When we bought our first vacation rental, we were very lucky to buy it fully furnished. No, the furniture wasn't exactly what we'd choose, but it was so easy to literally bring a toothbrush to our new beach house!
Over the past three years, we've replaced much of the furniture and fittings with new items that suit our taste better. But this year, we're in the fun position of outfitting a brand new vacation rental! It is very exciting, but a little overwhelming, and expensive!
One of my pet peeves with vacation rentals is an uncomfortable bed. But there is an overwhelming variety of mattresses to choose from. How to decide what to put in your vacation rental? Here are my five tips:
1. Go for medium price. We made the mistake of putting a very expensive all natural latex and wool mattress in our vacation rental because we liked it. Within a couple of months, we discovered a guest had experienced an accident and we ended up having to haul the mattress to the trash. Accidents happen and it is much more palatable to trash a $500 mattress than a $2000 one. Despite what mattress salespeople tell you, you don't need to spend the price of a car to get a decent nights sleep!
2. Tempurpedic. People either love them or hate them. They're really expensive (see number 1 above!) so unless you can score a closeout deal, I'd pass.
3. Memory foam. There are some gorgeous memory foam beds available now. My picks use CertiPUR foam (no off gassing) and are made in the USA - I ALWAYS buy things made in the USA where possible and memory foam is a great example - the price point is not much more for made in the USA versus imported from China. My favorite memory foam mattress is the Brentwood Home 11-Inch Gel HD Memory Foam Mattress, Made in USA, CertiPUR-US, 25 Year Warranty, Natural Wool Sleep Surface and Bamboo Cover (affiliate link) - I love that it has no formaldehyde, features a cooling gel to avoid that overly hot feeling that some memory foam has, and includes an all natural wool sleep surface and bamboo (renewable and eco-friendly). Best of all it is amazingly comfortable. When you're buying memory foam, buy CertiPUR. CertiPUR-US approved foams are:
If you have guests with chemical sensitivities, asthma, or kids, they'll thank you for spending a few extra dollars! We have a King size Brentwood in one of our Master suites and guests love it! We also use these on the bunk beds as we don't want kids sleeping on anything that off gasses.
4. Innerspring. A quality innerspring is expensive but some guests just love their Beautyrest! Keep an eye out for closeouts, model changes and clearance events! You can sometimes find good ones on groupon goods of all places (affiliate link). We scored a gorgeous high end model for our new house as the models changed over at our local furniture store. It is soft and squishy but still supportive.
5. Sleep Number. I love my Sleep Number bed. If they were a bit less expensive, I'd put them in a rental since everyone can adjust to their own preference. However, see #1 above!
6. Mattress Pads
The biggest tip I can give anyone who has kids, or humans, sleeping in their beds, is to get a quality mattress pad. Actually it is not just humans - my sisters incontinent dog ruined a mattress at our place! I don't think anyone pees in the bed on purpose, but accidents happen and a good quality cover can save a mattress. In fact, the general consensus is that a good mattress pad can double the life of your mattress. Yes, the good ones may cost $100 or more, but they are worth every penny. I love the selection at wayfair supply. Don't ruin your guest's sleep with one of those nasty plastic waterproof liners. They end up taking them off!
7. Replacements: Finally, budget to replace your beds at least every five years!
What is your favorite type of bed when you're in a vacation rental? Take our poll!
I have become a bit addicted to photobooks. It is like scrapbooking for the modern age and sure beats showing people photos on your laptop (boring!). I've been creating photobooks for our new twins - I'm determined to do a better job than I did for our eldest! She doesn't have a finished baby book yet (and she's 11!)
There are four services I've used for photobooks. I shop around based on price and coupons!
Fairly easy to use interface. Checkout does not work on safari so use Chrome if you're a mac person (like me!) Until March 23, 2015 use the code 1FREEBOOK and get an 8x8 20 page phonebook for $8! Keep an eye on your Safeway catalinas as they often print free coupons for a free phonebook from shutterfly. You can often also get free photobook coupons from the diaper companies (pampers etc) if you sign up for their info, target, motherhood maternity - keep an eye out! The best thing is that the projects don't seem to expire.
They often have groupons! Worth keeping an eye out for these as long as you use them before they expire. There is nothing worse than expired groupons - the credit for what you paid is usually not enough to do anything. The projects only save for 30 days and this has been a problem as it is amazing how fast 30 days go by when you have twins to look after!
This is probably my least favorite interface but they have good coupons from time to time. I find the interface crashes a lot on Mac but if I can find a deal I'll suffer through it.
Apple iPhoto has its own integrated service but it is very pricey and I've never seen a coupon for it. The books are nice quality though and it is easy to layout if you're used to iPhoto! Apple did drop their prices a year or so ago, so if you haven't checked out the service recently, it is worth reviewing again. An 8.5x11 with 20 gorgeous pages (bled to the edge if you so choose) is only $29.99 hardcover and 19.99 softcover, which compares pretty well to the other services above.
What photobook services do you use?
If you found this post googling "damage deposits", you're not alone! A lot of owners and vacation home renters are unsure about damage deposits. When we first started renting out our Oregon beach house, the agency we picked didn't allow owners to ask for a damage deposit. We rented out through them for three months in the offseason, and in four weekends had several things damaged. We then started renting out ourselves, and requiring a damage deposit. With over 50 rentals, we have had only two minor damage incidents (knock on wood!).
Damage deposits are not for ordinary wear and tear or to cover rental, but to cover things that get broken (or damaged!). In our case, a drunk guest of the renter fell against a trellis panel, ripping it off the deck, and the renter asked us to deduct the repair cost ($80) from his damage deposit. He was mortified. The second incident was when a tap in the bathtub was smashed off – we're not sure how one manages to do that but again the renter let us know her guest had done this, and we deducted the cost ($50) from the damage deposit.
Here are the top six reasons owners might want to have a damage deposit, and why renters benefit from staying at a house that asks for one:
The three main vacation rental websites make deposits easy to collect and refund. The procedure does vary a little:
Some owners collect damage deposits by mailed check – I think this creates an extra administrative burden and a risk of bounced checks (which cost!), but it is personal preference.
What's the difference between damage and wear and tear?
I always say to err on the side of generosity. Glasses get broken. Cups get chipped. Towels get stained. I'm not going to deduct for every chipped glass from someone's damage deposit. If every colored towel in your vacation home gets used for the hot tub and gets ruined by bleach spots, that's reckless damage. If one gets damaged, I will call it wear and tear. We allow 10% of our gross revenue each year to replace items that get worn out and doing maintenance and repairs on our vacation home.
What To Do About Mismatched Items
That brings me to an important side note: Is your beach house a great place to send all your mismatched yard sale finds and things you no longer need at home? Maybe! If you're going for a shabby chic cottage look and have a good eye, I've seen this done very successfully. However, in a higher end vacation rental, this might not convey the luxury look you're going for. Hit your local HomeGoods store or the January sales at Macy's, and buy a new set of glasses, dinner set, and stock up. When you buy a new set, get two so you can replace any that get broken without having to replace everything. If you need to replace a set and have leftovers from your old sets, donate them – you get a tax write-off and your local women's shelter, or goodwill will appreciate it. We buy new sets of towels for our rental and take the older towels home or turn them into dog towels for our pet-friendly rental.
What has been your experience with damage deposits?
Hi! I'm Erika and I'm an info addict! I love travel, vacation rentals, online education, primal and paleo living, crunchy (ish) parenting, holistic nutrition, lavender, bees, animals, technology, and sustainable living. This blog is a central space to pull together my research and writing on a wide variety of lifestyle topics! I hope you'll join me for a few minutes and share your thoughts in the comments :)