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15912 Views 51 Replies Latest reply: Jun 2, 2012 12:20 PM by swlinphx RSS
swlinphx Senior Contributor 2,194 posts since
Aug 30, 2011
Currently Being Moderated

Mar 29, 2012 10:55 AM

How many of you screen prospective guests by phone at least once before booking to them?

I had always assumed, from speaking to the many owners & managers on this forum, that everyone has some live verbal interaction with renters they don't know or have never met before renting to them.  Some have even indicated they require a face-to-face meeting before booking, something I feel for most would be very impractical and mostly unnecessary.  Recently, another user claimed she did not ever talk to her guests before booking and just booked to them via e-mail or Internet.  I'd like to get some feedback on this issue.  What are your experiences and requirments on this issue?  Book directy online without a live conversation, require at least one phone call first, or require an in-person meeting.  Any input is welcome!

  • sophie Senior Contributor 970 posts since
    Mar 4, 2011

    I have booked numerous renters without ever speaking with them or meeting them and things have worked out fine. I have had renters leave glowing reviews that I have never spoken to.


    If a renter chooses to phone me, I am all for it, but I never phone someone just to talk to them before signing a contract. Now that isn't to say that I don't do a light background check on the person, ie: check their phone #, address, they come from where they live, etc.


    In this day and age of internet I believe we have lost alot of the face to face interactions and requirements that ruled the business world of yesteryear.

  • thaxterlane Active Contributor 786 posts since
    Jul 27, 2011

    I speak with very few of my guests on the phone before booking.  I do not call potential guests unless they request a phone call. 


    I prefer having all of the interaction in email; documenting phone calls could be problematic.  Email keeps everything straight for me and my guests.


    As Sophie wrote, I also do an extensive internet check on potential guests.  I don't need a face-to-face to learn what I need to know to rent with confidence.


    I have met with my guests from time to time.  Some of my repeat guests have requested a meeting and we have met for breakfast or drinks when schedule and location permit.   I live three hours from my property and my guests come from across the US.  If they travel through my metro area I am happy to meet them; but it wouldn't be practical to meet otherwise. 


    I think owners should do whatever makes them comfortable when booking their property. 

  • Active Contributor 295 posts since
    Jun 9, 2011

    Unless a Traveler calls me, I do not normally initiate a call. The only time I have called them is to return a call. No more than 10% of Travelers I have booked called me.  90% of them, I have not spoken to and only communicated via email. I never had any problem with this, or find that I am missing anything just because I didn’t speak to a prospective renter beforehand. I’ve also been surprised that a lot of them left flattering reviews of their stay and mentioned how pleasant & easy they find communicating with the owner. You would have thought we talked over the phone; but no, they were referring to email communications. I ferret out what can be ferreted on the internet – search of phone number, name, address, IP. Anything that needs to be disclosed was disclosed adequately in the right forum, be it in the Ad, Rental Agreement or email communications. Any items mentioned in the Rental Agreement that I find particularly important are reiterated in my first email (response to inquiry). For instance, “This is a no-smoking unit and pets are not allowed. It is currently available for the dates inquired, and rented on a “first pay, first book” basis”.


    I don’t know if it matters, but I should mention what I rent out is a unit in a condominium building. I would probably think differently if I had a cabin in a secluded area and might find a need for additional discreet screening or feeling out over the phone. Things like, are they all young adults, any possibility of additional guest not voluntarily mentioned, things of that nature. I just don't know. Each owner will have to decide his/her comfort level.

  • tyann Contributor 223 posts since
    Dec 28, 2010

    I don't book someone unless I speak with them. This is for two reasons:


    1. to screen them
    2. to keep their credit card info secure


    We take credit card info for the initial reservation deposit and also hold the credit card info in leiu of a security deposit. Emails are not secure, so I remind guests never to send the information by email.


    Maybe I am one of the few people who does not research my guests on the internet first. Ocassionally I will look up their phone number to check their time zone, or maybe do a quick name search if something they say is interesting, but that's not often at all.


    For me, there is something about the voice contact that establishes a trust relationship with the guest, a trust that goes both ways. But besides my initial call when they inquire and the call to make the reservation, the majority of communication is through email.


    Tyann Marcink

    Nature's Retreat and Canyon Retreat | Vacation Home in Branson

    Website Design and Photography | Marcink Designs

      • tyann Contributor 223 posts since
        Dec 28, 2010



        I wish we were closer to our property to meet the guests as well! Many invite us over, but I have to decline, as we are over 3 hours away. I do call them about an hour after they arrive to make sure they arrived safely. I also ask if everything is "good at the house" to give them the opportunity to tell me if there are any issues. At this point, they may have additional questions, but usually it's just a "your place is beautiful, we love it, and thank you so much for calling" type of answer. I feel the arrival call also opens the line of communication if they need something during their stay.


        Note: I know when they arrive since my Schlage LiNK sends me a text when they enter their security code.


        Tyann Marcink

        Nature's Retreat and Canyon Retreat | Vacation Home in Branson

        Website Design and Photography | Marcink Designs

  • New Member 16 posts since
    Mar 15, 2012

    I live where my vacation rental is and unless specifically asked, I never call.  I only give out my phone number when someone acutally makes a booking. A few of my guests call me after getting my number, probably to screen me. The more often that I'm able to close the deal with online only interaction, the better.


    I do screen through Google searches.  So far, I've been able to find something about each and every guest, even the ones from Europe.  Being here means that I meet and greet each guest so that lessens my concerns. 

  • carol Senior Contributor 2,155 posts since
    Dec 10, 2010

    Great question -- I've had the impression that most of our community members always call all their guests, and I never do, unless they call me first.  I'm so relieved to hear that some of you are the same way.  Somehow their phone calls always come when I'm driving or at work or don't have any paper to write notes on.  Email is so much better for recording the conversation and tracking all the details. 


    I was a little dismayed when Homeaway began recommending to travelers that they always contact the owner by phone to prevent fraud.   Ah, well, I suppose I should get used to it.

      • sophie Senior Contributor 970 posts since
        Mar 4, 2011

        swlinphx wrote:


          We establish a relationship from the start if they're staying here.  We don't just book, we manage and supervise any needs they may have during their stay.  Some members here may just be owners that have others managing for them, or who are nowhere near their property.



        It seems you are on a mission to convert all owners to talk to their prospective renters before renting to them.  I and many others are perfectly fine with the system we have in place for our business plan. I happen to live very close to all of my rentals but after using my experience and knowledge I have chosen to NOT require phone contact or meeting each person at check in.  It works perfectly fine for me and my renters.


        I ALSO establish relationships with my renters, have a rapport with them,  supervise any needs they have and I am available at a moments notice. I live in the same city as my rentals. You can do these things without speaking on the phone. In this wonderful technology filled world, there are many other ways to communicate.


        I have return guests that I have neither spoken to or seen in person.


        We are not wrong in NOT choosing to speak to all of our renters.  It's just different from what you do, not wrong, just different.

        • thaxterlane Active Contributor 786 posts since
          Jul 27, 2011

          I agree Sophie.  I do not have any need to use the telephone. I don't see the need to communicate on the telephone unless a potential guest prefers the telephone.   I have many guests that have returned year after year, some for over 10 years, and our relationship is conducted entirely via email.  I have NEVER spoken with them.  Let me assure everyone I am not opposed to the telephone, I simply do not need to use it.  


          I am available to my guests to answer any questions before, during, and after their stay.  I am actively involved in managing my property although I am not on site.   I encourage my guests to contact me and they do!  The requests are varied:  a romantic restaurant for an anniversary celebration? a class on farming for children?  a charter boat for deep sea fishing? where to rent a kayak?  which beach is best for children?  I am happy to answer all questions.


          I do not believe the manner of communication determines the closeness of the relationship.  My guests and I are happy with email.


          I think it is up to the individual owner to determine what works best for him or her. 

          • thaxterlane Active Contributor 786 posts since
            Jul 27, 2011

            swlinphx, I have to admit I had the same reaction as Sophie to reading your postings.  You appear to strongly prefer and endorse the telephone.  Perhaps you come across more strongly than intended to those that are not familiar with your writing.


            Again, each owner should do what works best for him or her. 

            • maureen.baumgartner Contributor 79 posts since
              Jun 22, 2011

              I wasn't going to jump in here, but as someone reading this, I did NOT think swlnphyx came across as "strong," and I think their writing is the politest here.   I think he (she?) came across as courteous, and thoughtful of the possibilities of other people's situations.  In fact, I think swlnphyx went out of their way to do just that; I NEVER got the impression they were saying the other way was "wrong," at all.  They were just saying how having phone or personal contact works for them, and why.  I'm at a loss as to why that should make anyone defensive or offended.  I don't think anyone else needs to be threatened or rude about it; it's just an exchange of ideas, after all!  I fall into BOTH camps, depending on my mood and availability, and can see the usefulness of both sides, as I also live on site, and have been invited for dinner and drinks and made worldwide friends, but other times never even meet our guests, so I'm not offended by one idea or the other, and find ALL this input useful.  I can see why swlnphyx feels attacked, and don't think it's warranted at all.  Sounded perfectly polite and courteous to me.  (???)

                 Let's just share ideas and not attack each other.

              • maureen.baumgartner Contributor 79 posts since
                Jun 22, 2011

                How funny.....I see now I'm like a MONTH late to the party, LOL! (:

  • mike-dfv Community All-Star 835 posts since
    Mar 5, 2011

    I may be the one you referred to in your OP that never talks to guests as I posted that in another thread a little while ago. I mentioned that it's because I hate being disturbed by the telephone. Interestingly, the one guest I have spoken to by phone has been the worst so far. Nothing terrible, just the state they left my place in when they departed, which they deny doing.



    • twobitrentals Community All-Star 1,364 posts since
      Aug 5, 2011

      Actually, I think I was the one that he was referring to. I put that on another group discussion and he was amazed, thinking that everyone had at least one conversation.


      Personally, I love Reservation Manager and can do everything through that system from beginning to end. Well, almost everything (ha). Why would I want to add know the ole...if something is working..........why try to fix it.


      The internet gives us so many ways to communicate AND, I did express to him that the reason that I do most of my business this as someone else gives me a papertrail that I need in the event of any issues. My late husband was an attorney and so I saw lots of litigation for really dumb stuff that could have been resolved easily if there was a papertrail. So, I guess what I am saying, instead of a He said, she said situation. You just go back to your e-mail, reservation manager site, etc. and print what actually transpired. It is just safer for me to have it that way. I have not had anyone get upset, in fact, we are quickly becoming a "tech" society. It makes it easier for folks to respond when they have time, instead of being trapped on the phone.  Just my thoughts though. I think that we all have to do what makes us feel most comfortable. After all we are the ones with the houses and ALL the risk.

  • kailua520 Contributor 50 posts since
    Apr 27, 2011

    I don't think you really can screen guests. Anyone can tell you anything you want to hear.   I've had people from across the boarder call and say they had 5 adults and 5 kids under 12, and our home is for 8.  Then the call back and say they have 8 people, and they I see they sent me an inquiry that says 11 people.  So I just tell them my home is not available at that time. Also, When I see its all adults, I ask for an ID for the renter who must be over 25.   We get mostly families though there are a few colleges around here and the ski resort is big during spring break.  I don't rent to students.   What I do is ask for their address for the contract - then I look up the address on White Pages to see if they in fact live at that address.  If they are unlisted it will at least show that the address is legitimate. But its mostly gut.

  • lrbaldwin Active Contributor 757 posts since
    Feb 16, 2011

    I do not rent to anybody with whom I have not spoken by phone. It's worked out well for us. I also call our guests on the morning after their arrival to make sure everything is in good order and to see if there is anything further I can do for them.  Last night our first guests of the year arrived around 9PM.  They were nice enough to email to let me know they were there and just loved the cottage.  I even learned a new buzz word among the young folks....she told me her ten year old son looked at my big magnetic knife holder on the wall and said, "That's an epic array of knives."  Not sure that's semantically correct, but I went ahead and accepted it as a compliment.  I do find that the families who come back more than once are the ones that are the most communicative from the get-go.



  • New Member 19 posts since
    Jul 18, 2011

    We are pretty picky about who we rent to. So if they fall under our max number of desired guests (less than the house actually sleeps) then first I do an extensive internet search using their phone number as a guide for where they live to include in my google search. You can find out a lot from this and it is always a relief to know they are a distinguished professional or doctor or someone who seems responsible and would take good care of the house. I will usually send an email first then later engage in a phone call or two once we get down to contracts. Phone can be a good screening tool but if I just had one screening tool to use I would probably take the internet/email over phone screening, it's more telling at least for us and the guests we want to rent to.

    • thaxterlane Active Contributor 786 posts since
      Jul 27, 2011



      There are  "distinguished professionals and doctors" that will not take good care of your home. 


      I would hesitate to make any generalizations about cleanliness based on profession or income.  There are likely many horror stories to be told among house keeping staff at the most luxurious of homes and hotels.

      • sophie Senior Contributor 970 posts since
        Mar 4, 2011

        For other Ambassadors, you know my story of the PRO Football player, another WORLD Famous Sports Figure (household name) and Olympic Boxer hopeful that destroyed my house and made my life a living H***. Yes, it doesn't matter the profession or the money.



        AND......I talked with them on the phone at least 5 times before check in and actually met them at the house.

      • New Member 19 posts since
        Jul 18, 2011

        Hi thaxterlane,


        I guess I should have explained that high profile execs or other well paid professionals are our target renter so that is why I seek them out. We have an estate home in an affluent area so the rental payments are usually 10-20k+ so its not your typical average working joe going on vacation. We've also rented to some sports figures and I get more nervous about renting to them since they can be notorious for partying, but so far so good, knock on wood. Everybody is different but for us renting to mostly executives or people whose identity I can validate beforehand that they exist and are not random or made up people trying to scam me. The other reason we like executive renters is they have a better statistical chance of having the means to pay and hopefully since they probably have worked hard to get where they are I can probably assume that most are responsible folks that will take good care of our place.


        There are always exceptions though and luckily we have never had any problems with our guests. I do feel that this is partly due to hefty screening beforehand and a phone call or two to make sure everything feels right. Like most owners we say no to a lot of people and I think you have to go with your gut. If I am unsure at all I just say no to the rental.

  • wiffle Contributor 217 posts since
    Feb 23, 2011

    I have no need to talk to our renters by phone or meet them in person. I prefer email from start to finish.


    Not that I mind talking to them if they call, though. And, I make my number well known in each communication and have it posted at the house, and encourage them to call anytime, day or night, with any problems.


    I check out several things online before I can offer a rental agreement, so a phone conversation will have no bearing on if I choose to rent to a person. For a while, most of the callers were people wanting to beg a discount, or they were in town and wanting to rent that minute (I avoid discounters and last-minute rentals).

  • bend2011 Contributor 163 posts since
    Apr 28, 2011

    I have a lot of folks call me.  I have gotten over my phone shyness as I have found that talking on the phone or calling the perspective guest can push them over the edge when deciding to rent.  I am okay with e-mail as well.  When in doubt, I always call them or, if I think it's a scam, or a problem tenant, I request that they call me.


    Think about this.  The guest is looking to rent, they e-mail 7 potential rentals.  They leave their computer for a few hours.  3 people e-mail that guest back.

    1 calls them shortly after the inquiry comes in.  Who most likely gets the reservation?



    • marilyn Active Contributor 459 posts since
      Nov 9, 2011

      I would say that I rarely speak with potential guests. I always offer my cell number in the event they have questions. However, most would prefer to email their questions. Since I usually greet all of my incoming guests, I have a face to associate with the name and email address.


      Many of our guests are local and prefer to come and "tour" the house before renting.  I always have a cell # and confirm the "tour". About 40% now rent sight unseen. On a few occassions where I have had questions before quoting rates, I will call. Most times I have to leave a voicemail. 50% of the inquirers do not return my call. Perhaps a change of heart or they found something else. Although, I do response very quickly.


      I too have had bad experience with hi profile people. The more high profile, the more problems. One major singer rented my waterfront home in the Hampons when she had committements to do several benefits as a fund raiser. She spilled wine all over my very pricey master bedroom comforter, my Ralph Lauren throw rugs and messed up the wooden floor. I deducted the cost of the damages, pro-rated the costs and deducted from her security deposit. I sent along the before and after prictures to prove the damage. Her manager had to nerve to contact the state attorney general's office and placed a complaint about us for unfair practices. I sent copies of before and after pictures to the attorney general's office with a copy of my letter to the singer and never heard back from them nor the singers manager.


      Unfortunately, this is life in the fast lane. Hate to say it , but this comes with the territory as vacation rental owners.  Luckily, 98% of all my guests are wonderful sweet people who are kind enough to leave glowing reviews.



    • maureen.baumgartner Contributor 79 posts since
      Jun 22, 2011

      According to Homeaway and vrbo, statistically you are right; they say something like if you call your inquiries within the 1st 3 hours, you'll get some hugely higher chance of getting the rental.  I believe it, but I have to confess when I've tried it (calling them in the first 3 hours, as Homeaway says to do), I most often get the feeling they're surprised and a little unprepared, not knowing which of the many owners they've inquired to I am.  They seem a little flustered, and I'm left to wonder if it was such a good idea.  I seem to get a better response to emails, though I do think it's smart to do both, if for no other reason than to assess their possible age group (we don't rent to whole groups of 20-somethings, from hard experience).  Most people seem surprised to be called, and unprepared.  But I still think you're right; you can find out much more between the lines more from talking to someone on the phone, and still get it all down in writing in an email, as well (or I'll forget what I offered!)

  • New Member 1 posts since
    Apr 30, 2012

    I rarely talk to customers. Most bookings are down via email and I've never had a problem in 10 years plus. Maybe I've just been lucky.P.S. can you tell me how to post on this community? I just joined and cannot see instruction on how to post anywhere!

  • New Member 2 posts since
    Jun 18, 2011

    I have been renting my own home near Sedona, AZ to people for the past three years (I have two residences, as I have a business in a state different than my primary residence, so I rent it for the weeks each month when I am not there), and only rarely have phone conversations with them.  I personally prefer email for the "track record" it provides (and helps my memory, as well, LOL), and because I have tons of calls for my regular business, so email is actually much more manageable for me.  I will, of course, talk with them if they request or initiate it, but I have found that I get to know people quite well, chatting back and forth via email.


    Whomever it was who said their problems have been with last minute and "deal-seeking" guests...I would have to heartily second that.  I have recently vowed to never get involved again with last minute, drop-everything situations with "would be" guests...for me, they have not panned out ONCE.  And people looking for deals?  My properties are darling (I have a guest casita in Santa Fe, as well), but small.  In both towns, I am one of the least expensive options, and I have rave reviews posted from my guests.  And, I get many return guests or personal referrals.   So...I am not at all interested in reducing the price further, and that is what I tell people...nicely.  I guess I don't blame someone for asking, but it really depends upon how they ask and how often.  I have clearly drawn the line with a few, who have gone elsewhere, but I am VERY OK with that. 


    Great conversation, glad it was started!  Audre

  • greenjoe New Member 13 posts since
    Mar 30, 2012

    I prefer email to live phone 90% of the time because

    1) it results in a complete audit trail of the conversation (btw, gmail makes it super easy to see the conversation history and to archive it - and you can bring it all back with a super simple search.

    and 2) i can reply asynchronously at my convenience instead of playing phone tag with someone.


    The 10% of the time that I want to talk with a prospective guest is 1) when I am suspicious for any reason or 2) when there is a larger group and they don't proactively explain the nature of their group - e.g., 6 could be "gram and pop, and their 2 adult children with spouses" or 6 could be "me and my 5 best buds who are also graduating high school and need a place to chill and party."


    The trend in the industry is to move toward fully automated bookings on-line which would prevent you from checking out the prospective guest in advance. I would love for there to be a way to accept fully automated bookings for returning guests in good standing, but not random new guests without some kind of conditional review/approval step which could involve a phone call, if that's what you wanted to do.

    • wiffle Contributor 217 posts since
      Feb 23, 2011

      greenjoe wrote:


      ...The trend in the industry is to move toward fully automated bookings on-line which would prevent you from checking out the prospective guest in advance. I would love for there to be a way to accept fully automated bookings for returning guests in good standing, but not random new guests without some kind of conditional review/approval step which could involve a phone call, if that's what you wanted to do.


      I am not saying that you are not correct in the above statement, but there is no way I will ever do fully automated bookings. I don't even think this idea will work. I refuse to even reply to inquiries through VRBO. I use VRBO for my listing and to receive inquiries ONLY. Everything else is outside of VRBO and like it that way.


      With owners receiving bookings from various sources (VRBO, Flipkey, chambers of commerce, personal websites, word of mouth, etc.) it would be really difficult to do fully automated bookings.


      I use none of VRBO's bells and whistles, and am doing fine. I think a lot of people appreciate the personal touch. Automated bookings are best for hotels.

  • New Member 1 posts since
    Feb 21, 2012

    I use Reservation Manager for 100% of my bookings, so the initial contact is usually by email.  I rarely speak with guests on the phone, unless they have called me to inquire about the property.  In fact, although my rental is on the same 5 acre property as my home, I sometimes don't even see my guests. We are in a remote spot in the California desert and our selling point is open space and privacy.  If we run into them, we will certainly talk to them, but we don't go out of our way to greet them when they arrive.  We do leave a bottle of wine and a welcome note which encourages them to call if they need anything.  I think our location self-selects independent travelers who are not looking for extreme luxury and pampering, but come for the starry skies, limitless vistas and a chance to decompress.  Maybe we've been lucky, but we haven't had a bad experience yet and our glowing reviews speak for themselves.

    • anja Senior Contributor 1,560 posts since
      Aug 9, 2011

      I'm just sitting at my place now waiting for an arrival....coming from a bit late...expect them soon.


      Again, I agree. I don't like people changing the plans around that we agree to...or that I thought was the agreement.  It's a bit unnerving.


      So, this person who arrived and booked is not staying...but the rest of the "party" are. That means, no one actually living there has any commitment with you.  I don't blame you for telling her the contract should be amended.


      It's actually a good thing, IMO, that you live close.  {I do, as happy about that. That's maybe a topic on its own for a thread. Some travelers do not like being greeted by owners...or have them living so close.  I've read this. }


      Your situation would make me uneasy. You have a lot of experience, confidence and I think your instincts are "spot on".  I usually  tell people what I would take this as just "me".  Because I personally greet everyone, it's super to finally get to see each other {reciprocated by my guests}. Only very few times did I become a little nervous after meetiing the "spouse" or other "significant other"....or the friend...or the kid, all of whom I had no personal contact with,  prior.


      This is what I would do in your present situation....


      Once the rest of the adults arrive, I'd go down to give them a nice, warm welcome...bring something  like cookies for the children {whatever}...and then I'd orient them them the rules....and  present them with a copy of the "amended contract" they,  too,  can "sign it". ...let them know that you can "easily" be reached just above, upstairs!   I would do this in an easy-going, friendly manner. I might even tell the original contractee that I'm about to do that...even though I don't think I'd have to.  


      You never know...these may turn  out to be among the nicest "model" guests.  We just never know...even if we screen to our satisfaction...what will happen when so many people are  involved.  But, it irks me that the "contractee" is not going to live there, too.



      P.S. Your "Grabby hands"  reference gives me very specific associations. I shudder.  The four grabby hands of  two small children once took my place apart --- they even literally took a lamp apart --- I mean they took it apart...played with everything.  Every single thing had been "touched" and put out of place.  Sticky fingers were everywhere.  All books,  dvds, games shuffled around and left here and there. We searched for game pieces...we found things outside.  Duvets and bed pillows were played with....sofa cushions played with.....blankets were filthy from being outside...did they make tents, or what?  The contents of kitchen closets were messed around so much...we even  found spoons, that we thought were missing, outside ...they had fallen from the deck.  The children were probably digging.  {We have pails, shovels, etc.. for the beach....why use our spoons?}. I could go on...but I won't.

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