How do you stop renters from trashing your rental?

Discussion in 'Rentals - Vacation' started by Philip_Atlanta, Apr 1, 2006.

  1. Unplugged

    Unplugged Beach Fanatic

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    Most of our guests bring thier small pets and we have never had a problem. Call it luck - our experience has been that folks who care enough NOT to board their babies while on vacation make for exceptionally considerate guests. We also screen very carefully.
     
  2. Cork On the Ocean

    Cork On the Ocean directionally challenged

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    When I first began to become aware of how most management companies treat owners, I thought why in the world would people give them so much money, especially in the days of the internet? I do understand the difficulties that distance plays and the need for using management companies.

    I'm often asked to recommend a management company to my clients and in all good conscience, I can't carte blanche say sure, go here. I disagree with many of the practices employed. I don't think they should make additional profits on lightbulbs, maintenence etc. I also think they should focus more on booking each unit to maximum capacity rather than maximizing their own bookings by managing too many properties. I'm not saying every company does this but stories like the ones you guys are relaying are rampant. I mean it's your home and miss Kitty is right! The unit is offered with it's existing amenities. Who are these companies to make capricious decisions regarding your home and what should be there? Recommendations are one thing but they take too much liberty. If the renter wants a can opener, bring it. Hell, I bring my own corkscrew wherever I go.

    Anyway, we have seriously considered starting a property management company. We've looked at all sides. The expenses of handling properties etc. To be honest the software that's used automates everything including managing bookings, calendars, billing etc. It's not cheap but a one time investment. We've considered limiting the number of homes in a particular class or neighborhood (say 8 in Seacrest, 15 Beachfront, etc - just examples) so that we can more fully book the ones we have. If we have to turn renters away on holidays, so be it. This way we would be spreading the renters between fewer homes and keep everyone booked. We've also considered having the plumber, electrician, bugman etc. bill the owner directly. We would monitor and schedule maintenence but I think the rationale behind charging the owner $120 for a $60 bugspray is because of the carrying and collection costs of the company paying these expenses directly and waiting for the owner to pay them or have rentals to subtract from :dunno: . We've also talked about buying a stupid box of 24 lightbulbs, putting them in the unit, let the owner pay for the box at cost and just have housekeeping replace them when they are there everyweek. Or better yet, if a lightbulb goes out and we get a call -- there's some in the closet. I realize some bulbs aren't easy to change but for the lamp, why should owners pay $5 for that? It's insane.

    One of my realtors has property management experience and we've been looking at this since last year but really want to only do it if we can do right by people. We haven't nixed the idea and still considering it so any input is welcomed.

    As some know, I'm the webmistress for the Seacrest Beach website. I provided a bulletin board similar to this one for the community but the board of directors has decided that they don't want a 2-way board and that they want to keep it only for association postings due to the maintenence costs required to monitor the board. I have tried to present solutions to the board of directors which would allow owners to have their rentals and/or homes for sale put on the community board for a token amount but they haven't been inclined to allow it.

    My business website gets about 180,000 hits a month and I get people looking for rentals all the time. I provide courtesy links to the vrbo sites of my clients' right now but have also toyed with the idea of setting up a rental directory connected to the site which would be a minimal annual cost to owners. Any thoughts on this? What seems like a fair cost? Would an owner be willing to pay a little bit more if the number of offerings in a community are limited to say 8 homes or condos? The problem with VRBO is that there's just too darn many of them. It makes listings difficult to navigate or find and offers way too many options in way too many areas. Something focused on our area. I know someone else has mentioned doing this and not trying to step on toes but I've already got all this traffic and search engine rankings for numerous search terms related to the Florida Panhandle, 30A, Watercolor, Seacrest etc.. I already have people coming to me for rentals and most of my clients that are on my website are pretty well booked for the summer.

    Tell me what we need guys. Would love any input on how owners can be better served, can get more bookings, can realize more money in their pockets or can better get whatever they need. Would love to learn everything I can from the owner's standpoint to help with the decisions we're trying to make.
     
  3. Unplugged

    Unplugged Beach Fanatic

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    Cork: we've researched this business also - automate all you want - it's just way, way too many headaches for our money - JMHO......
     
  4. DBOldford

    DBOldford Beach Fanatic

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    Cork, you make many good points. Many of these are items (like the light bulbs) that we have found a way around. Ridiculous to pay $35 every time a single light bulb is needed, then I go down there and half the recessed halogens are burned out. Argggggh!

    Our house rents for the summer a year in advance, many renters opting for the same week the following summer and just rolling over their deposit. Keeping the house rented is not the problem and we could do that quite easily via Kurt's Web site and the By Owner Web site. The commission totes up to a pretty hefty amount for the management company, for doing little.

    Here's the rub...when the renters are in the house, someone has to be pretty closeby to respond to real problems. I don't mean a pressing need for an electric can opener. But plugged toilets, or broken water pipes, or an A/C unit on the blink when it's 95 degrees outside...these require immediate attention. That is the thing we have never been able to get around, even though we have family in the area. So I think we are stuck with having a rental/management company, with the emphasis (theirs) on rental. I am just trying to find out which of these does a better job all around. We have stayed with ours primarily because two people we respect and who also have properties in the area have opted to stay with that company even though they are much closer to their properties than we are.

    As you probably know, you will want to think long and hard about going into that business. A very capable person that we know considered this and gave up when he realized how much capital would be needed for things like insurance, office and maintenance and houskeeping staffing (or contracting), advertising, computer systems, finance programs and staffing, and the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, it's not a simple or inexpensive business to crack. Good luck if you give it a whirl, though, and please let us know when you're out there! :welcome:
     
  5. Cork On the Ocean

    Cork On the Ocean directionally challenged

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    Well that's been my concern as well. I have a good name in the business and don't want to put that at risk either. While I see many people undertaking management, there seem to be so few that people are happy with. Seem like your perspective Donna, is that the bookings are there and merely a person to oversee maintainence would be a big help. Another idea that we have looked at is an owner's consortium. Not quite sure how that would work yet but basically a "rental by owner" type a situation where the owners handle bookings and the management company comes into play for maintainence and overseeing the property. Owners could collect all rentals, have a lockbox of sorts for key access and the management would field calls and scheduling/arranging maintainence and perhaps inventory. Not sure how this would work, perhaps a fee based schedule ( x dollars for inventory, x dollars for maintenence schedule etc.) Donna, am I hearing that something to this effect - an "assistant" to the owner in effect? I know there are some owner consortiums out there. Will have to do some research on that.
     
  6. audie

    audie fartblossom

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    i know this is off topic, but i still think it would be nice (it was mentioned in another thread) if the people on the board had a place where they posted about their own properties. i would love to rent from one of my sowal friends but have no idea who owns what where. and as a renter, i can honestly say we try to take better care of our rental than we do our own home.
     
  7. tivoli

    tivoli Beach Lover

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    This is my third season renting myself in the Sandestin Resort and now
    in Seagrove Beach. I have not experienced anything misplaced, stolen or
    ruined in our condo since we started renting it. We're only renting short-
    term through the spring/summer and no long-term rentals. In regard to
    renting it myself through Sandestin is has worked out wonderfully! I have
    a private bonded maid service, keyless entry and Sandestin maintenance
    on-call 24/7. My rentals run from $3,000 to $3,900 for a week.
    I've furnished our place with upscale linens/towels and leave out a lot
    of special soaps and bath gels for the guest's to use upon their arrival.
    I've even purcahsed little ducks for the kid's baths in an assortment of
    colors depending girl/boy. The keyless lock system works tremendously
    due to having paid codes and not having to worry about keys or keys
    being copied. That in itself gives me peace of mind.... I can gernerate a code
    for a one day service call for anyone. I have enough linens to exchange
    out every week in regard to towels, bed linens, kitchen towels, soaps,
    bounty rolls, tp, kleenex, trashliners, dishwasher tabs, laundry tabs, Williams
    Sonoma hand soaps in all of the baths and Williams-Sonoma kitchen hand
    soap and dish detergent and always a bottle of Caldrea or WS cleaning
    spritz and air.
    I try to keep the place fully furnished at all times with really nice things.
    When making a reservation, I speak to the guest's at least 2 to 3 times
    before their arrival date and call upon arrival to make sure everything
    is like they had anticipated. I truly screen all my renter's and if there's
    a question in my mind, I'll just say....I'll check with my husband about
    that week. In regard to our new Seagrove Beach cottage....things will
    work the same... I secure the guest's and some are repeats from
    Sandestin and I have a bonded cleaning service that's wonderful. Our
    cottage cleaning is $275.00 a week, but it's well worth it!! I want my
    guest's to be happy upon their arrival and I want the place to be perfect
    for their special vacation week. I know there are cheaper cleaning
    services out there, but you get what you pay for in regard to that. I
    don't want any left overs from other parties upon arrival!! I've got a
    electrician, plumber, ac/heating, private maid service all covered and
    scheduled and accounts set up 24/7 for service. The keyless entry will work
    the same as Sandestin and guest's are generated a code and only have
    access upon their arrival from Saturday to Saturday and then their code
    expires.
    I really enjoy doing it myself and talking with the guest's and establishing
    a rapport for future guest's. Sometimes when people do not rent from me
    I give them a lot of other rental sites that may work out for them and tell
    them to contact me again even if they don't rent from me....I appreciate
    any referall's they may have in the future. This has been a wonderful
    experience and I enjoy working with all the different personalities!!! :wub:
     
  8. Cork On the Ocean

    Cork On the Ocean directionally challenged

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    Daddy'O has a page http://www.sowal.com/rentals.html They don't really post their own, Daddy'O does and it's only those with his v-tours, then there's also the Rental forum that sowallers post on but not really organized like a directory so you know that GTTBM owns this for example. Interesting concept though and it could be done pretty easy.
     
  9. audie

    audie fartblossom

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    yeah i check this out all the time, and dream about hitting the lottery...
     
  10. Miss Kitty

    Miss Kitty Meow

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    Wow tivloi! You are a dynamo!!! You must have very happy guests! :clap_1:
     
  11. Cork On the Ocean

    Cork On the Ocean directionally challenged

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    Yes, I have a client that used all the companies and started doing it himself this season. He was so unhappy with the lack of bookings and he needed to cover his payments so we changed his vrbo headline to prominently display the lowest rates (ie: From $XXXXX) which are lower than comps because he nixed the management company. He said he was swamped. He has only 3 photos and no virtual tour on his vrbo. He said he was getting so many requests for bookings that he set up a little package that he automatically sends out to people with the rental contract, more photos and instructions saying half due upon booking, half due when you get the code to check in. He has a cleaning team like Tivoli's and he uses a lockbox for the keys. He is an extremely busy man that travels constantly and had no "return" bookings from last year. He is nearly booked for the season and his mortgage payments are covered.

    I have a second client that we made similar changes on her vrbo header and she has reported the same dramatic increase in bookings. Just did it with a 3rd client so we'll see how his goes. It does seem that the flowery - New/Beautiful Home stuff doesn't get nearly the hits that the Price of the Rental up front does in the headline. I guess renters want owners to Show them the Money right up front :lol: and that's who they click on.
     
  12. Unplugged

    Unplugged Beach Fanatic

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    Sounds like you're giving your folks sound advice that is working for them. You may be surprised to hear that last year, we removed all references to our rates AND availability calendar on our web sites, and inquiries went through the roof! Bookings are nearly full for this season. During the past 5 years, we've experimented with many methods, this seems to bring the best results for us AND serves as a filter of sorts - bringing us more serious inquiries and RESPONSIBLE guests who treat the properties with respect.

    ... and Kurt's VT is the 'icing on the cake' :clap_1:
     
  13. Unplugged

    Unplugged Beach Fanatic

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    Cork: The arrangement we have with our management company is essentially the same as you describe above. They handle Check-in/ Check-out; Cleaning; Maintenance; Linens; etc, etc. We share the booking responsibilities on a 1st come/ 1st served basis. This system works great for us - we have no interest in handling any duties other than the fun part: interacting with the guests ;-)
    __________________________________
     
  14. Pirate

    Pirate Beach Fanatic

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    At our rental we employ a very practical and effective method of making sure things don't get out of hand. It is a system developed by this group.

    Protection System

    And adapted for home use. Hope this helps.
     
  15. Jdarg

    Jdarg SoWal Expert

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    :floor: :floor: :floor:
     
  16. Cork On the Ocean

    Cork On the Ocean directionally challenged

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    Isn't that interesting. Exact opposite of my guys are experiencing. I'm thinking that the price range or competition may have something to do with it. For instance I would think that money is not the priority for Tivoli's home(s) which rent over $3K per week. One of the homes I'm referencing rents for about $2800 when they were with the management company and they charge $2500 without the company so its clearly better priced than comps for the neighborhood plus it's a new home so not many concerns about comfort.

    I totally agree with the impact of Kurts VT's. Another client has a home that is pretty worn but has stronger bookings that much nicer homes for the same price and I think it's because of the VT. All of the marketing stats show that people view those properties first.

    Then again, it could be that this is just a rocking rental year :floor: and everybody has got strong rentals. I've heard lots of people commenting on how crowded it is compared to past years and personally Ive noticed the restaurants are packed compared to past years. :dunno:
     
  17. Mango

    Mango SoWal Insider

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    See my new thread- got trashed during spring break!

    This is my thrid season renting on my own, and this is my second time I had a major problem renting 2 homes, so I guess the odds are not that bad.
    One was a family who decided to bring 5 more people up and over the allowable, and second my spring breaker lying parents.

    I do keep family photos scattered all over the house. The second year, I added a Rules addendum which included things like no magic markers whatsoever, and crayons only under supervision.
    Made sure that hooks were everywhere for bathing suits- and asked they not be strewn on beds. (my comforters had that infamous looking pee stain on them, but realized it was salt and chlorine)

    I upgraded my carpets and did more decorating this year, put cheap area rugs in places where I know spillage will occur, then increased my rate, and seem to be getting quite a different clientele calling.

    At first I was very sentimental about a great comforter, spent a lot of time looking for beachy spreads etc., but learned that if I am renting, I can not get attached to anything. I have not had anything stolen with the exception of laundry baskets and missing pillows (why someone would take a pillow behooves me) . I dont even put them anymore. I tried twice, and even labeled them in case my cleaning lady staff was using them, but they still disappear.

    So it seems all one can do is use their best judgement in whom they rent to if renting on their own, but you don't know these people, especially if new to your home, and ther'es not much you can do.
    Fortunately this season an owner is moving in next door full time, and I will have eyes and ears, and make sure people know that.

    Donna a/k/a Mango
     
  18. Philip_Atlanta

    Philip_Atlanta Beach Lover

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    Very good!! :floor:

    Donna (Mango) - sorry to hear about your troubles..
     
  19. swantree

    swantree Beach Fanatic

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    just hire a concierge!
     
  20. sunsetdunes

    sunsetdunes Beach Lover

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    Since we dumped our management company and started doing our own rentals, have had absolutely no problems with damage, excessive messes, or stolen items.
     

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