VRS138 – Why We Need To Adapt To Stay Competitive In The Vacation Rental Market


Every business has to adapt to changing times and our vacation rental business is not immune. Customer expectations and perceptions can change rapidly due to media and peer influence and we have to keep up to stay competitive.

We find this constantly in our rental agency business as issues arise over the course of a busy summer.

No situation, question, complaint or issue gets dealt with and filed without being analysed for what we can learn from it. We debrief constantly and examine every situation with the question in mind, “Could this have been avoided?”

And most times it could.

To be one step ahead of the changing nature of this business, we have to learn from every incident and adapt the way we equip our homes,

the way we operate, and the way we communicate with guests.

Because….every time your guests feel something negative about your property it will impact whether they come back to it as a repeat guest, how they review it online , and share it with their social networks and friends in the real world.

In this episode I discuss some of the issues that are impacting the vacation rental market in our part of the world and how we adjust and adapt our business practices from what we operationally do, to how we perceive our rental guests, their needs and realities in todays market.

By sharing some of our experiences on a very practical level in three areas, I’ve teased out the adaptations we’ve had to make to accommodate the changing nature of the business.


Damage and Breakages

When incidences of collapsing beds, cracked toilet seats and damaged patio chairs rise as they have over the past couple of years, we need to look at the causes, and ways to mitigate this type of issue.

It’s not through charging guests for damage, and arguing they should have been more careful with our furniture – it’s through reinforcing bed frames, looking carefully at weight limitations on the furniture we buy and accepting a higher level of risk.

And having a couple of replacement toilet seats handy.


Cleanliness and order

When I hear an owner respond to a complaint with….

‘my cleaner must have forgotten to check the BBQ’.

‘she must have missed that there were some broken (therefore missing) glasses’.

‘they didn’t have enough time to complete the laundry so left some towels in the dryer’

….it sounds like there isn’t a checklist to follow, and given our guests are less tolerant and forgiving than they used to be, getting a stricter cleaning structure in place is so important.

We should not need to adapt our methods in order improve cleaning standards because these should be high anyway, but I am first to admit that occasionally things get missed. So, I’m trialing the app from Properly and would love to hear from anyone else who is using it and getting results.


Communication & Managing Expectations

In a recent email we received from a guest who was frustrated that the DVD player broke late at night and there was no-one available to fix it, she wrote:

“If this was a hotel we could just call down to the front desk and someone would be straight up to deal with it.”

Much as we’d just like to say “I am so sorry – this is not a hotel. It’s a rental cottage located 15km down a dirt road, and nearly 30km from the nearest town where the caretaker lives, and he was not able to come out at nearly midnight to replace a DVD player”, we simply apologized and made a mental (and physical note) to manage guest expectations better.

We’ve had midnight calls because the DVD player is not working, or they can’t figure out how to get the microwave to do popcorn, or someone is stuck in the shower!

So, we now have a section in our ‘Things you need to know before you go’ document that outlines what will happen if things go wrong.

There’s always been something like that, but it’s been a little vague as to what might go wrong, so we’ve adapted it to meet the higher demands of guests used to calling down to the front desk.

If you don’t have on-site concierge or a Property Manager who can whip down to the place less than 30 minutes after the call to fix a blown light bulb, you need to set expectations.


Links mentioned in this episode:

Rainy Day Book post

US Cities Betting on a Pokemon Go Tourist Boom

Properly app

VRS137 – Lessons From Buying Your First Vacation Rental


“We need another cart” are the words that Gary Miller never wants to hear again.

He also wants to share that there is no such thing as ‘passive income’ in this business because it’s really hard work.

Gary is one of the thousands of new owners who will enter the vacation rental business this year. Some will be lured by the Airbnb concept of shared accommodation, while many will go the traditional route made popular by Home Away and VRBO. Whichever way they go, they will all realize pretty quickly that there are no shortcuts; no easy methods, and no minimal spending once this train leaves the station!

Gary, and fellow new owner Jan Kahlen, have both invested in Ontario waterfront properties this year with the intention of maximizing their income, while still having time to enjoy their properties, and in this episode we explore the world of the start-up owner.

From researching the locations and understanding the different seasonal demographics to making the purchase and starting on the never-ending spend to equip a property, Gary and Jan, share their journey with us.

You’ll learn:

  • How early cottage experiences impacted their motivation to buy a property
  • The research needed to pinpoint the right location
  • Why their properties will meet the needs of the target market
  • What they are doing to capture the market when the high season ends
  • Their favourite purchase
  • Where they found information and education to start off on the right footing
  • Why they are both using property management companies

Serenity Vacation Rentals – Muskoka Pines

CottageLINK Rental Management – Whispering Pines

Vacation Rental Formula

Both Gary Miller and Jan Kahlen are members of the Vacation Rental Formula and regular podcast listeners. They would love you to stop by and ask questions on the start up process so leave your comments below.

Where you can find Gary:






Where you can find Jan:



VRS136 – Successful Vacation Rental Owner Series With Celine Girard


I learn something new about this business every day, and most often it’s from other owners. From those who have been around a long time, and equally as much from the newbies, the disruptors and the innovators. It really is a learning business and the education from our peers in this industry is often second-to-none.

That’s how I felt when I’d finished my interview with Celine Girard, owner of two distinctly different properties – one on the New Brunswick coast, and the other in chic and popular Mont Tremblant in Québec.

Celine is a member of the Vacation Rental Formula and a frequent contributor to the private Facebook group for VRF members so I had met her online, and experienced her passionate enthusiasm, before I met her in person at the Vacation Rental Success Summit. It was so great to meet someone who puts so much drive and energy into the business and is reaping the rewards.

Celine’s background in software development and her husbands’ equal expertise in web design has allowed them to build a custom website that incorporates all the elements pricier solutions provide. She has recently built a payment platform into the site that allows for credit card payments so you could say she’s truly Listing Site Independent, although she still markets on the big listing sites.

Listen to the Celine talk about:

  • How flooding didn’t deter her from getting into the business (and the surprising connection to a niche market)
  • The importance of research before accepting longer term rentals
  • Why she feels making connections and engaging with guests gives her the edge in a very competitive environment.
  • How she has developed a hugely successful online Welcome book and pre-arrival information
  • What stands her out from the competition
  • Where she has found the most valuable vacation rental education and how that has contributed to her success
  • The connection between an Ironman competitor and an embroidered towel
  • What she would do differently if she started again tomorrow

Links mentioned in this episode

The Distinguished Guest

Vacation Rental Formula

Where you can find Celine:











VRS135 – Learning in the Vacation Rental Industry


When I first started in this business I didn’t have much of a clue as to what to do to make a success of it. In fact it wasn’t until I was into equipping my second property that it dawned on me that cheap wasn’t working.

I’m not a slow learner – it was the speed in which we purchased properties that slowed the learning curve. But once I began to make changes and then saw the results in properties three, four and five, it was as if a veil had lifted and that’s when the business really took off.

It was at that time I wrote Renting for Profit, which was subsequently reprinted as Renting Your Recreational Property for Profit. I wanted to share everything I’d learned in buying, preparing and operating six vacation homes. So, it’s little wonder I get on my soap box when yet another online course is launched or a Kindle book published, by an owner who has been in the VR industry for six months operating a single apartment.

The ‘instant expert’ is out there in every business – from WordPress to digital marketing, social media to branding, and if you are not careful you can spend a lot of money on useless courses and books, delivered by people who have no experience in creating good training or writing readable material.

In this episode Mike and I explore the world of learning in our industry, from conferences to online courses to forums and groups. We share what works for us. Both of us are certificated teachers in adult education so we have a little experience in how training should be delivered, and how you can sift through the myriad products and publications out there and find something that is really of value to you.

This kicks off our learning theme for July as we evaluate the educators, and the material that’s currently available, so we look forward to hearing what works for you and what doesn’t.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Online Creators Launchpad – Facebook Group

Vacation Rental Professionals – LinkedIn Group

Vacation Rental Formula


Alan Egan – Rent More Weeks

Matt Landau – Vacation Rental Marketing Blog

Antonio Bortollotti – Vacation Rental Secrets

VRS134 – Filling a Unique Niche in Vacation Rentals with Dianne Denton


It’s always a pleasure to talk to owners about their properties, and even more so when they are as unique as Dianne Denton’s Sea Horse Diamond Beach Cottage.

Not only is this a gorgeous property, with a swimming pool and a short walk from the beach, which would be an attraction for anyone, but it’s also fully horse-friendly filling an almost empty niche.

Dianne has been involved with horses for years and runs a successful rainwear company at Muddy Creek Raingear.com. She and her husband Chris also own a vacation home on Diamond Beach in New South Wales, about 3 hours from Sydney, and when Chris originally suggested they offer it for rental, she wasn’t so sure she wanted strangers in her much-loved beach home. But once persuaded, she has never looked back.

In fact, when I asked Dianne for some tips to share with someone who might want to start a similar business her first answer was to get over the concept of it being ‘your baby’, and treat it as a business first and foremost.

In this interview we explore the marketing strategies Dianne uses to attract pet lovers to her place – it’s just as dog friendly as it is a horse paradise – and discuss the professional video she and Chris had commissioned as a primary marketing tool.

Dianne also talks about the submission she is involved with in the New South Wales Tourism Awards, and how doing this has got her looking at all aspects of her business in a new light.

Finally she shares some detail on her new project – another vacation rental in the village of Diamond Beach. This is one that will attract a different audience but I am sure it will succeed in exactly the same way as Sea Horse has.

Dianne talks about:

  • How she was a reluctant entrant into the vacation rental business
  • The niche that no-one has filled and how her property attracts the right audience
  • Why using print marketing works for this niche
  • Her strategy for engaging on Facebook
  • How commenting on other Facebook pages and groups attracts traffic
  • The production of the video and the importance of getting the weather right
  • Why she feels it would be a huge benefit to win a tourism award
  • Her most challenging part of managing the business
  • Her approach to the new project, Seafarer’s Cottage
  • The importance of vetting guests and why she would never accept BIN reservations
  • Her most valuable tips for new entrants to the business
  • NSW Tourism Awards criteria
  • Muddy Creek Raingear

Where you can find Diane:







VRS133 – Getting Ready For My Vacation Rental Season


It’s that time of year again.

The cottage country tradition in Ontario has been part of the culture for generations, and in many areas the families that make the trip have been going to the same cottage for years. Then there’s the new Canadians – our most recently arrived immigrants who learn that the annual vacation to the lake is a rite of passage, and the first visit is often the catalyst to the cottage buying bug that impacts just about every one who experiences it.

Over the years, expectations have risen, and I have the conversation with every new owner about it, and say the same thing over and over. [Read more…]

VRS132 – Vacation Rental Property Management with a Difference with Darik Eaton


I had the pleasure of co-presenting a workshop session at the Vacation Rental Success Summit with Darik Eaton of Seattle Oasis Vacation Rentals.

In my discussions with Darik beforehand we explored the differences between our two companies and they could not have been wider. In this episode he explains why his model works and how his clients benefit from the control he takes over their properties.

Our discussion covers how he started his company which now manages 40 properties in urban Seattle, and how he works with his wife – an interior designer and stager – to bring a consistently high standard of property to his guests.

We talk about his approach which is very different from most property management companies; the design options the company offers; what he outsources and what he keeps in-house, his choice of reservations systems, and why has always has a Plan B!

Darik shares:

  • The lawsuit that started it all
  • How the combination of his business acumen and his wife’s design and staging expertise helped them achieve 80% occupancy of their condo in the first year.
  • His varied business models and how they combine to create a successful whole
  • Why he wins owners and guests with a unique model
  • The design options his owners can choose
  • Why he has a list of 1500 items essential for vacation rental
  • Why IKEA is a four letter word
  • His arguments against paying for an owner’s poor choices
  • How and why 2 condos with the same floorplan consistently show a $3K – 5k difference in income when the only difference is design
  • His method of attracting investors
  • Why he has a high staff to owner ratio
  • The challenges of success and the battle between operations and marketing
  • How design pays for itself in terms of income as well in an increase in the value of the property
  • Why he doesn’t write his own blog posts
  • His reservation systems – and why he chose the one his competition wasn’t using
  • The #1 question to ask when looking for a new reservation system
  • Why having a Plan B is always worthwhile


Links mentioned in this episode:

Seattle Oasis Vacation Rentals

Vacation Rentology

Seattle Oasis on Youtube

Where you can find Darik:









VRS131 – Remote Vacation Rental Hosting with Alex Nigg & Tammi Sims

I had the great pleasure of meeting Alex and Tammi at the Vacation Rental Success Summit in Toronto last month, and although I wasn’t able to attend their workshop, I heard it was a resounding success. Since they had already delivered a presentation to a packed house at the Airbnb Summit in Paris, we knew it would be a winner and were so happy to have them with us in the big TO.

This episode of VRS gave me an opportunity to ask all the questions I wanted about their experiences as hosts, as well as to explore their new app – Get Properly.

For years I’ve been coaching my housekeeping staff to do things the way I like them done. From the way the beds are made, to how to arrange the towels on the bathroom shelves to the way I wanted my welcome package to look. …and a lot more.

You could call it being finicky, but if you are a dedicated vacation rental owner, you’ll know exactly what I mean. We want perfection and it’s tough having to rely on others to interpret your version of it.

With several properties and different staff in each it’s been difficult to keep a handle on how those instructions are carried out, and if they are consistently maintained. Thanks to a new app – developed and tested by Alex and Tammi and their team – the uncertainties about how your place looks when your guests walk it, is a thing of the past.

Alex describes Get Properly as a visual checklist app. A means to show exactly what you want your place to look like, and to provide housekeeping and maintenance staff with visual references every step of the way.

And that is just the start.

As a busy property manager handling 200 properties, each with individual owners with their own cleaning teams, I see this a real breakthrough in quality management and I’m looking forward to trialling with some of them.

And did I mention that Get Properly is free for the moment! So go on over there and download the app now!

Listen to Alex and Tammi share their thoughts on:

  • The challenges they’ve each had in renting their homes from a distance
  • The differences between residential and rental cleaning/housekeeping services and how to manage the conflict between them
  • The importance of trust in the owner/cleaner relationship
  • Why they choose to stock their pantries with herbs, spices, oils etc
  • How Properly allows tasks to be assigned
  • Visual checklists and how to use them
  • The importance of the little things involved in a changeover…even lacy underwear!
  • How the app allows a more customized guest experience

Links mentioned in this episode:

Get Properly

The Remote Superhost II: How to create effective checklists for smooth turnovers

Where you can find Alex and Tammi:







VRS130 – Paid Advertising For Vacation Rental With Conrad O’Connell

It was a real pleasure to invite Conrad back onto the podcast for Part 2 of our interview – this time featuring his great insights into paid advertising.

Our property management company has been in business for 12 years and we’ve never seen the need to use paid ads. Over the years we’ve built up a solid reputation and through the development of content we regularly hit Page 1 of Google for our keywords. In other words, we do well on organic search even for the some of the high ranking keywords.

This year we’ll be launching a new website and taking steps to really move on our competition so I wanted to learn a little more about the type of ads we might use…and the investment we’d need to make.

As before, Conrad over-delivered and gave an information packed interview, covering Google Ads & the Google Keyword Planner, Google Analytics, Google Display Network and talked at length about Facebook ad campaigns and the best ways to implement them.

And….don’t forget to sign up on Conrad’s mailing list so you don’t miss his posts .

Conrad explained:

  • Why it is important to know your market and do your research before investing a penny in paid ads.
  • How to research keywords in your area
  • How to find out what the cost per click is for your keywords
  • Why ‘fishing in Ontario’ may not be worth the investment for my market
  • The best thing about Google adwords and capturing traffic when their intent is high
  • The reason Adwords may not be the best direction for an independent owner to take – and when they should give it a try.
  • The importance of getting Google Analytics installed and configured
  • Setting goals in Google Analytics & why and when to use ecommerce tracking
  • How Facebook ads works
  • What the Facebook pixel is and why you need to set it up on your site today
  • How to track everyone that comes to your website and has a FB account
  • How to serve ads to your audience
  • Why Facebook Boost button is the easiest but the least effective of options
  • The best option to choose when targeting your audience
  • Using Google Network Display for retargeting

Links to sites mentioned:

VRS116 – Digital Marketing for Vacation Rentals with Conrad O’ConnellGoogle Display Network

9 Facebook Ad Campaign Ideas For Vacation Rental Marketers

Facebook Ads Manager

91 Digital

Google Keyword Tool

Where you can find Conrad:







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VRS129 – May Vacation Rental Mash-up with Matt Landau

I like talking with Matt on months beginning with an M – it gives a nice alliterative title!

This month’s mash-up covers a good range of topics from the Vacation Rental Success Summit to the upcoming release of Matt’s beginners course to vacation rental.

We covered the use of Prezzi for presenting information; why owners are not using Snapchat; finding mentors and why Summit attendees were not complaining about Home Away fees.

Finally, Matt shared more about the gang intervention project he is involved in. If you haven’t heard of Esperanza head on over to the website, and prepare to be inspired: [Read more…]