At this year’s Homeowner Forum, Gaining the Competitive Edge, we examined new as well as tried-and-true ways to distinguish your vacation rental property from your competition. In his recent blog post, Tyler Pyburn described how the first half of the Forum discussed the steps we should take to make our listings stand out and how we can increase our listings’ exposure to vacationers. The second half of the Forum, however, focused on ways we should manage our properties: With a small amount of effort, we can assure the comfort and enjoyment of our guests so that they either return the following year or at least post a glowing review to entice other vacationers.
I will walk through the management section below, but if you prefer to listen, here is a podcast that Tyler Pyburn and I recorded about the same topic –
Co-owner Joan Talmadge began by pointing out that, not only is the vacation rental industry a lot more competitive than it used to be, but that vacationers’ expectations are also much higher than in the past. Successful renting now requires our getting into the mindset of our guests: learning what their needs are and how we can best provide for them. We really need to treat our renters as guests, not as paying tenants.
Lauren Binder, who has been part of our Homeowner Support Team for over 13 years, then described a story that we call “Blendergate.” Lauren’s story, involving a tenant who complained of “having a bad experience with the blender,” is an example of how important it is to go the extra mile for our guests, particularly when we encounter an extraordinarily demanding or complaining one. When Lauren’s offer to pay for her guest to buy a brand new blender failed to appease her tenant, she made arrangements for her cleaner to buy one, deliver it to the home, and remove the other one, which turned out to be perfectly good. Despite Lauren’s conviction that her guest was being inept and unreasonable, she also realized that it was in her best interests to placate her guest.
Lauren also recounted the story of homeowners listed with us who were blindsided by a negative review from their guests this summer. They have a lovely home that accommodates 12, but these guests were very disappointed to find only 2 wine glasses (the rest were plastic) and some maintenance issues. Naturally, the homeowners were very upset and told us, “Ah, we have a whole case of new wine glasses in the attic!” After working with the owners to resolve the problems, they wrote us, “You made me realize that this is really a business……and we need to protect our brand. We never really thought of it like that before.” We impressed on them not only the need to maintain their home well but also the importance of checking in with their guests shortly after their arrival to make sure they are happy and to be able to respond to any questions or concerns their guests may have – BEFORE it turns into a negative review!
As the third member of our Homeowner Support Team, I shared a story in which my guests encountered an unexpected problem in my home. Because I had made concerted efforts to get to know them and personalize our “business” relationship prior to the incident, however, a potentially disastrous situation was resolved quickly and amicably. Rather than complain and be justly furious about the situation, the couple actually felt sympathetic to MY plight and stated their preference to stay in the home overnight – without either electricity or even water! Thankfully, due to the efforts of the amazing team of service providers I had in place, my basement was drained of the 2 ½ feet of water, and the electrician and plumber were able to restore both water and electricity by dinnertime! Of course, I was totally lucky that the guests who experienced the problem were wonderful, compassionate folks, but it certainly helped that my husband and I had gotten to know them on a personal level beforehand. Not every property owner or manager is able to meet their guests face-to-face, but whatever efforts can be made to personalize their relationship with their guests can really make a difference if something unexpected happens.
Joan concluded the Forum presentation with some valuable tips to ensure your guests’ comfort in your home. These included stocking your home with paper products, seasonings, and other basic supplies and leaving a welcome gift or basket if possible. Underscoring the importance of having positive guest reviews on your listing, she pointed out how often positive reviews mention the homeowners’ attention to detail, their “personal touches,” and how clean and well maintained the home is. She remarked that the size or age of the home makes no difference, citing one great review that said, “This home is simply furnished, yet comfortable. It’s basic, but has everything you need. It’s small, but it’s big on charm!”
So, what are the take-aways from these and other vacation rental stories?
- Learn what you can about your prospective guests.
- Go the extra mile, even if you don’t feel your guests’ demands are warranted.
- Communicate with your guests before, during, and after their arrival.
- Provide welcome gifts if you can or anything else that might improve their stay based on what you know of them.
- Make sure you have a great service provider support team in case of an emergency.
And remember: good managing tactics lead to the successful marketing of your home!
If you missed the Forum or would like to go back and watch again you can find the video here.