Top Takeaways from the Summer of COVID-19

Written by Elizabeth Weedon
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Wow, what a rental season it’s been on the Cape and Islands! In a matter of weeks, rental homeowners went from real concerns about having to shut down their ability to rent at all, to receiving historically-record-breaking demand from vacationers. As the rental season opened, it was apparent that some pretty significant changes were going to be necessary to pull it off. What were they? And, are they going to be permanent?

The pandemic’s most significant impacts on the 2020 rental season

Cleaning: Already one of the most important responsibilities in managing an STR, cleaning this year was taken to a whole different level. Homeowners were required to follow the CDC’s guidelines to not only clean and sanitize but also disinfect their homes for each guest. Read our post about Cleaning during the pandemic.

Cancellations: Homeowners and vacationers alike were forced to work out cancellation requests from both parties. The unprecedented situation forced a reexamination of years-old, tried-and-true cancellation policies. Read our post about Cancellation policies during the pandemic.

Communication: We have always advocated that homeowners be as communicative as possible with their guests. But this year, open and frequent communication was of critical importance. The impact of the pandemic was emotional as well as logistical and financial. Homeowners needed to advise their guests of any changes to their cancellation policies, check-in and check-out times, their cleaning protocols, etc. But they also needed to reassure their guests that every effort was being taken to protect their health and safety. Read our post about the importance of communicating with your guests during the pandemic.

Creating a buffer between guests: Originally, it was believed that there was a higher degree of risk in transmitting the virus from material surfaces, prompting some booking sites to require a minimum of between 24 and 72 hours between guests. When that risk was no longer believed to be high, even a 24-hour buffer was no longer deemed necessary. A somewhat longer-than-normal turnover time, however, was still advised in order for hosts and their cleaning/disinfecting teams to adequately prepare the properties between guests. Most homeowners opted to either require their guests to leave an hour or so earlier or to check in a couple of hours later than normal. Read our post about Flexible Booking Strategies.

Coping with linens: Under the new Mass. guidelines, homeowners were urged to use pillow and mattress protectors and to launder them, as well as any bed coverings, before each rental party’s arrival. This prompted many homeowners to no longer provide sheets and towels as they traditionally had. There was simply too much laundry to process during a turnover. Some homeowners even asked their guests to bring pillows, bedspreads, and blankets. And many vacationers were happy to comply with having to bring their own bed linens.  Read our post about Mandatory safety standards & recommended best practices for Short-term Rentals.

Clutter removal: Homeowners were urged to remove as much clutter, including keepsakes, pictures, books, games, etc., as possible. Although we have promoted clutter-free homes for years (based on vacationers’ preferences), the need for stripped-down homes was even greater in order to allow professional cleaners to do their jobs more easily and thoroughly. Read our post about The Problem with Clutter.

Are the changes here to stay?

Cleaning: Although extremely thorough cleaning will always be a priority, it’s likely that the need for disinfecting will subside as the pandemic does. Keep in mind, however, that vacationers’ will undoubtedly be even more concerned about cleanliness than they used to be pre-COVID.

Cancellations: Many homeowners will revert back to their pre-COVID cancellation policies, refunding rental deposits only if/when the cancelled dates are rebooked by another party. The difference is that we recommend they also include a clause indicating a willingness to make an exception for a pandemic-related issue such as the health of a member of the rental party, a temporary ban on rentals, etc.

Communication: Again, we always have, and always will, strongly promote excellent communications between homeowners and their guests. But if/when there are ever any unusual circumstances that might cause confusion or anxiety in their guests, it’s even more critical to be open, accessible, pro-active, reassuring, and generally communicative.

Creating a buffer between guests: Hopefully, as the pandemic recedes, the need for extraordinary measures to prepare rental homes will also dissipate somewhat. Thus, there will not be the same need to extend the time between guests.

Coping with linens: It’s hard to say what homeowners will do regarding linens in subsequent years. It’s possible that they will resume providing bed linens and towels if they did in the past. But it’s also likely that many will feel that it’s just too time-consuming – not to mention the added utility expense and burden on the local environment.

Clutter removal: Again, knowing vacationers’ distaste for clutter in a rental home, we’re hoping that homeowners will continue to present a clutter-free home.

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 managed my family's rental home there since the mid-1980’s. I’m passionately devoted to the Vineyard – and to WeNeedaVacation, which I credit with enabling me to hold onto the special property that has been in our family for nearly a century. An enthusiastic member of the WNAV Homeowner Support Team, I endeavor to keep my finger on the pulse of the Cape and Islands vacation rental industry so that I can provide homeowners advice about how to ensure their booking success with us. With owner Joan Talmadge, I am also responsible for editing and writing much of the text on our website, our monthly newsletters, and Homeowner Blog posts.