The seasons are a-changing – prepare for guests

Anyone involved in the short-term rental market will tell you that it has been one of the quietest periods in a long time, which has taken its toll on cash reserves and property maintenance. We still have to remain hopeful that the tide will turn and with that will come the tourists to revel in what the Overberg has to offer.

During these off-season quiet periods it is opportune to take a hard, critical look at the property you have listed on one of the holiday rental portals (e.g. AirbnbBooking.cometc.).

Even though the supply of available rentals increased dramatically as the noose tightened around cash-strapped owners, and the number of visitors dwindled, many of these properties are not in an appropriate condition to warrant positive guest reviews and repeat bookings. In a market where there is an oversupply of accommodation, it is even more critical that your preparedness for guests outshines that of the other hosts.

Rather than wait for the first seasonal bookings and then do “necessary” maintenance of the property, start earlier and plan for this before it is too late. One of the biggest issues ends up being the availability of contractors as we get closer to year-end, when everyone suddenly wakes up to the work that needs to be done and cannot get the right level of workmanship timeously.

I am constantly reminded of wise words from decades ago when I was told “the world waits for no-one” – and never will a contractor wait for you when you have last-minute requests at their busiest time of the year.

As a simple guideline, take a good look at the exterior of the property and ask yourself: Will the type of guests I want find this appealing? Remember that first impressions are lasting and if you want to leverage referrals or repeat bookings, then guests need to be impressed from the outset.

Don’t ignore the condition and cleanliness of window frames, gutters, outdoor areas, pathways, driveways and gardens, as these are often the first aspects people notice when scouting for rentals. A negative impression could impact on bookings at the outset, never mind post-vacation reviews. It may be a better idea to get honest opinions from other “unbiased” people who appreciate the standards that you would be expected to provide for your guests.

One of the top priorities is the cleanliness of accommodation. I am constantly amazed at how much grit and grime still remains in homes after a “professional spring clean”. One just needs to look at areas such as behind toilets, the tops of extractor units, fins on fans, door handles, skirting boards, tracks of sliding/stackable doors, behind blinds and curtains, and on staircases. Don’t forget those areas that attract spider webs and then, the worst of all – kitchen appliances that appear to be clean but have grime in hidden places and crockery and cutlery that have not been properly cleaned.

Next in line for the critics is the quality of the linen and towels supplied. Of course the “comfortable bed” is a no-brainer for a holiday, but if the linen has become worn and faded then the time to update has arrived. And where so many establishments feel the need to follow the “trendsetters” and provide everything linen-related in white, remember that it is the colour most difficult to keep clean. Try bringing in some tastefully-chosen linen and towels in colours that will enhance the impact of the accommodation and are likely to have a longer lifespan.

The death knell for many guests is the amount of tasteless clutter that some people insist on displaying in their holiday rentals. Whilst these are often hand-me-downs from family members (even if they do have loads of sentimental value to you, your guests have no connection to them), make sure that they add appeal to your property rather than deflect from the positive aspects.

Family photographs and religious icons are a no-no. Ensure that you do not leave drawers full of old and broken kitchen utensils and that what you do leave for guests is in proper working order.

The one thing a holiday maker does not want is the hassle of keeping the accommodation clean with old, broken or semi-functional items like brooms, mops and vacuum cleaners, so ensure that those are in an acceptable condition.

Whether you have seasonal bookings yet or not, be prepared at all times to avoid the nightmare of dashing to find cleaners and maintenance providers at what is always their busiest time.