A Thought-Provoking Conversation Homeowners Need To Have With Their Vacation Rental Property Managers
1. One, Two, or Three Night Rentals. Every property manager worth his salt knows bad business is better than no business. Plus they can keep cleaning crews and in-house maintenance workers more employed (twice a week cleans vs once a week) and making dollars off your cleaning & additional add-on hidden ‘resort’ fees. The only problem is the home owner’s home may become a weekend party retreat. Why not let the folks looking for cheaper homes find another property? As a general rule, stick with seven-night minimum family vacations. Who knows, you may end up having more seven-night rentals once you stop booking weekend rentals. We certainly did!
2. Make Dead Certain Your PM Gets An Immediate Phone Confirmation of Guest Number, No Pets & Vehicle Limits. Seconds after we high five another booking, I immediately get on the phone and congratulate our new guest! Equally, no, more importantly, I confirm the maximum number of guests as per City Code ordinance, our pet policy, and the maximum number of vehicles. Ever noticed how many trucks the size of a city block are now parked along the streets? Often, the PM never mentions the maximum vehicle restrictions to their guests. This is why on average two homes per week have to find extra parking in our neighborhood alone. By-the-way, if your home only sleeps ten people and there are six or more vehicles, guess what? The number of vehicles offers you important info if you want to maintain your home. Overcrowding your home will take a mighty toll on your home especially with your plumbing and A/C systems. Not to mention your increased utilities. One beachfront home was so overcrowded last year they had a half dozen or so guests sleeping on cots in the garage. No kidding!
3. Your Contract Must Have the Maximum Number of People in your House In Bold! Once a person books your home they often feel they have full rein. Don’t give them a reason to believe they can blast in and take-over your home after the booking. In our contract, not only is this section in bold, but we also make it bluntly clear any number of guests above our maximum is grounds for immediate eviction as per Destin City Ordinance (Number 18-29-cc Section 13-117).
4. Phone Call & Check-In Instructions Days Before Arrival. I’ve found guests enjoy being kept informed of their upcoming vacation week. With that, the week of their check-in, guests should be called to confirm any special arrangements and (again) the number of guests and vehicles. This way there are no surprises. You never know how many new guests are added to the list after the bookings. This is the time to confirm everyone is honest. No surprises!
5. No Pets! There is no bigger fan of pets than me. Our dog is number one in our family. Well, almost. But unfortunately, I’ve seen dogs unleashed chasing after other neighborhood dogs, unleashed & leashed dogs urinating in neighbor’s yards. I have 2 dead grass stains from a dog’s urination now as I’m writing this. I dare not mention possible allergic reactions with new guests. Cleaning pet hair requires a deep clean. Unfortunately, normally there’s not enough time on Saturdays.
6. Every Home Owner Must Read Their Reviews! This may be the only time you see what’s going on in your home. Are your guests being welcomed with stained linens, torn furniture, broken down beds, or inadequate house cleaning? This is your report card not only on your home but also your property manager. Reading your reviews will be the best resource for how you can improve your guests’ experience. Don’t bury your head in the sand… this is an absolute must! No matter how beautiful your home is, no one likes an unclean home!
7. In the booking months, largely January through May, check the PM website and VRBO to confirm the booking rates are acceptable. I have known owners who were shocked to find their property was cheaply listed as a less than seven-night rental in June. Most PM’s use dynamic rental pricing software programs that dictate rental pricing based on supply and demand. Much like airlines and hotels. So do I. Make sure your PM has a minimum per night rental price. I’ve seen beautiful large homes with cheaper per night prices than motels down the street.
8. You Need To Visit Your Home (Or Have Someone You Trust) At least Several Times Per Year. I’ve been in homes and found loose electrical wall outlets dangling. Often property managers have young hourly wage earners with many homes they need to walk through on a chaotic Saturday. Do you honestly believe they’re going to spend an hour or so inspecting your home?
9. Clean Grills. Ok, admittedly, I may be a maniac when it comes to grills but everyone is using them now after COVID. Are your grills cleaned? Ideally, you should have your grill professionally cleaned or power washed every Saturday. Not only that, but I also vacuum the inside of the grill before placing the grates back in. Unclean grills are a fire hazard and attract roaches and rats.
10. All About Relationships. No guests will have a sincere interest in you or your home unless you first have a sincere interest in them. It means acting in their best interest at all times. From the moment they book your property until the moment they pull out of your driveway upon their departure. It means being available 24/7 and voicemail’s don’t count unless they’re promptly returned. As Zig Ziglar once said, “The more you do for others, you cannot help from helping yourself.”
11. Property Managers Should Meet & Greet Every Guest! On Saturdays, the property host will remain in contact with our arriving guests with updates. All to say, when the guests finally pull up and park in their vacation home driveway, the guests are welcomed with a brief five-minute tour. Their questions about the home, neighborhood, groceries, restaurants, or Destin are easily answered all-the-while creating a life-time client. Plus they are much more likely to treat your home as their own now that they know you truly care.
12. COVID Cleaning & Refunds. Every homeowner who cannot keep their reservation due to Destin’s beach closings and/or governor short term rental bans deserve to have their hard-earned money refunded. It’s how I would want to be treated. So would you. If you have to look at it from a business perspective, then think ‘long -term.’ By refunding money back when cancellations are due to no fault of their own, I now have long-term loyal guests like never before. Not convinced? Look at valued rental guests as their true marginal net-worth to you over time. Meaning if a guest rents from you on average 4 times over their lifetime their value is exponentially increased 4x. Again, think long term and you’ll always be on the ‘right’ side. You also have to ask yourself if you want unhappy or angry guests in your home?
By Larry Fowler