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16924 Views 73 Replies Latest reply: Sep 19, 2012 7:40 AM by stayscouter RSS
New Member 19 posts since
Jul 19, 2012
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Jul 19, 2012 5:19 PM

Third Party Rental Inquiries.  Is this viewed as a scam by owners/property managers?

Hello Everyone!

 

I'm new to the community and have a question, but first of all let me say that I love vacation rentals!  I was introduced to this wonderful alternative by one of my co-workers two years ago and I will never stay in a hotel again.   

 

My goal now is to spread the word!!  I've done so informally for the past two years but I recently officially launched a website through which I provide a vacation rental search service to a subscriber base mostly made up of busy professionals looking for a place to stay but who don't have the time to search for themselves.  So what they do is provide me with information such as arrival and departure dates, type of property, number of bedrooms, budget, etc and I do the searching for them as well as send out inquiries to see if the property is available for their requested dates, and send them emails with properties that are an exact or really close match to what they're looking for.  That way, when they do contact these property owners, they will be contacting them to book, the inquiry will have already been taken care of by me. 

 

The problem is, I think that VRBO/HomeAway has started to block my inquiries.  Either that, or my email is showing up in the SPAM folders of owners and not being read.  I say this because for the last two days I've sent out about 55 inquiries and I've only gotten on response, and that response was to the very first inquiry I sent within those two days.  I know that you guys see lots of spam and have to be on the lookout for fraudulent inquiries so would an inquiry from a third party be viewed with suspicion?

 

Here is the wording of the inquiry I'm sending out:

 

Hello,

 

I'd like to refer your listing to someone who may be interested in renting your condo from 09/01 - 09/06.

 

I own a website called DealScouters which provides a vacation rental search service to a subscriber base of busy professionals who need a place to stay but don't have time to search for themselves.
 
Please let me know if the condo is available and if there are any additional discounts being offered for that time.

 

Best Regards,

 

Tricia

 

One of the goals of my company is to raise consumer awareness of vacation rentals as an affordable acommodation alternative to hotels.  The service I'm offering is free and I have gotten quite a few subscribers since I've started. so the fact that no one is responding to these inquiries is a bit disheartening.  Would really appreciate any thoughts on this.

 

Tricia.

  • thaxterlane Active Contributor 782 posts since
    Jul 27, 2011

    Your email may be triggering an alert given the volume of inquiries from your email address and your status as a third party. 

     

    It could be that owners are flagging or reporting your emails to customter service.  

     

    Your role as a third party provider is not in keeping with the typical rental transaction. 

     

    This is a question for customer support, in my opinion.  Have you submitted your question to customer support?

     

    And, here's some unsolicted advice:  an email from a company named "DealScouters" requesting a discounted rate is not going to get a very favorable response from owners.  Also many owners want to get to know their guests; it's not clear how an owner would connect with a renter using your service.  Do you have screening procedures that allow you to guarantee the "quality" of your clients?    Just a few things to think about. 

     

    Good luck working this out. 

    • sophie Senior Contributor 969 posts since
      Mar 4, 2011

      Personally as an owner, I probably wouldn't answer this inquiry for a number of reasons:

       

      1. I want to deal with the "real" person who will be renting, paying and staying in my property.  Not someone who is searching for them. It's a bit pretentious that they are unable to search for their owner property.

       

      2. DealScouters....I would be automatically turned off by that name which implies to me that you really aren't looking for a great executive, clean property, but only looking for a deal.

       

      3. Additional discounts.....my rates are posted and when someone comes out of the gate wanting discounts without even speaking with me...well, they probably won't be staying in my property.

       

      I definitely like that you are trying to raise awareness of vacation rentals but I think it's going to be a tough sell for owners getting inquiries like these.

       

      Maybe you could tell the owner something about the people in the initial inquiry, i.e.: Busy exec with 3 kids looking for some much needed vacation time....

       

      And...don't ask for a discount. Vacation rental owners work REALLY HARD and we price our properties for what we feel they are worth. Staying in a home isn't always about getting it for the price of the Motel 6, it's about experience, space, family time and amenities and that doesn't always equal to a low price.  Also, if someone is having you search for them, they probably make enough money to stay in a vacation home.

      • thaxterlane Active Contributor 782 posts since
        Jul 27, 2011

        Thank you for the additional information.

         

        There are a number of issues that come up when considering your business model.

         

        You've got too many gimmicks involved here. 

         

        Owners may be wary about offering a discount without any idea of the target population.  Have you thought about what will happen when an owner declines to rent to a client you referred?    Or, by agreeing to provide a discount to your clients, would the owner have to rent to your client?  How does it work?  Once you identify the deal(s), will the client be willing to make a number of contacts to find an appropriate rental?  And will you be able to offer choices (rental A doesn't work out, here's rental B, and C, and so on)? 

         

        The discount angle is going to be a problem in approachhing owners, in my opinion, and you're thinking of compounding the problem by asking about a half dozen different types of discounts - it's going to sound too much like the scams owners dodge every day.    Owners do not care for gimmicks. 

         

        Vacation rentals are not merchandise at a dollar store.  Is your goal to have an owner reduce their rent by 5%, 10%, 20%, etc?  Is this the basis for deciding you have a deal for your clients?  

         

        Your idea is interesting but may prove to be an unwieldy proposition;  unlike negotiating a discounted meal or product for hundreds of clients, which can be accomplished by contacting one person, you are proposing to negotiate with hundreds of unique owners to procure your discounted items. 

         

        Do you plan to set up relationships with owners that are agreeable to your proposal, or will you simply recontact owners from time to time to request another discount?  How does that work?  Will owners want to be contacted again (and again) for discounts? 

         

        I don't see the return on the effort.  But, that's why it's not my project  . . . .

         

        I wish you good luck.

         

        PS, could you put me on your "do not call" list?  Thank you.   :)

          • sophie Senior Contributor 969 posts since
            Mar 4, 2011

            I'm curious as to why you are willing to spend hours and hours of property searching for someone else if you aren't making any money?

          • thaxterlane Active Contributor 782 posts since
            Jul 27, 2011

            The forum members responding to your request for information have years of experience as owners and renters. 

            I appreciate your interest in vacation rentals.  But, you would benefit from the experienced voices responding to your business proposal. 

             

            Let me provide some background to validate my point of view for you.  I have owned and successfully rented a vacation property for nearly twenty years.  It is in a prime New England resort area and rents for several thousand dollars per week.  It is fully rented year afer year. 

             

            I am a traveler and renter of vacation properties.  I have many years of experience renting properties throughout the US and Europe  Many more than two years of experience.  And, I did all of the research and communicating myself.  I have never sent out 50 inquiries to find a property and I've researched and rented four to five loctions for a three week visit to California and a four week tour of Italy.   It's just not that complicated. 

             

            I'm not going to address my annual income or financial status.  It's irrelevant to the discussion. 

             

            I do rent to many highly placed business, academic, medical, and technology professionals of, at a minimum,a high six figure salary.    I've rented to several CEOs. 

             

            I appreciate your explanation of how renting works; but it's not necessary.  The members of this group are very well versed in the renting process.

             

            I think it would help you to actully listen to the advice being offered. 

             

            As Anja points out, you not only need to represent your clients, you need to understand and work with owners.

             

            I think your service complicates the rental process.  The interface for rental portals is simple and straightforward, as Sophie writes. 

             

            You might want to read through this website, paying particular attention to the threads that address renters requesting discounts.  There is a wealth of helpul information here about the rental process. 

             

            Good luck. 

  • thaxterlane Active Contributor 782 posts since
    Jul 27, 2011

    I've been thinking about your business model and just scanned your website.  You're promising discounted rentals, "don't overpay for a place to stay.," to your clients.

     

    I'm sure clients are attracted to such promises, but it's likely to be a non-starter for many owners. 

     

    I'm not sure how you can deliver on such a promise, and I wonder about the quality of clients that would be attracted to such "deals".   There are several websites that offer quality, upscale, or luxury homes to busy professionals.

     

    My guests are professionals that have made the time to find me and they pay the rate I have listed.

     

    I'm puzzled by busy professionals procuring a service for discounted rentals, it sounds like such a mismatch. 

     

    I know everyone wants to get value for their dollar, I do too, but guests seeking "deals" are not of interest to me.    . 

     

    I regret the harshness of my remarks, but I am at a loss to understand how this would work.  Why would a successful owner of a quality property want to discount their property for an unseen/unknown guest through a broker named DealScouter? 

     

    It's much too complicated. 

     

    It may be incompatible with the owner-renter transaction model currently in use online

    .

    Is there room for a third party in the transaction?  I don't think so.

     

    Perhaps other forum memberrs will have a different (and more encouraging) opinion.  

    • sophie Senior Contributor 969 posts since
      Mar 4, 2011

      I think I have an idea. It appears this website is a spin on groupon, livingsocial, etc., but with vacation rentals.  It says:  Enter your email address below to get deals sent directly to your inbox. This would imply that the deal is already set and the offers will come into your inbox every morning/week/month from owners already stating they would give a discount.  You actually have to have a subscription to "see" the deals.  I don't think there are private clients, I think it's a master list sent out to renters if you subscribe. Can the OP clarify?

      • thaxterlane Active Contributor 782 posts since
        Jul 27, 2011

        Good points.

         

        That would suggest there isn't any screening of the potential renters.  They are presented with a "deal", they contact the owner, and the owner responds as if the guest had come to the property directly, except the price has been set . . . .

         

        Perhaps we'll get some clarification.

        • thaxterlane Active Contributor 782 posts since
          Jul 27, 2011

          That answers some of my questions (see above).  I think we "cross-posted".

           

          Do you screen your subscriber?

           

          What happens when owners decline to rent to your subscriber?

           

          What is your relationship to the subscriber (do you have a contract) and owner?

           

          And, please feel free to ignore my questions.  I'm a very curious person and your proposal has simply picqued my interest. 

        • thaxterlane Active Contributor 782 posts since
          Jul 27, 2011

          Owners may not be keen on communicating with two people to book their property, that's twice the usual effort.

           

          Also, how detailed will your information be when you make the initial contact.  I assume you will know the number of guests, the desired sleeping arrangements, number of baths, hot tub or pool, etc.  But there are myriad details to determine when renting.  Do you turn it over the the guest after ascertaining a number of broad characteristics?  How much detail do you provide?   

           

          And what detail do you provide to the owner about your client?

           

          Sorry for putting more questions forward.

           

          But, here's some good news - I'm winding down for the evening. 

  • susaninrehoboth Active Contributor 886 posts since
    Sep 3, 2011

    I'm one of those owner's who answer 99% of inquiries, including for dates marked as rented. I wouldn't answer an email from a 3rd party.

     

    However, VRBO is now VRBA (VRB anyone) so the 3rd party inquiries may by the next evolution of VRBO.

     

    In Delaware, when renting property, whether short or long term, you must be a licensed real estate agent to earn money, any fee or % of rent unless you're an owner. Don't know other states laws. There may also be other states that would consider you a travel agent and have licensing regulations for that.

     

    As mentioned above, the name of your business, Dealscouters, is a BIG turnoff for owners. Since you got 1 response from 55 inquiries, I'd say that pretty much tells you the chances of your business being successful.

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

    A scam reaction might be one.  Personally for me, the name Deal Scouters is an unfortunate choice, in my opinion, if your target group is "private property owners" who self-manage.  Personally, I would not welcome the inquiry upon seeing  it land in my inbox originating  from a source with "discount or deals", or similar....I may not even open the message ...most likely just delete it immediately....and  I am  someone who does answer all inquiries coming directly from travelers. I've always turned all third party inquirers away {Travel Agents, Secretaries/Personal Assistants trying to reserve for their bosses, individuals inquiring for friends who will be visiting, etc.}.   I just would not discuss with a third-party ...the reasons being, to avoid redundancy, are the same covered by "sophie" and "thaxterlane".  I do not want to spend my time speaking to anyone on behalf of a traveller.  This idea is off putting for me.

     

    But, I (we)  can't  speak for all self-managed rental owners, however. There are also thousands of private owner rentals that are completely managed by "property management'  agents who field the inquiries and do the bookings....and I can not speak for their trade, but I can imagine that a property manager / agency would probably not  have second thoughts about being "fielded" by a third party.  Give  it a try here:  why don't you try to (copy/paste) you post to this Community Forum's section for "Property Managers" to see how people react.  Look at the top navigation bar, above, and open the drop-down box where it says "owner"....then choose "property manager" to get to that section for them.

      • sophie Senior Contributor 969 posts since
        Mar 4, 2011

        vrbo just released new searching parameters to make it easier and quicker for renters to find properties. They are the filters on the top of the search. You can search by bedroom, # of people type of house, pool, internet, beach front, ocean front, mountains and tons of other options. vrbo is making it easier for people to search for exactly what they want without spending an inordinate amount of time doing so.  Unfortunately, this will not help your cause.

          • susaninrehoboth Active Contributor 886 posts since
            Sep 3, 2011

            Glad to know you're considering changing your name. That's a good step. As a VR owner, a big concern that comes to mind is that someone that doesn't have time but has the money to have someone look through rental sites for them is more likely to feel too busy or too entitled to bother taking care of my property and following my rules.  I might be wrong but my mind's made up so don't try to confuse me with facts.

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

        DealsScouter said to anja:

         

        "With regard to third party inquiries, the fact that you have received those types of inquiries whether from a business or individual looking on someone else's behalf, shows that there is a group of people out there that will use a service like mine."

         

        Yes, I am aware and I'm actually agreeing with you, on the point of third party services.  The conventional travel agent has been around for decades...so has the "Secretary" and Personal Assistants as part of their personal services on demand.  I believe that there is a target group for your service in this era of online dating, matchmaking, Angie's List, and the like. Some people seek third parties for their most  personal and sometimes intimate needs.

         

        In the 'vacation rental trade' you can do good business if you market your business carefully. Testing your company name is important...if I were you, I'd keep that .com **as a marketing test**   but I'd test it against another one that is less "cheap" in image...and that would also appeal to the property owner!  This entire "trade" is a balancing act for both travellers and owners and the services that make claims to support one, or the other group....but I think the secret to success is to support *both* groups in this trade, equally.

         

        The "Deal Scouter" is a turn off for me from the self-managed owner's perspective...again, I do not speak for all.  Just be aware that you have *two* sets of clients that you are servicing....the traveler and the property owner, simultaneously.  I think that you already have that awareness but from what I've read, you target the "traveller"....so be aware that  you seem to be biased from the get-go...and are approaching the "owner", again IMO, wrongly.

         

        I believe that you need to identify with *both* sets of clients for this to work.  [Your model is exactly what we property owners think that rental portals are doing *wrong* when they focus  *only* on the traveller...the client that they refer to as "their customer"....the owners pay the subscriptions but feel very poorly treated because the companys' marketing is directed at and for the travellers.]   You would actually be the "screener" for *both* target groups, in my mind...the owner wanting someone to help them screen for their criteria to bring them the "best prospects", as well as the traveller looking for "the best valued accommodation for their vacation investment".  You might only care to serve the travellers, however, judging by your current marketing.

         

        That's a huge mistake...IMO...and the opinion of many other owners on this Community. Just research the threads here.  In my view, you need to appeal to the owner just as much as to the traveller in your company name, your advertising, your goals, your services...and the outcomes.  My very first reaction to the company name was a "deal breaker" for me.  But, I believe that if you identified better to "the owner" with your marketing strategy...and there are many issues to work through with them, you might find more who will welcome  your service if you "appealed" to *their* real concerns and actually serviced them...as one of your company's goals.

  • New Member 4 posts since
    Jun 22, 2012

    Regarding your inquiries, you are correct Homeaway is blocking your messages. I know all too much about this with my own experience with protecting my listing sites. Listing sites do this to avoid data harvesting. This is done to protect their members from being harassed with rental advertising and to protect their members personal information.

     

    Most established sites have been attacked from spammers and other third parties wanting to get their information. In order to combat against that a website may automatically, either flag your e-mail or ban your IP address after about 15 to 20 inquiries sent. Most travelers are not going to submit that many inquiries, so a listing website will consider that abuse. So consider sending less inquires and developing a list over time. You also may want to work with someone who already has a list of  "legal leads"  and try to work with them to help get your service more exposure.

     

    Money is a motivator for many people.

     

    Hope that helps

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Jay William

    http://www.villamarketers.com

    • sophie Senior Contributor 969 posts since
      Mar 4, 2011

      Nice way to slip in your self promotion link.

      • swiss-house Contributor 260 posts since
        Jul 6, 2011

        Interesting that you send out 20 or more inquiries for your own family vacation, and I would assume you will do the same for your clients.

         

        One thing that is a particular point of aggravation for homeowners is the tire-kicker / time-waster inquirer.  In "olden times" guests had to send individual inquiries to owners for each house they were interested in. They were selective - reading the features, availability, and pricing tables, then sending out 1 or 2 inquiries, possibly sending out a 3rd or 4th inquiry if they didn't hear back or got bad news from their first couple inquiries. 

         

        As homeowners, when an inquiry came in, we knew the potential guest had actually done a bit of self-vetting and knew that this property is one that matched their needs and expectations.  Inquiry to booking ratios were low (like 2 to1).  The time invested in providing a quality, custom response was worthwhile.

         

        Then VRBO and HA added their inquiry blast feature a little while back.  Us homeowners have been chasing ghosts ever since.  Let's face it, a large number of us have another full-time job.  Answering 8-10 inquiries to get 1 booking is a lesson in the theory of diminishing returns.  I've gotten to the point where I can identify many of these inquiries by their generic wording.  Quite frankly, since I have no trouble keeping my houses full, I get to these kinds of inquiries last - if at all. 

         

        If your business model is to do the blast inquiries for you customers and then evaluate the responses for them, I can guarantee that you'll find homeowners like me ignoring your inquiries quite quickly. 

         

        On the other hand, if your service is to evaluate the features, pricing, availability and reviews for each home and find the best 2 or 3 homes for a renter and send inquiries to just those owners first, I (we) would value your service.  We would have confidence that an inquiry from your service had a better chance of turning into a real rental than a random inquiry from Joe Schmoe.  Your inquiries would get attention first, and perhaps even preferential pricing from some homeowners.  But there has to be a real value add to the homeowner.  Our time is money.  Find a business model that puts more money in our pocket (even if only in its time-value equivalent) and you can be a friend to the industry.

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

            In response to your reply (to "swiss-house")....for me...it is my impression that, based on your written materials, your byline, signature message, and your blog, my perception of your goal seems to be to focus  on the travellers needs -- to service them as your front client. My personal recommendation would be to recognize that you have two sets of clients....and to target your client bases equally --- to provide equal service to  meet both of the needs.  Owners could be won over by you as a "pre-screened prospect provider" ...the matchmaker... as a service.  This could be appealing....to both client bases.

             

            There are many owners who have a problem with screening, with knowing when a prospect is legit, even with meeting demands of the business because they are, themselves too busy, to properly field all  inquiries.  Sophie is correct --- HA is instituting a few new  inquiry features, not only the "filter" she wrote about,  but there is a "communication feature" that most likely will be introduced by HA to help with "screening" of inquirers by owners, and vise-versa,  in this age of rental trade "scams".  You already know that your service will appeal to a select target group, among both travellers and owners, and you might carve yourself a nice nitche, in this big market.  There is always room  for another "Angies's List"  {I just saw something the other day called "Reputation.com"...which claims to be the answer to the "personal and business flames"  that thousands of individuals and businesses have been suffering over for years via the Internet.}  So,  I conclude that there is room for you and your service....just service BOTH clients.

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

                Dealscounter....and you may continue to keep us up to date on how this initiative progresses.  Who knows....you might even have someone like me interested in your "third-party" service if you can strike the balance to "get it right".

                 

                This Community is filled with information directly contributed by the owners and the travellers (check out the traveller forum...open the drop-down box in the nav. bar above).  We all have our preferences for what makes a great rental, rental owner, and guest...from both perspectives.  There was even a couple of "threads" started by one  of the HA Moderators on the topic...something about 10 Things Owners Want Travellers To Know.....and vise-versa, that you'll find  in our respective "forum" sections.

                 

                In any event, by using this Community to research what really makes us happy, annoys us, angers us and the things that both parties get into disputes over, will help you get to know your two target customers ....the good, bad and the ugly...to help you shape your approach.

                 

                Entrepreneurs do exciting things...and there are always new niches to fill.

          • New Member 4 posts since
            Jun 22, 2012

            If your business model is as you mention 

             

            "To match vacation renters with the perfect vacation rental for their needs"

             

            There is something to that.

             

            According to recent information I stumbled on, a representative from Home Away Ross A. Buhdorf their Chief Technology Officer described their interest in something like that in an article, his comments are quoted below.

             

            One idea Buhrdorf said he has thought about is a website that would plan and book trips for families.

            If Homeaway representatives are considering helping travelers to book vacation rentals themselves, there is likely a large market that would be interested in that product.

            Buhrdorf further states

            "Some travelers don't want to go to the trouble it takes in the marketplace. They'd like to say ‘I want to stay in the south of France, and I'm traveling with my wife and two kids, and here's the week we can stay, and here's our budget; find us a place. That could be a business in itself," he said.

            Here is a snip of the articles if your interested.

            http://www.trolltraveler.com/community/thread.php?id=20

            I have heard some good vacation rental marketing advice from members here that you should put in your cap.

            Both Anja & Swiss-House made some very good points.

            Always remember to put your customer 1st and you'll do fine however in this case you have two sets you'll need to satisfy.

             

            Best of Success in your venture!

             

             

            Jay William

            http://www.villamarketers.com

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

                Hi again  StayScouter  [ex-"dealscouter"].....

                 

                I think that this (new) name "Stay Scouter" could be equally appealing to both of your client groups: traveller and owner.  All you need now is an equally appropriate  "catchy" tag line.

                 

                I view this as a screening service.  Both client groups have screening criteria to meet their needs and concerns ...not only the location, size, amenities, price....but also consider this age of "Internet rental scams", so identity verification is key....to put everyone's mind at ease - on both ends.  I envisage a service like this to be a bit like those that deliver "targeted and verified -leads-" to Internet marketers, only you'd have more personal contact with two client groups...and be much more involved in the outcomes.

                 

                Your service could become a valued one if you cover all concerns for a suitable "matchmaking"....for both parties.  As you've already been  piloting this for some time, you probably have the usage terms, disclaimers, etc. for your service.

                 

                All the very best with this project.

                • Contributor 26 posts since
                  Jul 29, 2012

                  Hi Anja - glad that you had a positive response to the new site name.  The tagline that I've come up with to match the new name is - The Easiest Way to Find the "Right" Place to Stay.

                   

                  You also seem to really get the service I'm trying to build here, which is really encouraging.  It will be a bit like delivering targeted and verified leads, but on a much more personal level.  Stayscouter will work on pre-screening both prospective renter and property owner, but the final screening will be done when the two connect with each other before a decision is made. 

                   

                  Hope that makes sense.

    • carol Senior Contributor 2,153 posts since
      Dec 10, 2010

      Yes, I believe you will need to create a new profile to change your screen name.  

       

      Your name change is helpful. 

       

      I would be interested in how you plan to screen your guests -- that, of course, is a very attractive service you could provide owners.  However, if I were you, I'd be worried about liability you may incur if one of the guests you sent to me proved destructive.  After all, you promised me that you had screened them, so I might decide to sue you for any damages.

      • old_frog Contributor 133 posts since
        Jul 24, 2011

        When third parties contact me about booking rentals, I always respond that I am willing to work with them and pay them a commsion or provide their requested discout(s), but will only consider doing so after they have proviced me with:

        1.  A copy of their commercial general liability (CGL) and profession liability (E&O) insurance in the minimum amount of 2 million dollars and with me named as an additionaly named insured.

        2. A copy of their Maryland Sales tax license.

        3. A completed W-9.

        4. A signed & notarized of a hold harmless agreement.

        5. A signed & notarized indemnification agreement.

         

        Thus far, no one has accepted my offer.  If they do carry professional coverage, the foregoing should not be a problem. 

      • Contributor 26 posts since
        Jul 29, 2012

        Hi Carol - I've gotten a ton of information from the screening section of this forum and am working on a list of questions that I would ask prospective renters to respond to.  I'll probably share this list with owners and request feedback and suggestions from those willing to provide it.  There are other things I plan on doing but I can't give away all my secrets. 

         

        However, even with me doing all that, the final screening will still be done by you.  What my service will do for you is provide you with highly qualified inquiries/connections with a very high chance of booking.  You should still do a final screening before booking the renter so I'm not sure why I would be held liable if the person turns out to be the renter from hell.  I am working with the renter to make sure that they are a match for the vacation rental you're offering.  If I send you that prospect that I think is a good match but you have a bad feeling about them, I suggest you go with your gut as I'm sure you always do.

         

        Not to say that I won't be worried about an owner or renter suing me because someone was destructive or crazy. I guess that is always possible and so the service will be provided with disclaimers, terms and conditions and all other legal language that is necessary.

         

        It's a new service which will have growing pains but our goal is to build a service based on trust on both sides.

  • sodamo Contributor 260 posts since
    Nov 5, 2011

    Will this bear any similarity to Airbnb? Differences? How about compensation?

     

    David

    • Contributor 26 posts since
      Jul 29, 2012

      David - I wouldn't compare it to AirBnB.  We would be more of a pre-screened prospect provider.  However, there may be some things that will seem similar.

       

      With regard to compensation, we will work on validating the service first.  We have a preliminary revenue model but would prefer to establish value first in the marketplace.  Then we'll probably get feedback from property owners about what they would pay for the value we've provided before settling on a final revenue model.

  • susaninrehoboth Active Contributor 886 posts since
    Sep 3, 2011

    Stayscouter,

     

    I must have missed something during your multiple postings. I was somewhat keeping an open mind on the service you plan to provide although I wouldn't use a third party to obtain tenants. I thought you would charge the person who hired you to find them potential rentals- all these people you said didn't have time to scroll through listings but had money. Now it seems you plan to or are considering charging the owners. As far as I'm concerned-never in a million years would I pay a third party. To me, that is just another accounting nightmare and an extra cost I am not willing to incur.The only owners I can imagine paying you a commission are people with sub-par properties that are desperate for rentals. I also can't imagine why someone would take the time to pre-qualify with you. As a renter, why not just take the time to go through the listings instead of the time to work with you and then still have to work with owners?

  • wiffle Contributor 217 posts since
    Feb 23, 2011

    I am not really interested in third party communications. Occasional initial contact by a personal assistant is fine. The agreement is to be completed and signed by the person/people staying in the house, not a personal assistant.

     

    I don't even respond to inquiries until I have done preliminary research based on several searches. An inquiry from a "matching service" would be ignored on two counts if a discount was solicited.

     

    Property managers may feel differently.

    • Contributor 26 posts since
      Jul 29, 2012

      Wiffle - to clarify.  The agreement will always be signed by the people staying in the house.  The property owner will be connected with the renter if the renter is found to be a good match for their property.  The purpose of the service is to send the owner qualified inquiries which will ensure a higher chance of booking.

      • wiffle Contributor 217 posts since
        Feb 23, 2011

        The answer is no, not interested.

      • old_frog Contributor 133 posts since
        Jul 24, 2011

        With all the explanations you are providing, it appears all you are doing is seeking to direct potential renters to the home owner who might likely contact the home owner anyway while using for leads the same medium that the homeowner has paid to advertise in.  Simultaniously, you expect the be paid by the homeowner for this and the homeowner to discount their rates so you can promote your services.  Yet, you leave all the work to the homeonwer?  Pretty good gig if you can swing it. 

         

        Now, If you provided a different set of potential renters at comparable or greater revenue to the homeowner and revlied the homeowner of work load you might have something.   But, those service vendors already exist.  Often the are called rental agencies. 

         

        BTW, you might want to the check the real estate licensing laws in the states/juristictions in which you choose to offer your serivces.  

        • Contributor 26 posts since
          Jul 29, 2012

          Old Frog - the goal of the service is to provide owners with quality inquiries after pre screening prospective renters to ensure that they are a good fit. 

           

          The service was originally called Dealscouter.  It is now StayScouter, a personalized service that connects property owners and renters looking for a place to stay.  In addition to HomeAway and VRBO, there are many other online services out there that connect the two parties, but our service will be more personalized.  Some renters may be looking for a discount and some may not.  They will be matched with properties that are suitable for what they're looking for.

           

          Not sure why you think all the work will be left to the homeowner when the prospect will be prescreened.  The owner will be connected to the renter and will make the final decision.

           

          I am aware of the service vendors you speak of.  Some of them are also called travel agents

           

          Although the service is not structured as a rental agency or real estate agency, I do plan on checking the real estate laws in the states where the service will be offered.

           

          I appreciate your feedback.

          • thaxterlane Active Contributor 782 posts since
            Jul 27, 2011

            Stayscouter,

             

            I appreciate your interest in discussing issues of relevance to owners as you set up your service.

             

            However, you are interfering in the discussion owners are attempting to have about issues they need to address, and while they may be of interest to you as you build your business, your business is not the purpose of these discussions. 

             

            In your desire to participate you are taking the discussion away from the owners and using it for your own purposes as a business owner.

             

            There is a forum for vendors.  There is a forum for renters.   Some renters do participate in conversations with owners, but businesses generally do not and are discouraged from doing so (other members, correct me if I am mistaken, please).

             

            When I find a business posting repeatedly in a forum I tune out.  While the business owner may have some interesting things to say, it does route the conversation away from the owners' perspective.

             

            If others disagree, please feel free to comment.

             

            Let's stay focused, please. 

            • Contributor 26 posts since
              Jul 29, 2012

              Thaxterlane - I apologize if I have broken a forum rule.  I don't believe that I have ever solicited anyone on this forum.  My goal has been to try to understand and create a dialogue with owners about certain issues that interest me as a traveler, and which will also affect the service I provide as a vendor.   

               

              If my questions are proving to be distracting to owners other than yourself on this forum I would love for them to let me know and I will find another way to establish dialogue with owners who are interested in the service I am working on building.

               

              Thank you for all of your feedback.

              • susaninrehoboth Active Contributor 886 posts since
                Sep 3, 2011

                Amen,thaxterlane!!!

                 

                stayscouter, I wouldn't have responded to the original question on breakout of fees if I'd noticed it was posted by you. This is an owner's forum. Now, because of you, I realize I have to see who posted before responding.

              • thaxterlane Active Contributor 782 posts since
                Jul 27, 2011
                "My goal has been to try to understand and create a dialogue with owners about certain issues that interest me as a traveler, and which will also affect the service I provide as a vendor."

                 

                This forum is not a focus group for "certain issues . . . . affect the service I provide as a vendor".

                 

                If others wish to  converse with you about your service I think that's fine.  Perhaps you could start a focus group to help you off site? 

                 

                From my point of view, you are welcome as a renter, not so welcome as a vendor.

                 

                There are other vendors that contribute to discussions from time to time and there are forum members that purport to be owners that are vendors when you research their background.  

                 

                I do appreciate your being honest about your interest.

                 

                But, it diminshes the effectiveness of the forum, for me, when there are members using the discussion for purposes other than intended. 

                 

                I don't know if there is an actual forum rule, if there isn't perhaps there should be . . . .

              • sophie Senior Contributor 969 posts since
                Mar 4, 2011

                stayscouter wrote:

                 

                I don't believe that I have ever solicited anyone on this forum.


                Actually every time you ask a question, you solicit an owner's knowledge, advice, time and energy. Thax, I'm glad you posted this rebuttal. Us owners are not business consultants, tax advisors or lawyers and most aren't in the market of helping starting other people's businesses.
                • old_frog Contributor 133 posts since
                  Jul 24, 2011

                  Asked and answered. 

                • Contributor 26 posts since
                  Jul 29, 2012

                  To Sophie and others who have a problem with me asking questions on this forum.

                   

                  To be quite frank, I don't understand the negative attitudes from some of you.

                   

                  I've read through these forums and I've seen posts where you mention that the portals out there are focused on the traveler and not on the owner.  That more needs to be done to educate the traveler on the ins and outs of vacation renting so that traveler expectations are set.

                   

                  Yet, when someone comes to you with valid questions from the perspective of a traveler, as well as that of a vendor, trying to get an understanding of how you run your BUSINESS, they are told that they are soliciting owners' knowledge, advice, time and energy whenever they ask a question.  Really?

                   

                  It should not matter if I am a vendor, or whether the owner or the traveler will be paying for my services.  If I am trying to learn about your BUSINESS, so that I can bring you better business, either through my service, or just through a traveler being educated on my site, why would it be a problem for you? 

                   

                  You do not have to use the service if you don't want to, but I do believe that it would be in your best interest as an owner to educate anyone showing any interest in the vacation rental industry.

                   

                  I hate to break it to you but the vacation rental industry is still growing and there will be a ton of other businesses like mine or similar entering the market.  How many of them do you think will take the time to learn about your likes and dislikes and the reason why you do things a certain way?  I don't think many will, because historically that has not been the case.

                   

                  I will continue to ask questions on this forum as long as it's not against forum rules, but what I will do is label my posts as a Vendor Question so those who don't want to be bothered, do not have to read.

                   

                  Regards.

                  • sodamo Contributor 260 posts since
                    Nov 5, 2011

                    WOW!!! Offend, distract, negative attitudes, pretty strong words.

                     

                    So from my perspective lemme see if I can summarize MY understanding. Please correct me where wrong.

                     

                    Stayscouter, you come here and ask questions and respond in the guise of a traveller. When taken in their totality, your real interest is learning to apply to your business. Nothing wrong with wanting to educate yourself, just some here may have taken you for a bonfire traveller. While I can understand your rationale, I can't help but wonder if the deception was not accidental. Present yourself as yourself, owners are going to answer as owner usually.

                     

                    At times, when presented an answer (cleaning fee thread), you appear to disagree and suggest the responding owner might want to review their methods to better serve your clients. It's possible, your responses were not views as being highly positive. As may be noted throughout the forum, owners will go out of their way to educate. Accept what works for them as being right for them, whether it fits your model is not relevant except to you.

                     

                    As I understand your business model, you are looking to represent a type of traveller either unable or unwilling to find a best match VR on their own and you will then provide this "qualified" traveller to an owner to close the deal. At this point, it appears you will offer this as a free service for the traveller but extract some sort of fee/commission from the owner. Seems most of your value is to the client, not the owner. I'm willing to accept that getting additional guests at a reasonable cost could be a good thing. I find it hard to believe that you would recommend ONLY my property to a client or that client is any more inclined to rent from me. It would seem very difficult to know either the client or the property that well on a massive scale, one a geographic or activity specific area - maybe.  Just as an example, I am in Hawaii, chances are a good Waikiki or Maui client would not choose my property or vice versa. I have 3 units and they attract different types. Will your service be capable of sending me a better qualified client than HA/VRBO, maybe, but I'd be skeptical. For them to be really interested I want them to know what's in my listings. So how much is it worth to me that you point them to the info, I don't know.

                     

                    I think you might very well be able to establish a niche business, but doubt you could achieve the scale of a HA/VRBO type. I could be wrong, definitely not the first time.

                     

                    I do wish you the best and have signed up to learn more.

                    David

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

                    Hi StayScouter,

                     

                    The problem points to venue and purpose.

                     

                    As the Community Forum is the place and space where rental owners communicate with each other, among themselves, solicitations for commercial interests of any kind -- even for ideas and feedback -- is not often successful. There will be some "dead air" {non response} in such threads, usually.

                     

                    I do not want to speak for anyone but myself, but it seems that those owners that objected to your specific post did so, IMO, because they do not think that the Owner Community Forum space should be used to target *direct solicitation* of  *their*  ideas primarily to assist in developing someone's business interest ---- even if,  and though,  the business in question is developed for their trade.  Some owners may view this "venue" differently....some will not care...some we will never know because there are hundreds of "lurkers" who never speak up by posting......and some may even want to help you develop a tool or service that could help them eventually.....but there will always be some who will not welcome any solicitation for the purpose of business buiilding in the Owner Community Forum  which is for their discussions between themselves.  Of course, those owners do not have to respond to any posts they do not agree with --- but they might do so if only to express their objection....such as this case.

                     

                    However, I doubt that any of the owners would object to being invited to be included in a  "focus group", that they could individually opt in to if they have an interest in helping you directly {or  helping the trade}.  It would be my way to deal with this, if I were in your position  --- I'd form a focus group of "opted in" participants.  Such a focus group could exist outside this HA Community, hosted on your own website for example....and you could then post here on HA to announce and invite participants....and you can post an offer {advertisement} that will remain indefinitely here in the "Vendor Showroom" {see "Resources" at the top of this page}.

                     

                    If such a GROUP, set up as a focus group, is not against HA Community Guidelines (we'd need a Moderator here to "chime in" first), perhaps, you should consider starting such a focus group in the GROUPS section of this Community.  To do that,  go to the top of this page and choose "Resources" and then "Groups".  Just make it clear that it is a focus group for the purpose of offering feedback...for the intended outcome.

                    Maybe, you can even offer an incentive to the GROUP MEMBERS who sign up and actively participate, like a free "verified prospect" for their property that they can "review for suitability" --- it will always be up to them whether to accept the "prospect", as they always do, based on their own "screening".

                     

                    I had stated in one of my earlier posts the following with intention:

                     

                    This Community is filled with information directly contributed by the owners and the travellers (check out the traveller forum...open the drop-down box in the nav. bar above).  We all have our preferences for what makes a great rental, rental owner, and guest...from both perspectives.  There was even a couple of "threads" started by one  of the HA Moderators on the topic...something about 10 Things Owners Want Travellers To Know.....and vise-versa, that you'll find  in our respective "forum" sections.  In any event, by using this Community to research what really makes us happy, annoys us, angers us and the things that both parties get into disputes over, will help you get to know your two target customers ....the good, bad and the ugly...to help you shape your approach.

                     

                    The previously posted threads do contain a wealth of information for you, and any other entrepreneur to freely glean from for researching projects.  What is already recorded is actual "feedback" from owners and travellers....free to use.  It is easy to research topics with a key word or phrase by just using the "Search For Answers" at the top of any page in the Community Forum.....if there was a discussion on the topic in the past, it will be revealed in the thread ...and related threads.

                    • Contributor 26 posts since
                      Jul 29, 2012

                      Anja - you've done it again!  Thank you for clarifying and offering suggestions.  A Focus Group sounds like a good idea, if anyone would be interested.  I really appreciate you taking the time to make helpful suggestions.  I'll wait for a moderator to respond.

                       

                      My intent is not to disguise myself as something I'm not.  I feel I've always been very clear about my roles here without trying to look like I'm soliciting customers.

                       

                      Is there anywhere else in this community that I can post to request feedback other than the Owner Forums?  I guess I could post in the Renter Forums but don't want people there to think that I'm posting in the guise of a renter, when I'm actually a vendor.

                       

                      Anyway, I'm thankful for your suggestions, as well as the suggestions of others in this thread.  If I ever plan a trip to Hawaii I'd like to see if I'm a match for your vacation home.  Your customer service and helpful attitude is outstanding.

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

                        Hi stayscouter,

                         

                        I've noted that you've been straighforward from your first post  in this thread....I responded as I felt to be true to myself....and that I recognize that your business would target a special niche group of travellers and property owners...and it couild very well be a valuable service for many....not for all.  I like people with ideas and I too consider myself an entrepreneur who delves in various "streams".  Maybe your biz will be a hit...maybe not  so much....but I think it's a very viable service.  Lead generation, whether they are "cold leads",  "verified leads", or "warm verified prospects" have been mined, gathered, collected, serviced and sold for a very long time in the business world...most all industries, especially the travel industry.   I used to purchase "verified leads" and "verified prospects" at a high cost especially for the "prospects"  for my "other business" when I was first launching it and trying to build a mailing list and sell the product.  I think a lot of owners here understand what you are wanting to do ....they are smart, savvy biz people too....it's just the venue they object to,  IMO.

                         

                        Another place to post:  you can post a direct solicitation for your business in the "Vendor Showroom"...{top of this page, choose "Resources"...then "Vendor Showroom}.  As you have already been servicing clients for the past 2 years, I suppose you could advertise your service there already now....point to your website ....where you can have a webpage that invites people to sign up for "focus group"....offer incentives, etc.  You'd probably get some property owners and some travellers signing up with you --- just offer them an incentive to do so.

                         

                        -----We need a Moderator----

                        Is there is a Moderator "listening" in on this discussion? Would there be a HA restriction against someone starting a "Group" with a "focus" on discussing developing such a "verified lead / verified prospect service" for travellers and owners?

                        • thaxterlane Active Contributor 782 posts since
                          Jul 27, 2011

                          Anja,

                           

                          Thank you for wrapping the discussion in such a gracious package. 

                           

                          I appreciate your forwarding the idea of a focus group, assembling a small group of advisers was something suggested to me by a successful business owner when I started a business of my own (not associated with vacation properties).

                           

                          My concern, throughout the conversation (especially given the discussion in the thread about cleaning charges), is how the conversation is influenced, and perhaps shifted away from an owner (or renter) perspective when vendors become involved.

                           

                          That's all.  I want to discuss issues with other owners, not vendors.  I don't see this as being "negative".  I am here for the purpose intended for this forum.

                           

                          I don't speak for anyone else, I only speak for myself. 

                           

                          I applaud stayscouter for his/her enthusiasm and dedication, but this is not an appropriate venue for such activity (in my opinion). 

                           

                          But, stayscouter, I will suggest that you dial it down when communicating with people from whom you wish to receive assistance.

                           

                          I think you are eager to get started, and that's commendable, but you will get much further in general, by refraining from telling people who have years of experience in the industry, how the industry works.  Even if you turn out to be correct, it's a clumsy way to begin an interaction, particularly online. 

                           

                          Review your posts and you may see what I, and perhaps  other owners that have responded "negatively", are seeing. 

                           

                          That's it.  I will not have anything more to say on the subject - it's back to owner's issues for this owner.

                           

                          Best to everyone.

                           

                          (And, let me repeat, I express my views only, I do not speak for anyone else on the forum.)

                        • meredith HomeAway Employee 384 posts since
                          Nov 18, 2010

                          Hi anja,

                           

                          I'm listening, haha. I don’t see any reason why you could not use the Group function for this purpose. We like to try and corral solicitations in the vendor showroom so the discussions are free of advertisements, which can be distracting. But people on the Community have used the site for market research and beta testing of their products and I don’t see this as much different.

                           

                          All best,

                           

                          Meredith

                        • Contributor 26 posts since
                          Jul 29, 2012

                          Hi anja - thank you for your encouragement and great suggestions.  I like the idea of creating a focus group and inviting interested property owners and travelers to join. 

                           

                          I am thinking of doing it via a forum attached to my site.  That way, I'll have a venue specifically created to generate feedback.  I'll also place an advertisement in the Vendor Forum as you suggested.

                           

                          I'd like to offer something of value in return for people's time so I will work on coming up with an incentive that shows appreciation for the time members spend providing feedback.  I will mention the incentive when I send out the invitation. 

                           

                          Thank you again anja!  Your time, help and encouragement is much appreciated!

  • New Member 4 posts since
    Aug 14, 2012

    Deal,   I read some of the discourse above, but it went on on and on....  I skipped alot.  Perhaps this was mentioned:  Why not have a business name for the Guest end of the business...? Deal Scouters is good.  But have a totally different name for the end of the business that finds the accomodations... Like "Multiple Bookings", "Repeat Bookings" or something.  Just an idea.

     

    I, like all the other posters here, do not discount.  The price is the price.  If they cannot afford it, then call a motel.  Also, what defines a 'Deal'?  Lodgings are not like cookie cutter products and they are all $100.  Get one for $90 and it is a 'deal'.  I charge $165 per night.  Is $150 per night a deal.  What if I posted $179 per night: would $165 be a deal?  I feel that my $165 is a 'deal', and so do all my guests.  I have a guest in my place now that has stayed 3 times.... since July!

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