Sunday, November 05, 2006

Ten Tips For Successful Vacation Rental Owners

If you own a second home that's bound for the vacation rental market, you may wish to take note of some tips from some of the most successful vacation rental owners.

One...what's in a name? Everything! Come up with a unique, memorable name for your property. The Grizz, Bare Bear or the Texas Treehouse are far more descriptive and romantic names for a rental property than the Smith House. They'll stand out in people's minds and actually contribute to their level of enjoyment during their stay. And don't forget about the impact in the internet search engines. A unique, descriptive name featuring some of your area's most popular search terms (cabin, condo, bungalow, cottage, etc.) will be much easier to find in an online experience.

Two...decide on how aggressively you wish to pursue rentals. For some, it's a business and every single booked night counts. Others may wish to rent it just enough to cover their monthly expenses, with occasional owner stays. Still another segment of vacation rental owners may not be concerned about the number of rental nights at all preferring to rent only occasionally. Be aware of which group you fall into, as each one requires a different marketing approach.

Three...price it right. Right pretty much depends on which group you fall into under tip two. If you're in the vacation home business, you'll want to be particularly aggressive in pricing to keep the calendar filled. If you're just covering expenses, the area norm for a similar property or a few dollars more will probably work best. And if you're fortunate enough to be unencumbered by the frequency of rentals, you may seek a premium price. many is too many? Selecting the appropriate occupancy for your rental unit is important. There are three bedroom rentals that accommodate six people and there are three bedroom properties that accommodate fifteen. If you wish to stimulate rentals you may wish to add beds and go with a higher number of occupants. Others may chose to establish a lower maximum number of guests to appeal to a different renter profile. Remember, all things being equal ten people will be much harder in wear and tear on things than a group of five. place like home! Make your vacation rental warm and inviting. Don't skimp on the decor with plenty of art, plants and knick knacks to give that unmistakable air of...home. And don't forget a guest book for all to sign. Some owners even leave a small profile of themselves encouraging the guests to email or call them with feedback on their stay.

Six...advertise wisely. Some vacation rentals owners have success with ads in small, local print publications. Others may experience results with paid ads on popular local websites. But many of the best ways to promote your venture may be available to you absolutely free! There are literally hundreds of internet directories and sites that will post a listing about your vacation rental at no charge. Most likely your state department of tourism maintains an extensive website that is ready and willing to help you promote your second home. Usually, as a member of the local chamber of commerce you're entitled to appear on their website. Additionally, there are many specialty websites that will list you at no charge. For instance, if western is the theme of your rental you may choose to list it on . If you have a golf course condo, you might seek out golf oriented sites. Just invest in some web surfing time and you'll find more than enough opportunities to promote your rental unit. it up! Let everyone know what you have available. Tell folks at work or church and perhaps offer them a special discount. You may wish to donate it to a local church or civic group to use as a retreat. If these folks have an enjoyable stay they're bound to tell others. This is the best form of advertising that you can generate...word of mouth!

Eight...a picture is worth a thousand words. Whatever way you choose to advertise your vacation rental, pictures will most likely be involved. Do not underestimate the need for high quality photographs to make people want to visit your home. Instead of the run of the mill, blurry, underexposed shots invest in good quality photographs. For $150.00 - $200.00 (probably the cost of just one night's stay) you can hire a competent local photographer to produce a series shots that will create real impact with potential guests.

Nine...niche markets. You may wish to specialize in a pet friendly property or a unit with handicap access. If your property is right on a river or lake, you may wish to decorate in the atmosphere of a fishing shanty. If you're on a golf course you may include golf memorabilia as part of your decor. Identify people with special needs or requirements that may be otherwise ignored in your area and make them your target. professional help. If you don't have the time, temperament or inclination to do everything yourself, secure the services of a property management company to maximize the ROI that you expect. They are involved in all of the above on a daily basis and can help you achieve the type of results you seek from your vacation rental.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

By The Way, Billy

Noted outlaw Billy The Kid was a famous figure from the rugged American Old West. His involvement in the Lincoln County, New Mexico Wars as one of John Tunstall's "Regulators" is part of a fascinating legend that took place throughout southern New Mexico. Folks come from all over the world to explore the area for themselves. Original buildings from the era still stand complemented by museums packed with interesting lore and artifacts about Billy and the period in which he lived.
The best way to enjoy the Billy The Kid experience is by following the route of the Billy The Kid Scenic Byway. I bet the last thing that Billy ever would have imagined is that a motor route through southern New Mexico bearing his name and likeness. Thoroughfares all over the world carry the name of statesmen, entertainers, sports figures, astronauts and other heros. In this case the Billy The Kid Scenic Byway is named...well, for an outlaw.
You'll start off in Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico at the Billy The Kid Scenic Byway Visitor's Center. The facility will give you the background on the history of the area. Naturally, you'll have the opportunity to pick up an ample supply of souvenirs for the dashboard and the refrigerator door. While in Ruidoso Downs you'll want to see the Hubbard Museum of the American West, the Ruidoso Downs Racetrack and the Billy The Kid Casino.
The resort community of Ruidoso is next. Enjoy the many shops and galleries and be sure to stop by the historic Dowlin's Mill, one of the favorite haunts of Billy The Kid.
You'll proceed north through Alto, on the way to Capitan. On the way, save some time to see historic Ft. Stanton. This fort helped tame the wild west. Due to several battles at the fort itself, Ft. Stanton served as both a Union and Confederate stronghold. Each year in August the "Ft. Stanton Live" celebration recreates life as it was in the era when the fort was a major factor in the defense of New Mexico.
Capitan is next and is perhaps best known as the home of the only American figure with his own zip code...Smokey Bear. See the final resting spot of old Smokey at the Smokey Bear Park and well as interesting exhibits on fire prevention and the local flora. By the way, to remain politically correct it's just Smokey Bear. Just happen to let go with a "Smokey The Bear" and you'll quickly be corrected. It's kind of like saying "Santa The Claus" or "Easter The Bunny".
From Capitan we move over to the hot bed of the Lincoln County Wars, Lincoln, New Mexico. Here many buildings from the Billy The Kid era still stand. Several now serve as museums for a fascinating look at life in the American Old West. You might want to stop for a cold beverage at the Wortley Hotel or stay the night at the Ellis Store Bed and Breakfast.
Next on the scenic byway is Hondo, San Patricio and Glencoe. The Coe Ranch still stands and was where Billy The Kid worked as a ranch hand during his formative years.
The byway has made a large loop through the area and as we continue, we find ourselves back at the visitor's center in Ruidoso Downs. You'll find the Billy The Kid Scenic Byway trip well worth while and enjoyable for families and children of all ages. Don't pass up the chance to see how history has played an important part in New Mexico and where the legend of Billy The Kid was born. You can even watch this video on Billy...

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Jim - Memorial Day 2006

I first published this blog installment last year. It seemed like it might be a good idea to reissue the piece. Let's remember... just because our Commander and Chief has been a big disappointment doesn't mean we should not support our troops. They are there for US. Let 'em know how you feel!

Jim Jablonski was average in most ways. He was average height and weight, an average student with an attempt at a moustache that just wouldn't quite fill out. I met Jim in high school. Jim and I resided in the brass section of the school band. As a baritone player he sat immediately in front of me and my tuba. We traded remarks , cracked jokes and when the band's yearly concert rolled around, it was Jim that had a bottle of blackberry brandy stowed away in his locker to help celebrate the event. Jim lost his life on a helicopter in Vietnam. Troubling? Of course! What's even more troubling is that everyone knows at least one Jim.

When Memorial Day comes around I think of Jim and it still seems kind of senseless. I guess engraving names in marble helps us remember, but it does little to help us understand. There isn't a day that we spend that we do not enjoy the benefits of a life that would not be the same if our relatives, friends and neighbors had not seen fit to give their lives. We remember them, and are grateful.

So I'd like to take the opportunity to say thank you, not only to those that gave their lives and their families...but to all who have and are serving their country. I find it impossible to not be extremely thankful for their sacrifice. So remember them when you're standing in the backyard grilling. Maybe the tearing in the corner of your eyes won't be from the BBQ smoke. And of course, thank you Jim.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

We Are Family

Ruidoso, New Mexico is a lot of things to many people. A ski resort, a thriving horse racing destination and, more than anything, a great place to spend time with your family. And where can you find a more fun mix of activities and events for the kids than in Southern New Mexico!

Ruidoso has a wonderful assortment of activities for children of all ages. Enjoy horse back riding with four stables in town and one on the nearby
Mescalero Apache Reservation. If it's fishing you're after the hot spots are at the Grindstone Dam, Mescalero Reservation and the mighty Rio Ruidoso River, stocked with plenty of good sized trout. Just be sure and have a local fishing license, easily obtainable at the local WalMart and Western Auto. If you don't catch anything there, head on past the racetrack to Seeping Springs Trout Pond. They furnish the gear, the fishin' hole and you only pay 50 cents an inch for what you catch no license required. Here's the very best part...they clean them for you! My daugther took the family and came back with 4 lovely 12 inch+ trout all ready for the grill.

Naturally, being in the mountains of New Mexico there's plenty of hiking and nature. The
Lincoln National Forest is a start with plenty of other diverse scenery nearby. If you're after more urban pursuits, Fun Trackers Amusements in Ruidoso has go karts, bumber boats and goofy golf. That's just for starters. Add in the history of the region and you've got a plateful.

Ruidoso has it's own historical spots. There's Dowlin's Mill where Billy the Kid stayed. Don't forget a stop at the Hubbard Museum of the American West for an enchanting look at the past for all ages.

Capitan, a scant twenty minutes from Ruidoso is home to the only American figure with their own zip code...Smokey Bear. The Smokey Bear Historical Park is packed with tips on preventing wild fires with plenty of interactive display for the children. There's a small theater with regular showings, an informative garden area with many types of indigenous flora and of course the final resting spot of old Smokey himself. Always a tear there it seems.

Lincoln, only 30 minutes away you've got the hub of the Lincoln County Wars. Characters like John Tunstall, Sheriff Bob Ollenger and of course William Bonney who became better known as Billy the Kid. It's the bloodiest street in any era...with a nice selection of museums, shops and original buildings. The classic Wortley Hotel which still operates seasonally and the Ellis Store, now a splendid bed and breakfast are just examples.

An hour south of Ruidoso is Alamagordo. Pay a visit to their zoo. Perhaps the really big screen calls from the IMAX theater. Mystified by the stars? The Space Museum is bound to enthrall. Don't forget the allure of the magical
White Sands National Monument...all great reasons to make the 60 minute drive.

Only 75 minutes out is the infamous Roswell, home to UFO buffs from aroung the world. Is it a weather balloon or something else? The
UFO Museum has their opinion on the matter. Check them out!

If it seems like a lot of things to keep the kids loving the area, well that's because there are! Frequently concerned parents who come to enjoy the race track or casinos ask, "Is there anything for the kids to do?". You bet!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Selecting a Property Management Company

If you've spent any time in a resort community, you've probably encountered a good number of vacation rentals. These can vary, from cabins to condos and perhaps even a seaside bungalow. These are properties frequently owned by absent investors and rented out to guests on a nightly, weekly or monthly basis. In a busy resort community these homes can not only be a gracious lodging experience, but often more economical than hotels especially at "high season" rates.
If you're among the many considering investing in a rental property you must make a choice. Prepare to spend the time to maintain the unit and arrange for reliable housekeeping services, advertise your little getaway on the internet and in the local media, and provide facilities for checking guests in and out. The alternative is the preference of a majority of out of town owners...hire a reputable property management company to help maximize your ROI.
Here are a few guidelines to help in selecting the management company that best meets your needs.
> Naturally, word of mouth can help you in your research. Talk to locals and other rental property owners. Most will be happy to share their experiences with you.
> Note the visibility of the management company in the market. Are they easily located in the local phone book? How many units do they manage? Do they have actual office facilities or are your guests reporting for check-in to someone's garage? Do they advertise in the local travel guides and other area publications?
> Technology plays an important part in property management success. Does your candidate have a solid internet presence? Can you see ample photos online to help selecting an appropriate retreat? Can you easily check availability and book online? Most important, how easily can your candidate be found in the online community? Target a search engine and a search term that you feel people might actually use to shop for a property. In Ruidoso, New Mexico a mountain resort community the most popular vacation rental is the mountain cabin.
Select, for example MSN...and the simple search phrase "ruidoso cabin". If your property management candidate shows up in the first page, you've located a firm that has the marketing savvy to help your investment succeed. If the company you're investigating is number one on the first search page you've found an aggressive, professional marketer with the tools you need to maximize the return from your investment. If they do not appear in the first three pages of search results...move on. They may have a website, but it is not positioned to help you make reservations.
> What is the rental experience like for the guest? Is the initial contact with a friendly, knowlegeable reservationist? Here's where your own powers of observation come into play. Call your candidate and actually book a stay in one of their managed properties. How were you treated? Was the property well maintained and clean? Would you rent from them again? This simple technique can be a real eye opener.
These basic questions will help you get started in selecting the property management that can help you realize your investment plans.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Country Music - Introducing CT Harrison

CT Harrison just called to let me know that he was making another television appearance, this time on cable's PAX network. Not surprising. It has been said that if you throw enough "stuff" at the wall, sooner or later something is bound to stick. And CT has displayed remarkable resilience with his throwing arm. After knocking on doors from Nashville to Los Angeles I suppose that he has every right to become discouraged at the results of his efforts. But he doesn't. He just keeps on.
What makes a person that focused on his goal...his love of music? "My sister left home when I was just eight years old." CT recalls. "She left behind her Gibson Les Paul copy guitar. That was enough for me!" he remembers. "I used to sit in the living room for hours playing that thing to an 8-Track of Johnny Cash's Man In Black." Note: If you don't quite remember 8-Tracks ask Mom and Dad. "I would pretend I was Johnny Cash and the crowd was cheering for ME. Later, I also fell in love with the drums. After playing air drums every waking hour of every day my folks finally bought me a drum set. I guess this whole course was set right there."

CT was born in Las Vegas, Nevada where he was adopted at 11 months old after stays in several foster homes. He grew up on a farm near Roswell, New Mexico where he attended East Grand Plains Elementary School, T. Mesa Middle School and finally Goddard High School. "I wasn't a great student, but I did OK... and my love of music continued to develop." CT offered. While other Country Music hopefuls were waiting tables in Nashville, CT had his share of 'day jobs'. "My first after school job was in a butcher shop and I absolutely hated it! Next, I held a brief job at the local Radio Shack". CT seemed to embrace variety and jobs as a contractor, surveyor, psychiatric technician, nurse's aid, reservationist and several stints as a Disc Jockey followed.
But CT wasn't just working... he was listening as well. He had his ear to his Country favorites Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, Gary Allen, Pat Green and his idol, Chris LeDoux. CT mused, "When I listen to what I've recorded, I can hear bits and pieces of all of them." And CT's discography continues to grow. "Waiting For The Other Heart To Fall was a 5 song EP that I really enjoyed recording. The season seemed to take over next and we released CT's Country Christmas. My current project American Outlaw is perhaps our biggest undertaking to date."
CT does reserve some time for relaxation. "I fish, camp and when darkness falls it's straight to the honky tonk dance floor." And all wrapped in a steady diet of Country music. His fantasy? "I'd travel to Scotland and visit old castles, Loch Ness and do some ghost hunting, in season of course." A grin swept across his face. "I really love ghost hunting."
CT's chosen genre of Country music has always been about lovin', leavin', drinkin' and fightin'. I asked CT which he feels has most impacted his career. "Bar brawls." he answered without the slightest hesitation. "One night in Farmington, New Mexico 5 pipe liners got me down in the parking lot. It took the better part of a month to recover but heck, that was FUN!"
You can sample CT's music or order it online at

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Perfect Ski Vacation

A lot of planning has gone into preparations for the perfect ski trip. You've targeted an adventure at Ski Apache in Southern New Mexico. Good choice! Ski Apache is one of those well kept ski secrets. 55 breathtaking trails and the largest lift capacity in New Mexico make for maximum skiing and a minimum of waiting.

Nearby Ruidoso, New Mexico offers all the convenience of a modern resort community. Ample lodging and dining choices are the "trimming" for your ski holiday. You've considered all the many places to stay and have decided that a mountain adventure calls for that perfect getaway...a secluded mountain cabin. A good choice in Ruidoso would be "Away From It All"...a brand new cabin tucked away just a few miles from downtown...but light years away from other people. Now that you have the accommodations nailed down, it's time to attend to the skiing.

Many Ruidoso hotels, cabins and property management companies offer a "ski package" with your lodging. They've bundled together discounted lift tickets and equipment rentals to make the logistics of the trip a breeze! The ski vouchers you'll exchange for lift tickets save you from standing in long lift ticket lines. Make sure that your equipment rental outlet offers reservations on your ski equipment, like the Wild West Ski Shop. That way, your previous phone order allows you to go to the head of long equipment lines with little or no waiting. Don't be afraid to strike up a conversation with the locals. They'll let you in on tips like these that will save you time and get you skiing.

Only one more detail to investigate. Time to check the weather. It's no secret that there is no such thing as too much snow for local businesses that rely on highly seasonal income from winter sports. This year, precipitation has been light all over New Mexico. For reasons unknown, rumors on the extent of this light snowfall exagerate the shortage of new snow. Local merchants now join together to present an accurrate picture of the situation. Few are more affected than the areas lodgers. Like river boat gamblers, their hand is betting on snow to attract the business that they need to survive. The snow always comes. This year it's just a little...late.

Let's set the record straight. Snowfall has been light, but Ski Apache is open and people are having the time of their lives...skiing! Ruidoso prepares for the barrage of skiers searching for and finding the perfect ski vacation.