Protecting Against Vacation Rental Damage

This post was written by Volo for Tripping.

In my experience, one of the biggest concerns for new vacation rental owners is having their home trashed by careless guests. Vacation rental damage, however big or small, is something all owners have to deal with but there are ways to provide extra protection for your property.

My clients who are looking to get into the vacation rental business are usually looking to increase household income and/or gain life balance (by way of working fewer corporate hours), so the concern is understandable. Help alleviate the stress of dealing with vacation rental damage and save both time and money with these four tips.

Top Ways To Minimize Vacation Rental Damage

1. Screen Your Vacation Rental Guests

Screening is the first line of defense in protecting your home. I always try to speak to potential guests before they book; to get a feel for what type of people they are and the nature of their vacation.

If you hate the phone more than I do, or just cannot arrange a time to speak, try to engage in a couple of emails, at a minimum, instead. Pay attention to any red flags or inconsistencies. Trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to turn inquiries away.

Keep in mind that screening isn’t foolproof and it’s important that you have some type of insurance or deposit in place should damages, or the need for deeper cleaning, occur.

2. Take a Deposit For Your Vacation Rental

Upfront deposits, typically a flat fee or a percentage of the total booking amount, are common. They are nice because you have the cash on-hand should something go awry, but can also be a hassle due to extra steps involved; collecting, deducting and returning.

Vacation Rental Deposit Tips

– Guests don’t like large sums of cash sitting in limbo for upwards of 6+ months.

– Don’t spend the deposit if you are on a tight budget; some clients choose to put it aside in a business savings account, along with tax money.

– Some states may require you to make a claim against a guests deposit within a set duration of time, typically 14 days.

3. Consider Vacation Rental Insurance

For a low, non-refundable, fee CSA Travel protection can provide an insurance policy as an alternative to taking a deposit. For those listing their homes on booking sites or using management software, it’s typically one click of a button in your account to add a policy requirement for all of your guests.

Although it’s super cheap and easy to implement, all damages may not be covered- like pet damage. Make sure you read the fine print of your insurance provider carefully.

All my properties are dog friendly. To mitigate any risk, I collect a $150 non-refundable pet deposit (which covers additional cleaning as I like my properties spotless) and ask for a credit card number to process through rental management software, Braintree, or any other payment system you prefer, should damages occur.

4. Build a List of Repeat Guests

Building a vault of repeat guests is probably the single most effective way to minimize the potential of damages. Take note of the many ways to create an exceptional experience and start growing your guest base. You will have rapport and will know how they will treat your home.

But even so, mishaps will happen. Always use your discretion when asking for fees. If charging them is causing you more anxiety than just covering the expense yourself, let it go. On the converse, if the damage is costly, talk through the solutions and repair costs openly.

My rule of thumb is that if the damage is fairly inexpensive, and was obviously an accident or non-malicious, I acknowledge the problem to the guest and offer to cover the expense. In my experience guests are usually very impressed with the level of hospitality and often demand to pay for the damage anyway.

This post was written by Kris Getzie

Kris Getzie Hospitality Consultant

Gathering Pearls of Joy

A very wise woman once told me that we must look for the pearls of joy in our lives.

Throughout a lifetime we have a wide variety of experiences. Of these many experiences, there will be a few fleeting moments when we are graced with a deep sense of meaning, purpose, and connection. A true awareness of being fully alive.

Our hearts will overflow with joy. Our minds will be calm and content. Our bodies will be balanced. The world will be in harmony.

Everything will be perfectly right.

She said that we must collect these moments. Pluck them from our experience and string them onto an imaginary necklace, to be worn with admiration as we navigate life.

Pearls of joy.

As Cori was speeding down the Tigre River making an escape from Buenos Aires, she was sensory overwhelmed, completely in the moment. Everything was perfectly right in the world.

When is the last time you experienced a pearl of joy moment? Did it happen while you were on vacation? It should be our goals as vacation home & B&B owners to help facilitate pearls of joy for our guests through connection, ease of the experience, and joy.

This post was written by Cori Hildebrandt. Her previous post: Uruguay Is Love.

Financing a Vacation Rental: A How To Guide

This post was written by Volo for Tripping.

From sorting through types of mortgages, lender practices and down payment requirements, financing a vacation rental can be very confusing.

Before you even head down that road, I suggest that you really think through the reasons for and the location of your desired income property. Will you have enough time to enjoy your new vacation home, setup the business and manage it? It’s very rewarding, but also a lot of work that begins with financing your vacation rental.

Consider all of the expenses that come with financing a vacation rental. Taxes, association fees, business licenses, lawn care, snow removal and garbage collection, among unexpected expenses, can add up. If you don’t achieve full occupancy, can you afford to pay these expenses out of pocket? If you have decided yes, I’ve got this, you will need to understand your income, debt, credit score and down payment requirements if an all cash purchase isn’t in your cards.

Important Steps to Financing A Vacation Rental

1. Know your debt-to-income ratio: In other words, understand the ratio of what you owe versus what you earn. To calculate your debt-to-income (DTI), add your total amount of debt payments per month (not including utilities) to your estimated investment home mortgage. Divide that number by your monthly gross income (before tax income). Voila, you have your DTI. To qualify, lenders generally want your DTI below 40%.

2. Know Your Credit Score: Strong credit scores are required to obtain a loan for an income property, even more so than for a first home. Exact requirements may vary by loan size and down payment, but expect 725 to be around the minimum when financing a vacation rental.

3. Know What Your Down Payment Will Need To Be: You are going to need a down payment to buy a vacation rental. No question about it. Amy Sharpless-Cairn, a lending goddess, was kind enough to give me an overview of down payment requirements. She’s originated over $165M in loans over the past six years and really knows her stuff.

Modern kitchen

In a nutshell, the requirements are really confusing. I suggest that you reach out to someone in your area to understand the specifics of the mortgage you would need. There are conforming, non-conforming, high balance non-conforming and jumbo loans which may have balance restrictions and require anywhere from 20-35%+ down. That amount can increase if you are not a resident in the state/country you are purchasing, depending on the lender.

Condos Vs Homes When Financing a Vacation Rental

Condos tend to be a popular choice among new vacation rental owners. However, they can sometimes be a little more difficult to finance. You may also have occupancy ratio’s to adhere to. For example, your condo of choice may have to be owner occupied, say 52% of the time, depending on the type of condo it is and the loan you fit. The condo type can be warrantable, non-warrantable or a condotel. Some of which can require larger down payments and significantly shorter mortgage length options.

A safe down payment estimate is 20-40% of the loan value, which can be a hefty amount. To find the cash, some people obtain a line of credit on their first home, tap into a 401k, borrow from their parents or sell their souls. A good mortgage lender is a must when financing a vacation rental, helping you to navigate your situation and avoid taking on too much debt.

This post was written by Kris Getzie

Kris Getzie Hospitality Consultant

Dwellable Q&A

This Q&A was for Dwellable and can be found here.

1) How did you get into this business?

My parents have owned and operated vacation rentals and boutique Inn’s for nearly twenty years, so the industry and it’s transformation have always been a huge part of my life.

After establishing my individuality, career and finishing grad school, I knew it was time to make the transition into this industry full-time. First by taking over the operations of my parents businesses and consulting on the side, then buying my own.

In a way, I was destined to be here. Not just because of my parents (they aren’t into free rides), but because of a deep interest in economic development. Responsible and sustainable tourism provides significant means for lesser developed countries to address their fiscal, environmental, healthcare and education situations.

I’ve also spent time working with a variety of organizations and governments addressing these issues as a hospitality consultant… It’s completely rewarding.

2) Tell us a story about the absolute best or absolute worst vacation rental experience you’ve ever had.

My friends and I were in Culebra, Puerto Rico, at my parents VR, when we met a retired couple who regularly hosted guests on their catamaran. They were locals (kinda) and offered us a trip. We hopped onboard.

I’d never sailed prolifically before, so that was a great experience in and of itself… But the way they hosted us forever shifted my perception of what a great VR experience should be.

They let us into their lives; showed us how they prepare for a trip, how to cook on board, drink like sailors (literally, Sailor Jerry—the rum—was a flowin’), tie knots and brought us diving at amazing little islands we would have never visited otherwise.

Of course, they had the details of their stay perfected and I still remember the smell of their sheets. Literally, one whiff of sea salty-butter-pineapple and I immediately want to be on that boat (talk about a retention strategy).

They were entertainers. They shared fantastic stories about their experiences sailing, history of mariners and took us all out of our comfort zones. A decade later, the girls and I still talk about that trip!

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3) How is the rise of mobile devices changing the vacation rental business?

Mobile strategy often refers to developing a mobile website that enhances the overall vacation rental search and booking experience.

I think it’s important to embrace this. But with 68% of smartphone users sleeping within two feet of their phone, it’s equally important think beyond the mobile website as devices have the ability to enhance guest engagement on a more personalized level before, during and after their stay.

Integrating an app, for example, provides guests with an easy way to control their experience.

They might buy mountain lift passes, a spa package or view a virtual tour before arrival. During their stay they might want to request additional maid services or book a dog walker. All great ways to drive ancillary revenue, by the way. I also think most owners could benefit with an app after departure by continuing engagement. Not stalking! But to say thank you, invite them back and ask for a review.

Mobile devices are also great for face-to-face interaction if you can’t be there physically. I had a guest FaceTime me because he couldn’t figure out the ski rack. Within two minutes I was able to guide him through the problem. It was super easy and it was nice to cyber meet in our PJ’s 🙂

4) Word of advice to VR owners?

Always be authentic.

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The most successful VR owners I have encountered consistently show their personality and have an ability to connect their guests to the local culture, in their own way. Consistent VR industry standards are obviously important (in terms of cleanliness, communication and so on) but the one thing no one can ever duplicate is your authentic and unique presentation of an experience.

I love what Vayando is doing. Once they are established, I hope to see them connect with vacation rentals to enhance the overall travel experience!

5) Insider tip for travelers in your area?

Regardless of what brings you to Park City, collect locals as your wingmen. They are guaranteed to be interesting people and will give you a fantastic day-in-the-life tour!

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They’ll bring you to backcountry slopes you’ll never see otherwise (maybe not via snowcat, but you’ll get there), insane bike routes (mountain or road), sketchy food trucks with delicious grub, or random concerts outside of Park City (Twilight Concert Series, for example, features the likes of De La Soul, Beck, Thundercat and local artists… for $5!).

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Kris Getzie is Founder & Principal Consultant at Volo, a hospitality consultancy, and she loves to help her vacation rental and boutique hotel clients crush with an amazing brand and dialed operations. She is obsessed with chocolate, learning, random adventures and getting her two kids out to explore the world.
Follow her on Twitter @volovantage or at www.volovantage.com.

Guest Communication: A How To Guide

This post was written by Volo for Tripping.

The vacation rental industry is about people and guest service. Aside from constant attention to the details of your vacation home, effective guest communication before, during and after your guests stay is the easiest way to exceed expectations and gain loyalty. The success of any vacation rental business is up to each owner to ensure the entire process is worry free, fun and that guests leave excited to recommend your home to others.

According a J.D. Power study on guest satisfaction, the number of interactions guests have significantly impacts their satisfaction and loyalty. In hotels, the overall satisfaction among guests is the highest when they interact with four or more types of staff after check-in. Vacation rentals are not hotels and certainly don’t have “staff” but I think we can discern from this study that guest communication should not end after check-in. Guests want more than a key, so pay attention to how and when you interact.

Guest Communication Tips

  • Be Genuine: Your experience offered will distinguish you from your competitors. Don’t be afraid to engage the real you into your business, albeit professionally.
  • Be Prompt: Guest inquiries, questions and requests need to be handled with a sense of urgency every single time.
  • Smile! As cheesy as it sounds, it’s easy to hear a smile in some one’s tone. Your pronunciation will be more clear and your guests (current or potential) will be more engaged in your experience even if you are not speaking with them in person.

 

Comfortable modern bedroom with a fireplace.

Prior to Guests Arriving

Listen: Don’t just listen to the actual words guests are verbalizing, ask additional questions to get to know them. Read between the lines and make attempts to personalize their vacation rental stay. As a single mom of two young kids, nothing is more helpful than arriving to Frozen in the DVD player, milk in the fridge and banana’s on the counter for a snack (next to a shot of local whiskey for me). My kids travel often and are ridiculously well behaved, but these small gestures help immensely and allow us to settle quickly.

Help: Even if the guest hasn’t booked your home, help them with the details of their vacation if it’s possible. By making their trip better, more memorable and more authentic, you will likely remain a piece of their experience. Chances are that they will book with you next time, or refer a friend!

Eliminate Concerns: Independent vacation rentals don’t have the brand recognition hotel chains do (in terms of what to expect), so owners have to be diligent about anticipating potential concerns with effective guest communication.

A stress free process will not only distinguish your vacation rental from competitors, it will make your guests happy.

Top concerns, in my experience, have involved uncertainty of the homes quality, location and what will happen if disaster strikes. Disaster, to some, may be a malfunctioning dishwasher. To others, where they will stay if the entire house burns down (I’ve been asked about house fire contingency plans before).

Provide clear and updated images, video tours and information on your emergency contacts and procedures. Hopefully you have stayed in vacation rentals prior to starting your business, so put yourself in their shoes and provide any information that will give them peace of mind.

During a Guests Stay

Warm and welcoming: You never get a second chance at a first impression. Your door should open with a sense of ‘welcome home’ and the transition in should be seamless and comforting.

Check in: I call my guests within 24-hours to be sure they are settled, have everything they need and gain insight into their plans. I like to followup after 12 hours, but under 24, as it gives them time to acquaint themselves. I look for ways to personalize their trip during this call.

Give guests space: Let them enjoy their trip but always be willing to engage further, should they like.

After a Guests Stay

Say thank you: I’m still surprised at the number of vacation rental owners that don’t thank their guests for staying. It’s simple and an easy way to build repeat guests.

Feedback: Ask for feedback in your thank you note. Their input is the best way to continually enhance your homes experience. Also provide a link so they can easily review their stay.

Engage: Ask for a picture during their vacation and permission to use it for marketing or offer a discount for their next stay. Don’t end your relationship when they walk out the door.

This blog was written by Kris Getzie, Hospitality and Vacation Rental Consultant for Tripping and can be found here.

Kris Getzie Hospitality Consultant

Uruguay is Love.

I often talk about the importance of personalizing your guests stay. In part, understand what their needs are but also never be afraid to show your unique perspective on your community. No one can duplicate your experience! Checkout Cori’s latest blog on her South America trip…

I spent three relentless weeks in the Buenos Aires heat, surrounded by 16 million people. When I say relentless, you would know what I mean if you have ever been to Retiro Bus Station. Avoid that place at all costs, book online. I was primed for an escape and that escape included a pearl of joy moment.

Speeding down the Parana River Delta from Tigre, we were full force ahead aimed for Uruguay. I needed a vacation from my vacation. Something about the movement, the breeze, the wind blasting my face, forced down my throat and my hair whipping my face in every which way- felt like traveling. This felt like living, this felt like heaven and freedom all wrapped up in one. A river of dark, murky water encircled me, it was intoxicating. Sexy. I was in love with this moment.

A few days and a variety of boats, ferries, and buses helped transport us to Punta del Diablo, a small surfing village on the South Atlantic Ocean. In this one main dirt road town, we luckily stumbled upon La Casa de las Boyas and its owner Fabio Ganzola. Fabio’s the kind of guy that you cannot decide if you would rather have him as your father or your lover.

La Casa de las Boyas

La Casa de las Boyas

He’s a real cool cat. He is a nurturer, an adventurer, a proud Uruguayan and an excellent host. We were more than happy to be Fabio’s guests at his beach house. Being Fabio’s guests had many perks. For dinner, he would ask what each of us wanted and then source it fresh from the local market, bring it back to the hostel, and grill it up all while we lounged on the deck drinking, talking, and connecting with people from around the globe.

One afternoon he invited a handful of us, one American, one Canadian, one Israeli, one Swiss, to join him on a tour of the area in his truck. We literally drove over the rocky shoreline to get the best views possible of vacant, sprawling beaches and waded in Laguna Negra, a black lake.

Not falling in love with the natural beauty of this part of Uruguay is impossible, especially when experiencing it through the eyes of a native. Fabio offered an unheard of amount of personal attention and guidance to us. I will forever think fondly of Uruguay, La Casa de las Boyas, and its owner.

http://lacasadelasboyas.com.uy

This blog is written by Cori M. Hildebrandt | Volo Blogger, Globe-Trotter & Therapist

Winter Rentals: 5 Ways To Attract Off Season Guests

This post was written by Volo for Tripping.

Just because high season summer reservations are coming to an end doesn’t mean your vacation rental business cant thrive in the winter rentals market. Unless you don’t have heat or property access during the winter, it is possible to capture the elusive out of season guest to help pay on-going fixed expenses!

Summer guests, in general, are looking for lazy days on the beach and a boat. They want sunshine and family interaction. You probably market your property as such through captivating photos, property descriptions and offered activities.

Fall and winter guests, on the other hand, might have dramatically different desires for their out of season getaway. Understanding your guest and how their needs shift throughout the year is the most effective way to attract out of season business.

Top Tips for Winter Rentals

1. Market Your Rental For The Off Season

Your listing ad, website and home itself probably already promote summer festivities. This is great for the high season, but won’t necessarily attract guests looking for winter rentals. Update your photos, property descriptions and amenities to up-sell your winter welcome.

Ensure the beds have really warm duvets, throws and unforgettable sheets (LL Bean Flannel sheets are my personal choice). Provide extra wood for the fireplace (with usage directions and fire extinguisher!). Warm colors and soft lighting will take the cozy factor up a notch and pictures of said ambiance work wonders for your ‘winter retreat’ section on your website, if you have one.

2. Loosen Your Booking Requirements

Travel decisions become impulsive (often booked only days in advance) with shorter stays. If you typically require weekly reservations, offer nightly rates to promote last minute weekend getaways. The goal is to become attractive to a larger audience, with less flexible schedules.

3. Make Sure Your Pricing is Competitive

It’s really easy to price too high in fall and winter. Resist the temptation! With so many vacation rentals vying for the dwindling market, potential guests won’t give your home a second glance if your rates aren’t accurate reflections of the season.

Park City

4. Offer Compelling Events & Activities for Guests

Research festivals, concerts, tours and events in your area so you have plenty of attractions for your potential guests. Is there a local University? Understand their events calendar and how your home rental can fill a market need.

Develop promotions with these organizations, inclusive of your vacation rental. I love working with the Park City Chamber of Commerce (which also acts as the Tourist Bureau) to develop marketing packages for press visits and other planned promotions during the off season.

Also, don’t overlook the importance of seasonal activities offered at your home. A hot tub, snowshoes and sleds are really fun and great additions for winter rentals. They will quickly pay for themselves.

5. Pay Attention to Economic & Travel Trends

According to the U.S. Travel Association, 41% of American workers do not plan to use all of their paid time off (PTO) in 2014. Although 96% of those interviewed agreed on the importance of vacation, 33% say they “cannot afford” it.

By keeping a pulse on larger trends, you will be able to identify new opportunities to attract business. If more travelers feel inclined, for one reason or another, to forfeit extended Bahamian winter trips for a weekend getaway closer to home, how can you capture their attention?

Be creative, flexible and have fun creating options to attract out of season guests. They will appreciate the effort and they will return.