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Manifest Photos for Lodging Properties

By Joseph Romain
Published: 12/16/12 Topics: Comments: 0

When putting a property into the rental program, it is necessary of course to shoot advertising photos of a home. But there are many other photos that may prove useful later when attempting to help guests, describe the problem or deal with questions or problems. These are call Manifest Photos. Here are examples:

In general photos should be taken of every closet, nook and cranny, such as:

- The inside of the refrigerator and freezer

- Inside of cabinets, with doors open. Kitchen, bathroom, store rooms.

- Inside of garage and any outside storage closets or buildings.

- Inside of fireplaces and wood stoves.

- Underside of sinks to display pipes.

- Backside of toilets, showers

- Lighting fixtures up close. (labeled by room)

- Furnaces & Air Conditioning units.

- Thermostats & Controls

- Stereos, TV's, DVD's & Cable/satellite controls close up.

- Underside of decks and patios.

- Roofs as best can be seen or photographed.

- Behind TV's, couches, etc.

- Both sides of Doors. Locks (Close ups)

- All furniture, front and back.

- Mattresses without coverings.

- All areas of the yard & Driveway.

- The view from the property out in all directions

- Photos of neighbor buildings from the property.

- Roads as they approach the property.

Of course this takes some extra work maybe just an hour or so. But the photos are indispensable when dealing with guests or owners on the phone and should be retained for insurance purposes. With the advent of digital cameras and cheap hard drives, there is no real printing cost so taking and keeping Manifest photos is just a good idea.

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Author: Joseph Romain, Signatours
Blog #: 0324 – 12/16/12

Sponsor: Signatours Photo Team – After shooting great HDR photos for your property, how about we snap a long list of manifest photos too - documenting your home is great for insurance purposes, but also to service guests after hours and communicate with vendors. – Signatours.com

Setting Property Refund Policies

By William May
Published: 11/08/12 Topics: Comments: 0

Because policies vary by property good managers ask Owners their preference about guest refunds and cancellations. It is not always possible, and most owners do not want to be involved in the small but inevitable situations where guests are due, or demand refunds.

Cancellation Policies:

For "Deadline" cancellation policies, such as "Cancellable up to 7 days prior to occupancy" guests are allowed to cancel without reason but prohibited from doing so after the deadline.

For "Non-cancelable" bookings, such as during high seasons, refunds are not allowed simply because guests change their minds. This is necessary to avoid loss of revenue not caused by the property, owner or manager.

Resell Policy: In all cases, upon Guest request, Managers will attempt to "Resell" non-cancelable dates in order to refund the Guest's payment, less a rebooking fee. The possibility of resale is not guaranteed.

Legitimate Reasons:

For valid problems, such as the loss of hot water, kitchen fixtures, etc. managers seek resolution by relocating guests, offering discounts or rescheduling but may offer partial or full refunds, including for non-cancellable bookings.

No-Fault Reasons:

When guests seek refunds due to factors beyond the control of the property, owner or manager such requests are usually refused. In the spirit of Goodwill, the manager may offer minor credits, vouchers for future stays, gifts or other courtesies.

Owner Choices:

Even during non-cancelable dates, some owners prefer to extend refunds for most any reason. Rather than make unilateral decisions Mangers ask Owners when they would prefer refunds be granted.

Evaluating and setting reasonable policies is something that must be done before a single guest is booked. Only with pre-planning can guest refunds be knowingly administered.

  • For aborted stays (Guest departs or is evicted for noise, parties, etc.)
  • For which of these would you issue a refund? Would your owner clients agree?
  • For money? (Just realized I can not afford it)
  • For change of plans? (Going to Disneyland instead)
  • For area conditions? (Lack of sun or snow)
  • For bad weather? (how bad)
  • For road closures?
  • For car break downs?
  • For travel plans (forgot to buy airline ticket)
  • For dissatisfaction? (Just did not like unit)
  • For invalid complaints? (Clean towels, not thought clean)
  • For insufficient space? (Brought undisclosed extra invitees)
  • For amenities? (Wanted, but did not specify HBO)
  • For inoperable amenities? (such as WiFi)
  • For event cancellations? (such as concerts) i
  • For parties not allowed? (More people than disclosed)
  • For pets not allowed? (Not requested at time of booking) For smoking not allowed?
  • For health of family member? (not traveling with guest)
  • For death of a family member? (not traveling with guest)
  • For health of a planned fellow traveler?
  • For death of a planned fellow traveler?

Keep in mind that refunds come directly out of the property owner's pocket.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0333 – 11/08/12

Vacation Rental Huts on Wheels

By William May
Published: 10/15/12 Topics: Comments: 0

Just about the time I begin to think I have seen it all in Vacation Rentals something new comes along.

The little town of Winthrop, in North Central Washington State balances the fine line between rustic and refined since adopting Westernization rules decades ago. It is a 4 hour drive from Metropolitan Seattle and home to a thriving vacation rental community. (WinthropVacationRentals.com)

There are major mansion size log villas and cozy little wilderness cabins. But located some eight miles west of town is the only known rolling vacation rentals.

Slopped roofs she snow

Rolling Huts (www.RollingHuts.com) were designed as a modern alternative to camping by Tom Kundig of Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects in Seattle. Grouped together as a herd, each of the huts has a view of the mountains and is built upon a group of wheels, albeit ones that don't roll very easily.

Each unit comes equipped with a small refrigerator, microwave, fireplace and Wi-Fi. A sleeping platform is perfect for two, and the modular furniture in the living area can be reconfigured to sleep two more. There is a water faucet outside each hut. Propane barbecues are shared and each unit is equipped with kitchen utensils.

Each hut has an adjacent portable toilet, and full bathrooms and showers are housed in the centrally located barn a short distance away. The idea for the huts came about because the 44 acre site had zoning restrictions that only allowed for RV hookups. They are markedly low impact and low design. The huts cost about $75,000 each to build.

Rolling Huts, Winthrop, Washington

The huts rent for $125 per night, a bit higher during holidays. Pets are welcome for a fee.

There is a restaurant on the site where guests can grab their meals, but many will drive the short distance into Winthrop or further down the Methow Valley to find Western grub and hooch.

Also on site, guests enjoy a picnic area, common room, outdoor volley ball, public restrooms and showers. The resort is ideally situated to access the Methow nordic ski and summer sport trails.

The area is famous for majestic mountains, pristine rivers, hot summers and frigid winters.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0151 – 10/15/12

Bed Bugs Are a Matter of When

By William May
Published: 09/11/12 Topics: Comments: 0

The secret to avoid bed bugs in a lodging establishment is that you cannot. The elimination of the pesticide DDT has allowed once negligible numbers of bed bugs to sky rocket.

The increase in sightings is not limited to lodging. Bugs in private homes are also a problem because people travel more and seem to take bed bugs with them.

If you see a bed bug in your establishment, you should be ever vigilant and have a plan ready to execute if the little buggers show up.

Strangely, bed bugs do not require a lack of cleanliness because they feed only on human blood! And every human has plenty of that.

Bed bugs arrive in hotels on the luggage of travelers. The more affluent the guests, the further they have traveled and the more frequently they stay in hotels, the greater the chance of infecting a hotel. That means that bed bugs are more common in up-scale lodging establishments.

Inspection

Housekeepers must take the time to inspect mattresses (with the pad removed), seams and underneath everytime they clean a room. Bed bugs leave behind blood and feces (sorry) that are brown or black making them easy to see.

Devices

There are a number of products on the market that seek to prohibit bed bugs from climbing up on beds. Some of these are plastic cups or holders for the bed legs, While others focus on non-permeable plasticized cases for mattresses.

While these provide some degree of help they are mostly valuable for areas where bed bugs are the norm. However, in most geographic locations bugs are not common and use of those devices may be unsightly and difficult. Plus they are not fool proof.

Taking Action Against Bed Bugs

We'll use the words "when you detect bed bugs" because this is almost a foregone possibility even for the highest quality, cleanest lodging establishments.

If and when bed bugs are detected, housekeepers must immediately vacate the room and cause rooms on either side to be vacated. An exterminator is called to inspect the property to determine how far the bugs have migrated. If the exterminator can not arrive swiftly, it may be necessary to cancel bookings and future reservations and move all guests out of the property.

The exterminator may use a number of methods to eliminate the pests including power drying agents that kill the insects through skin contact, or certain chemical sprays, or by pumping super hot air into the air tight property.

Great care must be taken with the linens, and towels from the infected room. Those should be put in strong airtight plastic bags and labeled as "Special Laundry". If cleaned onsite, those textiles must be put in a very hot dryer for at least one hour to kill the bugs. If using an off site laundry, call ahead to notify them of the problem and do not transport the linens to the laundry - instead call ahead for instructions.

Extermination methods can kill adult bed bugs and their larvae, but no method will prevent new bugs from moving in on the luggage of future guests. So the best plan is constant inspection and immediate action.

Newer Treatment

Recently a new treatment has been devised for bed bugs and which is chemical free. In short, bed bugs and their eggs cannot survive high temperatures.

So some exterminators have invested in large heating fans that bump hot air into a room or building for a period of time and it destroys the pests. A temperature of 118 degrees or higher is recommended and for at least 90 minutes.

This method does eliminate the need to thoroughly re-clean all linens, towels and other textiles such as mattresses and furniture. Doing so, of course, can also eliminate any stains or evidence.

Not all exterminators have the newer heat technology equipment so conventional methods from exterminators are still good solutions in most cases.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0328 – 09/11/12

Vacation Rentals Enhance the Neighborhood

By William May
Published: 08/15/12 Topics: Comments: 0

Drive down most any neighborhood today and you may see a difference from a decade ago.

In that time, especially in recreational areas such as ski resorts, ocean and beach areas, lakes and mountains there is a new vibrancy. The change is even visible in many city and suburban destinations and all for a reason that some in the neighborhood feared.

Vacation Rentals have gone from being common only in resort areas such as Hawaii, the Caribbean, ski areas and beach communities to having become mainstream in just about every corner of the world, every country, every city and every neighborhood.

NEIGHBORHOODS SPRING TO LIFE:

They are especially welcome in neighborhoods where tourism supports the local economy and pays the bills. The hotel industry has continued to grow but, according to some experts, vacation rentals have grown at an inspiring 30% for the past decade. And why not?

Second Home owners are a well meaning lot. They buy their places intending to visit often, for extended periods, to bring family and gift to friends. It’s a great deal but many owners soon realize they have other things to do too. On average, a second home owner stays just 20 days per year in their dream home.

Prior to the Vacation Rental Boom, these homes sat quiet, empty and forlorn when the master and mistress of the home were not in residence. In controlled neighborhoods rules required lawns be mowed, and garbage be taken in. But in some areas, it is common to see 90% of the homes sitting dark and foreboding most of the year.

INTERNET SHARING:

The idea on the internet started slowly enough - why not share your home with paying guests, when not in residence. Of course, earning rents sounded like a good idea. But having guests causes the house to spring to life. Guests turn on the lights, use the pool, toast marshmallows around the fire, or in winter snuggle around the fireplace.

Most vacation home renters are families anxious to spend time with their children, adult siblings and maybe even grandpa and grandpa. Multi-general uses are common and this too benefits the home. It brings new people to the community, some of whom become intrigued to buy a home there for themselves.

The old saw that vacation rentals are for "parties" was never true and isn't true today. Along with Internet growth, a stable of professional management companies has arisen who require credit cards, deposit systems, written contracts, strong rules and regulations. These pros are close at hand to serve the guests, maintain the property and answer to the neighbors.

REGULATIONS:

Smart communities have seen fit to set reasonable regulations for vacation rental homes such as limiting occupancy and vehicles, requiring quiet hours and an onsite manager. Smart owners embrace regulations to keep neighbors happy. And smart neighbors appreciate a community that is alive with children, smiles and families having fun.

Long-term rental tenants sometimes fail to maintain homes in good condition. Short-term vacation rental owners must keep homes up to snuff to attract guests, and with higher rental income they have the money to do so.

Communities that prohibit rentals outright are finding courts disagree with them because doing so eliminates a basic right - to rent property as the owner sees fit. Knowing vacation rentals have been shown to be good neighbors the move to regulated responsible rentals is the only method that addresses the needs of all concerned.

Vacation Rentals are a boom for local businesses, help home values rise and introduce a brand new traveler to the area - the traveler who today demands a vacation rental home for longer stays, when bringing family and when hoping to savor the destination for all it has to offer.

SHARE AND SHARE ALIKE

In addition to Vacation Rentals the Internet's new "Sharing Economy" stands to subtlety change many other aspects of how people live their lives.

Going to a grand hotel for grand service will never go away. Stopping for a quick night at a convenient motel makes long trips easier. And now Vacation Rentals allow property owners to share their homes with responsible guests. It lights up the neighborhood, keeps home in good condition and shows the communities hospitality.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0234 – 08/15/12

Netiquette - How to Write an Email

By William May
Published: 07/18/12 Topics: Comments: 0

When your bank, your grocery store and your insurance agency have begun to send you invoices by email, its proof the word has gone electronic. But are you prepared to make email work for you? Do you want your emails to get read, and for the reader to understand your message precisely?

If so, there are some generally accepted "Netiquette" methods you should use for best results. Most boil down to common sense but if you've never thought of them before now is the time to tighten up your writing abilities.

METHODS: Pick the best method of communications. They are not created equal. Using the wrong method can cause a problem.

  • Emails are good for longer information or questions that require thought. Take time to make sure they say what you meant - presume the recipient will misunderstand.
  • For complex topics, Letters are far better. Plus they require you proof read them and maybe have someone else edit them.
  • Written notes have become uncommon, but a hand written thank-you note (and envelope) is far better than an email or even a formal letter.
  • The telephone is by far the best communications device because you know instantly if the recipient received your message. And because your voice indicates more than just the words - are you happy, sad or even angry?
  • Voicemails are fine for leaving short messages or asking for a call back. If the topic is long write a letter or email.
  • Be careful to only text people you know well, otherwise recipients consider it interrupting them.

PRESUMPTION: Do not presume that your email is received. Email is a good one-way device but there is no assurance it is received. For anything important telephone the recipient to discuss it. You can even leave a voicemail saying "I sent you an email about XXXXX. Please look for it."

FORMAT: Format emails just as you would a letter using a salutation, short paragraphs and then a signature block at the bottom.

SUBJECT: Think of the subject line as a Headline in a newspaper. Make it accurate, interesting and personal. Leave out unnecessary words but longer may be better.

FIRST NAME: As emails arrive, recipients scan them in their directory to determine which to read and which to delete. Putting the recipients name in the subject triples your chance of getting it read. Putting your name in the subject triples it again Such as:

Subject: Bob - Birthday Gift from Richard

CUSTOM NAME: Some folks like to include their name in a custom font and often in a color. This is fine but probably not worth the time. Emails are intended to be written, sent and read quickly.

CUSTOM NAME: Some folks like to include their name in a custom font and often in a color. This is fine but probably not worth the time. Emails are intended to be written, sent and read quickly.

CONTACT: The signature block should include full name, company, phone numbers, email and website. Most email programs (Such as Outlook) allow you to save a "Signature" and insert it with a single click. Easy.

READABILITY: Use frequent spacing between paragraphs. Writing long paragraphs make it difficult for the reader to comprehend, and decrease the chance they will read the entire email.

FONTS: Use basic fonts in all your emails. Arial is a good one. Unusual fonts are considered goofy. The font should generally be only one size such as 12pts. Mixing sizes makes the email more difficult to read. Including odd fonts to emphasize a point often diminishes its value.

ABBREVIATIONS: Avoid the use of abbreviations. Not everyone knows their definitions. Short cuts like "U" and "LOL" are considered childlike in business settings.

CAPS: Never use all caps as that is considered "S H O U T I N G". It is acceptable to capitalize a word here and there to emphasize it as you might if speaking it.

CONTENT: Write an email as if it were a personal note. Be personable, friendly, witting and interesting. If possible be short, longer if necessary.

IMAGES: Only embed images in your email if it is terribly important. Pictures of kitties, birds and celebrities are fun but they are not perceived as business like. It is usually better to attach images to the email than to embed them in the text.

HIGHLIGHTING: The infrequent use of highlighting is OK

QUESTIONS: Use questions to find out what you need, then ask recipients to respond. Let them know if your question is urgent.

BULLETS: If you have a long list of information (or questions) you can number them, put in bullets or capitalize the topic (as I have done to this list of suggestions)

RSVP: Not everyone remembers what this means, but if you need a response include it and/or remind the user to respond such as "Please let me know your thoughts one way or the other."

COPIES: If you copy other people, add their names to the email at the top so the recipient knows who also received the information.

RUDE COPIES: Only copy people who need to know. Don't copy supervisors or other people who have no interest, can't take action or who will be surprised or offended by the content. Don't copy anyone for the sake of embarrassing the recipient or the person copied.

BLIND COPIES: You can Blind Copy people so that the recipient doesn't know they received it. However, it is often better to not Blind Copy, but instead, reopen a sent-email and then forward it to the third party with an explanation of why you are sending it.

ATTACHMENTS: If you attach documents to the email, be sure to write that down in the email itself. Many people fail to look for or open attachments.

SPELL CHECK: Always run "Spell Check" before sending an email or your thoughts may not be rEdaBblY.

FLAME MAIL: Never use email to complain, make accusations. Never use profanity, threats or intimidation. Every word you write is recorded forever. Be professional and pleasant at all times.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0233 – 07/18/12

Stealing Music for Your Video is Expensive

By William May
Published: 06/23/12 Topics: Comments: 0

You've decided to do a nifty video of your vacation rental home. Today's video camera resolution is stunningly accurate and your place is beautiful. Video editing software has become increasingly easy to use and inexpensive too.

You take some great moving video, or may be you compile your still photos into a moving slide show. Maybe you can even put some nice titles or headlines on the photos explaining each room and what your wonderful home has to offer.

Now all you really need to set the tone for that video is a bit of music that compliments your beautiful video, that sets the tone, that conveys to potential guests how much your love your property and why it is so special.

So you take your favorite song, you know the that was popular when you were in highschool, download it from a CD or just copy the legal version you bought online. How about Paul McCartney's "Yesterday."

Now, that is better. The video is great and it helps you attract more bookings. Your family loves it. Your friends admire it. And guests say it makes them want to stay with you. Nice job. Well done. Life is great.

Unpleasant Surprise

That is until, one day you get a letter in the mail from an attorney for the Recording Industry Association of America. (RIAA.com) who says that you are using copyrighted music for your business. He claims that renting out your property is a business because you accept money for it.

These things happen far more than most consumers know. There are a great many people employed to ferret out those who beg, borrow or steal copyrighted materials for their own gain.

The attorney orders you to "Cease and Desist." Embarrassed by your naiveté you immediately jerk the video off your website and send him an apologetic letter explaining that you "Just didn't know" that using the video infringed on anyone's copyright.

Expected to Know

Unfortunately, no on buys your explanation. If you operate a business; be it as a rent-by-owner or property management firm; you are expected to know the rules of business. One is that "Intellectual Property" (such as music, photos, graphics, videos & logotypes.) are owned by their creators and others are prohibited from profiting from use of their work, unless they get and pay for a license to use the product lovingly referred to as "IP.".

Plus, isn't it time to admit, that, if every 15 year kid who wants to download a song knows its illegal, then you too need to fess up you knew it was wrong, and just didn't care.

Paying Up

After receiving your letter, the attorney sends you another saying "Thanks for admitting you stole our IP." Here is an invoice for what you owe us. It can be hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.

Begrudgingly, you pay up in order to get out of this mess. And now you are home free. Well not exactly.

Depending on whose work you copied, you may also get sued by The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Broad Music Rights Incorporate (BMI) and the National Music Publishers Association, (NMPA.com). These organizations work together to enforce copyrights and get payment for illegal use of the music they control.

That means the costs for your use of illegal music could cost you plenty.

And what if you ignore that first letter demanding you "Cease and Desist?" Well be prepared to get served with a lawsuit for which you will have no valid defense. Even you lawyer won't give you any hope.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (passed in the year 2000 of course) provides clear relief if it can be proved you used the music. The artist or his representatives no longer have to prove and calculate damages. All he must do is prove you used it by downloading and saving a copy from your website which takes just a few minutes. You can be sure he did that before sending the first letter.

Maybe you have not been caught and, after reading this article, you remove that video from your website licitly split and hope they don't find it. Unfortunately most things posted on the website are retrievable virtually forever. (see the Way Back machine at www.Archive.org).

In any case, if you get caught you won't have a leg to stand on and, after you pay out big time, you might not have a vacation rental home either.

Royalty Free Music

There is a bit of good news in all of this - providing you haven't already broken the law - you can find many websites on which you can buy "Royalty Free" Music for very inexpensive prices. You won't find your favorite tune, you won't get to have Paul McCartney sing "Yesterday" on your video. But a careful search will find a good tune that is royalty free. And you won't get sued for using it.

When buying such music you must take care to do it property. Royalty free does not necessarily mean you can use it for anything you want. Most licenses have some limitations which you must follow religiously.

Then take care to buy from a reputable website. Then save your invoice, proof of payment, their terms and conditions and a copy of the music all saved together so you can produce them if the copyright is ever challenged.

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Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0218 – 06/23/12

Government Officials Driving Tourism Economy Away

By Ron Lee
Published: 06/01/12 Topics: Government Comments: 0

Businesses, Chambers and tourism groups in every destination throughout the United States are spending money to grow their tourism segment of their economies.

That is a wise move.

Tourism is a clean, responsible industry that brings in visitors anxious to shop, attend events, tour attractions, rent lodging, and pay the taxes that go with them.

Manufacturing, distribution and other market segments sometimes seem more attractive to civic leaders, but those businesses are hard to attract, require years of courting and subject towns to intense review and - for many - rejection. Plus, big industries can leave town far quicker than they arrive, dumping lots of people out of work. Like it or not, Vacation Rentals are here to stay.

All destinations will have some luck and attract some visitors with good advertising, promotions, public relations and business participation.

Trouble is, however, many will fall short of their potential. Sometimes what the area offers just doesn't compare well with other desirable destinations. But another big mistake is when local government officials fail to offer what consumers want. Today, that one big thing is tourists who ask for, and even demand, access to good, clean, upscale vacation rental homes.

For at least a decade, the vacation rental industry has been exploding. Even during the recession the number of visitors who demand to stay in a house or condo instead of a hotel room has continued to climb.

So it is surprising to find small communities, who beg for tourists, then kill the industry by disallowing vacation rentals, making it ridiculously expensive to get permitted, or making them impossibly difficult to get approved.

They implement overzealous regulations and requirements that they would never impose on long-term rentals or full-time residents. What is good for the goose is good for the gander - as the old saying goes. So, if leaders believe that vacation homes must have new standards for health and safety, then why do they not require them for everyone? Failure to do so is just old fashioned hypocrisy.

On a recent trip to a beautiful Washington State Destination, a review of city and county rental regulations revealed a lack of insight by elected officials.

A clerk at the county office said, "We don't have any rentals in many areas of the county and it's surprising because some of the areas are so beautiful." she then paused and added, "Or maybe that's because vacation rentals aren't allowed there." Duh.

The geography of the area is gorgeous. The land is pristine and beautiful, with cute villages, attractive shops and periodic festivals and events. Agriculture is big business with products esteemed worldwide.

There are a number of conventional well-kept motels and cottages. But there are also properties that have seen better days and detract from the scenery. Many appear abandoned. They are not shabby chic, they are just plain shabby.

New home developments have been stymied by the economy, although some recent additions bode well for demand. Peeking out among nicely kept homes, are houses and cottages that have seen better days. Many of those, as well as some of the nicer second homes, sit empty year round, even during the busy summer season.

The reason?

City and county officials have made short-term vacation type rentals illegal, or permits difficult to get. The up to $750 annual special use permit is one of the highest known in the country and requires begging neighbors for permission, and having the kind of inspections that would cause long-term rental home owners to go ballistic. With the inspections and other nonsense they require, costs can exceed many thousands of dollars.

And for what reason?

Like most areas, the reasons cited are that vacation rental homes "could" get used as party houses. Or that "Tourists drive cars through the neighborhoods and sometimes the trash isn't taken out to the street on time." complained one person at a county "scoping session."

No one wants trouble in their neighborhoods, but these possible issues never materialize. Some neighbors even say they "do not want people in the area that I don't know personally." Supposedly, "It destroys the character of the neighborhood", whatever that means.

There is no right in the Constitution that you must know and like your neighbors. But it is a foundation of American liberty that owners have a bundle or rights related to their real estate, including the right to right them out. So much for freedom.

In jurisdictions where rental permission is more easily obtained, but just as rigorously policed, and where owners must engage a competent local manager or management firm, problems do not happen.

The County even caved into neighbors in one desirable neighborhood who don't want "to have different neighbors each week," as the County clerk explained. Fear of problems is valid, but refusing entry to visitors feels a lot like simple xenophobia, the "fear of others."

A local real estate leader, who wished to remain anonymous, said, "You know the reasons for the lack of vacation rentals is regulations, don't you? Most people just won't spend the money to see if their neighbors will allow them to rent." How come the expensive applications fees are non-refundable, if the permit is denied? Looks like just another shake-down by officials.

Communities who enacted vacation rental prohibitions years ago, are seeing the light and revising laws to allow vacation rentals in all residential areas with proper permitting; and the requirement that properties be occupied within reasonable rules.

Doing otherwise scares away visitors. Consumers have decided they want to stay in vacation rentals and no amount of meddling in the free market by officials will dissuade them. Take away vacation rentals and they are sending visitors elsewhere, while local shops, restaurants and attractions lose out. It is not just home owners who lose.

The cities and counties where vacation rentals are allowed gain fee income; shops, events and attractions do more business; additional jobs are created; and tourism taxes flow.

Let's hope that officials in counties and communities, all over the country, wake up and stop killing the tourism business they so desperately need - by giving consumers what they want - many more vacation rentals.

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Author: Ron Lee – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0212 – 06/01/12

Sponsor: VRAI – – VRIA.org

Good News Comes to Television from Unexpected Source

By William May
Published: 05/15/12 Topics: Comments: 0

For decades Americans have belly ached about television and its focus on the negative. It seem that murder, mayhem and pain where the only topics worthy of broadcast. But now a new force is bringing us good news and for unusual reasons.

Negative television has been unfortunate because giant negatives in life are actually rare. The vast majority of people will never suffer a mugging, observe a shooting, witness a natural disaster or even have a bad car crash. All will die of course, and some will suffer needless pain and problems, but far more will live good lives, spend life without debilitating illness and pass away later as the natural end of life.

Television news casters are the common culprits. National news offers big view stories of economy, politics and human nature mostly deal with things humans want to avoid, or to fix. Cable news is omnipresent and requires a constant flow of everything that is wrong. Local television broadcasters devote far too much time to non-stop car wrecks, government squabbles and voter disgust.

Say something positive

Positive events are less dramatic and require patience which the looming newscast deadline can not accommodate. Newscasters find it easier to take the story that is thrust at them and requires little study or analysis. It doesn't take skill or great writing or reporting skill to find bag things.

Drama and even comedy shows find more theatrics in people who argue, fight and display bad behavior. Although the shows change over the years, the JR Ewing's are the villains that keep viewership high and producer profits rolling in.

Hoping to reduce production costs, a new breed of television emerged over a decade ago called "Reality TV." These shows have little to do with realty as contestants are gathered together in unusual locations, given unusual circumstances and promised money and fame or both. Is it any wonder that the worst in people comes out? Subconsciously viewers understand that the manufactured scenes are not-important, no one will die and - in the end - a winner will emerge while the losers will be none the worse for wear.

Then a strange thing happened. Producers figured out that good news can also sell. Recent realty features (sometimes camouflaged as news shows) emerged on the scene.

The unreality show

"What would you do" from ABC news concocts scenarios where people choose to the right thing; to protect the weak, to speak up for the little guy and to step in when doing so is risky. "Shark Tank," ostensibly a show about billionaires out to get even richer, gives entrepreneurs a chance to get capital and into cahoots with smart and powerful people.

"Undercover Boss" shows powerful business owners what they can do to improve the lives of their workers. Views root for the extraordinary workers and also for the bosses themselves. "Undercover Millionaire" takes a similar tract exposing the rich to the poor, and watching as both receive unexpected benefits

For every participant who does the right thing without promise of reward, or receives capital funding for the brilliance of their idea, or gets fully appreciated by their boss, or gets helping hand when they need it most there are millions - yes millions - of viewers who are reminded that most of life is pretty good, that helping others is the greatest reward.

After complaining about television for decades, telling stories of good things is good television. Who would have thought the reversal would come about from such an unlikely place - reality shows that aren't real, telling stories about wonderfully real people doing wonderful things. Maybe there is hope.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0214 – 05/15/12

Sponsor: Vacation Rental Angels – Owning a vacation home provides enjoyment, satisfaction and a sense of security for those families blessed enough to afford one. Now they can get something even more important - a chance to be a real life angel. – VacationRentalAngels.com

Fighting Over Vacation Rental Scraps

By William May
Published: 05/01/12 Topics: Comments: 0

Blog Vacation Rental Scraps

Although vacation rentals have been around for a very long time, it is only in recent years that they have exploded. Sometimes called cabin rentals, cottages, holiday-lets or other terms in other parts of the world, this private vacation lodging alternatives have gone main stream.

That has led to conflicts between home owners, management companies, and even website operators as they fight over the spoils. Even trade associations are in the act, attempting to stack the deck in ways that some attorney's think borders on violation of the Sherman Act, the federal law that prohibits price fixing, market limits and membership exclusions.

Hotels, motels and other lodging providers must be agog. At one time, The Association of Realtors reported there were six million second homes in the United States alone, with at least one million in short-term rental. A more recent examination might put that total up as high as two million properties.

The majority of rents now grabbed by vacation rentals come from nowhere else, but form conventional lodging operators. That is what causes the griping. Worse yet, direct participants in the industry are themselves squabbling and fighting over the dinner table. Everyone wants a piece of the piece, the entry and maybe even the table cloth.

The advent of the Internet is what flipped the switch on Vacation Rental Growth. Prior to the Web, how did a consumer in, let's say New Jersey, know which condo to rent in Florida? They looked at magazines, maybe checked newspaper classifieds. Some travel agents knew the inside scoop and perhaps the guest had been there before.

With technology, guests can see more information about homes than they customarily can see about houses for sale. Real Estate sales agents provide good data, but in every case the buyer gets to view the home before buying. Renters, on the other hand, buy from just what they see online. Gone are the days of the property manager mailing a brochure which, by the way, seldom showed photos specific to the property being rented.

Growth in the market has also widened the variety of properties offered. Condominium rentals have been common but cabins and houses are preferable in many locations because guests usually get more space, easier parking and better privacy.

Newly built and growing advertising website companies like HomeAway.com, have craftily inserted themselves between consumers and rental providers because they have greater search engine skills, bigger budgets and even an investment from Google.

A recent fast growing start-up AirBnB.com (stands for air-mattress bed and breakfast) convinced home owners it was a good idea to rent individual rooms and even couches or air-mattresses to complete strangers.

Unlike Homeaway, AirBnb collects money from the guests and distributes it to property owners. Recent News Reports show the websites vulnerability to problems than can arise during occupancy.

In one state, a small group of vacation rental managers had been meeting informally for years, when a small group broke off in order to exclude others from their organization. Even if restricting membership could fit within the narrow guidelines required of trade associations, the methods of back-stabbing and attempts to limit competition were unethical at best. And a violation of the Sherman Anti-trust act at the worst.

Home Owner Association meetings can turn into screaming matches when a few owners want to prohibition guests while others proclaim their property rights of rental without unreasonable restrictions.

Cities and Counties too have been getting into the act for a decade by regulating and even prohibiting home owners from renting their properties. The same property rights come into play and, in the long run, courts have been siding with a home owners right to rent. But at hearings and meetings, the arguing can reach the point of high emotions and out right screams.

Its been 20 years since, notorious Los Angeles celebrity Rodney King begged the camera, "Can't we all just get along" but it seems like even in the world of vacation rentals there are those who want to push and poke and play unfairly with others

Whether one favors rentals or not, is it time to just ask all parties to get along, to work out good solutions and to treat one another with kindness and respect?

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0206 – 05/01/12

Oh No, Mount Rainier Has Disappeared

By William May
Published: 04/15/12 Topics: Mount Rainier WA, Vacation Comments: 0

It is always there on the horizon when I drive to work - jutting majestically into the air. It's white year round, sometimes with a puff of clouds around the top, like a celestial halo.

But, this morning I looked and Mt. Rainier had simply disappeared. Gone.

Slamming on the brakes I pulled over and stared. How could our state's defining symbol of white mountains, green forests and sparkling beauty just vanish?

Thirty years ago the same thing kind of happened. It was a glorious sunny Sunday. We had heard rumors that Mount Saint Helens was rumbling. Some scientists said an eruption was imminent, but many others thought it was just another false alarm because the current inhabitants of the Northwest hadn't seen anything more than a puff of steam from any of our volcanos in living memory.

As I flicked on the radio in the car, the announcer said, "This is it, This is the big one. Mount Saint Helens is blowing its' top." Even from 100 miles away, in downtown Seattle, a massive smoke plume was visible jutting a hundred thousand feet into the air.

A quick drive to the water tower on Seattle's Capital Hill, allowed me to climb up a hundred steps to the highest point in the city, and peak out the slender windows. The view was even more impressive. It looked like a fast flow smoke stack and yet it was a monstrous mountain and, due to scale, it was far bigger than anything a factory could create.

We have since forgotten the ash that covered many states and even blanketed Seattle and Portland, Oregon. We have forgotten the television coverage of massive destruction and loss of life. The heroic stories of volcanologists and local residents have faded.

And now, this very morning, the same thing seemed to be happening with Mount Rainier. Except this time there was no smoke, no steam and no rumbling. As with that day Mount Saint Helens erupted, the weather was clear, the skies were blue and yet - Mount Rainier was simply gone.

I flipped on the car radio, but this time there was no excited announcer with no mention at all. On the television, there was no announcements. And, in the newspaper, there was no story. On the internet, there was nothing. It seems the city, the state and the entire world had forgotten that Mount Rainier was ever there.

Native Americans revered the "Mount Tahoma" as the mountain that was God. To the first white settler's, the mountain was the beacon they first saw when traveling overland to the Northwest or when having arrived by ship. Its' presence was difficult to ignore as it dominated the landscape. They knew there were arriving when they first glimpsed at the monstrous mountain and its' glistening mantle of snow and ice.

So how, after all of these years, could Northwest occupants simply forget about Mount Rainier? Established as a national park in 1899, still 97% of the park remains in its natural state. For a century, traveling to the Mount Rainier area was the highlight of a summer vacation. Families came for extended stays and skiing its' slopes was a highly desirable getaway.

Crowds traveled first by horse and buggy, and later by automobile to see the wonders of nature. They swamped the campgrounds, crowded the roads to Paradise on the mountain's Southwest shoulder and to Sunrise on the Northeast. In early summer, massive fields of wildflowers took away the breath of visitors of all ages and all races. Some feel the hand of God here.

So, how had apathy caused Mount Rainier to disappear? Today, visitors flock to other Northwest destinations where they can run their ski boats, listen to loudly amplified music and stroll the streets of franchised stores. Professional advertising successfully entices families to visit freeway resorts complete with high priced meals, pricey gift shops and many man made waterfalls also known as water parks.

Visitors have somehow been convinced to find other places to have today's version of fun where activity outweighs nature. Or have they?

Although, the number of visitors to Mount Rainier has shrunk over the years, t the count is not altogether insignificant. And, the grandeur of the mountain, forest and rivers remains. Visitors who remember to find Mount Rainier are rewarded with the view of wildlife, flora, glaciers and magnificent old growth forests. In the grove of the patriarchs, massive trees stand mute and unassuming. The silence is deafening and stunning.

Villages and towns like Ashford, Enumclaw, Greenwater, Morton and Packwood have charming accommodations. You may not think that the city air is bad, until you arise early one morning, throw open your door and are overcome with the fresh smell of flowers and evergreen trees.

Unlike man made resorts, Mount Rainier is a bargain. Staying at a hotel, cottage, cabin or bed and breakfast can be a special experience. Dining can be rustic and astoundingly affordable. Park fees are low and you can set your own schedule to visit for a day, a weekend, week or even longer.

The children in your family will giggle in laughter visiting the snowy fields, romping in the meadows and wading in the streams. Everyone will enjoy re-discovering that Mount Rainier is still there, still pristine and still beckoning with beauty, enjoyment and relaxation. You can bring Mount Rainier back to life.

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To rediscover Mount Rainier visit www.VisitRainier.com and finding handy lodging at www.MountRainierVacationRentals.com sponsored by the Vacation Rental Association.

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Author: William May, Plumbob Publishing
Blog #: 0209 – 04/15/12

Sponsor: MountRainier.com – Every shop, restaurant, lodge and vacation rental around the entire mountain. Ashford, Packwood, Greenwater, Morton, Eatonville, Carbonado & Enumclaw. Book a stay instantly online.

Professor John Edwards: Insects & Music

By William May
Published: 04/01/12 Topics: Comments: 0

Professor Emeritus John Edwards

Did you know that insects live in very cold places? John Edwards knew.

In fact, Professor John S. Edwards was known around the world as one of the pioneers of insect developmental neurobiology. And I was fortunate to be able to call him a friend. He died this week and I find his passing more unfortunate than any public leader or celebrity.

Some years ago, a friend invited me to help out with an organization called Gallery Concerts; a group dedicated to having period music instruments perform chamber music in the small spaces there were designed for. The concerts are sheer delight.

At one of the first meetings I sat next to a gentle white haired man with a goatee who glowed with his enthusiasm for the music. Later I was to learn he glowed about just about everything. If the term "twinkle in his eye" was created for anyone it was John.

He was a leading scholar in the ecology of high-altitude insects, cold tolerance of Antarctic insects, the role of insects in ecosystem regeneration following volcanic eruptions, and the evolution of insect flight. A New Zealander, John earned his Ph.D. at Cambridge. At the University of Washington John taught entomology, human ecology, served as the Director of the Undergraduate Biology Program, Director of the UW Honors Program, and was appointed Emeritus Professor of Zoology in 2000.

Although a humble man, others noticed his exploits. He earned a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Senior Humboldt Research Award, and a Jacob Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award. He was a University Liberal Arts Professor, named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the Royal Entomological Society of London. He served as Program Director for Developmental Neuroscience at the National Science Foundation.

Art Davidson says, in his account of the first winter ascent of Denali (Minus 148°), "My first meeting with John reaffirmed the legend. I had traced the sounds of a concert through several corridors at the Institute to a short figure hopping about from leg to leg while vocalizing the entire woodwind section of an orchestra. "

Other than the fact he was a professor in biology, I knew none of this even after years of attending meetings and concerts with him.

I made a particular mistake once - by mentioning to John that my son had applied to attend the University of Washington. He prodded relentlessly and learned that Taylor was interested in Biology, specifically astrobiology. I could see John's temperature rising. He wasn't "Hoping from leg to leg" but almost.

He asked in that pleasant way that borders on professorial curiosity, that Taylor simply must telephone him for a tour of the department.

After reading about the Professor on line, it took Taylor several weeks to summon enough courage to call. But when he did - John needed no prompting to remember his name or why he was calling. A whirlwind tour took place a few days later where Taylor was introduced to everyone with such lavish praise that my 6'6" son stood even taller than usual when retelling the tale.

American Pika Mount Denali National Park
American Pica

Some years before John had patiently suffered through my telling of how our family had driven to all the way to Mt. Denali (Mt. McKinley) that summer and Taylor, then age 12, had found and photographed a rare Pika; which sent the visitor center biologists into a tizzy.

Who could know an important professor would remember such a small thing from years earlier; but during the UW tour John quizzed Taylor relentlessly about the Pika, where it was found, what time of day, what type of terrain.

Taylor was impressed at John's curiosity. He was proud to be considered important but then somewhat astonished when John casually mentioned, "You may find it hard to believe but I was on the expedition that did the first winter ascent of Denali."

When Tay recited this story at home hours later I saw in his eyes the look of admiration that a young boy can have someone suddenly explodes his idea of what is possible in life. You can be a scientist, you can climb mountains, you can write eloquently, you can win awards, you can be a gracious considerate person, you can be an impressive senior citizen who still cares about what a 12 year old boy cares about. Astonishing.

Today when we learned that John has passed away, things stopped for a few hours for Taylor and I. We went about our work but cared about this man we spent little time with. We admired his work. We admired his attitude. We admired him.

Although I did not have the chance to see John much in the last few years, Taylor and I did think of him occasionally. When watching a science TV show, when the subject is insects, biology or science in general, when daring people climb tall mountains, when university life is depicted - the Pika story is retold and then someone inevitably says, "you might find it hard to believe. . . ". And we smile.

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Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0204 – 04/01/12

Housekeepers Discover Black Lights

By Deresa Norman
Published: 03/01/12 Topics: Comments: 0

Even if you are the world's best housekeeper you can develop magical powers to check your clean level beyond the limit of human perception. Really.

To test my statement - just clean a property on your hands and knees, inside outside, up and down, until you can't stand up. Then turn off the lights.

Flash Black Light

Before doing so, logon to Amazon.com and search for Black light. There you will find many flashlight style black lights. Order a good one with lots of strength. It will arrive in a few days.

Then go back into that darken room and be prepared for a ghoulish, creepy sight. Flick on the blacklight and it will illuminate every spot and stain that was created by bodily fluids.

The first time you do this allow a lot of time to clean what you didn't know was dirty. Over time the work decreases and you'll have cleaner, bright, more hygienic properties.

"Because black is invisible and most guest's don't carry one, maybe they never know. But we want the very best," said Heather Nelson a long time member of the Vortex Vacation Rental Network ,"Since our staff started using the Black Lights to inspect and clean units I just feel great knowing each property is in tip top shape."

Many everyday materials fluoresce, or glow, when placed under a black light because ultraviolet light is highly energetic. The naked eye can not see this part of the spectrum, which is how 'black lights' got their name.

Fluorescent (Ahem - Bodily Fluids) absorb the ultraviolet light and then re-emit it almost instantaneously. Some energy gets lost in the process, so the emitted light has a longer wavelength than the absorbed radiation, which makes this light visible and causes the material to appear to 'glow'.

Keep a black light on your belt and use after every cleaning. Every person on your cleaning crew should be given a black light and be required to use it. They are cheap.

Hand Held Black Light

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Author: Deresa Norman – , Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0216 – 03/01/12

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