Managing your Holiday Rentals
(1) Dealing with Enquiries
The nature of the enquiries you receive from holiday makers will vary considerably. People will specify requests for long term rentals, if they can bring their pets, wheelchair accessibility, and distance from beach and shops etc. It is important to think about how you are going to deal with these queries. An enquiry does not necessarily confirm a booking, therefore, it is up to the individual homeowners to make an effort to try and convert these into concrete bookings and gain some revenue on their holiday home.
- Respond quickly to enquiries in a professional and enthusiastic manner and make sure to check your mail regularly. Internet users expect a quick reply so try and get back to the holiday maker as soon as possible with a confirmation of the availability, and answering any specific questions outlined.
- People often send enquiries to a number of owners. There is a greater chance of receiving a booking if you are the first to respond. It is advisable to call the enquirer on their phone so you can answer their questions quickly and give them a good impression that you are an efficient homeowner. Also, if you are registered with Holiday Homes Direct, you will receive a free SMS alert service, informing you immediately about new enquiries.
- Be as flexible and helpful when dealing with enquiries. Have plenty of extra information to give about your property. If they request a week that is already booked, suggest to them alternative dates. Be open to the possibility of renting for 10 nights or 5 nights rather than a full week or fortnight. You should try and accommodate people’s needs if they request something extra like a highchair, a kettle or even a taxi from the airport.
- Get some information about your potential guests. It is perfectly acceptable to enquire about the people that will be staying in your home; the number of children or adults in the party, how old they are etc. Often homeowners might not wish to take certain bookings for personal reasons and are therefore within rights to politely say no to holidaymakers.
- Once you have received a definite booking from a holidaymaker and agreed on prices and dates, you should send them your booking contract immediately either by email or post to get their signature and confirm the booking. You can request that they return the signed contract with their booking deposit.
- You will find that many people need reassurance before they rent your property directly from an advert they seen on the internet. They will often question the credibility of the homeowners, therefore testimonials from previous guests is a brilliant way to put their minds at ease. You can call them directly on their phone and put them in touch with past visitors. It is advisable to keep a collection of good comments from former guests for this purpose.
(2) Dealing with Bookings
Once you have a booking confirmed there are certain procedures you should take to ensure that everything runs smoothly for both you and the holidaymakers.
- Send the holiday maker out a booking contract via email or post and ask for a deposit to secure the booking. Request that they sign it and return it with the deposit as soon as possible. A booking deposit is generally around 10%-25% of the total cost of the holiday rental and confirms the reservation. Homeowners should make it clear if this is refundable in the case of a cancelation.
- Inform your guests when they need to pay the rest of the rental cost and security deposit before they arrive. It is normal to request the balance between 6 – 10 weeks prior to their arrival. The price of your security deposit depends on your property and its contents but they generally are about €100 - €500. This refundable deposit will cover you for any damages that might occur during your guests visit.
- Once you receive the full payment of the rent, you can send the keys, address and the directions of your property to the guests. Give them as much information as possible about the area, if there is parking outside etc. Also, ensure that prior guests have checked out on time on the changeover dates and that the property has been left clean and ready for the new arrivals.
- Check out your property for any major damages before you return the security deposit to the guests. Ensure that you send them the money on the date specified in the contract. Accept that small breakages of glasses or plates can occur during your guests stay and there is no need to charge for these.
(3) Taking Payments
When you have received a booking, try and be precise on the payment amount and the deadline dates that you set. You can give your guests a breakdown of the payment required and a list of payment methods that you can accept along with your account details and address to send cheques to.
- Cheques are the easiest to take payments if you both live in the same country. Give the guest your name and address. Ensure that the cheque has cleared before you finalise a booking and hand over the keys.
- If your guests live abroad, then bank transfers are the best options for payments. You will need to give your name, account number, sort code, your banks address, IBAN and SWIFTBIC numbers. Tell your guests that they will have to cover the bank charges for a foreign transfer.
- Another option is using PayPal which is an online system allowing transfers between two online accounts. You guest doesn’t necessarily have to have a PayPal account as they can still pay by credit card online through the PayPal system. This is an instant method of money transfer, however, you will be charged for these transactions.
Once you receive the payment and it is fully cleared, it is advisable and polite to send your guests a receipt.
(4) Booking Section/Availability Chart
If you are advertising on Holiday Homes Direct, you have complete access and control over your own availability calendar which is displayed on your advert. This should be kept updated to inform holiday makers on the dates that your property is available to rent. Also, many people search for a holiday home using the date range facility and if your calendar is not activated; your property will not appear in the search results.
Once you have confirmed a booking it is advisable to update your calendar as soon as possible. This will prevent you from double booking. Holiday Homes Direct has a separate booking section in your homeowners’ page where you can add your bookings from all guests. The availability calendar will automatically be updated and displayed in blue meaning booked for the specific dates entered. The booking section is an ideal way of keeping a record of all your rentals.
If you have a certain changeover date for renting your home, you can display this on your advert. Remember that the day your guests arrive on means that this night is booked, but the day they leave is not booked.
(5) Other Important Issues
- Booking Contracts: It is recommended that all homeowners use a booking contract when renting their property. This outlines clearly the methods involved in the booking process, from confirmation through to the return of the keys.
- Handing Over the Keys: There are a few ways you can get the keys to your guests. If you are living in the area, you can meet up with them and hand over the keys yourself. However, if you are not available, you could ask the cleaner or a local contact in the area that you trust to welcome the guests on arrival and hand over the keys. There is also the option of posting the keys to your guests but there is a risk of the post getting lost or arriving late. It is always wise to leave a set of keys with a local in the area in case this happens. Also, should a guest get locked out, it is reassuring to know that someone has a spare set of keys nearby. If you have employed a property management service, they will generally offer to manage key holding and manage a meet and greet service. Remember: Do not hand over your keys until full payment has being made for the property and all funds have being cleared.
- Cancellations: You should set out clearly in the booking contract your policy when it comes to cancellations and refunds. Most people have a legitimate reason for cancelling their holiday such as a sickness or family issue. Therefore, it is wise to handle this with consideration and perhaps offer them another week. If they have no choice but to cancel the booking then try and refund them as much as you can afford. Try and refund as quickly as possible and ask for verification that the money has being received. Most homeowners have a time scale for refunds set out in the contract, e.g. a cancellation made up to 21 days before rental period the guests are responsible for paying 60% of the rental price. Remember to free up the cancelled dates on your calendar to try and re-book for that week and you can always refund more of the payment if you manage to get another client. Remember: Do not make a refund until you are sure that the payment has being fully cleared.
(6) Dealing with complaints
Dealing with complaints is an area that many property owners find difficult. In our experience, the majority of complaints we are made aware of relate to poor communication or misleading details in advertising.
To avoid complaints from arising in the first place, we would suggest:
- Have a booking contract in place
- Ensure your advert and images are up to date and reflect the property as it is currently let.
- Include details of house rules which apply to your property
- Ensure that you don’t oversell your property, be realistic
- Ensure that your property is fully cleaned before guests arrival.
- Good communication with guests will ensure that expectations are matched.
- Give your guests a contact number if they have any problems while on holiday. If you can deal with a complaint and resolve any problems while a guest is still on holiday in your property, they are more likely to be satisfied.
However, should you receive a complaint from a guest, we would suggest:
- Deal with the complaint as quickly and efficiently as possible
- Do not take the complaint personally. Try and look at it from the guests point of view.
- Deal with the complaint as fairly as possible.
- If you get recurring complaints about the same issue, ensure that your make the necessary, changes to your property or to your advert.