Articles are popping up in news media across the world about the general benefits of choosing a vacation rental, along with related issues involving rental scams and legal issues. With increased awareness of vacation rentals as a mainstream lodging alternative comes an increased need to differentiate professionally managed vacation rentals from individually owned homes.
Time, Inc. owned Sunset Magazine recently published “Homes Away from Home” in their May 2014 issue in which they provided “a playbook for finding your ideal escape.” The article highlights distribution channels (HomeAway, Airbnb, TripAdvisor/FlipKey) and says:
“What is the difference between these rentals (on HomeAway) and those run by an agency? Personal attention. Take the Hilo house that Cooper rented: Owners Jack and Jane Stevenson live nearby to maintain the house for guests. ‘We want visitors to walk through the door and feel like no one’s ever been there before,’ Jack says.”
Betsy LaBarge, owner of Mt. Hood Vacation Rentals in Oregon and former VRMA board member, felt compelled to respond with a letter to the editor (below) and encourages other vacation rental managers to do the same when they see articles highlighting owner managed properties over professionally managed vacation rentals. “If they (authors and publications) heard from several VRMs (vacation rental managers), they might pay attention.,” said LaBarge. “If we can encourage VRMs to write letters, this could make an impression.”
Alan Hammond, founder and Managing Director of Holiday Vacation Rentals in Northern Michigan, agrees. “We need to continue to get the word out about the value of professional managers,” said Hammond. “It is unfortunate, when writers do research for articles, they are not finding and reporting on the important role and benefit of professionally managed rentals.”
Letter to the Editor of Sunset Magazine by Betsy LaBarge, Mt. Hood Vacation Rentals
Dear Sirs & Madams:
As the owner of a vacation rental management company for over 22 years, I was very excited to read your article “Homes Away from Home” in the May 2014 issue. While travelers have been staying in vacation rentals for decades, the popularity of this lodging alternative to hotels has doubled in the past 5 years. (According to PhoCus Wright research in 2013 and backed up by HomeAway research as well.)
However, I was disappointed in your comment that homeowners who rent their vacation homes themselves provide more “personal attention” than professional property managers or rental agencies. Our company’s business model has always been centered around providing personal, friendly and professional customer service to our guests. In your example, the homeowner lives near the vacation rental which allows them the opportunity to personalize the visit for their guests. In our case, our office is centrally located to the vacation homes we manage, which makes it easy for our staff to be available 24/7/365 for guest needs. We share local information including the most popular places and the less “touristy” spots to visit when our guests have questions about things to do, where to eat, where to shop and so on in the area. We are also available to quickly resolve any issues our guests might be having in the home (cannot connect to the wifi, requesting more firewood, etc.).
Secondly, while HomeAway, VRBO, Flipkey and AirBnB are the largest third party distribution websites for vacation rentals, guests who prefer working with a professional property manager can find their company websites, by searching on “name of place you want to visit vacation rentals”. Additionally, you might be surprised to learn that many of the listings on these distribution channels are via property managers. In my state of Oregon, 44% of the VRBO listings are from vacation rental managers and 45% of the HomeAway listings are from property managers. Flipkey originated as a site for professional property managers, but now accepts private owner listings. For Mt. Hood where my vacation rental business is located, 76% of the Flipkey listings are from vacation rental managers. Because AirBnB represents the “shared housing” model (although there are lots of vacation rentals now being listed there), you will not find very many professional managers listing their homes on this site. (AirBnB does not distinguish private owners vs. property managers on their website, however I am familiar with the vacation rental inventory at Mt. Hood and did not find any professionally managed listings there.)
Thank you for spreading the word about vacation rentals as an alternative to hotels for leisure and business travelers. As you mentioned in your article, staying in vacation homes offers privacy and space, opportunities for connecting with friends and family, full kitchens for preparing meals, private hot tubs and swimming pools, in-house theatre rooms and gorgeous settings as well as many more features not found in hotels all at an excellent value for the price.
If you would like to talk more about the variety and options available in vacation rentals and the reasons why many travelers prefer to do business with a professional property manager, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 866-794-6813.