Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Rental Success: FlipKey, AirBnB, HomeAway, VRBO, Craigslist

After dinner she said, "....Craigslist too."
.
They rented their cabin successfully with several vacation rental sites.
.
Living a good retirement, aka good judgement involved, I paid attention.  Perhaps their rental success could be copied?
.
For sale 6 years, and listed with a local vacation rental company (with little/no success) my friend's cabin was ripe for a little fun, "I'll stage your cabin & list it."
.
Staging was approached with a full quiver of collateral career tools.  A week later I presented a staging plan, and he was not-on-board. 
.
Without proper staging why waste time uploading?  Finally, "You let me do 100%  or I walk."  Got my 100%.
.
What do vacation renters want?  Easy.  Vacation rental sites guide you through listing necessities of bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, dining tables & how many they seat, eat in kitchen, separate dining room, amenities of your home, and nearby activities.
.
Pictures.  The more pictures you include the better your rental chances.
.
Choose your lead picture, below, with seduction.  

.
Study listings and see which pictures most reflect what you are trying to offer.
.
This cabin had the good fortune of being near the Appalachian Trail, Tallulah River, Lake Burton, a marina, wineries, golfing, antiquing, several good restaurants, wedding venues, camping & camps.
.
Narrative.
.
Staging DIY?  Look clinically at what you have, no ego.  Remember, this is about making money.  Real, serious, money.  List  negatives, confront each with positives and write a list.
.
I studied the local 'professional' rental listing.  Why wasn't it renting?  Crime scene photos, zero narrative,  Told the owner my thoughts, he said there wasn't a market for rentals near his cabin.  He was not making enough rental income to pay a single month's mortgage. 
.
For decades I enjoyed a family lake house, below, aside from innate beauty of setting & architecture & garden the house welcomed/nurtured all who entered.  Every age group.  The kitchen, a great gathering place while chef/s performed magic.  The audience content with cocktails & conversation.  Labradors in/out, wet from the lake.  Books in every room, chairs arranged for views & conversation throughout the house.  No TV.  Always a new person to meet/enjoy invited by someone else.  

  

Staging the cabin meant adding a place in the kitchen for chef/audience, it had no table/seating.  Creating a library, there were no books.  Creating a 'grandchild' zone, there was zero for children.  Giving Nature its proper role by taking away the power of the TV's in every seating arrangement.  Placing garden chairs outside facing the myriad mountain views, there were none. Honoring the architecture of the cabin, local craftsman, moving furniture that was hiding it, and lifting valences that hid entire mountain views. 




Valences, above/below, tucked atop blinds, showing off mountain views instead of hiding them.
.
A basket with coffee filters, and coffee saved from a zillion vacation hotels, was in a basket on the counter by the coffee pot.  Shampoo/soap from those hotels was put into the bathrooms.  New'ish magazines/catalogs were regularly refreshed in the family room.
.
Another basket had plenty of mustard, ketchup, mayo, packages, not used from too many lunches eaten out.




Every kitchen counter item had been plastic.  Added cookbooks, wood cutting boards, ironstone canister for wooden cooking spoons, local pottery tea pot & antique Italian tea canister filled with array of teas.  Table is a drop leaf and the chairs are local Appalachian vernacular.  Basket on the table is full of brochures for local activities & restaurants.  Lighting was limited to overhead, small lamp added.
.
Owner provided dishwashing liquid, dishwasher powder, clothes washing soap, and garbage bags.


Show off the charm of your rental.  Most renters did ask about a fireplace, did it work, wood available, etc.  Again, only overhead lighting, small lamp added.  Wood not provided, but matches were always on the mantel.


Every piece of furniture faced the TV.  Now all the views can be seen too, and the local craftsman made mountain laurel rails, below.
.
TV and internet are expected by most renters.  No internet at the cabin, but cell phone internet is not a problem.  No renter has backed out after discovering no internet.  


A choice was made, no dogs or smoking.  Rental sites make it obvious/easy to list what is not allowed.





A potential renter asked about a fire ring.  There was not one.  The owner told her he would have it by her rental date, and he did.  My bad, not thinking about it first.



Renters want to know bed specifics.  Tell them AND show them, below.  Listing sites are generous in number of pics you can post, and it's easy to add captions.
.
Master bedroom, below, was simple to stage.  It had no art on the walls, and the brass lamps were ca. 1982, they went downstairs to a guest room.  Lead bedroom pics with the showiest.



French doors from every bedroom to a deck with fabulous views.  Again, show AND tell.



Those brass lamps, below.  Bedspread, below, exchanged later for a 'lighter' version that will dry faster.  A request from the housekeeper.
.
The owner was fortunate to have someone honest, hardworking, cheerful, helpful, and pro-active as housekeeper.  Housekeeping with the local rental company, finally, had to be denied services.  A drama, yes, but easily resolved.
.
C.S. Lewis, below, on the bed table.


Another guest room, below, was chosen as a grandchild's room.  Again, there was no art on the walls, all the staged pieces related to childhood, in joy, nothing cute.
.
Almost half of the renters have had children.




Once sterile of children, the cabin now has little child's toys left behind here/there, Better, a sweetness in seeing where an adult has set a children's book they had been reading aloud to their little one/s.



  Intuition for accepting rentals is needed.  New Year's Eve, over 30 requests came in from groups of 7, (maximum allowed) that reeked of alcohol, debauchery, sex, broken furniture, ruined rugs, in the request.  
.
A damage deposit is on the rental sites for you to include.
.
In a year's time, nothing has been stolen or damaged at the cabin.
.
The majority of the cabin rentals have been due to love.  With the rental requests, a little story is commonly given from the renter.  Did not expect this, and have quite enjoyed them.  (Somehow I became stager & screener.)
.
Not my cabin, every 'off' request, I let the owner know, for approval/disapproval.  On a Tuesday, someone offered to rent the cabin, at a discount, because they noticed it was not rented yet for the weekend.  Owner approved, bad move.  Renter never showed, and another renter offered full price on Thursday.  True story.
.
Rental requests can be sent automatically to your cell phone.  And replied to via your phone.


Be aware, most counties do have a bed tax for vacation rentals.


One renter, coming for a car rally, had a high performance sports car.  He needed a pic of the driveway.  My bad, it was added soon after.


Renters want to get away, the entry gate is a perfect sign, without words, welcome/relax/enjoy, put your tires on our gravel.


Fireplace mantel, above, had fake Canadian spruce for decor with no art.  Local, dried hydrangea blossoms were staged with art/books.  The fake spruce was used on a chest in the downstairs hall.
.
Staging is not about remaking a home, but making it more intensely its best self.
.
One renter offered to not pay for the maid, and have a deep discount.  I thanked him for the opportunity & wished him the best in his search for a weekend home.  Saw in him, my college girl self, and laughed.  We've all been there. 
.
98% of 2014 renters left the cabin showing their character/integrity and thoughtfulness towards others by leaving leftover firewood, charcoal & etc.
.
That 2% renter?  They liked sex.  Loved that phone call from the housekeeper.
.
Sites used for the cabin: FlipKey, HomeAway, AirBnB, VRBO, Craigslist.
.
I set up a gmail address for the cabin.  And, keep a paper 'master' calendar of dates rented, with me at all times.
.
Craigslist brought in renters, they were sent to HomeAway to rent instead of owner handling the transactions, easier.  None of the Craigslist renters balked at this method.  
.
The various rental sites have various methods of paying for their services.  The cabin owner decided to do the 10% fee/rental.  After a year of experience, he knows the flat fee of $300/year is a cheaper deal for him.
.
What did vacation rentals bring the owner?  Almost enough to pay for a year of his mortgage.  Considerable leap in success, over the local rental company.
.
What did I get out of this?  Knew I could do it, successfully, now have proved it.  That little genie of 'competitiveness' got out of her bottle.  Love that genie but know she can take over, best to trust Providence, with action steps of course.
.
Lecturing in Chicago last year I met an incredible woman.  We locked eyes, and bonded completely.  During our time she mentioned, without knowing of the cabin, her bucket list.  Walking the Appalachian Trail was on her list.  She flew to Atlanta, she wanted to see my house/garden, then off to the cabin.  The owner gave me time at his cabin.  Walking the Appalachian Trail, with her, well, I have no words for the richness.  It is a good story, the emotion still too raw, later it will be told.
.
  Garden & Be Well,    XO Tara
.
This is not a solicitation to rent the cabin, merely the how-to I used in staging & setting up the cabin on rental sites.  
.
I spent $300 on staging accouterments, in addition to loaning much from my attic/garden/garage.  Hunting gathering staging materials was done over a month's time during my normal work days, stopping at nearby antique/junk shops.  Once at the cabin, to stage, I was alone, it took 4 hours to move furniture and accessorize.  Wish I could tell you what this 'service' should cost.  If you are a stager, and have a good guess, let me know.  Also, if you see staging mistakes/omissions, let me know.  Good money was made, but always willing to make more.  Oops, genie out of her bottle, it's not my money.  Favorite, not-my-money?  Laying in bed, checking email, answering rental request, getting $800 contract.....  
.
The local vacation rental company offered the cabin owner, recently, for $300  & 35% rental fee, to upload his cabin to HomeAway.

8 comments:

Jacinta Arnold said...

You are amazing.

Barbara Pilcher said...

Love this post. You're spot on with the facts, and the photos, too!

Mary Jo said...

This post, especially, inspires me to live life fully. Thank you.

La Contessa said...

A SMART woman's TOUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!
TO STAGE and LIVE well...............XO

Tara Dillard said...

Mary Jo, could not find a way to reach you....

Had to smile, my general contractor asked me, last night, why would I ever post about vacation rentals?

XO T

mary duffy said...

Nice job!

I am so disappointed I missed your lecture in Chicago last year! Any plans to come back in 2015?

Jeanne Goldie said...

simply lovely and very inspirational!

dryheatblog said...

I've been thinking of designer staging as part of my services for a while. In that, though, I'm ore of an afterthought than I already am with so many projects.

Will I remain an LA even 30 years from college graduation? You and a few others I know, very few, are who I need to keep open to on possibility thinking. No inspiration elsewhere.