I thought it was about time I introduced myself since I’m writing all the content for the Owner Community and my newsletter has been dropping into inboxes for over a year now. It’s been a great opportunity to create a toolbox of material that owners can dip into and use regardless of whether they are new to the business or are seasoned owners, and I’d like to share some more personal reflections of being a vacation rental owner.
I’m a UK expat and have lived in Ontario, Canada, for the past 9 years. Living in England gave us a great opportunity to travel in Europe and we rented holiday homes in many countries – gîtes and villas and English country cottages – over a lot of years. More recently we’ve explored the US and Canada and collected even more tips and tricks to create happy guests (and sometimes the opposite). From that perspective there is little better experience than being a guest and I learned a great deal about how to get it right. From the place we arrived at one night after a long flight and drive from the airport, to find a hung-over owner trying to clear up the debris from his party the night before, to the idyllic island cottage with the full holding tank and army of mice, there have been a few natural and not-so-natural disasters. So, in my own rental properties, I’ve applied the learning along the way.
Long before emigrating, I bought my first cottage on a lake in Ontario. The realtor was reluctant to show it because it didn’t have pristine waterfront and was on a no-motor lake, but I saw the potential of the place and went ahead. It rented wonderfully to families looking for peace and quiet and who were not concerned that they had a two minute walk to a beautiful beach (that no-one else used). The next one was declared ‘unrentable’ by a rental agency because it wasn’t on a lake and there was ‘no demand for river properties’. Again, I was able to prove her wrong and it became a very profitable rental. I followed a similar pattern over the next few years and brought three more on board – all economical buys that had high rental yield. The secret, I found, was in the marketing and that there are people out there who want the product I am offering – they just had to be found.
Starting from the ground up, I had a lot to learn about marketing, promotion, screening, developing booking systems, dealing with guests of all kinds, finding (and keeping) good property managers and managing both the good and not-so-good parts of the business. Developing a tough hide, a sense of humor and a lot of tolerance have been just a few of the by-products of the last 20-odd years and I shared much of this in my book, “Renting Your Recreational Property for Profit”, and more recently on my membership site where the book material is available for download as well as videos, podcasts and additional articles.
I’m always interested to hear from owners about their best practice, what works for them, and to collect even more ideas to share. Comment on my blog posts, join me on my Facebook page or reach out on Twitter so we can create a great community of owners.
And just for fun as I close out on 2011, here are a few other snippets about me:
I am a trained hypnotist; an early riser; stand-up paddle boarder; occasional triathlete; cross-country skier; dog lover; social media junkie, and self-styled ‘cottage guru’. My favorite quote is Goethe’s ‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power in it’. I hate ironing. My kids bought me a ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ T-shirt because I’m perpetually cheerful. I have a crazy but lovable black lab called Holly. And I’m passionate about raising standards in the vacation rental industry.
That just about sums it up! I hope you have a wonderful festive season, however and wherever you will be spending your time. And, as ever, a fantastically successful rental year in 2012.
Heather Bayer is Director of Owner Community at VacationHomeRentals.com. She has been renting her vacation homes for over 20 years and is author of the book ‘Renting Your Recreational Property for Profit’