When I first set out to write this post I intended on it being about tech savvy Orlando vacation home management companies that “get it”. As I started my research online to see which companies are embracing the technology revolution and which are still stuck in what looks like the industrial revolution I was very disappointed with the results I found. So the focus of this post has now shifted and I’m sad about that.
Being a tech geek myself I prefer to work with other businesses who are tech savvy as well. I like to follow them on Twitter and become a Fan of their Facebook page (hint hint-feel free to fan our Facebook page for awesome updates) to stay updated with what they are doing. Unfortunately, it seems to be hard to find any Orlando short term rental management companies that are embracing the technology revolution they way they should. Do they understand the power of the internet and social media?
I personally, would be concerned about enrolling my Orlando vacation home with a property management company who does not have a tech savvy enough marketing department to even put their own company on the internet map. It would make me wonder, “If they can’t market their own company properly, what are they possibly going to do for my home?” I can tell you what they will do for you home; They will book your home out with tour operator bookings that pay half of what you should be getting and this is where 90% of your bookings will come from. The other 10% will come from your owner bookings if you choose to go that route.
I hope local Disney area short term rental companies start embracing this change and start making more of an effort to get their own direct bookings. That will translate to more money in both of your pockets. I don’t know when this change will take place but what I will ask you is this; How tech savvy is your Orlando short term rental property management company? Can you find them on Twitter? Facebook? Flickr? If so, are they active? Do they have a presence on some of the large travel social networking sites like Flipkey? If you can’t answer yes to even one of those questions perhaps it’s time to tell them how you feel about their level of exposure and dependency on tour operators. Maybe they will listen and together we can get the Orlando vacation home market up to speed.
For you techies- Don’t forget to follow the Flamingo on Twitter: @RealEstateFL
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As I was driving through the town of Celebration today I saw two houses that made me hit the brakes, pull out my phone and start snapping some photos. These two homes, directly next door to each other on Celebration Blvd, were so incredibly decked out that they could give Disney’s Haunted Mansion a run for their money. It at first appeared that the neighbors were one upping each other but as I got closer it appeared they actually teamed up on this project! Take a look at these photos (they were taken on my iphone so not the best quality) and remember, don’t be greedy with your thoughts, comment below! My favorite. . . the aliens disguised as Halloween decorations!
Next time your in the Celebration area and decide to have lunch be sure to stop by Market Street Cafe at 701 Front Street Celebration, Florida and try their new roach specials. Apparently they are so good that the division of hotels and restaurants has decided to temporarily close the restaurant down so they can have the whole place to themselves! Gee, I never get invited to the good parties anymore. I was just itching to try the cream of mushroom soup with a side of can opener encrustation pieces for extra flavor. Oh well, maybe next time.
Included below are the violations as shown on the DBPR website.
What do Chuck Norris and Orlando vacation homes have in common? Everything of course. For example, If you have five dollars and Chuck Norris has five dollars than Chuck Norris has more money than you and will most likely outbid you on a property. The first lesson to learn here is that Chuck Norris gets things done and he gets them done fast. No title company, mortgage company or lazy Realtor can stand up to his roundhouse kick in the face so that being said lets get right into this and see what Chuck can teach us about closing on an Orlando vacation home in under 30 days.
Chuck Norris Does Not Get Frostbite. Chuck Norris Bites Frost
If you don’t want to be stuck spending your winter in what feels like the trenches of Antarctica than make sure you have all your financing in place before you start making offers on any Orlando vacation properties (unless you bite frost). If you’re paying cash, make sure it is liquid and ready to be wired into the title company’s escrow account on the day of closing. I have had situations with clients who said they were paying cash however, still had to have the money cashed out of their home. This usually happens when a person is using either a home equity line of credit or is in the process of doing a cash out refinance on their primary home. This is not a bad thing but if you are shooting for a 30 day or less closing it can definitely hold it up. If you’re taking a mortgage than the whole pre-approval process needs to be done, even get as far as requesting a loan commitment with contingencies. Then you know exactly what the lender needs to move forward.
When Chuck Norris falls in water, Chuck Norris doesn’t get wet. Water gets Chuck Norris.
Since you’re not Chuck Norris you and your home could be subject to flooding. Checking to see if your home is located in a flood zone is a very simple thing your Realtor can do for you. Generally it’s just a matter of pulling the tax records on the home. If you’re concerned about living in a flood zone have your Realtor check this information out for you BEFORE you write a contract not after. You will have enough to do once the contract is accepted you don’t need to be worrying about a flood zone. Most lenders will require a new survey be ordered on the property this will also tell if your home is located in a flood zone. You won’t get this document before the contract though, it’s generally ordered around the same time as the appraisal. If you’re paying cash for your Orlando vacation property than you will need to have one of these ordered as it’s not standard procedure.
Chuck Norris can slam a revolving door. Interview Disney area vacation home management companies as soon as you submit the offer. Don’t waste any time on this because you may be slamming a lot of doors yourself on your way out! Searching for the perfect vacation home management company in the Kissimmee and Davenport areas can be very frustrating and many people often have to go through at least five or six before they find a company they are happy with. I am in no way advising you to go with the first Orlando holiday villa management company that you speak to. Ask your Realtor to provide you with at least 3-5 names and start your hunt A good Orlando vacation home Realtor should be able to provide you with a list of questions to ask the management companies.
Chuck Norris’ house has no doors, only walls that he walks through. Chuck Norris is unfortunately unavailable for home inspections however Orlando is filled with tons of great licensed home inspectors. Your Realtor should be able to provide you with at least two or three names so you can make a choice. In order to close under 30 days you want to get this inspection done immediately after the contract is executed (signed by all parties). What’s critical about this is that if there are any issues with the home you can address those immediately. Sometimes you can find out the air conditioning system isn’t cooling properly or that a sink or toilet is leaking. You will want to have an a/c specialist and a plumber come out and look at it immediately so you can find out what these things will cost to fix. You could find out it’s not a big deal and everything is great or you could find out you need a whole new a/c and plumbing. These are all things you want to know upfront and as soon as possible.
Chuck Norris doesn’t read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants.
You on the other hand will have to actually read and what you need to be reading are what’s called the Homeowners Association (or condo association) bylaws for any Kissimmee, Davenport or Clermont vacation home. This is the document that talks all about what you can and can’t do with your home while living in the neighborhood. Restrictions like these are actually good things as they prevent your neighbor from painting their house hot pink or puke green however, there may be issues such a whether or not you are allowed to put a fence up in your backyard. These are the kind of details you want to find out within the first three or four days of your contract being accepted. Remember, we’re shooting for a 30 day closing so I would even go as far as having your Realtor dig up this information before the contract gets accepted. Chances are, if your Realtor has sold houses in that specific community before and an electronic copy is available than he/she should be able to email that over to you.
Chuck Norris is the only person in the world that can actually email a roundhouse kick.
If a mortgage is involved make sure the appraisal is ordered within the first five days of the contract being executed. What does this have to do with a roundhouse kick? Nothing, but I will not be opening any of Chuck’s emails. If you’re paying cash for the property this isn’t something that is absolutely necessary and getting an appraisal is a choice you can make on your own. If you’re taking a mortgage you no longer have a choice in the matter and it’s a mandatory thing. Appraisers do not work on your schedule they work on theirs and unless you can get Chuck Norris can send them a roundhouse kick email chances are this task is going to take the longest to accomplish so push your mortgage specialist to get this ordered asap and make sure your Realtor stays on top of this as well.
Chuck Norris can set ants on fire with a magnifying glass. At night.
And if Chuck Norris was your neighbor it’s a possibility that your house could catch on fire too. You want to make sure you have all your angles covered and securing your homeowner’s insurance is also something you want out of the way. Have your Realtor provide you with some names for you to contact, he/she might even have someone in house that can give you a good price. Whatever the case just get it done. Don’t forget to get a short term rental liability policy either or property management companies will not be renting your house out. This is something than can be done after closing but most Kissimmee, Clermont and Davenport homeowners insurance companies will offer this policy as well since short term rental homes are a huge part of our market.
Chuck Norris can divide by zero.
That’s amazing. . .What’s not amazing is if you get to the closing table and you find that you’re short on funds. That’s a really big inconvenience to you and the seller so I highly suggest that you request a preliminary HUD-1 from the title company at least 10 days before closing to ensure everything adds up and you are prepared to close. At least this way you will have plenty of time to penny pinch and analyze the fees on your closing statement. You may even be able to get some unnecessary “junk” fees removed. The closing table or the day before is not the time to be doing this so keep that in perspective and urge your Realtor to get you a copy as soon as the title company has it available.
When the Boogey man goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.
I highly suggest you do the same. The last thing you want to do is wait until an hour before closing to do your final walk-thru inspection and have Chuck Norris jump out of the closet. I recommend doing this no sooner than 24 hours in advance if you can, this way if anything is missing or out of place you have time to sort it out. If you wait until it’s too close to closing you risk holding up the closing and if it’s on a Friday you now have to wait until Monday if it doesn’t close. Not good for anyone involved, especially Chuck Norris.
We all like quick fixes right? Well here are 15 quick and easy changes you can make to your Orlando vacation rental and booking routine to increase your exposure and revenue this winter.
1. Update Your photos!
There is nothing worse than outdated, bad angled pictures lurking around on your property website. People will be booking your home solely based on the photos they see online. You only get one chance at this so make it count. The Flamingo thing to do would be to dip into your wallet a little and hire a professional Orlando real estate photographer to come in and snap some shots. It’s an investment that will pay off in the end.
2. Expose Yourself!
Don’t be afraid to put your home out there. There are over 50 websites you can list your Orlando vacation rental home on to get some owner booking revenue coming in. Consider the top three and take an ad out on those sites. Again if your pictures are terrible than don’t waste the money but if the package looks good than by all means get it out there! One of my personal favorite sites for this is VRBO
3. Start a Blog
Yes, I just told you to become a “blogger”. This is by far the fastest and most cost effective way to start generating some exposure online. It’s free to start a WordPress blog and if you do it correctly can generate a ton of new business and stir up interest in your Orlando vacation rental. A great thing to do would be to blog about up and coming events in the Orlando area, any news or information about your vacation home neighborhood, any specials you are running and have a place where guests can leave comments and testimonials. You can also link this to your property website.
Nothing speaks louder to a potential prospect than the voice of another satisfied guest. If you are not utilizing testimonials on your website/blog than you are missing out on a large market of people. Encourage your previous guests (the satisfied ones) to go onto your website/blog and leave you a testimonial on the testimonials page (which you should have in place already). In all of your online advertising link back to this page so people can read them.
5. Love Your Competition
Who says you have to compete with the competition? There is more than enough business to go around for everyone and there is also power in high numbers. Get with other owners of properties in your neighborhood and link your websites up. What’s great is that they may have guests that are looking for specific dates that they already have booked but guess what, their “buddy” up the street has availability. Many Orlando vacation home owners have even started neighborhood websites where all owners within the community advertise their home and they market the site together.
6. Build Your Database!
This is huge! Your Orlando vacation rental property is a business and should be treated like one. Every person who contacts you in any way, shape or form is a potential booking. You should be keeping a database of every email address that comes through your inbox inquiring about your Orlando vacation rental property. Utilize this database when you are running specials and want to tell people about it. You will be surprised how many people respond to specials that they may have not been interested in before. Make sure you are using a program like Constant Contact that offers an unsubscribe option in your emails. Nobody likes to be spammed.
7. Automate Yourself
If you’re like me you have a life and a family outside of work. The last thing you want to be doing is be sitting around by your computer and waiting for booking requests to come in. The downside to that is people want immediate responses to their questions and will go elsewhere if they do not get one. The easiest way to solve this problem is to set up an auto-responder on your email and within that responder let the customer know you will be getting back to them before the end of the business day. You may also want to include a frequently asked questions list as well as some testimonials and a link to your site.
8. Consider Allowing Pets
Say What! Animals in MY vacation home!! I know it’s a big thing for many to allow owners with pets to stay in their Orlando vacation rental property BUT consider this: So many other owners feel the same way so imagine the amount of people who are looking for a place like yours that can’t find anything that allows pets. Often time the first vacation rentals to book are the pet friendly ones. The extra booking revenue you earn from this should far outweigh the cost of having your carpets steam cleaned every other month. You can also charge extra for pets!
9. Game On!
Not everyone has a games room in their Orlando holiday villa and it’s costly to add one but one thing you can do to increase bookings is throw in a PlayStation or a Nintendo Wii. This will appeal to families traveling with children and in Orlando, that’s mainly your target market.
10. Stock Up on The Tea. . . and don’t be cheap!
This may seem incredibly obvious and even most hotels do this but having a nice selection of good tea available to your guests when they arrive is a big deal! Don’t scrimp on the tea and buy the cheap Lipton stuff. . . Stock up on the good stuff from places like Teavana and even Starbucks. This is a great feature to point out in your marketing. It’s the small details like this that keep people coming back for more.
11. Offer Up Your Home To Realtors
Most Orlando Realtors who are vacation home specialists only work with out of town and country buyers. When they fly down for their inspection trip they will need a place to stay. Offer your property up to their clients at a discounted rate. If you get in with a busy enough office you can easily score an extra 5-10 bookings per year. That can really fill in those gaps! Talk to your Realtor who sold you your vacation home property and let them know you’re interested in offering up your villa.
12. Secure The Net
Make sure your guests have access to a SECURED internet connection when they are staying at your Orlando villa. Many guests staying in Orlando on holiday are already paranoid and scared of getting ripped off. Some people, especially those traveling here form other countries, will feel much safer knowing they have internet access and it’s completely secured. I for one am one of those people and I can assure you that being a computer geek has it’s perks!!
13. Offer a Vacation Consultation
Who knows your home better than you? Chances are that you’ve been to Orlando on holiday several times and stayed at your property. You know all the hot spots and by now should know many of the local spots as well. Offer your guests a one on one phone consultation where you tell them all the inside information about the neighborhood, the town and the not so heavily advertised but oh so cool attractions they should hit up while they are here. People love a personal experience and this one gesture could turn a one time booking into a lifetime guest.
14. It’s All In Your Name
Addresses are BORING! You don’t want to market your property as an address you want to name your property just like you would your pets or your kids. It needs a fun name that will be remembered by just about anyone browsing the web. A name will make your property stand out from the others and almost instantly add credibility as an established vacation home. I reemember one owner named her house “The Pineapple Palace”. I still remember that because it’s different and it’s fun.
15. Add a Hammock
This is about as black and white as it sounds. People loves hammocks, especially when in Florida on vacation. I love hammocks even when I’m NOT on vacation so buy a hammock and put it in your backyard or if you have a large enough front porch that works too. Make sure you take pictures of the hammock and use it in your marketing. Hammocks rock! (Literally)