change because the BP oil spill has been consuming my life lately. We’ve been working on a website for vacation homeowners in the Gulf Coast and, of course, it has taken twice the amount of work than we anticipated. But the good news is that it's finally up and running.

Next week I am going on vacation and NO, I’m not going to one of my vacation rentals. We’re going to Turks and Caicos. So this week I’ll be setting up all of my rental systems so I can have a relaxing vacation without worrying about my vacation rentals while I am away (read what I do before going on vacation The specified blog post was not found.).

This Thursday, I’ll be speaking at Florida Tourist Development Tax Association. For all of you vacation rental owners in Florida, if you are not collecting and remitting sales tax, you now have a chance to come clean and potentially save thousands of dollars in fees and fines. Stay tuned later this week for a full article about this, which will be written by Rob Stephens of HotSpotTax.

UPDATE 8/5/10: Rob Stephens, Co-founder of HotSpat Tax Services has written an article entitled Florida Taxes and Vacation Rentals where he outlines the new tax amnesty program to help vacation rental property owners and property managers become properly registered to pay the required taxes. Read it The specified article was not found. !

Have a good week!




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!




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,


fish market closures following gulf coast oil spillAs promised, I wanted to give you an update of my travels on the Gulf Coast.

Yesterday I was supposed to go up in a small plane to get an aerial view of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. But on Tuesday afternoon, just as I was getting ready to go, some thunderstorms rolled in that canceled my flight.

I took some time see more of the beaches Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning. I went over to Okaloosa Island and down to Panama City Beach, and I was very happy to see these beaches exactly as the others — no oil or tar balls that I could see.

I had to cut my trip short and fly to Atlanta on Tuesday night for a Wednesday morning interview with Fox and Friends (to talk about the oil spill). My family lives in Atlanta so I thought it would be nice to pick up some fresh seafood so we could enjoy the fruits of the sea. I called my favorite fish market, Shrimpers, to place my order. Their answering machine picked up and said, “Sorry, we are closed due to the oil spill.”

The closed fish market hit me like a load of bricks! I guess it was because everything else I “saw” was eerily exactly the same. The stores were buzzing with tourists, the boardwalk had people walking and running as usual, the restaurants were crowded, and yes, they even had seafood on the menus (I suppose shipped in from other parts of the world).

Every beach vacation is virtually the same — enjoy the beach, play in the sand and water, get a sun tan, go to the fish market and cook up a freshly caught seafood feast. But not this time. As I sit here writing this blog post, I feel deeply saddened by this. I am wondering why the closure of the fish market had such a profound effect on me. I suppose it’s because no matter what I see or hear about the oil spill on TV, somehow that’s surreal, a bit more difficult to believe. Perhaps my brain can only believe what I see. The bottom line is whether I can see it or not, the oil is affecting my beaches.


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.

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!


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.


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."

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.
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 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!


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.
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

Hay sprayed in the water

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:

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.

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:

Updates on beach closures:


Harrison County:

Hancock County:

Jackson County:




Beaches of South Walton:

Bay County:

Local Chambers of Commerce

MS - Ocean Springs -

MS - Hancock County Bay St. Louis -

MS - Jackson County -

MS – Harrison County -

MS - Biloxi -

MS - Longbeach City Page -

MS - Harrison County (Biloxi, Gulfport, Long Beach, Pass Christian) Tourism Commission

MS – Pass Christian -

MS - D'Iberville St. Martin -

AL – Dauphin Island -

AL – Gulf Coast -

AL - Gulf Shores -

FL – Sarasota -

FL – Treasure Island –

FL – Clearwater -

FL – Pinnellas Park -

FL – Tampa -

FL - Pensacola -

FL - Pensacola Bay -

FL – Santa Rosa County -

FL - Avalon Beach -

FL – Gulf Breeze -

FL – Navarre -

FL – Pace -

FL – Niceville -

FL – Destin -

FL – Crestview -

FL – Walton County -

FL – Panama City -

FL – Gulf County -

FL – Carrabelle -

FL - Franklin County -

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):


Facebook: Deepwater Horizon Response

Facebook: Florida Travel and Tourism

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

Important Phone Numbers:

Report oiled shoreline or request volunteer information:
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.


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.

Hi everyone,

oil spill in gulf of mexicoI know a lot of our owners along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida have questions about the what ifs and effects of the recent oil spill. Right now I am in Destin, Florida attending a meeting to discuss the impact of the oil spill on tourism on the Gulf Coast. Stay tuned here for updates. 

In other news, our first ever Not authorized to view the specified article 1702 is just over a week away, and we could not be more excited!  We are hard at work finalizing all the last-minute details and are so excited to meet everyone when they arrive for the weekend.

We are also thrilled that our event has attracted owners with properties all over the world, including Italy, Spain, France, Costa Rica, Panama and Australia!  It will be so exciting to meet everyone next weekend.

Happy Renting,