Remotely Monitoring of your Airbnb’s Cleanliness

Any owner of a vacation rental business must be aware of the importance of offering an impeccably clean property to guests. Guests are also looking for a homely and welcoming experience. They will not compromise on their expectations when it comes to hygienic standards. It is very common to receive negative reviews due to slight issues like a barely visible hair on a pillowcase, or grime on light switches. Deep cleaning after every check-out or engaging professional cleaning services involves a huge amount of work. But if positive reviews matter to you, cleaning will become an integral part of your business. Thankfully, the growth of the vacation rental market has meant that there are solutions available to Remotely Monitoring of your Airbnb’s Cleanliness.

Local Professional Vacation Rental Cleaners

By just googling you will find a list of local vacation rental cleaning companies available in your vicinity.  Although you have many options, it can also be confusing and difficult to choose the appropriate cleaners. Having an Airbnb cleaning checklist in hand will make the process of finding the right cleaning service easier.  Probably checking the reviews left for the cleaning company, and a bit of trial and error will allow you to find the group that can fulfill your expectations. Finally, after making your choice, you have to follow a procedure. You should ask the cleaner to follow your cleaning checklist, sending pictures to the supervisor to show the work status.

There are multiple cleaning checklist templates available on the internet. While items including the kitchen, wet areas, exterior, and sleeping areas are musts on any cleaning checklist, Zeevou has a detailed cleaning checklist template which it provides for cleaners, including items beyond the standard ones found on most checklists. If you want to read the article, please click here.

 Cleaning Apps for Vacation Rentals

Vacation rental cleaning apps are a good choice when operating and tracking short term rental cleans from a remote location. With a cleaning app, you can schedule the cleaning tasks, check the quality of the cleaners, and also find all available local cleaning companies. 

Properly is a cleaning app known for its photo integration. You can take photos and add notes on the parts you want to flag or clean again.

TurnoverBnB is another cleaning app that is currently available only in the US and Canada. It has integrations with major OTAs, providing a cleaning schedule linked to coming bookings, check-ins, and check-outs.

MaidThis, Handy, Airtasker, Doinn, GuestPrep, and Airhosta are among the many other cleaning apps for vacation rentals you can look into in your area.

Integrated Solutions Like a Comprehensive PMS

Choosing the right Property Management System with an integrated cleaning solution reduces your management workload. Instead of paying for separate applications, and incorporating them manually into your workflow with the attendant problems that can result from the integration of different systems, why not choose a comprehensive, all-in-one solution?  

Zeevou is an easy to use online platform that automates hospitality management. The cleaning module of this PMS is incorporated into this exceptional system. Zeevou Clean links automatically with all the other parts of the PMS, from marketing to bookings, to operations.

Zeevou Clean compares favourably with existing solutions tailored for the vacation rental industry.

  • It has a developed algorithm for allocating tasks to the housekeepers, asks you to input the time needed for each task, and considers the travel time between properties if the staff have to follow a cleaning itinerary in a day.
  • You can create bespoke teams for certain tasks within your system.
  • The cleaners can access the list of their cleans on their mobile apps, making communication more efficient. 
  • Zeevou records the cleaners’ GPS during the time the task is under progress. The cleaners should upload photos of each room to check the quality of their job.
  • Housekeepers can also report other maintenance issues through their mobile apps, which are then fed into Zeevou Fix. Zeevou Clean enables you to manage housekeeping tasks remotely. It takes advantage of your housekeepers’ presence to deal with any issues your vacation rental property might have faced.

Are you interested in knowing more about how Zeevou helps you Remotely Monitoring of your Airbnb’s Cleanliness? Please read this page. You can also contact Zeevou Partner Success Team as we can’t wait to show you around!

Is VAT Applicable on Cancellations and No-Shows?

Is VAT applicable on cancellations and no-shows?

UK government put into effect a policy regarding VAT charges for non-refundable deposits of canceled or no-show bookings on 1st March 2019. This came as a surprise to many short-term rental managers, affecting their accounting and revenue-related calculations. But VAT and Tour Operators’ Margin Scheme (TOMS) complexities should not deter you from tracking the tax rules of the hospitality sector. Besides, Brexit and the UK withdrawal from the EU make TOMS not applicable anymore in the UK thereafter. So one needs to consider all these factors when devising a sensible approach to tax accounting.

How have non-refundable deposits been treated to date?

HMRC used to follow a policy of exempting vacation rental businesses from paying VAT on non-refundable deposits received through canceled or no-show bookings. This exemption was justified by the fact that there was no direct connection between the non-refundable deposit and the supply of the items and services provided for the guests.

How are canceled bookings and no-shows to be treated going forward?

An article dated January 4th 2019 on the BDO UK website states:

“HMRC has confirmed a new policy that VAT remains due on a deposit, even if the customer does not use the goods or services for which it was paid”.

https://www.bdo.co.uk/en-gb/insights/tax/vat-and-indirect-taxes/vat-to-be-chargeable-on-all-non-refundable-deposits

So this means that as a vacation rental manager, in case of cancelled or no-show bookings, you will now have to pay VAT on non-refundable deposits. The article goes on to say that the change will primarily affect the hospitality industry,

 “which will soon be unable to recover VAT charged on cancellation or ‘no show’ charges…”

https://www.bdo.co.uk/en-gb/insights/tax/vat-and-indirect-taxes/vat-to-be-chargeable-on-all-non-refundable-deposits

How does VAT on cancellations and no-shows affect my vacation rental business operations?

UK governments implemented the VAT on cancellations and No-shows on 1st March 2019. Most noteworthy, if you have not considered this new VAT policy, be sure to take it into account in your business plan.

1.  First of all, review your cancellation and no-show policy, and check its terms and conditions.

2. Also, ask your accountant or VAT counselor for advice on how to change your accounting procedures accordingly. Most probably you will need to include non-refundable invoices from canceled bookings in your accounting system or software.

How can I minimise the disruption on my business?

Each time you face a new VAT policy, you need to review the way you operate your vacation rental business. Hence, this time HMRC’s new policy regarding charging VAT for non-refundable deposits of canceled or no-show bookings is going to add to your accounting workload. From now on, you will have to include the invoices for those types of bookings in your VAT declaration.

Luckily there are solutions available. While drawing up invoices is time-consuming work, accounting software such as Xero is a handy solution to the problem. You find it probably even more advantageous to entrust the operation of your short term rentals. You need an all-in-one channel manager. A channel which integrates with an online accounting program to make your tax life hassle-free. Zeevou is an easy-to-use online platform that automates hospitality management. At the time of booking, Zeevou generates a beautifully designed draft invoice for every customer. Even if the guests do not use the services you provide for them, you have the invoice in your database. If knowing more about how Zeevou can help hosts seems interesting to you, please click on this link.

Airbnb Custom URLs

Airbnb Custom URL

Airbnb hosts are starting to be told that they can employ custom URLs as Superhosts. Airbnb enables eligible hosts to take advantage of this opportunity to create an airbnb custom URL for each of their listings. However, the airbnb Superhost can create only one URL per listing and it is valid only so long as their Airbnb account is active. This also means that airbnb can remove it anytime they decide to do it.

Therefore, Airbnb’s long listing URLs that look like anonymous addresses, and do not make any impression on guests, will eventually be replaceable by ones using the airbnb.com/yourlistingname format, unless someone else has already used that particular name. This functionality was supposed to be released in the fall of 2018. As a matter of fact, that never happened, and Airbnb has still not announced an exact date. According to hosts, emails from Airbnb claim that the final release is coming soon and you can use airbnb custom URL.

Setting up your own custom URL Steps

Setting up your own custom URL is relatively easy.  Before starting the process, bear in mind that you are eligible to create only one Airbnb URL per listing. So if you have three listings, you have to make sure you choose three URLs which direct people to each listing you host.

On every listing page, you will find the following items: Amenities, Accessibility features, Title & Description, and Custom Link.

Click on Custom Link and then click on “type your link”, shown in a different color similar to the picture below. Please be aware that you only get to do this once for each listing, so you should make sure to read the terms and conditions of Airbnb Custom URL Policies in detail first.  

Alternatively, you might receive a message on your dashboard stating: Promote Listing by a Custom URL. In this case the message will guide you through the steps. 

Are Airbnb’s Custom URLs of any use?

What are the pros and cons of using Airbnb’s custom URL? Does an Airbnb’s custom URL improve your SEO?

The advocates of Airbnb’s custom URL say that it will help your listings rank higher. It looks much nicer to have a short and memorable link that can be printed on your business card. you can use it to promote your listing and direct more guests to it.

Opponents of Airbnb’s custom URL criticise some of its features.  First of all, the opportunity seems to be unreliable. The existence of this link depends on Airbnb policies; which means it can be suspended if the host loses the Superhost status, or if, for any reason, Airbnb decides to discontinue it. Similar problems have been experienced by entrepreneurs setting up a business through Facebook.  Secondly, the opportunity does not benefit all Airbnb hosts. Getting Airbnb’s custom URL is exclusive to Superhosts on Airbnb. While some plus members of Airbnb already have a custom URL, the others have to wait for the new announcement.

Finally, the custom URL does not affect ranking on search engines.  When someone clicks on a custom URL, they are simply redirected to your Airbnb listing’s main URL. There are many tutorials on setting up a domain name for your Airbnb listing, which claim to give a personalised character to your vacation rental business and you can google to find also how Airbnb URL Shortener works, but at the end of the day these  benefit Airbnb to grow.

And in reality, that’s all it does. The main advantage of using a custom URL seems to be the fact that you get a memorable link that you can share with family, friends, and regular guests. If you are looking for a memorable URL to spread around and help Airbnb strengthen their position in the marketplace and earn more in commissions, this seems to be a great way to go!

However, you may wish to consider setting up your own website to increase direct bookings of your vacation rental business instead. In this way, you will be able to charge your guests more and at the same time offer them a discount, as there’s no middle man that needs a share of the pie!

Increase your Direct Bookings.

A number of channel managers and property management systems for vacation rentals and serviced apartments also offer booking engines. Zeevou is an easy to use online platform that automates hospitality management. One of its aims is to decrease hosts’ dependency on OTAs and listing sites by driving direct bookings. Vacation rental managers setting their website up through Zeevou can use their own domain. The rich SEO tools offered help maximise the chances of showing up on top of search results. Zeevou creates a beautiful, SEO-friendly, modern website which expands visibility and increases the hosts’ profits. If you are interested in knowing more about how Zeevou can help hosts, please click on this link.

Why you need to be looking at the solo traveller market for your SA business

Solo travel is already on the rise, and it’s the next big thing. In this article we are going to walk you through why you need to be looking at the solo traveller market for your SA business In 2017, it was reported by Hostelworld that there was a 42% increase in solo bookings over the previous 2 years. Solo travel was a major 2019 trend, according to booking platform Klook. According to the 2018 date, more and more women and baby boomers are opting to travel alone.

Read on to find out how you can take advantage of this solo travel trend and the solo traveler market, so you can find out how to optimise your business and get more bookings from a totally new demographic.

Be female-friendly

Solo Traveler

More than ever before in history, solo travelers are female. The reasons for this is vast, but include technological improvements and social progress. For you, it means you can increase your bookings and know the solo traveler market. After knowing that a lot, if not most, of your solo travellers will be ladies, will allow you to tailor your services, experiences and offers to women’s interests.

If you’re a regular reader of Boostly, you will know that I am all for leaving gift baskets for guests. But knowing you will have a female solo traveler, will allow you to prepare a gift basket specifically aimed at women. For example, you could include coupons to woman-focused businesses, female hygienic supplies, chocolate, cosmetics, and more. 

Women may feel they face more safety challenges while traveling than man. Journeywomen, an online travel resource, suggest that women keep the door to their room deadbolted, and avoid underground parking lots. Taking from these ideas, you could offer your female solo guests free valet parking, and installing one-way peepholes in your rooms. According to Travel + Leisure, one thing that The Grange does is to offer women female-only staff while they are traveling solo.

Host extra social events

Solo Traveler, Travel alone

Travelling alone is certainly a thrill. You can make your own schedule, nobody tells you where to go, and you never have to do anything you don’t want to. However, a solo traveller is likely to get a bit lonely too, after the novelty wears off.

This is where you can really optimise on the solo travelers and the solo travel market. You can draw singletons out for social activities with other travellers, if you have a central area. For example, you can organise a dance class, movie night, or meet and greet that can give your guests the local flavour they crave while also putting them in touch with others. They won’t just remember you for your great service, but for the friendships that they made whilst staying with you. Hospitalities that offer group activities, like Thai cooking classes and kitesurfing, leave an impression, according to Hostelworld. On top of this, your guests might even want to come back to meet up with their new travel buddies in the future.

Depending on where you are in the world, you could really increase your bookings due to solo travel. Intrepid shows that people don’t actually want to travel in proper isolation, which is why they offer group tours for people travelling by themselves. It is sure to be a hit to offer extras that bring singletons together. Consider how organising an activity will bring in those extra bookings.

Make singleton room bookings attractive

Hospitality business

Most hospitality businesses charge by the room rather than by the guest. Since you know that you’re going to get more single travelers in the near future, consider trying a lower price for them. Airbnb follows these guidelines, so if you hold out for a higher price, you could well miss out.

Be mindful of the dreaded single supplement, which will also drive solo guests away from your hospitality. Since solo travel in the hospitality business is becoming a bigger deal, the market is going to respond quite fast. Your competitors are likely to lower their room fee for singletons immediately once they catch on that you won’t. After all, solo travellers are going to boost revenue at the most important time of the year: the off-season.

Focus on the off-season and identify solo travel market more!

Solo Traveller

HolidayPirates, a company that sells cheap vacations, report that most solo bookings happen away from the holidays. This makes perfect sense,  since people travelling single might be doing so to get away from the crowds. This means you should modify your business practices to take this into consideration and consider the solo travel market for your SA business.

Single travellers rooms and singles events might do best during May and June, or even October and November. Hotel News Resource, did say that most travelers are looking at the winter holidays, so use your own business’s past performance to determine your off-season. You should look for ways to attract travelers who are looking at booking at odd times of the year, as well as exploring new geographical locations. If your business is in a place with unusual seasonal events, for example, harvest festivals, you should take advantage of those. Your solo travelers will feel even more special for figuring out about a secret local tradition that those mainstream travelers did not know about.

If you would like more tips on how you can increase your direct bookings, then please reach out. I have a free 5 step blueprint on how you can cut down on commission costs and increase your heads on beds. Go to boostly.co.uk/5steps

Come and say hi on Instagram>> instagram.com/boostlyuk

This is a guest blog post by Mark Simpson. It has been a pleasure.

#BookDirect

Mark Simpson

Boostly

How to Collect Guest Email Addresses

Are you wondering how to collect guest email addresses? Why bother? You can message them directly through the app of the site they booked through, right? Not quite. Keep reading.

The Importance of Collecting Guest Email Addresses

Ping – a new booking has come in through Airbnb. We all love that sound. Payment taken care of. Sit back and relax until arrival date. Airbnb sorts it all out for us. How nice. Or maybe not quite? Have you ever wondered why Airbnb conceals as much as possible in way of contact details of your guests? You’re surely aware that all you get sent is a forwarding e-mail address that usually ends in “@guest.airbnb.com”. Booking.com adopts a similar trick.

While this is all done under the guise of safety and preserving anonymity, there’s probably an underlying reason. And that is the power of data. If the booking site keeps your guests’ contact details to themselves, they’re effectively not your guests. The guests will, very likely, just book through the booking site again, even if they are looking to stay at your property as a repeat guest. If you are trying to increase your direct bookings, it is imperative to start thinking about how to collect your guests’ email addresses. Once you decide to do so, the next step will be to try and automate this, so that it does not take up any of your precious time!

How to Build Up your Marketing List

OK, great. we could convince you. You’re going to take a deep breath and have a nice chat with every guest. when you go to check them in with a Meet & Greet. You could ask where they are coming from. Or perhaps, what they’re in town for, and, once you’ve made friends, what their contact details are. Except for – hang on – what if you’re a single bloke and it’s a young lady staying? That might not go down too well. And, what’s more, you actually let people check-in by themselves, so doing a Meet & Greet just for this seems like a lot of extra work…

Well, perhaps it’s best to contact them before arrival, or even at the time of booking, and just ask them for their contact details upright to collect guest email addresses. But how are you going to keep track of it all? Perhaps you could use a spreadsheet and record them there. Alternatively, you could use a Google Form and send the link out in the booking confirmation email. Why not be even smarter and sign up for a free Hubspot account so you can arrange things even more neatly in there? That way you’ll be able to easily follow up with your customers in the future. But, hang on, that makes it the third form that your guests have to fill in! Plus, Hubspot won’t tell you where or when they stayed, or how much they paid, or whether they’ll be coming back again!

Automating the Collection of Guest Email Addresses

So, is there a neat solution? The answer is, it depends on whether your channel manager or PMS can handle this for you. For example, Zeevou Book‘s unique 5-Step Booking Confirmation Process fully automates the collection of guests’ email addresses. Zeevou identifies hidden email addresses of guests in OTAs websites. While it uses the forwarding address to send the guest an initial email, the forwarding address is hidden from the guest when they are shown the details that you hold for them. There is an obligation in Zeevou for guests to provide you with their real e-mail address. It helps you to update your record. To help ensure compliance with GDPR requirements, Zeevou also enables you to collect consent for future marketing from guests, allowing them to unsubscribe from any marketing emails sent through Zeevou.

To find out more about Zeevou’s features, you can request a Free Demo by clicking here.

At What Point Do I Need a Channel Manager?

Have you recently started a hospitality business or are thinking of getting into serviced accommodation in the near future? No matter how large or small your vacation rental business, you may still be doing things manually or linking channel calendars up to each other via iCal. You may have heard of channel managers or PMSes. However, you may not be sure about why they are needed. Perhaps you’ve already done your research, but now are left with one burning question. At what point do I need a channel manager? Do I get one before starting my business? If I’m running one unit, do I wait until I have 5? Hopefully the points raised in this article will help you make up your mind.

What is a channel manager or PMS and why do I need one?

In brief, they are pieces of software which, either on their own or in conjunction with each other, allow you to automate parts of your business. They help you distribute your rates and availability to multiple OTAs or listings sites such as Airbnb and Booking.com. Some of them, like Zeevou, also provide you with a website for direct bookings and a whole host of other useful features.

Do I need a channel manager?

If you are serious about running a successful hospitality business, the question is probably not whether or not your need a channel manager, but at what stage you need one. We frequently get asked this question by people who are just starting off or who are only managing a handful of units. Of course, it is possible to do without one. Perhaps, you could even be led into thinking that you can just save the amount it would cost you each month to pay for one.

Once you start reseraching channel managers, it will soon become clear that at some point or other you probably want to start using one, the question is when. It might seem a good idea to minimise your costs as you start off and leave signing up with one until further down the line, however both in the short run and in the long run, that could end up costing you a lot more.

At what point do I need a channel manager?

We recommend you sign up for a channel manager from the word go. Yes, you can manage without one. However, there are a few reasons why you should not wait before you choose one:

1. If not now, when?

When are you going to draw the line and convince yourself to invest in your business? It’s likely to be one of the smallest investments you make, but could be one of the most rewarding ones if done right. The argument that you’ve only got one apartment doesn’t stand. Why is 2 any different than one? Or 3 any different to 2? Does anything change at 5, 10, 50, or 100? The only time there’s a marked change is when you go from 0 to 1! And if you’re thinking that it will be worth your while whenever you need a VA and can save on your VA costs by getting a software, then you’re suggesting that your time is worth less than that of a VA up to that point, which is most definitely not the case.

2. Get direct bookings from the start.

One of the aspects of your business that you need to pay sufficient attention to is getting direct bookings. Many channel managers will provide you a booking widget to add to your own website, some will even provide you a full website with an integrated booking engine. This means you’ll be able to save on commission fees. It will also help you get on the ladder of search engines immediately. The savings can far outweigh the cost of your channel manager. Make sure to ask the channel managers or PMSes that you are considering how good their direct booking website actually is. Is it SEO optimised? Does it have rich snippets built in? Can you specify your own keywords and other meta data? Are you able to run a blog off it? How about adding custom pages?

3. Keep your data clean.

The other thing that your channel manager or central reservation system (CRS) is likely to become, is your main database. It will containt all your guest data and contact information. You want to make sure that you have all your booking data in one system too. Doing so will allow you to run year-on-year reports in the future to analyse trends in your business. At the same time, you want to make sure that the channel manager you go with automates the collection of guests’ real email addresses. This will enable you to start building up your very own direct email marketing list from the word go. Check that the channel manager can also take care of GDPR opt-in/unsubscribe requirements for you.

Data migration between channel managers is extremely difficult as most providers only allow you to export a very limited amount of information if you’re trying to leave them. Hence, it is even more important to pay great attention to choosing who you decide to go with from the start. This will ensure that you can build your business on a safe base. It will give you confidence that the information that you are gathering is systematised and won’t be lost in the long-run.

How do I decide which provider is the right one for me?

If you’ve decided to start using a hospitality management software, make sure to look into every claim in detail. This way you can ensure that it does what it says on the tin the way you want it to. Check their full feature list. Try to find out how dynamic they are in releasing new features and keeping up with the times.

Figure out how much time using one is going to save you. Calculate how much you are going to be able to save in OTA commissions. Finally, look at their pricing. See if it makes sense as good value per money, rather than absolute cost. Make sure you get yourself the best channel manager out there for your needs. You don’t want to regret it further down the line! (For a full blog post on what the difference is between a PMS and a channel manager, and how to choose one, click here.)

Should you need any help in choosing a channel manager that suits your needs, drop us a line and a member of our team will be happy to guide you.

Grow your serviced accommodation business. Keep hold of your cash and spread the cost of refurbishing your Serviced Accommodation.

1. Cash is King but why not to use someone else’s money instead and grow Grow your serviced accommodation business.

As the saying goes, “Cash is King”. If your serviced accommodation business runs out of cash you can’t pay your costs , wages or bills and can’t grow youe services business accomodation, it won’t be long before you have to stop trading. When it comes to buying the goods and equipment your business needs to operate. some people still work under the policy of “if you can’t afford it, don’t buy it”, which is one way of doing things.

Another school of thought is this – why would you spend your cash reserves on refurbishing your property, when :

a)the goods depreciate rapidly, meaning the value of your assets reduces the second you pay for them.

b) you can use someone else’s money instead. 

Yes you do have to pay interest on the money you borrow, but you will keep hold of your cash which you can use to invest in other parts of your business that are going to give you a bigger return. you will have a pot of valuable cash in case of any slow periods or for a rainy day.

Here’s how it works in practice and grow your serviced accommodation business – you could either spend £50k of your cash refurbishing a property paying for furniture, kitchen goods, carpets and soft furnishings; OR you could put the refurbishment on a 5 year finance agreement, such as a Lease, Hire Purchase which isn’t secured against the property, and use the £50k cash as a deposit to buy another property with, meaning you would then double your income.

How long would you have to wait for a second property by taking the profits from just having one? Having the ability to use a separate finance facility which is not linked to the property or its mortgage, allows you to free up the cash you would have spent fitting it out, otherwise.

2. Try Alternatives and grow your serviced accommodation business.

In the last 20 years, there has been a gradual rise in the “Alternative” finance market. You may see the occasional TV advert or Facebook post but in general most of the lenders behind this movement have chosen to go under the radar. They don’t advertise in the news, radio or on TV, and they don’t spend large amount marketing on social media on the internet. This is because they have a ready-made group of people to bring business to them – Brokers.

And so why would they spend money on advertising when they don’t need to? Brokers are not directly employed by the lenders – they don’t need to have an employment contract and don’t need to be paid a pension. More and more lenders have come into the finance market in recent times and their first port of call is to announce their arrival to the broker market as they realise the benefit a broker can bring to a transaction.

They can pre-screen everything, collect the right information and deal with the customer every step of the way, whilst the lender sits and waits for all the correct information to arrive on their desk so they can come to a decision on whether to lend or not, and pay out the cash to the relevant parties, if they have given an approval.

Since the financial crisis of 2008/9, we have seen the major High Street banks pull back from lending to Small to Medium Sized Businesses (SME’s) in the UK. In some cases they are paying Challenger Banks to take customers of their hands – perhaps they became too big? There was too much risk lending to all of these SME’s for low-value assets, and for unsecured loans.

In many cases, the High Street Banks are now taking a month to come back with an answer or initial feedback on a loan application before asking for more information and coming back in another few weeks with a decline or an acceptance with onerous conditions, which is basically the Bank saying it’s a decline but they’ll do the finance if you accept something crazy – it’s a tactic used to let businesses down gently without saying a direct “No”.

Quite often the acceptance conditions make the finance “approval” completely untenable. I know this through first-hand experience, as many of my customers have been through exactly that experience. And in the main, I have benefitted from the High Street Bank’s lack of appetite with these clients. They are happy lending against Cars and Machinery, which have a decent resale value, but anything outside of that is not given much of a chance.

In the Alternative finance market there a number of specialist lenders that will finance low-value assets. They are willing to take the risk as there is a large market out there for customers looking to finance furniture, IT equipment, software, and the entire costs of a refurbishment/ fit-outs of a business premises.

The focus moves away from the asset that’s being financed, to the strength of the customer lending the money and their ability to repay the loan. This means an established SME trading for 3 years or more can get funding at reasonable rates, not too distant from the banks rates, with a decision in roughly 1 working day. That’s a far cry from the month you wait with a bank. And what’s more is the broker doesn’t charge a fee to the Business borrowing the money – we take our fee from the Lender. So it’s a win-win-win for everyone. The lender gets the loan, the broker gets paid for sourcing the loan at the best rates possible, and more importantly, the business / customer gets the finance for the refurbishment and keeps hold of its cash.

This offering can also be extended to Start-Up companies and let them grow their serviced accommodation business – those business trading between 0 and 3 year. Once you have filed 2 sets of Annual Accounts at Companies House it is generally considered that you are no longer a start-up business, in the eyes of the underwriters at least. There are however some differences – interest rates for start-ups are higher because of the perceived extra risk to lend to them – there is no trading history and therefore no historic data to base a finance decision on.

On top of this, the lenders will always ask for Personal Guarantees from the Directors, and they will need to be home-owners, to show there is some wealth sat behind them. As mentioned before, the finance is not secured against a property so just because they want the Directors to be homeowners, there is no direct link between the refurbishment finance and the Director’s properties, on the Personal Guarantee. All it states is this – should the business not be able to make the finance payments for whatever reason, the Directors will cover them with their own wealth.

The process to get a decision on the finance is a straight forward one. At first we provide our clients with a quote that can have as many options as they want – Lease, Hire Purchase or Unsecured Loan; anything up to 5 years. The goods being financed can be anything you buy for your business. If you want to go ahead and grow your serviced accommodation business, we ask for some basic financial information – generally a full set of Annual Accounts and some up-to date trading figures for the current trading year, if available.

If it’s a new start business, we will want a business plan with financial projections and maybe some bank statements. We will then write our proposal our present it to the underwriters with the best interest rates – we will always go to the lender with the lowest rates, first. If we get a decline, we can go to another lender, if it’s approved we can then write the finance agreement for you to sign. Then we will get an invoice from the supplier of the refurbishment goods – these invoices will only be paid with your authority.

The day they are paid your monthly payments begin. If it’s an unsecured loan, the cash will go directly to your business account and you will pay the suppliers yourself – but remember Unsecured Loans will always require Personal Guarantees from the Directors; whereas Lease & Hire Purchase generally don’t. This will all come down to each individual case and the financial strength of your business, and the view of the Underwriters, but it’s not a pre-requisite with a HP or Lease, like it is with an Unsecured business loan. 

If you would like to discuss financing the refurbishment of your Serviced Accommodation, Property Developments, Hotels, Offices, Pub, Café, Restaurant or any other types of business, feel free to get in touch. We have a panel of over 70 lenders to finance all types of equipment, and another panel of over 130 lenders for all forms of Property Finance.

I hope to hear from you soon

Best regards,

Billy Walker

Managing Director

Source Asset Finance Ltd

M: 07956 045421

T: 020 3816 0396

E: billy@sourcefinanceuk.com

W: www.sourcefinanceuk.com

This is a guest blog post for zeevou’s Blog.

Remotely Controlling Number of Guests Staying

Remotely Controlling Number of Guests – Three Steps

Remotely controlling the number of guests staying is not the easiest of tasks. We’ve all heard of cases of guests who book for a handful and then show up with a whole bunch of other guests. If you run an annexe to your house as an Airbnb, there’s obvious ways of ensuring that this doesn’t happen. However, if you are a vacation rental management company remotely administering properties, that’s not the case. Even for more established serviced apartment companies that operate unstaffed aparthotels, it’s not always straightforward how unauthorised access is controlled.

1. Find Out Who Will Be Staying

Ask your guests ahead of time to provide the names of those who will be staying. Make sure to keep a full guest register (in some countries this is even required by legislation). Moreover, tell the guests that they will not be able to get access for anyone other than the names that have already been submitted at the time of booking, unless they agree otherwise later on with yourself. If you don’t want the hassle of record-keeping, take a look at Zeevou Book‘s 5-Step Booking Confirmation Process, which takes care of this for you.

2. Collect Digital Signatures

Once you have the guest register, you want to elicit a further commitment from the guest. Furthermore, get them to sign and say that they will not exceed the list of guests provided. You can, at the same time, ask them to agree to all your other terms and conditions. While it is difficult to do this upon arrival, you can collect digital signatures from the lead guest at the time of booking via a digital signature service. Signable is an affordable option, and is legally binding.

3. Supervise Your Property

If you follow the two steps outlined above, you will have made it clear to the vast majority of guests that you’re not going to accept any nonsense. However, you will find that there are still those who are going to try their luck and pretend that they’re compliant on all your paperwork. Occasionally, they may even commit fraud to do so. Moreover, to ensure that your property is safe, you may wish to install a Ring doorbell. This will allow you to have a live video link with your property at any time, and monitor who’s entering and leaving it.

However, monitoring your CCTV requires an active presence. This is where Noiseaware can come in helpful (use the coupon code “zeevou10” for 10% off). Their noise detection product will alert you if noise in your property exceeds a certain level. Just make sure to have a team of people ready who can stand up to the guests if you get an alert, as it may well be a full-blown party!


Can You Fully Remotely Control the Number of Guests Staying?

Will this help you completely eliminate all issues with guests staying at your property? No. Will it help you in remotely controlling the number of guests staying at your property? Yes. So, following the above steps can help you in reducing the chances of extra guests who have not paid staying, or a rowdy party being thrown and your place getting trashed.

Which 5 Sites Bring The Most Bookings?

Which 5 sites bring the most bookings is a question that is often asked and discussed within hospitality circles. Any hospitality owner will be aware of the importance of driving their direct bookings. At the same time, it is common knowledge that it is not sufficient to only count on them. Almost no short term accommodation provider can survive without advertising their offering on Online Travel Aggregators (OTAs).

The detailed breakdown of actual figures depends heavily on where you are located and who your target market is. However, below is a rough guide as to which sites will get you the largest number of bookings flowing through (ranked alphabetically rather than in order of importance):

1. Agoda

Agoda is Asia’s largest online travel agency, so it’s sure to bring you some good bookings. The number of bookings you receive may not be as high as some of the others on this list. However, its customers generally seem to be happy to pay high price tags for properties that they like. Hopefully this will land you the odd high-value booking!

List your property on Agoda by clicking here.


2. Airbnb

Airbnb is a very large listing site based in the USA. It started off as Airbed And Breakfast (the idea being that you could rent out spare rooms in your home to travellers. The site has quickly grown to become one of the largest listing sites for entire homes. It is very popular with tourists and travellers. More recently, Airbnb has been attempting to cater to business guests. It has also launched Airbnb Plus, a hand-picked list of curated homes.

List your property on Airbnb by clicking here.


3. Booking.com

Booking.com is a relatively young company, and it has grown aggressively over the past few years and is now the leading booking site for hotels and alternative accommodation providers such as holiday homes, vacation rentals and serviced apartments in Europe. Most channel managers and property management systems link to Booking.com. It can bring a large amount of bookings with a healthy mix of leisure and corporate customers.

List your property on Booking.com by clicking here and get 5 commission-free bookings!


4. Ctrip

Ctrip is probably the least well-known out of this list of sites. It is China’s largest online travel agency, so if you list on here make sure to try and cater to things that Chinese guests may find appealing. Top tips include providing slippers and pot noodles. Make sure to take a close-up photo of a pot noodle and add it to your listing. If you’re ready to tackle this massive market and are up for a challenge in how to attract a larger number of guests, you want to look into this.

List your property on Ctrip by clicking here.


5. Expedia

Expedia is a massive group that owns dozens of other sites, and distributes your inventory across all of them. This site can help you attract a fair amount of corporate clients. However, as there are often many systems involved in the distribution of inventory and retrieval of bookings, it is not always easy to make contact with the guest booking the accommodation ahead of time, so if there is no reception at the property, you need to spend some more time and energy in trying to make contact with the guest through Expedia once you get a booking.

List your property with Expedia by clicking here.


Note: Some of the above sites manage payments and security deposits for hosts, others manage them partly or not at all. If you wish to automate the distribution of your rates and availability, retrieval of bookings and processing of payments, security deposits, communications, and guest vetting, you may wish to take a look at Zeevou Book‘s 5-Step Booking Confirmation Process.

Which 5 Sites Bring The Most Bookings? Is Yours One Of Them?

In this article we have been talking about 5 OTAs and large listing sites where you should be advertising your properties. This will help you increase your occupancy levels for your short term rental. However, the number one site that you should be focusing on is your own website. Promoting this correctly will help you drive direct, commission-free bookings. Many softwares for Serviced Accommodation operators or Guesthouse/B&B owners will automatically generate a website for you (for example, take a look at Zeevou Show).

Always Book Direct

However, not every provider will give you a website that is good enough to rank highly on search engines such as Google. Moreover, it will not necessarily provide a good booking engine. You should be looking for one that allows you to offer promotions or voucher codes for direct bookings. You may be unhappy with what your channel manager or property management system currently has on offer. If this is the case, take a look at the Boostly Websites. Furthermore, Boostly allows you to easily set up your own #bookdirect website which will attract the attention of bots and humans alike. Finally, it allows you to link that up to your booking engine to convert interested visitors to your site into paying guests.

NB: If you’re looking for a hands-off solution, then you may wish to enquire about the Boostly Done For You Websites. If you’d like to find out more about this service, which includes a free marketing review, fill in this form and a member of Boostly will reach out to book in the job and explain the process.

7 Top Tips On Scaling A Serviced Accommodation Business

How To Grow Your R2R Serviced Accommodation Business

Scaling Your Serviced Accommodation Business is not an easy task. You may have successfully set up a handful of units, and are keen to replicate your success. Now what? Short of cash? Perhaps not, read on to find out how you can fast-track your growth.


How it all started

Scaling Your Serviced Accommodation BusinessA bit about me… My first encounter with property management was 2.5 years ago, when I attended the Serviced Accommodation Masterclass with Touchstone Education. Prior to that, I had no property experience, and worked as a sales manager for a large corporation. Moreover, I was fed up, couldn’t see a future in it and felt like a slave to the job, which a lot of people reading this will probably relate too. This is why I invested in my education.

Where I am today

Forward the clock 2.5 years, and I have 37 Serviced Accommodation units, with a mix of Rent 2 Rent, managed properties and some properties that I own. Repeatedly, the biggest question people always ask is “how did you scale so fast?” I answer that it’s down to the strategies and techniques I use to keep my running costs and set up costs low. Also, by focusing on a certain market, I also minimise operational costs. Finally, this means I am maximising my profits, which in turn allows me to invest in more serviced accommodation units.

I’m always clear when I train people: I’m not an all-round property expert, but I am an expert in this particular strategy. I 100% believe it’s the best technique to generate a quick cash flow. Many people want to use property management to get out of their day job, or to increase their cash turnaround. When buying properties, this can take time and the gains from a buy to let property may only be a couple of hundred pounds per month, so you would need quite a few of them to make it worthwhile. Rent 2 Rent and serviced apartments, on the other hand, allow you to get your operation up and running and start earning money fast. This will allow you to scale back other activities and focus on the things that really matter to you.

Fast-Track Scaling Your Serviced Accommodation Business

1. Never Pay A Deposit

This is a deal breaker for me. If a landlord makes me pay a deposit, I will walk away from the deal. What sense as a business owner does it make to have money tied up, doing nothing? None! You have to remember, you’re the one offering the great deal to the landlords, not the other way around. You need to know how to position it correctly to them. Once you do that, you will never pay a deposit again. Not paying deposit means that your initial outlay cost is cheaper, and you can therefore use the deposit money to set up your next unit.


2. Never Pay Rent Upfront

In fact, you should always get 1-2 months’ rent free, again, if you know how to position it correctly. My goal is to always have money coming from bookings before I have to pay the landlord anything. You need to get into the mind-set that you have this amazing offer for the landlord. Once you know how to sell the deal, it’s easy to get 1-2 months’ rent free. When you have saved yourself 1-2 months’ rent, and also saved on the deposit, you can use this cash to set up further units.


3. Don’t Pay Upfront for Furniture

Without a doubt, this is the most expensive part of setting up a serviced apartment. But there are multiple ways you can do it in order to be more cost effective:

a) Lease Furniture

There are many companies out there who will let you lease furniture. This means you pay them a monthly fee instead of paying £5-7K upfront to furnish your property. Again, this helps with the cash flow and avoids high initial costs, leaving you with further money to invest in more units.

b) Furnished Apartments

There are lots of apartments out there that are already furnished, and in a pretty much in turn-key condition for use as a Serviced Apartment. You could add a few soft furnishings to put your own design stamp on them. I have multiple apartments which came fully furnished, and have only spent £200-300 on soft furnishings before taking them live for bookings.

4. Correct Power Team

It is VITAL if you want to scale your business to have a solid power team around you. Having the correct cleaners, maintenance, and guest relations teams means that you will not get dragged in to the nitty gritty of operations. If you are both running your business and worrying about cleaning and maintenance, you will not be able to focus on scaling up.


5. Managing Director/Operations Manager

I hired an operations manager when I got to 4 properties. I quickly realised that I was terrible at systems, organisation and did not enjoy that side of the business. What I was good at was bringing on new properties, doing deals with landlords and constantly sourcing new business opportunities. As I had zero concerns about the operations side of the business thereafter, I was able to focus on growth and scaling the business.


6. Bookings

You may be able to scale your Serviced Accommodation business and build up an impressive portfolio of serviced apartments, but the bottom line is that if they are not full, you will not generate a profit from them. You need to make sure you are setting up apartments in the correct areas, where you know there is a demand for your target market. Do not go mad and set up properties all over the place, then run them half empty. Start in one area, systematise operations, fill up your units and duplicate your success elsewhere.


7. Focus On Direct Bookings

Running a Rent 2 Rent Serviced Apartment business means you need to watch your margins. Paying 15% to Booking.com is a hefty chunk, and if you service the apartments every 2-3 days your operations costs are going to be high. I usebooking.com as a lead generator, but always try to convert the current guests in the apartment to a direct booking so that I don’t have to pay a 15% commission to online travel agents. I only focus on the contractor market, where most of my bookings will stay from anywhere between 3-18 months, with no booking fees and 1-2 cleans per week. This keeps operation costs low, which maximises my profit.


I hope these tips help. If you want to connect please do so on the following:

Scale Your R2R SA BusinessGrow Your Hospitality Business

Scaling Your Serviced Accommodation Business with Gordie Dutfield