If you remember back to the last century, you might recall ‘going to the cottage’ as a kid. It could have been called something different depending on where you went….maybe it was a cabin, or a camp, or even a little fancier – a chalet or villa – but regardless, it was probably a special place.
If you rented a different cottage each year, there was always the anticipation of arriving somewhere new; wondering what it would be like; planning what you would do when you got there. And when you did, the first thing – the most exciting – was the run to the water, checking out the dock and the boats
It never mattered if the place was rustic and musty, or if there were a few mouse droppings here and there. No-one cared about the mismatched bedding and chipped plates, or that the board games were missing some essential pieces, or that the battered old TV had two fuzzy channels. If the weather was bad, you’d play cards or crokinole.
Fast-forward to today and everything has changed.
The old-style ‘take it as you find it’ attitude from owners no longer applies and there are new rules in place if you want to seriously succeed at renting your property.
RULE #1 – It’s a Business
From the moment you list your place and accept money in exchange for accommodation, you become a provider to the travel and tourism industry. You are in the hospitality business.
This is the case whether you want to rent for the occasional weekend or for a complete season….or longer. You’ll need systems for creating a marketing strategy, providing content, communicating with guests, managing cleaning staff, collecting money, dealing with issues, following up and generally being on call 24/7. It’s a job, not a hobby.
RULE #2 – The Property Must be Spotlessly Clean
Expectations of cleanliness are high and cutting corners on this can bring complaints and poor reviews. It really doesn’t matter how old a property is, it can still be cleaned thoroughly and you don’t want to leave any potential for a guest to be unhappy about the condition of your vacation home.
Before your first rental, and at the start of every season, do a complete audit of the property. This will show the areas where you need to give special attention, and can guide your deep clean strategy.
Between each rental period, the property needs to be thoroughly cleaned. Not a ten-minute check, but a systematic clean following a pre-defined plan. This is particularly important if you use a property manager who is more used to residential cleaning, as there is a big difference in the things they need to do. Make sure they are following your procedures.
RULE #3 – Make the Bedrooms Look Outstanding
The look of your bedrooms can be a deal-breaker. Flat pillows, ugly comforters, sleeping bags, and Grandma’s throws are out. In their place are beautifully staged sleeping spaces with crisp looking linens, multiple pillows and throw cushions.
In the past guests were asked to bring their own sheets and towels but if you can, provide them with made-up beds and baskets of fluffy bath towels. Don’t use worn and faded cast-off bed linens from your home – your guests don’t deserve this. Think in terms of a TV makeover reveal – you want that WOW reaction when your guests walk in.
RULE #4 – Replace The Old and Ancient
When your guests hand you their hard-earned vacation money, they expect to get more in return than a pretty view and a roof over their heads. They have expectations that the features and facilities will be of a good quality, in full working order and generally updated.
Successful owners know that guests can be critical and picky. Investment in new appliances and entertainment systems will pay dividends in better reviews and repeat rentals.
Be critical when you look at that old fridge or stove. Would you expect to find that if you were paying to stay there? What about the bulky tube TV? Didn’t you ditch the ones at home because they were ancient? Your guests expect to have a similar entertainment experience as they have at home.
RULE #5 – Get Connected
You have to get real here. There’s only a very small amount of people who want to ‘unplug’ on vacation, so expecting your guests to be without their connection to the outside world is unrealistic.
If you have the ability to offer an internet service, then you should have it installed. A good cell signal might be enough for your guests to tether their laptop to a mobile device, but it’s not their favorite solution.
Most country areas have connectivity either through fixed wireless or satellite services, so do some research. Even if you get limited download speeds or have restrictions on usage, providing the service could make the difference between weeks going empty or being fully booked.