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:









VRS094 – Vacation Rental Pros with Steve Milo

This week’s guest tells the story of how he went from a handful of properties under management to 950 over a period of 10 years. At one point he was managing 125 single-handedly.

Like many people, Steve Milo started in the business with just his own vacation rental property in Florida. At that time the market was depressed and many VRMs were not accepting new homes into their management programme. Steve seized the opportunity to grow his portfolio and by operating a lean organization from the early days he was able to achieve rapid and successful growth while keeping a tight control on costs. [Read more…]

VRS082 – Successful Owner Series With Donna Martinez of Sea Ranch, California

I am a member of Matt Landau’s “Inner Circle” which is a great forum for owners to share resources, experiences and to learn from each other. That’s where I first came across Donna Martinez.

Donna has been renting her property in Sea Ranch, California since 2013 – a short time to turn this beautiful home into a nearly fully-booked rental.

Granted, she has the most stunning property to work with but it takes no mean effort to create a business that delivers a WOW experience to everyone who visits. From an outstanding website to a category-packed Pinterest account, and a Facebook page that really engages, Donna uses social media in the right way, and she shares some of her tactics and strategies in this episode.

We also discuss why Donna uses an agency to manage her bookings and what the benefits and drawbacks are. [Read more…]

Why should you use a rental management agency?

house-in-hand-smGood question. Why should you? And if you have the time and inclination to advertise and market your property; handle hundreds of email and phone enquiries; screen your renters; collect a deposit and final balance; generate a rental management agreement and Terms and Conditions of Rental; and follow up after the rental, then you should have no need of a company to do this for you. Many owners love doing just this and enjoy the opportunity to communicate directly with their rental clients. Others want to use their valuable time elsewhere and are happy to abrogate responsibility for the work to a reputable rental agency. [Read more…]

Rent By Owner or Use A Rental Agency – Your First Decision

cottagesigns  When I bought my first rental property in Canada, I was still living in the UK, but didn’t even think of asking a third party to manage the rentals. I wanted to do it myself, and I am glad I did because what I learnt from buying that cottage, and the five that followed it, became the foundation of my book, Renting Your Recreational Property for Profit.

It was a very steep learning curve, not only from the perspective of managing a property from a distance, but also in the sheer amount of things I hadn’t considered at the beginning that created a lot of challenges along the way.

If I had known back then what I know now, I could have saved a lot of money, time and worry. Having said that, I’m still happy I went the RBO route rather than use an agency because it was right for me. I had time and enthusiasm; I was a management and marketing consultant at the time so knew what I had to do to make it work, and my entrepreneurial streak drove the whole process.

Of course, I ended up making a business out of managing the rental of other people’s properties because I saw the opportunity to share what I’d learnt with those who just don’t want to do it themselves.

So, here it is. You have a property you want to rent out. Perhaps you are one of the 350K owners that Phocus Wright suggests might be moving towards ‘active’ rather than ‘casual’ rental. And you don’t know where to start.

You could buy a book (and that could be a good decision!); you could attend a seminar….if you can find one in your area; you might find a forum where other owners hang out, like Lay My Hat, and see what you can find there. There are some listing sites that have owner areas that give advice and suggestions, and you could probably find all you need to know on this blog. However, all this takes time and if you want to get in there and begin marketing your place for the summer, you need to move fast.

The alternative is to register with a rental management agency and let them handle all the marketing, enquiries, screening, financial stuff, feedback collection, and administrative work, while you sit back and wait for the cheques to come in.

Note that I am not talking about ‘property management’ here. There are some agencies that manage both the rental aspect, and the changeovers and maintenance, as a package and I’ll be discussing those later in the week.

There are costs in both routes in terms of time and money so its important to weigh these all up and balance the benefits against the drawbacks of each. An agency will charge commission on a percentage of your rental, while renting by owner will incur marketing and advertising costs as well as web site creation and maintenance. Here’s a few guidelines to help in your decision making:

Rent By Owner if:

  • You have plenty of time for the work involved in setting up, marketing, administrating and managing your rental business.
  • You enjoy responding to emails and receiving telephone calls and can spend at least an hour a day working on them.
  • You are comfortable with handling renters money; taking deposits, final payments and dealing with the aftermath of any damage.
  • You can create a system for managing enquiries, rental contracts, reservations, availability calendars, invoicing, balance statements, and follow-up correspondence.
  • You have the skills to set up a website or blog, optimize it for search engines to drive the traffic to it, or are willing to hire an expert to create this for you.
  • You are familiar with the concepts of marketing and can apply effective strategies for getting enquiries and converting them to actual bookings.

Use an Agency if:

  • None of the above apply!

OK – so that’s a little simplistic but I will be covering rental agencies and what they do in greater detail in this upcoming week. The bottom line is that if you want to get a rental up and running, and need it done quickly, then you might find that hiring an agency to do it for you is the best way, at least in the first year.

Photo by Bill Barber

8 Ways to Attract Winter Cottage Rental Guests

1   Change the photos on your website to show winter scenes

tucked-awayPotential renters are going to find your site more attractive if there are winter photos to motivate them to book. Next time you get a good snowfall, take some great pictures of the exterior of the property, before the snow gets trampled on. If you have a woodstove or open fireplace, take an ambient photo of it alight.Photos like these attract more interest than those showing summer activities.

To supplement your own photos, sign up with istockphoto.com . You can download terrific photos to add to your site from $1 per image.  Use these to set the winter scene.

2    Team up with a local activity provider

What’s going on in the area of your cottage?  Is there a company offering dog sled outings, or a snowmobile rental outfit; a downhill ski area, or cross country trails with rental equipment? Work out a deal where you can offer a weekend package including a local activity.

3    Promote local events

Does your local town have a winter festival? Is there a theatre nearby that has productions through the winter? There are so many events throughout the winter across Ontario that you could probably find several to focus on. Winterlude in Ottawa for Eastern Ontario cottages; the Dorset Snowball Festival; Marmora Dog Sled Races, are a few examples.

4    Create a winter listing

If you subscribe to listing sites, change your listing to describe your place in winter. Let your potential renters know what is in the vicinity of your cottage – cross country trails, ski hills, toboggan runs etc. Make it attractive for people looking for winter breaks.

5    Offer a geocaching package

Get familiar with the activity of geocaching and create a weekend package that includes lists of caches in your area, maps and even a GPS unit for rental. Go to Geocaching.com to find out more. Geocaching Online is another useful site to get you started.

6    Advertise regularly on Kijiji

Kijiji is a great way of advertising your property, and it is completely free. The only drawback is that there are many different Kijiji locations so you need to decide which one you think would attract the most guests. Spend a little time exploring each one and you’ll get the feel of each one.

7    Create a YouTube video

I was intrigued by an article by Mike McFadden on using YouTube for marketing your vacation rental. I haven’t tried this out yet, but from the viewer numbers of the example videos in Mike’s post, it sure looks as though it’s worthwhile.

8    Build a blog

I wrote a post recently on building your own blog. If you are serious about renting your cottage year round, this is a great way to get people interested. Take another look at the post and get started. Use Blogger or WordPress – they are both free and very easy to set up. Just remember that you need to post regularly to get the traffic.

Any of these tips can be useful in driving traffic to your site or listing.  At this time of year its not enough to simply hope people will find you and make a booking. There’s just too much out there for them to choose from. You have to make your place stand out and be seen.  Let me know what works for you.

What you need to know about using a rental agency

Although managing your own cottage rental can be rewarding and, in some ways, economical, it is very time consuming and demands a high degree of attention for it to be successful. This is where rental management companies can offer a great alternative, or become an additional tool in your marketing plan.

Types of agencies and services

There are many advantages to relinquishing all the hassle to an agency; however, one disadvantage is that the agency may insist on having the property fully available for rental for a certain number of weeks, including the peak season and other holiday periods. It may simply not be worth their while to spend money advertising and marketing your cottage if you’re going to spend a lot of time there yourself. This means you may not be able to use the property yourself, or pop down on the spur of the moment. The rental management agency’s contract should cover owner occupancy, so make sure you agree on this before signing it.

Agencies have two sorts of customers: the cottage owner, for whom they deliver a range of services as mentioned earlier; and the cottage renter, for whom the agency supplies information and reservation facilities. The agency that represents your cottage should not only deal promptly with your queries and concerns but must also provide excellent service to the people that want to rent. If it doesn’t do that, you won’t get the customers you need to rent your cottage effectively. Good agencies should pay equal attention to both owners and renters, and if they are acting efficiently on your behalf you should expect a high level of service from them.

Booking agencies

The upsurge of demand for cottage style vacations has led to growth in the number of rental agencies now established in Canada. Many concentrate on a single region, with perhaps a few cottages outside their immediate area. The larger agencies cover a wider geographical area and have many properties on offer ranging from basic cabins to the luxury end of the market. A number of companies offer a booking service only. They will inspect the property, advertise it on their website, process contracts and rental agreements, and collect rental fees and security deposits. However, they do not have the facility to manage rental changeovers, check for damage and cleanliness, or respond to any problems that may arise during rental.
[Read more…]