Your Vacation Rental on Hilton Head Island
Vacation rentals are a great way to help offset the expenses of a second home on the island. I have been managing a vacation rental for my husband's family for a number of years and we have never had a bad experience either with damage to the villa, theft or bad checks. I was reading an article on vacation rentals today on www.rentalcluster.com, a website full of resources for rental owners and managers. I thought that some of their advice was valuable, you can read the blog entry here, but I would like to add some insights for our market.
Here are their points of consideration:
1) "Make your home presentable".
The article places emphasis on cleanliness and repairing broken items, this is important but there is so much more to optimizing your vacation rentals. Most vacation visitors want an environment comparable, or nicer, than the one that they left at home. I always recommend that my vacation home buyers budget some money to upgrade their decor and furnishings after their home purchase. Make sure that your decor reflects the attributes of the area, in our case, the beach and outdoor recreation. You may want to shop locally for a good selection of 'beach' decor, I always find some good buys at Home Goods and there are always some fun items in the shops at Harbourtown, Coligny, Shelter Cove and Main Street, for some great artware try the Art League of Hilton Head or take a stroll around Olde Town Bluffton and visit some of the galleries there.
I also recommend that the furnishings be very comfortable, there is nothing better than spending the morning and early afternoon on the beach, coming back to the villa, taking a shower and laying down on the comfy bed for a wee nap, ahhhhhhhhh........ Attractive decor and great pictures will get you the first visit but it's the comfortable furnishings that will get those repeat visitors year after year. Your mattresses should be comfortable, no sagging or rolling to the middle, lighting is adequate, pillows are fluffy (not those poor little 20 year old flat things) and your sofa bed is comfortable and easy to use, we purchased a La-Z-Boy airbed a few years ago, a little more expensive but much more comfortable. Do you have a special feature that makes your vacation home more attractive to visitors such as a pool, home theater or gourmet kitchen? Spend a little extra to make that feature an asset such as attractive poolside furniture, fun pool toys for the kids or items for the visiting gourmet cook.
2) "Hire professional maid service"
It goes without saying that you want your vacation home to be neat and clean. An annual deep clean is well worth the investment, the deep clean should include pulling out all of the furniture and cleaning baseboards, blinds, etc. This is a great time to go through sheets, towels, dishes and glasses and so on and replacing anything that has gotten tired since the last rental season.
3) "Select the appropriate rental site"
There are some excellent rental managers on Hilton Head Island. There are some that specialize in particular communities such as Sea Pines Resort Rentals and Palmetto Dunes Resort Rentals, these may charge a premium but they will get requests for those communities. There are others that cover various areas of the island but they may be more flexible about fees when you find a renter. Ask your neighbors who they use and whether or not they are happy with the service.
You may also decide to manage the rentals yourself. I manage Tom's familys rentals through www.vrbo.com. Please contact me if you would like more information on managing a vacation rental on your own. I do have some rules that I use to make the process easier.
4) "Click high definition images of your property"
There is no doubt that the pictures sell the rental. Many visitors will review dozens of listings to see which ones might be the best choice for their family vacation. Take the time to get good pictures. You may also want to include pictures of your families favorite attractions on the island, personal pictures help the prospect to identify with you as a person, not just 'the owner'.
5) "Fix the rate for your property"
The rate can help to attract visitors to your listing or it can discourage them from making an inquiry if the rate is too high. I research neighboring rental listings at least once a year and make sure that my rate is competitive (or even a little lower) than my competition. Remember, the objective is to have a steady stream of visitors. This article recommends a daily rate, I do not publish a daily rate and I do not encourage visits of less than four days except in the fall which has been a slower time of year for us. I do not want our villa to be used as a hotel room.
6) "Think from a guests point of view"
This is such an important idea! Pretend to be the visitor at your vacation home on occasion, critique the villa as though you were going to entertain an important friend or associate. Can you find everything that you need or want? Do you want to make dinner but you can't find the implements that you need? Are there some small luxuries that you can provide that would make your guests visit more memorable? Creating a book with restaurant recommendations, area attractions and some of your families favorite things to do personalizes your rental. Keep in mind that your objective is to get those repeat visitors.
7) "Get guest reviews"
Guest reviews are a great way to help prospects to feel more comfortable with renting your villa. Email your visitors a link to make it easier for them to leave a review and ask them if they would please leave a review for you, most of them are happy to do it. It's also a great time to follow up and see if there is anything that you can do to imporve your guests experience.
Most of all, have fun with your vacation rental, both when you are using it yourself and when you are managing the vacation rentals. Some articles recommend removing personal items but we have left many items from when Grandpa and Grandma used the villa often and our guest frequently comment on how much they enjoy 'staying in someone's home'. Your visitors are electing to stay in a home rather than in a hotel and it is perfectly acceptable for it to seem like a home. We even leave a small selection of spices and condiments, the visitors that don't want to use it won't but others will appreciate not having to buy something that they would have to leave behind or throw away. I have had wonderful calls and emails from visitors about how much they enjoyed their stay and we have some visitors that come every year.
Looking for a place to stay on your next visit to Hilton Head, here is the link to our villa listing.
Please email me if you would like more information about vacation rentals on Hilton Head Island.