Managing Your Vacation Rental

Virtual Owner Series Meeting: Preparing your Rental Home

Written by Elizabeth Weedon
5/5 - (3 votes)

In our recent Owner Series Zoom meeting, my colleague, Carrie Hillman, and I presented a number of tips to assist rental homeowners in preparing their homes and welcoming their guests for the rental season. Here’s a full video recording of the meeting:

And here’s a recap of what we discussed.

Preparing your home

Cleaning: Everything starts with a deep, spring cleaning. Along with safety, cleanliness is THE biggest concern for vacationers. And if you don’t start with a thorough cleaning at the outset, your home will never be adequately cleaned during the brief time afforded by your turnovers. For some helpful tips, including a downloadable cleaning checklist, see our post about cleaning.

Linens and towels: Look carefully at whatever linens and/or towels you provide. Make sure none are stained or torn or just look old and shabby. If so, replace them.

The kitchen: Take stock of your kitchen, its appliances, utensils, pots and pans, etc. Make sure you have enough and that everything is really clean.

Bugs and mice: If possible, hire a pest control company. Not only does it give you bragging rights that your home has been professionally treated, but they often will return free of charge if there are any issues during the season.

Check in with your service providers: These are your team members! Your success depends on them. Make sure they are on the same page as you, understand what your needs are, and what’s important to you. And show some empathy about how challenging their jobs are with the time constraints, staffing issues, traffic, and the heat.

Stocking the home for the season: In addition to kitchen supplies (seasonings, coffee items, etc., if you provide them), also stock up on paper products and soaps (e.g., hand, dish, dishwasher, detergent), and make sure your dish towels, pot holders, and bathmats are all clean and fresh.  (Read more.)

Your entertainment amenities: Be sure your BBQ grill and/or firepit are clean and in good working order. And take a look at your outdoor and indoor games, beach chairs/umbrella(s), toys, beach ball, etc. Read more information about how to improve your guests’ experience in your home .

Spend a night or two in your home: Many issues can get overlooked if you aren’t able to stay in your home overnight: light bulbs that are out, overhead light fixtures that are dirty with trapped bugs, inadequate lighting. Read more.

Communication prior to your guests’ arrival

We constantly stress the vital importance of good communication with your guests before, during, and after their stays with you. (Learn more)

Before they arrive, be sure to:

  • Confirm their reservation to prevent date and time mix-ups. Ask for their ETAs and ETDs. If your home is on one of the Islands, ask what time their ferries are.
  • Get their cell phone numbers! This is critical for your ability to connect with them while they are on the road or in your home. Preferably, get more than one.
  • Give them instructions on how to access your home, even directions to get there if GPS is known to be faulty for your location.
  • If you don’t provide linens, remind them not to forget to bring them and what the bed sizes are.
  • Especially if the guests are first-time visitors, warn them about bridge traffic and ferry situations.

Many vacationers like to plan ahead, so be sure to share with them events and things to do during their stay. Make it easy on yourself by sharing our Events Calendar with them. It allows them to search by location and dates. Learn more.

Don’t forget to check in after their arrival, too! Are they finding everything ok? Are they happy? This is very important, and simply telling them to contact you if they have any questions is woefully inadequate. Sometimes vacationers submit a scathing guest review rather than confront the owner/manager while they’re at the home, even though something could have been done about the problem. Checking in with your guests is the very best defense against a negative review.

Welcome Letter/Book

Every home should greet their guests with some kind of Welcome letter or book. Not only is it a necessary courtesy, but it’s your opportunity to inform them about essential information such as:

  • How your home operates and where things are (Internet password, vacuum, trash pick-up, how to recycle, etc.)
  • Your contact info along with emergency instructions
  • Nearby grocery stores and pharmacies
  • Local events and things to do, restaurant and takeout recommendations or menus
  • Your check-out requirements – linens, trash, kitchen, checking outdoor shower and closets for forgotten articles, locking up, etc. Keep in mind, your guests may not know what you expect of them on their departure unless you’re very clear about it. Here’s a sample of some check-out requirements might might consider:

Welcome gift ideas

Welcome gifts are not a necessity! But offering them contributes nicely to the “customer experience” we’re always promoting to homeowners.

It’s not easy logistically for many owners/managers to leave something for each guest, especially if they manage from afar. Sometimes cleaners are willing to put out a Welcome Basket or Gift during each turnover as long as the owner has packaged them at the beginning of the season.

Here are some suggestions for gifts:

  • Cape Cod Coffee
  • Jam from farmers markets or local farms
  • Cape Cod Chips
  • Chocolates or fudge
  • Saltwater taffy
  • Local cheeses, cookies, etc.
  • Kids toys like bubbles, beach toys, crayons, coloring books, little games
  • Puzzles
  • Wine (but be mindful of the issues related to alcohol)

Read more about Welcome Gift ideas.

Where to shop

Here are some suggestions about where to pick up fairly inexpensive items:

  • Ocean State Job Lot
  • Christmas Tree shops
  • Home Goods
  • Grocery stores
  • Target
  • Snows Home and Garden in Orleans
  • Granite Stores in Edgartown

About the author

Elizabeth Weedon

Elizabeth Weedon - Although I’ve worked for 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.