The CottageCorner

September 2020 Edition

A Word from Our CEO

Welcome to September! Already?!?!
It’s been an interesting year to say the least, and one I will never, ever, forget. But this is an exciting newsletter for me to bring to you, because of all the great changes in our company. So, if you are interested in hearing about staff promotions, new technology, and our successful (but somewhat anxiety-producing) progressive cancellation policy, please read on…. Shhhh… the password to enter this area is #TCCorner2020

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To our new owners, hello and welcome! We are glad to have you with us. We have all been through a lot in 2020 and what led us together should not go unnoticed. In case you’re wondering, I believe my team is the best on the planet. In fact, you can even read about our pandemic experiences here on my Facebook post. My father, and the founder of this company, Roger Van Wie, once told me the quote, “Necessity is the mother of all inventions.” And because of that, this company was born out of the Great Recession. If you want to know more about that story, feel free to call me anytime. That very same thought process is certainly what drove us during the pandemic and we have a lot of great stories to share with you on how we struggled, maintained… and even out performed during the year. Struggle defines character, and builds an innovative spirit, all extremely important in the vacation rental industry… a young “green” sector in the hospitality industry where there is no set handbook, because it is a grassroots learning experience since its inception. We are the pioneers, and a pandemic tested our strength and endurance. I won’t simply say that we are out of the woods just yet, but I’d love for you to dive in to our newsletter to show you how we stepped up to the challenge and paved a new path unlike any other vacation rental company.

I’d like to offer you a couple of additional links to review in case you have interest.

We have a newly adapted, Covid Ready cleaning standard that we have actually branded. It is called CottageClean. For more details on our cleaning practices and standards, visit our website page.

Also, we have installed a new and exciting feature that is live on our website. It is our very own CottageCam. It is our powerful and robust beach camera that live streams Siesta Beach! I highly recommend taking a gander during our sunrises and sunsets… Breathtaking! When you are missing your home away from home, just go on to our website to get a sneak peak of Siesta Key Beach in real time. There are toggles for you to move the camera at your discretion. Please enjoy!

But the heart of the newsletter is below… Please do take a moment to hear from my CottageCrew and what they have been up to. I am extremely proud of all that we have accomplished this year thus far.

More importantly, this newsletter is a message to all of you that we are here. On the other end of the phone, the email, the text. If you need us, do not hesitate to reach out. With Love… The CottageCrew.

A Word from Our Vice President

Hello Everyone!

I hope the end of your summer is going well!  Ours has been great as we start to wind down from our summer!  As all of you know, we are in the middle of hurricane season.

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Hopefully we won’t need to go through a hurricane, but if we do, we will be prepared. During hurricane season, I am constantly monitoring developments from their preliminary stages off the West coast of Africa to where they become more organized in the Caribbean.  If you have any questions, you can always reach out to me here regarding storms.

In addition, you can read a previous newsletter here that details how we prepare for a hurricane.  It’s important to point out that we do not model ourselves as a hurricane preparation company, but we do our best to move furniture, turn off pool pumps, and secure your home to the best of our abilities. We highly recommend the use of a professional hurricane preparation company if you seek a more detailed plan of action for your home.

As I mentioned earlier, we are finally starting to wind down at the end of the summer which means it will be time to start doing more maintenance on your homes.  Most homes at this point are in need of it!  We had a busy season, and for the most part, we tried to deferred maintenance whenever possible due to COVID and the fact that there weren’t usual revenue streams to rely on.  We then jumped back into it quickly in May and have experienced a very successful summer.  We will be sending members of our maintenance team to conduct maintenance reports, which you can find in your expense folder in your Owner Portal and our quality control department will be conducting inventory inspections as well.

Our focus first and foremost is always centered on the guest experience.  We are focused on being proactive and identifying recurring issues or complaints and resolving them.  Bad reviews can really hurt your home and we are focused on making sure they don’t happen.

This means casual maintenance like painting, power washing, cleaning gutters may be necessary.  It can also be more specific items like replacing carpets, furniture, and even exterior painting in some circumstances.  Please feel free to reach out to me here if you would like us to focus on specific items that pertain to your home.  For any larger scale maintenance or repairs, we will always reach out to you directly. 

A Word from Our Chief Acquisitions Officer

Well, it seems that things are slowly yet steadily getting back to normal in our world. But rather the new normal. I think that we have all learned a lot this year of 2020 so far.

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We each have our own experiences from all of the various situations that we have found ourselves in. Being in acquisitions, I have noted a shift in people’s perspective on what it means to own a second home located in our beautiful Siesta Key. Owners are looking into ways to cover costs where they otherwise did not feel urged to prior to recent 2020 developments. The future is a bit more undecided/unpredictable and many people are becoming more savvy on how to generate outsized revenues produced from assets that otherwise did not. We have been receiving an influx of new callers asking that we assess their homes to see if it would be worth their time to get involved in a vacation rental portfolio. The answer is “almost” always YES! Many others are sitting on their savings wondering what options they have for investments. Why put it into a low interest bearing account, a volatile stock market or simply hold on to it for the unforeseeable future? Rather, why not find the right investment property that has proven year after year that its growth in value is inevitable? Vacation rental homes (and the vacation rental industry in general) have been growing in demand for quite some time now. Covid 19 has forever changed the lodging industry to favor the vacation rental home sector. We are  growing even faster now that guests are getting farther and farther away from the hotel/resort experience and shifting into the single family home (private lodging) scene permanently. What used to be a dynamic and exciting “new wave” of travel has now taken its seat at the head of the table, dominating all other sectors of the hospitality/lodging market. It is a very exciting time for the business that we are in and I am here to educate anyone interested in knowing what the perfect vacation rental home looks like. If any of our current owners have any interest in growing their personal portfolio or have any friends or family equally interested in starting their own, please contact me with any questions in that regard. I am always at your service and will always keep your best interests at heart. I certainly hope that all are happy and healthy and will continue to work towards the future of success. Cheers!

A Word from Our Director of Sales & Predictive Analytics

Hello Friends!

As we are coming to an end to our Summer Season, there is a lot to interpret and analyze regarding this ever changing time. As we are now in the middle of a pandemic, it is hard to accept and understand, but the upward trends of cancellations are now a pertinent part of our reservation process and I’m here to explain why.

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As the word “cancellation” seems to be a negative term, we have tried to understand how we are able to truly measure, strategize, and capitalize on the true comprehension of what this means in today’s world. If we have learned one thing from this past Summer, it is about how fast change can occur, and the trends that are altered based on these changes are always variant. There are trends and patterns that you fight in order to make more revenue, try to innovate a new way to be ahead of new trends, etc. On the other hand, there are trends that you realize you need to follow, and to what extent you buy into these trends. Cancellations, which was once something that we once fought against, received bad reviews over, and ended up with torn relationships is now a tool we can use to turn the tides. With our Book Care Free promotion, we are offering at best a 24 hour cancellation policy. Ninety-five percent of the time, our guests’ first question when inquiring is “What is your cancellation policy regarding the COVID-19 pandemic?” This is where our competitors have held strong stating, “Right now, the beaches are open, restaurants are operating, we have changed from 90 days to 60 days in our cancellation policy, etc.” Guests will ask us the same question, and we take a different approach entirely. Now, our cancellation policy isn’t a restriction, holding consumers back, but rather it is a marketing tactic that now captures potential guests attention instantly. They then buy into the idea and security they have, find and fall in love with your home, Siesta Key, and the experience. It’s hold true that once a family plans a vacation, envisions their stay and the relaxation they will receive from it, the very last thing they will want to do is cancel it. This is why we have been successful versus other companies in our same position. With respect to the hospitality market generally speaking, Lodging paid by guests went down 30%, where our company hardly gave discounts on our weekly rates (at most 13% gross discounts on some last minute reservations.) Average Lodging Occupancy decreased by 20% for July across the board, where we hovered right around 85%-90%… similar to our performance last year. The number of rooms sold in the general market also decreased by 20%, versus our performance on the number of rooms sold stayed linear to our typical Summer.

A good friend once told me, “Observe the masses, and do the opposite.” We are watching as others in our industry try and hold to the normal tendencies that we once thought held us afloat. Now more than ever, we are trying to understand the guests and their needs, while also implementing actions that either guide cancellations to happen earlier, or create a push to have a real commitment to use your home for their next vacation experience in Siesta Key. There is a tight balance between creating a secure feeling in regards to cancellation policies for guests and making sure that you, the owners, are in good hands and still reaching your revenue goals for the year. I wholeheartedly believe that without taking the steps that we have regarding our BookCareFree promotion, we would not be able to say that we have met and exceeded our June, July, and August goals in both arrival and reservation revenue that was determined back in December of 2019.

If there is one thing that I take very seriously, it is the income, performance, and revenue of our homes. That makes us successful in our relationships with our owners and allows us to push forward in growing our company. Without meeting our owners goals, we would lose owners, lose guests, and lose the purpose of our company. We are here to make sure that we are doing whatever it takes to follow the right trends, create our own route where necessary, and make revenue for all parties involved in a time where it is easier said than done.

Thank you for your time in reading this! I hope all is well with you and yours during this time. We will get through this together, and until that point…


A Word from Our Marketing Coordinator

Hi Owners!

Here is the link from the last newsletter: The CottageCorner – June 2020 Edition

As things start to get back to normal, I think it’s important to update you on the current status and new properties that have acquired HomeAway’s Premier Partner badge since we last communicated about this.

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For information and requirements on HomeAway’s Premier Partner status and the benefits of becoming a Premier Partner, please see the owner newsletter from May 2019 here. When we I started tracking each property status on HomeAway (May 2019), we had 16 properties with Premier Partner Status. The numbers have only increased since then! As of September 2020, we now have 28 total properties who are Premier Partners, with 6 new properties from the most recent 2020 assessment. We have quite a few properties that are only 1 criteria away from becoming a Premier Partner, and I am more than confident that are numbers will continue to grow more and more with each assessment date. I am thrilled to introduce to you the six new properties that have become Premier Partners from the latest assessment done in August 2020:

  1. Florita’s Key
  2. Lily Casita
  3. Vinca
  4. Admirals Watch
  5. Sandy Cabana

I look forward to sharing with you all the status of the next assessment taking place this November. Please do not hesitate to contact me directly with any questions or concerns regarding your property and HomeAway’s Premier Partner status.

In other news, I am very excited to share our new Owner’s Portal on our website with you. This is where you can view each CottageCrew update from The CottageCorner moving forward. It it live right now, but I will be updating it with all of the previous newsletters so you can reference it anytime you need to. To see the newest/past newsletters, click here. Please note, the owners portal is password protected, to log in and view use this password: #TCCorner2020. If there is anything that you think would be beneficial to you as an owner to have in the portal, please do not hesitate to reach out to me with any ideas or suggestions. I look forward to hearing from you. Until next time, #CottageOn!

A Word from Our Quality Control Manager

The Quality Control Team wishes you a Happy Summer Ending!

Please join me in congratulating Greer Monahan to her promotion as Operations Coordinator, from Quality Control Assistant. As a quick learner, Greer became a premier inspector as well as an indefatigable asset; no inventory, guest inquiry requests or other jobs were ever too much for Greer’s inexhaustible energy! Although I miss her dearly during my daily routines, I believe Greer will provide tremendous value to the operations team in her new role.

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With that said, I am pleased to introduce you to Gage Kelly, the newest addition to our team and backfill to Greer. Gage performed inspections for The CottageCrew during the past year and lent a hand in the avalanche of guest calls during March and April. The transition was a piece of cake, or should I say “cupcake?” As a result, The Cottages offered Gage a full-time position as Quality Control Assistant in June. Gage is perfecting the art of inspections, finding creative ways to order supplies, and developing a niche expertise in everything “housekeeping.” As we transition away from the Saturday to Saturday Summer cycle, Gage and I keep very busy with daily arrival inspections. When time allows we perform much needed inventories in the available properties. The vacation homes undergo a reorganization and update to bring them back to standard.

Key Insights

Continuation of March 2020 COVID-19 rigor, supported by implementation of key guidelines and execution by network of housekeepers and inspectors. For more details on current standards and protocols, please read our newsletter from June 2020 here. In addition to our CottageClean implementation, we have well-sustained linen inventory across our portfolio of homes; this is the result of due diligence in being consistent and timely with insurance claims. We have also established our best practices and will continue to seek to extend other areas of Quality Control oversight.

We Heard You

Consistent feedback from our homeowners on a desire for improved quality of soaps and cleaners led to an upgraded enhancement of brand-name laundry, hand soaps and multi-purpose cleaners. This change began in late 2019 and has been sustained in 2020 to scale across our portfolio of homes.

Did You Know?

The Quality Control Team span of care includes 8 housekeeping companies and over 50 housekeepers in our network to deliver outstanding results to our guests and owners on any given day. As always, we’re here to provide a best in class Quality Control service model and are on standby to answer any questions or concerns you may have.

A Word from Our Executive Assistant

Happy August from the Admin Department!

I am so happy to be writing to you with an exciting update about recent changes in department structure and updates on special programs! We are always working to innovate the way we perform as pioneers in the vacation rental industry.

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Recently, we shifted our very own Kenneth Hyson from his Sales Team specialization to become a hybrid employee between Sales and Administration. Kenny’s interest in accounting made him the perfect candidate for our Revenue Analyst position. Kenny will be supporting The CottageCrew cross-departmentally to analyze and optimize streams of revenue conducive to both you, our Owners, and us. This position will seek to define trends and support them accordingly. Owners can find Kenny as a resource for special reporting and will be “the man behind the curtain” responsible for some distribution work. Auditing expenses and providing budgetary reporting will also be duties belonging to Kenny. Both Barry Privette and I will be overseeing the Revenue Analyst position. Kenny has been a natural fit to this role. We are so excited to support Kenny in this transition that will feed his passion for numbers!

I would also like to give an update regarding our very special case-study partnership with Guest View Guides (GVG), a product of NEC Displays and Sharp Electronics. If you are not yet familiar with our GVGs, they are essentially glorified tablets that are hung on the wall like a piece of art that allows guests to interact directly with us and the guide itself. We officially have fifty displays on the walls of a group of our homes. We have begun selling premier luxury concierge services ranging from grocery delivery to private cooking classes to beach picnics. These “CottageCare” services are available for purchase by all guests and, of course, our owners. The GVGs seek to promote rebooking and they provide resources for local recommendations, information, and amenities. It also allows us to address any guest concerns with immediate communication via the GVG, so the Operations team has one more great opportunity to connect with the guests directly and resolve issues quickly and efficiently. If you have a business you would like to advertise via our PatioPartners program, please contact me directly. We would be delighted to get our owners involved in this opportunity to reach guests on a much more interactive level! We can also push video clips to our guests by way of the GVG, so if any of you would like to create a personalized video as the owner introducing yourselves to the guest during their stay, we would highly recommend it. We always have believed that putting a face to the home is an even better way of connecting to the guests, ultimately creating a different level of respect for the home they have rented.  If you have any inquiries or feedback on any of the above information, I would love to hear from you!