Rentini provides useful and exciting travel insights. From adventures to marketing tips for vacation rental owners, we want to help you travel as it's meant to be – easy, refreshing, & fun!

Archive for November, 2012

Rentini announces it’s iPad mini giveaway!

List Your Property today!

One lucky registrant will win a new iPad mini in exchange for listing on the leading vacation rental management service – at no cost.

Rentini.com, the global vacation rental website and management platform, will give away prizes by the end of November. All new Rentini registrants who submit a property listing and select a Pro account will be entered into a drawing, with one lucky winner taking the top prize of the iPad mini.

“Rentini’s vacation rental service offers tremendous value,” says Vadim Oss, Rentini’s CEO. “This is a great opportunity get all the tools to manage one’s business online, including a free listing and website. We’d like to wish all participants the best of luck – and we look forward to helping them streamline their business and get more bookings.”

Listing a vacation home on the website is free and easy; those that do so by November 30th, 2012 will not only benefit from Rentini’s comprehensive management software, but will also be entered into a draw for Apple’s latest hit product.

Ideal for individual homeowners with one vacation rental or property managers with dozens, Rentini’s interactive, optimized dashboard lets businesses keep track of all their important work while gaining extra visibility online. Rentini provides a wide range of tools such as an integrated calendar, last minute deals program, customizable contracts and policies, the option to post to Craigslist, and a website builder to create a new website in a minute. Owners and managers are given the tools and remain in full control of the booking process.

Simplicity and elegance are cornerstones of Rentini’s approach. Since the beginning the company has aimed to give quality to the vacation rental industry. Listing a property is free, simple, and takes no longer than 10 minutes.

Vacation Rental Websites: Common Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

Waipouli Condo at Kauai Website powered by Rentini

The “Seagull” template powered by Rentini.com was the vacation rental owners first choice for their website and it shows why.

The question is not whether or not you need a vacation rental website…

So now you have a vacation rental. The next logical step is to create a website to market your rental. Before you spend an arm and a leg contracting some computer guy, or using your blog site from blogger or WordPress as your rental website, consider what it is you need and how you can go about getting it.

Having viewed and assessed hundreds (possibly thousands) of homeowners websites, I’m adept at separating the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. And let me tell you, it is striking just how much chaff there is. Most sites present minimal functionality to visitors. It is evident that people too often quit website building before the basic functionality of their site is completed and usability is optimum.

Functionality and Usability

Functionality means having your site work as it’s supposed to. The links and buttons should be clickable and connect to where they’re directed to go. The FAQ link, for example, should go to the FAQ page, while the Contact link should go to the Contact page (or otherwise reveal this info), not the other way around. Usability, on the other hand, simply means making your site easy to use. This matters. Your visitors can leave you with the click of the mouse so don’t give them just any reason to. No matter how small the excuse, they’ll leave in search of greener grass. If you want travelers to fully consider your rental and your business to perform, it is critical that your website be user-friendly.

Beyond functionality, the usability of your site though not always noticed nonetheless carries a great deal of weight. Many sites, and yours may be one of them, are user-unfriendly. They need fixing, but don’t fret! Fixing usability is not as hard as it may seem. Here’s what to watch out for:

Front size and color

When Rentini was in the works, I had my dad visit the site and I observed his interactions. Where he went and what he clicked on taught me a great deal about how individuals experience websites. One thing I realized was that many people – and my old man is one of them – cannot read smaller font easily. If the font is too small there’s a risk that many people – particularly people looking for vacation rentals – won’t be able to read it or find it legible. The color of the background and of the text should be legible. The color scheme ought to have adequate contrast and not be vulgar or gaudy or otherwise offend the eyes.

Streaming blinkers, animations, moving text, marquees, sound effects

Perhaps it’s a throwback to the 1990s, but I can’t help but find websites heavy with all these special effects very tacky. Don’t make your website look like a pinball machine! Talk about sensory overload! Keep it simple. I might also add that videos and music are good, but let the visitor decide when to push the play button. I hate landing on websites and hearing noise blast through my earphones unexpectedly. Usually I try to close the tab, hit the mute button, or throw off my headset. Don’t make this mistake.

Words are powerful

As mentioned in a previous post, your heading is crucial. And your property description is critical, too!  To learn more, and to improve on your search visibility, check out this post on search engine optimization (SEO): https://blog.rentini.com/2012/03/30/increasing-search-visibility-for-your-listing/.

Don’t Make ‘Em Search

When describing web pages we often use the expression “below the fold” and “above the fold”. If you were to fold a web page from top to bottom, the top half is “above the fold” and the bottom half is “below the fold”. It is recommended to have the most important information and links above the fold, i.e. at eye level. This way you won’t have to scroll down to see it. Internet users are incredibly lazy – and easily distracted. To scroll in search of information is like asking them wake up on a cold Sunday morning to run the Boston Marathon. Not likely.

Keep Links Up-to-date

As mentioned above, do not confuse links. We do not want our visitors to think. We all know what it’s like to go onto a website and click around on what should be links, but nothing works. The links lead to error messages, broken pages, or are actually links.
This will not bode well for business.

Include quality photos of your property

Imagine going to a website for a hotel and the only image you can find is the exterior of the building or a beach nearby. No images of beds, baths, and beyond. Would you book a hotel room from a website like that? Of course not! So why would you do so with a vacation rental? If you really want guests you must provide them with a visual sense of how everything looks. That means a front exterior view, terrace/balcony view, the living room, bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, dining room, and the neighborhood including local attractions. Some of my clients go all out and post photos of their home in the changing seasons. And they’re right – the more photos means the more confident the guest is likely to be with their choice, and the more likely they are to choose your home. It is also crucial to have high-resolution photos nowadays. For more tips on good photos, go here.

That’s not all folks, but it’s a start. Share your comments on other do’s and don’ts of building a website for your vacation rental. Links to other great resources are welcome!

Rentini’s new mapping system with coordinates!

Rentini introduces a coordinates system to help locate your vacation property!

Because so many of our homeowners properties are hidden gems in more remote locations, we realized we needed to implement a coordinates system to locate the properties if the address isn’t yet mapped by search engines such as Google. And so we did:

Rentini’s new coordinates system with map, so locate even the remotest vacation homes!

If your property is mapped incorrectly by Google, simply enter the correct coordinates and we’ll match that location with your property address.

Here’s how you can find your property’s coordinates on Google Maps

On the map, right-click on your property’s location, then select “What’s here?” The search bar will then display the coordinates, which you copy.

By selecting “What’s here?” on Google Maps, the search bar is populated by the spot you’ve clicked on.

Here the coordinates are displayed in the search bar after selecting “What’s here?”

It is highly recommended that you know the coordinates for your vacation home, particularly if your property is overseas or in an area not yet mapped.

Cheers!

Save trees and time, operate your rental business online!

Paper Machee by Patti Haskins

Paper Machee by Patti Haskins

Utilizing online tools saves time and effort: how you can do it with your vacation rental business!

For decades the process of renting out a vacation home has typically involved mailing documents back and forth using the postal service.

First, the homeowner would buy advertising in publications read by people who would likely be interested in their property – publications such as alumni magazines, The New York Review of Books, etc. A brochure, mailed to prospective renters each year, was commonplace, too. As well, homeowners and guests typically made the transaction by having the owner mail the guest a reservation contract with cancellation policy; the guest would sign this, mail it back along with the check payment (sometimes they would mail out various checks as the reservation approached – a deposit, then balance, etc.). After the reservation was over, the owner then may refund the damage deposit, if there was one, by mailing yet another check. Conscientious hosts often sent a “thank you for staying at my home” letter of gratitude to the guests for their business and for having signed the guest book.

Fast forward twenty years and so much has changed! The effectiveness of the paper heavy approach has worn thin, quickly being replaced by more digital forms of distribution. The paper trail of decades past has given way to a more environmentally friendly, and convenient – online – solution.

STREAMLINING YOUR BUSINESS WITHOUT PRINTOUTS

“Trashed” by Muffett

Not only would you be helping the environment by cutting out the unreliable Pony – er…Postal Express, thus leaving less of a carbon footprint, you’d also have more secure copies of information and be better connected to your guests.

We all know sending something by snail mail has its risks. It can get lost or stolen; more often it will just take too darn long. Imagine having a guest mail you a check and then wait to receive and deposit it while another guest offers to pay for the same nights via PayPal, credit card, or even e-check. You’d be caught in a bind, wouldn’t you? After all, your booking is contingent upon payment. Until then, it is unconfirmed.

Forget about express, overnight, and other expedited delivery options. Forget about printing out copy upon copy at Kinkos. Save yourself time and money by bringing this all online.

Online calendar

I had a client recently tell me that she had to work through the weekend on re-creating her rental calendar for her three properties, explaining that her four year old had wandered into her home office and got creative with the white board she’d been using. Another client said he had mistakenly made a double booking for the second time using his little calendar book. Upon visiting a client earlier in the year I discovered her calendar book splotched with white out on every page.

This doesn’t have to be, folks! With online calendars, especially ones where the calendar is updated automatically when you get an online booking, this is much less likely to happen. If you want to have an automated calendar including scheduling for housekeepers, your account at Rentini is equipped with one. For a calendar not solely dedicated to your online rental business, we recommend Google Calendar.

Online Booking and Payment

Checks, while their usage is declining, are still surprisingly popular in the United States. This is evident in the vacation rental industry where many homes are booked far in advance. Owners prefer to have guests cut a check instead of paying by credit cards that force someone to burden the associated fees.

The emergence of telephone and online banking has greatly disrupted the check. Each generation wants everything faster. I just saw a couple of kids staring at their smartphone and then roll their eyes and whine that it was taking “too long”. A second is no longer good enough in the era of the nanosecond! This is becoming more apparent in the vacation rental industry as well.

It has never been more important to offer online booking and payment options. They’re faster and more convenient. Direct deposits via credit card, PayPal, and e-checks are good alternatives. The e-check solution is particularly appealing because, like its paper counterpart, it is also absent of credit card or PayPal fees. Of course there are also payment methods such as wire transfers or international bank transfers. Both of these methods are more costly, and in the case of wire transfers, riskier. (Wire transfers have been the method of choice for scam artists in order to swindle unsuspecting guests to send them money for a rental they’re pretending they’re the owner of.) E-checks, while taking a few days to process, will be increasingly popular for owners and guests because of the reduction in fees.

Receipts, Bills, and Statements

With the advent of online banking, instead of having to wait for a statement to arrive in the mail or to have to contact the bank about recent activity, now one can log-in to their secure account online and see it for themselves. This is safer than receiving a mailed statement that anyone could potentially intercept.

During a booking, services like Rentini automatically send out email statements, payment reminders and receipts, which contain more detailed information and are stored and easily recoverable. Reservation details are always already available as well. So opt into a service that provides e-receipts. PayPal does, Rentini does too, so that you can have a documentary record of payment details from the source of the transaction.

Online Advertising

Instead of placing ads in magazines, newspapers, and publications, nowadays you’ll want to connect with more guests by listing on websites catering to them. Some listing sites, such as Rentini.com, are free of charge. Pricing and services vary, so you’ll want to look into it closely.

Depending on your business, it may just be a good idea to quit the brochure and create a website in its place. The website, above all, has emerged as the ultimate marketing tool, upon which your social media efforts are anchored. If you haven’t got a website for your property yet – get one for free here.

Online Testimonials

Before the Internet disrupted the hospitality industry, the guest book was a valuable and treasured resource. Nowadays, however, they’re less relevant and are seen more in a nostalgic light as a relic of the past. Guest books are largely obsolete – online testimonials and reviews have replaced them. Why? Testimonials are the online equivalent to the guest book. And reviews, which I differentiate from testimonials, are becoming more difficult to manipulate – they speak more to truth than kind words scrawled in a guest book ever did.

Contract and Cancellation Policy

Many homeowners don’t realize that they don’t have to mail a cancellation policy to get it signed. The entire cancellation policy can be online. The Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) stipulates that, “Signatures and records cannot be denied legal validity simply because they are electronic.” By paying for something, you’re agreeing to the Terms of that purchase whatever it may be. At Rentini homeowners are able to upload a custom cancellation policy or choose from among several templates. By booking online, guests enter into a contract that is legally valid. This process can be done via PDF file as well. In short, electronic signatures are becoming more and more in vogue; from a legal perspective they’re no less legitimate from the way John Hancock did it in 1789.

Bookkeeping and Information Storage

Bookkeeping is one of the more complex areas of your rental business, one directly related to taxes. But don’t let the name fool you – none of this has to be entered in a book anymore. Much of it can be done via a simple spreadsheet (spreadsheet software is widely available for safe storage online), it can be done via Quickbooks, or pricey software specifically catered to vacation rentals such as Escapia. The important thing is to have your financial records ready for quick access. That’s why I recommend having them stored online. There are many tools with which to store them, such as Google Drive and Dropbox. You can also have them backed up on a physical hard drive if you wish.

Final note: Conservation and Eco-friendly practices will only become more important in years to come. Often it makes for the healthiest, most sustainable way to do business and thrive. By implementing some of the above suggestions you’ll save time and effort, and even a few trees too!

Missing something? Disagree/agree? Please, share your thoughts and comments below!

“Rentini was founded by a couple of computer guys from Silicon Valley. They were tired of the slow pace of the travel industry, in which many things are still done by pen & paper.”

Photo by Jimmie’s Collage

How To Help Victims in the Wake of Hurricane Sandy

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the current landscape in the Eastern Seaboard and Caribbean is one more testament in the force of nature testing man’s resolve. Those who read this can count themselves fortunate.

Sandy has cost thousands of peoples livelihoods.

What should be done?  If those in the midst of the weather torn areas cannot help themselves, then let us take the lead in the quest to help restore normalcy to their lives.

Let us remember that it is not some non-human, magical reaction that will transform this devastation.  It is grassroots work, step by step rebuilding and concentrated relief efforts, of re-visioning what was and imagining what can be. It is difficult work. It requires commitment and mindfulness and patience.  And most of all, it requires the willingness to look beyond the self, to cut through our myopic daily routines.  It requires the courage to see similarities rather than differences, to imagine the other as self.

Can we do that?  Can we, who remain safe in our homes, our cities, and with our families, find that courage and that commitment?  Because if we cannot do it, how can we ask it of those who are paying in lives lost. If we cannot do it, how can they?

HOW TO HELP:

If you cannot physically help the relief effort, donations are always welcome!
The Red Cross and The Salvation Army are two of the more well-known charitable organizations.

For a full list of ways and sources to donate please go here.

%d bloggers like this: