Unpublished Draft

January 1 – Taking the Plunge!

The photo above shows Falmouthites plunging into the ocean on this sunny New Year's morning. It represents our metaphorical plunge into a new web presence in 2017.

We've been vacation rental owners since 2010. But our independent web site is brand new!

Why are we taking the plunge? Because we think you deserve better than the changes happening in the Vacation Rental By Owner industry. A couple of big players swept in, bought up the older sites, and now are treating vacation rental homes like hotel rooms: immediate, anonymous, one-night stays, loads of fees.

Falmouth Heights Cottage is our former residence. It’s not a hotel and shares none of those traits. What sets us apart is excellent, personalized customer service. Your vacation memories are the top priority – we know you look forward all year to your Cape Cod vacation. We take care of the details so you can indulge your time off with family and friends.

We think it's vital for renter and owner to speak with each other before booking the property. Our Falmouth Heights rental house offers a lot, but it's not perfect for everyone. For example, we don't have a deck, or a water view, or bedroom tv’s. Is the ferry’s horn a happy sound, or one that wakes the baby? We need to know what's important to you and ensure we can meet your expectations. The last thing we want is for you to be disappointed!

Such person-to-person matching has served us well over seven rental seasons. Our guests are wonderful, respectful people and we have never kept anyone’s security deposit. As for the efficacy of online matching and peer ratings... no doubt you’ve read many horror stories about how "customer service" works when there's a problem.

Be wary of any site that doesn’t post the owner or manager's phone number. More and more, the big listing sites are restricting our access to each other, or only releasing our contact info after you've paid for your reservation. Are you ok with not being able to ask questions before you commit? What about paying the full rent at time of booking, many months in advance? Are you ok with a 4-15% service fee added to your bill (if your total looks odd, drill down to the itemized quote, if you can find it). How well do you trust their "24/7 support"? I assure you, if the wifi goes out or the sink backs up, we'll respond more quickly being just 1 mile away – we care more about our home and our clients than an offshore call center will.

As the customer, your opinion counts. You don't have to accept this new business model. First of all, there are still vacation rental sites that connect renters with owners the old fashioned way: directly and without extra booking fees. Here's one for our area:
WeNeedAVacation.com has specialized in Cape Cod since 1997.

Vacation home owner Kim Bergstrom [vacationrentalsmanzanita.com/blog/whats-up-with-vrbo-homeaway-airbnb-flipkey-tripadvisor-and-expedia-service-fees] created this infographic that shows how much more you're paying (click it to enlarge).

Let's look at examples for a $3000/wk summer cottage in Falmouth:

Your cost: $3,355 including service fee of $201 (7%)
FlipKey / TripAdvisor
Your cost: $3,578 including service fee of $453 (14%)
VRBO / HomeAway
Your cost: $3,323 including service fee of $173 (6%) – all due today!
The travel sites claim this surcharge guarantees safe payment, but any credit card already gives you that protection. We accept 6 credit cards including AMEX, eChecks, personal checks, PayPal, whatever’s most convenient and comfortable for you.

Suppose you've found a property you're interested in, but dislike the $175-$450 service charge? Vacation rental owner Donna Martinez [www.searanchabalonebay.com/vacation-tips/save-money] has some tips to help you locate the owner and contact them directly.

To summarize, you can:
  • Check if the owner's phone number or email is shown on the listing
  • Find the owner's name or the property's name, then look it up with Facebook or Google
  • Copy a few lines of the property's description and plug it into a Google search – you may be rewarded with a link to the owner's web site
  • Using Google image search, drag and drop the property's main photo to see if it appears elsewhere on the web
Thus ends this public service message. Summer is 5 months away! Don't pay $100's extra for service fees with no value added – book direct by owner for a more personal experience at lower cost.
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