Managing Your Vacation Rental

Recap of the April 12, 2022 Virtual Owner Meeting

Written by Elizabeth Weedon
Recap of the April 12, 2022 Virtual Owner Meeting
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Below is a recap of part of the Virtual Owner Meeting we held on Tuesday evening April 12, 2022.  After the presentation by Joan Talmadge and me, the meeting was opened up to the attendees to ask questions or comment.

View the full recording, including follow-up questions and comments from homeowners, here:

Presentation Recap

Introduction

Lending support to the housing crisis. Many of our WNAV team members will be participating in the 3-mile Walk for Hope in Orleans on Sunday, May 22 at 1 pm. This is an annual walk sponsored by the nonprofit Housing Assistance for Cape Cod. Their goal is to raise $100,000. Come cheer us on, or donate to help support this great cause.

We’ve moved! As some of you may know, we’ve moved our office from Brewster to a new one in Orleans, right next to the Chocolate Sparrow! The Orleans Chamber is helping us promote our new location with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and an open house on Sunday, May 29 at 11 am. So, if you’re in the area, stop in at 29 Main St., and say hi!

The current state of the rental market. You are probably aware, if you read our April newsletter on Sunday, that we are detecting a cooling of the recent very hot rental market. (Read our Blog post Is the rental market beginning to soften?)

At the end of 2020, the first year of the pandemic, we reported that the vacationer activity was 3 times what it was in 2019. The result was that you saw a huge surge in inquiries and could have rented key summer weeks many times over. Even the shoulder season traffic was record breaking. Then a year ago, we reported that bookings were up 2 times over 2020, setting even new records. We knew that that activity level was unsustainable and that eventually it would return to a more normal pace. It’s still way above where we were pre-pandemic, but it’s certainly less frenetic.

We had very strong booking activity for this summer starting last fall and straight through January, so many of you are probably in very good shape. But if you are new on our site or didn’t renew until recently, you may well have availability for this season.

We also have to consider pricing. While the demand is no longer soaring like it was in the past two years, we have seen prices soar. The normal price increase over the past 25 years has been about 2-3%. But consider what’s happened in the last three years: the lodging tax in 2019 increased prices by between 10 and nearly 15%. Homeowners increased their rates an average of 6% from 2020 to 2021, and then a whopping 10% from 2021 to 2022. That adds up to a nearly 30% increase in just 3 years! And then you can add in record-breaking inflation.

The bottom line is that, if you still have availability and are not getting the inquiries you expected, you might take a look at your pricing, take a look at your competition, and react soon. Here are some Tips to Fill Remaining Vacancies.

Questions from our Homeowners

1. When should we reduce our rates as we get closer to summer?

This is very much an individual decision. If you have a large home, be aware that bookings occur earlier and begin to wane the closer we get to the season. Smaller homes tend to book much closer to the season and even last minute, so you might want to hold off on lowering your prices if your home is smaller.

Keep in mind that the Islands are more challenging and need to book as early as possible because of the ferry situation.

Keep in mind also that some weeks are more popular than others. Here’s a graph of the summer weeks alone, where the beginning and last week of the summer are still showing a considerable amount of availability as of mid-April.

If you do reduce your price, be sure to post a free Owner Special to highlight the reduction. Vacationers love a bargain!

For more information, view our Blog post When should you consider lowering your prices?

2. How can I have my listing appear at the top of vacationers’ search results.

Your Listing Rating is one of the key determinants in our Search sort order. Your rating is based on the quality of your listing (not the quality of your home).

The most important criteria are your Response Rate/Time, calendar updated, and guest reviews.

So, check out your listing quality audit where you’ll find our suggestions for improving your rating. Most of them are free, and they’re easy to implement.

3. What can I do if a vacationer’s email inquiry does not include their phone number? 

We used to require a phone number, but as cell phone use increased, many vacationers were reluctant to give out their cell phone and chose not to inquire after all. So, we stopped requiring them.

If the vacationer doesn’t provide their phone number in their inquiry, answer any questions they ask, but then request a phone conversation to make sure that you answer any of their questions and mutually decide that they are a good fit for your home.

4. How can we educate our renters on mitigating their impact on the Cape and Islands environment?  

First and foremost, set the example by having a green home yourself! Your listing will get a special designation if you have 6 or more of the 8 green amenities. (Read more here.)

Vacationers can actually see a list of our green homes.

Also, be sure to leave detailed instructions re: recycling, AC use, etc., and, if possible, explain that you are asking for their cooperation in order to protect this fragile environment.

5. What are some winning marketing ideas to capture shoulder season bookings?  

The first thing to consider is reducing the minimum stay to 2 or 3 nights, especially if you have a large home. Promote the events that are planned and the many benefits of the off-season with still beautiful weather and fewer crowds.

And be sure to consider your prices. You will have far more competition for renters in the shoulder season than for the peak summer weeks. A rule of thumb is that the shoulder season rates are usually between 60 and 75% of the summer weeks.

Post an Owner Special to highlight reduced prices or special offers.

For more information, read our Blog post Attracting Shoulder Season Rentals.

6. Our maintenance costs (e.g., turnover cleaning, trash and recycling) are the same for 3-4 night rentals as they are for longer stays, but our income is less. Any advice? 

This is true, but there are ways to mitigate the imbalance. For starters, be sure to charge a high enough nightly price to make it worth it to you. In other words, don’t simply charge 1/7 of your weekly rate to determine the nightly rate.

We often hear that homeowners are able to book 2 or 3 short stays within a week. If you charge enough per diem, you’ll make out at least as well as with a weekly booking.

Some owners charge for the turnover cleanings in the shoulder season but not in summer.

Just keep in mind that there is SO much more competition in the shoulder seasons, so you have to weigh the risks of not filling your home.

Again, for more information, read our Blog post Attracting Shoulder Season Rentals.

7. We inform prospective guests about our outdoor security cameras. How can we reduce any anxiety they might have about this? 

Communication is key – be sure to inform them early in the booking process, before they commit, and include mention of it in the lease. That way, you can prove that they were informed.

Keep in mind, security cameras are commonly used today. Many renters have them in their own homes.

Spin it as a benefit for your guests. The cameras are to protect them, too.

8. What are some smart technology solutions that won’t break the bank? 

Take a look at our Blog post: Technology Advances for your Home.

Keyless door locks, remote climate control (via phone), smart TVs and other streaming devices are some examples of ways to make your home “smarter.” The products available vary in cost and installation difficulty.

Here is a post about one good product that we researched: Do You Have a Minut?

9. How can we differentiate ourselves, as small property owners, from the big properties? 

The search does it for you! Vacationers looking for smaller properties are not going to see larger homes in their search results. We have a lot of smaller homes. The question is more importantly, how to differentiate your home from the other small homes.

The answer? Regardless of the size or value of your rental home, do everything you can to market it well. Whatever effort you put into your listing significantly impacts your booking results. For more information, read about our Tips to Fill Remaining Vacancies as mentioned above.

And check out your Listing Quality Audit in your Homeowner Center to see the quality of your listing and any tips to improve it.

Remember, not everyone is looking for a large, expensive home. Smaller homes tend to book closer to the season and also do better in shoulder season than the large homes.

10. Tips for working with our service providers: house cleaners, landscapers, gardeners, electricians, plumbers, etc.

  • Select reputable ones – interview them, ask for references, compare.
  • Meet with them, if possible. Give them specific directions, set expectations.
  • Line them up early.
  • Communicate with them during the season! Check in to make sure they are happy and not encountering any recurring issues in your home. Show empathy for how hard they work.
  • Treat them well – it’s been a challenging couple of years.

Need some references? Visit our Home Services Directory.

Read more tips from our post: Hiring Professional Service Providers.

 

About the author

Elizabeth Weedon

Elizabeth Weedon - Although I’ve worked for WeNeedaVacation.com since 2008, I’ve been a loyal homeowner on the site since early 1998, just a few months after the website was launched by the Talmadges. I grew up summering on the Vineyard and have managed my family's rental home there since the mid-1980’s. I’m passionately devoted to the Vineyard – and to WeNeedaVacation.com, which I credit with enabling me to hold onto the special property that has been in our family since the 1920’s. An enthusiastic member of the WNAV.com Homeowner Support Team, I am particularly involved with our new listers, providing assistance with the sign-up process and advice about how to create the most effective listing to ensure their booking success with us. And, with owner Joan Talmadge, I am also responsible for editing and writing much of the content on our website, our monthly newsletters, and the blog posts. Email Elizabeth

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