Bill's Bountiful Blog

May I keep you posted on my thoughts, ideas, observations, and silliness?. Am I serious? Is it relevant?. Does anyone care? Probably not much.

But in today's age of everyone has something to say, why not me? And who can blame me for jumping into to the pool? For speaking up For laying it out?

"Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one." - Thomas Wiley, Journalist


Clean, Wipe, Soak, Scrub, Brush, Scour, Polish

By Ron Lee
Published: 04/18/20 Topics: Covid-19 Virus, Housekeeping, Property Management Comments: 0

How to Clean and Sanitize Vacation Rental Homes

Since our first office opened in 1964, we have been rigorously cleaning and sanitizing properties for decades. This is nothing new to us. In fact, our homes are cleaned to a degree higher than most people have at home. It has always been our commitment to have every home safe and ready for guest arrival.

Get a Real Getaway

If you need a vacation, holiday escape, spring break, fresh air and time alone, vacation rentals are the best option. Bring kids or not. Bring the family or just your spouse. Most homes are free-standing, so you can avoid crowds. Even in our condos, the homes are open corridor, so there is no need to pass through common areas, like lobbies and dark hallways.

When Guests Depart

After guests depart, housekeepers arrive at every home to clean, wipe, soak, scrub, brush, scour, mop and polish bathrooms, kitchens, bedrooms, common spaces and even decks and patios, linens, towels and surfaces. Hot tubs are disinfected. This entire process - called "out Clean" - takes many hours. Then homes are spot checked by managers to ensure good work. When departing, all staff members use bleach rags, so that even the door knob and key-safe are sanitized. Wow!

Sanitation Cleaning Products

We use a variety of products to clean, disinfect and sanitize. All are approved for high health standards. We still use bleach for some areas because it is still the gold standard for killing every kind of bug. In fact, if you enter a home immediately after housekeepers depart, for a few minutes you may detect a slight cleaning smell. That is your assurance of sanitization.

Bathroom Super Scrub

Cleaning bathrooms is not a fun task, but we carefully clean all sinks, mirrors, toilets, drawers, bathtubs and shower enclosures until they sparkle. But they have also been sprayed and later wiped with disinfectant. Soiled and unsoiled towels are removed before cleaning starts to avoid cross contamination. This is a hands-and-knees job, but housekeepers pride themselves on meticulous cleaning.

Proper Wipe Downs

You might think that spraying and wiping surfaces with disinfectant is sufficient, but it is not. Instead, disinfectant must be left on surfaces for a period of time before it is wiped away. This gives time for the liquid to kill all the germs.

- Door knobs inside and outside.

- Window switches.

- Light switches and sockets.

- Lamp switches.

- Cupboard doors and surfaces.

- Table tops including night stands.

- Appliances - top and sides.

- Counter tops.

- Reachable walls.

- Outdoor furniture.

- Stairs and deck handrails.

- Toasters and coffee makers.

- TV and other remote controls.

- Stereos and computers.

- Door bells and key safes.

- Toys and board games.

- Pet toys and blankets.

- And more.

Vacuuming, Mopping, Sweeping

Are you ever tempted to do floors fast? By slowing down the process and covering every floor surface carefully, dirt, grime and germs are removed. We keep equipment new and well maintained to get the best results. Housekeepers are never limited to cleaning hours. Instead, they are encouraged to take all the time they need to do the job right.

Kitchens and Dining Rooms

Kitchens get splattered on, baked in and used heavily. It is a big job, but to get kitchens spic-and-span is essential, from the stove to oven to refrigerator, but also microwaves, cupboards, fans and light fixtures. Cleaned inside and out. You will notice we remove condiments, such as ketchup and mustard left from prior guests, because leaving open containers violates health standards. You'll have to bring your own, but you'll know they are new and fresh.

Hot Tubs and Spas

Every hot tub is completely disinfected after each booking by trained staff members. Sand or debris is removed, filters are inspected, and chemicals are adjusted. In addition, the hot tub cove, top and side surfaces are disinfected. If you arrive to a tub that is not yet fully heated, please wait because we had to empty and refill it. Takes time to reheat.

Towels and Linens

Washing and drying linens and towels is an obvious step, be we wall all of them, even if a bed does not appear to have been slept in. They are transported to the washer-dryer using rubber gloves and laundry bags, and they are returned to beds in baskets to avoid cross contamination. Along with quality detergent, additional disinfectant is added to all washing to ensure germs are eradicated.

Deep Cleans

In addition to our rigorous out-clean, homes receive deep cleans regularly to cover hard to access areas, including heating ducts, cupboard sides and ceilings, high surfaces, fans, carpets and more. This takes many hours, and ensures the cleanest possible property.

When Guests Depart

You may notice that we do NOT as guests to do laundry or to remove linens and towels to the laundry area. We do it all to ensure that every textile has been washed and cleaned properly without dragging it through the house.

Call Us Quick: 206-504-2744

If at any time during your stay, if you find any issue, call our 24-7-365 day phone number for assistance. If necessary, our staff will happily come to the property to ensure all is right. And if you want daily cleaning, we can arrange that too, for a small additional fee.

Avoid Crowds, Stay in a Private, Vacation Home!

Year round, in every season, and no matter what is happening in the rest of the world, vacation rentals offer a respite from the rate race, a chance to get away and to enjoy a sparkling clean, sanitized home.

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Author: Ron Lee, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0742 – 04/18/20

Vacation Rental Picante Sauce

By Wm. May
Published: 09/01/17 Topics: Property Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

Vacation Rental Picante Sauce
Yet another corporate vacation rental management company has announced gobbling up tens of millions of dollars in investment, in hopes of dominating the vacation rental management industry in America, and perhaps even the world. But they are risky for property owners.

Beginning as far back at 1989, Pace Picante sauce began running television commercials. In one, grizzled cowboys threaten to lynch the camp cook when they learn he has been serving them picante sauce from "New York City?"

The cow pokes become offended because Picante sauce should be made by "places in San Antonio with fresh vegetables and spices by people who know what picante sauce is supposed to taste like."

Watch it here.

While the huge vacation rental management companies want to convince property owners that they can manage every home just right, even though they are located hundreds of thousands of miles away, the truth is - they can not.

One of these giant companies even has over 300 negative complaints and reviews online about shoddy housekeeping and lack of response. The average for vacation rental managers is zero, one or two over time. Something is seriously wrong with having 300 unhappy guests, because that means there are far more who don't take the time to post complaints.

For another competitor, their complaints reveal a wolf in sheep's clothing. Although they profess to be managers, they quickly throw owners and managers under the bus whenever there are any complications, as the following complaint answer proves:

COMPLAINT: "2 days before my trip receiving a voice and email telling me that my reservation had been cancelled because of a double booking."

ANSWER: "Booking was canceled within 48 hours prior to her arrival when it became apparent to the Host that there was a conflict with a previous client who'd booked."

And then they accidentally revealed the wrong problem, (our company) "The Host (homeowner) is the party responsible for resolving any conflicts. [Our company] is a marketing and booking service that Hosts use to assist with reservations. . . The rental agreement. You accepted . . . Clearly states that the booking is directly between the Guest and the Host."

And then they reveal the unreliability of their services by saying "Double bookings are an unfortunate side effects of the vacation rental and travel industry as a whole."

Well, duh, no that is not correct. That is excuse making

Although no one is perfect in the lodging industry, double bookings are NOT common and they are certainly not an unfortunate side effect. They are the result of a company pretending to be a lodging manager when they are, in fact, too far away and too powerless.

LOCAL IS BETTER:

Vacation Rental Firms have proven to be a locally branded business. Owners and guests prefer to deal with a local reliable professional firm that is on hand to attend to them. Members of the Vortex Organization have found the best way to do that.

They are independently operated to ensure great houses, hospitality cleaning, happy guests and happy owners. Our first office opened in 1964, but we are the most tech-enabled managers. We are in it for the long haul..

But the network ensures that managers have all the tools such as dynamic pricing, post listings on hundreds of advertising websites, and answer guest inquiries 24/7. In fact, local firms have access to local tourism promotion, websites and contacts the others can not match.

That means our managers produce more bookings as well as more peace of mind.

So if the vacation rental "manager" you are using to book your home is not actually located in the area where you rental home is situated, or even in "New York City", its time to go local.

Call a local professional vacation rental management company to learn about all the comprehensive and reliable services you have been missing.

- - - - - - - - -
And a few more just for fun:

1989 Pace Picante Sauce

1990 Pace Picante Sauce

1993 Pace Picante Sauce

1993 Pace Picante Sauce

1994 Pace Picante Sauce

1995 Pace Picante Sauce

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Author: Wm. May, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0530 – 09/01/17

How to Become a Professional Lodging Photographer

By Ron Lee
Published: 02/21/17 Topics: AirBnB, Marketing, Photography, Property Management Comments: 0

Becoming a professional lodging photographer has never been easier.

All you need is a camera and business cards. Just put the words "Professional Photographer" on the cards and people will think you are a pro.

Can you imagine a doctor getting away with that? Would you go to a dentist who says, "I am a professional dentist" who didn't have the training? Yikes. Those people would be driven out of the industry.

Unfortunately, there have always been a greatly many people who love the idea of being an artist, a photographer. It sounds like such a great job. For Inns, Resorts & Vacation Rentals, photos are the way guests make instant decisions to view your property or pass on to the next.

No longer is it necessary to burn hundreds of dollars of physical film, toil in the dark room and only later learn if your photos were adequate. Now a good digital camera gives you a thumbnail view instantly that you can call "good enough."

But, great camera gear doesn't make you a true photographer any more than buying your new born child a piano and pronouncing them a "Concert Pianist."

Today, a new higher title has been added to the photography professional. Its called "High Dynamic Range," or HDR, and it is a vastly superior way of shooting, processing, and delivering world class photography. It is a requirement for almost all photos, but an absolute requirement for shooting interior architectural images.

HDR Photos are crisp, clean and brighter, but only enough to match what the human eye actually perceives. By comparison, non-HDR photos are fuzzy, bland, and actually underestimate and mis-represent the property.

Unfortunately, most professional photographers are no longer professional because they are more in love with being "Artists" than they are in spending thousands of hours mastering HDR.

That means more lodging operators are wasting lots of money hiring pros or don’t begin to understand HDR.

To see the difference between Pros and HDR Pros, all you have to do is spend a little time examining listings on your favorite websites like VRBO.com, Expedia.com, or even AirBnB.com.

A company called Evolve Vacation Rentals offers "Free Professional Photography" to property owners. Because Evolve does not have on site staff they must call any "professional photographer" they can find and hire them without realizing that non HDR photos are robbing their listings of maximum bookings.

Headquartered in Portland, Oregon, Vacation Rentals does the same thing. Their recent foray into Matterport 3D photos is a good start, but ignoring HDR still photos causes them to lose bookings.

Turnkey Rentals out of Austin is trying to take over the world, but right there on their home page are fuzzy, out of focus, non-HDR photos. How could a management company call themselves professional when the number one listing tool - photos - are all messed up?

All of these companies talk the professional photographer game, but non walk the walk. And all because they refuse to spend the slightly more money necessary to find and employ high level HDR photographers.

Ignoring the absolute requirement for HDR photos is like the proverbial canary in the coal mine. If your manager does not understand the difference between truly professional HDR photos and want to be professional photographers, what else don’t they understand?

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Author: Ron Lee – Not a Photographer, Signatour Photo Team
Blog #: 0521 – 02/21/17

Sponsor: Signatours Photo Team – It is not enough to have a camera and cards that say you are photographer. Today's technology demands study, practice and perfection along with an artists eye. Every Signatour photographer has all of those along with a support and professional staff to ensure the highest quality HDR photos. – Signatours.com

Vacation Rental Restoration

By William May
Published: 12/28/15 Topics: Insurance, Property Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

Vacation rental homes are susceptible to the same problems as full-time residences. Sometimes pipes break, basements flood and even smoke or fire damage can happen.

It may be possible to have maintenance firms handle such problems but for larger problems it is necessary to hire a company that specializes in restoring homes to their original condition.

Such companies are referred to as Restoration Specialists and having the name of one or more firms on hand is just good preparation. Odds are high that they will never been needed.

Because damages may result in cancellation of bookings, the loss to owners may exceed even the cost of repairs. So here are some steps to be prepared for what you can hope will never happen:

(1) Property Insurance - When insuring your home for vacation rentaling, that use must be clearly communicated to your insurance agent who should provide a policy specifically allowing short-term rental use.

Most basic second home policies are not sufficient for offering a home as a vacation rental. Take care before you have a claim to properly protect you in the unlikely hood a claim becomes necessary.

(2) Business Loss - Second home insurance can cost more than your primary resident. And vacation rental policies cost more than basic second home polices. However, such policies should also cover the owner for loss of income should the home become unrentable for a period of time.

(3) Restoration Specialist - To find a company that specialize in quick and through restoration use Google Maps for your location searing for "Fire Restoration" because that is the most common keyword on which these firms advertise.

(4) Remote - If your home is remote or in a sparsely populated area, it may be necessary to question restoration firms closely to insure that they would be willing to come to your address should you later need their services. Keep good notes.

(5) Records - Be sure to record the name of several restoration companies because, in the case of local flooding or severe weather, any one firm may not be able to handle your needs quickly.

(6) Property Managers - If you use a local property manager, good firms will already know of restoration providers and be able to quickly get help on site.

Lodging managers are not in the restoration business and claims are so unusual that the manager may never have had to use a restoration company. But do not hesitate to ask the manager if they can recommend anyone.

(7) Schedule - Restoration firms can not guarantee that any given property will be restored over night. In fact, time may be required to allow a house to dry.

Even when repairs will take a longer period, restoration firms can often arrive quickly to stabilize the situation and then return later to complete repairs.

(8) Fire - Should your home become partially damaged due to fire, your local fire department will often board over a home to make it is weather tight or to protect it from intruders. Do not hesitate to ask their help when they are on site.

(9) Franchises - Here are the names of several franchises that brand and endorse local partners to do restoration. This does no guarantee the quality of the work. Even local non-franchises are often skilled and dependable.

- ServePro.com

- ServicemasterClean.com

(10) Action - Try to secure your insurance company's approval before completing restoration. By calling their claim number you should be able to secure approve to start the restoration with full approval secured once the restoration firm can provide a more detailed estimate.

Not long after its founding in 1907, the Boy Scouts organization adopted the motto "Be Prepared." When it comes to unexpected events for your vacation rental home, being prepared is great advice.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0473 – 12/28/15

How to Hire & Retain Happy Housekeepers (10 rules)

By Wm. May
Published: 01/28/14 Topics: Property Management, Vacation Rental Association, Vacation Rentals, WAVRMA Comments: 0

How to Hire and Retain Happy Housekeepers - 10 Tips

Servers at restaurants, both fancy and plain, demand tips. The valet who parks your car puts his hand out. Even your neighborhood Starbucks barista wants money for making up your fancy café mocha, skinny, double cup, with foam.

In Lodging many guests simply do not know they need to tip those hard working housekeepers who slip in and out of their rooms while they sit comfortably in the dining room, paying too much for dinner, and giving the smiling cheerful waiter a big tip for being so attentive.

Recent anecdotal responses indicate that tipping in Vacation Rentals occurs less often in hotels. That is a disrespectful situation that must change.

Industry research consistently points to lack of cleanliness as the most common complaint of travelers. Everyone wants a good clean place to stay. But some guests are even reluctant to stay in a vacation rental for fear it is not sparkling clean.

It is time to prove them wrong.

Heavy Work

Those who clean bathrooms, scrub kitchens and scour barbecues deserve the highest respect not the lowest. It is hard work and under appreciated.

By comparison, being a corporate executive is a piece of cake. Those big wigs must even "Carve out" time everyday to go to the gym for the workout they do not get at work.

Housekeepers don't need a trip to the gym. They get down on hands and knees scrubbing floors, they climb ladders to clean or change light bulbs and they tote tons of trash out of homes.

Rent By Owners

Vacation rental rent-by-owners complain they can not find housekeepers, or good ones, can't keep them, or lose them often with little notice. That is because amateur owners base their hiring and retention methods on personal observations instead of empirical knowledge.

There are secrets to finding and keeping most any kind of employee, but they are especially clear and unavoidable for housekeepers and other workers who do societies dirty work.

Rental Managers:

Some vacation rental managers make the same complaints, but often they are new to the industry or have an over-blown sense of their own importance, while avoiding the hard work of personally cleaning homes.

Walking a mile in a housekeepers shoes is the only way to understand how difficult and deadline driven the work can be, and why those housekeeper shoes are often worn and tattered.

Luckily, most vacation rental managers eventually discover the secrets to finding and keeping the kind of loyal, industrious and committed workers who are willing to clean toilets and do other unglamorous work.

10 Iron Clad Rules

To find and keep top-quality people, who serve your guests well and do so with a smile on their faces it is necessary to follow some iron-clad rules.

PAY - Stop scrimping and pay people well. Pay them based on the hours cleans take and not on your budget, which is often far too little, and seldom accounts for differences in how guests leave a home.

SCHEDULING - Arrange cleaning dates as far in advance as possible. Provide online tools so workers can see where they are to be and when. Adjust schedules to accommodate second jobs, day-care, etc.

FULL TIME - Don't hire more people than you need. There will be employees who prefer part-time work but most want to get a full week's pay or close to it.

WEEKLY PAY - Pay your staff weekly, do it direct-deposit and never miss a payroll deadline, even by a few minutes. Everyone needs to get paid. They have bills to pay.

TIPS - Put out cute and subtle time envelopes, signed by the cleaner that just so happen to mention tipping. Guest actually like to reward those who serve them. Unlike restaurants, lodging guests need a reminder. This can increase pay 24 to 30% making housekeepers beam.

STANDARDS - Write clear concise cleaning "Hospitality" standards. Do not demand "Hospital" standards because they are not necessary or economically feasible. If you don't know the difference, someone else in your organization needs to be the inspector.

TRAINING - Require even experienced housekeepers to work along side current staff to learn the ropes of each home. Use checklists. Train, re-train and train again. Inspect work. Provide pleasant feedback.

HONESTY - Only hold housekeepers to a standard you could attain. To prove it - clean multiple houses in one day, and invite the housekeepers to inspect your work. Then do it for a week.

BE KIND - Cleaning small simple hotel rooms is far easier than scrubbing large personal homes that can have owner possessions, far more furniture and utensils and even peculiar outfitting.

RESPECT - Every housekeeper must be treated with the utmost respect. Never raise your voice. Never complain, Never insinuate.

This is the most often violated rule, but the most important one. Never fall victim to your feeling of superiority.

BONUS TIP - Believe every word housekeepers tell you. If a home needs deep cleaning - believe them, If a house needs extra cleaning after an owner says they cleaned it - believe them. If the vacuum cleaner needs to be replaced - believe them

Anything less disrespects the challenging labor to they do for you so reliably.

The Result

Not all new hires will be good housekeepers. Not all will achieve hospitality standards. Not all will remain employees for years to come. But converting your thinking to these iron clad rules will insure you achieve the following:

  • High Quality Hospitality Cleaning.
  • Happy guests and property owners.
  • Respect from wonderful housekeepers
  • Personal satisfaction in knowing you treated people well.

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Author: Wm. May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0338 – 01/28/14

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