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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!

It seems that every single day as a vacation rental owner brings on new and different challenges. Let's just say there's never a dull moment in my life!

The other day I received a phone call from a lady who was agitated and very upset. She asked me “Who are you and why did you charge my credit card for $X?” As you can imagine my stomach ended up in my throat. What happened? Who is this lady and why/how did her credit card get charged from my merchant account?

My first fear was oh no! Someone rented last minute and gave me a stolen credit card number and by now had likely come and gone… and guess who would be out the money—me of course! But then I thought, how is this possible? My credit card merchant account requires me to put in the credit card holder's billing address (including zip code), expiration date and naturally credit card number. Everything has to match in order for the card to get processed.

So as soon as I calmed down and the phone caller calmed down, I did a bit of research. I asked her the exact date and transaction amount. I went to my credit card company's gateway and sure enough I did process a credit card for that amount on that day. Next I asked the last 4 digits of her credit card (to be sure we were looking at the same transaction), sure enough, they matched. (Note: I did not at any time give the caller the full credit card number of my renter. I did not want to compromise the security of his credit card info. Nor did I ask for her full credit card number (not that she would have given it to me anyhow). I asked her if she was my renter's name, or related in any way to that renter—nope.

Next I looked up the renter's records and cross referenced the zip code with the caller's zip code. They didn't match. Aha! But this puzzled me because the transaction was approved and increased my thoughts that someone had given me a stolen credit card number.

The next thing I did was look up the dates for the renter whose card I “supposedly” charged. This puzzled me even further. I recall speaking to this renter. He was a really nice, older gentleman (not that older gentlemen aren't capable of scamming, but my gut just didn't feel like he was scamming me.) Then I looked at one more thing that solidified my “gut feelings”—his rental dates. This renter had not stayed in my property yet and as a matter of fact, the payment in question was only a partial payment. The other payment due next month. I thought, "Surely this can't be a scam. If someone were to use a stolen credit card number, they would not use it for rental dates which are months away, and they certainly wouldn't make a partial payment." This set my mind at ease. But still didn't get to the root of the problem.

The caller was insistent; she wanted me to just credit her account. I was not going to credit her account. I felt pretty confident that this was not my mistake. I was sure that her bank had misappropriated the charges to her account instead of to my renter's account. Furthermore, if I credited that charge, would she receive the credit or would my renter? Feeling like I was at a dead end, I told the caller that I would investigate and assured her I would get back with her ASAP.

The next thing I did was call my renter. You could imagine the uneasiness at this phone call. Was I calling him to see if he was a thief? Was I calling to have him prove his innocence? So I gathered my thoughts and decided I would call him with the truth, which typically never fails me. I told my renter of my dilemma. The first thing I asked was if he could verify his credit card number that he had given me. Sure enough the number he gave me was indeed the number I had on file. The next thing I asked him was if he could look to see if the charge was on his credit card statement. He looked it up and no, he had not been charged.

So this perplexed me even more. Why did the charge show up on the wrong person's credit card statement? Furthermore, if I credited the charge, who would get the credit? So the next phone call I made was to my credit card merchant account company. I explained the problem to them. They verified the charges and said that even though the credit card was approved, the address and zip code were not verified (I thought you could not charge a card with out the correct address—apparently I was wrong! The representative explained to me that many cards do require address and/or zip code verification, however not all do.) So the representative then asked me the full credit card number that I charged. I proceeded to tell him the digits one at a time. When I got to the ninth and tenth digits he stopped me. “There's your problem! You transposed the 9th and 10th digits.”

In the end, the entire error was mine! I messed up! I called my renter and the woman whose card had gotten charged by mistake. I credited the one card and then re-charged the renter's card—very carefully typing in each digit. And went to bed that night pulling feathers from my teeth from all the crow I ate that day.

Oh well, no one is perfect.

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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