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How To Beat A Land Grab? Be Picky.

Matt Landau

Ambassador
Staff member
As children, we’re told not to be picky.

"Don’t be a picky eater."
"It’s only a summer job, don’t be so picky."

As we enter adulthood, being picky starts to be a good thing.

"Be picky with your accountant."
"Be picky when choosing your spouse."

And as vacation rental pros in this unprecedented moment, being picky isn’t just recommended. It’s a requirement.

Let me tell you why…

To those observing our sector from afar, “vacation rentals have a supply problem.”

This means there isn’t enough supply (vacation rental property nights) to meet the demand (guests who want them).

And so, we're starting to see a land grab take place.

  • Vrbo unapologetically luring hosts from rival Airbnb with cheeky ads and new perks as short-term-rental platforms look to grow supply (Caviar News)
  • Vacation rental management company VTrips ramps up merger activity (against Vacasa) in hopes that a scale game will help them make the most of a domestic boom in bookings (Skift)
  • Marriott requiring exclusivity in its Homes & Villas contracts knowing full well that Hyatt is about to enter the game (Inner Circle)
Why are we seeing a land grab?

Because whoever solves the “supply problem” best ... that company "wins" the market at this very crucial time — when so many new travelers are choosing vacation rentals for their first time.

(Do you remember your first time?)

In
an article about Google now showing vacation rentals alongside hotels in search results, Red Awning's Tim Chaote says, “vacation rentals have become core accommodations, not alternative accommodations.”

So let’s get back to picky being not a recommendation but a requirement.

If you own or manage a profitable vacation rental business, being picky is about defending your earned position in the marketplace.


If you are not picky about the following things, I might argue that you are giving up your land in the grab and benefitting other companies more-so than yourself.
  • People you choose to do business with (who might influence your appearance for better or worse)
  • Pricing to command the average-daily-rate (ADR) you have earned
  • Terms of contracts you agree to sign (that restrict
  • Costs or reputations of companies you select to work with (everything is negotiable)
Every one of you has has EARNED the position you are in right now (or about to be in soon) on the heels of this pandemic!

"The vacation rental industry has a supply problem," the outsiders say.

Their problem is our achievement!

The most precious asset in the market is your property(s) -- probably followed closely by your team/personell.

I'd love to hear from community members about whether "being picky" resonates with you and how you've wielded it in your favor?
 
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MattP

Counselor
Inner Circle
Being picky is exactly how we've been growing for years - on both the hyper local directory and the properties I manage. We've grown organically, never advertising or doing a campaign to gain more owners. We let our owners and their guests spread the word. Also, it helps with other owners and renters are looking to either list their properties or to find one to rent themselves and that find us, and find our requirements.

In short, we make sure the property is allowed to be a STR, the owners match what Maui County indicates and we physically inspect the property. Must be a certain level of finish, improvements and amenities. But we also know a $150 / night Maui condo is different than a $500 / night and we're OK with that as long as the property matches its environment (condominium community). We also want owners that are "hands on" and will be active in their property. "Hands off" does not work for many reasons.

So yes, be picky and you'll end up (hopefully we think) with a great mix of either owners or properties.

Aloha - Matt
 

ToonTownRob

Envoy
Inner Circle
I'm picky with my guests.

I actually have simply said 'No' to more inquiries this week than I quoted, and I actually had the dates open! I screen inquiries very carefully, and I charge rates high enough that only people that really want to stay with me will pay them. Those who don't care and just want a roof over their heads won't choose me, and I'm very happy with that!

When it comes to staying with me, in my properties, at the rates I charge... those that mind don't matter, and those that matter don't mind.

This saves me a ton of cleaning time and maintenance. My PM's head cleaner told me that my properties were her favorite to clean, because my guests always took such great care of the place! My neighbors actually told me that "my guests are just the nicest people". My PM says that I'm the most organized, 'with it' owner she has. Do you think these people like working with me? And take better care of me and my guests because of it?

There are lots of property managers on this forum, and they talk about firing owners. I'm an owner, and likewise, I work hard to weed out the bad guests in the beginning, so I don't have to 'fire' them later on. It is always easier to work to find great guests than it is to deal with cleaning up after bad ones.
 

PamT

Attaché
Inner Circle
Picky on details and services:

Here in the Bay Area, Sonoma County Wine Country, we are experiencing a very hot real estate market and housing is selling like hot cakes. That means I'm losing rentals. Additionally, the vacasa's and evolves and others are absorbing more and more local companies. In one way it's harder to compete, but if we can find a way to sell them on the service and details they will be missing - like vacasa does not prep or fluff clean if the home has been empty for two weeks - I think we have a niche we can market.
 

Gabor

Counselor
Inner Circle
Dead on. One of the core concepts of hotel revenue maximization is exactly this. We call it: being selective. What it means is taking the bookings of higher lifetime-value customers if we can, versus those customers who have no history. Data driven: if have data of previous booking date, arrival date and spend per stay, that can be golden. It validates holding availability for higher-yield customers instead of taking bookings as first-come first-served.
Why assign dates to those who are less valuable just because they book sooner?
I suggest: no guessing, no gut feeling! Historical data should drive our practice of being selective.
Who is a "higher-yield" guest? It's easy to tell them apart based on data: they are return customers, they pay full rates (not discounts), they don't cancel, are not needy, their total spend per trip and their conduct during their stay indicate that you want them back and you'd like more guests like that. Being selective is being smart.
 

Robin

Counselor
Inner Circle
Being picky is another way of saying be focused. Don't try to be everything to everyone, but be the best that you can to the people that are a fit for your services. For us, that means - pick the right homes and the right owners. Not every beautiful home is owned by someone who gets what we do. If it's not a fit, it's not a fit...move on.

Not every distribution channel is a fit either. VRBO and Airbnb get you in front of a lot of eyeballs...but what are their guests like? High dollar or low dollar? Well behaved or not? The jury is still out on these two, but we pay extra attention every time a booking comes via a channel partner to see if the guest is s fit for us.

Partnership and relationships that are available to us follow a similar path. Marriott (HVMI) seemed like a fit until we realized it would limit our options with others. So then it was not a fit. It was OK for us to be picky....we can work with their competitor One Fine Stay, and others.....if it's a fit.
 

Karla

Karla, Owner of Tropical Blessings
Inner Circle
Being picky is a blessings and a curse! It all started out with an innocent rhetorical question I posed right after my offer to puchase Tropical Blessings, called Unit 2 ar the time. My offer had been accepted and I knew I was due to close in 90 days.

My story about the purchase of Tropical Blessings is unlike most in that I actually bought the place sight unseen. I fell in love with. St. John in 1986 while on vacation, returned 1987 and decided to move there. I worked as an English teacher at a private prestigious private academy at the time, decided to quit my job, put all my belongings in storage, secured on an apartment on St. John (impossible to do on short notice almost 35 years later.)

I closed on Tropical Blessings over a decade ago and that rhetorical question was: “If I were a guest in my own home what would I really appreciate?”

Mind you, unless all floors are mopped, all laundry washed, dried, folded and put away, dishes washed, etc. etc., I rarely feel like a guest at my own home. Once in great while when I’m actually on top of of all those never ending details I actually DO feel like a guest in my own home but such occasions are rare!

So.....We come back to Tropical Blessings. I discovered St. John in 1986 while on vacation there in 1886 and was absolutely smitten with it. The island grabbed my soul in such a way that in 1987 I quit my job half way through the year as an English teacher at a prestigious academy, put everything in storage and moved to St. John!

My entire story is one of epic length so I’ll drop the longer draft stashed somewhere and keep going with a shorter version about being picky!

There’s a valid reason for a sight unseen real estate purchase but it was probably the biggest risk I’ve ever taken in my life. I arranged for a 90 day closing so at least I could see what I had gotten myself into and lose my earnest deposit (ouch!!) if I learned I had just made the biggest mistake of my life.

The Gods of Love City were on my side. I walked into the place I was going to buy with excitement and hands probably shaking with nervousness. No, I did not make a mistake. A friend was with me and I shouted “Wow!” I started dancing like lunatic and jumping up and down. The view was spectacular, the layout was fantastic and the location was perfect, just a 10 minute walk from Cruz Bay.

Then Mission Picky began. I shipped 40 boxes down before closing and have stayed picky every since. I no longer go OCD over a paint chip on a floor molding but I’ll always be picky.

My ideas and inspirations never stop and my guests love what I do. Am I picky, perfectionistic, or passionate? All of the above but a great story in full living color is still in process and it gets better and better!

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Debi

Ambassador
Inner Circle
Wing Fighter
I'm picky about the guests I choose and I'm picky about protecting my housekeeper/manager. I want guests to enjoy and love our place like we do. I want them to leave the place is better than usual condition to ease our housekeeper's work. During Covid and beyond I continue keep a full day open for her to not have to do back-to-backs. I know this means less income, but it helps preserve my 72 yr old housekeeper who is irreplaceable. So, I increased our minimum stay to 4 nights and increased the prices significantly. The quality of experience seems to have benefitted us all - guests, housekeeper and owners.
 

ToonTownRob

Envoy
Inner Circle
My story about the purchase of Tropical Blessings is unlike most in that I actually bought the place sight unseen. I fell in love with. St. John in 1986 while on vacation, returned 1987 and decided to move there... There’s a valid reason for a sight unseen real estate purchase but it was probably the biggest risk I’ve ever taken in my life.

Another very important place to be picky...

We purchased our first Florida home without seeing it either. We did have the benefit of having stayed in an identical build/model of the home six years previously, and two doors down on the same court, but we hadn't been back to Florida since.

We decided we wanted to be in the vacation rental game in 2003, after experiencing it for ourselves as guests. We waited until 2009 for all of the stars to align for us to be able to make our move, but when we stumbled across our little piece of paradise, we went from discovery to decision to purchase in about three hours... only to be told that the house was already sold!

I overcame that obstacle with some creative thinking, and also risked some cash. (But only slightly. I'm fairly risk adverse.) Although I visited the home for an in-person inspection three months later, my wife and I didn't see it together until the next year, after we had already welcomed our first guests. We have been creatively pursuing our goals with it ever since.

Why would we purchase our home, site-unseen, in only a few hours?

Because we were picky.

I always say that people don't actually book (or rent) your vacation rental. In fact, they don't give two hoots about it.

No... they book, or in other words choose your property (and you along with it) to spend money on and stay in because there is something about it that they want. It could be location, a specific feature or attribute, but there is something about your property that they want. That special attribute gives you something to sell; a reason for people to book and stay with you instead of your competition. It becomes your Unique Selling Proposition, around which you can (and should) base all of your marketing.

For us, it was privacy. Our vacation rental was uniquely private. And it was a very special attribute that we knew we could sell, particularly in the midst of tens of thousands of cookie-cutter vacation rentals all clamoring for the attention of Walt Disney World guests (it's 15 minutes drive away) that specifically don't offer privacy. Imagine entire neighborhoods of identical homes, lined up down endless streets, just like identical hotel rooms lined down endless hallways, each one the same as the last. And each with a private pool visible to five other homes and only a few feet in-between them.

We didn't want just another vacation rental. We were so picky about it. Being in business with what everyone else had simply wasn't that attractive to us. With our business backgrounds, we knew we had to choose the right home. Something that would give us an immediate edge in the marketplace. That also meant that when the opportunity to grab something unique and marketable came along, we were ready to recognize it, and act immediately to secure it.

In my contributions to the Orlando Vacation Rental Owner's forums, I have written countless articles on the subject, because thousands of people have bought vacation homes in the area, never realizing that they were getting into the vacation rental business. If their Florida home wasn't going to be a financial drain on them, they needed to learn how to market it, because no one else was going to do it for them (despite the things they were told prior to signing on the dotted line).

I realize that in this forum I'm mostly preaching to the choir. There are lots of sharp people here who understand what I'm talking about. But if you weren't thinking this way before, its not necessarily too late. Maybe it's time to step back, and be picky.

We bought our first vacation rental home so that we could go into business with it. We were attracted by the opportunity, and the business, far more than we were in owning a second home in a far off location that was at best a questionable purchase. We didn't fall in love with the property and purchase it because we had to have it. We chose the property because it had unique attributes we could sell, and grew to love it over time as we developed it and poured our hearts into it... transforming it into what a dream vacation rental experience would be, or as close as we can come within the physical limitations of the home itself.

I realize and fully understand that for many (most?) vacation rental owners the property came first, and the business second. But if you are thinking business first, before you buy your property, then you have the opportunity to be picky where it counts the most; in the choice of property you offer to your guests.

(@ROster exemplifies this. His custom, purpose built vacation rental golf homes are the supreme example of being picky with your vacation rental real estate.)

For many, this can lead to some soul searching.

No matter how you ended up in this business, like us on purpose, or like so many by accident... most of us at some stage have to decide what is more important to us; being in the vacation rental business, or operating a vacation rental business to support our property. If it's the latter, and we weren't picky when we chose our property, we can just keep working away to support our second home. But if its the former, and we weren't picky when the rental venue was originally chosen, there is nothing saying that we can't be picky now... and brave enough to correct what was perhaps a mistake, and fix it by specifically picking out the best vehicle to help us reach our goals.

A conscious, knowledgeable choice now, when you are likely much better equipped to be properly picky, may be the difference between reaching new found goals, and not. Is it time to call a real estate agent? And to be really picky?
 

BrookeP

Counselor
Inner Circle
Vintory
@Matt Landau you are very correct in your statement "The most precious asset in the market is your property(s) -- probably followed closely by your team/personell." The majority of the value of your company, really comes down to the management contracts of your inventory. If and when you decide to sell your company, the acquirer will look at those contracts and the performance of those contracts and give you a valuation based on the performance. Often behind the scenes while they're doing due diligence, they're giving a valuation on a per property basis. If those specific contracts don't convert to the new management company, very often there is a deduction based on the projected performance of that property. This all leads to YES... YOU SHOULD BE PICKY on the inventory you bring on.

When I used to own Vantage Resort Realty, at the end of every season we would rank our properties in 4 buckets. Financial performance, maintenance requests, guest complaints and a PITA score of the owner (Pain In The Ass). We'd sort and color code each column (Green, Yellow, Red). If we ever had anyone in all categories in RED, no questions asked - we removed them from our program. If we had 3 out of 4, it was usually a quick conversation and we removed them as well. When we started getting into some red and yellow, we had a conversation with the team about what to do. Sometimes it was to give the owner a list of required changes and modification they needed to do to stay in our program. Sometimes it was to not renew. However, what we learned in this process was that we got much better at being selective or picky on the front end when accepting new homes.
 

ShariT

Manager
Inner Circle
As children, we’re told not to be picky.

"Don’t be a picky eater."
"It’s only a summer job, don’t be so picky."

As we enter adulthood, being picky starts to be a good thing.

"Be picky with your accountant."
"Be picky when choosing your spouse."

And as vacation rental pros in this unprecedented moment, being picky isn’t just recommended. It’s a requirement.

Let me tell you why…

To those observing our sector from afar, “vacation rentals have a supply problem.”

This means there isn’t enough supply (vacation rental property nights) to meet the demand (guests who want them).

And so, we're starting to see a land grab take place.

  • Vrbo unapologetically luring hosts from rival Airbnb with cheeky ads and new perks as short-term-rental platforms look to grow supply (Caviar News)
  • Vacation rental management company VTrips ramps up merger activity (against Vacasa) in hopes that a scale game will help them make the most of a domestic boom in bookings (Skift)
  • Marriott requiring exclusivity in its Homes & Villas contracts knowing full well that Hyatt is about to enter the game (Inner Circle)
Why are we seeing a land grab?

Because whoever solves the “supply problem” best ... that company "wins" the market at this very crucial time — when so many new travelers are choosing vacation rentals for their first time.

(Do you remember your first time?)

In
an article about Google now showing vacation rentals alongside hotels in search results, Red Awning's Tim Chaote says, “vacation rentals have become core accommodations, not alternative accommodations.”

So let’s get back to picky being not a recommendation but a requirement.

If you own or manage a profitable vacation rental business, being picky is about defending your earned position in the marketplace.


If you are not picky about the following things, I might argue that you are giving up your land in the grab and benefitting other companies more-so than yourself.
  • People you choose to do business with (who might influence your appearance for better or worse)
  • Pricing to command the average-daily-rate (ADR) you have earned
  • Terms of contracts you agree to sign (that restrict
  • Costs or reputations of companies you select to work with (everything is negotiable)
Every one of you has has EARNED the position you are in right now (or about to be in soon) on the heels of this pandemic!

"The vacation rental industry has a supply problem," the outsiders say.

Their problem is our achievement!

The most precious asset in the market is your property(s) -- probably followed closely by your team/personell.

I'd love to hear from community members about whether "being picky" resonates with you and how you've wielded it in your favor?
StayLakeNorman has worked hard to be branded as the vacation rental company in the Lake Norman area with high end, luxury properties. If we had taken on every owner who had approached us, we would have 100 properties by now. Some of these homes we have turned down are older homes without any updates and in need of lots of maintenance and updates. Instead, we have been very picky and will only take a home if it's on the water, has updates or the "bones" to have a major renovation, owners allow us to have complete control over the decor, any renovations and the management that is needed to bring the home up to a luxury level, and the owner appears to "get it" and understand our process. In other words, the owner won't be a pain and start making demands on what they want us to do. And, we ensure that all of our owners understand that the property is a full time vacation rental and not one that they only want to rent out 2 months out of the year. These are just a few examples of how we've been picky. :)
 
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