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December 2, 2009 Schools and Libraries

Story Idea: How to Make Your Vacation Home the Hot Spot for Holiday Travelers!

Austin, TX -- There's a chill in the air, cookies in the oven, and an explosion of red and green in the mall. And folks everywhere are looking forward to heading over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house (or Aunt Jane's, or Mom and Dad's) for a cozy extended stay. Sort of. Okay, not really. While the idea of Christmas at the old home place is appealing, the reality is more about cramped quarters, lack of privacy, and grumpy relatives than Norman Rockwell-y scenes of fresh-faced kids and candle-lit feasts.

And yet, few people long to spend the holidays in an impersonal hotel room, either. That's why it's time for you—the heroic vacation rental homeowner—to come to the rescue.

"We all know there's no place like home for the holidays," says Karpinski, author of How to Rent Vacation Properties by Owner, 2nd Edition: The Complete Guide to Buy, Manage, Furnish, Rent, Maintain and Advertise Your Vacation Rental Investment (Kinney Pollack Press, 2007, ISBN: 0-9748249-9-2, $26.00). "But much like rich eggnog and the sounds of the new video game Santa left, 'home for the holidays' is best in small doses.

"Wouldn't it really be better for holiday travelers to be able to enjoy their families for a few hours—and then escape to your festively decorated vacation home?" she adds.

For many families, renting a vacation home can change their holiday experience completely. They'll be able to appreciate that time with their family a thousand times more if they don't have to bunk down with them. And that fact puts you in the perfect position to make your cabin, chalet, or cottage their "home away from home for the holidays"—and enjoy a bit of extra Christmas "greenery" in your bank account.

Karpinski insists that making your own property the spot for a Christmas vacation is easy. Here are a few simple tricks for making the holiday season your most profitable one yet:

Offer a holiday discount. Everybody likes a good bargain, particularly during the holidays. For families who are already strapped for cash, finding a house with a discounted rate may be just the ticket for securing a booking. Advertise your property at a "special holiday rate," particularly if you want to secure a booking and you have only a few weeks left on the calendar. Another good option is to offer a discount to repeat renters. If a family rented your property during the summer, then offer them a special rate. Appealing to the bargain hunters this time of year can often make the difference between a great booking and an empty house.

"People's budgets are tighter than ever, and the last thing you want to do is miss out on a booking because your home is overpriced," notes Karpinski. "Consider all the expenses that go along with this time of year and make sure that your rate is a reasonable one."

Deck the halls. (And photograph them!) The most obvious way to make your home this year's holiday rental hot spot is to decorate. Hang stockings from the mantle, adorn the banister with garland, and, of course, trim a tree for your guests' gifts to rest under. Last but not least, take pictures of them for your property listing web page.

"For many people, a home filled with holiday cheer is one of the best parts of the season," asserts Karpinski. "They'll be more drawn to a vacation rental home that provides the same nostalgic feeling as sitting around their own tree full of twinkling lights. This is especially true of families with kids—after all, if there's no tree, then where will Santa leave all the presents?"

Let your season's greetings double as stealth marketing. When you sit down to fill out your holiday cards, include the renters who have stayed with you this year (and perhaps in years past). When renters receive your greeting, they will appreciate your good tidings AND be reminded of your property at the same time.

You might even consider creating a simple postcard with a photo of your property decorated for the holiday season on the front to remind guests of the great time their family had there, and to showcase its potential as their own holiday hotspot, says Karpinski. If you're worried you don't have time to decorate, make the postcard, and get it in the mail—don't: This is the kind of booking people sometimes make at the last minute.

"Renters who haven't yet considered a vacation home for their holiday traveling may be enticed once they see the cozy fireplace and Christmas tree," she says. "Include a personal note to let them know you appreciated their business in the past year. It could be just the ticket to a repeat booking!"

Research the local holiday happenings. No matter where your vacation home is located, it's likely that there are plenty of local holiday activities that potential guests could enjoy. Do some research on holiday events in your vacation home town and include them with your listing as well as any directions to renters who have already booked. For travelers visiting relatives, they'll appreciate the chance to get out on their own for awhile and explore. And who knows—they may love the local holiday parade so much, they'll want to make their stay an annual tradition.

"Find out who has the best Santa, where they can buy the famous local holiday baked goods, go ice skating, or even where they can attend religious services," suggests Karpinski. "This added touch is a simple, yet effective way to give guests another reason to stay in your home."

Play Santa. Everybody likes getting presents, and your renters are no exception. Having a brightly wrapped package waiting underneath the tree will make guests feel welcome and invoke the holiday spirit from the start of their stay. Karpinski suggests wrapping a small, inexpensive gift for each member of the family to open and enjoy upon their arrival. (If you accept pets, don't forget a new chew toy for Fido.) It's a small gesture that is sure to make a lasting impression.

"Collect small gifts throughout the year that you can leave for holiday renters," suggests Karpinski. "It's even better if the gifts reflect something famous to the locale—perhaps a jar of homemade preserves or handmade wooden toys for the kids. Ornaments are also a great idea; they help your guests commemorate their stay on their tree at home. "

"When they're relaxing in a comfortable home, rather than sharing a bathroom with Aunt Bertha and trying to get the kids to stop shrieking so Grandpa can nap, your guests will be glad they made the choice to find a rental," says Karpinski. "Best of all, once they've stayed with you one holiday season, chances are good they'll be back next year. A truly peaceful Christmas is the gift that keeps on giving!"

About Christine Karpinski:

Christine Karpinski is the author of How to Rent Vacation Properties by Owner, 2nd Edition: The Complete Guide to Buy, Manage, Furnish, Rent, Maintain and Advertise Your Vacation Rental Investment (Kinney Pollack Press, 2007, ISBN: 0-9748249-9-2, $26.00) and Profit from Your Vacation Home Dream: The Complete Guide to a Savvy Financial and Emotional Investment (Kaplan, 2005, ISBN: 1-4195069-1-9, $19.95).

Her books, combined with her seminars, media appearances, and Web site (www.OwnerCommunity.com), help thousands of people purchase and manage their vacation homes. Today she serves as director of Owner Community for HomeAway, Inc. (www.HomeAway.com)

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