To greet or not to greet – that is the question

welcome

“When renting a vacation rental, do you want a detailed meet and greet from the owner or would you rather just get on with your holiday?”

This question appeared on Twitter this morning and it was very topical since we were discussing exactly the same thing yesterday while we were preparing our cottage for our next rental guests.

Thank you to @la_vache for raising this issue, as the decision you make regarding it might have an effect on how your guests treat and respect your property.

I tell a story in my book about one of my earlier experiences in renting a cottage in Ontario.

“Some years ago, ten of us arrived from the UK on a late February afternoon for a touring vacation starting with three nights in a very large property. For anyone who has travelled back from Europe, you’ll know that you feel pretty jaded after getting in at 4 pm EST (which is 9 pm back in the UK), queuing for immigration, wrestling the throngs in the baggage hall, waiting another hour in the rental car line-up, then hitting the highway in the height of the rush hour! We were beat! So the prospect of getting to this luxury villa, relaxing by the fire, even getting in the hot tub, was very appealing. We arrived, almost as planned, at 8 pm (1 am back in UK), to be met by the owner. I have no quarrel with people being proud of their homes and liking to show them off, but this bordered on the ridiculous. An hour and a half later, the owner was still explaining the heating system – that was after instruction on using the washer and dryer, dishwasher, barbecue, how to operate the showers, where to find the cues for the snooker table, what the optimum temperature of the hot tub was, and going through three pages of instructions of what not to do. By the time the owner had departed, we were exhausted.”

Think of the last time you bought a car – if it was a new one, you’ll understand the urge to just get in and drive away. The last thing you want is the sales representative issuing reams of instructions on how to maximise fuel efficiency, change the windscreen wipers, and check water levels.

You have already seen the specification, and probably had a test drive, so all you need is a good manual, and a phone number to ring should you have any questions. The same goes for a vacation home.

I hear the chorus of ‘it’s not the same – this is our property that we are giving over to strangers, and they need to know all the quirkier aspects of it’. With good planning, a thoroughly written guest guide, good screening of prospective guests, and a commitment to why you are in this business, you should feel comfortable in at least letting them settle in for a couple of hours, or only spending a very short time with them on arrival.

If you do want to show them around, we would suggest making it a very brief tour. Your guests just want you to go away, so they can explore in their own time, perhaps clean up after a long journey, and as they are on holiday they’ll be wanting to relax with a cold drink! So resist the temptation to regale them with stories of the last time the septic blocked up, or about the racoons in the attic last summer. Put any warnings in the guest guide, make sure you send a copy for them to read before they arrive, have a prominently displayed copy in the cottage, ask them to sign to say they have read and understand the instructions, and leave them be. They will appreciate you, and your home, all the more for that.

“Renting Your Recreational Property For Profit:”(Published by Self-Counsel Press)

We have just made the decision that we’ll meet our guests at Osprey Cottage this year, to briefly handover the cottage guide and point out the cottage boundaries, as it’s easy to stray onto a neighbours’ land. We’ll leave the telephone number so they can call if they have any more questions, and we’ll make a judgement about how much information and guidance they want.  As @margaretbavaria said in a Twitter post this morning,

“Some of our guests need a lot of support. Our contact is very much driven by them.”

We did a quick survey in the office yesterday and looked at the problems and issues we had last summer with some of our cottage guests. Without exception, all of the issues occurred in properties where the guests had not been met by an owner or a representative of the owner. My view is, that when guests are personally welcomed, they feel a connection with the property owner and are less likely to disrespect the property in any way. It was also pointed out to me that the owners who take the time to create a welcome, either in person, or with a welcome gift and note, are more customer focused in their approach to the rental business, and will experience fewer issues anyway.

I’d be interested to hear what my readers think about this issue. Do you meet and greet? Do you welcome your guests in any other way? Do you simply leave them to find everything out for themselves and hope they will call you if they have a problem?

  • We don’t greet . We do send a comprehensive email with LOADS of information in it and we have a file full of instructions and local information.

    I actually think that our guests appreciate the flexibility that this allows them in when they arrive.

    I do make a point of knocking on the door to say hello (once) when I am around, but I am careful not to intrude – it is their place for the duration of their stay after all.

  • As always, a great post Heather, with some good points well made.

    For fours years I had not given this issue a moment’s thought. As I live on site, I meet my guests personally and then take the time (as opposed to take my time) to show them round the property, highlighting its quirks and pointing out where things are. I think this is necessary.

    And an amusing, albeit delicate, tale illustrates my point. I include toilet paper in the price people pay. I had some guests arrive from Canada, and all too aware they had just had a long flight and did not want me doing what you experienced, I tried to be quick with my ‘greet talk’.

    The next day, one of them came to my house, and very sheepishly asked for more toilet paper. I was surprised and without thinking asked “have you finished what is there already?” Well, I do leave a lot, and I was surprised. “Yes,” was the response, “you know what women are like.” I laughed and gave him a bag of about 6 rolls.

    It transpired, in my haste to leave them be, I had not shown them the ‘stock’ cupboard, and they had not found it. After they did find the stash of loo rolls they were drawing straws to determine who was going to tell me. We all had a very good laugh (except the women perhaps) when I was filled in.

    Only once have I been accused of ‘giving a lecture’ (but they did turn out to be the guests from hell on all fronts). Now, I ask if my guests would prefer to settle in and have me come back later.

    Thomas’s last blog post..Impressionism and the Seine Maritime Coast: Varengeville-sur-Mer

  • Glenn

    I tend to use whatever time I have between rental groups to clean and maintain the cottage and surrounding property. There is always something to do and as a result, I am often there working away when they drive up. Rather than slinking away, I introduce myself and greet them using all their names including their children’s names as well. As a result, I have helped to establish a more personal rapport with them and hopefully it results in a more satisfied cottage renter.

    I think most people appreciate having someone give them a quick tour of the cottage.

    At the same time it allows me an opportunity to check out my renters. In the past I have been able to see when renters were trying to sneak in a cat or extra people not listed on the rental agreement.

    Only once did I feel that my presence wasn’t welcomed and those guests later on proved to be the type that I wouldn’t want back at my cottage anyway.

    One think I do maintain is that even after greeting your renters at the cottage door, it is still almost impossible to determine which group will respect your cottage and belongings and which ones won’t.

    In the end, I think it’s a personal decision whether you greet your guests or not.

  • We used to live six hours away from our VR so the thought of greeting our guests never came up. Now we live an hour away, and I still don’t go down to meet them. I’ve only had one renter ever ask me “Will you be there to check us in?” We provide a lock box with a key, so the house is pretty much “self-service” so to speak.

    I actually kind of prefer this, and I think many of my renters do too. It gives them a feeling of freedom and ability to relax without “the landlord” hanging around. On the other hand, I have met many of my renters just by chance, bumping into them while we were in the neighborhood. Some of them have even sent me pictures of themselves while at my properties on vacation, and it’s very nice to connect the faces to the names.

    I don’t think personally checking them in would make any difference in their respect for me or my property (or, in some cases, lack thereof).

    Great topic!

  • I have been on both sides (i.e. I have both rented a cottage and rented out our cottage). I agree that it is a personal choice, but my preference is “not to greet”.
    I have started to offer the option of greet or no greet and I have found that the vast majority select no greet. I think renters find it too intrusive and that they would rather “explore” the cottage themselves.

  • Brian

    As someone who rented a lot of cottages before finally buying one, I’ve always preferred to not see the owner. I remember one rental where the owners showed up in the middle of the week on the pretence of delivering drinking water (there was lots already there) and snooped around on the pretence of having to use the bathroom. Of course that was the day when the place was at its untidiest. We found it quite an intrusion. A landlord can’t just walk into your apartment, and the same goes for the cottage owner! Mind you, this was the same owner who deducted $0.95 off our damage deposit for a piece of tupperware supposedly going missing!

  • Catherine

    We’re only new to renting and prior to getting started I had thought I would NOT be there to greet guests. However, I now get emails saying ‘looking forward to meeting you’. So what I do is be there when they arrive, have a quick ‘hello’, few minutes chat, and leave. I wouldn’t dream of showing them round. It’s a five bedroomed house with one living room and one kitchen/diner for goodness sake – what’s to show?

    I’m quite happy to spend a minute or two saying hello and then buzzing off to leave them to enjoy their holiday (with my telephone numbers should they need me). For me, I think it makes the guest feel welcome without intruding on their holiday.

    And of course I hope that having spent a few minutes with them, they might come back again.

  • CottageGuru

    @catherine
    We do just the same – a quick rundown on how the hot tub opening mechanism works since we had a lot of damage in the past due to guests not being able to work it. Then we disappear. They can explore the inside on their own. Occasionally when we can’t get there, a quick phone call works just as well. Either way we have been pleased by the results of that little bit of human contact – it makes us real to our guests and I think that has an impact on how they treat the place.

  • As a frequent VR guest, I appreciate meeting the owner in person. In fact, it’s often one of my favorite parts of the experience (especially when I book an Airbnb property where that type of interaction is more expected).

    That said, I remember one instance where the owner definitely over-stayed her welcome. We’d just flown in on a rainy day, were soaked to the bone and exhausted, and the owner kept trying to force a connection, taking us through every room of the rental and asking many questions about what we wanted to do while there, what type of cuisine we like, etc.

    Sometimes I LOVE that exact same treatment – so maybe it’s a matter of getting a good read on the room. If your guests are just silently and obediently listing to you, but not engaging with questions, smiles, etc. it’s probably time to leave them with the welcome book and be on your way.