Cheap as Chips – Know Which Corners to Cut When Staging a Vacation Rental For Maximum Income

There’s a saying in the UK, “Cheap as Chips.” It’s a colloquialism usually used in the context of, “He’s as cheap as chips!” This roughly implies that chips are considered a commodity – a product that is widely available, relatively inexpensive, and with little to differentiate from one source to another. Of mass appeal, but of little actual value. So if in the UK, one is called, “Cheap as Chips” – it’s not exactly a compliment.

Now perspective is everything. If one lives on this side of, “The Pond” (USA based), we know that good quality chips are most certainly not a commodity for us. If you’ve ever experienced our local fish & chip shop purveyor, “Go Fish” and “Go Brit” – you’ll certainly agree with me. They’re good. Very good! Dare I say, “Better than Boardwalk Fries!” Yes, I said it. I believe it. I’m Andy Meddick and I approve of this message. And I’m a Brit (and a Yank)! Dual. In this election year as other years, Go Fish and Go Brit gets my vote as Best Chippie.

I’m from Wales, UK and there’s a local custom in the villages of the valleys of South Wales of appointing a nickname by appending one’s occupation to one’s first name or last name. “Idris Post” is the local postman who’s first name is Idris. Evans the Milk would be Mr Evans who is the local milkman.

Dad, what’s a milkman? Gone the way of bookstores, son.

True story is this. My Dad’s late friend Bryn owned a chippy once upon a time. Even though he moved on to a successful career in Civil Engineering, “Bryn Chips” stuck as his name forever more. His widow is still known as, “Jean Chips” to this day.

I see a, “Cheap as Chips” attitude in many properties that I walk through. Part of my job is to seek to uncover and understand a client’s ‘pain point.’ Why are we having a conversation? How can I help? Income from a property most often is not top on an Owner’s list of pain points. Sometimes it’s not even there at all. In many cases Property Owners may feel happy with their current rental income. Their perceived pain point may be something entirely unrelated. It’s always related. Every decision we make regarding our properties directly affects the bottom line. It’s all a question of where we want that bottom line to be. What is the income goal for the property? Some property owners will look to a lower management fee in order to increase their bottom line. I never lower my fee. That’s not the client for me. That’s a race to the bottom in service quality, not the bottom line.

The true skill is knowing where and when to be as, “Cheap as Chips” and where and when not to be! To be, or not to be! That is the question. When staging your property for vacation rental, work with your property manager. Set income goals for the property. Listen to the advice of your property manager – one who is skilled in the fine art of positioning properties. A good property manager will know when it’s appropriate to be, “As Cheap as Chips” and when it’s appropriate to, “Speculate to Accumulate!” Skilled Property Managers are really good Project Managers by definition. I like to tell new clients that, “I hate to spend (your) money!” There’s a very thin line between cheap and discerning. Positioned on this thin line is the real skill.

Cheap as Chips - Know Which Corners to Cut When Staging a Vacation Rental For Maximum IncomeEach decision we make with our rental properties is an investment decision. A core business mandate for Seachange Vacation Rentals is our intentional design to keep the number of properties we manage to a curated, specific limited number of properties. I’ll be frank, this company is a mere 3-years old at the time of writing. Long enough to prove that we’re not a flash in the (chip) pan. Yet we’re very much still in build mode. While still in ‘build mode’ no matter how badly I want to take a property into our management portfolio, if I sense that the Owner is not a good fit with our business model, I will pass on the property. Really I’m passing on the client. I would not be doing a client a service if we were not the right fit. I (we) want to work with clients that instinctively know when to be, “As Cheap as Chips” and when to “Speculate to Accumulate.” Or if this is not instinctive to the client, they will trust our judgement in our initial Rental Readiness Staging Consult. And then, hold us accountable to the results. Our results to date are impressive. I’m very proud of our achievements to date in our nascent vacation rental management company. A true partnership with our clients that endure is delivering an average occupancy of 95% and income that is out performing our local and national vacation rental markets.

We’ve taken properties on board where I’ve said, “Don’t change a thing with the property! You’re already doing what I usually recommend.” For the record, what I, “Usually recommend” does not compromise each property’s (or Owner’s) unique personality. It complements. For the majority of property owners that I work with though, hidden somewhere in their pain point up to the moment we first meet is a struggle to work along the thin line between being cheap and being discerning. I never comment on personal taste. I comment on suitability for rental for the guest demographic. It’s a temptation to fill rental properties with hand me down items. I shop our local thrift stores and yard sale often. When I see an item I think will work for client (current or future), I snap it up. There’s nothing wrong with being, ‘thrifty.’ However, assemble your property with a balanced eye for aesthetics and practicality for short term rental guests. This helps position your property for maximum income. And, yes, sometimes you may have to shell out some $$$ in the process. Bedding, for example, should never ever be compromised on. Spend the most you can currently afford on the best quality mattresses and soft furnishings and watch the five star reviews come in. Each incremental improvement to the property means an incremental improvement to your rates and bottom line. Furnish your property for the demographic and guest type you want to attract and service. If that’s a budget client in a budget property, that’s fine. If it’s a high end budget then that’s fine too. Just know along the way where to cut corners and where to allocate the expense. Knowing where you can be as, “Cheap as Chips” is as valuable and relevant skill as when to “Speculate (spend) to Accumulate (earn).

Here is an example of, “Cheap as Chips.” I found this dresser at a local thrift store. Cost of materials to re-finish: $25. Add the $25 for delivery and this dresser cost $100. I’ve since found out that this is a 1950s Davis solid walnut original mid-century modern dresser that retails for $2000 in vintage stores. This item is being used in a current client consult. We’re lightening up a 1940s beach house. They have a bulky armoire containing an an old style TV in the living room. Nothing ages a property more than seeing old appliances in a listing photograph. The armoire and old TV is going. Replaced by this $100 dresser re-purposed as a TV stand with valuable storage space. A new flat screen TV is going on top. We went as, “Cheap as Chips” on the dresser. We took the, “Speculate to Accumulate” route on replacing old style TV with a modern, contemporary flat screen TV with full cable service.

Cheap as Chips - Know Which Corners to Cut When Staging a Vacation Rental For Maximum Income

“Before” dresser found for $50 in local thrift store

Cheap as Chips - Know Which Corners to Cut When Staging a Vacation Rental For Maximum Income

“During” dresser sanded and ready for refinishing

Cheap as Chips - Know Which Corners to Cut When Staging a Vacation Rental For Maximum Income

“After” dresser refinished. Ready for its new home & new flatscreen TV

Let’s close on another interesting connection between lodging and fish and chips from the couple who created the popular fish and chips shop, “A Fish Called Rhondda” in South Wales, UK.