VRS143 – Getting Automated in Your Vacation Rental with Brad Huber

Technology has revolutionized the vacation rental business in ways you wouldn’t realize unless you have been involved in it for a couple of decades. From print catalogues, classified newspaper ads and road signs being the only way of communicating a listing, to mailing keys or hiding them under a flowerpot, the old ways of doing business have been mostly digitally replaced.

Nowadays we have a techno-solution to just about everything. We can automate our emails and newsletter output, connect with cleaners and property managers to monitor their progress, and take a booking within seconds of a guest finding your property.

The tech has moved onto complete home automation so that owners and property managers have control over access, heating, cooling and lighting, and a way to monitor for emergency situations such as flooding and freezing,

My guest in this episode is home automation expert Brad Huber, the CEO of Parakeet. We talk about the general adoption of technology throughout the vacation rental industry; the practical to bizarre applications of it, and how different systems can help owners and managers become more efficient as they create improved guest experiences.

Brad shares:

  • The three tops uses for home automation
  • How owners can benefit in a cost effective way from implementing these systems
  • Ways of retro-fitting, from self-installation to getting professional help
  • How we can detect a party-in-the-making (and don’t we all want to do that?!)
  • How you can stop worrying about your keys being copied
  • What you can do to get automated


Mentioned in this episode:


Technology for Airbnb Hosts

Where you can find Brad:











VRS142 – Building a Vacation Home on the Experience of 5 Years Vacation Rental Living with Lynne Martin


When I last interviewed Lynne Martin, she had just published her book, Home Sweet Anywhere, was excited about having an article featured in the Wall Street Journal, and had stayed in half a dozen vacation rental homes on their worldwide adventure.

Just over 2 years on, I wanted to catch up with Lynne and find out what’s been happening in the nomadic life she and her husband Tim have been leading.

And I found that not only has her best-selling book been published in 8 languages and now available on Audible, Lynne is now a bone fide journalist with a press pass, she is a regular contributor to Huffington Post and Travel Advisor to Travel Smith and will shortly be seen on a TV ad with a major brand.

And that’s not all. She and Tim have just welcomed their first guests to their custom built vacation home in California – a property created to their criteria, developed from five years of living in vacation rentals.

In this interview Lynne shares:

  • The most memorable experiences of a five year trek around the world
  • Why a simple couch made such an impact
  • The practical tips she is now applying to her own vacation rental
  • 10 simple learning points brought back from a sea of experiences
  • The benefits of using staging and photography professionals
  • How she plans to manage the property when they get back on their travels
  • What’s next on the Martins’ adventure list

Sites mentioned in this episode:

Home Free Adventures

Travel Smith

Home Sweet Anywhere

Alanna Schroeder – The Distinguished Guest

Tyann Marcink – Photography

Where you can find Lynne:













VRS141 – The Ultimate Vacation Rental List of People and Companies to Follow


The ever popular mash-up with Matt is back again – this time with the list of companies and vacation rental experts we love.

Over the last year or so I’ve interviewed some great people, from established niche listing sites to tech startups to independent authorities on topics relevant to our business. Matt came up with the idea that we do a tag team episode on our favourites so off we went.

Tweet: An amazing list of #VacationRental companies and people to follow. Thx @CottageGuru @BookMoreNights http://ctt.ec/0OT7m+ Tweet: An amazing list of #VacationRental companies and people to follow. Thx @CottageGuru @BookMoreNights http://ctt.ec/0OT7m+


This is who we spoke about: [Read more…]

VRS140 – Consolidation and Convergence with Andrew McConnell of Rented.com


Having worked in the vacation rental industry for over 20 years, as an owner of multiple properties, and latterly as the CEO of a rental management agency, I know how easy it is to get mired in the detail and to lose sight of the big picture.

In the day-to-day running of any type of business, there’s a tendency to focus much more on the operational side of it, and leave the strategic management to a few days of planning once or twice a year.

The risk we all run by doing this, is when the time comes to poke your head above the parapet and see what’s going on, the industry may have moved on too far for us to catch up.

That’s why I follow Andrew McConnell of Rented.com, my guest in this episode.

Andrew is a former McKinsey consultant and founder of Vacation Futures, which he talked about in episode 27. In late 2012 in recognition of the convergent nature of the vacation rental industry – Andrew talks about the more in this episode – Vacation Futures was rebranded as Rented.com

I’ve been following Andrew’s insightful posts on the VRMA blog for several years as he explores the patterns and trends in the business, and when I saw his contributions on a couple of articles on Skift recently, realized we needed to have him on again, and ask about where this is all going.

In the interview we talk about the predictions for the global vacation rental market which suggest will be worth $170 billion by 2019, and what independent owners can do to maintain their position in it.

Andrew shared his thoughts on:

  • The market for self-managed homes and why there is still room to achieve success
  • Why the typical traveler isn’t differentiating between an Airbnb business stay or a traditional vacation rental – it’s all ‘accommodation’
  • What convergence means to the independent owner and how he/she can grow their business through an understanding of it
  • The five tactics owners must use to maintain a competitive position in the market
  • Regulations and the importance of getting proactive
  • The demise of Napster and its relevance to the sharing economy

Link to items we discuss in this episode:

Why the vacation rental industry is blowing up right now

The vacation rental industry is reaching a digital tipping point

Fighting restrictions in Seattle

The travel sharing economy is having its Napster moment right now

VRS Episode 027 (Guaranteed Vacation Rental Income Explained)

Ultimate Guide To Vacation Home Ownership 

Where you can find Andrew:









VRS139 – Conferences and why vacation rental business owners need to go to them



It looks pretty much like conference season at the moment, and while political conference are not my thing, I’m fascinated by the emotions they evoke and how enthusiastic and passionate the delegates are.

Our Vacation Rental Success Summit was a drop in the ocean compared to these massive events like the DNC and RNC and to another level, but equally as large and boisterous, Comicon.

But, size just doesn’t matter because regardless of the amount of attendees, and the surrounding razzmatazz, it’s what you come away with that makes it worth your while.

It’s the value for money you feel you have got; the connections you make; the amazing nugget of information that someone shared over dinner; and the knowledge that you invested focused time on learning when normally you might just skim a blog post or pay half-attention to a webinar.


The idea for VRSS came from the first Podcast Movement conference I went to in 2014. It came about as a Kickstarter project and the founders had no idea what a phenomena they would unleash when they got 300 passionate podcasters together at the initial event. This year there were around 1200 and my son and business partner Mike, was there to experience it.

Mike is not a podcaster although he will be at some time in the future. However, he manages the technical side of this podcast and does the promotion for it, which is a major part of the production, so he learned a lot about streamlining the process.

What really made the most impact was the structure and management of the event and how the organizers were able to retain the intimate feel of the original smaller event while maximizing the opportunities a larger conference can bring.

Take a look at this video from Podcast Movement 16 to see what Mike was attending.

Podcast Movement 2016 recap! from Podcast Movement on Vimeo.
In this episode Mike and I talk about the overall value of conference attendance, what we find the best aspects of them, and why we feel the return on investment is the biggest reason to go to at least one a year.


We discuss

  • Our favourite events of the last few years
  • The factors of the best conferences
  • How to justify the cost
  • Ways to evaluate what workshops you should attend
  • What to do when you get home & how to keep the networking going
  • The five takeaways you must have to know you’ve been to a successful event
  • 4 Events in 2016/17 you should consider attending


Links for conferences we recommend:

VRSS (Heather, Mike)

VRMA National Conference (Heather)

Home Away Summit

Airbnb Conference

Podcast Movement 17

Social Media Marketing World


Converted (Mike)

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: