For us, it's available until it has been reserved with money down.I have had it happen several times that I have emailed with someone over a period of several days, someone completely different calls and books the same dates, and not an hour later the original person calls finally to book the dates. We do have a network of other homes that we can recommend to them.
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Thanks, Tyann. I'm thinking maybe I'll tell people when they initially inquire that it's available, but that I will only hold it 24 hours (or some specified time frame) for them since someone else might want to rent it.
I got an email two days ago from a family who's moving to our area and is looking for a place to rent for a month and a few days. We'd love to rent it for that long. I told them it's available, then got an email from another person wanting to rent it for just three days during that time period. I told him it's currently not available - in the hope of renting it to the family for a month - but that I'd get back to him if it is. That seemed like the best way to handle it; I'd like to give the family a chance to rent it since that would be our preference. Of course, now I haven't heard back from the family.
Like I said, I'm completely new to this and quickly realizing it can get more complicated than I anticipated.
I track my inquiries by 1st inquiry, 2nd, etc.
I follow up with a phone call to the 1st serious inquiry if I get more than one, explaining that someone else is ready to confirm. Most times the 1st inquiry either says "go ahead" we haven't got our ducks in a row,or they don't respond. Then, just go move on.
Just make sure your long term renter has paid up front and fulfilled your contractual agreement before you pull your property off the market.
Keep in mind - your are the boss here.
Yes, we had quite a few stressful situations when we first started out, with regards to people competing for the same time slots.
Our current policy is similar to Tyann's. We tell the person up front that it's currently available, but it's not booked until we get the signed payment contract and reservation deposit. We do not give any kind of preference at all to the order in which they made the inquiry.
We have people who inquire, and within an hour, they have sent us their signed contract and payment by PayPal or credit card. If you want our place, get your act together and book it.
We have also had people who called us, told us for sure they were taking the place, and were mailing the contract and deposit tomorrow morning, and then we get more offers coming in, so we call them back in a few days and they say, "Oh, actually we changed our mind, we're not coming after all." That would be okay, except: THEY NEVER TOLD US! And here we were, waiting for that check to come in the mail.
So ... we have had really decisive clients who book fast, and we have had really wishy-washy people who take up weeks to decide, asking question after question, and maybe eventually book or maybe not.
We cannot keep track of all these wishy-washy people. Unfortunately, often times it's the people who are staying for a month-plus are the most wishy-washy, and those are the clients that we want. Conversely, it's usually the people staying for just a week or two who have their act together and book right away. It has happened for me, a few times, that I had literally JUST RECEIVED the payment from someone who was booking for a week (very decisive, got it all done in just a few hours), and finally the wishy-washy month-long person confirmed that they do want the place. It's like UGH! Why couldn't you have made up your mind a few hours earlier? Oh well.
Our policy is, once we receive the signed payment contract and reservation deposit (money in hand!) from someone, we will not go back on it, no matter how attractive of an offer comes along later. However, if we have not received the client's signed contract and money yet, and a more attractive offer comes along, and those people have their act together and get their money and payment contract in first ... then we will definitely book the more attractive offer.
We are very up front that the place is "currently available," but the reservation is not assured until we have that signed contract and deposit money in hand.
I have a first come first serve. If I say it's available, it stays available for anyone until i send a rental contract. I have guests who I email that it's avialable and then either the same day, I get another request and they want it. So I email the contract to that person. I don't recommend holding the cabin for a potential guest unless you send them a rental contract. Even then I only hold it for payment within 7 days. If not payment is made, I make it available to the public.
I agree with SF that it is only right to never try to give money back to that seven-day renter just because a wonderfully-tempting six-week inquiry comes in, and seriously wants to book your home. That seems to be happening a lot to us right now because we have several one week renters during this summer, and it does just make you sick when that month-long request comes in. As SF said, UGH!
You said you haven't been doing this for very long, so I don't know if you mean literally just a week or two, or a month or something that short, but we learned very fast that we get tons of inquiries, (sometimes one or two a day.) However, for us, even though we reply promptly, most of them we never hear from them again. I don't think that it is because of anything we are doing wrong... it took us a couple of months to learn that there is a phenomenon on VRBO that drives us, and I'm sure many other Owners, crazy. There was a thread about it... why do so many people inquiring not check the calendar before they write? They write and ask "are these dates available?" when a calender is right there for them to click on and see for themselves if they are available.
After reading this thread we learned that what many, if not most, potential renters do is put out an inquiry, and then they check the box at the bottom of the inquiry form to save their information for more inquiries, and then they just go down the list of all the properties in the area, and go click, click, click and voila'! They have put out 50 inquiries that will produce responses for them to sort through for the least expensive (that is the other half of the "are these dates available question" - "and what would your rates be?" I know I sound cynical, but I really don't like this "feature" on VRBO, but that was already discussed on another thread!)
Anyway, right about now you are probably wondering what in the world I am rambling about. First, from the way your question was worded, it sounds to me as though you are taking every inquiry very seriously. What I am trying to say is that after a time, you will probably find that an inquiry is always a good thing, but it eventually loses it's lustre after you become jaded like me! If you get an inquiry, how is it coming to you? Is it by e-mail using the form, or is someone calling you on the phone? If someone is calling you on the phone, you know that person is truly interested in your home, and is someone to take seriously. If it is an e-mail form, unless the note at the bottom makes a very specific comment about your home, they are probably one of "the clickers."
Now, if we have established that you are only talking about inquiries, not something that has progressed to the point that they have called you to tell you that they are very interested and have further questions, or they have written you back after you have replied to their inquiry and told you that they are very interested, then you still don't have anything close to something that you need to be feeling any loyalties of holding for anyone.
On the other hand, if someone does make further contact with you, they have indicated that they probably want to take the house but they need to check with other family members etc. I will tell them that I can't hold their dates without a credit card for the deposit, but that if another serious inquiry comes in I will contact them and give them first option on it, but only for the remainder of that day. Conversely, if the second person calling wants the house, and we have someone sitting on the pot, I tell the second person that we have a group that has expressed interest, that I will contact them to make sure that they do not want the home, and that I will get back with them by the beginning of the next day to let them know if it is available for them to book. Then, if I call group 1 and I get them in person, I pretty much tell them that I need to have an answer now because I have another group that is willing to take the home immediately. If I get an answering machine, or voicemail, I leave a message and e-mail them at every contact option they have given me, and I give them the rest of the day to respond and book the house. If I don't hear from them, then I let the second group book. (Knock on wood, so far, we have never had a bad outcome doing this.)
A BIG HOWEVER, to put a few caveats to the above, I guess you can tell that we book exclusively by credit card. We want to have that ability to charge a card in the event that there is a problem with damage that isn't covered. So, for us, to get locked into a reservation is to spend 15 minutes on the phone with us giving us all of the information that we will need to fill out a contract, and to actually give us their cc information. As soon as we get off of the phone, we run their card immediately to charge them for the deposit.
We then immediately e-mail them a Booking Confirmation that they must sign and return by e-mail or fax, and at that point the house is booked. The Booking Confirmation is a mini-contract. We took one of the templates that is offered on this site, and added even more language to make it pretty iron-clad. Their signature affirms that they have given us permission to charge their card, and that they agree to all of the terms that have been specified above (ie, dates, number of guests, property address, etc.)
The other caveat is the gut-feeling factor. If we have two parties who are both interested, and they both sound equally reliable, we really do try to make "first paid, first served" our policy. But if we have a better gut feeling about one group over another, we go with our gut. And we have really learned to trust that. Any time we have a bad feeling about a renter, so far it has always proven to be a correct call. That is another reason we insist on speaking with people over the phone first, before we book them, because you do get a "feeling" about people talking to them in person. Likewise, back to the inquiry lottery, literally every guest we have had who has contacted us about our home, has ended up being firm bookings, and great renters. There is something about intuition that you can't explain, but if you trust it, it doesn't let you down.
Finally, if there are two groups at similar times, we feel that it is our choice to rent to whom we want. If one of the groups sound like nice people, and they want it for three weeks, and the other group wants it for three days right in the middle of the other group's requested dates, we don't feel any obligation to not rent to the group for the three weeks, even if they wrote a half a day earlier. If we don't have a contract with anyone, we have no obligation to let them stay in our home, and it is ultimately our decision who stays in our home. Remember that... this is your home, and you are not obligated to rent it to anyone, first caller or not. If you are not discriminating, or doing anything that might violate the Fair Housing Act, then you have full control over to whom you choose to rent from you.
After all of that, bottom line, it sounds as though you may be thinking that an inquiry is a real solid request to rent your home. This couldn't be further from the truth, and if you have an inquiry from someone, and nothing more, you don't owe them anything in terms of holding your property for them. When someone is ready to pay you to hold their dates, then they are the people to whom you have an obligation. In the meantime, don't sweat the "is your home available for these dates?" people. You may be one of 30 others who have received that same e-mail.
or .... brother!
because ... come to think of it, there is both a man and a woman in the lovely aznative's picture.
But for some reason I'm always imagining it's the woman talking!
Gosh, now I am opening myself for all sort of sexist jokes, haven't I? I can just imagine the men saying, "ah yes, isn't it always the case?"
And this is what comes out of being on the computer at 1:10 a.m.!
Nonetheless, AZNative, my point is ... be you man or woman, or both, your posts rock. Thanks for taking the time to think and analyze and share.
Sharing is caring, I dare say!!! And you share a lot. You go, girl! Or boy. Whatever. Keep at it!
Now I'll be sexist, SF! Only a woman could be that verbose! You would be lucky to get six words out of my husband! And thanks for the thanks! I dare say I have never read one of your posts that aren't extremely helpful. So thank you too!
(Gee, do you think we're making others sick with our mutual admiration society thing going on here?!! Sorry everyone... but these are two cool folks in SF!)
I use a standard rental agreement and accept payment in bank checks or money orders (no Pay Pay -- no credit cards). The agreement states that payment (the 50% deposit) is due in 7 days after receiving the agreement, which I email. I promptly respond to inquiries (phone or email) and tell them that when they are ready to rent, send their address, names of people in the unit and mobile number. It's open season (first come-first served) until I have issued the agreement. At that point, I respond to future inquiries and tell them there is a hold on the unit until "X" date, because I have issued an agreement and the deposit is due on "X" date. I offer to put them on a wait list. A few days before the deposit is due, I send the potential renter (who has the agreement) a reminder email noting the due date for receipt of the deposit (At that point if someone wants an extension, I politely note the due date and tell them to send me an email before they are ready to send the deposit to confirm that the property is still available) If I have not received the deposit by the day after the due date, I send the potential renter a thank you for inquiring about the property, noting the deposit has not been recieved and the agreement is void, and wish them well on their search for their vacation property. Then I move on.
I may not have as much flexibility or options as others. My property is at the beach and I rent Saturday to Saturday, full weeks only during the four month season. I only rent partial weeks in the off season. Of course, I'd love to have longer rentals in the off season, and I'll only rent three nights during "event" weekends, but I don't overthink the process. I've been renting for about seven years and have had no-shows trying to pick and chose between renters. I have also been burned accomodating delays in sending payments. I have my BRAND and it is what it is -- if a potential renter does not fit for me, I'll refer them elsewhere and to traditional agencies.
That's my take on property availablilty and future inquiries.