Blog 163 of 265

dis n dat for 2004

By William May
Published: 01/12/04 Topics: Comments: -

I just can't help myself from breaking into 'pigeon" after a month in Hawaii. But now we're back to the grind stone and hard at it. Actually we put the nose to that grind stone while in Hawaii but it always seems easier there.

As we begin the new year I thought I'd give you a run down on some of the plans for the new year. And ask your input on some of these projects. Its our goal to help you increase revenue, decrease expenses ad have more fun so I want to know what you need the most so I can prioritize.

PROPERTY INSURANCE:
At the top of the list in the next month or two will be to complete our study of Property Insurance plans for Vacation Rental Home Owners. Some of you have told me your insurance is being cancelled because some carrier no longer want to insure such real estate. Others, especially in resort areas, are telling me keeping insurance is no problem but escalating rates are.

We have already begun a survey of carrier's to find those who have specific insurance products tailored to short-term rental homes. Those who offer coverage nationally have been the focus. So its our goal to find coverage that is tailored to vacation rentals and not just vacation (non-rental) homes.

Please drop me a line if you have any specific knowledge on this subject or if you have a carrier or agent who you think is especially knowledgeable or helpful.

PROPERTY INSPECTIONS:
After feedback from a good number of owners we are considering a change in our inspection process. Some of you feel that the one to five star rating system may be more complicated than necessary. Most of us feel we have very nice vacation homes. But, unlike lodges, inns, motels or hotels, homes can differ dramatically. What constitutes a villa in one location may be considered pedestrian in another. Plus the look and feel of homes changes based on location. As an example: In mountain resorts, many guests prefer a quaint log cabin over a prestigious large home.

In addition, I've heard some owners say they wouldn't want to receive a two or three star rating even though they admit their homes are not a $10,000 per week mansions. It is their thinking that anything less than five stars might turn guests away. This is unfortunate because, even in hotels, a two or three star facility, can still be a wonderful place to stay. I would guests would learn to understand the system and use it buy just want they want.

Originally we had built into the system variances for location, type of resort and so forth. Certainly the five stars were to be reserved for the very highest and most elite homes. My wife and I have some great rentals in the $500,000 price range. But even those would garner a two or three rating.

Based on the feedback I've received so far, we are considering limiting the inspection process to only the "Blue Ribbon" designation - which is essentially a pass or fail review. The process would remain much the same. VROA has set a reasonable standard for location, cleanliness, service and accurate advertising. Each property is to be personally inspected by an unbiased "approved" inspector. Homes that qualify are awarded the Blue Ribbon Designation. Those that do not, are given a list of changes necessary to qualify. Once they do so they receive the Blue Ribbon.

Even with the simplified inspection without a stars rating, there is a degree of objectivity but it is more subjective than issuing stars. A beautiful small cottage in the woods could certainly earn a Blue Ribbon. And a mansion with malfunctioning bathrooms might not.

Its our current thinking that the Blue Ribbon is sufficient indication to guests that a home is up to snuff and verified to conform to what they were offered and reserved. Managing such a designation is a major improvement in our industry. Most owners and property management firms are reputable and reliable. But there are those who promise more than they deliver, or who exaggerate their properties resorts of communities do us all a disfavor. Only when Guests feel comfortable with renting private homes will we all achieve greater occupancy and rates.

Limiting the service to inspection also has some other advantages. It would easier and quicker to arrange the inspections, inspector reports and issuing of certificates. The process would be timely and predictable. And all of that means we might b able to cut the inspection cost some.

So what do you think of offering only the Blue Ribbon Inspection service? I would appreciate you thoughts on this because we plan to finalize that decision within a week or two. Those of you who have signed up for the inspections are affected the most, so please let me know.

VROA MEDIA COVERAGE:
We're not ego maniacs (I hope) but we have begun to disseminate information to newspapers and other media in an effort to promote the vacation rental industry. We have been getting phones calls from journalists looking for industry-wide information or discussion. Some of those articles are already appearing and I will be posting them to the news page of VROA.org within the week.

If you have a publication that might be interested in writing about the industry please have them call, email or write me. Or, let me know and I'll send them a VROA press kit full of news and information. Also, don't forget to send a letter to your hometown paper announcing that you are now a member of VROA, and again later when you win your Blue Ribbon. They'll often run such stories, it helps the industry and just might bring you some new guests as well.

VROA.COM GUEST SITE:
We continue to work on the (VROA.com)VROA.com website designed for Guest use. It will be a place consumers can go to find the property they want to rent - but at the same time - verify that the property has been inspected and that the owners are participating in the industry to improve and increase service.

We don't want to compete directly with all the commercial vacation rental sites out there. In fact, our system will dovetail with theirs and other sties will be encouraged to utilize inspection designations and other supplier services.

On the other hand, making the consumer site intuitive and easy to use is one of our prime goals. It may look different from any of the other sites out there. Look for this to be completed very shortly.

ARBITRATION & MEDIATION SERVICE:
Lastly, I would like to tell you about another possible service that some owners have suggested. While we all do our best to satisfy guests, sometimes it just isn't possible. Either because things can indeed go wrong or, more likely, because there are always five percent of consumers who want more than they paid for and will never be satisfied.

Currently unhappy Guests have a number of ways they can disrupt your business. They can start a "Chargeback" against your credit card company. They can file complaints with governmental authorities (such as your state attorney general) or they can do so with the Better Business Bureau. If the consumer has a valid complaint it is, of course, best to solve the problem and sometimes offer a discount or make-good. For those difficult clients however, this means you must respond to the authorities and waste time and effort disputing the charge. Its a headache and its distasteful.

As an alternate to those methods, VROA is considering formation of a Arbitration (binding) or Mediation (non-binding) resolution system. It could be managed on-line and would be conducted with utmost fairness. Members could then require, in their guest agreements, that Guests resolve complaints only through the VROA dispute resolution system. There would have to be a charge, of course, but the cost would be low compared to the time and money owners can expend dealing with unreasonable guests.

If this program sounds overly ambitious, please understand that many professional services (Ssch as architects) and other industries employ them. It would not tilt the table in an owner's favor but it would speed up and make resolution more efficient.

We will be studying the feasibility of offering dispute resolution later in the year but please let me know what you think, especially if you have experience in this area perhaps in some other ndustry.

CONSUMER EDUCATION:
And speaking of misunderstandings, its my thought that some guest complaints are really not complaints at all. By not promoting the industry - what we do and do not offer - we are allowing consumers to "imagine" standards for us. Are we a hotel with 24 hour a day customer service? Or are we offering private rentals where guests are on their own if the toaster doesn't work? Do you know? I certainly don't because as a group we simply haven't set even minimum standards.

Everyone agrees we'd be better off if guests knew what to expect (and what not to). Certainly getting our information out into the press will begin to educate consumers. But this year we also plan to write and design a couple of "guest education" pamphlet that owners can include with contracts.

These graphically pleasing printed pieces will be small non-threatening (and not legal) documents. The first, will be an explanation of what the Blue Ribbon Inspection means to Guests. And the second, will be a kind of "All about Vacation Rentals" piece used to convince guests as to what are reasonable expectations. Of course, you could do some pamphlets yourself but by having them branded as VROA information they should be widely accepted by guests as gospel. And, we should be able to produce these for a nominal price. Use, of course, will be strictly optional.

SUMMARY:
So 2004 looks to be a good year for owners and the association. We are working to improve the industry and to serve owners and suppliers.

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INPUT:
As always I seek your input. Please share your tips, techniques, compliments, and complaints on this or any other subject by writing me at Director@VROA.orgDirector@VROA.org.

HOME OF THE WEEK:
I've just got to go to Tennessee. Cheryl Gilliam's Heavenly Cabins look like a very restful place to spend a week or longer. Check them out at (HeavenlyCabins.com)HeavenlyCabins.com
(If you want your place considered for Home of the Week please drop me an email.)

FEEDBACK:
I love your newsletter!! I had received a bed and breakfast newsletter and hoped there might be one aimed at Vacation Rental owners.
Mary & Duane, Black, Missouri

Hey, you found us. And we're here to help the industry and individual owners anyway we can. Please tell you neighbors who rent their places too!
- Wm. May

ONLINE:
Please see these websites for fun:
- Blue Ribbon Inspection
- VROA News

Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0040 – 01/12/04

Comments: 0

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