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Vacation Rental Restoration

By William May
Published: 12/28/15 Topics: Insurance, Property Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

Vacation rental homes are susceptible to the same problems as full-time residences. Sometimes pipes break, basements flood and even smoke or fire damage can happen.

It may be possible to have maintenance firms handle such problems but for larger problems it is necessary to hire a company that specializes in restoring homes to their original condition.

Such companies are referred to as Restoration Specialists and having the name of one or more firms on hand is just good preparation. Odds are high that they will never been needed.

Because damages may result in cancellation of bookings, the loss to owners may exceed even the cost of repairs. So here are some steps to be prepared for what you can hope will never happen:

(1) Property Insurance - When insuring your home for vacation rentaling, that use must be clearly communicated to your insurance agent who should provide a policy specifically allowing short-term rental use.

Most basic second home policies are not sufficient for offering a home as a vacation rental. Take care before you have a claim to properly protect you in the unlikely hood a claim becomes necessary.

(2) Business Loss - Second home insurance can cost more than your primary resident. And vacation rental policies cost more than basic second home polices. However, such policies should also cover the owner for loss of income should the home become unrentable for a period of time.

(3) Restoration Specialist - To find a company that specialize in quick and through restoration use Google Maps for your location searing for "Fire Restoration" because that is the most common keyword on which these firms advertise.

(4) Remote - If your home is remote or in a sparsely populated area, it may be necessary to question restoration firms closely to insure that they would be willing to come to your address should you later need their services. Keep good notes.

(5) Records - Be sure to record the name of several restoration companies because, in the case of local flooding or severe weather, any one firm may not be able to handle your needs quickly.

(6) Property Managers - If you use a local property manager, good firms will already know of restoration providers and be able to quickly get help on site.

Lodging managers are not in the restoration business and claims are so unusual that the manager may never have had to use a restoration company. But do not hesitate to ask the manager if they can recommend anyone.

(7) Schedule - Restoration firms can not guarantee that any given property will be restored over night. In fact, time may be required to allow a house to dry.

Even when repairs will take a longer period, restoration firms can often arrive quickly to stabilize the situation and then return later to complete repairs.

(8) Fire - Should your home become partially damaged due to fire, your local fire department will often board over a home to make it is weather tight or to protect it from intruders. Do not hesitate to ask their help when they are on site.

(9) Franchises - Here are the names of several franchises that brand and endorse local partners to do restoration. This does no guarantee the quality of the work. Even local non-franchises are often skilled and dependable.

- ServePro.com

- ServicemasterClean.com

(10) Action - Try to secure your insurance company's approval before completing restoration. By calling their claim number you should be able to secure approve to start the restoration with full approval secured once the restoration firm can provide a more detailed estimate.

Not long after its founding in 1907, the Boy Scouts organization adopted the motto "Be Prepared." When it comes to unexpected events for your vacation rental home, being prepared is great advice.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0473 – 12/28/15

LED Light Bulbs for Vacation Rentals

By Wm. May
Published: 12/22/15 Topics: Comments: 0

After traveling from near and far, guests are excited to throw open the front door and rush expectantly into the vacation rental home of their dreams. They expect everything to work perfectly and burned out light bulbs can be enough to wreck their entire vacation.

Owners are even more demanding as they forget that bulbs actually break in their own homes as well. Never the less, when arriving at their sacred second home, they quickly blame the housekeepers for failing to make sure every light bulb is working perfectly at all times.

Of course that is an impossible standard to meet because generally conventional incandescent bulbs burn out when the light switch is turned on or turned off. As homes age, electrical wiring goes through miniscule expansion and contraction. In time, the screws that keep outlets and light switches together loosen and teeny tiny changes in amperage jump from wire to wire and screw to base.

How They Fail

The filaments inside bulbs have a life of just 2,000 to 8,000 hours. The constant use of switches or changing of plugs is a big culprit too. Because housekeepers work during day-light hours, outages are not readily apparent. Going room to room to test every light bulb and in every lamp is a good idea but time consuming.

Accent lighting put high up on ceilings or in difficult to reach places make it even tougher for housekeepers to find time to climb ladders or disassemble furniture to replace bulbs.

So Guests and Owners may become unhappy thinking that the housekeepers just don't care to monitor and watch bulbs. Nothing is further from the truth.

Frankenstein Fluorescents

For years, the benefits of fluorescent bulbs have been promoted as cost saving and longer life. Unfortunately, many people find fluorescent light yellowing and undesirable. These can actually make a vacation rental home look worse and make guests unhappy.

Fluorescents are undesirable for use in quality vacation rental homes.

LED Light the Way

In recent years, the use of Light Emitting Diode (L.E.D.) bulbs has expanded rapidly. As an entirely different way of creating light from electricity, LED's first appeared in electronics and commercial applications.

LED bulbs can last an astonishing 80,000 hours and when they begin to wear out they do not "pop" like incandescent bulbs but instead just begin to dim, often lasting another 80,000 before failure. Only 10% of electricity put into regular bulbs results in light. 70% of LED electricity ends up in visible light.

LED's use far less electricity and because use is growing in many ways, prices are finally falling to acceptable levels for everyday household use. These bulbs are also safer because they do not use a heated filament to make light.

Even the very expensive LED Christmas lights of years past are now affordable. That trend of falling prices has now caught up to LED's that can now be used to replace incandescent bulbs.

These new bulbs are affordable and very long lasting. Some are even programmable allowing software and smart phones to control on/off and even dimming. LED's suffer less from the constant on/off problem. Unlike fluorescent bulbs, LED's contain no harmful substances.

While seemingly more expensive, LED's use far less electricity and, in short order, pay for themselves after which the benefits can continue for years.

LED's for Vacation Rentals

This means housekeepers no longer need to check bulbs on every visit. High ceiling lights require far less trips up the ladder. Guests appreciate a light similar to incandescent and owners appreciate having all lights work all the time.

If you have not replaced your old bulbs with LED's, do it today. You'll find it more efficient to pay the price and replace all lights at once then trying to piecemeal them as the old bulbs fail.

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Author: Wm. May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0466 – 12/22/15

Sponsor: VRAI – Worldwide not-for-profit association of Vacation Rental Owners, Managers, Suppliers and Website Publishers. Join the industry for news, info and help. – VacationRentalAssociation.com

El Nino Looms; Don't Fret Too Much

By Taylor May
Published: 12/01/15 Topics: Comments: 0

December 2015 brought us some great snow here in the Pacific North West. Just a few weeks ago there were amazing morning runs to be had at Stevens, Crystal, Snoqualmie, and others.

However, as much as we don't want to admit it, El Nino is on its way. What does that mean for us Northwest Skiers? Better than last year, but less snow than the average. Typically, El Nino hits the West Coast after New Years. This year looks to be no different, with Alaska experiencing warming temperatures, and California getting some much needed rain. The Northwest is right in the cross hairs for the rest of the winter.

El Nino is a complicated event relating to cyclical temperature changes in the southern Pacific Ocean and atmosphere. These cycles are made up of warm (El Nino) and cool (La Nina) phases, which phases lasting a few months, to a few years. 2016 is set to be a strong El Nino, which means the Polar Jet Stream and Pacific Jet Stream will split and create an area of low pressure off the West Coast, bringing rainstorms to California and parts of Alaska. Don't fret too much about the word “strong” though, as there isn't always a direct correlation between high temperatures and a strong or weak El Nino; sometimes weak El Nino's produce the hottest, driest winters.

A strong El Nino doesn't mean NO snow, but we should expect warmer than average temperatures for the rest of the winter. These conditions should persist from eastern Oregon all the way up to skiing grounds in British Colombia. Given our season last year, even a decrease from the average would still be an improvement!

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Author: Taylor May – Contributor, Northwest Skiers Magazine
Blog #: 0479 – 12/01/15

Sponsor: Northwest Skier – A magazine For skiers, snowboarders and everything snow started in 1964 now an online source of with news, comments, articles, photos and videos. If you slide, visit our Website and join the email list to get instant mountain info year round. – NorthwestSkiers.com

The Genius Truck Mechanic

By William May
Published: 11/11/15 Topics: Boats, Self Improvement Comments: 0

At the age of 15, I was very sure that Mr. Stearns - a mechanic in the log truck shop my father managed - was a genius.

Although his first name was Jim, I would never have called him that because he was my father's age, he had a regale bearing and he was a legend in the industry. It's not disrespectful to say he was the only genius in the shop, because everyone who worked there knew it.

Repairing big rigs is not a simple job. Diagnosing such a large machine with so many parts and systems requires comprehension of physics, hydraulics, engineering, pneumatics, electronics, and internal combustion.

Before the advent of computers I marveled at the incredible precision which engineers and part manufacturers made things. How did they do it?

Mechanical Arts.

Many people are able to master basic mechanic skills with school training, on the job experience, and mentoring. (In those days, use of the word "mentoring" would have made everyone chuckle.)

Among mechanics there are echelons of knowledge. No one knows it all, and everyone must consult manuals and colleagues occasionally. Everyone except Mr. Stearns.

If you have ever visited a repair shop you would have noticed something odd about Mr. Stearns space. Unlike other mechanics, his area was immaculately organized. It was the only space that was never dirty, and every tool and part was just as it should be.

While other mechanics hustled about, Mr. Stearns seemed to move slowly. While others became dirty and grimy crawling in, around and under trucks Mr. Stearns coveralls remained neat and pressed just as if they had came off an ironing board.

Financial Model

Truck shops make money by charging a standard hourly shop rate for each of the mechanics. Today that fee often exceeds $100 per hour.

There are manuals that specify the numbers of hours that should be required to undertake many common repairs. Even major engine overhauls have a specific set of hours assigned. Jobs can take an hour, many days or even weeks.

Mr. Stearns never looked at those budgets and did not want to know what they were. Although there was a kind of hierarchy, he was left to his own devices - but the time he took for jobs was consistently half of the allocated time. The shop made lots of money allowing him to his own devices.

Focus Solves Problems

When my water-ski boat sunk (don’t ask) he volunteered to take apart the submerged motor that everyone knew would never run again. The engine was so antiquated that to put the boat in reverse required stopping the motor, and restarting it in reverse so that the crank shaft actually went in the opposite direction.

It was a morass of double electronics that would have perplexed Nikola Tesla. Mr. Stearns said he knew very little about boat motors but, one night after work he carefully took it apart piece by piece.

After removing the convoluted electronics he unbolted the cylinder head, carefully extracted the pistons, bearings, and valves, taking time to carefully clean and place every piece on clean white rags atop his tool chest. The pistons and valves were arranged together in order. Each piece was lined up perfectly with the other. It was like a work of art.

Just as carefully, he put all the pieces back into the motor block. Then, just as carefully, cleaned and put every tool back into the chest high tool chest. It was almost midnight now.

"Do you think it will ever run again?" I asked.

"Of course it will run. I put it back together perfectly, didn't I?" he murmured.

He turned the switch and the 75 horsepower behemoth roared to life.

Let Professionals Perform

As he turned off the motor, he turned and faced me square. "Because you are young and interested, I am violating the secret to my success. I have allowed you to help."

I was perplexed, so he continued. "See that sign?"

I looked above his work bench.

  • Shop Labor $30 per hour
  • If you watch $40 per hour
  • If you help $50 per hour

"You see young William (he always called me young William) talk can be a good thing. But customers need to allow experts to work, and to get the hell out of the way."

Old Fashioned Smarts

Today's concepts of co-working, team-building and the sharing economy can help people achieve and succeed. But there is much to be said for personal focus, study and concentration.

Over the years, I have seen similar signs and I follow their wisdom. I remind myself to not watch, not help and to allow that person to go about doing their best work for me.

I can only wish that clients would follow the same advice. Some feel that they can become experts overnight. Some have nothing better to do. Others just cant help but stir the soup.

Wise clients allow experts they hire to do their magic, to spend their time serving them instead of justifying their work. Wise clients judge only the outcome, not the methods.

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Author: William May, MayPartners
Blog #: 0460 – 11/11/15

Sponsor: MayPartners – Marketing, Advertising, Public Relations, Sales and Other Stuff. Call today. Make your Sales go up today. Not tomorrow. – MayParrtners.com

Expedia to buy HomeAway

By Ronald Lee
Published: 11/05/15 Topics: Advertising, AirBnB, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

There’s always a bigger fish. Serial purchaser HomeAway has itself been acquired by Seattle based Expedia. And the price paid for the vacation rental giant? $3.9 billion. The deal is the sign of the times for digital travel sales, which has experienced massive M&A activity, like much of the economy this year.

While HomeAway has been busy dominating the vacation rental industry through acquisitions, Expedia has been doing the same in the wider digital travel sales. HomeAway's many purchases this year (including Seattle based Dwellable just last month), pale compared to Expedia’s yearly activity which include massive purchases of Orbitz and Travelocity. Previously Expedia had focused on hotels, and so the addition of HomeAway to it’s portfolio presents some interesting changes.

Just what is Expedia’s plan with HomeAway? Expedia’s CFO said HomeAway would remain relatively autonomous, with it’s headquarters based in Austin. The main gain for Expedia appears to be hedging. Airbnb is one of the biggest travel competitor left to face Expedia, and of course, focuses on short term vacation rental stays. Expedia’s purchase of HomeAway is a smart move to counter Airbnb’s growing share of the market.

The sharing economy is an attractive market compared to the business of connecting hotel users to hotels. Virtually any home in the world can become a rental property for Airbnb and HomeAway, and Expedia is diversifying to protect against pressure on the hotel industry. Plus, individual home owners are a more attractive partner than big hotel changes. Home owners have very little leverage or sophistication in the business, and generally take what portals like HomeAway and Airbnb offer them. However, distribution might become easier with the Expedia and HomeAway merger.

What can customers look forward to? Integrated booking might be a long shot, but this merger could give customers the ability to directly compare hotel and vacation rental accommodations. This doesn’t appear to be the play the companies are making, but we’ll have to wait and see.

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Author: Ronald Lee – Reporter, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0478 – 11/05/15

Sponsor: VRAI –

Best Halloween Advertising. Cheapest too.

By William May
Published: 10/31/15 Topics: Advertising, Marketing Comments: 0

For many years the Philadelphia Cheese Steak shop occupied a triangle corner on busy Madison Avenue on Seattle's Capitol Hill. It seemed to do well but changed hands a few times and gradually did the restaurant slow decline dance.

Meantime, just up the street the Bottle Neck bar opened and soon became a favorite hang out. When Philly closed, the proprietors - Erin Nestor and Rebecca Denk - grabbed the additional space and opened a nice neighbor burger joint. They called it "Two Doors Down" because, of course that is where it was.

Sometimes naming businesses and products is easy but often it is a long laborious chore. Who knows how the new restaurant got its name, but it is brilliant, memorable and fun. That fits the new decor and the food.

Halloween heavy traffic raced past Two-Doors, just as traffic always does, but ahead on the trek home cars were slowing and some pulling over to grab a burger.

All because someone, maybe the genius who named the restaurant, created a cheap but compelling reason to drop into the restaurant.

Pumpkins are cheap. A few orange LED Christmas type lights didn't break the bank. surely the staff had fun making them. Or maybe the customers made them. (What fun.)

Putting the pumpkins in the window would have worked, but simply putting them on the street made them impossible to miss. On this rainy dreary night. It was warm. It was compelling.

They must have sold far more burgers that night because who could resist?

Accepting expensive solutions from advertising experts can produce great results, but advertising is always trial and error no matter how well researched.

On the other hand, creative thinking always wins over new customers, makes existing customers smile and makes the cash register ring.

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Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0458 – 10/31/15

Sponsor: MayPartners – Pumping Advertising for decades but a new kinda marketing machine. Old fashioned marketing smarts with new technological know how. Our platform of constant promotion pumps up your sales. But you gotta call us now to start. – MayPartners.com

Most Professional Photographers Are Not

By William May
Published: 10/22/15 Topics: Comments: 0

If getting paid for taking photos makes a professional photographer then the standard is too low.

For lodging, hospitality and architecture photos, only High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos are professional and most other professional photographers haven't a clue how to do them.

HDR is not a craft that can be picked up easily, or in a book, or in a short class. Prior skills may leave other photographers woefully under equipped to master the technological and artistic requirements of this new craft.

Having great camera gear is essential, but anyone can pony up the money and buy the very best gear. Although most do not!

Spending thousands of hours shooting photos conventionally may give a photographer some understanding of lighting and composition. But frankly the photos from many pros still look pretty much like those of educated amateurs.

For older photographers who grew up when flash devices and dark room chemicals ruled their lives, that time may have been a wait. They spent years perfecting mechanical knowledge that is really of no value to the HDR environment.

That isn't to say that some long tenured photographers have not grabbed the HDR baton and ran, some have. But simply having decades of experience is not adequate in today's internet and software age.

Starting Over

Not all is doom and gloom. There are photographers world wide who have invested considerable education, training and practical experience to learn the highly technical needs of High Dynamic Range shooting and processing.

Unfortunately, these photographers are few and far between.

That means unsuspecting businesses often hire a "Professional" and end up with the same old drab limited photos for their interior photo needs. And that is a darn shame.

In lodging and building interior intensive shooting, there are even so called "experts" writing blogs and touting their specialized skills - all while avoiding the long hours of technical learning necessary to master HDR.

And that is a shame because clients are short-changed while paying heavily for inferior photography.

If you are wondering if your photographer and your photos are at the highest level, are serving you well and if you got your money's worth, give us a call for a free evaluation.

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Author: William May, Signatour Photo Team
Blog #: 0418 – 10/22/15

Sponsor: Signatours Photo Team – When you realize that crappy phone photos are losing your ental thousands upon thousands of dollars in lost bookings, how about spending a little more more to hire our HDR pros. – Signatour.com

Vacation Rental Insurance for Condo Owners

By April Klazema
Published: 10/12/15 Topics: Insurance, Property Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

Vacation Rental Insurance for Condo Owners

Say you own a condo in Florida that you have been visiting every spring break for ten years now. Next spring, you have a different trip planned and won't be able to make it down to the condo at all. However, the condo is in an area that is a hot tourist destination during the winter and spring months. If you aren't going to be using it, you figure someone else would pay good money to rent it out for a few weeks. Who knows? You might even be able to finance most of your other trip just by renting out your condo to other Florida tourists!

Remember Vacation Rental Insurance!

Before you start setting up an Airbnb account or uploading pictures of your condo to VRBO.com, you need to take a moment to look into getting vacation rental insurance for your condo. While your condo is probably currently insured as a second home on your homeowner's insurance policy, you need a different type of coverage if you are planning on renting out the property to anyone else.

Let us explain. When you are utilizing a vacation property for personal use—be it a condo, a cottage, or an actual second home—it can be considered a personal residence for insurance purposes. That's because what you are using the property for—more or less, as a place of lodging for you and your family—is not really different from what you use your primary home for.

The moment you rent out your condo, the primary use of the property switches from residential to commercial. If you are letting someone stay at your condo in exchange for money, then you are, by definition, using the property for the purpose of business. This type of commercial use of your property is not covered under traditional homeowner's insurance policies.

What You Get with Vacation Rental Insurance

As with any other type of insurance, your vacation rental policy will vary depending on the value of your condo and the value of its contents (furniture, appliances, etc.). However, most vacation rental insurance policies will likely come with the following types of coverage:

Commercial liability coverage: Keeps you from being held liable if a guest is injured or killed while using your property.

Replacement cost coverage: Reimburses you for the cost of your condo or your belongings in the case of catastrophic damage or theft.

Coverage for damage: Helps you pay for damage caused to your condo or building by a guest.

Loss of income coverage: If a guest damages your condo to a point where you have to cancel other reservations or take it off the rental market for an extended period, this type of coverage will reimburse you for lost rental income.

You will want to speak with your insurance agent to see if you can add a vacation rental insurance policy to your condo, and to learn about the types of coverage that are available in their vacation rental policies.

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Author: April Klazema – Reporter, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0417 – 10/12/15

Sponsor: Yes We Insure Rentals – Say you own a condo in Florida that you have been visiting every spring break for ten years now. Next spring, you have a different trip planned and won't be able to make it down to the condo at all. However, the condo is in an area that is a hot tourist destination during the winter and spring months. – YesWeInsureVacationRentals.com

How Much Vacation Rental Insurance Do You Need?

By April Klazema
Published: 09/01/15 Topics: Insurance, Property Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

When you are looking to buy vacation rental insurance coverage for the first time, you will likely have a laundry list of different questions that you want answered. Specifically, how much vacation rental insurance coverage do you need, how much can you expect to pay to insure a home that you are renting out to vacationers, and how will the cost of the policy compare to what you are currently paying to insure your own personal home?

To get answers to these questions, we reached out to Eric Kossian, the Agency Principal at InsurePro (www.insurepro.info). Based in Washington and serving the entire state, InsurePro is a respected and reputable insurance agency, and Eric is a longtime industry expert with extensive knowledge in all kinds of insurance coverage—including vacation rental insurance.

In regards to how much vacation rental insurance cover homeowners should get, Eric emphasized the importance of commercial general liability coverage. He noted that buyers should look for policies that include $1 million in liability per occurrence and $2 million aggregate per year (in case there is more than one liability claim in the space of a calendar year).

"When dealing with renters who don't know you, you are more likely to be sued, as [the renters] view you—the property owner—as a business," Eric said, explaining why liability coverage is the crux of most vacation rental property insurance policies.

In addition to $2 million aggregate liability coverage, Eric also noted a number of other "must-haves" for vacation rental insurance policies, including income coverage (also known as "loss of rents"), replacement cost valuation for the building, replacement cost valuation for the contents of the building, and enhancement coverage (in the case of theft or damage to the property caused by a guest). The coverage amounts for the replacement cost valuations for your vacation rental property "should match fairly closely" to an existing homeowners policy, according to Kossian.

As for the cost of a vacation rental insurance policy versus, Eric did caution that insuring a rental property can end up being substantially more expensive than insuring a secondary home whose function is personal use only.

"For the same location, compared to insuring the home as a secondary residence used just personally, a Vacation Income Property policy will be 25 to 100% more in premium, depending on amount of lost income coverage needed and liability needed," Kossian explained.

Do you have any addition questions about how much vacation rental insurance coverage you might need for your property, or how much you should plan to spend on a vacation rental policy? Reach out to us today!

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Author: April Klazema – Reporter, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0414 – 09/01/15

Sponsor: Yes We Insure Rentals – Vacation Rental Property Insurance is not impossible to find. Get the best coverage and the best deal. We have the experts to help you now. – YesWeInsureVacationRentals.com

What Goes Around Comes Around for AirBnB

By Ron Lee
Published: 08/22/15 Topics: Advertising, AirBnB Comments: 0

How soon big companies forget, at least in the collective memory.

Perhaps today's lodging usurpers like Expedia, Priceline, HomeAway and AirBnB could learn a thing or two from the advertising history of major newspapers.

Long ago Newspapers like the Seattle times had a field day. They were big and bossy and brash. They could charge any advertising rate they wanted, and increase the cost incessantly.

If the advertiser did not like it, "Tough": said the Times, take your business elsewhere knowing full well the advertiser had no viable alternative. If companies complained the Times would refuse to sell them space or relegate their ads to the nether world of seldom read pages.

Flash forward several decades when, due to plummeting readership and nimble online news sources, newspaper ad sales reps must go begging for advertising scraps.

How prophetic then for the online travel agencies and vacation rental classified ad sites.

Ask AirBnB superhost Kelly Kampen who went public recently, saying his AirBnB superhost account was terminated with no explanation and a canned emailed.

Lovely that AirBnB said something like, "We are not obligated to tell you a reason.."

And did he provide bad housing, or treat guests poorly? No all he did was question AirBnB and just like the long ago world of advertisers who questioned newspapers, he bit the hand that feed him and he will now be starved slowly to death.

Worse yet, AirBnB cancelled Kampen's future guests. Interestingly, AirBnB heavily penalizes hosts for canceling a booking and yet reserves unto itself the right to commit the same sin.

Way to go AirBnB,. Many hosts report similar or lesser instances where AirBnb staff seemed callous or, worse yet, unaware that what goes around comes Around.

We can only hope that one day we'll look back at the hubris of Internet companies with the same grin we now reserve for those formerly cocky newspaper rags.

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Author: Ron Lee – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0412 – 08/22/15

Do I Need to Get Special Insurance for My Condo or Vacation Home?

By April Klazema
Published: 08/01/15 Topics: Insurance, Property Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

If you own a condo in Florida or Hawaii, or a vacation home in some other exotic locale, you are likely curious about what kind of insurance you need to get to cover the property. Will a general homeowner's policy do? Or will you have to acquire a different kind of insurance to cover the vacation home?

Determining the Purpose of Your Vacation Home

To answer this question, we'll ask you a question of our own: for what purpose is the vacation home being used?

If the purpose of the vacation home is for personal use only, then a homeowner's insurance policy will be sufficient to cover the property. Perhaps you and your family take frequent trips to the West Coast and always stay at the vacation property when you do. Or maybe you spend your summers in one part of the country and live out your winters somewhere else. In these and other similar scenarios, your insurance company will usually be more than happy to provide you with a second homeowner's policy to cover your vacation home.

The bottom line in these scenarios is that your vacation property is still being used as a residence. As a result, the insurance rules for the property are the same as for your full-time home.

Using Your Vacation Home as a Rental

On the other hand, if you rent out your property to vacationers or other tenants when you are not using it, then it cannot be protected under a homeowner's policy. If you are accepting money to allow someone to stay at your vacation home, that qualifies as commercial use, and your vacation home qualifies as a business. Businesses can never be insured under homeowner's policies, and you will need to set up a different kind of insurance policy as a result.

If you are renting out your vacation home for profit, the insurance you are looking for is vacation rental insurance. A policy of this type will provide you with commercial liability insurance—meaning that if a customer sues for your injury sustained on your property, you will not be liable. It should also include provisions that reimburse you in case your guest damages the property, steals your belongings, or skips out without paying rent.

Don’t fall victim to insurance confusion when it comes to your condo or vacation home! If you are only using the property for personal residential use, a homeowner's policy will cover it. If you are using the condo or house as a rental, then vacation rental insurance is pivotal to keep you, your building, your belongings, and your finances safe!

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Author: April Klazema – Reporter, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0413 – 08/01/15

Sponsor: Yes We Insure Rentals – Vacation Rental Property Insurance is not impossible to find. Get the best coverage and the best deal. We have the experts to help you now. – YesWeInsureVacationRentals.com

Special Insurance for My Condo or Vacation Home?

By April Klazema
Published: 07/01/15 Topics: Insurance, Property Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

If you own a condo in Florida or Hawaii, or a vacation home in some other exotic locale, you are likely curious about what kind of insurance you need to get to cover the property.

Will a general homeowner's policy do? Or will you have to acquire a different kind of insurance to cover the vacation home?

Determining the purpose of your home

To answer this question, we'll ask you a question of our own: for what purpose is the vacation home being used?

If the purpose of the vacation home is for personal use only, then a homeowner's insurance policy will be sufficient to cover the property. Perhaps you and your family take frequent trips to the West Coast and always stay at the vacation property when you do.

Or maybe you spend your summers in one part of the country and live out your winters somewhere else. In these and other similar scenarios, your insurance company will usually be more than happy to provide you with a second homeowner's policy to cover your vacation home.

The bottom line in these scenarios is that your vacation property is still being used as a residence. As a result, the insurance rules for the property are the same as for your full-time home.

Using your home as a rental

On the other hand, if you rent out your property to vacationers or other tenants when you are not using it, then it cannot be protected under a homeowner's policy.

If you are accepting money to allow someone to stay at your vacation home, that qualifies as commercial use, and your vacation home qualifies as a business. Businesses can never be insured under homeowner's policies, and you will need to set up a different kind of insurance policy as a result.

If you are renting out your vacation home for profit, the insurance you are looking for is vacation rental insurance.

A policy of this type will provide you with commercial liability insurance—meaning that if a customer sues for your injury sustained on your property, you will not be liable. It should also include provisions that reimburse you in case your guest damages the property, steals your belongings, or skips out without paying rent.

Don’t fall victim to insurance confusion when it comes to your condo or vacation home! If you are only using the property for personal residential use, a homeowner's policy will cover it.

If you are using the condo or house as a rental, then vacation rental insurance is pivotal to keep you, your building, your belongings, and your finances safe!

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Author: April Klazema – Author, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0406 – 07/01/15

Sponsor: Yes We Insure Rentals – Vacation Rental Property Insurance is not impossible to find. Get the best coverage and the best deal. We have the experts to help you now. – YesWeInsureVacationRentals.com

BookingSync.com is right about photography

By Noel Poage
Published: 07/01/15 Topics: Comments: 0

Sébastien Grosjean is the founder and CEO of BookingSync.com a vacation rental software and channel management company.

In a recent video blog, Sébastien provides his introduction to vacation rental photography and three tips managers can use to take better photos.

He calls photography the single most important thing you can do.

PROPER LIGHTING. He reminds viewers to shoot photos at the best time of the day. Afternoons often have odd lighting so shoot exteriors early in the day. For interior photography he reminds that all lights should be turned on and curtains opened to show the outdoors.

FUNCTIONAL PHOTOS. Guests want to discover what your home has to offer so provide pictures of every room and always from the best angle.

STAGING. Make the home appear just as it will be when guests rent. Be sure to remove amenities that may not be there when visitors arrive.

Thanks Sébastien, that is all good advice.

Although intended for the do-it-yourself photographer, we would like to recommend that BookingSync inform guests that professional photos, especially those in High Dynamic Range by a qualified and experienced photographer, can triple the results of even the best amateur photo.

It may only take an hour or two to shoot HDR's, but up to an hour per photo to process, color balance and correct stunning accurate photos that amateur methods can match.

HDR's, along with panoramas also shot in HDR, are the only way for guests to truly see before they buy and stay.

See Sébastien's Video here

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Author: Noel Poage – Photographer, Signatour Photo Team
Blog #: 0404 – 07/01/15

The Vacation Rental Property Insurance Difference

By April Klazema
Published: 06/01/15 Topics: Insurance, Property Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

A vacation rental property may look like a home, but in the eyes of an insurance company, it's a business. If you own a second home that you frequently rent out to temporary guests, then that property is a business and cannot be covered under a homeowner's insurance policy.

Even if the property was used as a residence at some point, the moment you start bringing in out-of-town guests for daily or weekly vacation rentals, the rules change.

What Do I Need Instead?

Most insurance companies will offer a specific vacation rental insurance policy that you can purchase to protect your rental properties.

This kind of policy will provide certain types of coverage that a homeowner's policy won't, including commercial liability insurance to protect you in the event that a guest is injured at your property.

Replacement and repair coverage is usually included as well, in case a guest steals from you or damages your property during their stay.

Why Do I Need Vacation Rental Insurance?

There are subtle differences between homeowner's insurance policies and vacation rental insurance policies.

For example, a homeowner's policy will include personal liability coverage, which essentially means that if a guest is injured while visiting your home—perhaps they fall down the stairs—then your insurance company will help defend you if you are sued and cover medical bills for the injured party.

Meanwhile, a vacation rental insurance policy offers commercial liability coverage, which offers the same basic type of coverage, but for a business instead of a person or family.

Homeowner's insurance policies exclude commercial activities from protection, so if a renter at your vacation home falls down the stairs, the incident won't be covered under the personal liability section of your homeowner's insurance.

Instead, you will need to have commercial liability coverage to be protected, as the injury was suffered by a customer instead of a guest. Similar differences and separations apply for other types of coverage (theft, property damage, etc.) as well.

Unsure if you have the correct vacation rental property insurance? Today is the day you need to find out, before it is too late.

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Author: April Klazema – Author, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0402 – 06/01/15

Sponsor: Yes We Insure Rentals – Here's where to go to find a variety of vacation rental property insurance experts and agents. We watch the market so you don't have to. . Get the best deal and the best coverage. – YesWeInsureVacationRentals.com

Cell Phone Photos Are Not Just Fine

By William May
Published: 06/01/15 Topics: Comments: 0

I do not want to argue and nit pick but sometimes advertising people just say silly thinks.

Recently while uploading some of our fabulously large, High Dynamic Range Photos (all converted to Progressive PDF's for loading speed, while retaining quality, to a very large vacation rental listing website a little box popped up that I must take exception with.

It said "Include a few well-lit photos."

OK I do not have a super big problem with that statement but they should also disclose that using only a few photos will cut rental inquiries dramatically. And not including enough photos is equally disastrous. I am sure the techies have the stats and know better.

But then the little box read "Cell phone photos are just fine."

Really? A cell phone photo?

If they meant "just fine" as in "not completely terrible" well maybe that is OK. Surely the websites is trying to get every possible paying property owner to use their service and asking amateurs to create and upload superb photos would result in less listings and lower income for the website publisher..

I get their logic, but I question their desire to help managers get the very best sales results.

On the other hand, these technical website folks need to spill the beans about cell phone photos.

A few folks can coax an adequately good snap-shot out of a phone. Some mobile devices have rudimentary HDR which can help. But most folks take truly lousy photos. (Check out your grant Grandma's photos of your sisters wedding. Your sister will never live those down.)

What the giant websites should tell their customers - in all candor - is that managers should find and spend money on a professional photographer who has mastered the art of using HDR for interior photos.

That will make the manager far more money than it costs.

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Author: William May, Signatour Photo Team
Blog #: 0405 – 06/01/15

Creepy Vacation Rental Videos

By Wm. May
Published: 05/27/15 Topics: Marketing, Vacation Rentals, Videos Comments: 0

Recently, a number of websites - including some Vacation Rental portals - have begun using videos as a kind of background image that depict people using vacation rental homes.

Maybe you have seen them. Often they are mundane and slow moving but even the slight movement attracts attention.

There is no sound, and no titles and they are seemingly used mostly as a graphic element - to indicate that staying in the home is comfortable and desirable.

Unfortunately, they do the opposite because no one realized the implications that make the videos creepy.

  • One depicts a young woman asleep in a disheveled room as she wakes up.

  • Another shows a dad and daughter playing on the top bunk of a bed.

  • Another shows a couple of men making breakfast, in a none too attractive tiny kitchen.

All of these feel like they were video taped by a peeping tom when the people were not looking. Viewing them should make you feel uncomfortable.

So who thought this was a good idea? Maybe a peeping tom or voyeur?

The videos are often grainy, or perhaps faded which inadvertently indicates the videos were shot a non-professional camera. That too implies they were taken without the subjects approval. Even more creepy.

By comparison, some videos are exterior long shots of the ocean with boats moving, or waterfalls falling, some have people far in the background.

Those videos are more reassuring because they were clearly taken in a public space and not of some one in a private bedroom in their jammies. The subtleties between various videos is the difference between acceptable and creepy.

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Author: Wm. May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0398 – 05/27/15

Drones Will One Day Be Old News

By William May
Published: 05/01/15 Topics: Hotels, Photography Comments: 0

At a recent meeting of hotel operators the questions were all about drone photography.

Signatour Photo Team Experts were there to display dramatic " Before And After" photos showing how bad lodging properties can look online and how attractive they become when properly shot in the HDR photo technique.

But every admiring hotelier also wanted to know how to get an aerial photo shot of their hotel from a drone. Amazon.com is going to delivery packages with them. Hobbyists are sending drones into their neighbors yards and they are regularly featured on the news.

Of course, shooting an aerial, or a series of them, can be helpful in showing guests exactly where they may be staying. We are happy to provide that services to our clients.

But soon, every lodging property will have aerials and then property managers will need to find a new and better way to attract guests.

Good news - that ability already exists and it is called High Dynamic Range.

To clarify, HDR is not the HD as is common in High Definition television and computer monitors. Read our white paper: HDR is not the HD

Some hoteliers had regrets when seeing the Before and After photos that Signatour creates using proprietary High Dynamic Range HDR) techniques.

Said one, "Damn, I just paid a photo vendor, recommended by my Franchisor, a bunch of money for what are junk compared to yours."

More good news - Signatour guarantees our photos will impress and even stun you with their accuracy and vibrancy, or your money back.

Frankly it is an easy guarantee to make because we have spent a decade perfecting our Perfect Touch product. No one can match it. And we will throw in the drone shots too.

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Author: William May, Signatour Photo Team
Blog #: 0395 – 05/01/15

Velella Velella Attack Ocean Shores

By William May
Published: 04/15/15 Topics: Ocean Shores WA Comments: 0

Velella Velella Attack Ocean Shores Washington State

With the unseasonably warm weather, people are not the only creatures trekking to Ocean Shores Washington.

The aptly named Velella Velella jelly fish have been washing up by the millions on West Coast Beaches.

"They do look messy," said Jackie Martin, a property manager at By the Sea Vacation Rentals, "The last time we saw these was six years ago and they washed away fairly closely."

The warmer temperatures causes the creatures to migrate closer to the land and in the millions. When the wind blows in a certain direction, the jelly fish are blown off course and up onto the beach.

As small cnidarians, Velella Velella are members of a an ocean surface community that includes the better-known cnidarian siphonophore, the Portuguese man o' war. Each individual is about 7 cm long, usually deep blue in color with a small stiff sail that catches the wind and propels them on the surface of the sea.

Velella Velella are carnivorous little guys, catching plankton in their tentacles that hand down in the water They are not poisonous, and they do not have a sting.

Says Martin, "They can be handled with out any problem, but people should wash their hands after touching them."

The wind and high tides may wash them right off the beach, or they could be in evidence for months all the way into summer.

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Author: William May, Plumbob Publishing
Blog #: 0393 – 04/15/15

Sponsor: Signatours Photo Team – World class High Dynamic Range photos exclusively for the travel, tourism, lodging and hospitality industries. Stunning. Accurate. Affordable. – Signatour.com

Website Magazine Warns Blogging Copyright Infringers

By Joseph Romain
Published: 04/01/15 Topics: Copyrights, Legal, Photography Comments: 0

The Internet has created a wonderful opportunity for people who want to steal the creative work of others.

The most visible thieves are those who steal copyrighted music which has forced the entertainment industry to institute rigorous methods of encrypting music. They have sued and forced equipment manufacturers, internet providers, music streaming sites and music sales websites to restrict the copying of music. Yet it is still rampant.

Photographers however have no such protections for their creative products. The internet makes it easy to publish photos to websites in digital form, but also easy for it to be stolen by people who do not want to pay for the photographers work.

Since the advent of the printing press, and more particularly the ability to print photographs would-be photo copyright infringers were stymied in their attempts because printed photos can not be accurately copied from a physical piece of paper.

But the Internet has removed those barriers to copying, made great works of art viewable by millions and easy pickings for thieves.

Copyright law makes no distinction between printed photos and digital ones. Fortunately, the internet also makes it easy for copyright owners to find those who illegally copy copyrighted works.

Website Magazine focuses on the internet and anything to do with websites any anything that affects them. Their latest article Bloggers Beware: Image Copyright Infringement Is Costly stands as a warning to those who want to copy the best creative work and pay nothing for it.

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Author: Joseph Romain – Creative Director, Signatour Photo Team
Blog #: 0394 – 04/01/15

How to Choose a Vacation Rental Photographer

By William May
Published: 03/01/15 Topics: Photography Comments: 0

Exciting indeed is the increase in lodging consultants and experts who put great photos at the top of the list for improved bookings.

Guests give websites but a few scant seconds to decide if it's professional, if it has what they need, and whether they are willing to look further. In two seconds, most people can read only a few words but a glance at a photo reveals dozens of thoughts and conveys quality, emotion, and content.

So why do those who tout themselves as experts constantly talk about the need to hire a professional photographers but then recommend vendors whose work is not up to modern standards?

An easy comparison of various vacation rental photographers will reveal the obvious differences. To help illustrate the differences, here are questions to answer when considering a photographer for an Inn, Resort, Hotel, or Vacation Rental Home.

Education - Digital cameras are great but it is not easy to use every bell and whistle to create accurate, stunning photos. If your photographer did not get a professional education then they won't know how to do everything they should.

Self Taught - Teaching yourself to shoot photos is fine, but unless you have 40+ hours (per week) to devote to the craft and for many years, you can't keep up on technology.

Flash Lighting - If your photographer uses a flash attachment to shoot your homes, they are shooting incorrectly. With today's technology, all photos should be done using High Dynamic Range techniques. Because HDR relies on multiple shots and accounts for each pixel at different exposures, a flash should never be needed.

Raw format - All great HDR photos must be shown using a camera's raw format because it is the most densely packed number of pixels. With more pixels, color correction, toning, and sharpening have the best chance for establishing accuracy. Any photographer who does not shoot in RAW, is not up on technology.

License - Sometimes you can get a better deal on prices if you only need the photos for limited use. For example, if you put them on your website but not elsewhere the price maybe lower. If you want all internet rights, usually a bit higher. And if you want exclusive rights, even denying the photographer the right to display them on his portfolio website; that can get trickier.

Travel - If your photographer is local he is less likely to be at the top of his game. Great photographers are in demand which means they usually travel from destination to destination. That is because they are in demand.

Time - Hiring someone who is instantly available should make you wonder why they are always available. Sure you might get lucky to fit in a shoot between your photographers other sessions.

Speed - Anyone who can shoot your property one day and have dozens of quality HDR photos to you the next, is fooling you. Retouching photos and creating HDR masterpieces takes time and talent. A photographer who needs some time to complete work is more likely to produce excellent products.

Weather - Even interior photos look better if shot on a blue-sky, bright sun day. If your photographer can set a date days in advance and stick to them when the weather is bad, they are taking advantage of you. The schedule must slide if the sun "don't shine."

Cost - If the cost for shooting is anything under $500 for a condo, $750 for a house, or $2,000 for a complex then they are only shooting and not processing.

Great photo sessions and images can cost much more depending on the size, type, and location of the property.

Barter - If your photographer is willing to do all the work of shooting and processing great photos for the privilege of staying at your home when he does it, he isn't a professional. Sure everyone loves to go on vacation but a great travel photographer has more free stays than he can stomach.

Expert - Not everyone who says they are an expert is one. Great photographers are found by looking for great photographs. No sales pitch or self-professed expertise can make up for a lack of quality.

HOW TO CHOOSE

Now that you are ready to talk with photographers, get prices, and look at their portfolios; here is how to go about picking the very best one:

Big Screen - Be sure to look at each photographers portfolio using a very big computer screen. Not all guests have large monitors but many do. The larger screen will show you photos that are not sharp or explicitly in focus. If a photographers shots are not super clean, scratch them off your list.

Portfolio - Lastly, open a web browser, simultaneously pull up each photographer's website portfolio, and then switch back and forth. Great HDR photographs should stand out.

The difference between them and conventional (even professional) photos will be stunning.

Save your pennies until you have enough to hire an HDR expert photographer. The expenditure will pay off quickly and repeatedly with greater bookings and more occupancy. You'll make more money by spending the relatively small cost of finding a truly qualified lodging photographer.

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Author: William May, Signatour Photo Team
Blog #: 0008 – 03/01/15

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DETAILS: We work to keep this information up to date, but details do change from time to time based on circumstances, often on short notice, and sometimes beyond our control. To verify any answer or other information you may need, please call or email us anytime. Allow a reasonable amount of time for response. Only legitimate inquiries will be answered.