No, I don’t mean the popular book, 50 Shades of Grey that probably describes what happens at our vacation homes. Oh! That’s a visual none of us want to think about…
What I am talking about are eliminating as many of the pain points of owning a VR by making solid decisions. Eliminating the grey areas & going for black and white. Doing a little work now to save you time & worry later.
If thoughts like “What should I do?”, “How do I handle this?”, “This guest wants me to do what?” are an everyday occurrence then keep reading.
The goal is to make decisions once, and stick to your plan. If you have to reconsider 5 different options for each guest, you are making life much harder on yourself than need be. If you leave things to chance, things will go wrong. Set up systems that allow you to automate as much as possible.
Some popular Vacation Rental Shades of Grey and what to do about them:
1. Waiting for “Checks in the Mail” (and holding dates for people)
This is a tragedy. The worst “grey area” infraction of them all. You know the story: A guest says they have a “check & signed contract in the mail” while you turn down another renter who is ready to pay. Of course, the first check never comes, and the second one finds another place in the mean time. All because you don’t accept Credit Cards or eChecks that can be sent immediately online. In today’s world a guest should be able to book your place in 5 minutes over the Internet. Once you make it so your place is not reserved until both payment & contract are received electronically (NOT by mail) your life will be SO MUCH BETTER. You will know, without a doubt, who is a legit renter and who is not. Hoping a check comes is not a strategy.
2. Accepting Pets (Without a Profitable Pet Fee)
Pets are a huge Shades of Grey issue. Many owners “consider” pets, meaning they have to take each potential guest’s pets on a case by case basis. This is a huge time suck. “What breed is it? Has it been treated for fleas?” Blah, blah, blah. I highly recommend if you do decide to accept pets to have a pet fee that fairly compensates you for your time, stress and the extra wear & tear on your house. And yes, damage will happen at some point. Kennels cost money. A dog sitter costs money. People regularly pay extra for their pets. Don’t be afraid to get paid, and paid well. Personally I’ve allowed dogs, but now do not. It’s a huge burden off my plate, easier for my cleaners, better for my neighbors, and I don’t waste 1 minute worrying or considering pets. Case closed! Oh, and yes, my rental numbers are stronger than ever, as many renters want a cleaner pet-free place. So either charge a profitable fee, or just say NO altogether.
3. Allowing Too Many Guests in your Vacation Rental.
Figure out what your maximum occupancy should be. For the inside of the VR consider the number & size of beds, how many people your house can handle taking hot showers, etc. Also consider the impact on the number of people will have on the outside of the house: Number of cars, as well as impact on the neighbors. Generally the bigger the group, the higher likely hood of them being loud or causing issues with the neighbors. Playing nice with the neighbors is very important for the long term health of your business! Set a maximum occupancy, maximum cars if that applies, and stick to it. Need to enforce it? Get an outdoor security camera! This way, at least if people break your max occupancy, you can rightfully charge them for it, either a fee of your choice or the entire deposit.
4. Using an Old Fashioned Key
If you are an out of town owner, even using a lock box is a very grey area. First you have to rely on someone else to change the code. This can be a very bad situation if a guest shows up and the code doesn’t work, and you happen to be unreachable for some reason. Or like me, you could get a call in the middle of a first date. You can imagine what a great first impression that left. Also, real keys can be copied very easily. You may have several floating around for cleaners, etc. Obviously this is not a secure situation. Sure, you can re-key the locks. I did that once and it was $250. Or there is this doozy of a story that could have been avoided. The way to eliminate all that nonsense is with a Keyless lock. Totally secure. Generate individual codes for each guest on the fly from your smartphone. Easy peasy. Here is the lock I use and highly recommend: ResortLock. I literally can’t think of one downside in comparison to regular keys. Can you?
5. Having Poor or Too Few Photos and Not Fully Describing Everything on Your Listing
This leaves your guests wondering what they are really getting. If you are lucky enough that they even bother to inquire, this may lead to back and forth via phone or email about what you have or don’t have. Why waste both of your time? By the time your guests call you to book, they should already know the basics. Spend a little extra time upfront to nail down the details of your listing. This will not only increase your inquires & bookings, but save you time in the long run.
What are some other “Shades of Grey” issues have you successfully avoided with a good policy or practice?