Officially summer hasn't arrived yet but it has come to Tucson. This is the time of year we try to bring everything up to snuff again with a deep cleaning and sometimes some refurbishing or upgrading too. Glenn House got some of this done kind of quickly between the last of our Winter Guests leaving then us going on a vacation and Guests that are staying with us for three months. There wasn't a bunch of time but we did put a new layer of bamboo/reed fencing all round and got in and assembled a new lift-top coffee table. Not planning on much more there except general maintenance after these Guests depart. Garcia House VR is the big summer project this year and I'll be adapting it to be more dog friendly and I've turfed the old sofa/chaise/ottoman set up and brought in new furnishings -- including another of those lift-top coffee tables! I think they're so perfect for our spaces and will allow Guests to eat comfortably while on the sofa or use a laptop easily.
My point really isn't to go on about changes at one or the other of the VR's but to note that I believe it's important -- and especially so for vacation rental owners -- to occasionally look at their properties through the eyes of a Guest. So many of us work so hard at pulling these places together and then I think we're kind of exhausted :-). Sometimes we forget that furnishings get old, outdated or damaged. I saw pix someone posted in a VR group I belong to of a hallway leading to a bath that was tiled and I thought looked lovely. They'd had enough of it and put down the wood-look vinyl planks and the change was remarkable and sooooooooo much better! They did it mainly for easy-care whereas the tile and grout was causing them work, effort, grief and money and they made the right decision.
We have to keep our eyes open for all kinds of stuff that would normally be just fine within our own homes but not up to snuff for our Guests. I'm sure not nuts about Tucson summers but at least they give me the opportunity to really go over things and see if they need replacing or if they've got a season or multiple seasons left in them.
This time it's about the assorted new listing sites that I'm participating in. There's bunches and there will likely be even more. Now some of these have been long established and I'm hopeful that people will find us from them and others are brand-spanking new.
I'm kind of hoping the behemoth vacation rental sites like VRBO/Homeaway (and their dozens of minion sites under their umbrella) will start to be rather like the upscale department store at a mall. For some people, that's the only place they'll shop; For others, they'll occasionally find something there that they can't resist but for the majority of regular folks, they know where that all the good bargains are out the in the mall and they have to go out there and find them.
I'm not going to list every site I'm on here and now but I am going to mention some odds and ends and give kudos and hope to three that I sincerely want for all to succeed.
Both our studio VR of Garcia House and single family home, Glenn House are on multiple sites. Here's the problem -- They all cost $$$. When one is listing two sites, even if they're a bargain, it can still add up. Now do that to multiple sites and all of a sudden, I've got quite a hefty bill. The upside to most of these places is that they've been around for a while but they don't surface well in searches. I wish them well and I hope we'll get bookings and if so, we'll keep listing there too but I haven't had a single inquiry from any of them yet though I haven't been with most of them any real length of time. The exception there is PetfriendlyTucson.com which is under petfriendlynorthamerica.com. It's been kind of hard to tell if anything came thru there as it directs people to our VRBO lisitng but I do know Robin is one of the hardest working women I've ever encountered and she sure tries to make sure she does the best she can and we turn up in searches too!! I will stick with Pet Friendly Tucson and she's willing to redirect to our websites. Go Robin go! and Go, petfriendlytucson.com, go!
Now on to the three new startups which I have high hopes for ALL of them. Vacation Soup is the most sophisticated of the three so far and the only one I haven't listed with. I want to and now the price has dropped for a limited time, I have to look at it again. It does mean moving both my websites to Wordpress and I simply don't want to do that so I'd probably create another site that incorporates both Glenn and Garcia. I think it stands a very good chance of becoming successful but I can foresee some hindrances that could prohibit that too.
Houfy is the one I've really been throwing myself into making Guides and currently you'll find links to Houfy on those Guides like mad. This one is getting some noticiable traction with over one-thousand of us already listed there and more joining up regularly. I believe it will remain free to list throughout 2018 and then the decision as to pricing will be made. I'm there, I'm happy and I look forward to a future with Houfy for certain.
Vacation.Rentals <-- Please note that this is NOT vacation rentals DOT com -- it's simply vacation.rentals! This is a new trick I'm not familiar with but it works! A fellow named Mike has started this one up and unfortunately -- but for the time being only! -- there's been a hiccup. He's hard at work at getting this turned around and I know he's going to try his darndest to make this successful. I don't know Mike personally, but it's obvious he's a hard worker and good guy and I'll be sure to stick it out with him too. I'm looking forward to a long future with vacation.rentals too.
That's where things stand now. At some point I'll need to reassure people who find us on other listing sites if it's truly us. As long as you've found yourself navigating to our websites, it's good! Contact us from here! Book direct and save with no service fees or the myriad of other fees VRBO, Homeaway, AirBnB, Tripadvisor, Expedia, Booking, Priceline, etc., etc., etc. all charge!
February 7 is the inaugural non-branded Guest Education Day not only nationwide but internationally.
Things have changed so drastically since that fateful day in February 2016 when suddenly that proverbial rug was pulled out from under us UNANNOUNCED! A day that will live in infamy for any of us that were there.
This is absolutely wonderful advice and travelers need to be educated that booking direct will get them a superior experience and cost far less.
The following has been lifted from VRMintel. It's so wonderful to see February 7 and #bookdirect really taking off!
"**Book direct and save: Did you know that Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway and TripAdvisor add hundreds of dollars of fees to your booking total?
**When you book direct, you have direct contact with the manager or owner: When booking a vacation rental, peace of mind is important. Want to know if there is a grill, a kayak, 24/7 service, a grocery store close by? When you book direct, you can find out many of these important questions and more before you commit to booking.
**The best price isn’t on the OTAs: Unlike hotels, OTAs and aggregators (like Airbnb, Expedia, Booking.com, VRBO.com, HomeAway, TripAdvisor, and FlipKey) don’t have the best price for travelers. In fact, you can save hundreds by booking direct and booking local.
**Many of the best vacation rentals aren’t event listed on the major sites: Because of the cost of using the big sites, the best vacation homes with the highest demand cannot be found on the big websites. Along North Carolina’s beaches, alone, only 30 percent of the homes for rent can be found on the big websites. By limiting your search to the aggregating websites, you might be missing out on the best vacation home for your family or group.
**Mangers and owners have intimate knowledge about the destination: They can direct you the best rental for your needs and send you to the best activities, restaurants, and area service providers.
**If you have special needs, a manager or homeowner can help: Looking for help with your family’s special needs or help with pets? A manager or owner can work with you directly to help with any of your individual needs and give you these assurances before you commit to a booking.
**During non-peak travel times, managers and owners have special offers available: From events and activities to special rates to onsite services, with direct communication with managers and owners, you get insider knowledge and the best offers.
While the vacation rental industry often pits managers and owners against each other, the fact is that there are both management companies and owners who strive every single day to provide amazing vacation rental experiences for guests. OTAs and third party sites have made recent changes to their business models that have been detrimental to both guests and vacation rental providers (including managers, owners, and hosts).
Coming together as an industry in this small way on this one day provides the industry with a valuable cooperative effort to push back on OTA changes and provide guests and media with much needed education about the industry.
Join vacation rental providers on February 7th using the hashtag #bookdirect to help educate guests on the advantages of booking directly with you."
( from: http://www.vrmintel.com/bookdirect-guest-education-day-february-7-let-guests-know-pays-book-direct-book-smart-book-local/)
February 8: A quick update: The combined efforts of those of us working to promote our inaugural Guest Education day, got the hashtag #bookdirect trending and hit 400,000 (!!!) unique views of the hashtag and was still climbing. Applause! Applause!
It's been too long since I've done a blog post and I've learned that they truly matter! It's going to be a very different and anxious year as we forge ahead without VRBO or HomeAway platform. Our Glenn House VR is still listed there but there's really no point at all. We will get so incredibly lucky to get bookings from there now as they've buried us. We're still on the subscription plan so one thing that means is it doesn't generate them any money to point people to us -- they've already got all the money they're going to get. They want to point travelers to listings with Book It Now that run thru their payment system so they can have their added "Service Fee". There's more to it than that as well. I stumbled on a marvelous video one of the members of a VR Owners facebook group put up, and it's astonishing just how they work so that if you're not likely to produce income for them, you almost become unfindable. Most of us on there don't realize that because we know we're searching for our own place so we know to zoom in on the map or fill in a search critera but these are things that will evade most travelers and we never even appear before them. Then they try to pull the wool over our eyes by trying to tell us that their Counter actually works and we get all these hits! They think we're so stupid! I really wish somebody would call them on it but how and what's the point? February 7 is our first "Book Direct" day! When I say "our" , I mean the collection of VR owners who are trying desperately to get away from VRBO, HomeAway and yes, even AirBnB (I don't have a beef with them as I never liked their platform so I was never listed there). Anyway, we're listing on other "Fee Free" sites and websites are going up like mad. I might blog here but I'm certainly planning on making posts on facebook. We've got to educate the traveler!
THIS WAS THE BLOG I POSTED ON OUR SISTER SITE GARCIAHOUSEVR.COM THIS EVENING. IT'S RELEVANT HERE THOUGH THERE'S STILL ABOUT SIX MONTHS LEFT FOR GLENN HOUSE'S SUBSCRIPTION WITH VRBO.
We're now just five days away from severing ties with VRBO and it's with mixed feelings. I still haven't dug deep into their Pay-Per-Booking platform and I don't want to as I've heard nothing but bad things for both VR owners and travelers. Just how many hoops and how high can they make us jump???
For owners they're making this a nightmare and sucking any potential profit away. We personally are for the budget-conscious and have a very slim profit margin to begin with but I'm simply not going to work as hard as I do to actually operate at a deficit.
Top that off and they also ream the traveler with their assorted fees they try to hide in various way but the nastiest of those is they make it appear the Owner is the recipient of the "fees" and we're NOT ALLOWED (please read that again -- grown, adult owners of their own properties who pay the mortgages, property taxes, etc. on these properties are NOT ALLOWED!) to tell the Guests that VRBO/HomeAway is actually the recipient!
That's right folks -- We don't get the money but we are supposed to suck it up and cover for the greediest company I've ever encountered. You say, how can they make us do that? They also are forcing us to use their email servers and they are allowed to read all exchanges. That's right Big Brother is watching and they've got bots in place to redact certain information and to automatically flag other stuff to point it to a rep at the company and they can shut down an ad on their site without hesitation and never to be seen again.
George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four has come to life in this company.
I've got mixed feelings because it was a good company until the sell out to Expedia. It wasn't just a good company, it was a fabulous company and so many of us were such happy little VR owners thinking we'd just go on for years and years running our little rentals as little Mom & Pop businesses. Admittedly the VR industry was growing too large and unwieldy to carry on quite that way but that's another blog.
Garcia House opened its doors in January of 2010 and we're not closing up shop yet!! We've just got to find a way to let people know our little enterprise is out there.
Five days to make that final decision of whether to cut ties for our original studio VR or go to Pay-Per-Booking. I've put in the new calendar here unassociated with VRBO/HomeAway and I know which way I'm leaning.
This was posted to a facebook group I belong to. It's a closed group and you have to prove you're an owner of a VR to the administrators. It really sums things up how things have changed.
Andrew Wright to Say No to VRBO Service Fee·
"Well boys and girls, I finally did it. I am shutting down my STR, thanks VRBO. (As soon as I burn out my repeats in April)
Today, I changed my rates to $1 a night and changed my listing description to the following. I can't wait for the smoke to come pouring out of Homeaway's ears. When you find my home for $1 a night, this is the description you will find:
Of course this home isn't $1 a night, its just to get your attention to the fact that Homeaway and VRBO are ripping you off with their rent with confidence fees. Would you really pay up to $500 in fees to book a hotel? Of course not, but Homeaway is trying to hide the fees from you to make you think that we the landlords are charging this fee. WE ARE NOT. The money is going right to the CEO's pocket. They tell you that if the home you have booked is not there when you arrive, they will protect you. Isn't that why you use a credit card, with no fees attached? Can you imagine you rent a home for the SuperBowl and show up and it isn't there. Have you asked what home, HOMEAWAY is going to put you in? They are all booked up. Want to save money on these stupid fees? Find a home you do like, copy the description of the property, such as this one you are reading, and then paste it in a search engine. The page for the owner should come up somewhere. Any legitimate owner should have a webpage, then book through them. You can also click and drag the picture of the house to an image search and drop it in. Don't pay the fees on here. This company has ruined so many peoples short term rental business. We are closing ours, but not before letting the public know what Travelocity has done. You would be a fool to pay a fee for a service your credit card company already provides. You can find most owners pages by clicking and searching images or descriptions to a search bar. By the way, the little question mark you see (?) next to a quote will tell you its a service fee. Its charged by Homeaway, but if we (the home owner) tell you this, they threaten to remove our listing. Its kind of like blackmail. Do yourself a favor and book direct. Hope I've been able to help.
I was going to delist myself, but I figured to let them do the work for me. Breaks my heart, I thought I was going to have a bit of retirement income, but between city fees piling up, and going from a 98% occupancy pre-Travelocity, to 11 days this year, I gave it up. I'm moving into the house."
I actually have something to blog about! This will be my first "true" blog post. Yay for me!
Once again I got an inquiry for our studio VR ( Garcia House VR )mentioning dogs plurally and then it turned out the fellow wanted to bring with him "two 65-lb, housebroken dogs". We limit the size of dogs there to just one dog under 25 lbs. Rules can be bent and broken but not to that extent. I had to turn that down but did point him to this VR that happily takes dogs of that size, waived the pet fee and dropped the price so that it was only $100 a week more than the studio. It's the summer in Tucson and it's empty so it was okay by me. What a deal right??!! Never heard back from him :-(
The thing that's most important to understand to travelers is Vacation Rentals are NOT kennels. You may have the most wonderful dogs but they're still dogs and they shed and can chew and they shed and they've got nails and they shed and they can be stinky and they shed and they can have accidents and did I mention they shed?
We limit the size or quantity of permitted dogs for a reason and it's not only for our sake but unfortunately some people want to take advantage of good-natured VR owners and try to find budget VRs that will act as housing that's cheaper than a kennel would be. There's actually been a couple of inquiries where I've wondered if I'd even actually get a human guest along with the dogs or if they'd just come and go to walk and feed them.
I'm lucky to be a hand's on VR owner and hopefully my subscription with VRBO/HA will continue to be honored in that regard until it expires but it goes to show yet another reason why I won't be able to continue with them.
We allow dogs to accompany our Guests but there has to be limitations as we are primarily lodging for humans. I always want to help caring, loving dog owners but when one takes on the responsibility of owning multiple dogs or large dogs, traveling with them is not always possible and they're better left at home or kenneled.
I have to be honest, I'm only going to be blogging because of SEO aka Search Engine Optimization. Search engines are looking for sites that aren't stagnant and I've got to admit that mine are pretty darn stagnant. Really what much can I do to keep changing things up?? It's a vacation rental -- It has pictures and descriptions and rates. I throw a few more things in but that basically covers it.
I do hope over time I'll manage to get more comfortable and make blogging more interesting but for the moment and the foreseeable future it's probably going to be some pretty dull stuff.
I'm not a natural writer -- not at all. I write emails, letters, I've done all the descriptions for the websites etc. and that's as much as I want to do. I never wanted to make facebook pages for our vacation rentals because it would mean posting and therefore writing!
The rug got pulled out from under me and tens upon tens of thousands of other VR owners with the dictatorial tactics of the behemoth of the industry so that
fell by the wayside when I realized the only way we will even stand a modicum of a chance to stay in business was to utilize social media.
I've had these websites since the fall of 2009 and the fall of 2014 respectively. This one is Glenn House and I got the website up and running before we even opened our doors to Guests and the same for Garcia House. Websites I always thought were important because one could add so much more to them than the advert. I would get the leads from the advert on the BEHEMOTH company and then point our potential Guests here. They used to allow a link to our website but they've stripped us of that now.
Stripped us of that and so much more. I'll have plenty to blog about.
Fran -- Operator and co-owner of Glenn House Vacation Rental in Tucson, Arizona.