Wednesday, September 5, 2007

What it's like to be in the vacation rental business: PART 1

Here's a first hand account from one of my clients who bought a modest house in South Dennis a couple of years ago. The first year they had a year round tenant which proved to be a disaster. Then they started doing weekly vacation rentals. Here's their report today when I asked for the details of how their rentals were going:

Doing it on my own. Rental company we had last year wasn't very
helpful. They said they had one of our weeks rented and it ended up the
person had rented another place. They hadn't kept on top of it. It
really killed me because I had already received calls from 2 or 3
renters who asked for that particular week. I called the agency at one
point and asked if they were sure about that week being rented because
one man who called seemed to be desperate. They were so sure! and they
were wrong. They finally found someone for about 3 days of that week; of
course less rent. It was the way they blew it off that ticked us off.

So now I'm making my own mistakes. I can get ticked off at myself if I
screw up. And I have done that.

I'm trying to low-ball the price - at $850/week last year, $300 security
deposit and am now at $1000/week, $300 security. I give a discount to
returning renters. It's hard to keep rent too low with the expenses of
running the place. What with cleaning, DirecTV, A/C, etc. Since we're
not near water we can't ask the higher rents, and it's not a luxury
place. But it is a nice location for families - the kids can run around
the neighborhood on boogie boards and bikes; and the beach is just up
the street (Rte 134). The location seems to work out pretty well. Some
people are attracted by the sun room. Of course one lady called the sun
room the "mud room" !!! Whatever - still a nice place to have coffee in
the morning.

Some people just pay, no questions/no complaints. Some ask for a
discount - the family who stayed two weeks did ask and got a discount. I
like having returnees because I know they've been there before, didn't
mess the place up last year and probably won't mess it up this year. We
had two families with problems this summer - one ran out of juice in the
propane tank, and the other couldn't work the washing machine and a
light bulb was out. Somehow they got resolved. We'll see if they come
back next year.

I've had several requests for weeks that were already rented and people
have asked if I knew of another house near ours for their friends to
stay in. I really don't know of any other places yet. If you know of
anyone with a place, let me know, I can refer them.

It's kinda fun doing this for now - we'll see how long it lasts.