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:







VRS091 – Eric Mason From Vacation Rental Professionals Group

Today’s guest is a vacation rental industry professional in the widest sense. Having honed his skills with some of the biggest names in the business, Eric Mason brings all his multi-faceted skills to the industry and is impacting it in many ways, from advising dynamic start-ups to moderating the largest LinkedIn group in the vacation rental space.

As an early-adopter of LinkedIn, Eric saw it as a tool for networking with peers, and so the Vacation Rental Professionals Group was born. Free of solicitation and annoying ads (thanks to the hard scrutiny of his team of moderators), the group is home to a vast resource of industry knowledge and experienced VR owners, managers and suppliers. Got a pressing question? There is someone out there who has an answer for you. Want to share an experience? Expect to find empathy and support. [Read more…]

VRS081 – How Millennials Book Vacation Rentals with Matt Landau

In a week where we have dealt with hundreds of requests from groups of people in their 20’s and early 30’s, looking to book larger properties from our inventory, it was timely to read Matt Landau’s latest post on the Vacation Rental Marketing blog.

He has recently returned from a trip he took with 3 friends, staying in vacation rentals along the way, and his post is a reflection on the experience of trying to book properties last minute and mainly from a mobile device.

The ten insights Matt gives us on the millennial market are enough to make this self-confessed boomer dinosaur dig her head out of the sand and open up to this demographic. [Read more…]

VRS071 – Airbnb Management Services with Guesty co-founder Amiad Soto

It only seems a short while ago that Airbnb was seen as a platform for home owners who wanted to make a few dollars renting out a room in their place to a short-term tenant.

In fact when I listen to the episodes of VRS with Jasper Ribbers of Get Paid for Your Pad and Glenn Cooley, moderator of the New Host forum on Airbnb, my questions show I was seriously ignorant of the reach of this juggernaut that is the Airbnb experience.

Earlier this month at the Cottage Life Show in Toronto, I lost count of the number of people who stopped by our agency booth and mentioned they had ‘airbnb’ed’ over the winter. From city breaks across Europe to more traditional US snowbirding locations, whole-home rentals via the listing service are becoming part of the vacation planning strategy for more and more travelers.

With this spectacular growth has come a barrage of add-ons and peripheral services to help hosts manage their listings. [Read more…]

VRS068 – 2.5 Million Rentals in 100,000 destinations with Jen O’Neal, CEO of Tripping.com

I know first-hand the frustration a vacationer experiences trying to book a vacation home – it can take days – and it was a question my guest on this episode posed to me.   I’m usually the one asking the questions but Jen O’Neal, the founder of Tripping used my response to explain why she launched the company.

It was a great conversation because Jen’s passion for this business is transparent and contagious.

Tripping is a metasearch system for vacation rentals that pulls listings from all the major sites including Home Away, VRBO, Flipkey and Booking.com along with many smaller location-specific sites such as We Need a Vacation (New England) and Kozaza (South Korea). With 2.5 million homes in over 100,000 locations it demonstrates the massive market we are connected with. [Read more…]

5 Waterfront Markets for Profitable Vacation Rentals



Vacation homes provide owners with the opportunity to lease part-time, unlike traditional rental property investments requiring year-long commitments. Short-term rentals, depending on locale, are generally profitable and convenient. Owners have the option to claim dates for their personal use while charging premiums during peak holidays. Vacation home investors might consider purchasing waterfront properties, but may be hesitant due to the high purchase prices associated with surfside locales. Additionally, coastal cities have higher risk for floods and require increased insurance in risk zones.

The average short-term vacation rental in 2014, according to HomeAway.com, cost $1,520 per week, or $6,090 per month. Vacation homeowners with this pricing model make $27,360 in investment income per year. Many vacation homeowners use these funds to pay off their mortgages, insurance costs, taxes or other homeownership fees.

To determine the most profitable vacation markets to invest in, consider the national vacation rental averages as they relate to median for-sale prices and potential mortgage rates in the following waterfront hotspots. [Read more…]

VRS049 – How One Sentence Ignited a Firestorm and Other Highlights from the VRMA Conference 2014

Just a few years after a ‘Save the VRMA’ campaign was launched and membership had slumped, this year’s VRMA Conference hit a record with over 1000 attendees, and it was great to be there and be immersed in the industry for 3 days.

It’s not inexpensive to attend a conference.  Flights, hotel room, meals and incidental expenses, and the cost of the event itself can add up to a substantial amount, so is it really worth it?

I believe it is, and as Mike and I explore the potential of an independent conference for owners next year, it’s worth discussing the pros and cons of going to a live event; what makes this a huge benefit for your business and why meeting your suppliers face-to-face can help you avoid poor buying decisions. [Read more…]

VRS043 – A Melting Pot of Complexity – Reinventing the Vacation Rental Industry with Richard Vaughton

My guest in this episode is a microbiologist turned vacation rental guru, or maybe just an everyday genius who made a career change that is benefiting hundreds of owners and agencies worldwide.

If you are a regular on the vacation rental LinkedIn groups you will have come across Richard Vaughton, who shares insightful views and opinions on many aspects of our business. As Managing Director of Discovery Holiday Homes, a UK based business, Richard brings his extensive expertise as both a vacation home owner and technical analyst. In short, he’s just a super-savvy guy that I’m honoured to speak with in this episode. [Read more…]

Why More People Should Choose Vacation Rentals

Time for change I know I’m preaching to the converted here, but having just spent a night in a (not inexpensive) Nassau hotel/resort, it just struck me that this is why vacation rentals are so much better than the old alternatives. We’ve just left our beautiful rental home with a full kitchen (with decent sized tea mugs), luxury bathrooms, luxury beds with quality linens, our own large terrace, overlooking a deserted beach, and private gardens where we picked our own fruit and herbs. There were four of us + baby, and this cost $356 per night – just under $180 per couple. Last night, for the two of us, we paid $215 for a cramped studio with a tiny kitchen, no storage space, a double bed (which was advertised as a queen) that had a bloodstained bedspread, and thin walls separating us from the warring neighbours who screamed at each other for an hour around midnight. Not really the special last night of vacation I had been looking forward to.

I’d read a lot of reviews before booking the place, and since most were very complimentary, I guess my experiences with vacation rentals have spoiled me thoroughly. We are so used to the space, individuality and uniqueness that comes with a rental home, to get back to bland décor and basic furniture and furnishings is a bit of a shock.

What I was seeing in most of these reviews were travelers who didn’t have the contrasting experience to draw from; who had never enjoyed the benefits of self-catering in a home environment. I should add that this particular resort hotel has no restaurant on site although there are several within walking distance, and has no real facilities other than a shared beach and swimming pool.

So, how do we encourage vacationers to change their ideas about where they should stay; how do we wean people away from this type of vacationing and introduce them to our particular brand of accommodation? Is it that there is a familiarity or a feeling of security that comes with having a security guard on the gate, and a unsmiling receptionist to check you in, that makes people feel more comfortable?

The media has a big role to play. Check through any of the airline magazines, or freebie mags sent out by credit card companies or even the popular monthly publications and you’ll see lots of hotel and resort reviews but rarely any reviews by travel writers on holiday rentals. We need to change this and to encourage the travel press to explore other options more regularly. We’ve hosted travel writers (and their families) at our rental properties in the past, and when something was published, there was usually an immediate upswing in enquiries and conversions.

Please make a comment if you’ve ever hosted a member of the travel press or can think of a way to encourage them to come and stay at your place. What other ways are there of promoting vacation rentals to this huge audience who may have never considered it before?

Buying a Rental Cottage – Setting the Criteria

P1040766 Given the great success we’ve had with our current vacation rental property, Osprey Cottage , we are now embarking on the search for a clone. I wish! Osprey is a fabulous rental and out of the five we’ve owned over the past ten years, it has been the top producer with an average 43 bookings annually. Since Ontario cottage rentals are very summer-focused and the low and shoulder seasons can present quite a challenge, we appear to be doing it right, and I want to reproduce this success with the next one.

Before even looking at the MLS listings we want to settle on the criteria so as not to waste the time of our realtor or our own time and energy so we began by looking back over the past 7 years of rental – checked out the reviews to see what makes it so popular and came up with this list of must have’s in our next purchase:

Waterfront must be swimmable but doesn’t have to be pristine lake. Osprey Cottage is on a river and there is no access to the nearby lake because of rapids. This does not deter rental guests and has no impact on occupancy. Water should be weed free.

Winterised & accessible in winter months. Osprey has shown healthy occupancy in the winter months with every weekend booked since December this year so the new cottage must be accessible and available in winter.

Well as water source. We have never had a problem with freezing of water lines or any pump issues. It’s also easier to get a mortgage here if the water source is a well.

Minimum 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. This seems the optimum size of property. The current place is about 1500 sq ft, will accommodate up to 7 people and rents at $1850 in high season and $1100 a week in low season, and this is what we will be looking for in a new place.

Less than 2.5 hours from Toronto. TO is our nearest city and is where most of our guests come from. To ensure we benefit from the weekend rental market, it cannot be more than two and a half hours away and less would be better. Less than 6kms from the nearest main road will reduce issues with winter access.

Relatively private. The reviews for Osprey Cottage comment on the high level of privacy and since 70% of our guests are repeats, this is a real draw for them.

High Speed Internet available. This was never in our radar for previous properties but is now becoming a deal-breaker for many guests and having it installed at Osprey has really boosted occupancy.

We are looking in the same area as our current cottage, simply because it’s close to our home and it makes it easier to set up and manage. However our first few cottages were bought in Ontario when we still lived in UK, so I woudn’t be averse to looking further afield.

I’ll be documenting the process this time and would love to hear from anyone else out there who is looking to buy/rent out. Let’s share the ups and downs.