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They’re familiar, easily available, require little-if-any overhead, and are almost as good as cash when it comes to the hands-on satisfaction of having money in your pocket. But if your vacation rental is still dealing with checks, are you leaving yourself exposed?

"Check Writing" on flickr, by David Goehring (CC BY 2.0)Beyond the fact that travelers strongly prefer to use credit cards, many vacation rental owners have run their businesses using checks for years with no problem.

But as the more unfortunate will tell you, it only takes once. Beyond the misrepresentation of using a lost or stolen checkbook, checks are vulnerable to counterfeiting, alteration and forgery. There’s also the risk of a bounced check – a potentially costly situation, even when it’s not maliciously done. Continue Reading…

"Slow Time in Wrist Watch on Dry Leaf" by epSos.de on flickr (CC BY 2.0)When renters are constantly coming and going, it’s easy to push non-urgent administrative tasks to the side for “later”.

If your vacation rental slows down between Labor Day and ski season, “later” is here! The shoulder season is the perfect time to catch up and start laying groundwork for next quarter.

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"home repairs" by Alan L on flickr (CC BY 2.0)For a lot of vacation rental owners, back to school signals a slower pace of business — a lull as people get back to their normal schedules.

This dip is a great opportunity to focus your attention on your rental in a way you can’t when you’re focused on smoothly transitioning from one guest to the next.

“There are distinct seasons in the rental business.” Lynn Berardo, owner of Modern Lake Tahoe in California, told MyVR earlier this year. “[I realized that] I needed to concentrate my efforts according to this cycle, and budget time and money to do certain tasks in shoulder seasons.”

What kind of tasks should be on your To Do list? Here are our recommendations.

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"Facebook Beachfront" by mkhmarketing on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)This summer, Facebook has rolled out a number of marketing tools that can help expand your reach and attract new people to your vacation rental – without paid advertising.

Graph Search and hashtags have the potential to drive people to your Facebook Page through relevant information that’s being shared on the network.

A third feature that just launched – the ability to embed Facebook posts onto other websites – means that, especially if you have your own website, you can draw people into your Facebook content without them ever leaving your site. Continue Reading…

If you feel like you’re muddling through your vacation rental’s Facebook marketing with best guesses and spontaneous ideas, you’re not alone.

Even if you have a plan that outlines what to talk about and when, refining that plan using Facebook’s analytics tool, Page Insights, isn’t always easy; its key metrics — Talking About This, Virality and Engaged Users — have frequently been described as “confusing” and “vague”.

This summer, Facebook revamped the Insights tool; it’s now easier to get meaningful information about your Page and its fans.

The new Page Insights (currently available on an opt-in basis) demystifies data by scrapping those categories in favor of something we can all understand. Engagement is now clearly split into Likes, Comments, Shares and Clicks, making it much easier to draw a connection between what you post and how people respond.  Continue Reading…

"Broken Reflection" from Flickr, by shinealightFor most vacation rental owners, property damage from careless or destructive guests is rare; screening, renter restrictions and damage deposits — as at least some would argue — help reduce the risk for outright bad guests.

But when you’re left facing post-rental repairs or extreme cleaning, should you keep the damage deposit, pursue a bigger claim (when warranted), or take a deep breath and move on?

Document everything

Before you decide what to do next, carefully document the damage with photos that are stamped with both the date and time and make detailed notes so you have a record to refer to later.

You may not be the first person on site, especially if you don’t live near your vacation rental, so have proper protocol in place for your property manager, cleaning crew or anyone else who may be there.

For example: ask them to contact you first, then take photos on your behalf if you’re not in a position to get to the home right away. Continue Reading…

You have your vacation rental website, Facebook Page, listings on several different sites — and feedback from different people on each one. Your new challenge is to bring reviews from all these disparate sites and link them all together.

Why copy-and-paste is not the answer

Copying a review from a site and adding it to your own website is the easy solution, but it’s not necessarily the most legal option. Your safest bet is to always contact the reviewer directly to get their permission.

Online copyright can be confusing or subjective at the best of times, not least because different websites have different terms and conditions.

HomeAway.com, for example, holds a non-exclusive license over user-generated content on its site — which includes your property information as well as any submitted reviews.

As interpreted by ezine WritersWeekly, a non-exclusive license means “the reviewer can publish their review at any other site they choose and they can also give permission to someone else…to re-publish their review.”

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Often new vacation rental owners ask me how I balance using my own home as a second property and renting it out as a vacation rental during the times I’m not there. While I want my home to be comfortable and suit my own personal tastes, I have to balance that with the tastes of my guests, as well as the safety of my personal items.

Your guests should feel like it’s their home for the duration of their stay. For most travelers who’ve chosen a vacation rental, this means homey, yet sparse, so they can settle in. Here’s a few tips for de-personalizing your space for others’ use, but still keeping your vacation home friendly for your own needs.

decluttered bedroom

Create a cohesive theme

Give your home a cohesive theme (i.e. ski lodge, tropical), but don’t stylize it completely to your personal taste. A few key pieces you love are welcome, but might need to be put away when you have guests.

Empty drawers

Make sure you empty dresser and cabinet drawers of unnecessary items prior to guests arrival. May travelers like to unpack their personal items into the drawers to help them settle in. Continue Reading…

apple tvLet’s face it – cable television is expensive! Satellite tv is no exception. Even basic cable can run $60+ per month with sports and movie packages well over $150. With the proliferation of internet tv, there’s plenty of options for you to meet guest expectations and maybe even delight them in the process.

If you are considering cutting the cord in favor of streaming internet tv, you’ll want to first consider the speed of your internet connection. If you can only get low speed dial-up or DSL at your vacation rental property, don’t even consider switching. Your guests will be unhappy with the quality and this could reflect poorly on their overall experience.

One expert recommends a connection of at least 2 Mb/s (megabits per second) – reasonable for many rural locations and easy for city dwellings. The higher the connection speed, the faster videos load and buffer, meaning the guest doesn’t have to wait to watch their favorite show or movie. Continue Reading…

apple airport expressApple sells this amazing little product to set up a complete Wi-Fi network at your vacation rental, called AirPort Express. It’s so easy that you don’t even need any technical skills to set it up – I promise. It works with both PCs and Macs, so you don’t have to worry about compatibility issues. Here’s what you need to do:

1) Install Cable, DSL, or Fiber Internet

Depending on your property location, you’ll have the choice of a few Internet options. The basic is DSL, which runs through your existing telephone lines. You might also have Cable Internet which is typically faster than DSL and runs through the coaxial cables that deliver television to your home. If you’re in a larger city, or just lucky to live in a newer building that invested in fiber connectivity, you may get blazing fast internet through a fiber network provider. Typical providers like Comcast, AT&T, Verizon FioS, or WebPass will install this for you. Rates range from $25 – $100 per month. Continue Reading…