Friday, December 28, 2007

Pricing your Vacation Rental By Owner for Profit

Pricing any type of real estate in the long run can spell victory of defeat.

There are so many factors that go into "how to sell" or "how to rent" real estate or vacation rentals. In this blog we will concentrate on PRICING!
Pricing is king! Anyway you look at it, pricing in almost any industry drives the market. So how does this effect us in the vacation rental business.

That is easy! Supply and Demand. If there are plenty of 3 bedroom condos for rent at $1000 per week and you are priced at $750, you will be 100% occupied but also you will be missing out on real income.
On the other hand, if you are priced at $1200 a week, you may not be getting bookings due to your pricing being too high. You may get some left overs, as the other units get booked up, the SUPPLY goes down and the last minute guests are only left to book your higher priced condo.

So some owners mistake some bookings as "they will pay my price" but they are really missing out on the majority of the market. The idea is to be almost 100% booked. With 90-95% occupancy you are running at optimal pricing. Any less and you may be too high, any higher you may be too low. Again, this is taking into consideration JUST pricing!
Now this does get a little harder to figure out as you have different units. Condos are easy to price as they are really close to being the same. Look online at comparable units. If you have a 3 bedroom home near the beach, do not comp it out with homes ON the beach. Be realistic. One mistake owners make is thinking their unit is "the best" one on the market. Chances are it is not. Be honest and realize that there are MANY nice homes/condos just like yours. Now comp them out to see what they are getting in rent. Comp out the market and see what everyone else is doing and come in AT the market! It does no one any good to UNDERCUT the market.

Here is why. If everyone is at $1000 a week, price yours at $1000 a week. If you go to $900, the next guy goes to $850 and so on. Now you may all be giving away income! If the market will pay $1000, stay there. Then your job is to "out market" and "out service" the competition. If you are using the online booking software,, you will have a big advantage on the competition already. You can take a booking in 30 seconds, and your competition will take 10 days to get a lease back with a check. Who do you think the guest wants to book with? The owner who accepts credit cards and has an online booking system. Also make sure you have your photo albums set up on your listings. Example: SLIDE SHOW

Now that you are priced at the market, and you are out performing your competition, you should be running at an optimal level. That is the whole concept. Keep your prices at the market, but work harder than the market to get MORE than your share. It works! Try it!

SPECIALS. Running specials or offering discounts is totally different than low ball pricing. Once you have researched your market, found your optimal pricing structure, stick to it and market your vacation rental. As time goes by, you will get the business you need to keep your unit booked. Then if a week does not book, as they sometimes will not, or if you get a last minute cancellation, you can offer a SPECIAL or DISCOUNT to try to get that time booked.

The online booking system has a COUPON system in place to handle this situation. Many listing sites have "specials" you can run to get the word out quickly that you have a "offer to good to pass up". The idea is to offer something to entice the guest to find you!

Give them $100 off, save 20%, anything that makes you stand out. The concept is your month is 3/4 booked, you have one week left that has not booked, you run specials or discounts for that week and the guest responds to those ads. Now you are 100% booked that month. With proper , marketing and placing ads or changing your "titles" on the ad portals, this is a great system of marketing to employ. Here is an example of a "title" I would run on say, VRBO, to help book a last minute cancellation: " Oct 7-14 now OPEN, save $150, Call today".

This targets a guest that needs that week, then they see the special and they click on your unit instead of the other 100 on that page. Now they view your spectacular photo album, you provide online booking and credit card processing and you get the business. That is how it works. Fast clean and easy!

Try this concept. You will enjoy the results! Remember to have your "system" in place to take the booking, then market, advertise and bring in the prospects. Pricing is one of the most important parts of the puzzle. Do your research and price your unit RIGHT!

Good Luck!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Vacation Rentals In Panama!

We are very excited about a new project that we are associated with. We have been working on Panama, the country, for about 3 years, buying, researching and now building vacation rentals on the beach in Panama.

This is the first home we will have completed. It is under construction now and here is a slide show to show you the progress of this home:

The reason we are in Panama is to try all the things we know that work in the Vacation Rental business. We have purchased ocean front lots and are building homes to vacation in. There will be maids quarters, built in swimming pools, sun decks, plus more. Everyone wants to be on the beach. Theses homes are on the beach, the back yard is the Pacific Ocean.

The country and area have so much to offer. Taking a vacation to Panama and staying at one of our homes on the beach will offer the ultimate vacation experience. The list of things to do is endless. There is horse back riding on the beach, ATV riding in the mountains, Zip lining in the rain forest, deep sea fishing, scuba diving, sunbathing, plus more.

The people are EXTREMELY friendly. You will have a live in staff waiting on you when you arrive. So now I hope you can see why we are going in this direction. To take a vacation and have this type of service and list of things to do is unreal! The best thing about it is the prices will be very reasonable. So instead of taking the family to Florida, consider the "other" Panama. The country.

Stay posted to our sites. We are offering "Fractions" for sale on this property. You can purchase 4 weeks a year and use them as you see fit. You can place them on the rental program and we will rent them for you. So this can truly be a lifestyle investment. Or use them! It is up to you.

Here is the site for fractional sale information: PanamaFractional

And stay tuned to our online booking site, and be ready to book your next adventure of a life time in Panama! UNIT 613 in Panama! ( currently under construction)

Hasta Luego Amigo!

Monday, December 17, 2007

New Features on ivacationonline, to help run your Vacation Rental by Owner.

RENTORS.ORG Update! One the of the new features and one of the most highly anticipated ones is the ability of the ivacationonline system to automatically update your RENTORS.ORG calendar.

Now when you enter the needed info into your property account, every time you CONFIRM, DECLINE, VOID or DISABLE a lease in the ivacationonline system, it will update your calendar on the RENTORS.ORG system. This can save you time and keep you accurate!

Automation is the pride of, we are taking tasks and time consuming items and automating them so the private owner can operate a vacation rental like a PRO! With the ivacationonline calendar being totally automated, you will never have to worry about keeping track of a calendar again!

SPREADSHEET! You can now email your spreadsheets to someone. We got this ready for the end of year tax rush. If you have a partner, manage a property for someone or just need to get your spreadsheet to your CPA, you can now email it to them off the system.

If you have not tried the system to run your vacation rental, you truly do not know what you are missing. Stop emailing word documents! Have a booking in seconds not days! Keep track of everything! The list is endless. Here is a LIST of FEATURES.

Sign up for our FREE 30 DAY TRIAL today. No credit card needed. No obligation. We will work with you to get you taking online bookings in a few minutes!

We look forward to helping you run a successful business!

Monday, December 10, 2007

eCom and now on

We are proud to announce the Patent Pending online reservations system, has added a new merchant service provider. eCom is now available to use with your online reservation system.
We have added eCom as an option for our owners as they use the gateway and this let's us have the most up to date technology for processing credit cards online.

This will mean more reliable servers are processing your transactions. Less possibility of a communication problem during your booking. Faster bookings too. Now the combination of the reservation system with the eCom, gateway for your processing is a sure fire way to take online reservations for your vacation rentals.
The rates are the best we could find. No application fee, no annual fee, only 2.24% for qualified transactions and no monthly minimum.
You can APPLY ONLINE for this service and you have to be an member to get these rates.
No set up fee
No monthly minimum
No closure fee
No Annual Fee
2.24% qualified discount rate
2.19% debit card discount rate
$.15 per transaction
$5.00 monthly service/statement fee
$10.00 gateway monthly fee
$.20 gateway per transaction fee

It only takes about 24 hours to have your merchant service set up. Then just add the log in and password information to your MY ACCOUNT section on, edit your rates to accept the eCom account and you are back in business. Taking online bookings has never been any safer or easier!
If you are not currently on the system, try our FREE 30 DAY TRIAL to see what taking online bookings can do for your vacation rental business. No more email WORD documents! No more double bookings! No more tracking everything! Let the software do it for you!
We hope you have a Happy Holiday Season and make sure to sign up for the free trial soon! The busy 2008 vacation rental season is just around the corner.
Happy Renting!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Vaction Rentals, End of year updates!

With the year coming to an end, now is the time to consider your next years business.

What needs to be updated? What are you going to do about your rates? Increase them or not? Any changes needed at the property?

These are all great questions most owners have. Anything I have done in my life, one principle holds true. The more time you put into something, the more you will get out of it. If you only advertise on a few sites, do not visit your properties, do not make improvements on a regular basis, then your gross rentals will reflect that.

The cabin pictured above is a new owner to the "BY OWNER" market. The owner has been taking the time to set up his "BY OWNER" business. Since he has taken the time, I know he will be successful in 2008. Be sure to check out his unit, 623 on

I know we are all busy. So you must be honest with yourself to the commitment you can make. The owners we work with have many different ideas on how much time and money they invest in this business. We do see a trend. The owners that look forward to the future, paint the units, price them right, spend time researching what ad portals to advertise on and in general, just run a good business, are the ones that are the most successful

This is the perfect time of year for some self evaluation. Are you spending enough time to get the business you want? Are your rates for 2008 up on the ad portals you advertise on? Have you made any improvements to your properties?

Before you know it, Jan 1 will be here and for most of us, that is the start of another busy booking season and we are on our way! So get ready now. Make a list and work a little each day to make sure you are ready!

Look over your competition too. See what is going on in your area. Don't be the last to know something, be the first!

Your time spent on your vacation rental business will come back to you in rental dividends. Good luck in 2008!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Get Involved!

I just returned from Destin Florida, where I was to attend our HOA meeting and budget meetings for one of the communities I have a home. I am on the board at Cottage Retreat in Destin and have held the Presidents position for the past 3 years.

The reason I bring this up is I think we need more owners to get involved. Everyone wants a nice community, clean streets and sidewalks, beautiful homes,l clean pools and hot tubs, but there is some work that needs to be done to get them there.

I have enjoyed my time I spend working with the other board members. It really has not been too bad a time commitment. If more owners became involved, then they would have a voice in the rules, regulations and direction a community is heading.

If you do not get involved, you can not complain when something does not go your way. I wanted to be involved in the early years as many rules, and items needed to be completed. If I did not voice my opinion, how can I expect the outcome I am hoping for. The HOA has to take into account the good of all the owners, not just the board members. A good board of directors will keep that in mind. It is not a place for a "good ole boys" attitude, but you must do what is best for everyone.

Think about getting involved in your community. You may enjoy it as much as I have. It is also a great learning experience. There are state laws that help protect the owners and the community. There are rules that must be followed so that no one is at a disadvantage.

GET INVOLVED! Your investment depends on it! Go to your next meeting and run for a position on the board. You may be surprised how happy others are to have your help! Then you can start to shape and mold your own future!

Good luck!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Why use Online Booking?

We get this question often. Some owners of private vacation rentals have been in business for years. So they have "some" type of system in place to take bookings and keep track of the guests coming and going. So we understand the resistance to change. But.....

THINGS CHANGE. What use to be standard a few years ago is now out dated. Look at all the technology we have now in our cell phones, DVDs, TVs etc. So why not look into a state of the art booking system for your vacation rental business.

The software is built so the owner may perform a transaction with the guest, online, and all parties are informed and all parties have the needed documentation for the transaction.

SPEED COUNTS. We all know in the vacation rental business the owner that returns the calls and emails the fastest usually gets the booking. So why would you want to put a 4-7 day freeze on that process.

Let's say you return a call of a prospect that is very interested and wants to book your unit. You call them, they ask questions and you both agree to the booking. Now you have to email or fax the paperwork to them, they must print it out, sign it and write a check and mail it back to you. This is the normal way of doing business without online booking. VERY SLOW and puts too much on the guests.

You are taking a person who wants to buy something from you and putting a 7 day period into the equation and chances are they may not follow thru. The odds are not in your favor. Is your property "pending" or do you rent it to the next person that acts faster? What if they do not return the paperwork? How long do you wait for the paperwork before you try to track the prospect down? See the problems here?

You can now get that booking online and get it when the guest is wanting to do business with you! Which is NOW! In about 60 seconds it can all be done! We have taken an online survey of guest after they have booked with the system and to date, 100% of the guest said they want to book a trip with a credit card. This is what the system promotes. In any business, if you give the consumer what they want, you will attract more business. Make the sale when the prospect is ready to buy. Not one week later. Online booking gives you that option. Online booking is the way of the future.

Most of the owners we consult with that are not doing well, have a very difficult booking process. They have too many "rules", they do not take credit cards and are slow getting back to the prospect. They do not advertise enough. There is too much competition now. The owners that are making these changes, doing online booking, taking credit cards and removing roadblocks to the bookings are getting the lions share of business.

THE PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE. This is the best way I can describe what the automated online booking system,, can do for you. Make it easy on the guest, open the door WIDE open. Welcome them with open arms. Have your terms and conditions well written, have them agree and book them now! When the guest has you on the phone and they are all excited, that is the time to take the booking. Not 2 days later when you email them the documents and they have to write a check.

What would happen if a car dealer showed you a car you loved on the lot, you wanted to buy it and they told you to go home and wait for an email, print it out, then fill out the form and mail them a check back! They would never sell a car! So why do that in the vacation rental business?

NEW TREND. Here is the trend we see with online bookings. Owners are now removing taking a security deposits, asking for 100% up front, and they have language in the terms that they reserve the right to charge the credit card used in this transaction for any damages that may occur. The benefit here is the guest perceives a lower cost as they do not see an inflated price due to the security deposit. The owner has less work after the booking as they do not have to return a deposit. The owner has a copy of the card on file in the merchant service so they are protected. It is a win win for all involved. Again, this is making it easier for the guest and they respond by booking faster with these owners using these policies.

TRY IT. You can always go back to the OLD FASHION way. If you do not see how this system benefits you, go back to what you where doing. The owners that are using this technology to the fullest are having record years on the rentals.

Hope to see you taking online bookings soon! You will not regret it!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Details, Details, Details; Winning with a Vacation Rental by Owner

Today I wanted to go over what very successful owners are doing to stay successful!

I work with owners form all over the country with vacation rentals in many different areas. The underlying trait that the successful owners have is they pay attention to the details.

One of the most successful owners I know are Jay and Betty Coppic in Destin Florida. I have known Jay and Betty for about 5 years. They called me when they had one unit in Destin and were not very happy with the management company. I shared with them what I was doing to run this business on my own and they soon gave notice and left the management company. They have some rentals in one of my communities in Destin and they did so well with it they started to buy more. They now own 3 in the same complex.

They too love Destin like we do. They love it so much, they moved there and now live in a community near their rentals. So they now have a great advantage in this business. They can enter the units on a weekly basis and check on everything and keep the units in great condition.

The main reason I want to bring them up is the level of detail they put into this business is second to none! When I work with an owner that is not having success, I can see a trend of not putting in the time it takes to make this business work.

The old style of, "This is my second home, if you want to rent it, do what I say." Is out the door. As I always preach, this is a business. And if you are not running it like a business, you will suffer the economic consequences.

So now I see a direct relationship between owners like Jay and Betty, that take the time that is needed to run a great business and are VERY successful and owners that pay very little attention to it and they are not doing very well. So let me go into some detail so you can see what owners like Jay and Betty are doing to stay fully occupied and cash flowing their properties.

The devil is in the details! Jay takes great photos and uses them to "sell" his units. We could not agree more. Take as many pictures as possible. Use the Picasa Slide shows. Do what ever you can to show off your property. This takes time and the owners that take the time to do this are the ones seeing the benefits.

Advertise properly. You can not just throw up and ad on VRBO and complain that you are not 100% booked. The ad must be written correctly. Give details about everything. The bedrooms, the living rooms, inside, outside. You can not put too much detail on the web portals. The guest want to read all about a property, once they have interest.

Communicate with your guest. First owner that gets back to them, gets the business. Use this mentality and do not count on just emailing the guest and getting the bookings. CALL THEM ASAP!

Have all your policies in place and stick to them. Do not let the inmates run the asylum! You must know your policies and state them clearly on your sites and follow them. If you change your check in and check out time for every guest that ask, you will go crazy! Stick to your minimum day booking requirement. You need to run a successful business, you will also have to learn to say NO. NO, I do not allow pets. NO, I can not take a 2 day booking. NO, I do not rent to students under 25. NO is OK.

Follow up and stay in touch with your guest. This is rarely done. Getting someone to come back to your property is much better that trying to find a new prospect. They know you and your unit. They have been there. They are an easy sale. If you are not contacting them on a regular basis, they will forget who you are and end up booking with someone else next year.

Take the time to re-think your business. Take a few days or evenings and update all your sites. When is the last time you changed your copy on the web portals you advertise on? Keep it fresh.
Yes, this does take time, but if you start paying attention and run your properties like a business, the way Jay and Betty do in Destin, you too can be fully booked and cash flowing your units. Try it! You have no place to go but UP!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Off season, time to update your Vacation Rental

Many of us are going into what we may consider to be the slow season. Some markets are now just heating up. Either way, updating your property and doing normal maintenance is part of this business.

If you are running your business successfully you may be booked during the "slow" time when other units are empty! This is a great problem to have. What I will normally do is take as many bookings as possible up to about Nov. 1. I know in my market of DESTIN FLORIDA, any bookings we can get in Nov. outside of Thanksgiving is really a bonus. So if I am going to take time off the calendar it is usually around the beginning of Nov.

I have found it is worth missing one or two weeks of low rent and keep my units updated as much as possible, so my high season guests are happy when they return and see an improved unit. And since we run usually over 90% booked, I have very few weeks a year to get this work completed.

Here are some items you need to consider.

1) Have your HVAC cleaned and inspected. Much of this will be preventative. There is not one of your guests that want to arrive and not have heat or air. This is a great way to stop a problem before it happens.

2) Paint and decor. It is always good to keep your vacation rental fresh with the latest colors and decor. How long has it been since you painted the entire place? Do you have enough touch up paint to keep the place looking good. Guest bringing in and out large travel bags and suite cases can leave your walls "dinged" up. Touch them up and keep enough of the original paint on hand so this is easy and fast.

3) Pressure washing. I love my pressure washer. You can make anything look new again. Decks, sidewalks, driveways, siding on your home. If you do not have time to do it your self, hire someone. There are always plenty of handy man around to do this. This will make everything look new again. I have one of my homes pressured washed once a year, they do the drive way, patios, front porch, sidewalks and side of the home for about $200. It is money well spent.

4) New Furniture. You will know when it is time. If I see a worn couch or chair, we will make plans to replace it in the fall. This is one thing that everyone needs to consider. The furniture does take a beating. Try to budget for it. Make it part of your yearly expenses. If you buy one or two pieces a year, every year, you will always have furniture that is in great shape.

5) Carpet cleaning/Replacement. If you have carpet, clean it! The guest can tell when you have worn out dirty carpets. I like to put as much ceramic tile down as possible. But where I have carpet we have it cleaned at least twice a year. You should also have your tile cleaned once a year as the dirty tile can transfer the dirt right back to the carpet once it is clean. After 5-6 years it may be time to consider replacing the carpet. I always try to pick colors or patterns they go good with dirt! Brown carpet is much better in vacation rentals then white!

These are just a few ideas to get you thinking. What do yo uhave at your place that needs work. Now is the time to schedule the improvements.

I hope these items gave you enough ideas to get motivated to improve your unit. I assure you the better you take care of your place,the better your guest will like it and want to come back. Building up repeat business is GOLDEN in this business. They feel safe booking with you as they have a track record with you and they know you keep a clean updated place.

The more you put into this business, the more you will get out. Keep up the good work and keep your units updated! Happy Renting!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Gatlinburg Meeting for Vacation Rentals By Owners.

Well, we just got back from a great weekend in Gatlinburg TN. We had the opportunity to meet with a great group of owners in Gatlinburg. This group was formed off of the Yahoo board of Gatlinburg owners. They are taking the needed steps to help them selves in the vacation rental industry. Here is a slide show of the day; (If you are having a problem viewing the Slideshow from the feed you can go to and click the blog link to view this blog entry)

I think their idea of forming the group they have is wonderful. They are pulling the resources and learning to be more successful than the competition.

I also had the chance to meet Christine Karpinsky from Homeaway. It was great to finally meet her face to face. She also does a great job traveling and holding seminars to help owners of vacation rentals run successful businesses. It is very similar to what we offer at Vacation Rentals For There was so much information for these owners we hope they all take something home with them that will help improve their rental business.

Here are a few topics we handled that day.

1) Running "Special" ads on Homeaway. We have had great success with this feature on Homeaway. You can run a "Special"ad and draw attention to a particular week or days that you need booked. Once you place the ad, guest will find your ad in prominent positions on the Homeaway network and your chances of getting a booking increase tremendously.

2) Making sure you are advertising enough. Many owners only have 1-3 web portals bringing in prospects. Owners need to set a budget and make sure they are well represented on the sites that do well with the searches in their areas. Being on 4-10 well positions sites is what a successful owner needs to do.

3) Picasa Photo Album. We went over this in detail. This is one of the best ways to close a sale. If you have a photo album of this quality on your listing at your conversion ratio will improve. Guest want to see pictures. Give them the latest most user friendly photo album out there.

4) Taking online bookings and credit card processing. In today's "give it to me now" society, having the automated online software taking real time online bookings with credit card processing will super charge your business. Guest simply react better to online booking than waiting around for an email that they must print out, sign and then mail back to the owner with a check. The faster you return a phone call, and the faster your booking process is, the better your rental business will be.

I shared a real life story with my own unit. As I drove to Gatlinburg on Friday morning, I received a call from a prospect in Indiana. I had just put back on the market a week that started on Saturday, the next day! He wanted to book with me and he did so online with his credit card. I emailed him back the CONFIRMATION once I arrived at my brothers place in Gatlinburg. He arrived the next day at my place and everyone was happy. There is no way to get that transaction completed without taking online bookings and credit card processing.

We really talked heavily about running your unit like a business. Have a business plan. Have policies in place. Have a well written online contract and check out procedures. Once all of this comes together, the owners that take the time and do the work are the ones getting the rewards.

I think more areas need to act like the Gatlinburg owners. The more we work together as an industry the better we will be perceived. We need to act and look professional. Running your business like a professional is now easy with all the tools available.

I would like to thank the group in Gatlinburg and I would love to come back anytime they will have me. I really enjoy being around like minded folks and I love talking about the vacation rental by owner business.

I wish them all luck and hope to be able to work one on one with any owners we met in Gatlinburg! Just call or email me anytime! I look forward to your continued success.
Vacation Rentals For

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Handling the Guest calls and emails for your Vacation Rental

Once you have your advertising in place, you will start to get calls and emails. Now what? You have to be prepared to handle them as fast and as accurate as possible.

The bottom line in the vacation rental by owner business is, the owner who gets back to the guest first, has the best chance to get the booking. The number one complaint from guests of private vacation rentals is the owners do not respond to inquires.

The owners do have a legitimate complaint for the guest too, they do not like being asked questions that are easily found on the web sites they provide. The problem occurs when a prospect looks at so many listings online, after talking to a few disorganized owners, they find out that many calendars are not up to date and many rates are incorrect.

So they end up asking questions to an owner that is accurate, so we suggest you just take that in stride. The better the vacation rental by owner industry becomes organized, the better the guest will know how to engage us.

So back to the guests questions. If you have the phone number of the guest given to you by them in an email, I would call them as soon as possible. This cuts to the chase. Be prepared to let them know which unit they emailed you about as they have more than likely emailed several owners. So that being said, answer their questions, assure them your dates and rates are accurate on your site and ask them if they want to book with you.

Having the patent pending online reservation system at your finger tips can help seals the deal. The faster you can get a "warm" prospect to book with you the better. Now it is up to them. Once on your listing, they are able to book it or not. They make that decision. They are not waiting for you. If you had to go back and format a Word document and email that to them, they may have found another unit while you are doing that. As we have found with all the owners on our site, the ability to book online instantly is increasing the closing ratios of the owners and increasing their gross rents.

I know most owners are very busy. Before you go calling every person that emails you, qualify the lead. I only take Sat to Sat bookings on my Destin listings. So if I get a request for a 2 day stay for next year on the Fourth of July, I may only email this person back and not call them. As I know I will get a weekly booking for that week, no problem. On the other hand, if I have an opening in the next few weeks, and I get an email asking questions about it, I am on the phone as fast as possible.

The best way to get qualified leads is to have the most updated, informative listings as possible. The better your listing is, the better the lead. Disclose your age restrictions if you have one. There is no more aggravating thing than to have thousands of college student's wanting to book your home for Spring Break. Let them know up front so they do not waste your time.

Pictures and the slide shows we use, help seal the deal too. The better the unit is represented online with pictures, the better the lead. They see it all! Then when they ask an intelligent question, you can tell they have really studied your unit and are a great prospect.

On your emails, I try to answer the questions they ask, as direct as I can and then I always make sure they have the links to my sites so they can go right back to my listing. It is a great idea to have a "signature" set up for your email. Then once you answer the question, you can just use your signature and this will help you save time.

The bottom line is call and email the guest as fast as possible and give them access to the online booking listing on This combination will help you stay fully booked!

Good luck with your rentals!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fine tune your advertising online for your Vacation Rental By Owner

Putting a few listings out on the Internet is one thing and then placing ads that bring in the business is another. We will go into a few strategies that have proven to be very effective for private owners of Vacation Rentals by Owner.

In the last blog, we talked about getting out on the Internet and making sure you are advertising on the right portals. Now once you have created your "Marketing Umbrella" you need to make sure those ads are written correctly and use some of the "tricks of the trade" to attract business your way.

Leaving up the same adds all year is not the best way to attract guests. That is what most owners do. So break away from the crowd and try a few of these concepts.

HIGHLIGHT A WEEK. Let's say you have one week open in June that has not booked. You are in April and want to try to book that one week that is left. What we have found to be very effective is to "feature" that week in your advertising. Go to each portal that you advertise on and change your title or description to reflect that week. Maybe something like this:

"JUNE 7-14 is now open! Save $150. Call today!"

What this does, is brings attention to your listing and qualifies the guest. Your listing are being seen by many prospects. You need something that stands out. So when your prospect that needs that week sees your listing, I assure you they will click on your unit. Now there may be hundreds or thousands of other listings that are available for them to book. But they clicked on yours because you "talked" to them through your description. You qualified them with this ad.

Now they are on your listing. I always let them know I have a photo album with many more pictures as that is the number one thing a guest wants to see. So they call or email me and I get them to my listing as fast as possible.

So now I have a guest that needs that week and now I have them on my online booking software listing. This is the best position to be in. I do use coupons and some discounts to make it attractive for the guest. I may offer anywhere from $100 to $250 off in the summer months on my higher bookings. It all depends on how hard I think that week will be to book and how close I am to the booking. Many prospects just like the idea of getting a discount, so I use that "hook" to bring them in. I do not discount every week. Just the ones I am promoting.

Now this will also bring in other business. Your ad will get noticed and you may get people asking if you will discount the week they want later in the year. You can do that if you want. The idea is you are getting the clicks. People are looking at your listing. And with the online booking you are giving them the path of least resistance. Meaning, you are making it EASY to book with you and EASY is good online. If you put them through emailing word documents back and forth, you will lose some of those people.

Now that you have booked that week you are promoting, just move on to the next week that needs help. Change the ads the next week. If you do this all year long, the majority of your time will be booked normally and at full rates, using this technique will fill in the weeks that need the extra attention and you can move towards being 100% booked all year.

Just remember, if you have great photos and a photo album, a clean unit and you are advertising correctly, offering a small discount and placing a "SALE" ad out there may be the only little help you need to bring in MORE business.

Try it. I can not tell you how satisfying it is to place an ad and in a few days have that week booked.

One last thing to try is many sites are offering a "Specials" or "Featured" section. Homeaway is doing this. It is money well spent to go in and create a 2 week special to try to get a few bookings that are lingering. Use the discounts. That is what they are designed for. You will get results.

Good luck and we hope these advertising techniques for your vacation rental by owner help you stay booked!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

How to advertise on the Internet for your Vacation Rental By Owner.

This is one of the most important things to do PROPERLY to be successful in the vacation rental by owner market.

There are endless sites to choose from. There are more FREE sites than you can list on in a life time. So what do you do?

First of all you have to understand you MUST advertise on many different sites to get the results you want.

I have talked to many different owners over the years and they tell me that they advertise on VRBO and we are not getting the bookings? Well, years ago, one site did do it for most owners. Now that everyone has bought a vacation rental and they want to have it booked solid, competition has increased. With increased competition, you must improve or step aside. We hope you improve and we are here to help!

You need to set up your Umbrella of marketing. As the picture shows above, you need quality sites driving traffic to your online vacation rental booking listing on

So no matter where they come from, just bring them to your listing on to book them.

Start with searches of terms that a guest may use to find you. If you have a condo in Daytona Beach Florida, go to Google and search, "Daytona Beach Condo for rent" and track the results. You may have to weed out the management companies and other private websites and look for the advertising portals. Now write 4-5 of the top sites down. Now do another search, like "Daytona Beach vacation rental condo", and do the same thing. Look for the portals. Try this on Google, Yahoo and MSN searches.

Now compare your notes. Find at least 4-8 sites that come up in those searches and list with them. They are producing for your area. This is now creating your vacation rental by owner marketing umbrella.

FREE SITES. They are free for a reason. There is no problem listing with them, but do not think that being on 10 free sites is any substitute for one good quality paid site that you found in a real life search.

This is usually a work in progress. You need to have a budget and make sure you advertise enough. 3 of the most deadly sins in the vacation rental by owner market that I see are:

1) Not enough advertising on Quality sites.
2) Not enough quality pictures online for the guest to see.
3) Pricing of the unit and the booking process are too difficult.

You can work on the advertising each week. Make sure you are keeping accurate pictures and pricing on your paid portals. Guest want current information. That brings you more qualified leads and the close on the sale is easier if you do not have to explain, that those are our "old"rates and you have not changed them this year. Keep them up to date.

We will get into some fine tuning of advertising in the next blog here at
We want you to succeed. Just make sure you are advertising on the right sites and you are advertising enough. You can tell if you are booked. If you want more bookings, consider advertising more, lowering your prices and putting up more and better pictures, it all goes hand in had to get the booking!

Good luck with your advertising of your vacation rental by owner. Keep up the good work.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Travel Insurance for Vacation Rentals by Owner

I received an email from Don, the owner of units 497 and 517 about his experience with the travel insurance option we provide for private owners of vacation rentals.

Many owners are going to a NO REFUND policy and using the travel insurance that is available on as a back up. Here is the concept. An owner can not predict the future. Weather, tropical storms, hurricanes, health related problems are all out of the control of any owner.
Many management companies and travel agencies are using travel insurance to solve these issues. The private owner can disclose the NO REFUND policy. This is done in the terms and conditions section on your listing. So when the guests reads and agrees to these terms they have the OPTION to buy the travel insurance for their protection. It is now up to the guest to protect them selves.

This makes it totally fair to all parties. The owners fully disclose the NO REFUND policy, they now know they have cash flow to pay the bills and the guest can buy travel insurance, if they want the protection. There are many policies quoted and they are very reasonable. It usually runs about 6% of the cost of the trip.
Here is a REAL LIFE example of how this helped one of the owners on and the guest:
Hey Joe,
Needed to let you know how well the IVOL system is working for Gail and I. More specifically the travel insurance. Here's what happened! I recently received a call from a renter that needed to cancel due to a medical situation! I thought to myself, here we go she is going to ask for a refund and the rental is this week! Well travel insurance to the rescue! My renter says " Can you send me a email accepting my cancellation"? I purchased travel insurance!
Whew! Dodged that bullet! I have a no refund policy! Well it gets better I got to keep the rent and I threw an ad on my advertising sites and I booked the property on Friday night and made double rent! I got to tell you! I love travel insurance! Thanks and keep up the great work!

Don and Gail, property 517 and 497

So this is a real life example of how this works for everyone! I personally have dealt with hurricanes and giving back massive refunds. I will no longer be in that position with this system in place.

Think about the NO REFUND policy for your vacation rental by owner. You may not know how happy you are until you have a situation like the above booking.
It just goes to show you that is does pay to do things by the book and run a good business.
We hope you have success in the future with some of these strategies in the vacation rental by owner market.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Picasa Photo Albums for Vacation Rentals by Owner.

We have another GREAT tool we want to let owners know about. If you own a vacation rental and you are running it "By Owner" you need every advantage possible to find and keep you guest.

I can not stress the importance of QUALITY photos of your vacation rental. These need to be updated as you make changes to your unit over time.

In the past, an owner could list 3-4 photos of their unit online and get plenty of business. Now with more competition you need to improve.

We love the new PICASA photo album service from Google. See my unit live online UNIT 122.

Notice the slide show plays automatically in the DESCRIPTION. Anytime you can eliminate clicks for a guest the better off you will be.

I start with the unit, outside moving in. Then go to every room in the house, showing beds and baths, laundry, EVERYTHING! Then I move back out side showing patios, street, beach, pool and then I move into area attractions. I try to paint a VACATION experience.

Many guest may have never been to your area. We as owners take all this for granted. Show off not only your unit but your area. The more quality photos you have the more time a guest will spend on your listing and the more likely they will book with you.

I use the slide show as my "bait". I have a guest on the phone and I ask them if they want to see 100 photos of the unit, they say "SURE", well go to unit 122 and look there. They go there. Once there, they love the photos and I tell them, "By the way, just click on the green week to begin the booking process." It is a very good closing tool.

We can integrate a PICASA slide show for you too. You need to join PICASA (it it FREE!) and create a WEB ALBUM. You can update this at any time. Once you create the WEB ALBUM, the system will give your EMBEDDED CODE that we will be able to put in your description so you too can have a slide show play automatically on your listing. ( Just email us the code) This is state of the art.

Think about what this will do for your business. I know I have better pictures than almost everyone, other owners and management companies. Notice I said PICTURES and not UNIT. My units are in good shape but to be honest, there are just nice, average units for the area. There are better and there are worse. What I do have is GREAT Photos. People love that! The pictures will sell it for you. No questions! Sign up today and start your own slide show. Your bookings will be better because of it.

Take advantage of the tools that are out there for you! Here is an example of one of my slide shows:

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Why take credit cards for Vacation Rentals by Owner.

This is a subject I feel passionate about. We work with owners everyday. Most owners have not run a business before, so opening a merchant account is something new and can be intimidating.

Most if not all businesses in general see the benefit in taking credit cards. It is what the market demands. Imagine going to a department store to buy some clothes to find out at the check out counter, they do not take any credit cards. What would you do? Would you still buy there? Would you ever shop there again? Think about it.

The majority of the people in the world today do a very high percentage of business, especially online with credit cards. They are fast, easy and provide a level of security for both the buyer and seller.

So why has the Vacation Rental By Owner market struggled so long to take credit cards? My answer is just a lack of knowledge on how they work, what the benefits are and what the REAL cost are.

If you want to compete online and maximize your vacation rental business, start taking credit cards. Why not? The cost has drastically come down. Everyone has one or two or more! We have negotiated one of the lowest cost out there with Now having a full blown merchant service is VERY reasonable. Here is the rate structure we have negotiated for owners:

You can apply online here: ONLINE APPLICATION

Here are some more thoughts. Let's say you rent by the week. So you have a product to sell. It happens to be 52 items (your weeks). So you have limited inventory. One week may run $995, for example. If you are not 100% booked, could you improve your bookings with taking credit cards? My answer is YES! I have done just that. One more booking a year will more than pay for your $13 a month fee. If you have more than one unit, it is a no brainer. What if you get 3 more booking a year, the math will start to add up in your favor quickly!

Guests may not tell you that they didn't book with you because you do not take credit cards, but I have guest every year tell me they did book with me because I do take them. This is one of the ways I can out book my competition.

Now for the real life stuff. The merchant service with Securepay lets me take online bookings thru our online vacation rental software at

This provides me a way to be on the phone with a guest, walk them through my listing and have them book it online, while I am talking to them and the transaction is complete. PERIOD. No pending weeks, no waiting on WORD documents and emails. The deal is done. To me that has great value. And the guest love it. They want less work, not more. If they can do it online and pay with a credit card quickly, they will. That is why I can beat some of my competition. Speed an ease. I make it easy, other owners make it hard. I win!

As time goes on, more and more owners are moving to online booking and taking credit cards. Why not get with the trend instead of behind it. Try taking credit cards and online booking. If you don't like it or it is not profitable, go back to emailing WORD documents back and forth.

You are running a business. There is always a cost to doing business, advertising, taxes, cleaning fees and your merchant service, are just a few. Don't try to skimp when you are trying to compete. It is time you have all the business tools you need to be successful! Good luck and let us know how you are doing!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Vacation Rental Success Story

Once in a while you just need to let people know about a great story. Here is one!

I was contacted by Don Wilkymacky this year about buying his first vacation rental. He is a professional in the medical sales industry and is very busy. He made it clear that he wanted a turn key operation and needed to rent the unit. No problem.

We talked about a great tax incentive in Gulf Shores Alabama called the GO ZONE. He liked that idea and I was able to view some units for him in February when I was in Gulf Shores. He purchased a unit, sight unseen and started on the financing process.

Long story short, Don closed on the unit, followed our system to the T, read our book, Vacation Rentals For Profit (several times he tells me) and joined to manage his property with the online booking system. I am writing this as of Sept 12, 2007 and Don has not had a vacancy yet since he closed (End of May)! He is trying for 100% occupancy in 2007 and he may get there! We hope he does. He is very happy.

Here are some of the reasons Don has been so successful.

1. He listened. We talked many times on the phone about ideas and business strategy. He had some great ideas and he also did exactly what we suggested and used proven business techniques.

2. He priced his unit right. Since he was coming on the market right at the beginning of the summer rush, we had concern he would miss the high season. We suggested aggressive pricing as time was of the essence. He priced his unit, just below what we figured the market should be. The market responded.

3. He set up his unit, number 497 on and completed everything he needed. He put the time into making his unit a pleasure to book online. He put up his PHOTO ALBUM, that was a huge help.

4. Don takes credit cards online with online booking. He did not have time to waste. Emailing WORD documents back and forth to the guest was not an option for Don. He was too busy for that. Taking online bookings with credit cards got him the bookings NOW. The money was in the bank and the guests where on their way. This streamlined Don's business and let him run it online from any location he may have been in. Since Don travels for his job, this was a very important part of the business plan.

5. Don advertised correctly. We searched GULF SHORES vacation rentals, and many other terms and found the sites we know would produce for Don, then he put the time into creating some great ads on the needed portals.

6. Don serviced his clients. Don's wife helped with the day to day calls and emails and got back to the guest quickly! That was a huge help.

7. Weekly Bookings. I love Saturday to Saturday bookings. Don had some questions about this. Many people in Gulf Shores advised him to take daily rentals. I told him to do Sat to Sat only. He stuck with that and has never looked back.
An owner must learn to do what is good for the OWNER not the Guest. Sometimes the word NO has to be said!
These are just some of the more important things Don did to make his first year a success. He was very motivated to make this work and he put the time in to make it a success.

He was so happy and successful he has recently purchased the unit next to his and is on his way to making this unit, 517, a great success too. Two units in one year! Way to go Don.

Congratulations on a great success story Don! We wish you more success in the future.

If you are not 100% booked like Don is, you may want to consider some of his techniques!
Good luck with the rentals!

Listen to DON!

Vacation Rental Business

We have started a BLOG! We feel this will be the best way to communicate with other vacation rental owners.

We deal with many owners everyday all over the world. We see so many different ways to run this business. That is the reason for this blog. We want to help owners run a successful business.

If we can help "standardize" this business, it may help each owner become more successful. Most owners may not have any business background or have anyone to help them set up a vacation rental business. And that's what it is A BUSINESS!

So we will go into different topics everyday. We will share stories from other owners so you can see what is working and what is not. Real everyday business applications.

You may be missing out on something that can help you and your business. Please feel free to contribute your stories and experience. We would love to hear from vacation rental owners no matter where you are located!

Have a great day!