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Posts tagged ‘VRBO’

Good Artists Borrow, Great Artists Steal: HomeAway’s Trademark Infringement Suit Against AirBnB

Homeaway sues AirBnB for trademark infringement

News of HomeAway’s trademark-infringement lawsuit against AirBnB has left many customers of both companies wondering what to think about the whole thing.

“Good Artists Borrow, Great Artists Steal.” This famous saying, most often attributed to Pablo Picasso, pretty much summarizes how the creative process works in any media. And Silicon Valley is no different.

If you’re good enough at making high-quality copies, people will admire you for your skillset. You will earn some respect and even a decent amount of money. Still in all, it doesn’t matter how good the replica is. It will be overshadowed by the original creation.

A creative genius, Picasso was never interested in copying things. His creative process began with ideas from others, which once absorbed, took on a new life in his own image, and on a different scale.

Oftentimes, these ideas came to him via the great masters, and sometimes from his fellow artists. Throughout his career, he mastered his “art of stealing” like no one else.

While a teenager, Picasso became fascinated by the work of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. This resulted in a series of works that made the originals look pretty outdated. One of Picasso’s greatest contributions to the art world, Cubism, was also influenced by Ingres.

Turkish Bath Picasso vs IngresTurkish Bath by Ingres (1862) – left and by Pablo Picasso (1907) – right

This is how things get done in the realm of genius. Ideas inspire great artists to create a new art form that didn’t exist before, and is often regarded as revolutionary.

Whether you borrow or steal in the world of business, the consequences are vastly different.

On December 16, 2013, AirBnB launched a new advertisement campaign, “Home to You.” The Home to You ad campaign centers around a video showing artisans recreating 50 Airbnb vacation rental listings in the form of miniature birdhouses.

Yes, birdhouses. This is what all the fuss is about.

Here’s how AirBnB describes the idea behind the movie on their YouTube channel:

No creatures on earth travel quite like birds do. They soar the skies, then land in new places. They see the world from a different perspective, one to which all real travelers aspire. This film is a celebration of our passion for travel and the kind of hospitality that makes people feel at home anywhere.

How could a story like that not touch the soul of an aspiring traveler?

But, apparently, it can also touch a copyrighted image: the “Birdhouse Mark” which happened to be a protected trademark of AirBnB’s biggest competitor, HomeAway, Inc. HomeAway’s logo prominently features a birdhouse, and the company uses birdhouses as its sort of “mascot.”

According to HomeAway’s argument, Brian Chesky, CEO and co-founder of AirBnB, paid multiple visits to HomeAway’s headquarters in Austin, Texas. This said, it’s probably safe to assume that the giant birdhouse replica in the middle of their headquarters didn’t pass unnoticed.

Birdhouse by HomeAway in their headquarter

We will leave it up to history to determine whether AirBnB’s national campaign is a complete steal or just borrowing. It certainly visualizes an especially poetic perspective on travel.

One thing, though, is crystal clear to Brian Sharples, CEO and Chairman of HomeAway.

“We do believe it is a fairly deliberate attempt to confuse the marketplace,” Sharples has said. Chesky “has been to our downtown offices several times. He has stepped into our giant birdhouse. I don’t think that anyone could argue that this was a mistake on their part.”

So, what now?

Should we consider it as a formal announcement of the war between two competitors? Was HomeAway fed up with AirBnB breaking more and more into the market for traditional vacation rental homes?

Although they are clashing over the same market niche, HomeAway and AirBnB are very different animals when it come to their respective cultures, founders, and backers, and the demographics of their hosts, guests, founders, and even haters.

It’s even safe to say that AirBnB and HomeAway are completely opposites any way you look at them. This is what makes this clash so fascinating.

Let’s look back at the history of two companies and try to understand what may arise from this.

HomeAway, Inc, nowadays a publicly traded company under the AWAY ticker, was founded in 2005 by Brian Sharples and Carl Shepherd. Within six years,  they managed to bring the company to its IPO, generating a sixfold return on investment (based on the post-IPO figures).

Their runaway success was mainly attributable to a clever way of cherrypicking and acquiring market leaders in the vacation rental industry around the globe, and monetizing their existing customer bases.

Some of HomeAway’s most notable acquisitions included VRBO.com and VacationRentals in the US, Arbitel.fr in France, and about twenty additional websites in different time zones, languages and hemispheres, the most recent being the Australia-based Stayz, for $198M. HomeAway often called themselves a startup, but it’s pretty unusual for a startup to begin operations with $49M on hand, with another $500M deposited by VCs within the first couple of years of operation.

AirBnB was founded in 2008, by two designers,Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, and an engineer, Nathan Blecharczyk. For a few months they tested out the idea of renting an airbed in their San Francisco loft to conferencegoers. Packaged with a small meal, the accommodation was dubbed  Airbed and Breakfast (later shortened to AirBnB). They made a few attempts to replicate this model in other cities, but that didn’t help with their flat revenue graph.

Forced to think outside of the box as their fledgling company struggled to become profitable, the founders began to offset their losses by selling repackaged cereal as “Obama O’s” and “Captain McCain’s.” The cereal story, a hit during the 2008 election, later became a trigger point for Paul Graham to take these guys seriously. In the winter 2009, the founders were invited to participate in YCombinator, one of Silicon Valley’s first and most respected startup accelerators. From this very moment, AirBnB’s growth was phenomenal. The amount of funding they attracted over the course of couple of years reflects their rapid market expansion. Starting from the $20K coming from the YCombinator fund, they quickly accumulated $326M in funding from their first tier investors and celebrities. Being pioneers of the shared economy, they inspired a lot of controversy, viral press, and tidal waves of support from all around the globe. It’s fair to mention that over time the website became for some a reliable source of income—and for others, some sort of a travel religion. People started referring to AirBnB’s brand as a foundation of a new phenomena: the shared economy. Inspired by their success, dozens of other startups adopted their business model to different markets: AirBnB for CarsAirBnB for Dogs, you name it! Finally, the AirBnB founders came up with their own new version of AirBNB … for birds.

BirdBnB.com became their first national ad campaign calling for bird houses. Notably, the campaign cost AirBnB no less than $2M.

“We promise you’ll never look at birdhouses the same way — and if you stay in one of these remarkable homes around the world, you may never look at travel the same way again too,” the website states. (At the time of this article, BirdBnB.com is redirecting to the main website AirBnB.com)

This is where their march has been stalled by a lawsuit from HomeAway.

Homeaway Birdhouse logo

“Defendant and HomeAway target and provide services to an overlapping class of Travelers for their respective services, through overlapping channels of trade,” the HomeAway suit states. “On information and belief, Defendant, has long targeted the tenants in landlord owned apartments in major cities (such as New York, Paris, San Francisco, Berlin, etc.) as its major supplier of listings.”

“However, Defendant [Airbnb] has recently increased its efforts to attract business in traditional vacation rental markets (such as the Gulf Coast, Rocky Mountains, Provence and Tuscany), in which HomeAway has long been well-established.”

Embedded in the culture of HomeAway, Sharples said, is the birdhouse logo, designed by downtown Austin advertising firm McGarrah Jessee and chosen “because it symbolizes what we do.”

AirBnB’s creative genius has served them pretty well on many occasions. It will be interesting to see how things will unfold this time.

Shall we expect an open-field battle between competitors, a massive settlement or M&A talk?

What are your thoughts on this?

2 simple ways to update your vacation rental calendar

Vacation rental availability calendar reservation blocking

Don’t Wait to Update Your Vacation Rental Calendar: Time Blocking and Reservations

Like many of my neighbors and fellow owners in Hawaii and Lake Tahoe, I love surfing, skiing and snowboarding, so why would I own property anywhere else?  It comes as no surprise that, like me, most vacation rental owners buy homes in the places they like to visit themselves.  And they visit a lot.

During my first year of owning a pad in Maui Kamaole, Hawaii, I visited 5 times. I stored my two surfboards in the closet, bought an annual pass on ATA airlines and eventually realized the importance of manually updating my vacation rental calendar.

In my previous post I talked about a very simple way to setup automatic calendar synchronization, once and forever. Here we discuss how to update your calendar manually.

At Rentini we have two options for updating calendar:

1)   Create a blocking – an easy one step process

2)   Create a reservation  –  a two step process which requires you to record payment.

There are multiple ways to add a reservation or time block to your calendar. The most intuitive would be by following navigation tabs:

  • Rentals >> Blocking >> Add Blocking
  • Rentals >> Reservations  >> Add Reservation

Another way of adding a time block or reservation would be by opening the monthly calendar page from the Dashboard or on Edit Listing page.

Select a month and roll your mouse over any date until an Update button appears. Click on the Update button or anywhere in that cell. A new window will pop-up, which will let you choose a type of action. Available options are:

  • Add Blocking
  • Add Reservation
  • Add Rate

We will discuss how to add different types of rates in future posts. For now, let’s just focus on blockings and reservations.

Time Blocking

Rule of thumb: Use blockings to mark dates unavailable.

To block, choose your start and end dates and hit the Update Calendar button. You can also put in a note for future reference, such as “My last minute getaway!!!” or “Uncle Sam promised it’s his last trip this year

The process is a bit more complicated with reservations as there are a few different scenarios worth considering.

IMPORTANT: Keep in mind that the dates on your calendar will not become unavailable until payment is submitted by the guest or the homeowner marks the reservation paid manually.

Reservation on Guest’s behalf: You are Expecting Payment

You may create a reservation on guest’s behalf and assign a custom rate to it (optional).  Let’s say someone calls you and says, “I would like to rent your place. How do I proceed from here?”

All you need is their name and email address.  Just open Rentals >> Reservations and click Add Reservation button. Select the Yes option for email notifications. This way your guests will receive an email invitation to pay the required amount as well as all future reminders. This is convenient, as you do not need to remember important dates to remind your guests about payment dues. The system sends out reminders automatically.

If you do not want them to receive automatic reminders,  just select the No option for email notifications.

Reservation on Friend’s Behalf

If a friend of yours wants to visit and you only want to charge them a cleaning fee, they may leave a check for the housekeeper or pay in advance.

To facilitate the pay in advance option, just click Add Reservation and enter $1 into the Custom Rate field (sorry, the system doesn’t allow to enter $0).  Select the Yes option for Email notifications and then hit Update Calendar. An email invitation will then be sent to your friend so he/she can pay online. Once they complete the payment process, the dates will be marked unavailable.

Reservation Payments

If a guest calls you and wants to submit a payment, you may accept credit card payments over the phone. However, it is important to note the recent PCI compliance standards, which do not allow keeping your guests’ card on file unencrypted.

Protecting cardholder data is also good for your business because PCI security prevents stolen customer data, and:

  • Prevents lawsuits
  • Saves you money

Rentini payment portal becomes handy when you need to accept payments and stay PCI compliant. We incorporate all the latest standards, which could also be another selling point for those guests who are concerned about Internet fraud and unauthorized credit card abuse. Working in IT data security for 13 years taught me to keep my hands away from sensitive information wherever possible. When a vacation rental guest offers me their credit card over the phone, I politely refuse to accept it. Accepting payment via a PCI compliant online system gives you the piece of mind that you won’t be liable for any data breach.

If you have any suggestion on how to make our reservation system better, please leave your feedback in comments!

Happy rentals!

6 Simple Reasons to Love Your Vacation Rental Website

Escapesolutions.rentini.com , A template based website created by Peggy Yelland for her 11 properties

Don’t Wait to Reap the Benefits of Your Vacation Rentals: Get your own website!

In the past we discussed the importance of a vacation rental website and were delighted to see how this topic struck a cord with our readers.

Drawing from my own experience managing vacation rentals for the last 9 years, here are 6 reasons why I have a vacation rental website:

1) Website name is unique

Your vacation rental website must have a unique domain name if you want to make an impeccable first impression.    You can’t rely on the random ID number assigned to your listings.  Just think about it — who would remember those six digits a month later?

Names like http://www.WaipouliBeach.com or http://www.HeavenlyCabin.com are memorable.  Numbers are not.

You may even want to take it a step further by printing business cards.  You never know where you will meet prospective renters! Some guys will even print them overnight.

2)   No competition

While I have befriended many of my fellow homeowners, I understand that those residing in neighboring locations compete with me for renters. Therefore, it is best not to give your potential guest a link to a vacation rental listings site with zillions of other choices. Instead, you want to lead them to a place where no other competition exists – your own vacation rental website. Once your client is on your website, it’s your job to convince them that your rental is the best and that they should proceed with booking immediately.

3)  A Call to Action with a Book Now Button

In online marketing, every page or message should have a Call To Action. But, now you may be wondering what a Call to Action even means.  In simple terms, it is a quickest way to make a sale.  For example, ‘Book Now.’  This will increase your conversion rate, a term that describes how many users buy vs how many users visited your website. You can also increase your conversion rate if the Call to Action is in the right place, of the right size and in the right color.

The ‘Book Now’ option is also something that world travelers are so used to. Airline websites have it, hotel websites have it, restaurants have it, even activity desks providers will give you an option to book a tour right away.  Somehow it’s not that common in the vacation rental industry. Influential bloggers like Matt Landau think that 2013 will change this for good. I hope so!

In my particular case I rent out short term rentals. I want my users to come to my website and rent my property. Then, I want them to have a great time during their vacation, visit my favorite restaurants and experience things that I love to do when I visit my rental.

4)  Stay in Control with Real-Time Calendar

First thing’s first — I don’t consider a vacation rental booked until I got money in my pocket. I hear a lot of whining from fellow homeowners after they’ve come across an unreliable customer. The guest promised to send a check but the check never arrived.

If you agree to keep your rental dates on hold for a week until a guest’s check arrives, you are giving up control of your own business while giving your potential customers the time to find a better deal.

Make your guests compete for your place.

For example, If I have three inquiries for the same time period, I never give the same quote. The first customer to inquire receives the lowest quote, the next one receives a higher rate and all others the highest rate possible. I tell everyone that dates could be booked anytime by anyone. When people are aware they may lose your deal, they tend to act faster. Often times the highest quote I give triggers the payment first. So it’s a double win. I get a booking faster and it’s sold for more.

5)  No limit on the most essential things:  Photos, Reviews, Calendar

I hate when someone limits my abilities in anything. 24 photos limit on my listing? Who came up with this magic number? What if I have a nice shot #25 from my best customer and I would like to upload it? Do I need to remove one of my nice looking photos? The magic of your own website is that you are in full control of everything. Not only can you upload numerous photos but you can add long activity descriptions on the guests’ toDo list. And all these things combined work well for converting your visitors into paid customers. Research shows that 30% of travelers make their booking decision based on photos and reviews. You as a homeowner should have full control over these marketing tools.

6)   Organic Google Search Traffic – Yours Forever!

This one is not very obvious at all. We advertise our vacation rental properties on zillions of different websites. We put our time, sweat and money into making it look better, while not always realizing that we are improving a vacation rental listing site and not our own. At some point, when we have to discontinue advertising service, all our previous efforts become wasted. Search engines, such as Google, Bing, Yahoo etc., work day and night crawling and analyzing the great content of the world web. Once your ad is shut down, it’s gone for Google. Put all your efforts into making great content on your own website and let Google discover and index it. This is a real asset that will stay with you as long as you want it to. Over time, it only becomes more valuable!

and of course, the social!

I almost missed out on one of the most important item – social engagement! It’s so big with latest changes in role of social signals in search algorithm. It will require a separate blog post. So stay tuned!

Do you have your own vacation rental website?  Let us know your success story!

In case you would like to create a vacation rental website, you can do it in 3 simple clicks at Rentini.  Here are some of the Rentini’s templates (remember it could be your own domain name or a subdomain of rentini.com) :

ModernLakeTahoe.rentini.com

WaipouliBeach.com

ItalyMountainCabin.com

My Adventure as a Guinea Pig at a Vacation Rental

A Guinea Pig Vacation Rental Guinea Pig on a missionat a Vacation Rental

There has been a lot of talk lately regarding the best ways to discover if you are meeting your guests’ expectations by going on your own vacation and analyzing your experiences.  Whether you decide to do this in another vacation rental or in your own, applying all you’ve learned can be invaluable.

I decided to try this experiment myself and see what I discover.   I rented a short term rental for one week.  Booking just like anyone else I found a location, looked at photos, studied the cost, checked reviews and then made my decision.

Taking a different approach in property selection

I took a different approach though.  I decided to “go all out” and book a property I would not normally book.  My philosophy was that if I book a property that meets all my expectations, I would take everything for granted.  On the other hand, if I were to stay in a property that is lacking, the conditions would force me to take notice.  So I found one with the following:

  • Location:         Good – Check – (I did want a nice location)
  • Photos:            Rooms missing in photos (bathroom, second bedroom), completely original, 1980s décor, oh….tube TV – Check!
  • Price:               Same as others in the area; no less, no more – Check
  • Reviews:         Could be better – Check

Yes my vacaiton rental getaway is awesome!Booking was a breeze.  It couldn’t have been easier.  The owners were very pleasant and wonderful to work with.  Entry upon arrival was smooth and all instructions for departure were conveniently placed on the breakfast bar.  The guest information book was a bit dated and could have used a cleaning, but some of the most important numbers (i.e. emergency, dining out) were included.  YES!!!

After such a wonderful reception from the owners and easy entry I was very optimistic about how my experience would unfold, but I quickly went

From this:                                                                                To this:

 Easy cooking at vacation rental kitchen                    Kitchen nightmare at vacation rental

in a matter of two days.

Not wanting commit Hara-Kari while I was there (and I’m also not a Samaria) I made the best of it and jotted down anything that I found hindered my vacation experience hoping that my findings will help others and I didn’t expire in vain.  The result was this table.   These are items that were missing from the rental or items that could have used updating.

Complete your analysis and start your own list

Take from this what you will; create your own – add your own missing items.   I hope it helps you get started on your own analysis should you choose to do one.

Kitchen: Comments
  • Cabinets/Countertop
 Not securely fastened
  • Ceiling
 Water spots or stains
  • Sink
 Leaks, caulking
  • Stove, Fridge, Microwave
 Fridge – poor working order, stains, rust
  • Large pot
  • Colander
  • Sharp knives
  • Salt and Pepper shakers
  • Grater
LR, DR, Bedrooms, Hallways:
  • Walls/Trim
Cracks, water damage
  • Closets
Poor alignment
  • Stairs
Loose handrails
  • Door
Misaligned
  • DVD player/Blu Ray
  • IPod docking station
  • AM/FM stereo
  • Television
  • Furniture
Rips, stains
  • Sturdy furniture legs
  • Extra batteries/light bulbs
  • Clean remotes and guest info book
  • Linens free of stains
  • Flat sheet
  • Fitted sheet
  • Mattress protector
  • Pillows (not enough)
Miscellaneous:
  • Washer/Dryer
Stains, rust
  • Fire extinguisher
Didn’t really need this personally, but thought I might for a minute and it wasn’t there
  • Floor fans
  • Broom & pan
  • Laundry hamper/basket
  • Fly swatter
  • First aid kit
Didn’t really need this either, but an after thought when I thought I might need an extinguisher
  • Mop/Pail /Cleaners
  • Beach/Pool/Hot tub towels – one per adult person
  • Cooler
  • Overall cleanliness

So, all in all, yes, staying in a vacation rental and analyzing my experience was well worth it and is highly recommended.  Thank you Mike Bayer of Cottage Rental Services for your article Don’t Just Talk the Talk, Walk the Walk. I took your advice, learned quite a bit and came out winning.  We take many things for granted until they are no longer around.  The best way to know if you’re missing something is to miss it. Here’s hoping all your guests smile like this.

Anita Ericksen Author of FF&E

Anita Ericksen is the author of FF&E, Furnish and Equip Your Vacation or Executive Property in 5 Days.  You can find out more about her at www.anitaericksen.com.  Photos are clip art and the guinea pig is not mine though I wish he was.

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.

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

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