Honour that view with clean windows

Clean WindowsWhether your property looks over the snowcapped Rocky Mountains from Canmore, the skyline of New York City or the azure ocean in Mexico, you want to make sure that this view is framed by sparkling clean windows! As a guest, it really puts a damper on the much-anticipated relaxation when one has to look through dust and dirt from months or even years of rain and wind.

For that reason, we collected a few recommendations on how to make sure your guests get to enjoy the best view you have to offer. Clean windows do not have to mean hours of strenuous work with toxic chemicals! The consensus is that it doesn’t have to be hard or time-consuming when you follow a few rules (and have a few tools handy). Natural solutions such as vinegar are much more environmentally friendly and easier on the budget than harsh chemicals. And there is lots to learn from the professionals who do this every day. Time to invest in a squeegee!

How to get sparkling windows for vacation rentals

No more newspaper, rubbing and elbow grease

Martha Stewart’s Window Washing How-To

Tutorial on how to clean windows with vinegar – our favourite!

 

Details do make a difference – Pay attention to delight your guests!

snackDetails matter when preparing your vacation home for guests.

Sometimes those details are noticed consciously, such as an inviting bed with the corner of the comforter folded open, a welcome basket of treats or a cozy blanket draped over the couch. Sometimes, details incur subconscious reactions, such as a fresh (non-chemical) smell in the air or the sun streaming through open curtains when your guests arrive.

couch

Eva Whitney has put together a short article with more great examples of where details matter, such as the folding of towels or neatly arranged dishes.

Do you want to share your experiences with “details that matter”? Where do you go the extra mile to make your home inviting for your guests, and which “attention to detail” has received positive feedback from your guests? Share your comments with our owner community!

The results are in!

Thank you to all respondents for sharing your thoughts and preferences with us!

As many of you know from our previous posts and maybe because you also received the newsletter: We conducted an online survey to determine specifically what guests are looking for with regards to communication with hosts, amenities and kitchen supplies.

Results

Communication

Pre Stay Communication

Communication: Pre-stay phase

Respondents stated that it is important to them to receive email responses from the hosts within 24 hours (58% of respondents). It is critical to 51% of respondents to get responses within 3 days in the pre-stay phase (inquiries, booking, instructions). Phone calls during this phase are important to 43% (critical to over 15%). Text message contact and mailing of documents do not seem to be as critical (see graph). Interestingly, the text option received the highest number of “do not care” responses.

During a guest’s stay, email communication becomes critical for a larger number of guests (54%), and so does availability over the phone (40% critical, 48% important). It appears that guests trust that any issues can be sorted out over the phone. It does not seem as critical to them to have a manager on site.

During Stay Communication

Communication: During guest’s stay

Amenities

Well, we sure can’t live (or vacation) without our WiFi toys anymore, or so it seems. Free WiFi access tops the list of expected amenities at a vacation rental (87%). This is followed by a washer/dryer (78%), an outdoor sitting area (73%), Cable TV (72%) and a BBQ (52%). Check out the graphic below for ratings of other amenities. To make your rental more attractive, consider adding one or more of options that are rated high, therefore improving your bookings over your competitors.

AmenitiesKitchen equipment

Lastly, we asked respondents about the items they expect to see in your vacation rental’s kitchen. Not surprisingly, generous cooking equipment with enough pots and pans, a microwave and dishwasher is requested by a high percentage of respondents. Since vacationers also love to enjoy a glass of wine when relaxing, make sure to stock wine glasses in your kitchen (72% expect those). As evidenced in the graph below, other items are a lot more “optional” but could make the difference that sets you apart from another rental in the same area (e.g. invest in a butcher block or coffee grinder). I have found that those details can make a big difference; for example, I always ask if I have to bring my own coffee grinder and always opt for the rentals that have one, especially if I have to fly to that destination.

KitchenPlease share your thoughts, questions or comments on this with us.

Survey & Dishes

There are lots of websites, articles and lists that claim to know what guests of vacation rentals are looking for. But we decided we wanted to know directly from our Ownerdirect.com guests what is important to them. So we have been conducting an online survey (quick and painfree) that was first distributed in our May newsletter, to ask guests about priorities and preferences. We will compile this into nice graphs for you, and we trust that you will find it helpful for your own vacation rental operations.

The survey can be found here. If you want to share your opinion as a guest of vacation rentals, please take 2 minutes to fill it out. This will help us generate useful information. It’s quick and online. Thank you. We will compile the results on June 10. Check back here after the results have been analyzed.

DishesLastly, here is one random tip that a vacation rental owner shared with me recently. I noticed that she was using a cup at home that was the same as the cups in her vacation rental. When I pointed it out, she said: “Oh, we always buy two sets of dishes for the rental so that we can replace broken dishes with the same kind.” Such a great idea to avoid the often random collection of plates and cups!

 

iTravex – Host guests, travel often!

If you are already a user of iTravex, I don’t have to explain the benefits to you. If not, consider trading your vacancies for get-aways in locations you select and times your choose.

Example: You own a vacation home in Arizona or rent out a basement suite in Aspen. Your property is listed on OwnerDirect.com but you have not opted into the free membership to iTravex that the OwnerDirect listing comes with as an added bonus.

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As soon as you do, other owners like you can see your property in the iTravex listings. Let’s say it is near the end of the ski season in Aspen and your suite is empty. A couple from Denver (who own a condo in Maui that is listed on OwnerDirect.com) wants to spend a week there to enjoy some spring skiing and time away from work. After they inquire about your suite, you all decide to complete an iTravex transaction. Your suite usually rents for $300 a night, so your agreed iTravex points total is 7 * 300=2100 points. The couple transfers those points from their iTravex account to you, pays a 10% transaction fee ($210) as well as the cleaning fee you stated. Off they go onto a nice week-long trip to Aspen, all for $210 plus cleaning fee – while your property would have sat empty otherwise.

Now you start getting excited about the 2100 points in your iTravex account. The summer will be busy but you are thinking about a trip to Italy in the fall. You check the iTravex listings for Tuscany and Umbria, and send a few inquiries to properties that look romantic and are centrally located in the best wine region. A few days and some messages with the owner later, you have booked a week-long stay in a stone villa in Tuscany for 1800 points (and have paid the fee of $180). A win-win situation, trading your vacancies into vacation home stays in your dream locations.

I have been a regular user of iTravex, and have stayed in iTravex properties in Maui, Sun Valley ID, Missoula MT, Silver Star BC, Canmore AB and more. It works and is a great way to travel affordably. It works best in the off season when properties are not booked up with cash rentals, and closer to the travel date. iTravex is also incorporating new tools in the near future, such as Decision Day (the owner can determine on which day he/she would like to decide about the iTravex reservation) and a new website dashboard. All the information about your property from OwnerDirect.com transfers to iTravex without any extra work for you.

If you haven’t explored this opportunity yet, just opt into iTravex from your OwnerDirect.com dashboard.

Three that make a difference

As a frequent renter of vacation homes, due to my work in the industry, I have seen various levels of “fully equipped” homes. Don’t get me wrong, I am perfectly fine with a clean, pleasant place that has what was advertised and shown in the pictures.

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However, frequently I find myself inquiring before I leave as to the “nice-to-have” items that not every rental features. For me, a few small additions make the difference between “as advertised” and “could not have wished for more”. I understand that this is purely a personal observation and preference but here are my top three non-essentials that do make a difference:

Coffee grinder. I know not everybody drinks coffee or is picky about their coffee. But I do know that being able to grind beans makes a big difference for a lot of folks. Why not spend the $20 and have one available for your guests? This is the one item I always ask about, unless it is listed in the property description.

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 12.48.49 PMLaundry detergent. Most homes have washers and dryers but some do not provide detergent. If laundry soap was something that we frequently travel with and that is easy to pack, I would not pay so much attention to this one. But since it isn’t (one gallon soap container in your luggage, anyone?), and missing detergent can ruin your day when you have to fix a food mishap on your children’s clothing, I always appreciate having at least a load’s worth available at the vacation home without having to visit the nearest store. And by all means, if you use a lot, please replace it.

Basic bathroom supplies. Most of us bring their favourite shampoo or lotion on vacation. However, just in case you forgot or (especially when flying to your destination) are planning on purchasing it locally the next day, it is nice to have some supplies for that first shower or after the first hot tub visit.

What have you appreciated when arriving at a vacation rental? What tips can you give other owners?

Never lose your socks again!

Full disclosure: We are not sponsored or in any way affiliated with the company whose products we feature here. We simply love them because we travel a lot and they have become indispensable. There might be other products around that achieve the same but in this “experience” report, we will focus on the products we know. We took the photos ourselves.

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We have packed many bags and backpacks over the years. When you leave home, everything is usually very tidy and organized. After a few days of travelling, maybe multiple stops and destinations, or after unpacking at your destination, your luggage and clothing is not quite as tidy anymore. Have you been caught digging wildly through your duffle bag, trying to find that one missing sock or pair of underwear?

eaglecreek2Enter the Eagle Creek universe (@eaglecreekgear). This company has a wide array of products that are lightweight, affordable and help you stay organized and never lose your socks again. Their Specter Cubes help me keep socks, underwear or cables together. The bigger size Specter Cube also works really well as a pillow for backpacking (just stuff any clothing into it) while weighing nearly nothing.

If you have bulky clothing items such as jackets, pillows or thick sweaters, try their amazing compression sacs (in different sizes). A thick pile of clothing disappears into a thin airless layer within a minute – and stays that way (the one-way valves do not let air back in). It can save you a lot of space in your luggage, and I don’t travel anywhere without it.

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We have not tried yet but are jealously eyeing Eagle Creek’s luggage solutions such as carry on’s and duffle bags. I admit to being especially fascinated by the “2-in-1″ Morphus luggage solution. It turns from one bag into two, both solid and durable yet lightweight. Am I the only one that comes back from a visit to the parents with loads of chocolate and other goodies in my luggage (they live in Europe)? I would be in heaven if I could turn the one bag of clothing I bring into one bag of clothing and one bag of chocolate I return with :)

Within Eagle Creek’s product line, there are toiletry kits, travel wallets, laptop bags and much more. Every product is demonstrated in a video on their website. We encourage you to check out Eagle Creek, or find your own organization solutions. It will make a big difference for your next trip!

White or what? Thoughts on white sheets …

If you are the owner of a vacation rental, or have been a guest in a vacation rental, you probably have an opinion on this. It seems trivial but when I read this article, I realized I was nodding and exploring my own thoughts on this topic.

The Perfect White Vacation Rental Sheets

As I am writing this, I am spending time in Canmore, AB, in a very nice vacation rental with breathtaking views of the Rockies. And about a week before I even read this article, when I arrived here I felt myself admiring and enjoying the clean, soft white sheets on the bed in this rental.

I do agree that there is some psychology involved, and that we associate white with clean. And that this “no-color” is easy to maintain and combine with other design elements in a house. But mostly, I am just enjoying something special that I do not have at home (don’t we all have coloured sheets in our own home?).

So as an owner, consider this for your unit. As a guest, enjoy when you find it!

Inviting white sheets

Inviting white sheets!