5 PART SERIES
Let me begin by saying that I know that not everyone’s Rental Agency experiences are the same. Not everyone comes in to the rental business with the same agenda or expectations, so not everyone can possibly feel alike about the same experience. But this I my story, from my point of you, my experience.
First, to know me is to know, without doubt, I am OCD about planning and researching. I do my homework, research, google, research again, charm people into telling me things they probably shouldn’t and/or exasperate them until they tell me what I need to know. By the time I make a decision it’s been thought of for hours, days, weeks and planned, re-planned, dissected, reconstructed and redesigned a million times in my head.
Second, I come from a line of fearless women who think if one person can do it, they can do it too, probably better and for certain I can do it for less. Then they run like a freight train toward whatever “it” is. (I have to remind myself of this sometimes during the ebbs of life.) So after I get over my initial fears, I jump in learn what I need to learn and just do it, and pray for help.
Third, when you want something for a long time, you tend to romanticize it and how it will be when you get it. This can make you idealistic, susceptible and naive, which makes you vulnerable, not a good combination for business investments.
What we thought we knew
When my husband and I first got married we dreamed of a home in Palm Springs. We have lived most of our almost 20 years together with one foot in the desert. When we didn’t have two nickels to rub together we would make the 2 hour drive to the desert for Open Houses just to feel part of it and dream of the future. As a budget vacation with 3 kids, we would rent a Vacation Rental in Palm Springs for a week every summer.
When it finally came time to buy our own Vacation Home/ Vacation Rental, we talked to different Realtors at Open Houses in the desert and asked what they thought was the best Agency in town. 9 out of 10 times they told us the best in town was “Agency X”
We still did our due diligence on several of the top local agencies. Together we called, visited, researched, interviewed and stalked their websites for information. We compared fees, timeliness returning calls and quotes, customer service, pictures, google search-ability, where they ranked on the big sites like VRBO, HomeAway, AirBNB and FlipKey and got a feel if they were Owner friendly vs. Renter friendly (which you can never actually know until something happens).
- Agency A charged 25% commission + 3 % credit card fees, Friendly, Horrible website
- Agency B charged 27% commission + 3 % credit card fees, Unfriendly. OK website
- Agency X charged 30% commission + 3% credit card fees, Friendly, Great Website
We ended up choosing Agency X because of all the recommendations. Their office was lovely, they required renters to come pick up the keys in their office so they could see everyone in their party, their website was far superior and easier to navigate than the other agencies, their pictures were excellent. The agency were referred to as the most exclusive and supposedly pickiest Vacation Rental joint in the desert. AND they accepted our application after inspecting our house –
what’s 3% if your rental is constantly booked and represented by the most up-scale agency, right?
In less than a year we started to question our decision. So many other people were happy with their agencies we kept thinking maybe it was just in our heads. It was sparsely rented – sometimes 1 week or 2 weekends a month, sometimes none at all. We were discouraged from using our vacation home ourselves because the agency frowned upon it. The Agency would say, “we get calls for last minute rentals all the time and you may miss out”. Meanwhile, our house sat empty 70% of the time.
Other incidents happened that made us question their sophistication. Once, we got to the house and found that their field manager had put (no joke or exaggeration) red plumbers tape across the 20 foot 1” step down into our Sun Room. She also added 3 8×11 signs to “watch your step” taped to the walls and one in an acrylic frame; it looked like a construction zone. We appreciated that she was looking out for us, but it was tacky over-kill when one sign will do. To this day we have not been able to remove the tape from the floor – it’s like is was welded it to our beautiful tile. UGH! Another time we found the agency had wrapped paper towels on the sprinkler valve key handle with masking tape. Classy!
On the other hand,
I have never been so grateful to have them as when a freak flash storm dubbed “The 700 Year Storm” by the media hit the valley. Flash flooding came down from the Santa Rosa Mountains. It came down our street into our back yard and flooded our pool completely with mud. I received a call from the alarm company that we had no power. I called the Field Manager asking if she could check on the house.
We had no idea yet what we were in for.
When she arrived she found the disconnected solar pool panel on the roof had filled and collapsed. Part of the roof gave in with the weight of the water. The backyard, pool and side yards were engulfed in mud. An 8 ft. wide spaced hollowed by water and dropped the curb and pavement in front of the house. The water had come with such force it tunneled under our driveway and out the other side taking a huge portion of the rock yard and street with it. She immediately called me. Sent pictures of all the damage and put buckets and trashes everywhere to grab water coming in from the ceiling. She also put down towels to keep the mud from coming in under the door. Although I took over remedying the situation when I got there 4 hours later – what she did that day saved us in potential damages to indoor floors and furniture. For that I am eternally grateful.
It could have all gone either way I suppose, better or worse…
People go into vacation rental business for different reasons; the agency in retrospect didn’t work for us for many reasons but above all because we needed it to cover itself. With the agency, it didn’t even cover half the overhead costs. I take much of the blame, in wasting time being frozen in fear and naive before we met someone that gave us the courage to do it ourselves. Luckily, we negotiated a one year contract with them because my husband is the guy who reads the fine print. He had the foresight to not get stuck with a 2 year industry standard contract. If we were not happy with how they “performed” – we could get out in 1 year. The following is an account of what we experienced to be the good, the bad and the ugly of our year with Agency X…