Ten things you MUST have if you're renting out your holiday home
Home-sharing activity is growing at an exponential rate, and competition is fierce, so what are the key things you should have if renting out your property or holiday home? We recently visited the HOST Conference, Europe’s biggest, new holiday rental event, and here we share our findings with you…
1. Welcome Pack
Never under-estimate how far the personal touch goes. Gone are the days that a plastic folder with a few takeaway menus and map of the local area will suffice as good hosting. A short (preferably hand-written) note, welcoming your guests is entirely free and can provide instant good will.
Going the extra mile and creating rapport with your guests means the more forgiving they are going to be if there any potential issues (and if you are just starting out there will definitely be some). You are competing with a professional market so you need to up your game if you are going to stand out and earn those all important reviews.
A bottle of wine is pretty much always well received, and perhaps a basket of fruit, or local produce such as cheese, cured meats or artisan products. If guests arrive late a small snack and glass of something refreshing will be most welcome. Home baked treats are also a lovely touch if you are local to the property or have someone who can provide this service.
Guests will also no doubt be hungry for information which leads us to the next point…
2. House Manual
Creating a house manual is a great tool for ensuring your guests know about the quirks of your property and can head off any potential frustrations. Rather than just stuff it with manuals for the TV and dishwasher (although these are certainly useful) a few simple instructions in your own words can be more practical and less time consuming. No-one want to wade through pages of fine print to get the dishwasher to work when on holiday.
Top of the list, page one, or even stuck to outside of folder, has to be the WiFi code. 24 hour emergency contact details are also very reassuring, as are your own personal (and current) recommendations. For example best place to exchange currency, closest beach, locations of medical facilities are all things people unfamiliar with an area will be grateful for. The address of the property is also jolly handy so guests don’t have to keep looking up their booking details when they want to order cabs or takeaways.
A section for previous guests to leave their own recommendations is another good idea (you may even discover new places yourself!). A manual is also the right place to leave check-out instructions. If guests have booked far in advance they have probably forgotten details such as bins or bedding.
It also allows you to clearly set out your own house rules. Unfortunately, common sense is not always available, so spelling out details such as recycling instructions, noise issues, or parking etiquette can ensure you remain on good terms with your neighbours.
3. Decent non-breakable glasses
Chances are if you have a holiday home you will have an outdoor entertaining area, be it terrace, balcony etc. You may also have a hot-tub or swimming pool. House rules usually include using plastic glasses in and around these areas to avoid breakages (on hard tile) and injury. Sadly these rules can get ignored when guests are in full holiday mode causing danger to themselves and possible damage to your property.
The inconvenient truth is no-one actually likes drinking out of plastic glasses – especially not fine wine, champagne or cocktails! This is where the wonderful, space age, polycarbonate glasses come in. Practically unbreakable and almost impossible to tell from glass they are ideal for areas where safety is a concern but celebrating is going to happen. It will also cut down on your replacement glass cost. Used in nightclubs, spas and hospitals they are the perfect solution for outdoor entertaining or use in pools. Virtually Glass have a great selection, including a new range in on-trend white.
4. Guest reviews
Unless you are in the enviable position of having 100% repeat bookings, you will need to advertise your property and these days the review is king. When you are starting out, the professional advice is to worry more about getting reviews than making money. For nearly 9 in 10 consumers an online review is as important as a personal recommendation.
A decent feedback rating can elevate your property to the super-league when it comes to being found online so it is important that you encourage ALL of your guests to leave feedback. And don’t be afraid of negative reviews. Of course we all want 5 stars each time, but you can always try to make the best of a bad situation by responding publicly. If the situation they are referring to was resolved, say so and say how. If the complaint is news to you, then explain how you would have dealt with the issue if you’d been aware of it. If it is a one off than say it is a blip and apologise.
Reviews can also go both ways, and counter to popular opinion, the customer is not always king. If you’ve had trouble with a guest and they leave a negative review than it is your right to respond. If they broke house rules, caused damage or created problems then detail it!
5. Easy and reliable check-in system
If you have guests travelling from afar they may well be arriving at an unsociable time. Flights can be delayed or cars can break down and plans to greet them to your property personally may not always work out. This is where self-check in comes in. Combination key safes are now widely used and are convenient and stress-free option.
For those not afraid of tech, smart locks such as Klevio work with phone apps that allow you to share access remotely, changing the code each time for safety and eliminating the need for keys. If guests lock themselves out (all the time!) you won’t have to let them in late at night or pay a locksmith. These clever devices can be set on a timer with a start/end period for guest access reducing the chances of guests checking in too early/out too late, and preventing unauthorised entry.
And, lovely and personable as you may be, not all guests actually want direct communication with their host. Some prefer to have minimal contact, thus extending the feeling of a home away from home.
6. Enough sunbeds for ALL guests
This may seem obvious but so often beds get broken and are not replaced, and there is nothing more sure-fire to spoil a nice day than fights over sunbeds. If you have a sun terrace or pool area do ensure that if you rent out an 8-person property, there are 8 decent sun-beds available. Beanbag sunbeds are becoming more popular as a tough, durable yet super comfy solution to outdoor relaxing. UV and shower-resistant they provide a contemporary look and provide more comfort than decaying wooden furniture and look far better than a mildewed plastic set.
This also goes for seats inside the property. The home should accommodate the number of guests staying comfortably, so dining and living areas should also allow all guests to relax at the same time!
7. Good quality, long-lasting towels
According to a HomeAway.com focus group, the one amenity that came up over and over was towels and the quality of them ( or lack of quality!). Often in hotter climates guest will be bathing several times a day and towels take quite a beating. An investment in decent quality linen shows your guests that you value their comfort.
Light coloured towels work best – white best of all as you can chuck a small amount of bleach in to keep them looking bright. Darker colours fade and can bleed in the wash. Also, buy large bath towels rather than bath sheets. Although guests may love them they do take a lot of space up in the washing machine and to store and take ages to dry.
Also expect to replace them far more frequently than you do your own towels at home. You don’t have to buy the most expensive, but buying the cheapest is not cheaper in the long run, both for economics and guest satisfaction.
One additional tip – if your property is pet-friendly provide suitable towels for the non-humans also!
8. A top-rate cleaner...
… preferably loyal to you. Most guests expect to arrive to their holiday rental and find it spotless, especially if they have had a long tiring day travelling.
If the worst happens and you get a call of complaint you need to send a cleaner (or yourself) over to rectify the situation immediately. While the house is being sorted send your guests out to drinks and/or dinner on you.
Your cleaner is also your eyes and ears and should alert you to any house issues, or unreasonable guest behaviour. If you are a distance away it is imperative to have someone on hand who can be on site quickly should something occur. This can be anything from letting in people to do work on property to sorting out emergency situations.
9. Condiments and spices
Leaving food out that other guests have left can be controversial, but in a sweep of guest reviews it seems people are grateful for the basics. It makes no sense for guests to have to bring or buy tea, coffee, salt, pepper, spices or oils – especially if they have been left by other guests.
That said we would advocate leaving out only dry or ambient products and checking the dates carefully. Remove anything that has been left in the fridge (mayo, butter etc) as you don’t know how these have been kept during the previous guests stay, and people seem on the whole to prefer a clean slate in the refrigerator.
It’s a balance between not wanting to waste food, providing for your guest, but also limiting your liability. The guest can choose at the end of the day if they use the items or not – something you could make clear in the welcome letter or House Manual.
10. Overseas property insurance
Chances are you will already have insurance in place of some type for your holiday property – but do you have the right insurance that covers you for guests staying? Making money from you home is a commercial activity so a normal home insurance policy will almost certainly not cover you for any losses or damages which occur when you have paying guests staying.
Moreover approximately half of home insurers do not allow any kind of property ‘sharing’ and your own policy would be invalidated if you allow paying guests to stay. It is crucial to check the terms of your policy BEFORE you allow guests to stay. You may just need a top-up ‘Host Cover’ insurance which is easy to put in place. If your policy doesn’t support sharing then you will need a new Home Insurance Policy.
Since the list of things that could go wrong when opening up your home is fairly long (well endless probably), and types of insurance vary according to provider we will cover ‘Why you need insurance and what type is suitable’ in another article shortly.
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