Guide to Property RentingIndex:
Furnishings and Equipment
Preparing an Information Pack
Vacation Rental Management Services
Managing Rentals Yourself
Preparation— Deciding What You Want from a Vacation Rental PropertyIn addition to renting your property to travelers and vacationers, you may also want to spend time there yourself. By having clear objectives in the beginning, you can focus your marketing efforts and attract the kinds of visitors that will make your vacation renting business a positive experience for everyone. Ask yourself these questions:
- What are my financial objectives?
- How often do I want to vacation in my property?
- What types of renters do I want to attract with my marketing?
The kitchen must be fully equipped. Guests appreciate convenience and cleanliness.
- A dishwasher is essential—no one wants to spend their vacation washing dishes.
- A microwave—while not required, is another useful appliance.
- Cupboard—should have basics like salt, pepper, sugar, and nondairy creamer.
- Washing machine and a dryer—not required but it can be very useful, especially if you plan to cater to families or sports enthusiasts.
- Cutlery, glass, china and kitchen utensils—provide at twice the amount required for the maximum number of people the property accommodates.
- Dishcloths, towels, paper towels and napkins—provide a good supply of each.
- Cooking pots and pans, coffee pots and teapots—make sure they are large.
- Supplies—stock coffee filters, sugar and creamer, stirrers, tea bags or tea balls. You might supply some fresh foods like tea, coffee, milk, fruit, bread, or a local specialty.
- Countertops—make them durable and easy to clean.
Beds and sofa beds must be good quality and comfortable. Do not skimp on mattresses, as a poor night’s sleep will be remembered.
- Linens—provide at least two sets for every bed to allow for same-day changeovers. Remember to fold extra blankets and leave one or two additional pillows in the closet or drawer. It’s nice to offer both foam and feather pillows, as some people have allergies or physical conditions that require extra support.
- Mirror—in addition to a mirror in the bathroom, it’s always nice to have a mirror and preferably, a full-length mirror, in the bedroom as well.
- Bedside tables—everyone needs a place to put a book, water glass and glasses. Provide good-quality lighting within reach of the bed.
- Accessories—plan to provide at least one hairdryer, ample hanging space and good quality hangers, and storage space.
- Clean—bathrooms must be spotless. Few things have greater impact on guests.
- Towels&mdahs;ensure a good supply of bathroom towels and washcloths.
- Extras—put extra toilet paper in an easy-to-find place. Avoid stocking numerous varieties of toiletries, soaps, or lotions as guests will likely keep them as souvenirs.
Flooring should be hardwearing and low maintenance. Wooden or tile floors in main living areas are ideal and bathrooms should have tile or cork floors, not carpet. Keep safety in mind:
- Put rug pads or non-skid adhesives under area rugs and throw rugs.
- Choose a tile surface that provides a bit of traction and anchor skid resistant bathmats or rugs next areas that may get wet.
- Place durable mats, scrapers for boots, or a hose for washing off mud and sand, in close proximity to entries. Even a shoe or boot rack for a porch or entryway, can help maintain floor surfaces
- Avoid white floor tiles and light-colored grout if possible.
Small objects like books, vases, flowers, and ornaments can make the property feel more like a home than a hotel room, but do not clutter it with rejects from your main home. Try to maintain an atmosphere appropriate to the location of the vacation home without a heavy-handed theme.
- Personal items—allocate a storage area or cupboard where you can store your own personal items and keep it locked.
- Photos—do not display pictures of you or your family. Guests prefer to feel as if the home they are renting is their own private space, not your family's space.
- Safe—you may consider providing guests with a safe to store their valuables.
Make an Inventory List
The inventory lists all of the furniture and equipment items in the property. While an important document to maintain for insurance purposes, it also serves as proof if items from the property go missing.
Create A Guest Manual
A Guest Manual can provide a tremendous boost to guests’ enjoyment of their vacation by offering a wealth of useful information.
- House rules—these may be specific instructions about garbage disposal, smoking, local noise ordinances, peculiarities about an appliance or septic system, or local parking information. In addition to including in the Guest Manual, post appropriate notices in areas where they make sense.
- Emergency services—provide a list of local fire, police, hospital, veterinarians, and other emergency services and post prominently near a telephone.
- Extra keys—provide an option for leaving an extra key in case guests lock themselves out.
- Local area maps—you can usually obtain these from the local chamber of commerce.
- A list of local resources—the chamber of commerce, tourism offices, car rental, airline, airport, rail and ferry schedules, store hours, farmer’s markets, etc.
- Sports offerings—include the names, telephone numbers, operating hours and special information about local golf courses, swimming areas, beaches, bicycle rentals, horseback riding, ski or other equipment rentals, marine repair, climbing walls, sports arenas and ticket offices, shuttle services, etc.
- Local attractions and shopping—list all noteworthy local attractions with prices for tickets or admission, hours of operation, and telephone numbers. Include local malls, shopping areas, and unique parts of town to make it easy for guests to find what they need.
- Local restaurants—provide a sampling of local eateries, from chain offerings to 5-star gourmet.
- Discount coupons or special offers—if attractions or sports complexes offer discount coupons, you can include these as well.
- Owner’s Favorites—if you have special, off-the-beaten-track favorite things to do, places to eat, or places to shop, share them with guests.
- Remember to review and amend the guest manual from time to time, as they do get out of date.
Keep all receipts for any costs related to your property, so you can offset them against your income tax. Your accountant will be able to tell you which ones you can claim.
Inform your insurance company that your home will be rented. If you must make a claim and have not established the property as a rental with the insurance company, they have every right not to pay. If your property is abroad, you may find that the company that insures your main home will not insure your vacation home. However, there are specialty insurance companies that will be able to help.
If you do not manage the property yourself, you will need a someone to clean and maintain the property as well as deal with guests on the spot. Good property management is essential to a successful rental. See Vacation Rental Management Services below.
Cleaning and Supplies
The importance of cleaning cannot be overemphasized. Guests’ first impression is the most important and most difficult to change. It is essential that the property is thoroughly cleaned between every rental. Change all linenes between rentals and at least at the end of every week. This is usually done at your expense. Regular cleaning at an agreed upon time during extended rentals enables you to keep an eye on your property and avoid a huge cleaning job at the end of the rental. Keep essential supplies well-stocked and ready when the next guests arrive.
You can send out keys and maps, or leave them under the mat, but the best way is to welcome guests in person. Being able to answer guests’ questions on the spot can help avoid problems or complaints later. With cell phones, guests can call about half an hour before arrival, so it is not necessary to have a person wait all day for guests to arrive. If you do not meet people yourself, it’s a good idea to call and introduce yourself a day or so after your guests arrive to check that everything is going well.
If possible, see your guests off or arrange for someone to be at the property when your guests leave. This provides you with the opportunity to assess any damage, check the inventory, read gas or electricity meters and return guests’ deposit.
Providing guests with a short evaluation form enables you to gather candid opinions that will help you continually improve the guest experience at your property. You can leave the form with the information pack, on the nightstand, or mail it to guests’ homes the day they check out (include stamped envelopes or postcards to simplify sending it back). You can also send an e-mail form to the guest upon their return home.
If you do not live nearby, do not have the time, or do not want management responsibility, there are professional management companies that can help with various aspects of your vacation rental.
Full-service Vacation Rental Agencies
A local rental agency can handle everything for you for a service fee, which can range from 30 to 50 percent of the rental income. You receive the rest of the money for the vacation rental. Talk to other property owners in the area to see if they can recommend a good agency.
Verify the following with the agency:
- Will they pay to advertise the property both locally and internationally?
- Will they guarantee a minimum level of bookings?
- Will they interview potential guests to make sure they are suitable?
- Will they inspect the property before and after each rental and do an inventory inspection?
- Do they welcome the guests into your property—rather than just leave the key somewhere?
- Will they organize repairs and maintenance and provide receipts?
- Is their staff on 24-hour call in case of emergencies?
- What price will the agency charge clients and what is their commission?
- Do they require a certain number of peak season weeks be available at the property?
- Will you be charged the full rental fee for personal use of the property?
A booking agency will market the property for you, receive the booking inquiries, and organize payments in any currency. A booking agency will transfer the money into any bank account you specify less a commission, which ranges between 15 and 20 percent. A booking agency may only require that the property be available “on request.” If so, you can reserve availability for yourself at any time.
Verify on your contract:
- How and when you will be notified of bookings and availability
- Agency’s commission structure
- When deposits and full payments will be made
- Cancellation policy
- Procedures for handling complaints
Managing Rentals Yourself
Booking Calendars and Availability Charts
Decide on your changeover date and stick with it. Otherwise, you will be left with a series of part-weeks that you cannot rent. Remember that vacation rental bookings, like hotels, are done on a nightly, not a daily, basis.
Responding to Inquiries
Rapid response to inquiries is not only professional, it’s essential. Potential guests who inquire may quickly book another property if they cannot learn more about yours. Last minute travelers need to quickly secure accommodations before committing to air travel plans.
As soon as you receive an e-mail inquiry, reply with a confirmation of availability (or booked status), answer specific questions posed, and offer to send a complete follow-up pack that includes booking deadlines, payment conditions, arrival and check-out times, and other information.
It is also perfectly acceptable to ask potential guests a few questions to assure that they will be suitable renters:
- How many people in the party?
- Are there any children or pets?
- Is the vacation for a special event?
A reservation is confirmed when the deposit payment is received. Make sure you update your availability chart. Although renters can always send checks for deposits and payments, you can increase your bookings by offering the convenience of accepting credit card deposits and payments. Learn more about accepting credit cards.
Once you have received a booking, use e-mail or letter to follow up the booking with more information:
- Confirm the booking pending receipt of the deposit
- Confirm that you have received the booking deposit
- Request the payment balance
- Send directions to the property only after receiving full payment for the rental
- Arrival instructions, special instructions
Keep detailed records of all communications and bookings on a spreadsheet and maintain a good filing system on your computer. It is helpful to keep separate folders that contain all documents associated with each rental.