All posts tagged guests

This may be of interest to some of you and your guests. It has recently been reported on some of the forums that from 1st January 2013, drivers in Florida require an IDP (International Driving Permit). This new requirement has not quite filtered down yet but I would imagine that before long the car rental desks will be expecting to see one. As usual it took some time to find out exactly because even some departments were still unaware of it. Even the US embassy website makes no mention of it in the section about driving in the US. This is a new state requirement and other states may not require it. I think it is an example of stupid bureaucracy. I would understand it more if the original driving license was in a foreign language. If stopped by the police you must produce both your driving license and the IDP. As far as I can see it will also apply to all visitors to the US including Canadians.

Here is the Florida statute.

Relevant part.
322.04 Persons exempt from obtaining driver license.-
(1) The following persons are exempt from obtaining a driver license:
(a) Any employee of the United States Government, while operating a non-commercial motor vehicle owned by or leased to the United States Government and being operated on official business.
(b) Any person while driving or operating any road machine, farm tractor, or implement of husbandry temporarily operated or moved on a highway.
(c) A non-resident who is at least 16 years of age operating a motor vehicle of the type for which a Class E driver license is required in this state if the non-resident has in his or her immediate possession:
1. A valid non-commercial driver license issued in his or her name from another state or territory of the United States; or
2. An International Driving Permit issued in his or her name in his or her country of residence and a valid license issued in that country.
(d) Any person operating a golf cart, as defined in s. 320.01, which is operated in accordance with the provisions of s. 316.212.
(2) This section does not apply to any person to whom s. 322.031 applies.
(3) Any person working for a firm under contract to the United States Government whose residence is outside this state and whose main point of employment is outside this state may drive a non-commercial vehicle on the public roads of this state for periods up to 60 days while in this state on temporary duty, if the person has a valid driver license from the state of the person’s residence.

As I said it may be taking some time to filter down to the car hire companies but you can be sure that it won’t be long till someone is stopped by the police and fined for not having one.

Where to get them.
UK residents can get them from the post office or from the AA and RAC and Canadian residents can find more info here
Visitors from other countries should Google it to see where to apply. Some countries may already have to use them as their license would not be in English.

It always surprises me the differing attitudes that some owners have when it comes to smaller parties wanting a larger property. I sometimes see annoyance in owners’ comments saying, or implying, these guests are wasting their time, Why? I know from my own experience, before I owned a villa myself, my wife and I used to stay in nothing less than a 4 bedroom property. We like the extra space and there are a lot of other people out there that feel the same and are completely willing to pay the extra cost for the privilege.

My advice to owners of larger properties is to treat the parties of 2, 3 etc just the same as larger groups and quote your rates, you may be surprised at the response.



One other point that I think is very important. By having this State Licence, it gives you the protection for on the spot Sheriff’s Office protection. That’s because the licence itself is exactly the same one that is used by motels and if you need to evict someone for misuse of your property or outstaying their time in your home, you can call upon the Sheriff to evict them, whatever time of day, man woman or child. One thing to remember is the Sheriff’s Department say you must have the vacation rental lodging license, to show them or else it is no good. So for those owners out there that do not have a State Licence, be warned, if you ever need to evict someone from your rental property and do not have it, you are in for a world of pain to get them out.

How many of you remember your past guests at this time of year? It can prove to be very advantageous to show your appreciation for their past custom. All it takes is a card, thanking them for their past custom or you could send them a card saying “Wish you were here”, something along those lines. They will really appreciate it, don’t forget to add your contact details and let them know that you would welcome them back sometime in the future.

The key to successfully renting out your villa or vacation home is creating a great first impression. You have to make your villa attractive to the eyes and senses of your guests. You do this is a variety of ways, by the quality of your email response to am enquiry, the quality of your property, having an excellent website and talking directly to the guest. Let’s look at each one.

The quality of your Property
You obviously need to have an attractive, clean, modern looking property to start with. On the outside the landscaping needs to be well maintained, neat and tidy. Some people will think if the outside is a mess the inside will be too. Inside, try and upgrade the furnishings so that yours stands head and shoulders above the competition. Move away from the “palm tree” furnishings and cushions that so many homes have. Be adventurous with your décor and move up from the usual magnolia/white. You would be surprised what a difference these things make. Some homes now have games rooms, most of them are in the garage. If you do one make sure you get the floor covered and try to make it more like a room rather than a garage with a pool table. If you can get some way of cooling the room down as in the summer it will be pretty warm in there. You cannot change the garage structurally without the proper permission from the relevant department and some HOA require you get their permission. It is worth checking first. Other homes have home cinemas/theaters with large screen TV’ blu-ray players and home cinema sound systems. The thing is many of the folks that are attracted to that, probably will hardly watch it but the thought is appealing.

Your Email Response.
This may be the first contact you have with the guest, especially when you have received an enquiry from a rental website. This is your chance to out shine the opposition. Keep your reply brief but to the point, don’t write pages and pages as they will get bored but at the same time avoid the one liners just giving the rate. This is where you have chance to list all your villa’s special features and unique selling points. Make sure you use your spell checker before you send it as it doesn’t give a good first impression if the email is littered with spelling mistakes. Make sure you have a link to your “glowing” website in the email and encourage the guest to visit it for more information, photos and location map. If you get them to the website  you are well on the way to converting to a booking.

Talking Directly To The Guest
If they included a phone number on their enquiry, then they expect to get some phone calls regarding their enquiry. Don’t feel that you are imposing on them. You can tell them that you have already emailed them with your details and thought you would contact them to see if there is any other information they might need. Ask if they have been before and offer any advice that they might need. This will hopefully register interest with them and your email reply will stand out more now. If there is no phone number when you respond, offer to give them a call or give them your phone number for them to call you if they wish.

Having An Excellent Website
I know this may sound like I am promoting what I do but, nevertheless it is still very important. Your website is probably the first time they set eyes on your little piece of Florida and you want them to see exactly what it is like in all it’s glory. It needs to be a clear and easy website to navigate, with details of all the features on the front page, so that it encourages them to want to look further. Avoid too much of the “chintzy”, gimmicky stuff, flashing objects and animated images can be a bit off putting and not very professional. Photo’s, make sure these are of good quality and look bright with vibrant colours. There is nothing worse than spending a whole load of money on the villa and furnishings, only to use a crappy camera that produces dark, dinghy photos with masses of gain effect on them due to lack of light. All the work and cash you have spent on the property is wasted because the images of it make it look nothing special. Here are a couple of tips if you are taking your own photos but if you can get a professional to do it, first tip is get a half decent camera. You don’t have to spend a fortune on one just ensure it takes good quality photos. Dress your rooms, set the dining table, have a bottle of wine on the table. Turn on all the lights in the rooms, try not to take a photo towards a window that has the sun streaming through, close the blinds if you have to. Take lots and lots of pictures form all aspects then use the best for the site. If the pool deck gets the sun for so many hours a day make sure you take a photo when the sun is on the deck. The same with the outside front of the property, it always looks better with the sun on it and preferably a blue sky in the background. None of this is done for any other reason than to appeal to the viewers emotion, to make them want to be and imagine themselves, there. If you can, get a video or virtual tour done, this adds a little more the website and gives a more complete view. Add a map to show the location but for security purposes, there is no need to show the exact location, just the community would suffice.

The way to look at it is ask yourself what would you like to see in a website or from a rental villa? Lastly beware if you try and do a website yourself, you could be missing many of the things needed to help promote your website in the search engines and it can take quite a bit of learning how to do it correctly. I have seen some pretty nasty websites out there and no matter how nice the property may be, it gives the impression that the website is unprofessional, so the home probably is too and they move on to the next one.

Good Luck and Good Fortune.


By Steve Sewell