Well hello, welcome to the short term residential accommodation/ holiday rental/ short term accommodation rental industry in Australia – a lovely little, yet rapidly growing and sought after, niche accommodation sector.
Yes! you are a legitimate start up now. You’re a new short term holiday rental accommodation business. A new micro business. You’re not fully commercial yet however you are still operating a very teeny tiny business and you need to be organised for the best chance of success, and so you’re on good terms with your local community, local government and the Australian Taxation Office.
Right so you have your property in the ideal location, close to unique experiences and other major tourism attractions, public transport, parks and playgrounds, major events venues, city/town CBD’s etc. Once you have your property and location sorted consider the following as you start to build a framework for your exciting new venture.
You firstly want to speak with your local government authority for permission to operate. There may be a registration scheme in place in your local area, you might need to have proper parking, you might not be in the right zone for permitted use. It is best to tell your local government what you wish to set up and they can step you through the approval process.
Most will let you erect a small sign out the front of your property too. Just check the signage policy.
If you want to be extra courteous I think it’s worth a knock on your neighbours doors. If you are in a high density locality you may be required to seek permission off your neighbours to operate. You never know they might want to get involved and help out too. You can always barter accommodation discounts for their friends and family.
Remember you are selling a homely experience online first and foremost so whatever you place in your property will be captured in images and used for digital marketing. You are looking for the lovely balance of style vs practicality remembering that a whole bunch of strangers are going to be looking at, and using all of, the chosen furnishings.
Remember that while you may be hoping to achieve an appealing and unique style, for your short term holiday rental, you want it to translate as homely, comfortable, clean, safe and stocked. If you aren’t confident fitting out your holiday rental yourself there are many suppliers out there who specialise in such services. We had a company called WOW Factor who fit out our executive apartment a few years ago. It was worth every cent in my opinion.
Comfy lounges. Make sure there are a few of them. I have stayed in some holiday rentals with one small two seater lounge to share for a family or large group. Seriously! where is everyone else going to sit? Choose durable easily cleaned materials with an affordable replacement cost. There will be times when you need to replace large furniture items.
Throw rugs and cushions. Just make sure they aren’t your precious international travel collectibles. They need to be durable so you can throw them in the washing machine every now and again. Have fun without the expense.
Dining table chairs. Don’t bother with cushions. They will get stained, ripped, ruined in no time. Just opt for comfy chairs with hard woods, metals or plastics. Think hard wearing, easily cleaned surfaces for everything.
Well equipped kitchen. Think about what you would like in your kitchen if you rented short term accommodation and wanted to cook every day. There are many travellers who choose short term residential style accommodation for this very reason. You don’t need all the fancy utensils, crockery and other equipment. Just a lot of the basic day to day supplies. If you under-stock you will get unstuck. Things will go missing and get broken. Your guests will let you know and you can decide if you want to deduct from their bond or if you should just price your per night rate to allow for the occasional replacement item.
Durable linen x 3 sets for each bed. Don’t take short cuts with this especially if you intend to look after linen yourself – which I highly recommend you do not unless you have an industrial style washing machine and dryer and an absolutely incredible cleaner. High thread count and consider different colours or patterns for different sized beds or label clearly on the inside near the edge so it is hidden when the bed is made. Make sure you have sufficient storage on or off site for linen.
Durable absorbent towels. Think about how you feel when you grab your towel for the first time in the accommodation you book. Do you like fluffy, pleasant smelling absorbent, clean towels? If yes, then make this a priority. Remember they will be cleaned many times so if you try to cut corners you will find yourself high and dry. Quality is very important with towels. Oh and remember if you have an outdoor spa or pool, or live near a river or beach, then you will need to supply beach towels. Again ensure you have sufficient storage. I would put out one bath towel per guest and have a spare stored away for when the guest requests additional. Mostly guests will wash their own linen for short stays. They understand that short term residential accommodation is self catering.
Remember floor mats (light durable for frequent washing), hand towels x 1 for each bathroom plus a washer for each guest.
Tea Towels. Any type x 2 per booking is my recommendation. There is nothing worse than a soggy tea towel and they don’t take up much space in the washing machine.
Absolutely positively get decent pillows and absolutely positively get pillow covers and actually mattress protectors are essential too. Take those pillow and mattress protectors off every guest changeover. Crappy pillows equals crappy sleep and we all know what we’re like when we’re sleep deprived. I personally prefer to take my own pillow where possible but if I am to lay my head on a high traffic pillow I want it to not smell like another human so if in doubt, recycle it into a teddy bear and buy a new one or dry clean. Always allow two per person.
Blankets. Don’t bother layering your bed. Nice linen with a clean, easily washable coverlet or light doona and cover that can be thrown in the wash every time is best. Have a store of extra thin yet warm blankets (highly durable for frequent washing instead of your grandmas vintage 100% wool blanket) available so guests can layer to their liking.
If you have light plush carpets my recommendation is to replace them with a tight weave darker colour combination that won’t reveal every mark. The alternative is hall runners and mats in high traffic areas. Definitely put a mat under your dining table if that room is carpeted or consider relocating the dining table or tiling/ vinyl planking that space. Always think about the ease of cleaning.
Think about all the surfaces in the property. The floors, the walls, bench tops etc. Are they easily cleaned, durable. Can they handle high traffic wear and tear.
It’s ok to use signs throughout the house. Laminate them and keep them looking tidy. For example you might put the recycle days on the fridge, no smoking signs inside, basic instructions on how to operate the TV or washing machine. Remember you can provide a full list of instructions in a folder in the property and make a digital copy available before guests arrive.
Rubbish. Maybe supply two big internal bins and mark them rubbish and recycle. We always order an extra bin for our rentals. The local government should supply an extra bin no worries at a small extra charge. It’s worth it. Educate your guests to put out the rubbish on departure and to put the bins out on bin days. It is a huge help for cleaners.
Heating and cooling. Make sure your air conditioner filters are cleaned and service regularly (add it to your maintenance schedule), batteries are in your remotes (and spare batteries stored away in a draw for easy access) and if you have a wood fire have wood chopped and stock piled for guests, with a few small pieces of kindling, a fire lighter and matches wrapped in paper to help them get it lit quickly. Maybe place this in a spot that is out of reach of children and include the storage location in your instruction manual.
Batteries in your TV remotes (and instructions for use in the manual). Consider Netflix or other paid TV, smart TV’s etc. Video and DVD players are old fashioned now and need maintenance.
Outdoor areas. If you have a yard, provide some shade. If you have a pool, provide some pool toys, chairs and table beside it for example. Supply a BBQ and make sure you tell guests they must clean after use and fill empty gas bottles. Add this to the House Rules and Terms & Conditions. Provide outdoor lounge chairs or hammocks. Anything that you like to see in your yard is always good to include in the yard of your holiday rental.
Study area for business ready guests plus Wifi although most mobile plans have sufficient data allowances these days so it isn’t absolutely essential. Just consider that some people want to be online when they travel whether they are working or not. Why not consider a note pad that lives in the house with WIFI access. Attach it to a chain if you’re worried it will walk. It’s a good place to store house instructions and local tourism experiences, even a greeting video.
Guest feedback. Make sure you supply a guest book so they can leave a comment or have a digital option you can send post stay. Also make it known that you would be very grateful if they notice something in the house that you as the manager should know about. Ie, broken glass in cupboard, kettle not working, hot water system on the blink, some of the grass out the back is brown and in desperate need of a water. Encourage and provide a communication mechanism for any feedback positive or negative. It is all really valuable.
If you want to decorate with plants indoors make sure they are either artificial (you can get some amazing articificial plants now through suppliers such as Plant Image) or not thirsty like succulents. Don’t be afraid to ask your guests to give them a little water from time to time. Maybe supply a spray bottle and store it under the sink and refer to it in your instruction manual.
Remove all valuables from the house. Anything you don’t have an emotional connection with or that is hugely expensive to repair or replace. You can still stylishly furnish a property without having antique and costly furnishings that you will miss when they are gone. Pay particular attention to vibrant, colourful art or photography on walls of unique experiences in the region or local artist prints, colourful lamps, pillows, throw rugs. Anything that adds personality and authenticity.
I think it is best not to have family photos around the house. Its a bit strange. I can understand it if it’s your own holiday house as well however it’s something that I would advise against. You want guests to feel like it’s their home for the brief time they are renting it off you.
Think about little extras that you can provide to enhance the guests experience. Maybe a free bicycle or two, a kayak or surfboard, fishing rod and tackle, free library of awesome books, board games, free access to fruit trees and herb gardens, eggs from the chook pen, maybe a free coffee voucher for your favourite cafe or discount off a big breakfast or a free paper with breakfast. Anything that you think might offer a little bit of spoiling and make your guest feel super duper.
Extra things like a decent vacuum cleaner, dust pan and broom, outdoor and indoor broom, bucket and mop, toilet brushes, little bins for toilets and bathrooms.
Also don’t forget washing basket and lots of pegs. It’s so annoying to run out of pegs and especially pegs that break. Invest in decent pegs!
Provide information on allocated parking bays before the guests arrive so there are no surprises. Especially if you don’t want guests to park on lawns or in neighbours spaces. The more information you provide up front the less surprises for you and your guests and the local community in which your property is located.
CLEANING & MAINTENANCE
Cleaning is a huge job. To find a reliable professional cleaner is absolutely like striking gold. We found one local cleaner for our property in the Perth Hills by advertising in the community paper. She was amazing. Mostly you will find you have to employ a professional contract cleaner if you want complete professionalism and reliability however they will not be the cleaners you can trust with meet and greets and all the extra tasks because they are likely to be a different person each time and will probably charge a little more for the service. Make sure you create a cleaning procedure with a room by room run down. It comes in very handy. For those who don’t have a property management system with built in cleaning sytems consider having a look at Properly.
I always organise a vacate style clean before I start operating and make sure you get your cleaners to give the place a good top to toe scrub every few months paying attention to walls and windows. A clean holiday rental is enjoyed so much more by guests and you want them to keep coming back.
Same with maintenance. Do you have coconut palms that need de-fruiting, palm fronds need pruning, grass
mowing, gardens weeding. All this takes time and is important to keep on top of for presentation sake, and so your garden doesn’t die on you. You might even need to consider reticulation or hire a professional maintenance and garden contractor to take care of this for you. They’ll bring their own equipment most of the time. Headache sorted. Make it easy for the contractors and draft a maintenance plan for each space in the house. Forecast what is required and keep on top of it. This might include checking hand rails, steps, re-coating floor boards, repainting the driveway etc.
Have a look at what I stock in my Welcome In packs. These are essential supplies based on the understanding that short term holiday rentals are self catering. The supplies are for those guests who forget to bring their shampoo and conditioner or who are tired after a long day travelling and just want to put their feet up and brew a hot cuppa to enjoy with a snack. It’s nice to spoil your guests and make them feel welcome even if it’s just a token gesture. It’s also a good place to promote local experiences. Maybe slip a flyer in there or a link to your website with a tourism experiences page. The idea with the pack is you don’t have to keep a stock of basic supplies in cupboards and do stock takes.
Dish cloth/ sponge. My experience is don’t get those cheap two in one items. They really are painful and mostly don’t get used. One decent sized sponge and a separate scourer is just fine. The guests can find the shop if they have another preference.
Toilet paper. Always have toilet paper available but remember you are not running a hotel so maybe one or two roles per toilet and an absolute emergency back up in the laundry cupboard.
Bin liners, extra plastic bags for rubbish and cleaning. I offer samples of laundry power in my Welcome In packs but you can supply a box in the laundry cupboard if you are feeling extra generous.
Heck even toilet spray or blue loo to make your toilet water look fresh ha ha! All those things are very good to have on the premises.
Think about storage spaces for linen, cleaning, supplies, maintenance, wood…anything that you will need to service your house and put a lock on them, mark with a sign for private access only or staff use etc.
If you have a pool or outdoor spa allow for some storage space of chemicals and other equipment such as cleaning apparatus. You’ll need to keep the water clean and healthy for your guests. My recommendation is to hire a pool contractor to look after this for you.
INSURANCE & RISK ASSESSMENT
Make sure you have your insurances in place. It is very important that you find a policy that provides specific cover for holiday rentals landlord insurance. Make sure you are allowed to operate by permission of your local government first and foremost because if you are not then your policy will not cover you. You may also need to consider Public Liability Insurance.
Risk management I feel should be considered high priority. It can tie into the maintenance plan I mentioned above. Think about the safety of guests in your home. You have legal responsibilities with spaces like pools. Please look these up and be 100 percent aware and proactive. For example ensure there are no dangerous fall zones for babies and toddlers and if you think there is make sure you make this known to your guests before they book (ie in the listing online), add it to your terms and conditions, reinforce this in your booking confirmation.
Fire blanket, extinguisher, smoke alarms etc. Ask your local government what you are required to supply to protect your guests in the event of a house or bush fire.
If you’re not intending to meet and greet guests then you might want to invest in a lock box hidden away yet easily found with directions so guests can check themselves in. I think it’s good practice to meet and greet but if you must allow for self check in make sure you always change your security codes and never give out this information until the money is in the bank, send it literally last minute like when the guests are in transit. Never put this information on your website or make it public anywhere.
Another option is to ask your neighbour if they are interested in providing the meet and greet and or caretaker service or maybe there is a local beautician or cafe or other retail supplier who is open long hours that you can leave the keys with and direct guests when you are out of town and unable to meet them. This has worked well for me partnering with a local hair dresser. She was happy to provide the service free of charge if I was happy for her to place the key in a gift bag with some flyers of the services she wanted to promote to our guests. There are also key exchanges about these days too. Key cafes I think they’re called.
Speaking of locks think about keyless entries, locks that can isolate rooms when you have smaller groups or you want to lock guests out of your own private spaces. This can be very handy and also doubles as good security for insurance purposes.
Alarm and CCTV is are also worth considering for extra security. CCTV can be handy for surveillance for those who need to keep an eye on overcrowding and party behavior. Don’t be like one manager I just heard about who set his CCTV to overlook the outdoor spa. Not a good move to be spying on your guests. There are some privacy rules that you need to be aware of for recording devices in Australia. Look them up in your state and territory.
FAMILY & PET FRIENDLY
You have to be really careful with young families. When you say you are family friendly make sure you are. If you have an open front yard onto a busy road – you are not family friendly. If you have a balcony with a huge fall zone – you are not really family friendly unless the doors to the balcony can be locked. If you have a double story home and don’t supply gates for the stairs – you are not family friendly. If you have a large pond in your backyard with no fence or mesh cover – you are not family friendly.
I encourage you to not supply children’s equipment. Instead consider partnering with a local supplier or children’s and baby equipment hire. Ask the guest to make contact and hire direct and you will find they will deliver and pick up most of the time. This means you don’t have to worry about equipment failure for insurance purposes. It can also be painful to clean some items including high chairs and cots. Most guests will BYO but it’s nice to give them an option to hire if they choose.
Pet friendly is sort of the same situation as with young children. Make sure the house is actually friendly for pets and think about whether you are happy for dogs to come inside or not. And do you allow other pets or just dogs, how tall are your fences? Provide as much detail as possible up front. Also I have learnt that dog lovers will allow their dogs to go everywhere in the house if you keep it open and you have to ask yourself how will the house smell if a non pet loving guest stays after. Will there be a lingering smell and hairs left in/on lounge chairs, mats etc. Consider charging a higher bond for pets who might dig, rip, tear, soil etc. It happens.
Make sure you tell your guests how you expect them to behave. Go right into detail including no smoking inside, no glass in the pool, no noise outside after 10pm, no high heels on the wooden floor boards. Make sure you are very descriptive and refer to the Holiday Rental Industry Association’s Code of Conduct. Try and build this into your systems. It will help you and your neighbourhood. Send these house rules when the guest is booking and tell them that when they pay this means they have read and understood and signed off on them. Have a copy in a file on site as well.
So you’ve set up your holiday rental property. Now who is going to look after inquiries, take bookings, look after all the administration, meet and greet, inspect, respond to call outs and so forth?
While there are great booking portals that will allow you to self manage your properties be very mindful that it is a huge job. For one standard property you are looking at a part time job for administration and another part time job for everything else so cleaning, maintenance, linen etc. It’s not a set hour position either and you don’t really get holidays unless you block out your calendar which equals no income.
My advice is if in doubt do not try and manage a holiday rental yourself. If you are not a people person or particularly good with communication then definitely don’t try it yourself. If you are working full time or are away a lot – I so no way! If you don’t like cleaning or paying a cleaner, or don’t consider maintenance a high priority, then definitely do not bother. I’d rather be up front about this. It will become your worst nightmare if you expect things to run smoothly and for the management of a holiday rental to not impose upon your personal time.
If in doubt call a professional holiday rental manager. There are many about these days. They will charge anywhere from 20 – 30 % commission for the service. Sometimes more but with more inclusions. Hunt around and try and look for those who are members of industry associations like www.hria.com.au or who have tourism or other business accreditations who can ensure a quality service. Ask me (Natalie Drake-Brockman, Welcome In Founder) to connect you if you like.
Charge one. I find $500 reasonable for a standard property bond, more for those with luxury fittings and fixtures that might need repair or replacement. Make sure you only hold back bonds with good communication and receipts and reporting and most importantly evidence. Ie you can’t just keep a bond because your neighbour complained about a bit of noise.
TECHNOLOGY & MARKETING
These days you will find there are many suppliers of technology that will assist with managing your holiday rental. This will include CCTV apps, security locks that link with your smart phone, many other innovations that will save you time.
The single best investment is a Property Management System (PMS). This is the program that will create a database of all your guests, their contact details, payment details for invoicing and payments, a communication tool, a cleaning and maintenance program, calendar linked with fees and charges. It is basically an automation of all your bookings and administration processes all bundled up together as a sophisticated management tool.
Traditionally these PMS’s have been expensive and out of reach for single property managers but if you contact me I will tell you about one that is new to the market and amazing, but not quite released. If you want to be an early adopter get in quick.
You’ll also need a domain and hosting, website or Content Management System (CMS) which is pretty much all the information that sits online on your website. Your PMS should provide a booking engine which also allows for online bookings and links with that program.
And don’t forget social media. Start with a Facebook page for your holiday rental. They are a really great marketing tool and you can build your audience with good content, boosting it (Facebook advertising) and running competitions, promoting in our guest communications and so forth. Social media is very effective if you learn how to use it. If you don’t have time find a professional. I offer packages so make contact if you want me to help establish a page for you and a lean strategy to get you started. Have a look through my blog articles. I write often with tips for social media marketing.
BRAND & PERSONALITY
I talked about this a little earlier on, and again you will find separate articles in my blog on this very topic. This really is going to make your holiday rental stand out from your competitors, generate you more bookings than the daggy operation down the end of the street.
Think about your unique value proposition. What does your property, locality offer that others don’t. What is your properties best features, best spaces. Maybe it’s the hammock in the back yard under a shady tree. Maybe it’s the pool overlooking the mountains or the cosy reading nook by the wood fire. Or maybe you are 100 metre walk from the best beach in your City or near a hiking track through the hills or the best restaurant in town is conveniently located across the road. Create ambiance with your spaces and images that you use to market your short term residential accommodation.
Think about what builds personality and build a name, a brand for your place. Help your guests build a bond with the property and it’s personality then get yourself a nice little logo and design for your website. It does not have to cost you a mint to brand your holiday rental. Again ask me. I can help you out with this.
Happy holiday, short term residential accommodation suppling and remember there is a national industry association that can help you if you want to learn more or connect with other stakeholders. I am actually a director on the Board of the Holiday Rental Industry Association and I encourage you to become a member. You will learn so much and be supporting a national peak body who is there to support and represent you and other industry stakeholders. Membership starts from $99 for up to 25 managed holiday rental properties.
Founder, Welcome In