I am attending the HomeAway Summit in Boston today. In case you’ve never heard of them, HomeAway and VRBO are the premier owner listing sites for owners and property managers who rent homes as vacation rentals. These days, AirBnB seems to be getting much of the attention, but HomeAway and VRBO (they are the same company) started long before AirBnB became hip. Every year, HomeAway hosts a series of conferences at different locales in the country — Los Angeles, Atlanta, Austin, Denver, and today, Boston. This is my first time attending one. I’m even participating in a panel in one of the breakaway workshops, which is exciting if I can make it past my fear of public speaking.
I am excited to meet in person some of the home owners that I have been networking with for the past few years on-line and gather new ideas for my own business. When I started out as an owner renting my own tiny cottage over ten years ago, I provided the basics — hand me down objects from my own home that I wasn’t quite ready to get rid of – Old chipped dishes, filmy glassware, a blender that only worked on low speed…
But, oh, how times have changed. Back when I started, I think that most visitors had to pack their own linens and towels as well as everything they would need on their vacations (of course, this was also before airlines severely limited checked luggage). I know that I didn’t provide such ‘luxuries’. I only provided as little as I thought I could get away with… but, again, that was the norm at the time.
Then, when I moved on to my second vacation rental, I hired a local property manager who had relocated from Quebec and insisted that I needed duvets. Duvets (which sounded divine in his French accent), were hip and trendy and easy to keep clean, he said. He insisted that I throw out the patchwork quilts and lighthouse motif bedspreads. His attention to detail (although, unfortunately, it was his detail and my wallet) inspired me to make my rental a leader in my area. I did purchase duvets (down-alternative) and duvet covers. I purchased new, high quality towels and matching bed linens. Yes, I started providing linens.
Wes’ recommendations for duvets started me on a slippery slope of trying to get inside the traveler’s mind. First of all, I stopped calling the travelers “renters” and started referring to them as “guests”. I added what little luxuries that I could on a budget. Yard sales and even our town dump swap shop prove that time and time again, extra touches can be provided on a budget — quality board games, brand new kitchen appliances – wedding gifts that were never used – can be had for pennies on the dollar.
When I was young, I always wanted to open my own Bed and Breakfast. When I was in my early 20’s, I even attended an adult education workshop on how to open your own B&B. Talk about awkward – I was about 22 and single among about a dozen or so 40-something, yuppie couples (yes, it was the 80’s). My take-away from the workshop — I never want to open a B&B. I don’t want to live in the same house with strangers, no matter how wonderful they are (perhaps chalk it up to being an only child). I don’t want to get up at 4am and make breakfast for said strangers. However, owning vacation rentals is perfect for me. No breakfast preparation needed; yet I get to decorate the house and pamper the people who visit. I found my calling.
So that’s where it started for me. Those darn duvets… accompanied by the French accent. And now I’ve moved on.. from one tiny cottage, almost 15 years ago, to three rental properties — it really is addictive. Anyway. I’ll let you know what I learn today. Stay tuned.