The last of our four annual, complimentary 2015 Homeowner Forums recently concluded at the Cape Cod Sea Camps in Brewster. The Forum sessions were kicked off on the Vineyard in mid-September, followed by one at our main offices in Wellesley on October 17, before resuming the following weekend in Brewster with morning and afternoon sessions.
New this year, the Brewster morning session was streamed live for those who were unable to attend the Forums in person. For any of you who missed it, you can now view the 2015 Homeowner Forum video of the live stream, which has been edited and condensed.
After Jeff Talmadge, co-owner of WeNeedaVacation.com, welcomed everyone and introduced our staff, CIO Jim Reese presented the 2015 Cape and Islands vacation rental booking and pricing statistics: how did bookings this year compare to last year, did homeowners raise their weekly rates, and, if so, by how much, and was there any weakening in pricing as the season approached.
Staff members then addressed select questions that had been posed by homeowners when they registered for the Forum. Co-owner, Joan Talmadge, began by discussing the popular topic of pricing your home accurately and how much to charge repeat tenants.
Joan was followed by Elizabeth Weedon, who addressed homeowners’ concerns about the impact of guest reviews, how to solicit them from our tenants, and how to avoid receiving a negative review. Starting with a brief outline of how we process every vacationer-entered guest review submitted, she not only emphasized how vitally important guest reviews have become to the success of booking vacation homes, but she also offered suggestions about how to get your tenants to submit reviews.
Segueing from Elizabeth’s caution to return security deposits as quickly as possible, Joan suggested a number of issues to keep in mind when contemplating the withholding of all or some of a vacationer’s security deposit. She cautioned attendees to accept instances of “normal wear and tear” rather than the repercussions of retaining even a small portion of a security deposit.
Staff photographer, social media marketing expert, and homeowner consultant, Becky Fischer, from our Brewster office spoke next about valuable ways for homeowners to set their listing apart from their competition. In addition to urging all to provide plenty of high-quality photos and even video to respond to vacationer demand, she also suggested the use of social media to augment your marketing efforts.
Becky announced the recent launch of our About the Owner feature, which provides a valuable opportunity for homeowners to connect with prospective tenants by portraying their homes from a unique and more personal perspective.
Jim Reese spoke about the importance of responding promptly to inquiries and ways to expedite the inquiry process, including the use of our new Text Alert feature enabling you to be notified more quickly about vacationer inquiries.
Joan provided advice about how to screen your prospective tenants to assure a good fit in your home. She assured homeowners that it is their prerogative to say “no” to young adults or anyone whom your intuition senses may cause problems in your home, and she provided some very tactful tips on how to do so.
From our enthusiastic marketing expert, Tyler Pyburn, attendees learned about some of the exciting new ways in which our company is marketing our website and your homes. These include the use of targeted email campaigns to our database of over 70,000 vacationers, whose search preferences we can track and address, as well as the launch of our vacationer blog. He also announced our first-ever “We Need a DREAM Vacation” sweepstakes, in which we will be awarding a week’s vacation in one of our beachfront properties next summer. Tyler concluded with a showing of our “Get Back” marketing campaign video, which was a big hit with the crowd.
The presentation concluded with an update on the proposed lodging tax issue before the Forum was opened up for general questions and comments by homeowners.
Lauren Binder, from our Wellesley office, was on hand to respond to questions and provide added insights. And staff member Taryn Quigley from our Brewster office greeted homeowners and provided them with informational packets, including a list of fellow attendees, some helpful managing and marketing information, and flyers from our 2015 Forum sponsors, Cape Cod Linen Rental, Mayflower Cleaning, and Nauset Disposal. Copies of some of the handouts can be accessed from our 2015 Homeowner Forum web page.