Topsail Realty President Voted President of VRMA

WASHINGTON, D.C. – October 25, 2017 – The Vacation Rental Management Association (VRMA) is proud to announce that Mike Harrington, president of Topsail Realty Vacations, will serve the association as its new president.

Harrington, who has worked in the vacation rental industry for more than 12 years, has been a member of VRMA since 2005. His previous roles on the board of directors include vice president, co-treasurer, treasurer, and chair of the finance committee.

“I am excited to continue my service to VRMA as president,” said Harrington. “It is encouraging and exciting to see VRMA grow at a rapid pace. In my role as president, I will continue to position the association as a leader in education, advocacy, and information, as well as expanding our efforts in communities throughout the world.”

In addition to his work with VRMA, Harrington was also president of the North Carolina Vacation Rental Managers Association (NCVRMA) and past Board Member of the Outer Banks Association of Realtors. Additionally, he serves as an Advisory Board Member for East Carolina University’s School of Hospitality Leadership and is a member of HomeAway.com’s Customer Advisory Board.

“Mike has been a fantastic presence on our board of directors,” said Mike Copps, VRMA’s executive director. “We look forward to the contributions he will bring to the association as president, and are excited for him to assume this well-earned leadership position.”

About the Vacation Rental Management Association (VRMA)

Founded in 1985, the Vacation Rental Management Association (VRMA) is a professional trade association that represents the vacation rental property management and hospitality industries. Headquartered in the United States, membership includes professional vacation rental managers and industry suppliers in countries throughout the world. VRMA provides information, education and networking opportunities, promotes the value of the vacation rental experience and drives industry growth and professionalism. For more information, visit vrma.org, call +1 (202) 367-1179 or email vrma@vrma.org.

About Topsail Realty Vacations

Founded on Topsail Island in 1974, Topsail Realty Vacations is a sophisticated full-service vacation rental management and marketing firm utilizing high-tech tools, modern online marketing, and an experienced, professional team to help improve our Client’s bottom lines and protect their real estate investments. Topsail Realty Vacations has earned an impeccable reputation through the years on an unwavering commitment to our Clients, Guests, Employees, and the Topsail Island community. Their singular focus has been protecting our client’s hard-earned assets while maximizing its income and occupancy potential. For more information on their services, please visit TopsailRealty.com, call (800) 526-6432, or email info@topsailrealty.com.

 

Four Tips on Updating Your Topsail Vacation Rental

In the competitive world of vacation rentals, we get questions all the time about how a homeowner can keep their home competitive, increase the possibility of rental income, and stay up to date with current guest expectations. At Topsail Realty we are constantly researching industry trends, staying on top of the latest home technology, and surveying our guests to make sure our homeowner clients have all the information possible to make the best decisions for them and their Topsail Island Vacation Rentals.

Recently we found some great advice from Kimberly White, an interior designer and Senior Director of Operations at Vacasa on the VRMA Blog.

Below are four tips she suggests for “Revitalizing Your Vacation Rental” for today’s traveler.

Tune up the bedroom.

Your vacation home provides a long-awaited escape for guests, so creating a luxurious bedroom environment is essential.

Fresh bedding goes a long way toward ensuring guest satisfaction. Plan on replacing bedding — including pillows — annually. Spend a little more on firm, high-quality pillows, and pile them on! A bed with more pillows photographs better, and a beautifully made bed will catch the eye as guests scroll through your listing. I suggest two standard pillows per person: four for most beds, and two for twins; one or two decorative pillows completes the look.

Pillow top mattresses tend to wear out quickly, so steer clear of these. I also recommend against bed-in-a-bag options, no matter how tempting they may seem. They look contrived, and they become dated very quickly. Instead, opt for a basic duvet/sham set with an understated pattern and add character with decorative pillows in varying colors and textures. Swapping out pillows is a cheap, easy way to freshen the look of a room.

Don’t forget nightstands and lamps. Hotels always offer guests a place to set their glasses, books, and other bedside necessities — your home should be no different.

Finally, don’t leave your walls bare! Add some color and character to your bedroom by hanging artwork.

Choose amenities that will add value for your guests.

Investing in the little things sets your home apart from the competition. Think small-scale amenities that allow friends and families to relax together, like hot tubs, fire pits, and ping pong tables. If you’re on a tight budget, even items like books, board games, bicycles, and Frisbees can make a big difference.

Many people choose vacation rentals over hotels because they want to bring their furry friends along. Making your rental pet-friendly will help you attract more business. It’s also smart to include some kid- and pet-friendly dishes — like plastic plates, cups, and bowls — alongside your fancier flatware.

Don’t turn your vacation rental into a secondhand store.

Resist the temptation to turn your vacation rental into a repository for furniture, linens, and rugs that have seen better days. Many people use worn-out mattresses, tattered furniture and stained or frayed linens in their vacation rentals because they want to keep the best pieces in their own homes. But think about the last time you stayed in a good hotel — the linens were crisp and free of stains; the furniture was pristine, and everything looked new. Giving your guests the same experience makes them feel taken care of and justifies higher nightly rates. It’s particularly important that your most-used items — like beds, couches and dining room tables — be in excellent shape.

Establish a reasonable budget.

Your furniture, textiles, dishes and décor don’t have to be fancy, but it’s a good idea to invest in pieces that you won’t have to replace constantly when they break or wear out. I recommend mid-range stores like West Elm and Crate & Barrel. Online stores in the Wayfair family, including Birch Lane, Joss & Main, and AllModern also offer great variety for reasonable prices. Don’t forget local furniture companies!

There’s a range of quality at mid-range stores like these, so read the reviews and note durability. Don’t skimp on big pieces that will see a lot of use. Instead, hunt for bargains on décor and accessories. A great vintage lamp saves you money and adds unique character to your home.

People love vacation rentals because they offer local character, homey surroundings and plenty of room for everyone. But they also crave the high-end touches they’ve come to expect from hotels and resorts. With these tips, you can give your vacation home the best of both worlds.

If you are interested in learning more about our thoughts on improving and maximizing your Topsail Vacation Rental home’s potential, please give us a call at (910) 328-5241, ext. 101 or shoot us an email at danny@topsail-realty.com.

2017 VR Exchange: Learning from the Pros

What a great couple of days!  Topsail Realty Vacations had the distinct pleasure of being invited to an industry event put on by some great non-competing Vacation Rental Managment companies, dubbed “VR Exchange”.

The VR Exchange event has grown over the past few years when it was started by 7 companies that decided to get together once a year and take a deep dive into each other’s operations to share best practices, develop new skills, and just have some fun!  This was the biggest year yet and was generously hosted by Oak Island Accommodations and put together by Melaney Robbins (who did a fantastic job)!

Over the course of a couple of days, about 80 of us went in depth on topics such as:

  • Marketing & Web Design Best Practices
  • Housekeeping Management and Processes
  • Finding the right Talent for your Vacation Rental Management Business
  • Guest Satisfaction
  • Owner Relations, etc.

Companies in attendance this year were from all over.  They included:

In addition to all the great networking and information exchanges with colleagues, the VR Exchange also welcomed a fantastic couple of presentations by Doug Kennedy of the Kennedy Training Network and Amy Hinote from VRM Intel.

Our industry truly is one of the best for training and educating our own.  With the wonderful conferences put on by the VRMA (Vacation Rental Management Association) each year, various road shows by VRM Intel, HomeAway Software, and others, and the VR Exchange, there really is no excuse not to pursue continued education in the vacation rental industry.

Already looking forward to next year!

Topsail Realty President Becomes President-Elect of VRMA

WASHINGTON, D.C. – November 1, 2016 – The Vacation Rental Managers Association (VRMA) is proud to announce that Mike Harrington, President and Principal Owner of Topsail Realty Vacations, LLC, has assumed the role of president-elect on the association’s board of directors.headshot

Harrington, who has worked in the vacation rental industry for more than 12 years, has been a member of VRMA since 2005. His previous roles on the board of directors include vice president, co-treasurer, treasurer, and chair of the finance committee.

“It is an honor to continue serving on the VRMA board of directors in this new role,” said Harrington. “It is encouraging to see VRMA adapt to the changing landscape of our industry and continue to focus on the core fundamentals of professional vacation rental management. The focus on our category is at a peak, and the goal of the VRMA is to continuing being the voice of the vacation and short-term management industry.”

In addition to his work with VRMA, Harrington is the immediate past president of the North Carolina Vacation Rental Managers Association and sits on East Carolina University’s Advisory Board for the School of Hospitality Leadership. He previously served on the Outer Banks Association of Realtors board of directors, and also served as the chair of the Outer Banks March of Dimes sponsorship committee.

“Mike has been a fantastic presence on our board of directors,” said Mike Copps, VRMA’s executive director. “We look forward to the contributions he will continue to bring to VRMA.”

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About the Vacation Rental Managers Association (VRMA)

Founded in 1985, the Vacation Rental Managers Association (VRMA) is a professional trade association that represents the vacation rental property management and hospitality industries. Headquartered in the United States, membership includes professional vacation rental managers and industry suppliers in countries throughout the world. VRMA provides education and networking opportunities, promotes the value of the vacation rental experience and drives industry growth and professionalism. For more information, visit vrma.com, call +1 (202) 367-1179 or email vrma@vrma.com.

What We Learned at the 2016 VRMA Trade Conference

What a month!  From winding down our busy season to the stress of having to deal with Hurricane Matthew, to the rush of attending the 2016 national VRMA conference, this has been one of the fastest October’s ever!  Being so heavily involved in our industry association, the VRMA, it really gives me a front row seat to the rapidly evolving vacation/short-term rental business.  Every year, along with my duties on the board of directors, I get to attend and learn from some of the brightest minds in the industry at our national trade conference.  While I’ll admit, the content can get a little stale now and then, this year really blew me away!  From new products and services being introduced to the investment in technology in our category, to the educational sessions themselves, I believe I had more adrenaline to keep pushing forward at our business, Topsail Realty Vacations, then I have ever had!

I’m going to do what many other do and try to condense down the biggest takeaways for me from this past conference, although there is a lot more I could discuss.  In no particular order:

  1. Technology adoption is not a luxury.It has been evident over the past few years that the vacation rental industry is going through a “growing up” phase when it comes to business processes.  For years, we as an industry have been relying on basic software and manual processes to run our businesses.  This is not necessarily a bad thing; however, it created some pretty difficult obstacles and risks for error that made our jobs that much harder.  We are the best are creating more work for ourselves than is what is necessary. At the VRMA conference this past year, there were more vendors displaying new technology-based products and services than I have ever seen.  Some of these are not new, but they have been greatly enhanced and developed, leading to a more realistic chance of usage by the vacation rental management community.  At Topsail Realty Vacations, we have already implemented some of these tools, like smart home keyless entry systems, CRM and reputation management software, cloud based phone and communication systems, and channel marketing integrations.  However, it is important to note you need to be very thoughtful on what and how you use these new and evolving tools. Having technology for the sake of having technology just confuses staff and can make it that much harder to run an efficient operation.

Bottom line, in our view, to perform at the level that is expected by our homeowner clients today, embracing and making a concentrated effort to implement new technology is a must.

  1. Dynamic Pricing is taking center stage.In my opinion, this one still as a little way to go, but the point is well taken.  Pricing our vacation rental homes on a seasonal basis is one of the most important jobs that we have as vacation rental management professionals.  This has historically been an extremely manual process using limited data, and mostly resting on past performance as the sole factor for forecasting future performance.  While this method is still valid, there are a lot more variables today in our online travel world that, in all likelihood, affects the optimum price to make a booking.

In continuing with the technology theme, there are a number of newer companies that are attempting to help tackle this problem for vacation rental managers.  By using algorithms and online tools, these companies are able to use large amounts of data for a particular area using listings on HomeAway, AirBnB, and other online travel sites to help give better information when pricing for a particular type of property, for a particular time period.  It is the hope that this will eventually help arm vacation rental managers with the kind of data and information that will lead to much more fluid and “dynamic” pricing model, that could potentially change daily or weekly, depending on the variables that are set.  If this is the case, the days of “setting it and forgetting it” will be over.  Imagine having a base “rack” rate per season, that can then be adjusted down or up automatically based on booking windows, events, or yearly demand. I can tell you this is something that we are looking at closely to see how it continues to evolve.

  1. Expedia and HomeAway are figuring it out.I don’t think many industry insiders were surprised when Expedia ultimately decided to acquire HomeAway for $3.9 billion last year. Because of the sheer size of Homeaway and their weight in our industry, many were apprehensive about how such a huge player like Expedia was going to further change our business.  In my opinion, I feel like the positives so far have outweighed the negatives.  To be fair, most of the more public changes with HomeAway’s platform were in the works before the Expedia acquisition, however, I feel the Expedia tie in has really helped make these changes much smoother.

It is very evident that Homeaway/VRBO/VacationRentals.com is becoming a transactional marketplace.  The days of the listing/classified site where anyone can pay for a top tier subscription and ignore their calendars, not update pricing, take forever to respond and still get maximum exposure are over. The most noticeable change that favors more automated and sophisticated processes include what Homeaway refers to as “Best Match”.

“Best Match” is HomeAway’s algorithm change that determines which listings are displayed first for a particular search. There is a host of variables that determine this but mostly include completely up to date information about a home, lead response time and instant booking capabilities directly on HomeAway’s sites. Topsail Realty is able to automatically control this due to our Software integration directly with HomeAway and VRBO.com, which we foresee will give us an advantage as this continues to be implemented.

With the increased exposure and technical expertise Expedia will give to Homeaway, we are excited to continue our partnership with them from a marketing and software standpoint.

  1. Offer an “Experience” not just a rental.Probably one of the biggest eye openers for me was during Phocusright’s Douglas Quinby’s presentation “Private Accommodations in the US: A Market Transformed” when their research showed roughly ½ of all rental travelers in the U.S. are now 35 or under!  No doubt you’ve heard the term “Millennial”, which is the reference to this generation and how large they are (full disclosure, I’m one of them!).  Douglas mentioned this now influential group in travel love vacation and short-term rentals, however, their expectations are for a more turnkey stay experience, with hotel-like amenities and services. To this end, this is one reason why Topsail Realty is moving to give your guests a more “all-inclusive” stay experience, with fresh linen and towels and the beds made, and coming soon, a dedicated concierge service to help them with everything from local restaurant recommendations to grocery delivery service!

We understand that change is not always the easiest thing to embrace. However, it is our job to do the research, attend educational events like the VRMA conferences, and find ways to stay in front of the larger trends to keep our homeowner clients competitive in a rapidly evolving industry.

Things to Consider Before Investing in Your First Vacation Rental

Things to Consider Before Investing in Your First Vacation Rental

When you’re thinking about getting into the vacation home rental business there are some important factors you should consider before ever making that first purchase. At Topsail Realty we’re experts in the vacation rental industry and can help you with your rental property. Features such as location, type and size of home, the amenities you offer and what you will be charging can make or break your vacation rental investment. The vacation rental industry is ever evolving so we stay on top of vacation rental industry trends and how they affect our homeowners. Following are details that are at the top of the list for things to consider before investing in your first vacation rental.

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The New Reality of Owning a Vacation Rental

If you are a Vacation Rental junkie like me, you have no doubt heard about and agonized over the new guest “service fee” added by HomeAway and VRBO. I really wanted to reserve my comments until I had a chance to listen to all sides and analyze the benefits, if any, of this drastic change in approach for the VR giant. After a lot of blog reading, too much social media, and conversations with some of my colleagues, here are a few comments and observations that I feel really starts to clearly define the workload and value of a professional vacation rental management company:

Continue reading The New Reality of Owning a Vacation Rental