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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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Down a Slippery Road

Posted by christinekarpinski Jan 19, 2011

Hi everyone,

 

iStock_000008821793XSmall.jpg

The Gulf Coast Claims Facility came out with definitions for the final claims process for anyone affected by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill (also known as the BP oil spill). While going through the various options for claims, I came to the conclusion that since I am a multiple property owner, it is probably best if I retain an attorney. 

 

As you can imagine, there are hundreds of attorneys who are litigating these cases. Thankfully I didn’t have to search too far for an attorney I trust; I went with Buzbee Law firm, the same firm that has been contributing information to HomeAway's oil spill response site

 

With my other than Gulf Coast rentals, life has been nuts. The snow on the East Coast has made renting cabins in the Smokey Mountains all but impossible. I had a guest who waivered on whether or not to rent. I told her it’s highly unlikely that she will be able to get into our cabins (I basically refused to rent it). 

 

The night before the renter was scheduled to arrive she called me and said she was coming—go ahead and charge her credit card. I told her that housekeeper said the roads were only okay during the day; After dark everything turns to ice.  So the deal was I would rent but only if she would arrive during the day. But if she arrived at night, all bets were off; I could not guarantee that she would be able to access my cabin. 

 

I got a call the next evening and guess what? They didn’t make it there during daylight. Sure enough, the roads were all icy.  At that point, there was not much I could do. I told her I could help her find a hotel or if she was feeling adventurous, she could walk up the road to my cabin. She didn’t like either of those options. She said she would call me back. About an hour later I got a call from her saying she was in the cabin. I asked her if she walked and she said no, they went to the store and bought 20 bags of salt and salted the road! The salt on the road coupled with the extra weight of the unused bags in her car and she made it up the mountain. 

 

This is NOT how I like to run my vacation rental business! I should have stuck to my “no” but in the end the guests really enjoyed the cabin and their time there. I, of course, refunded her the money she spent on salt as well as some extra for her trouble. 

 

Christine

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The Long Road Home

Posted by christinekarpinski Jan 10, 2011

Happy New Year! I hophttp://www.homeaway.com/webdav/site/ha/shared/OC%20Images/Blog/ckhouse.bmpe you all had a wonderful holiday.

 

My holidays were a bit crazy with all the snowfall throughout the  country. I had some major issues with snow on the roads near my Smokey  Mountain cabins. There was so much snow that my guests leaving couldn’t  get down the mountain, my housekeepers couldn’t get up nor could my  arriving guests. I had to order snow removal services and salt truck! My  neighbor’s guests got impatient waiting for the plows to come and  attempted to go down the mountain. Their car slid and thankfully a tree  stopped their car from ending up in my cabin (see the photo). I had to  help them find a tow truck because I didn’t want anyone checking into  that cabin with a vehicle teetering over the top of the cabin. I was  literally on the phone all day long but in the end, it all got worked  out.

 

So far 2011 has started off with a nice trajectory for inquiries and  bookings. To me it seems like there are a fair amount of window shoppers  out there but I am confident they will end up booking. I chuckle as I  think back 10 years; if I hadn’t been well booked up by the second week  of January, then I would have been really nervous. But things have  changed significantly over the past 10 years. People are booking closer  and closer to their vacation dates. I have confidence that the bookings  will come.

 

Wishing you many bookings in 2011!

 

Christine

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Year in Review

Posted by christinekarpinski Dec 21, 2010

2011clock.jpgAs we finish 2010, I reflect…

 

Looking back, 2010 started off on an upward trajectory, I was sure it  was going to be the best on record for my properties. Sadly, on April 20, 2010 everything changed because of the oil spill in the Gulf. Who could have predicted such a tragedy? There were people who lost their lives and livelihood and of course, there was significant impact on the environment and local economy. Retrospectively, I guess I was one of thelucky ones because most of my guests kept their reservations. No one  knows what to expect in the coming years but one thing we know for certain, there is an uphill battle to restore tourism in the region. I can only hope for the best.

 

The rest of my properties did well in 2010 bringing in the same amount of money this year as last. However the significant difference was I rented fewer nights for more money per night. I am extremely grateful  for this.

 

For my work at HomeAway, it was a year of many accomplishments. We  rolled out the new version of the Owner Community website that we’re using today. We also created a special website for owners whose rentals were effected by the oil spill, and just this  past month, rolled out our new Community forum.

 

We held 14 seminars across the country where we met and learned from  many homeowners and property managers. We also had our first ever  HomeAway Summit in May, which far exceeded expectations (we’re  doing another one this year!). It was also a great year for my podcast show—looks like we’ll end the year with just shy of 1 million downloads in 2010!

 

So in the end, despite some ups and downs, I have much to be thankful for.

 

I hope you have a happy holiday season and a safe, healthy and prosperous New Year!

 

Christine

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Hi Everyone,gingerbread_house_small.jpg

 

Do you have all of your Christmas shopping done? Tom Aiello, division  vice president for Sears Holding Corp. said "(A National Retail Federation) survey indicated 70  (percent) to 80 percent of people still had not done the majority of  their Christmas shopping by the last week."

 

As you’re reading this, you might be thinking, "Okay Christine, have  you gone off your rocker? What can this possibly have to do with  vacation rentals?" Stay with me here…

 

Think about the most difficult person on your list. What you can you  possibly buy the person who has everything? I’m sure there are millions  of other people out there who are wondering, "What in the world can I  get [fill in any name here] for Christmas?" Well, I have the perfect  gift idea: MY vacation rental (or even yours!).

 

This idea came to me this weekend when I got a call from a man who was  perplexed about buying his wife the perfect gift for Christmas. He had  an idea that he wanted to run by me. He and his wife have rented many  vacation rentals through VRBO before so he was very familiar with  vacation rentals and all the strict cancellation policies that come with  them. He asked me if I was willing to take a booking that might  possibly change. While his wife had returned some of his gifts he had  purchased in the past, he was quite certain she’d love the gift. But his  dilemma was he wasn’t too sure about the exact dates they would want,  though he knew it would be sometime in March.

 

While this is not my usual way of running business—to take a booking  without exact dates, in this instance I was willing to make an  exception. So here’s how we worked it all out.

 

We worked out some prospective dates that he thought would work and I  went ahead and blocked them off but here’s the major difference: I did  not require him to pay penny upfront! That’s right. The agreement we  made was he’d pay the deposit after he presented the gift. I sent him a  rental agreement and if his wife doesn’t like my cabin, doesn’t want to  go to the mountains or just plain hated the gift, we’d cancel the  reservation. Period-- no strings attached!

 

The best part of this story: After I worked out this deal with this  man, I took another call from another renter who was buying a gift as  well. He didn’t ask me for any special provisions. He was willing to  take a gamble and just buy a weekend at my cabin for a gift whatever my  circumstances were. I offered him the same exact deal and he was elated.

 

So if you want to capture some of those last-minute shoppers, go change  your headline on your vacation rental advertisement to say something  like: Gift Certificates Available!

 

Christine

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Will I Eat Crow?

Posted by christinekarpinski Dec 7, 2010

Hi everyone,

Last week we sent out our newsletter and we highlighted an article about raising rates. Who would have known it was going to be such a controversial topic?!?

We got a lot of responses both for and against raising rental rates next year. The pros felt that they could justify raising their rates especially since many stated they had not raised their rates in the past year or two. The cons were quite vocal stating the economy was the reason that they will not be raising their rates.

Last year I had a healthy debate (you might call it an argument) with a good friend of mine who also owns where I do. She lowered her rates last year and I raised mine by 25%. She said I was crazy; I said she was crazy (two good friends and also very strong willed women.) Anyhow, last week we shared our year end results and yes, her lower rates did indeed yield her more nights booked than my higher rates. But…you knew there would be a but…Surprise, surprise, we both made the same amount of money!

I told my friend I win because I worked smarter not harder--less coordination with guests, housekeepers, etc. and less wear and tear on my home. No eating crow for me!

Whatever you decide to do, raise your rates, keep them the same or even lower them there is no absolute right or wrong answer. It’s your decision.

Christine
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Making the Grade

Posted by christinekarpinski Nov 30, 2010

Hi everyone,

 

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I had a lovely weekend spent with family and friends.

 

Last week when my guests checked into one of my properties I called them to touch base and to see if everything was okay (I try to do this whenever I have time, which admittedly isn’t as often as I would like). I got the voicemail, so I left a message. The next day, the guest responded with a very kind email saying they were delighted with our place and went on to say that our place was “better” than any of the other places he stayed in the same complex (he’s a frequent and loyal guest of our complex, though it's his first time staying with us).

 

I really wondered what made him say that ours was better than the others. I often wonder what it is that makes people enjoy my homes over other homes. Is it the big things or the small touches? Is it the home itself or is it dealing with me? I decided to call him back to probe into it a bit further.

 

Here’s a recap of the things he told me. While it’s a focus group of one (not really statistically significant) there are insights that can be taken from it.

 

  • He said this is definitely the nicest of all the other condos in the complex with exceptional furnishings and amazing appointments.

 

  • The bedrooms were much nicer than any of the other properties. He liked that they were actually decorated with artwork on the walls and pretty bedding. He especially loved the nice quality sheets.

 

  • He absolutely loved the big, thick towels in the bathrooms.

 

  • He said he liked how well the kitchen was equipped even down to plenty of kitchen towels.

 

  • He appreciated the cleanliness of the property, he went on to say it was the cleanest place he has rented (yea for my housekeeper!)

 

  • And lastly he said he really appreciated the ease and courtesy of making the reservation.

 

So the bottom line that I took away was it is not one thing that makes or breaks us in this business. It’s more often the entire package that the guests appreciate—the home, the furnishings, the added touches, the décor and the professionalism.

 

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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hourglass_sm.jpgHi Everyone!

 

This past week was a good week for inquiries and bookings for my cabins  in the Smoky Mountains. I have been successful in filling a couple of  gaps in my calendars with a few last-minute travelers.

 

It's kinda funny, the last-minute guests seem to be more appreciative  than any ol' guest who books a few months in advance. I'm not sure why  that is. Perhaps it is because they have looked and looked and  everything else was booked, but I like to believe they're happy to find  my diamond in the rough.

 

This month is a big sales tax month for most vacation rental owners.  For most of us who file quarterly, sales taxes for the summer months are  due in October. Reminder, if you own along the Gulf Coast and received  claims money from either BP or GCCF, you do not have to remit sales tax  on the monies received from your claim (the state and counties will be  filing their own claims). You only have to pay sales taxes on actual  rentals.

 

Christine

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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,

 

Christine

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whisper_or_shout.jpgHi everyone,

 

Christine has taken some time off this week from her job here at  HomeAway to tend to her other job – her vacation rentals! While she’s  busy handling repairs and buying new décor, I’ll give you some insights  into what’s happening in our vacation rental world.

 

You’ve probably read about our event coming up this weekend – the

HomeAway  “Revive the Gulf” Symposium, in Destin, Florida. We are expecting  well over 200 Gulf Coast homeowners to attend, making this one of our  biggest events of the year. We look forward to meeting all of the  homeowners as usual and hopefully bringing them some much needed  reassurance that bookings for the Gulf will bounce back in 2011.

 

This weekend also marks another milestone for me personally – my 15th  stay in a vacation rental property since joining HomeAway almost 3 years  ago. I’ve stayed in VRs for both leisure and business travel, spanning a  wide variety of property types, from small beach condos to urban  dwellings to mini-mansions. But no matter what type of property, I find  myself giving the same type of feedback to each and every homeowner.

 

So here, in my very blunt words, are the top 5 things I’d like to tell  every homeowner:

 

 

  • The more information you give to me before I arrive, the better. I  am a planner at heart (understatement of the century), and if you can  tell me what to pack and where to eat and where to park before I even  set foot in your home, you are basically guaranteed a glowing review.

 

  • Please don’t make me have to ask for the directions to your home.  This is something I expect to be given upon sending the final payment,  at least 2 weeks before my scheduled arrival. That gives me the  confidence that you are on top of your game.

 

  • Please don’t feel like you have to meet me at the house to show me  around when I arrive. Since travel can be delayed and I could be tired  and cranky when I arrive, I actually would prefer to check in with you  on my second day.

 

  • Please don’t make me suffocate at night. It’s ok if you don’t have a  ceiling fan in the bedroom, but can you provide a small tabletop fan?  Although I am always freezing, I like a bit of circulation at night. And  while you’re at it – a TV in every bedroom is a huge selling point for  me. It doesn’t have to be fancy – an old school 12” will do the trick.

 

  • Please don’t make me have to call to find out what I need to do  before checking out. I have no problem running the dishwasher, taking  out trash or starting a load of laundry – just give me plenty of notice  so I’m not scrambling as I’m trying to leave for the airport.

 

So there you have it. Honest opinions from an Owner Community veteran.  Please don’t take it the wrong way. Hopefully this just spares you a  complaint or two from a future guest.

 

Happy Renting,

 

Leah Carroll

0

wallet.jpgHi everyone,

 

This weekend the tables were turned for me again. Instead of receiving  and responding to inquiries on my homes, I was sending some. Going to  the other side always gives me a different perspective on things.

 

We’re going with our son for his first official college visit in  Daytona Beach. We’re only going to be there for two nights (yep, I know  most people have 3 night minimums) but honestly I would much rather stay  in a condo instead of one hotel room with the three of us.

 

Owning beach properties myself, I know that November is likely dead for  most people there. So I figured I’d give vacation rentals the old  college try. I went to HomeAway.com and found that many 2 bedrooms, 2  bath properties were available for the same price or $25 dollars more  than the Hilton or Marriott hotels nearby. I thought this was very  reasonable. But then I looked at cleaning fees. Many properties were  charging more for the cleaning fee than for the night’s rental rate! I  totally understand because my cleaning fees for my beach properties are  similar. But being on the other side of the coin now gave me a different  perspective.

 

This really made me think about my rentals during the fall and winter.  Is it reasonable to expect renters to pay a cleaning fee equal (or close  to equal) to one night’s rental rate? It seems a bit exorbitant (now).  Would this be a barrier that might make a renter choose a hotel over a  vacation rental? I bet it would!

 

So, a cleaning fee of $150 during the summer on a week-long rental of  $1500 might be reasonable. But that same $150 cleaning fee on a 3-night  booking during the winter when your rates are $150/night might be a bit  much. So what are we to do? You have to have the place cleaned right?  You have a couple of options. You can ask your housekeeper to scale her  rates according to the season or length of stay. Or you can split the  cleaning fee with the guests to nab a booking during the otherwise slow  (or completely dead) season. Me personally, I think I’d opt for the  second choice. I’ll try it and see how it goes.

 

Stay tuned for the results,

 

Christine

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Hi Everyone!

This past week was a good week for inquiries and bookings for my cabins in the Smoky Mountains. I have been successful in filling a couple of gaps in my calendars with a few last-minute travelers.

It's kinda funny, the last-minute guests seem to be more appreciative than any ol' guest who books a few months in advance. I'm not sure why that is. Perhaps it is because they have looked and looked and everything else was booked, but I like to believe they're happy to find my diamond in the rough.

This month is a big sales tax month for most vacation rental owners. For most of us who file quarterly, sales taxes for the summer months are due in October. Reminder, if you own along the Gulf Coast and received claims money from either BP or GCCF, you do not have to remit sales tax on the monies received from your claim (the state and counties will be filing their own claims). You only have to pay sales taxes on actual rentals.

Christine
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