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It's been officially a year since we started renting a house to guests, and we've learned a lot. The most important thing we've learned is to not assume that people know how to take care of a house. So through the past year we've built a guide for our guests. We keep it online and include a link to it when someone signs a contract with us, and we keep a stapled copy of it on the counter in the house when they check in.
We also print specific pages like the Beds and Bathrooms, the Kitchen, the Garbage, and the Fireplace pages as signs and put them in frames to hang in hallways or other appropriate places.
Many, if not most of the "rules" we've come up with came from reading posts here on the HomeAway forum. Others came through tough lessons we learned along the way. This copy is from our newly purchased "Lodge" house (370988). It's pretty much the same as for our "Orchard" house (370912), except the Orchard house version includes a few extra rules about Hot Tub towels (like NEVER mixing towels since the bromine in the tub damages the colored bath towels if mixed with hot tub towels).
Hopefully you will get some ideas for policies you want to add or ways to present the policies you already have: http://www.poconoswisshouse.com/documents/Using_Swiss-House_Lodge.pdf
A couple thoughts if anyone plans to do something similar:
We originally used a smaller font and tried to fit it on just a few pages. 2 reasons we no longer do that:
A. It's just daunting to the guest to see so much in a small print - so they just ignore it.
B. By breaking things up into individual pages with large type, we can hang specific pages throughout the house.
Print it on plain paper and simply staple it together. It might seem more professional to put it in a loose leaf binder, but the weight of the binder and occasional difficulty of turning pages in a binder get in the way of people actually reading the contents.
Have extra copies ready at all times for your housekeeper to replace them. They disappear, get dirty, etc. I always look at this as a plus. If it's not where I left it, that means they probably actually took some time to read it (I find them often by the couch when I come back for cleaning).
Create a PDF version and upload it to a file storage site so you can link to it when you send email responses to renters. We don't send the link with inquiries - we only send the link to people who actually agree to rent the house and are ready to put down their deposit. A couple tools you can use to create and upload your document are: Cute PDF (http://www.cutepdf.com/) and Dropbox public folders (https://www.dropbox.com/features)
Very nicely done, Tom! Each page is succint without overloading the reader. For ours, I had each page printed on cardstock and then laminated. Then placed the pages into an 8x8 scrapbook for presentation on the kitchen counter. I also have the checkout intructions laminated, magnets on the back, and placed on the fridge. Dropbox is my friend, too. : )
Nature's Retreat and Canyon Retreat | Vacation Home in Branson
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Message was edited because of my wrong guess of who wrote the post - Tom or Lisa. Sorry!
Your guide is very readable.
One recommendation I would have is to start off with a cheerful greeting to your guests before you begin the "no" policies.
Even though this is a policy doument it's good to frame it positively.
My "house rules" document is four pages and starts off with:
Relax! Enjoy the magic of ______ (location)!
Our goal is a vacation that goes beyond the expected.
We hope you find our home comfortable.
Please review and respect our house "rules" - they are designed to make your stay easy and trouble-free.
The "rules" keep our home in good order for all of our guests.
(decorative font, art/graphics and color is appropriate)
And my "house rules" close with:
Our guests have taken remarkably good care of our home.
We truly appreciate it!
There are so many things to cover in house policies, depending on location and features - it's hard to cover everyone's needs.
Among the statments in my house rules / policy guide that might be useful to all:
Candles must be extinguished before retiring for the evening. (oh how ai worry about this . . . )
Manuals for all appliances are in ________. (a binder / cabinet / or drawer - whatever is convenient in your home - this can be most helpful to guests and diminish the damage to your appliances)
Dispose of perishable foods at departure. (a definition of perishable food is useful - you would be surprised at how people define perishable)
And for beach houses (like mine):
Sand must be shaken from bathing suits and towels before placing in washing machine or it will build up and compromise the performance of the washer.
Sand should be shaken from all beach equipment before returning it to the house. Sand underfoot will make everyone uncomfortable.
So many rules . . . these are just a few that I have found helpful in maintaining my home.
I send my "house rules" to guests approximately eight weeks before their stay, upon receiving their final payment (our house is typically booked months ahead). It's part of an emailed package that includes directions to our home and the code to the key box.
Again, I believe it's important to start out on a positive note - I recommend a few lines of welcome on any document directed to guests. The positive takes away the sting of the negative (all those "no" statements). You might also consider phrasing the no statements into positive statements.
And sprinkle the word "please" plentifully!
I too am constantly learning from this forum and my stays in other rental homes when my family travels. (I believe other owners and property managers think I'm very odd until I explain why I am asking so many questions about their operations!)
A policy book/house rules is the work of many hours and much experience - there's always something more!