The world of vacation rentals certainly has changed since I first started offering accommodations at the Sedona Guest Cottage in 1999. During the late 90’s vacation rentals where literally a cottage industry. Booking sites such as Airbnb and VRBO had not yet been realized. The very first online booking site (at least the first that I knew about) was 10,000VacationRentals.com. That site has long since come and gone.
A rare group of vacation home rental owners, including myself, helped define an industry. Together we worked with budding new enterprises to establish online booking sites.
Before I entered the world of vacation rentals, I was a television executive, producer and writer. I began my career alongside a group of energetic young college graduates at CBS Television City as an entry level Page. From there I worked my way up the ranks from production assistant, to associate producer, to writer, producer, executive producer and creator of many television productions.
Back in the 70’s audiences revolved around three networks and perhaps an independent television station or two in a market. Soon thereafter producers and distributors pioneered syndication in hopes of creating ad hock networks. Next came cable. Years later we were downloading and streaming our favorite shows.
As producers we learned it was less important how shows where viewed. The key to any successful production was content, and the saying went, “content is king.’ That same saying rings as true today as it did when television first came on the scene in the 50’s.
There are similar comparisons that can be made to vacation rentals. The industry continues to grow and redefine itself. Booking sites continue to be launched. Currently, Sedona Vacation Villas properties are listed on Homeaway, VacationRentals.com, VRBO, Flipkey, TripAdvisor, Booking.Com, GlampingHub.com, BreakAway Vacation Rentals, AZRentals and many more. You can instant book, channel manage, synchronize booking calendars and communicate with guests by automatic emails and instant messaging.
But just as “content was king” in the television industry, the vacation rental experience and home provided is the content of the vacation rental kingdom.
My personal distinctive signature is to make sure that I can clearly describe what makes our properties special in just a line or two. For example, the Forest Villa is situated on the oldest privately held parcel of land in Sedona, which backs up to the US Forest Service. The property is walking distance to town and trails.
Our Canyon Villa offers three guest suites each situated on its own floor with lots of privacy for traveling couples or extended families.
If we cannot distinguish our properties from the others it simply isn’t special enough to earn the title, vacation home rental.
While we enjoy many new customers from our exposure to numerous rental-booking sites, Sedona Vacation Villa properties continue to be distinguished from the other properties by our return guests’ loyalty. Currently over 45% of this year’s bookings come from our return guests and that number increases yearly.
We have launched a new website with the creative team at Villa Marketers making it easier for our return guest to book directly and save the service fees, booking fees, credit card fees and other fees charged by other online booking sites.
In the midst of an ever-evolving vacation rental industry, how do YOU find the right property for your next vacation? Here are a few hints and traps to avoid. Find a property with lots of bookings, many reviews and a long history of being listed on the booking site. If a property has been on a site for five or more years it has done something right to stay in business. Ignore the listing order on the booking sites like Homeaway and VRBO. Instead, search by amenities and property features. Many sites that charge service fees push low demand properties to the top to get their service fees. Low demand properties are likely not the ones you are looking to book. It is better to book a property with a busy booking calendar, even if you have to be flexible with your dates of stay. A busy property is likely to be a well-run property. Discard properties that have poor reviews. Click on the posted reviews and READ them. Also know that while a score of 4.5 out of 5 stars sounds reasonably good, it is actually not good at all in the world of vacation rentals. Avoid deals that appear too good to be true. A good vacation rental property owner knows his or her value and a good experience is well worth a fair price in the marketplace.
It is recommended to select a property for your vacation that is a designated vacation home rental property. That means you will not find the owners clothes in your closets and personal belongings in your way. Also make sure that the property owner employs professional housekeeping. Some owners think they can do it themselves, but wouldn’t it feel more comfortable if you knew the property was professionally cleaned before your arrival?
Be wary of Homeaway’s “Premier Partner” designation. The designation has merit when assigned to a property owner who earned it by years of premium service but has also been diluted to include properties that operate under property management companies. Companies such as Evolve property management can earn the designation for one property and piggyback their Premier Partner designation to other properties they manage regardless of reviews, customer satisfaction and the quality of a property. In principle, the Premier Partner designation was a good idea but the liberal use of the designation has diminished its value. Before booking a Premier Partner property make sure the property is well reviewed and has been listed for many years on the booking site.
You also want to book a property that offers a damage insurance policy versus a security deposit. There are two very reputable damage insurance companies in the marketplace. CSA damage insurance offers plans as low as $59, which covers guest for up to $1500 in accidental damages without a deductible. Also new to the market is Slice on-demand insurance which owners can purchase on behalf of the guests for approximately $7 – $10 per night of stay depending on the size of the property. Processing a damage claim is a much easier experience for both the guest and owner when reviewed by a professional claims adjuster.
Hope this helps with your search for a clean, comfortable and convenient vacation home rental that satisfies, inspires and enhances your travel experience.