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Maintenance v Repairs - Lodging Newsletter May 31, 2021

By Wm, May
Published: 05/31/21 Topics: AirBnB, Branding, Channel Management, Lodging Newsletter, Vacation Rental Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

The vacation rental industry is really a fun business to be in. It really is.

Of course, it is also a lot of work. A lotta lotta work. First, we need desirable vacation homes to rent out. They come in all sizes and shapes. There is a market for most any kind of property.

Rustic cabin in the woods? Yes, people love to get away.

Modern condo in the city? Yes, a place to center urban sightseeing.

Chalets in the mountains? Yes, where ski bums lay their sleepy heads each night.

Bungalows by the sea? Yes, so visitors can get to the beach easily.

A tiny home just about anywhere? Yes, but who would have predicted that?

Since our first operation opened in 1964, bit by bit, more and more of the public suddenly realize the advantages of staying in a nice multi-room place, complete with kitchen, bedrooms, bath and living areas. And, it's even better if the home has a great location, TV and internet. Or better still if there is a pool, a hot tub or other amenities.

But even though it’s a fun industry, and even though 99% of our job leaves smiles on the faces of guests and owners alike, the remaining 1% of our job is dealing with an unavoidable conclusion.

Properties need maintenance unavoidably.

No matter how careful guests are, damages happen.

So this month, your handy newsletter discusses the where, why, how to deal with maintenance and how it differs from repairs.

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There is good news. The incidence of guest damages at vacation rentals is very low. But the need for maintenance (not related to guest use) is persistent and necessary.

Maintenance - In our personal homes it is very easy to forget, or maybe not notice, water heaters fail, TV's lose life, and sofas become saggy, appliances quit, and blinds don't last forever. Neither do carpets. Linen's become see-through. Towels become scratchy. Plumbing needs plumbing. Electrical circuit breakers need replacement. It is a long list.

So here is a list of things owner should expect to replace, update or repair regularly:

Linens - Keep in good condition to avoid negative guest reviews.

Towels- Last longer than you might think, but not forever.

Blinds & Drapes - Keep them fixed. Keep them clean.

Water Heaters - They give no warning when they fail. But are easy and cheap to replace.

HVAC - Change the filters. Get regular inspections.

Electrical Panel - If your house is older than you are, expect breakers to break.

Plumbing - Clean your faucet heads to learn why they are running slow. Cheap fix.

Windows - Cracks in glass can appear when weather fluctuates significantly.

Appliances - No stove, refrigerator, washer, dryer, dishwasher or anything else lasts forever.

Electronics - TV's radios, phones and internet modems don't last forever, either.

Screens - Easy to replace and they keep your house clean, too.

Toilets - Why can't they make a handle that doesn't wear out every few years?

Keeping every little thing working well is simply essential. Do it yourself or have your manager take care of every little thing. But do take care of it. Inexpensive preventative maintenance can avoid the cost of expensive booking cancellations and negative online reviews.

Damages - It truly is good news, that guests are mostly careful and considerate and willful damages are very few. No matter the reason, guests are responsible for any damages they cause. Years ago managers charged guests a refundable "Damage Deposit", much like that used when a tenant leases a house or apartment long term.

Unfortunately, now days, every guest pays by credit or debit card. In recent years, Visa and MasterCard's policies have often refused to accept damage charges to a credit card, even if the cost is taken from a pre-paid damage deposit.

For that reason, professional managers switched to charging guests a smaller non-refundable fee for "Accidental Damage Protection." That method is then used to pay for damages up to a pre-determined amount, actually larger than what damage deposits previously covered.

Some costs may not be covered and the manager will pursue collection from the guest. Some advertising websites offer coverage, although that has proven to be unpredictable.

Responsibility - It is tempting to blame guests for anything that goes wrong while they are staying. But the difference between maintenance and damages must be determined before doing so. Guests are not responsible for inoperable appliances, faulty locks, or aging linens. But otherwise, if they break it, they need to pay for it.

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Author: Wm, May, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0820 – 05/31/21
Sponsor: Vortex Organization – We train quality people to help run unique Inns, Resorts and Vacation Rental Management companies, in an industry that has been a webby net of technology combined with good old fashioned property, guest and owner services. – VortexManagers.com

Russian Roulette - Lodging Newsletter April 30, 2021

By Wm, May
Published: 04/30/21 Topics: AirBnB, Branding, Channel Management, Lodging Newsletter, Vacation Rental Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

It was in the national news a few weeks back, maybe you read about it.

The deck of a home, on the Malibu coastline of California, overloaded with people, collapsed and sent a dozen or more occupants, crashing onto the rocks below. Emergency crews rushed to the scene, people were sent to the hospital, police reports were taken, and the media warned of overloading decks. But that was not the entire story.

Later reports revealed that the owner had rented the home for the weekend for a maximum of 6 people. When neighbors complained of too many people, the owner, living far away, telephoned the guests, "Pleading with them to leave."

For over 3 hours, she recorded the phone calls, eventually calling the police, but too late. A dozen people were hurt, some severely. She is lucky no one died, but there will undoubtedly be a lawsuit.

It seems the owner fell victim to the trap laid by AirBnB, VRBO and other websites, promising how easy managing your own home is. These websites promise owners can "Get Rich Quick" by simply listing online, finding a cheap housekeeper, and raking in the money.

The websites hide that the average home requires 500 hours a year of owner time, demands 24/7/365 monitoring, late night phone calls, and constant worries about experiences like the deck owner's.

When dealing with the public, no one can guarantee that every customer will behave. Troublesome customers are rare, but smart managers know how to train guests, before they arrive, on how to follow rules. Professional managers also know how to control guests during occupancy. Should a guest violate the rules, they know how to legally get rid of them in minutes. And the right manager will produce more income than they cost.

Amateur owners reflect poorly on the vacation rental industry, like the deck house owner who was trying to "beat a system" by failing to hire a reliable manager. These amateur owners put their homes and guests at greater risk.

This month's newsletter explains how owners can make maximum income with minimum fuss. Flip the page to read all about it.

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In recent years, cities, counties and even home owner associations, have ramped up to regulate or prohibit vacation rentals, and all for a mathematically insignificant number of issues that nosey neighbors try to push on officials.

Bad Medicine: Governments hold hearings, listen to days of testimony, and dream up bandaid rules that seldom quiet critics, while stripping away rights that American property owners hold dear. Officials fail to grasp that, when issues do arise, they are almost exclusively caused by out-of-town, rent-by-owners who don't have the experience, skills, tools or proximity to responsibly manage their homes.

Hiring a kid down the street or a freelance housekeeper to "Keep an eye on the place" fails, because they lack management skills. They disappear when difficult work arises, like managing guest behavior.

Know the Ropes: Professional managers control the marketing and booking process, enabling them to qualify guests, put rules in writing, require signed contracts, and setup homes properly to educate and warn guests how to behave. This eliminates problems before they start.

The steps of establishing legally binding listings, contracts, rules and other documents are almost always skipped by rent-by-owners. Those same owners never even think about it and never commit to providing services 24/7/365, but that is the foundation of lodging management.

Full Service or A-La-Carte: The cost of hiring a manager will be easily offset by the additional income the manager will produce by securing higher occupancy and higher rates.

Companies like ours provide services a-la-carte and full service. Owners can pick and choose, so long as they setup their property to be safe and secure. Services are not free, but all pay off for owners.

Managers are not all created equal. A client switched to us recently because, when he called his current management company to report too many people at his home, the big corporate out-of-town management firm said, "Hey what do you expect me to do about it?"

"I know no one can guarantee every guest will behave," said the client, "but I expect management firms to know what they can do, how to do it, and then to do it."

Do-It-Yourself: The dream of doing things yourself runs deep. Those who would never do their own tax returns, never repair their own cars, or never fix their own plumbing, will try to manage one of their most expensive assets - their vacation home - even though they have absolutely no experience.

It is difficult to find a doctor, attorney, accountant who would consider managing their own rental home. They have done the math and find that hiring a professional manager is much cheaper than distracting from their own billable time. With us they make maximum income with minimum fuss.

Self-managing fills a need in some people to believe (incorrectly) that they are in absolute control, to be their own boss, and to own their own business. But with lack of training, sufficient staff members, and quick access to the property, do-it-yourself management is Russian Roulette. Just ask the owner of the Malibu deck home.

So if your home needs higher income, attentive management, and lower risk, call us today.

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Author: Wm, May, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0813 – 04/30/21
Sponsor: Vortex Organization – We train quality people to help run unique Inns, Resorts and Vacation Rental Management companies, in an industry that has been a webby net of technology combined with good old fashioned property, guest and owner services. – VortexManagers.com

Be Picky - Lodging Newsletter March 31, 2021

By Wm, May
Published: 03/31/21 Topics: AirBnB, Branding, Channel Management, Lodging Newsletter, Vacation Rental Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

Vacation rentals have been around forever. Did you know that many delegates to the U.S. Constitutional Convention in 1787 rented private homes during the meetings? Of course, they weren't called "Vacation Rentals", but they do mostly fit today's definition.

Why would the founding fathers prefer staying in private accommodations instead of a hotel? Believe it or not, there were no such things then as we know them today. But there were inns that had rooms and usually served food, too.

Maybe the delegates liked the idea of coming and going without being seen? Without disturbing anyone. Or maybe they liked the privacy while debating what were certainly earth-shaking questions.

Our first office open in 1964 and the world of vacation rentals has changed greatly, frequently and, sometimes, unexpectedly. The events of 9/11, the 2008 real estate depression, and now this dang thang called COVID have wrenched the industry, forcing managers to adjust and adapt. Not all have.

Although most of us were not around, or at least were not working (!), we know that past vacation rental management customer service pretty much included "Here's they keys, good luck." But those days are long gone.

Today, vacation rental professionals must provide 24/7/365 service, instant guest assistance, and careful property management. The internet changed the world and, very greatly, the world of vacation rentals.

Now guests can find, compare, quote, and rent homes all over the world. Photos, 3D tours, floor plans, online booking and reviews enable for careful shopping. Guests demand all of that and owners, who want to make maximum income with minimum fuss, deserve that.

But some property owners fail to get all they deserve because they choose managers for one reason instead of insisting on them all. Today's newsletter is a short-list of questions to ask possible managers. Don't settle for less.

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Local vacation rental managers, often fail to embrace every method available to serve property owner clients. Mammoth out-of-town managers focus on one aspect and ignore others. Each type of manager will promote one aspect of renting or another.

On the other hand, our goal is to provide every service every home, every owner and every guest deserves. That is a big order and no one is perfect, but as the old cliché goes, "It you ain't trying, you ain't doing."

Some questions to ask of a prospective vacation rental manager are obvious: How long have you been in business? What education do you have? What are your frees.? But indirect questions will reveal whether the manager can deliver what they say - or not.

PROFITABLE - Is your business profitable? (If not, they won't invest in technology and staffing.) We are and have remained so during ups and downs, while others borrowed millions and fired staff to stay in business.

TENURE - How many years have staff leaders been doing rentals? (Nothing trains managers like years in the field.) Partners here have invested decades studying and advancing their craft. We have seen everything and figured how to handle it all. No surprises for property owners.

YIELD - Do they employ Dynamic Rates? (If not, you get lower rates and, surprisingly, fewer bookings - all of which take money out of your pocket.)

ADVERTISING - Where will the property be advertised? (If they say just a few websites like AirBnB and VRBO, your property will get less visibility, fewer inquiries and fewer bookings.) We post listings on hundreds of websites, including every major media you can name.

HOURS: Are they open every day of the year and with instant 24/7/365 support? (If not, one slipped gear results in cancelled bookings, refunds and losses for owners.) We provide instant service because guests, owners and homes deserve it.

TECHNOLOGY: Which software do they use? (The wrong tech slows bookings and prohibits pricing strategy, taking money away from managing your home.). We created all our own software to stay 3 steps ahead of the competition.

PERFECT: Does they provide perfect management in all cases? (This is a trick question.) Properties are like snowflakes - no two are alike. No one can guarantee your home will be hassle free, but we can promise to provide maximum income with minimum fuss to you. It is our job to do the work and your job to profit.

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SCORE CARD: It is our goal to provide all the services and programs of those giant vacation rentals, but with all the benefits of being locally owned and operated. We call it locally managed, globally advertised and technically superior. (Any manager without all of those is losing money for clients.)

If you would like to compare our services to other managers, please ask for our "How to Score Vacation Rental Managers". A long worksheet that will show how much we do for you and how little the other guys do. The form is free.

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Author: Wm, May, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0812 – 03/31/21
Sponsor: Vortex Organization – We train quality people to help run unique Inns, Resorts and Vacation Rental Management companies, in an industry that has been a webby net of technology combined with good old fashioned property, guest and owner services. – VortexManagers.com

Why Tip? - Lodging Newsletter February 28, 2021

By Wm, May
Published: 02/28/21 Topics: AirBnB, Branding, Channel Management, Lodging Newsletter, Vacation Rental Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

A new vacation rental landlord was appalled to find that the management firm put "Housekeeper Tip Envelopes" into homes. She incorrectly concluded that the housekeepers were not paid sufficiently.

Seems she has no idea how to be in the hospitality industry. Certainly housekeepers appreciate tips, but tips are not really there for the money.

Tips show appreciation.

Tips show recognition of the hard work.

Tips show respect for undesirable work.

Tips are the price you pay to avoid the job.

Tips show you are a kind person.

Maybe if she scrubbed floors, unclogged toilets, and pushed a vacuum until her hands grew callouses, and did it for years on end, just maybe she would begin to feel what it's like to be disrespected.

During the Covid crisis, it has been reported that customers are tipping restaurant servers, delivery drivers, and other service people, less than ever before. Of course, some consumers have less money available to leave tips, but for everyone else - shame on us.

Millions have lost jobs. Some have taken positions at lower wages. Some have been forced into part-time work. So now is the time to show more respect for people, not less.

Without much forethought our family has been trying to tip higher than usual nowadays. But this ungrateful client gave us a brand new idea. Not only is it time to tip everyone well, maybe it's time to start a movement - it's time to double tip everyone.

Tonight we stopped for fast-food take-out and tipped $20 on a $25 order, plus a big heartfelt THANK YOU to people willing to work in a steamy hot restaurant kitchen so we could have an easy meal.

The wonderful young clerk said, "Oh, that’s too much." To which we had to say, "Oh no, that’s just right." And the best part of tipping double is that you will get more out of it than the recipient. Generosity always benefits the giver.

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Do we brag too much in these newsletter? Or maybe we promote too little, because it is our duty to help clients make a good decision when choosing to become vacation rental landlords.

There are signficant differences in how to run a vacation rental, how to hire a thoroughly competent managers, how to deal with guests, what to think about all the advertising websites and their usurious fees. And even bigger issues confront someone cavalierly deciding to become a "Do It Yourself" owner.

Why would anyone want to DIY vacation rental management? There are those who need a hobby. Some feel it would be a joy to "talk" with guests. Some love the idea of sharing a home they are so proud of.

Those reasons are fine, of course, but the hidden factor in lodging managemement is that guests don't care about what owners want. It's not about the owner, it's about the guest.

Any owner can feel some success because, with today's online websites, most anyone, for most any kind of property can secure some bookings. But getting some bookings and getting all bookings at the highest possible rates is just not possible for most owners.

As the old saying goes, "Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then."

So the question is how much are owners losing by going Do it Yourself?

Without the kind of completely comprehensive marketing, advertising, distribution, cross selling, hospitality grade cleaning, quick maintenance, and reservation experts like ours, most owners are earning half what they should be earning. And working twice as hard.

A HomeAway.com study revealed that owners spend an average of 9.2 hours per week dealing with rental issues. And some of those are in the middle of the night.

Self managing may give owners a sense of control, but unfortunately many such owners are overly selfish and fail at the good hospitality test. Some think they are "cutting out the middle man" (manager's fee), but most are actually cutting their income and increasing their work greatly.

By speaking with hundreds of guests on the phone each week, we hear them scream complaints about dealing with owners directly. They talk about owners who are non-responsive, not clean enough, rude and demanding. Not everyone is cut out to be in the hospitality industry.

If you don’t love people, even when they are difficult, you can't succeed fully in this business.

During Covid we have received calls from DIY owners everyday whose housekeepers failed to show up to clean. These owners lived hundreds or thousands of miles from their rental homes. They thought all they needed was someone to come over immediately to clean their homes,

They begged, "Hey can you help me out just this one time?"

We helped where we could, but our time and allegiance must be to home owners who value the stabilty, reliablity and quality of what we do and realize the value of having a trusted management firm ready to handle every little thing.

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Author: Wm, May, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0811 – 02/28/21
Sponsor: Vortex Organization – We train quality people to help run unique Inns, Resorts and Vacation Rental Management companies, in an industry that has been a webby net of technology combined with good old fashioned property, guest and owner services. – VortexManagers.com

Not What It Seems - Lodging Newsletter January 31, 2021

By Wm, May
Published: 01/31/21 Topics: AirBnB, Branding, Channel Management, Lodging Newsletter, Vacation Rental Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

If you are one of our lovely and gratefully appreciated property owner clients, you may not need to read this letter. You have hired us so you can sit back, make maximum income and let us handle all the details, interruptions, unexpected events and, even, political disruptions. Geez.

But, if you are not a client or if you just want to know what is going on in the vacation rental industry, then this month we rant on a bit about Online Travel Agents (OTAs), how we work to maximize their effectiveness and minimize their negativ es.

For example, you may be aware that the formerly "couch surfing" website AirBnB, now focused greatly on vacation rental advertising, continues to dominate the gossip. They are just one of the hundreds of websites on which we list lodging properties and from which we get a steady stream of guest bookings.

In December, AirBnB "went public", offering to sell its stock on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange. It was baffling. How does an investor value a company that had 2.25 billion dollars in revenue and a negative profit of 697 million dollars! Wow.

We want to let our clients know we have never operated like that. Service businesses - like vacation rental and lodging management - are not wildly profitable. We don't bleed money. And we are not counting on a big stock market score to survive.

Unlike AirBnB, we don't grow for the sake of becoming world famous. Maybe it's old fashioned, but our goal is to take care of owners, guests and staff members. Your property's future is safe and secure with us.

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All About Channels - Accepting bookings from AirBnB, VRBO, Booking.com, Expedia and many others (the industry calls them Online Travel Agents "OTAs" or "Channels") is expensive. Most charge the property and the guest a commission. So, long ago we adapted and created software that marks ups rates so that guests pay those.

Expensive - Some five years ago, we were hired to launch rentals at a new resort, and it was a huge success. Thousands of nights were booked at a property still under construction. Each time a guest checked-in at the front desk, who had booked through an OTA, they were told or given a form that explained that they paid 15 to 20% too much by booking through a channel.

Repeat Visitors - A funny thing happened the following year. Of all the OTA guests who returned, 75% booked through an OTA again and paid too much. Foolish yes, but those customers fell for the OTA hype and that just reveals the power of marketing.

Complications - Channels increase costs in other ways. Their guests are not self sufficient - such as they may not answer phone calls, don't read driving directions, can't turn on TV's and generally expect instant service, even at 3 am. That may be reasonable, if the "host" of the couch you are surfing is sleeping in the room next door, but more difficult when homes can be spread out many miles from staff.

Book Direct- For years, there has been a campaign asking managers to avoid advertising on channels, or at least to decrease the portion of business they accept from them. Unfortunately, that is just foolish.

Branding - OTA's have convinced people that they have all available properties in their catalogue (so to speak), that they have the lower rate (which is clearly untrue), and that they get special perks like Points (that can be used for more travel - after you earn a few billion of them).

Performance - Channels do offer one compelling advantage, By demanding the hated percentage, at least they only get paid when they send us rental income. In decades past, conventional media, such as newspapers, radio and TV, took the ad dollars without so much as a wink of a guarantee.

Newbies - It must be admitted that OTA's have another advantage. They can bring in new guests who have never rented a vacation rental home before. This expands the market for everyone. The steady growth of the industry over the past two decades is a direct result of travelers discovering the joys of renting a private home.

Conversion - So, it becomes our job to convert those channel guests into direct booking guests. It's better for them, better for properties, better for owners and, certainly, better for us to. We do that with printed "Table Tents" in the homes, including Book-Direct reminders on all emails, and even by reminding guests in phone conversations.

We won't stop the tsunami of OTA growth, but we can improve the situation for every home we serve.

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Author: Wm, May, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0810 – 01/31/21
Sponsor: Vortex Organization – We train quality people to help run unique Inns, Resorts and Vacation Rental Management companies, in an industry that has been a webby net of technology combined with good old fashioned property, guest and owner services. – VortexManagers.com

Inch by Inch - Lodging Newsletter October 31st, 2019

By Wm, May
Published: 10/31/19 Topics: Channel Management, Lodging Newsletter, Photography, Vacation Rentals, Vortex Managers Comments: 0

Whether building a house, a space ship or a winning basketball team, the direct and efficient way to achieve greatness is to approach projects inch-by-inch. There are no short cuts. Read more Leave comments

What Guests Want - Lodging Newsletter September 30th, 2019

By Wm, May
Published: 09/30/19 Topics: Advertising, Channel Management, Dynamic Raes, Employment, Lodging Newsletter, Photography, Property Management, Vacation Rentals, Vortex Managers Comments: 0

The only trouble we have with giving customers what they want, so we can produce absolute maximum income for owners is pleading with and even begging owners to do the little things necessary. Here is what guests want. Read more Leave comments

DETAILS: We work to keep this information up to date, but details do change from time to time based on circumstances, often on short notice, and sometimes beyond our control. To verify any answer or other information you may need, please call or email us anytime. Allow a reasonable amount of time for response. Only legitimate inquiries will be answered.