By Miguel Fernandez
Now you own your dream property in Puerto Vallarta! Of course you would love to spend all year here, but you still have a job and a life elsewhere and are not ready to become a full-fledged ex-pat. As we discussed last week, buying a vacation home is an investment that can both pay for itself and become a revenue producing endeavor.
Where to start?
If you want to handle the rentals yourself, many folks choose Homeaway/VRBO or Flipkey/Tripadvisor. These popular sites offer excellent exposure and rankings on the web. This is extremely important, as this is where most everyone shops around for dream vacations.
As an owner, the sites guide you easily through the set-up of a page dedicated to the promotion of your property. You can list rates, post a calendar, add pictures of your property and accept reviews from your delighted clients. They will also handle the payment process.
VRBO/Homeaway offers a non-refundable “insurance” fee (paid by the renter) which covers damage to your property. For instance $69 USD will buy you up to $3000 USD of damage protections, which is more than ample compensation for even the wildest drunken piñata accident. And, speaking from experience, the claims process is quite seamless, as long as you provide all of the necessary documentation of damage and repair work.
Cost: From $200-$900 per year.
FlipKey/TripAdvisor is a trusted travel information company. About the same as VRBO/HomeAway, as far as your listing goes. Good internet ranking, and fair customer support. Personally, we had some hassles when we purchased a property that was already listed, and tried to get the listing changed. We never actually had the good fortune of talking to a human being.
Cost: $299 per year, with a monthly $25 fee.
Airbnb is all the rage now, and it also allows you to set up a nice profile and calendar for your property. It tends to attract bargain hunters, and a more adventurous clientele. The great thing about this site, is that it allows the owner to also post a review of the renter, which helps keep everyone on their best behavior.
Cost: A percentage of the rental amount when you get a successful booking, the renter also pays a fee.
Craigslist, in our opinion, is more of a crapshoot. There are renters out in that vast wonderland, of free sofas and one-night- stands, you just need to be more cautious and weed true clients out from the scam artists. It’s also a free service, so, in other words, you get what you pay for.
Cost: Free, save for the time you spend Googling the newest and most creative vacation rental scam.
It’s a Business
If you go with a full-service management company, the fee can be 20 percent or more of rental income. If you handle booking and marketing on your own, and hire people for specific needs such as housekeeping, be prepared to devote a lot of time to the endeavor. If you’re not willing to handle e-mail inquiries promptly — checking e-mail at least once a day — you’re bound to lose out to more proactive homeowners.
A Warm Welcome
Vacation renters are looking for a fabulous experience. Look upon your guests as potential friends and treat them like royalty.
Answer all of their questions promptly and go out of your way to make their experience memorable. Many will want help with tours, private chefs, airport pick-ups, restaurant ideas, etc. Put together a comprehensive local guide of your property and your area. Vacationers don’t like surprises. Be sure that you, or one of your staff is there to meet them upon arrival, with the keys and a few treats.
No one likes to arrive after a long a flight, with kids and luggage in tow, to find out that the management had their arrival day wrong.
A must for both the renter and the owner. People like to see the rules and regulations in print. VRBO/HomeAway has templates that you can easily modify.
They also offer access to a handy Member’s Forum, for newbies, or even seasoned owners who need a bit of help from their peers.
Ask for a nominal refundable security deposit if you are not using insurance protection. It makes everyone feel more confident in your professionalism. Also, spell out your policies on smoking, pets and number of people, etc.
Once you have a prospective renter, take time for a chat. There’s plenty you can hear in a phone conversation that can help you vet a client.
In the end, renting can be an amazing experience. We’ve made friends, and established relationships with people from every part of the globe!