Vacation Rental Property Owner FAQs

We’ve been tracking questions that property owners frequently ask and now it’s time to put them in one place for the help to all!

 In no particular order, here are our most frequently asked questions from our vacation rental property owners.

Property Setup

Don’t worry we have you covered. Seachange will perform a walkthrough of your property prior to listing. We will make recommendations on how best to stage your property to maximize revenue and optimize Guest comfort and positive Five Star Feedback. Guests do not use closets nowhere close to how much you’d think. So we recommend picking a few closets and locking away any items that we recommend and at the minimum anything of high financial or sentimental value.

Yes, one or both of the two company Principals will do a walkthrough at the property before listing (as discussed above). We then give the Owner advice and feedback on what best to do to stage/ready the property for Guest use and how to maximize rental income and get 5 Star Guest reviews. The Owner can be at the property during that walk through. Usually, however, with most Owners out of town, we do the walk through unaccompanied and Facetime/Whatsapp the Owner in on a video call for help when needed, or if the Owner wants to explain something about the property.

It’s always best to get the property listed online ASAP since it takes time for Google to reference listings and start to promote the listing appearance in search results.

We need a minimum of 5 photos to get a listing active. We usually do that with simple I-Phone camera photos or use Owner existing photos if they have them. Then we get our professional photographer come in and swap out with 50 high fusion photos.

If a property is undergoing maintenance at time of listing, we say that in the listing description and update descriptions and photos as the updates are finished.

Since a professional photo shoot is only around $200 then we will do the shoot twice if a property is undergoing renovations but is currently in decent enough shape to be photographed.

For exterior shots, especially those with water access/views/proximity and with swimming pools we again do the shoot twice. Once at time of listing then again in the spring when everything is blooming and pools and docks open.

For properties close to water we also bring in a drone and do overhead shots.

For larger properties, or properties with complicated layouts we always recommend a 3D virtual tour photo shoot.

Note that Seachange provides a detailed Bedding Guide complementary to our Property Owners to assist in setting up their property. We can even go shopping on your behalf and stock the property to your budget.

You DO NOT need to provide the following since we contract with a local linen supplier at Guest cost:

  • Mattress pads
  • Sheets
  • Pillowcases
  • Towels – hand, facecloths, bath, and beach

You DO need to provide:

  • A zip-up mattress container. This will act as a bed bug barrier and prolong the life of your mattress. It should not be plastic but should be waterproof. This will remain on the bed and recommend changing once a year or more often if damaged/stained.
  • A medium to light coverlet. Two per bed. One on the bed. One clean ready for Guest use in the event of soiling.
  • A medium to heavy blanket. Two per bed. One on the bed. One clean ready for Guest use in the event of soiling.
  • Kitchen dish towels. Recommend a minimum of 12 white terry cotton.

Note that Seachange provides a detailed Kitchen Guide complementary to our Property Owners to assist in setting up their property. We can even go shopping on your behalf and stock the property to your budget.

You do not and should not leave perishable food and beverage items at the property. Also remove alcohol. Non-perishable spices, salt and pepper are fine to provide.

Note that Seachange provides a detailed Guide to Staging a Vacation Rental complementary to our Property Owners to assist in setting up their property. We can even go shopping on your behalf and stock the property to your budget.

Guests are directed to bring their own paper products (kitchen paper towels and toilet paper), kitchen and trash container waste bags, dish and laundry detergents.

Seachange recommends that owners have the following at their properties at a minimum for Guest use:

  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Vacuum cleaner bags if applicable
  • Sweeping brush, broom, and dustpan
  • Windex
  • An assortment of replacement batteries for remote controls: AAA and AA and smoke detector batteries
  • Replacement light bulbs

Not for your front door, no. In all cases unless the hardware/design of the front door or a specific condo/HOA rule disallows, we install a digital WiFi enabled lock on the front door. Mostly we’re able to re-use the existing deadbolt hole in the door without needing to drill another hole. You will have your own private Owner access code plus a copy of the manual override keyed lock on the digital panel. Guests will not get a copy of this manual key. Instead each Guest gets their own unique access code date and time stamp activated for the duration of their stay. This is much safer and in the long run less expensive than traditional keyed locks.

We will still need to get copies of any additional locked doors at the property: sheds, owner closets and so on.

Unfortunately we do not allow or recommend this. With most Guests originating online, we need to have Guest comments/reviews online where other Guests can see them and book from them. We work with Guests during and after their stay for specific feedback that may not always be suitable for a review and always discuss reviews and feedback with our Property Owners.

TYou do not have to take pets if you feel strongly against it. We only ever recommend taking dogs, and not all breeds of dogs at that. Pet friendly properties are few and far between so while you may not get much more income by taking dogs, your property will rent quicker and have more return Guests than those that do not take dogs.

Here is our pet policy:

  • A maximum of two small dogs (25lb each).
  • A mandatory, non-refundable pet fee of $200 per dog that goes 100% to the Property Owner.
  • Some dog breeds may not be allowed by us or a condo/HOA board.
  • Some condo/HOA boards may not allow Guests to have pets – only Property Owners.

You do not currently need a short term vacation rental license from Delaware, or Sussex County. Some municipalities such as Rehoboth Beach and Bethany Beach (city limits only) do require a short term vacation rental license. We will advise accordingly during your onboarding process.

Money Matters

Owners get paid as close as possible to us collecting the money from the Guest. We pay our Owners via ACH electronic transfer into the bank account of their choice. Here is how it works:

If a Guest is booking more than 60 days ahead of arrival 50% is due up front on credit card at time of booking and the balance is due 60 days ahead of arrival by check.

If booking less than 60 days prior to arrival then the entire amount is due on credit card at time of booking.

We are currently testing an update to our accounting software and our website to allow Guests to book via a credit/debit card ACH electronic transfer at time of booking and also to pay balances when they are due. We will implement that update February 2020.

We run our batch accounting process twice a month on the 15th and 30th or the closest weekday after if the date falls on a weekend or Federal holiday. Owners get paid via ACH electronic transfer into their bank account of choice.

We pay Owners as close as possible to the Guest booking date. For example, if a Guest books today for a date more than 60 days ahead of arrival and they pay a 50% down payment today (January 19), the Owner would get their portion of the rent on our next batch run January 30. When the balance is due the Owner gets the remaining 50% of the rent on the next batch run after the Guest balance due date.

If a Guest books less than 60 days prior to arrival and the entire amount is due at time of booking, the Owner gets paid their portion of the entire rent at the next scheduled batch after Guest booking. I say Owner portion of rent since we deduct our 20% (of Gross rent) from the first Guest down payment. So for the down payment the Owner gets 80% of the first rent down payment and 100% of the second balance rent payment.

Similarly if the Guest is booking less than 60 days prior to arrival and the entire amount is due at booking, the Owner gets paid 80% of the entire rent due at booking.

We never let a Guest stay unless they have paid 100% of their balance.

You do not currently pay State or County short term vacation rental tax.

Some municipalities such as Rehoboth Beach and Bethany Beach (city limits only) do have a rental property accommodations tax. The Guest pays this tax at time of booking. We hold the tax in an Owner Escrow Account and submit to the relevant authority on your behalf at the frequency/schedule they require. We will advise accordingly during your onboarding process.

Some managed communities with a condo board/HOA may take a flat fee for each rental, or a percentage of each rental as a short term rental fee. Best ensure when looking to buy a property in such a community that you understand their written rules and regulations fully before buying.

Seachange Vacation Rentals has an Enrolled Agent with the IRS on staff who can advise on tax issues relative to short term rental properties. However we always recommend that you consult with a CPA for tax advice.

Yes we suggest rents based on neighborhood comps and also based on our experience of how to stage and manage a property for maximizing rents. Once a year in the late summer we put together a rate sheet containing 52 weeks of the coming year with a 1-night rate and a 7-night rate for all 52 weeks. We send to Owners for approval.

In that rate sheet we also have the Owners pre-approve a 20% variable window allowing us to adjust agreed rates up and down within the window without having to call for approval. We also have the Owners pre-approve that if summer weeks are still available come April 1, or 3 weeks prior to an arrival date (whichever is sooner), we can waive the 7-night minimum stay.

We adjust rates and stay rules based on Guest booking patterns. We always work to get the best highest rate we can. Our preference is always a 7-night Saturday-Saturday stay during summer months.

When we waive a 7-night minimum during a summer period we firstly increase the nightly rate. The Guest then books what they really want – a long weekend at higher rates. Then we lower the nightly rate again and fill the calendar gaps left. Doing this always brings in higher income than renting the original 7-nights, or as other companies do, leave the week empty or bargain basement weekly rates just to fill. Our data shows that we bring in 35% more revenue doing what we do with rates and stay rules.

First and foremost our job for you, our Property Owners is as Asset Managers of the investment that you ave made in your beach property. Everything that we do on your behalf as your Agents is with this in mind. We work to market, book, facilitate Guest stays, property check to stay o top of potential damages and routine maintenance, and consult with our Owners on how best to stage their properties for optimizing rental income and Guest happiness. Our work is intended to add value to the property, not detract.

This being said, damage is a factor of renting out one’s property to the public. We cannot prevent damage, but we can manage the risk involved in renting out your property.

There are four types of damage:

  1. Willful intentional damage. The (infrequent) horrible Guest that will never ever be allowed back.
  2. Accidental damage. Even with the best behaved Guests, accidents happen. Guests are on vacation, relaxing in an often unfamiliar property and accidents can occur. Most of these type of accidents are minor and happen in the rush of arrival or departure.
  3. Consequential damage. Damages that occur as a consequence of a property not being set up correctly for vacationing Guests. We work with Owners ahead of listing to ensure that the potential for this type of damage is minimized.
  4. Normal wear and tear. Not all found issues are actual damage. Sometimes when we inspect we report, “Normal Wear and Tear.” Examples of this are: a hole in a comforter caused by fabric breakdown after successive laundering; light stains on soft furnishings; items reaching the end of their useful life. An example of the latter are doormats. These items may need to be replaced once or twice a summer season. They get heavy wear and are inexpensive to replace.

Seachange works to mitigate the risk of each type of damage happening. Here’s how:

  • Guest Screening. As part of the booking process, Seachange Vacation Planners (our reservationists) carefully screen Guests to weed out not only potentially risky Guests, but also to ensure that the Guest has booked the right property for their stay. Best to cancel a Guest reservation and re-book them in a different property if we discover during screening that a Guest, for example, may be of limited mobility and cannot handle stairs easily and has in fact booked a property where all bedrooms are on top floors. An unhappy Guest can lead to negative reviews. While much of our Guest Screening Process is proprietary to our company, rest assured that we do not violate any Federal or State Fair Housing Laws, but we are very good at filtering out potential bad Guests.
  • Minimum Age of Registered Guest. We require the Registered Guest (the person whose name is on the Lodging Agreement and the person responsible for payment) to be a minimum of 25 years of age. The Registered Guest is required to be present at the property for the full duration of the stay. We do not accept groups of students/young adults unless supervised by a Registered Guest over the age of 25. We do not accept College Senior groups.
  • Property Checking. Seachange is unique in vacation rental agencies at the Delaware Beaches in that we send an Agent to every property before and after every stay. We do not rely on our housekeeping or maintenance staff to check for damages. We want them focusing on their work. We send our own Agents to check on properties. We do this for three reasons: (i) Check for damages as close as possible to check out; (ii) re-stage properties so that they look as close as possible to the photos the incoming Guest booked from; (iii) perform a routine maintenance check to get ahead of any small issues before they become a large, Guest vacation interrupting, refund causing larger problem.

We currently charge new Owner Property Listings a 20% management fee. This is 20% of the Gross Rent collected from the Guest. It may sound a lot, but it’s a great deal relative to all that we do for our Owners and their Guests. Also our proprietary Dynamic Rate Pricing (unique to our business) consistently brings in an additional 35% more Owner revenue.

Rental Periods

We handle rentals all year round. Shoulder seasons September – October and April-May are quite busy. For the winter months some Owners block their properties off for personal use/maintenance and other Owners approve us to find a winter tenant for 3 to 6 months. Most sources of winter tenants are clients of other Realtors who may be between houses – waiting on a new build, or sold one and looking for another.

See my answer above for rate sheet explanation which covers a lot of this. Our method of dynamically changing  rates and stay rules in response to Guest booking patterns is called Dynamic Rate Pricing and is a concept we adopted from the hotel industry. It works very well to maximize revenue and occupancy versus setting rates one time and sticking rigidly to rates and stay rules.

We never rent by the night. We never recommend taking a 1-night stay ever.

Depending on time of year our minimum stay is: 2-nights in the off-season if no significant events happening; 3-nights in the off season if there is a major event going on; before April 1 each year we apply a 7-night minimum stay for summer weeks with a Saturday-Saturday stay.

During summer months we very rarely go lower than a 3-night minimum to a 2-night minimum unless we have odd gaps to fill.

We need to always check with local municipalities and HOA/Condo Associations to see if there are any mandated minimum stay requirements.

We define summer each year as beginning the Friday the week before Memorial Day until the Saturday of the week after Labor Day.

f course! It’s still your property!

For the 17 week 120 night summer season we provide a rental income proforma which you can use to gauge the affect on your projected income by blocking Owner Time.

There are two ways of blocking Owner Time on your property calendar:

  1. The preferred way. Login into your Owner Portal and you can pull up your calendar, book and cancel Owner Time.
  2. Email our office rentals@seachangevacationrentals.com with the Subject Line: Owner Time Request and we will block it for you.

Please do not leave voicemails or text us with Owner Time. Please be aware that we have online booking 24/7 and a Guest booking might sneak in ahead of you. Always remember that the Owner Time is not blocked until you get a confirmation from our system, or from us that it is blocked.

Property Maintenance

Don’t worry, we have it covered! During office hours Guests call our rental office. Outside of office hours we have an emergency cell number given to Guests. Of course most emergencies happen outside of office hours, at least that’s the way it seems! Like anything that breaks, or is reported at a property, we confirm with our own eyes that there is a problem. Then we hit our Rolodex and call in the appropriate vendor to patch, fix, or estimate a repair.

We keep an Owner Reserve fund of $500 from which you pre-approve us to spend up to $200 without calling you and waking you up! $200 is usually enough to get a vendor such as a plumber out to inspect the problem even in off hours.

Unless the issue is a catastrophic failure such as a flood, or unless you want us to wake you up, if the issue happens outside of normal business hours we usually update you with status the following morning.

Worth noting since you asked specifically about A/C. HVAC systems are one part of a property infrastructure that we require a service contract on. Without an appropriate service contract in place and HVAC Tech will not come out in an emergency.

Yes we can work with Home Warranties and Appliance Warranties.

Yes we do work with onsite property management companies in the event of a managed community having such an arrangement.

We have good pricing with local landscapers that we can assign to your property as needed.

We have good pricing with local licensed and certified pool/hot tub operators for weekly servicing, opening, and closing.

We contract with local cleaning companies that are licensed and insured and have a tested quality track record. If the stay is a Gust stay then the Guest pays for the cleaning. If the stay is an Owner Block then the Owner pays for the cleaning. Turnover (or checkout/departure) cleans are done as close as possible to each checkout.

During the summer and shoulder seasons we always require a property clean for all Owner Time. In the off-season quieter winter months we do not require a property clean for all Owner Time unless the Owner specifically requests it. If the property books for a Guest in the meantime, we will schedule a clean at the Owner’s expense ready for the incoming Guest. We regret that it is not possible to be flexible on Owner Time cleans during the summer season since the cleaning crews are too busy to handle short notice requests.

A deep clean is recommended at least once a year, typically each spring immediately prior to the summer season. Deep cleans are priced per hour not per clean. Typically there is a crew of 8 assigned to a deep clean with an average time of 4 hours. Deep cleans take care of additional cleaning not covered every regular turnover clean. Examples are: light fixtures removed and washed; washer dryers cleaned inside; heavy furniture moved and cleaned beneath and behind; kitchen cupboards and drawers emptied and wiped out; baseboards, air registers, and ceiling fans cleaned.

A regular turnover clean is a refresh clean between Guests. Seachange Vacation Rentals is different to other vacation rental agencies in our area since we never want to hear this from our cleaning crews, “That’s not covered in a regular clean; only a deep clean.” We have a very high standard of cleanliness expecting a hotel housekeeping turnover clean each Guest. While we do not expect that furniture will be moved, or drawers emptied each clean, we do expect our cleaning crews to notice if something additional needs to be cleaned that would normally be taken care of in a deep clean without adding additional cost.

How Seachange Vacation Rentals Works

We have a number of Owner, Guest, and Vendor testimonials posted on our website here.

You can also find many Owner, Guest, and Vendor reviews on our Google Business Page. Just Google Seachange Vacation Rentals and click on Reviews.

We can also provide Owner contact information on demand should you want to speak directly with one of our Owner clients.

We list online on VRBO (verr-boh), Fabstayz.com, and our own branded reservations website. VRBO is owned by HomeAway. HomeAway is now owned by Expedia. Hence anywhere HomeAway and Expedia syndicate listings your property will appear. In your listing contract you approve us to market your property where we see fit. We use social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and our own YouTube video channel. We periodically may run promotions in print, transportation, radio, and TV media.

We’ve used VRBO since day one in our business and since day one we have always paid the $500 VRBO listing fee for our Owners. VRBO has always (and still does) work very well as a lead generation platform sourcing first tme Guests. Once a Guest has booked on VRBO we build a close relationship with the Guest to have them return book directly with us (on our website, calling or walking into our office).

As Property Managers with Premier Partner status on VRBO we have much better service and search engine placement than individual self-managed Property Owners listing on VRBO.

In February 2017 we designed and launched a new reservations website. The design brief we gave our web company was that the website needed to look and function as a travel reservations site. We believe that most vacation rental agencies make the mistake in not branding their vacation rental business separately to their real estate sales business. Consequently these companies’ vacation rental websites look and feel informational and do not convert well into reservations.

Our own Seachange Vacation Rentals website has been a tremendous success. We have an ongoing SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and content marketing project running constantly. We spend a lot of money on our website and it is really paying off with great placement in Google organic search results.

In just two years since launch of seachangevacationrentals.com, I’m thrilled to say that our own website is now bringing in equal parity of numbers of first time Guest bookings with VRBO. In repeat bookings, our website is now leading ahead of VRBO.

Short answer, No! Seriously, why would you want to? If you’re asking us to do this, then what you’re really saying is that you do not have full confidence in us to get the job done. We do not allow co-listing or Owner listing outside of our service for five reasons:

  1. It’s not necessary. We get the job done.
  2. It’s never a good idea since it creates more than one version of your property calendar to keep current. It raises the potential for double booking exponentially.
  3. Predictive Revenue. If co-listed or self-managed outside of Seachange Vacation Rentals services, we cannot manage or deliver on projected income assessments. With an active Enrolled Agent with the IRS on staff, Seachange works with our Property Owners to help them ask the right questions of their own financial and tax professionals so we can work as a team to develop an overall financial strategy to their vacation rental property investment. Seachange produces annual income proformas and manages each property according to the proforma we deliver to the clients for that year. It also provides a good objective tool to measure/track reservations staff productivity. Add to the mix our own unique Dynamic Rate Pricing which is proven to consistently bring in an additional 35% more Owner Revenue, it would be a shame for Property Owners to co-list outside of Seachange services and miss out on a #1 Reason to List with Seachange Vacation Rentals: Proactive Revenue Management.
  4. Owner Experience. Seachange Vacation Rentals operates in a very specific way in a very specific niche. Our proprietary business systems work as planned: as an entirety, not a pick and mix, drop in and drop out type of service. If an Owner co-lists or continues to self-manage, Seachange cannot deliver on commitments we make to our Owners. Why hire a professional and then continue to work outside of their support and guidance?
  5. Guest Experience. In a similar way to the Owner Experience, we need to facilitate the Guest during their inquiry, booking, stay and post-stay needs to allow consistency in Guest Experience.

Regretfully no, not unless the Guest is a personal friend/family member/contact. It’s always best to go through us as your Agent and we will coordinate with Guests.

We do not recommend accessing the property while a Guest is present. It will interrupt their vacation and may cause a negative review. If it is an emergency, then please call us and we will coordinate with the Guest. You’re welcome to access the Property between Guests but again, please let us know since we need an audit trail of access to the Property for your protection.

You will receive a bi-weekly statement from us which details out how much rental revenue you earned, details on how much tax we collected (if applicable) and we will pay on your behalf, as well as any charges that you have incurred during the month (for example maintenance).

You will also receive a bi-weekly update on the rental income proforma tool that we produce. As reservations come in we update the actual revenue so that you can track it against the projected revenue and see how we’re doing!

At any time, 24/7 you can also login to your Owner Portal to access your calendar, book and cancel Owner Time blocks, see your statements online etc.

Quickly! Seriously, we have a Good Steward Rule at Seachange Vacation Rentals. Not only are we held to a high standard of stewardship of the valuable property investment that you’ve placed in our hands, but we also require our Guests to show similar attention to stewardship of the rental home during their stay. We expect that Guests are good neighbors. Complaints are very rare, but when we receive them we act quickly and the Guest is either given a warning, or if exhibiting egregious, prohibited behavior we respectfully instruct the Guests to vacate with no refund.

Please call our office on (302) 727-5566 and we will be happy to help..

CONTACT

Seachange Vacation Rentals
Rental Office: 20 Baltimore Avenue, Unit 1
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971, USA
Rental Office Telephone: (302) 727-5566

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