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No Vacancy: Maximizing ROI

9 Posts tagged with the advertising_your_rental tag
2

"A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats" – John F. Kennedy

 

YearConventional Wisdom at Given Point In TimeCorrected Wisdom Beyond Said Point In TimeYear
1960We can’t walk on the moon, more than 10ft of space dust covers it and a man would “sink!”One small step proves minor amounts of dust, nothing a 6-iron couldn’t handle (see photo).1969
1999Older computers are going to crash, causing major global havoc and Lord knows what else!!Turns out a couple people had to reset the timers on their VCR’s, that’s about it.2000
100’s -1543Ptolomy had the whole world believing the sun and planets revolved around the earth.Copernicus, Galileo & others proved that 1500+ years of globally accepted FACT were wrong.1543
August
2013
An increasing number of vacation homes in my area is hurting my vacation home business!Keep reading, the Corrected Wisdom won’t fit inside this box, so we’ll have to get out of it…September
2013

 

 

Now That We’re Outside The Box


I’m going to challenge you to stay outside the box for the rest of this blog.  Like 1,500 years of people before us who thought the universe revolved around them, we’ll need to change our thinking to realize the profitability of your vacation home doesn’t revolve around your area.

 

When we started renting our first vacation home in Anaheim in 2007, our house was the 13th listing on VRBO in our area.  When I started writing this blog post last Thursday, there were 198 listings on VRBO.  By the time I finished it, there were 201.  No doubt some of you out there have seen the same rapid growth, maybe even more so.

 

 

Here Are 3 Reasons Why We Should ALL Be Happy About Increased Competition:


1. Competition Makes Us Better – The idea that someone is trying to take food off our table compels us to get better.  What are you doing to constantly improve?  Reading this blog for one.  Not everyone in your area is, so you’re already gaining on them!

            *Best Practice: After you’ve read through all the No Vacancy Blog Posts, try reading

             my competitor’s, I mean my friend Joel’s blog on VR Success

 

2. Competition Validates Us – If there are homes popping up all around you then you must be in the right place and doing something right, right?  Give such good service that the number of repeat guests outruns the vacation home growth and ride the wave.

 

3. Competition Creates Loyalty – Now that you’ve read all the No Vacancy blogs you know that we’re trying to create Customers for Life (CFL’s) because they are great for ROI.  By allowing #1 above to drive us, we create a gap that future CFL’s will recognize, appreciate and award you their ongoing business for doing so.  And when your CFL’s friends travel to your area and say “there are so many homes to choose from,” your CFL will adamantly say “don’t even bother calling anywhere else, stay where we stay.”  Smells like a Referral’s cookin’.   

 

 

Here Are 3 More Things You Can Do To Leverage The Rising Tide:


1. Get In Cahoots – What local businesses other than vacation homes are also benefitting from the rising tide?  Eateries, entertainment venues, touristy places?  What are you doing to partner with them? 

 

2. Partner With Other Homes – Find a home similar to yours in your area, establish a relationship with the owner/manager and fill each other’s vacancies.  We’ve all turned business away when two inquiries for the same dates go out. Lob one over to your new friend in anticipation that they will do the same.  Don’t forget to pay/collect that referral bonus!

 

2. Keep Your Sights Set On the Horizon – It’s easy to become narrow-minded and short-sighted when we are about to eat vacant nights, but remember we’re running an endurance race, not a sprint.  Keep doing all the Little Things right and the business will be there.

 

Moon photo.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But was JFK right about ALL boats rising with the tide?  Let’s ask Dwight from "The Office."


Dwight photo.jpg

 

Here we have to concede a point to Dwight.  Sunken boats are indeed unaffected by tides.  Don’t be a sunken boat.

 

 

 

Here Are 3 Ways to Not Be Sunk In A Rising Tide:

 

1. Don’t Cry About It – If you are committed to your business, always look for the upside.  Whining is terrible for ROI. 

 

2. Don’t Immediately Slash Your Rates – Continue to sell the value of your home to inquiries, and do it over the phone, not email.

 

3. Don’t Be Like Everybody Else – If you haven’t figured out your market niche, what is it?  Value? Luxury?  Family?  Location?

 

 

The Bottom Line: 

 

All boats rise with the tide, unless they are already sunk.  As the number of vacation homes in your area increases, so does the number of vacation home guests.  Every time one of your guests (or theirs) has a great experience in a vacation home an incremental potential CFL for you has been created.  Do what you can to leverage the rising tide.  The formula we are working from is: 

 

More Vacation Homes = More Vacation Home Guests = More Potential CFL’s For You = Higher ROI

 

Here’s to high tides and higher profits.

 

Cheers!

Michael

0

The Dad Factor, as I define it, is what adds up to make all Dads 100% awesome. Each Dad’s factor is comprised of varying levels of ego, competency, age, # of children, stubbornness and many other elements. 

 

However, within the factor there are some basic certainties that apply universally to Dads, certainties that might be considered when looking at Dad’s experience in your vacation home.

 

First, what do we know about Dad’s role while in your vacation home?

  • He is usually the one to unclog the toilet (who clogged it notwithstanding).
  • He is usually the one to change a light bulb.
  • He is usually the one to fix “it” when it breaks.
  • He is usually the one to figure out how to use the TV and remote.
  • He is usually the one to fire up the grill.

 

Considering the above, there are things that we, as vacation home owners, can do to increase the likelihood that Dad will Love his stay in our home and ideally become a CFL (customer for life).

 

Here are some ideas (please share yours in a comment below):

                                                                                             

Help him be useful if he wants to be (he does), so give him the right tool for the job. 

Make sure that Dad will have no problem finding the plunger when his 4 year old princess uses half the roll of toilet paper.  Better yet, upgrade your plunger to the type intended for big clogs.  You know, the ones for heavy doodie use? 

 

While at the hardware store, it’s not a bad idea to pick up a twenty dollar basic home tool kit when you are buying that HD plunger.  Having basic tool kits in our houses has had a positive ROI by helping Dads resolve an unexpected situation for us, preventing a call to the handyman.  After all, every Dad is somewhere on the handyman spectrum.

 

Help him be the problem solver. 

Make sure there is a flashlight with good batteries so he can investigate that noise outside.

 

Let Dad replace the light bulb your property manager hasn’t noticed is out yet.  Put a few of each type of light bulb somewhere accessible but out of the way, such as an upper cabinet shelf.  Dads usually are the ones asked to reach it off the upper shelf anyway. 

 

Help him prevent meltdowns by providing basic step by step TV/DVD/Satellite instructions with the remote control so Dad can get the Disney channel on before the little one loses it.  It’s her vacation too! 

 

Provide long wooden matches or a long BBQ grill lighter somewhere in the kitchen or near the grill so if the igniter isn’t working (as they often aren’t) the burgers and dogs won’t be delayed.  BEST PRACTICE:  Give the grill a good cleaning every checkout, Dads always appreciate a clean grill.  And provide proper tools (stainless steel grilling instruments) for the job! 

 

Help him make great memories.

Help Dad easily make some lasting memories with his family while enjoying your house. Family board games or video games, pool toys, game tables like foosball or shuffleboard, or a basketball hoop can do the trick. 

 

What’s unique to your area?  Maybe you have a big lawn.  When was the last time anyone played croquette?  I have great family memories playing croquette with my grandparents, uncles, cousins and my Dad.  Those are the kind of Delightful Memories we want to provide.

 

Another delightful memory maker we’ve had success with is providing a waterproof digital video camera for our guests to use in the pool and around the house. Guests who want it willingly pay an additional $5/day for their stay and thank us specifically for it upon checkout.

 

The Bottom Line:  Dads are awesome, every single one of us.  Our experience in a vacation home should be at least as awesome as we are.  Vacation home owners can consider Dad’s experience and do a couple things to help Dad stay awesome while on vacation.  Do things to win Dad’s vote to stay at your house next time they come to town.  Help him be useful if he chooses to be, and help him keep his family’s trip from any hiccups related to the house.  Most of all, help him make some delightful memories that will further his family legend of awesome for years to come. 

 

Here’s to Dads, and to the rest of you who put up with us…Happy Father’s Day! 

 

Cheers!

 

Michael

1

“The shortest period of time lies between the minute you put some money away for a rainy day and the unexpected arrival of rain.”  Jane Bryant Quinn

 

I see saving up for a rainy day, or establishing a Reserve Fund, kind of like how my kids see their vegetables.  We both know what needs to be done and we both know why it should be done…

 

“But if broccoli smells this bad, won’t it taste even worse?”  - Me My Kid

 

The idea of putting additional money (we can’t spare) aside for some unknown thing that may or may not happen just smells bad.  Then after that first month where you reduced your owner draw by 20% to start the Reserve Fund, the originally smelly idea ends up tasting just as bad as it smelt.  Or is it smelled? 

 

I am here to tell you that I am now a believer who LOVES broccoli. 

 

Termites? Not so much…  Pesky little termites gave us our first opportunity to dip into our Reserve Fund, which we reluctantly and nearly did not set up a year ago as we started renting the third house. 

 

I never thought paying thousands of dollars to eradicate tiny little house-biting bugs could feel so good. 

 

The first time a band of termites set out to eat one of our houses it caught us completely by surprise and $3,600 later we were left thoroughly bummed out.  We had the money in our account but we were headed into our off-peak season when cash is tighter, and it made for an uncomfortably long winter and some dismal owners draws.

 

Here’s How The Rainy Day Fund Works (adjust according to your house’s specific circumstances.)
*I’ll assume that you are in some way tracking your revenue and expenses.  If you are not, yet, then be sure to read the next blog.

 

Step 1: Determine a target amount to have in reserve (as cash, and accessible).  Let’s say $10,000.

Step 2: Figure out how much you can pull from your monthly owner draw, enough that you will feel it but it won’t disrupt your ability to cover monthly expenses.  Let’s say 20% of monthly net income.

Step 3: Set this money aside and use your first month’s reserve to open a new savings account.  *Not a must-do, but we’ve found it to be convenient for book keeping.

Step 4: Don’t cheat the fund.  You’ve got to be consistent and build your monthly P&L to account for this money being set aside.  Now watch it grow! 

 

Here’s Why I Wanted to Tell All of You About It

 

Consistent Cash Flow is the first reason our reserve fund worked great.  We took a $3,000 expense hit in stride and still received 100% of the owner draw that month.  We had enough money in the reserve account to cover the extraordinary and unforeseen expense.

 

Consistent Level of Service is perhaps a more valuable reason to establish a Reserve Fund.  We did not have to scramble for the money, wait for more bookings or put it on the dreaded profit-munching credit card in order to take care of the problem.  The repairs were completed over our first three day opening because we had the cash on-hand to do so.   We did not have to inconvenience guests with our problem, and even if we had to put them in other accommodations we had the money on-hand to do so without worrying.

 

Peace of Mind is what the first two benefits above add up to.  But there’s more.  Our Reserve Fund is more than 60% to our goal even after the termites, Lord willing it will hit the goal in 2013.  Once that happens we can look forward to a 20% Increase In Owner Draw, a welcome pay raise.

 

The Bottom Line: Saving up for a rainy day is a good idea that is worth the short-term pain to get there.  Having a Reserve Fund will stabilize your monthly cash flow and provide a nice sustainable boost in owner draw once your fund is met.  The peace of mind in knowing you have that cushion will pay dividends every day, and the immediate access to cash in the event that something major happens will help you make the repair sooner, accommodate the inconvenienced guests and ultimately provide that WOW moment in the face a potentially bad situation.  Those are the moments that create a customer for life, and we could all use more of those. 

 

Here’s to the month after our Rainy Day Funds spill over.

 

Cheers!

 

Michael

1

Given that we now have four, yes FOUR (see sidebar) kids under 7 years old we have realized that we don’t want to, or should we say we are not able to, travel with strollers, highchairs, pack ‘n plays, Bumbos and a separate suitcase for toys and dress-up clothes.

Guess what?  Our (potential) guests don’t want to travel with all of that kid stuff either!

It turns out that giving thought and attention to the needs of the kids is great for business too because it allows us to tap into the three R’s that we all Love so much: Referrals, Repeats and Reviews.

 

Kids blog.png

Just a few reasons we have found that kids can increase ROI:

  • Kids often heavily influence their parents’ decision on which house to rent or return to.
  • Kids are fairly easy to please if you put a little effort into DELIGHTING them.
  • When we win over the kids we automatically win over their parents at guest review time and when they are sharing their vacation stories.

 

The majority of our guests are families with kids and usually one or more of the kids are under 10 years old.  There is no quicker path to a parent’s heart than through their kids. For that reason we make an effort during each inquiry to find out whatever we can about the kids in the group.

 

With the knowledge of the ages of the kids who may be staying with us we help parents and grandparents (potential guests) understand why our homes are ideally suited for grownups and kids alike.

 

Some of the kid-friendly features we have included in our homes:

 

  • Multiple strollers, two pack ‘n plays, a high-chair and a Bumbo.
  • Fully stocked game cabinet and toy closet. Best Practice – add a monthly organizational clean-out of games and toys to your PM Checklist!
  • Individually packaged kid snacks in the welcome basket.
  • Kid-friendly movies and video games for various age levels.
  • Automatic walk-on safety covers over the swimming pools.
  • Electrical outlet covers and cabinet latches where appropriate.

 

Detailing some of the features like the ones above sends a message to parents (potential guests) that “your kiddos will have fun in our home.”

 

Occasionally we’ll raid the clearance racks in the toy and clothing aisles to stock up on inexpensive treats for our little guests.  Five or ten bucks can go a long way toward the three R’s and net a pretty good ROI.  At check-in kids have found pajamas with their favorite Disney character on them, Disneyland signature books, activity/coloring books and inexpensive packaged toys just to name a few.

 

Do you have any kid-friendly features in your home?  Do you leverage them effectively during the inquiry process? How can you improve in this area?

 

The Bottom Line:  Kids are profitable!  Wait, that didn’t come out quite right.  I meant to say, kids are GREAT!  Plus, kids are great for business too.  Building Kid-Friendly features into the vacation home experience you offer will endear your business to your guests.  That means they are more likely to give you REFERRAL business, Repeat business and great guest Reviews.  We all know those three R’s add up to Maximum ROI!

 

So raise a glass of chocolate milk to the little guests and give them memories that will leave them longing for their “other” home.

 

What have any of you guys done to make your homes more kid-friendly? Please share your best practices and comments below.

 

 

Cheers!

 

Michael

 

P.S. Please forgive the shameless plug for our other newest baby, Pipsqueak®.  Remember a while back I mentioned we were working on a project? Well, Angela invented the first Bluetooth phone just for kids!  Like proud parents we’re just so excited that we want to tell the whole world about it. Thank you for your readership and please learn more and support our Kickstarter!

2

Sorry for the delay everyone, I’ve been “off.”  This is the time of year that Angela, the kids and I make the 1,350 mile drive to California for a getaway.  This time we invited another family along with us to really see things from our guests’ perspective.   

 

If you aren’t spending time “off”, as a guest, in the home you own or manage, you should be.

 

In this post I’ll share some of the things that we’ve uncovered during this trip.  We hope that you will:

 

  1. ) Benefit from some of our learnings, and
  2. ) Realize the value you can create by making it a priority to spend time as a guest in your home.Disney kids.bmp

 

We try to “get away” to our homes at least once a year.  Often we even block peak calendar time for ourselves because it always proves to be a great return on our investment (not to mention the write-off that the expenses from the “business trip” can provide).


I’m not talking about staying at your home for regular maintenance or while you remodel the bathroom.  Although maintenance and remodels are important, this time in your home is different.  This time “off” is meant to allow you to experience first-hand the joys and frustrations that your guests feel when they stay at your place.     


I’ll readily admit that it’s very difficult for us to stay in a guest’s frame of mind when there are so many things to be done as the owner.  But each time we’ve stayed it’s gotten a little easier to get away for partial and full days at the home and the insight has proven valuable. 

 

3 Useful Tips We’ve Learned:


  1. It’s easier to switch from owner-mode to guest-mode when you have Loved ones with you. 
  2. While at the home, only “work” on tasks that you personally add value to and try to plan your stay with a dedicated day or two for projects then the rest for making memories with Loved ones.  If something can be handled after you checkout or by someone else in the coming weeks, just make note of it and resist the temptation to knock it out during your stay.
  3. On your last day, sit in a comfy spot and ask yourself from a guest’s perspective, “What does this place really need to give me an experience to tell others about?”  (Read Creating Delightful Memories)

 

The Fruits from Our Stay:


  • Backyard sound system – In theory the surround sound in the family room was intended to easily provide sound in the backyard, but in practice we found that we really needed a dedicated music source outside.
  • Broken water guns are a bummer – After a two-day drive we all hopped in the pool.  A water gun fight quickly ensued only to find out that three of the four super soakers were completely non-functioning.  Went ahead and took care of this one myself…for the kids of course.
  • Fan made a slight knocking noise – This isn’t bothersome until you are trying to fall asleep under a clicking fan. I cringe at the thought that this has kept our guests awake like it did me.
  • Alarm clocks are clumsy and behind the curve – I wanted to play music from my Android but our alarm clocks were not equipped.  Most hotels offer this now; we probably should have them for $20 each.
  • Gate to the backyard was stuck – This only matters to whoever takes out the trash, but it’s an unnecessary nuisance that will be easy (for someone else!) to fix now that we know about it.
  • Half bath needs a “noisy vent fan” – Noises from a half bath downstairs make all who are within earshot uncomfortable.
  • Window glare on TV from setting sun – For about 45 minutes per day the big screen has a giant glare across it from a high window.  We found residual tape from one of our guest’s attempts to correct the same issue.
  • Additional finds:  
    • Needs more towel/closet hooks
    • Keys need a keychain/lanyard
    • Linen closet needs labels
    • Nail in the floor popped up – Ouch!
    • Toilet seats are loose
    • Several doors squeak
    • iPod cord is “lost”
    • Pack n Play is clumsy

 

The Bottom Line:  By becoming your own guest for a few days you will see your business from your guests’ perspective.  That perspective will help you make informed decisions about your business + smart investments into your business.  The output should lead to increased guest satisfaction = increased occupancy = increased revenues = increased ROI. 

 

Now quit “working” and go enjoy some time “off” in your favorite vacation home! 

 

Cheers!

 

Michael

3


Angela and I have turned away five potential bookings for upcoming open nights in just the past 30 days!  Prom season is upon us and there is a growing trend among frothy high school seniors to convince their parents that a post-prom party at a “rented home” is a great idea.

 

We’d rather be vacant.

NoVacancy.png

We’ve been blessed with more than 500 bookings, this blog is about the dozen or so we would rather have said “Thanks But No Thanks” to.  For us, local social gatherings are one of several types of bookings which we have learned can easily lead to lost revenue due to:


  • Unnecessary damage to our homeMoney.png
  • Interruptions for the subsequent guests
  • Disputes with the offending group
  • Upset neighbors
  • Negative reviews

 

To protect ourselves against money flying out the (broken) window we have established a profile, for our business, of groups that we usually would rather not do business with. 

Copter.png

 

Our profile includes:


  • Bachelor/bachelorette parties, post wedding parties (police helicopter!)
  • Young adults without proper supervision
  • Bookings with pets (READ VR Dilemma: Pet Friendly or Pet Free?)
  • Groups staying less than 3 nights
  • Groups not inclusive of the person who has signed our rental agreement

 

Ultimately the list above equates to LOST revenue.  Broken windows, broken glass in the pool, stolen items, damaged furniture, scratched floors and police helicopters…oh my!  With only four hours between bookings, we don’t have the time to scramble while trying to resolve an unforeseen issue; vacation home owners get enough of those anyway.

 

There are three primary methods we use for screening our potential guests:


  1. Ask Them.  Seems obvious enough, right?  I’m amazed at how many owners I talk with who say they employ little to no screening for their inquiries.  We try to speak live with each person who books with us so we can ask them about their trip.  In addition to finding out why they are renting we often can provide great insight into how they can make the most of their stay.  Recall Delightful Memories?

  2. Google Them.  I spoke with an owner at this years’ HomeAway Summit who runs a criminal background on every guest.  While that may be extreme, the idea of doing a little diligence on the person/group booking your home is a good one.  Google makes it easy, and sometimes you uncover that your guests may have something very interesting in common with you.

  3. Get a Reference.  When considering large groups, like a traveling youth sports team, we will politely ask whether or not they have stayed in    vacation homes before and if they would be able to provide a reference.  If they hesitate, that is a red flag to us.


CASE STUDY -The Hawaiian High School Basketball Team:  Three years ago we received a call from a high school basketball coach looking to rent our home for his group of teenage boys.  Stopping just short of “Thanks but no thanks” we asked for a reference, to which he provided three.  After speaking with two of them, we said we’d only be comfortable with a larger security deposit.  He obliged.

 

We set clear expectations of how our home should be treated while asking if there was anything special they would need for their group.  He asked for a large rice cooker.  We obliged.

 

THE RESULT:  Their stay was fantastic, no trouble whatsoever.  He has rented from us three more times for a total of six weeks and they are model guests.  We no longer require any cash deposit (just the cc# in our agreement) and it’s a giant “Love fest” between us with gifts and thanks flowing freely both ways.

 

So there can be exceptions, but you need a baseline by which to make those exceptions.  The beauty of creating a profile of groups you don’t want is that it gives you a means by which you can also make exceptions. 


The Bottom Line:  Not every booking is good for our business.  And what’s good for our business may not be good for yours, each home is unique.  Develop criteria to identify which bookings are not right for your business and say “Thanks But No Thanks!” to those inquiries unless you can somehow reduce your exposure to the risk those bookings present.

 

Resisting the temptation to book a reservation that doesn’t fit your guest profile will result in a lower average cost for turns, fewer headaches and a higher quality experience for the guests you do want. 

 

Here’s to great guests, risky guests and the discernment to recognize the difference.

 

Cheers!

 

Michael

1

“You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em,
know when to walk away, and know when to RUN!”

Kenny Rogers - The Gambler


You may be thinking “What does Kenny know about the Vacation Home Business?”  Well, maybe not much.  But those lyrics above are very appropriate when it comes to dealing with security deposits.  Humor me for another 660 words and I’ll explain.

 

Why Have Security Deposits? 


We like security deposits for two reasons:

  1. They constitute an agreement between the vacation home owner/operator (O/O) and the guests.
  2. They provide a great opportunity to create incremental bookings and maximize ROI.

 

Think of it like this: 

deposit1.jpg

 

“Look, I realize unforeseen accidents can happen while you are in my home.  In the event that they do, I just want to know you are good for it if it was your fault.

 

deposit2.jpg

 

“If I damage something I’ll pay for it so I don’t mind the deposit…as long as you don’t look for reasons not to give it back to me.”

 

 

 

 

Therein lies the problem: how to establish a clear line on when to keep deposit funds or when not to.  Ultimately you hold the money so it’s you that determines the line.  We break ‘em into four categories.

 

Take it away Kenny!

 

Know When To Hold ‘em – O/O and guest both agree that deposit money should be kept.

Guest’s kid climbs the pool umbrella and breaks it.  Dad calls, apologies profusely and along with insisting to pay for a new umbrella assures you that his kid “never acts that way at home.”

 

Know When To Fold ‘em – O/O wants to keep deposit but the guest doesn’t openly agree.

This is the biggest opportunity of the four because it will likely have a direct impact on your future business with that guest, specifically their likelihood to:

  • Consider your home for their next trip
  • Give you a positive review
  • Recommend your home to others

 

You may be able to turn these lemons into lemonade if you can find middle ground.  Let your guest know the costs you will incur and explain that prior to their check-in the damage did not exist.  Ask them what they think should be done about it, and then use that as a starting point to find an agreeable solution for both sides.

 

**Possible Best Practice:  On two occasions we have offered guests a credit toward their next stay in the amount of the withheld deposit funds.  Full disclosure: Neither has taken us up on the offer…yet.  But, we recovered our loss, planted a seed for future business and the conversations ended on a positive note.

 

Know When To Walk Away – Keeping the deposit is expected by the guest, but you choose not to keep it.

Here’s where we can make a customer for life.  For three years in a row Rick and Raul have stayed two weeks with us while attending an annual convention.  This year one of them accidentally walked through our screen door and destroyed it.  At checkout they apologized and asked us to take it out of their security deposit. 

 

Valuing their business we elected to eat the $150 and use the opportunity to tell them just how much we appreciate their business.  We jump at every opportunity to show some Love to our high value guests.

 

Know When To RUN! – Flagrant damage happened and the O/O doesn’t ever want the guest back again.

This has happened with us three times out of 500+ bookings.  Gross negligence resulting in excessive damage to our home gave us no option but to withhold deposit funds.  As Lovingly as possible we informed our guests that there was substantial damage at checkout and provided an itemized detail of the expenses incurred, including our time to repair them.

 

**Best Practice:  The Loving approach meant we recovered our loss AND avoided a nasty guest review.  

 

The Bottom Line:  How we handle deposits when damage occurs in our homes provides us with an opportunity for incremental business in the form of Repeat Business, Strong Guest Reviews (our next topic) and Referrals.  If we can utilize the Fold ‘em or Walk Away approach effectively we turn a negative experience into a positive experience, all but obligating our guests to reward us with more business.   

 

Here’s to customers who take care of our homes and won’t stay anywhere else!

 

Cheers!

 

Michael

 

5

The Little Things Can Make a BIG Difference!

“The drain in the bathtub was clogged.  And the toilet made noise all night.  And three light bulbs were out.  And we could have used some Scotch tape.  But other than that, it was a great NY apartment.”

 

pic 1.bmpThat is my feedback about the trip Angela and I recently took to New York where we stayed in an apartment we found on VRBO.  As a vacation home owner, maybe I’m more critical.  But nonetheless, that’s my honest response about the $625/night (peak) apartment we stayed in.  We didn’t pay near that, but will we stay there again?  Maybe.  Or maybe we’ll explore other options first.

 

How many “maybes” are your guests telling everyone but you because of neglected little things that require more thoughtfulness to fix than time or money?  What is your system for making sure the little things don’t give your guests the wrong memories (as in, not DELIGHTFUL).

 

Below are some easy ways to manage the little things:

 

1. Stay a While – We make it a point to stay in each of our homes at least once a year for at least three days, more often when we can manage. pic 2.bmp There are little things that our guests simply won’t take the time to point out. A good way to identify that the guest bathroom has a slow drip or the master bedroom door is difficult to shut is to experience those things yourself.  

 

*Best Practice – Invite friends to stay with you and ask them to be on the lookout for anything that might need attention.  This is a great way to spend quality time with Loved ones, enjoy your vacation home, and get a fresh set of eyes and expectations that will make your home better.

 

2. Check It Off the List – We have checklists for our PM’s that break out the little things.
Some items on our lists include:

 

Every CheckoutCheck Regularly and Replace As Needed
  • Tubs, Toilets, Sinks Drain Properly
  • Welcome Basket Snacks & Drinks
  • Billiard Chalk, Ping-Pong Balls, Dart Tips
  • All Light Bulbs, Spares Available
  • All Spa Jets are Working
  • Outdoor Stereo is Working
  • Electronics Remotes in Place
  • Flower Beds Refreshed
  • Dead Palm Leaves Removed
  • Central Air Filters Changed
  • Pool Toys, Rafts, Arm Floaties
  • Board Game Pieces, 52 Cards in Decks
  • Pens, Batteries, Tape, Notepads
  • Dishes, Tableware, Placemats

 

*Best Practice – For a FREE copy of our PM checklist, email Michael@USCVH.com.

 

3. Help Them Help You – Make it as easy for your guests to communicate little things that need attention. We call them “Uh Ohs” and “Oh Wells.” If they say “Uh Oh…” about something during their stay we ask them to let us know about it right away so we can try to fix it for them during their stay.  If they say “Oh Well” then we ask them to let us know at check-out so we can fix it for their next stay. 

 

*Best Practice – Three easy ways to gather feedback:

      • At check-in encourage them to reach out for any little thing - email and text messaging work great for this.
      • Hang a little dry erase board on the fridge with a note asking for the “Oh Wells.”
      • In your follow-up Thank You email/card ask them if there was anything that could have been improved upon for their next stay in your home (See my blog post on Soliciting Referrals).

 

The Bottom Line:  Minding the little things is a great way to maximize revenue through repeat business and referrals, and most little things are inexpensive and easy to manage. 

 

We all spend a great deal of time providing outstanding accommodations to our guests so they will rave about us to anyone who will listen.  If we don’t manage the little things that can detract from their stay we undermine our efforts and hurt our future business. Standing in shin high water during showers or having to go out and buy a new light bulbs can be the difference between “It was AWESOME!” and “It was alright but…”   

 

So here’s to doing the little things that make a big difference!

 

Cheers!

 

Michael

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Ahhh……at last….January is finally here.  Isn’t it true that as vacation home owners we count down the days until January?  Just as retailers eagerly wait for the holiday selling season, vacation home owners eagerly await the flood of inquiries that follow the holiday season.

 

The most successful retailers plan for their selling season because they know if they are on their A-game during those 30-45 days it can be the difference between a good year and a great year.  Are you and your vacation home business on your A-game during our prime selling season? 

 

Below are some ideas to help you make the most of OUR Selling Season in 2012.  These may be refreshers, but no need to reinvent the wheel.

 

     1. Respond Promptly – This is nothing new.  Our friends at HomeAway preach this constantly, but only because it works. HomeAway studies consistently show a direct correlation between response time and likelihood for the inquiry to book.  If you can’t always respond immediately, set up an auto-response with some detailed information that an inquirer might find useful and tell them when you will be getting back to them.  The longer you wait, the longer someone else has to take your booking.

 

*Best Practice – If you are away from your calendar and receive a call or email notification, answer it to let them know you have received their inquiry and you aren’t at your calendar.  Then set the expectation that you will be getting back to them by a specific time and follow up.

 

     2. Get On the Phone - This is one that Angela and I often struggle to find time for, but it works and we are always more successful when we   can manage to do it.  We have found that most inquirers appreciate talking to a live person and it’s easier for you to establish common ground with them over the phone than over email.  If you aren’t comfortable responding with a call to an initial inquiry, or if they don’t leave a phone number, then give them yours in your email response and encourage them to call you.  Like it or not, if you are responding to inquiries you are in sales, and it is usually easier to “close the deal” over the phone than over email. 

 

*Best Practice – Offer to help them “plan their trip” by asking what they are most looking forward to doing while they are in your area, then offer suggestions related to their response.

 

     3. Follow Up – After you have answered all their questions over the phone, follow the conversation up with an email that states:

  • The 3 main selling points of your property – remind them why they should book with you.
  • The Rate quote for the dates, number of guests and total costs you discussed.
  • That you book on a first come, first served basis.

 

*Best Practice – Don’t come across as pushy, rather as concerned that their ideal home (yours) might book if they wait too much longer so let’s figure out what it will take to get them to book now.  Are they asking for a DISCOUNT?

 

     4. Keep It Fresh – Be sure to keep your headline, rates, photos and calendar updated on a regular basis. Resist the temptation to keep your calendar blank and not post your rates.  After experimenting with this concept over the last 5 years in this business we can say with confidence that travelers want to see calendars and rates, and most will inquire first on those properties they know are available within their timeframe and their budget. 

 

*Best Practice – Differentiate your listing headline to stand out from the crowd. Call out specific date ranges you need to book or include a special offer for your two slowest months.

 

The Bottom Line:  Practically every booking begins with an inquiry so we ought to treat our inquiries, each one of them, as if our business depends on them.  Because you know what?  Our business does depend on them.  One of the best ways we can maximize ROI is to create more opportunities to turn inquiries into bookings.  By responding promptly and professionally, following up and keeping our listings fresh we increase our opportunities and our occupancy, and maximize our revenue!

 

Happy New Year to all of you, Angela and I pray that 2012 is full of Love, peace and prosperity for us all. Now get back to those inquiries and BOOK! BOOK!! BOOK!!!

 

Cheers!

 

Michael