August 19, 2017

Clint Bradley – running a vacation rental property

Tres Vistas pool and front door

Tres Vistas pool and front door

Owning a vacation rental property seems like a tempting investment and, at first glance, might seem pretty straightforward:

  • Buy a place where you love to vacation
  • Rent it out when you aren’t there

However, it’s not that simple – as Clint Bradley from Dallas, TX discusses in this interview. He is one of the owners of Tres Vistas in Puerto Vallarta, MX – a luxury, 5 bedroom, 3 story house that overlooks the city and has great ocean views. He spends from 5 to 10 hours per week on work related to the house – from booking reservations to managing employees to accounting – and trips to PV are now only partial vacations that also involve a lot of house maintenance activities. Like all organizations, he constantly struggles with getting butts in seats, or in this case, bodies in beds. Here are some of the highlights from the interview, but you can also listen to it in its entirety

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Promotion

The fundamental challenge of getting butts in seats obviously applies to vacation rental owners. Some of Clint’s successes have come from:

  • Reservation sitesvrbo.com (Vacation Rental By Owner) is perhaps the most well known and Clint estimates it is responsible for a majority of their reservations, with listings typically costing $300-$500/year. Hotels.com also offer these services, although other players like Travelocity and Expedia don’t. Yelp and CitySearch offer solutions for multi-unit “guest houses” and even bed and breakfasts, but not much for individual vacation rentals and no listings in most countries outside of the U.S..
  • Tres Vistas own website – Tres Vistas also has its own website that provides comprehensive information about the property, but keeping this site up to date with new pictures and information can be time consuming due to the coordination that needs to happen with the web developer.
  • Rental agencies – local rental agencies result in approximately 10% of bookings and take about 20% of the reservation total as a fee.
  • Word of mouth – it’s estimated that this delivers about 10-15% of their yearly bookings

Clint has largely avoided social network sites like Facebook because he is not convinced that the time commitment to maintain information on yet another site would be worth the effort.

Leverage

Tres Vistas' living room

Tres Vistas' living room

When people consider vacationing in a different country, there can be some insecurity about finding a reliable place to stay. Word of mouth is one of the most effective ways to address this and there are some ways Tres Vistas facilitates the buzz:

  • Make friends and acquaintances aware of the vacation property. This doesn’t have to be a hard sell, but actually knowing the property owner does reduce some of the perceived risk.
  • Have business cards that indicate where more information can be seen online about the property as well as reservation contact info.
  • Show people the property. Clint has used Tres Vistas to host several parties for friends and family. This gives him a chance to let people see for themselves what the property has to offer.
  • Encourage guests to comment on their stay at Tres Vistas on sites like VRBO.com.

Tres Vistas' 3-storied balconies

Tres Vistas' 3-storied balconies

Audience

Tres Vistas is a free standing house that can very comfortably sleep 12. While the house would still feel comfortable for a couple, it is intended for larger groups – possibly family gatherings, a group of friends on an adventure weekend or even as a private party venue.

The amenities (see the list below) are geared to make this a luxury home away from home. Tres Vistas wants every living need to be met – from WiFi to an available staff that can do grocery shopping or translation for you – so that guests can focus on their vacation. The full laundry room, walk in pantry and Wii with a high definition TV are all examples of attention to the target audience’s needs.

Connect

Tres Vistas relies on the Promotional tools already mentioned to connect to their patrons and, by delivering a great experience, helps to insure that guests will come back again and tell their friends.

Entice

The main terrace of Tres Vistas

The main terrace of Tres Vistas

This is simple. Tres Vistas entices its audience by offering a home-like situation… if you have a luxury home complete with staff. Otherwise, they offer the home you wish you had except that it is in the heart of a great Puerto Vallarta neighborhood with amazing views – a taste of the good life.

In addition, guests receive unique concierge benefits that go beyond well beyond good service. One example is that visitors are met at the airport by a bi-lingual taxi driver that knows exactly where the house is and will even have a drink run out to the cab on the way there. The house man greets them once they arrive, gives them a tour of the house, and coordinates with them to determine what groceries they may need and what time they would like to have breakfast served (should they want that).

Simplify

Tools like vrbo.com help to track reservations and keep potential guests informed about availability, although this information has to be kept up to date when reservations come in from other sources. Also, Paypal offers an easy to set up and manage merchant service account which allows Clint to process credit cards with little effort.

Success

Success is measured, obviously, by the number of reservations that are booked. Clint keeps track of how guests discover Tres Vistas and eliminates promotional tools that don’t perform.  He’s constantly trying new ways to attract guests (including sites like craigslist) and fine tunes to get the best results. Also, as more guests visit Tres Vistas, there is a growing fan base that makes organic reservations more common.

Final Words of Advice

Throughout my conversations with Clint, several key pieces of advice emerged for anyone considering operating a vacation rental.

  • It is a business like any other and requires attention and work. You have to promote, stay focused on providing guests with a great experience, manage the upkeep of the property, manage staff and workers, and deal with management of reservations. It’s nice to have a place you can getaway to a few times a year, but be aware that these will be working vacations.
  • Make sure you choose a property somewhere that you love to be.
  • Look at the market and try to find gaps. If there is a glut of 1 and 2 bedroom rentals, look for a larger property and vice versa.
  • Constantly try new ways to connect to likely patrons. You never know what might work.
  • Especially if you are considering a property in a foreign country, make sure you have staff or other resources that can help guests get plugged into the local community and act as a translator if needed. Make it easy for them to get the most out of their vacation.

Connect to Clint and Tres Vistas

Features

Tres Vistas pool at night

Tres Vistas pool at night

Tres Vistas is in a more traditional part of Puerto Vallarta – Zona Romantica. Different from the tourist areas that consist of homogenous shops, condos, etc, their location is surrounded by traditional family dwellings as well as multi-million dollar villas. In addition to the location advantage, the house itself offers stunning features.

Click above for more pics…
Amenities

  • 3 stories with balconies
  • A/C: 7 units
  • 800 thread count linens
  • Washer/Dryer
  • Gas/Electric grill
  • Pool/hot tub/ fireplace
  • WiFi
  • Free calls to U.S.

Beds

  • 3 King beds
  • 1 Queen bed
  • 2 Double beds

Entertainment

  • Dish Network Cable throughout
  • TV/DVD’s in all bedrooms
  • 2 public area TV’s
  • Wii Game station
  • CD players in all bedrooms
  • Living room/pool area stereo system
Kitchen

  • SS Fridge/Freezer
  • Ice Maker (filtered)
  • 6 burner gas stove
  • Oven
  • Double sink
  • 4-slice toaster
  • Coffee maker
  • Blender
  • Microwave
  • Cooking utensils, dishes, etc.
  • Water Cooler

Staff

  • Daily housekeeping
  • Prepared breakfast
  • House man/concierge

View

  • Ocean
  • Mountain
  • City
Local Activities

  • Golf
  • Beach
  • Zip Line/Canopy tours
  • Restaurants
  • Swimming
  • Windsurfing
  • Live Theater
  • Shopping
  • Gyms
  • Boating
  • Snorkeling/Diving
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Health/Beauty Spa
  • Horseback Riding
  • Sightseeing
  • Parasailing
  • Surfing
  • Fishing
  • Cinemas/Movie Theaters

Shout Outs

Stephanie Huebinger LudlowHuebinger Photography Studios, Round Rock, TX (Austin). When you rely on photos to convince people that your vacation rental is the best choice, having a great photographer is critical. Stephanie has been a great friend and huge help in promoting Tres Vistas.

The people of Puerto Vallarta – Clint credits the people of Puerto Vallarta for being so friendly and helpful to visitors. While the weather and house are great, the people of the city make the experience that much more enjoyable.

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