I admit it: I like to give advice. I am not one to keep my opinions and the way “I think it should be done” to myself. But of all the advice I can share with people who own vacation rentals, by far the most important is: KEEP IT SIMPLE.
When considering anything to do with your vacation rental, always consider keeping it simple and easy to understand. As owners, we become familiar with our homes and the areas we live in and visit. We too often forget that those visiting us know nothing about our homes or the area. They don’t know the garage door is sticky or that the bar down the street dumps bottles every night at midnight. They don’t know that the quick cycle on the washing machine does not work or that TV channel 8 is “fuzzy” but every other channel is good.
The kindest and most professional thing you can do to help your guest have a good time is to remember they are new to your home — and make the experience as simple as possible. And as the owner of Summit Mountain Rentals, I've seen it all! Here are some specific examples of how to make your guests’ lives easier — and in return, increase rental revenue and return visits.
Lights and Light Switches
This is by far the number-one thing you can do to help guests be happier. In my own travels, I have visited dozens of homes where I couldn’t figure out how to use half the lights in the home. Don’t be that owner. I once had an owner who installed multiple function, high-tech light switches throughout his vacation rental. He was very proud of his light system. Every time I visited the home, he would walk me through the changes, updates, corrections and things he had yet to figure out about the switches. Unfortunately, virtually every guest in the home complained about being unable to turn lights on or off. Don’t be that owner. Install basic, on/off electrical switches for your lights. No matter how nice your home is, no one will come back if they can’t get to the bathroom in the middle of the night because they can’t turn on a light!
Televisions are beasts unto themselves. Every multimillion dollar home we have ever managed started with complicated TV set ups: Fancy remote boxes in hidden closets. Lots of high-tech remote controls better suited to operating a military satellite. In most cases, our maintenance team had to teach the owners themselves how to use their own TVs. Can you imagine how frustrating this was for guests? So, we convinced owners to eliminate the fancy stuff and go with three components: an LCD TV, a cable box, and a DVD player. That’s it.
Think about it. All your guests want to do is watch a little TV and possibly a DVD. They do not want to read a page-long instruction sheet. The TV should turn on and display channels. The only exception is that you should have an HDMI cable available for people to hook up their own devices to watch movies. But even this should be simple, a simple cord hanging out of the back of the TV. Don’t put it on the other side of the room where no one will find it.
Audio/video is the least understood new “necessity” in vacation homes. Your guests need to be able to play their favorite music. On the other hand, they don’t need the newest Denon amplifier and surround sound system. The best device is a simple iHome-like device or iPod docking station that allows guest to plug in their phone, iPod, iPads, tablets or computers and play their music. Bluetooth and a female music plug is all that should be available. The smaller and more elegant the device, the better.
Hot Tubs are a fantastic amenity for vacationers. But like all good things, there is a cost. Maintenance, upkeep and repairs are expensive. A quick way to avoid some of this expense is to simply go with a simple solid hot tub. Avoid any hot tub that requires a computer science degree to use the controls. More controls also mean more moving parts — and more repairs and upkeep. An inoperable hot tub due to shipping parts means you are going to give money back to a renter. Just go simple and solid. Everyone will be happier!
Have a basic coffee maker with an on/off switch, not a “multifunction beverage manufacturing console” that a seasoned Starbucks barista (or even a NASA scientist) would be unable to figure out. (After all the examples above, I think this one is self-explanatory.) Just one more tip: Get a coffee maker with a metal carafe, or buy a metal replacement carafe. Having to replace broken glass carafes is annoying for guests and you.
With vacation rentals, there a dozens of ways to keep it simple. Above all, just remember that your guests know nothing about your home before they visit. They are not looking for an academic lesson on how to use light switches and advance TV and sound systems. They’re on vacation … so help them relax.