When Friends Come to Visit
When considering starting an exclusive B&B for our friends and family, a little online research was in order to see how other vacation rental owners have found a positive solution to a potentially sensitive situation. This interesting article, written by Kathleen Hughes, sums it up and offers some creative solutions:
"Consider the aptly named Toni Sweet. Twenty-one years ago, Ms. Sweet, a former bereavement counselor, and her husband bought a 200-year old converted barn in Tuscany and split their time between Italy and Manhattan Beach, California. The home in Italy overlooked a piazza had thick stone walls and more important, six bedrooms.
Word spread. "Everyone wanted to come and visit us", recalls Ms. Sweet, who says she received 20 to 30 requests a year to visit. "It was just a nightmare. We had more friends than we knew what to do with."
Then friends of friends and children of friends began to show up. One teacher brought "hordes" of guests. People approached Ms. Sweet at church and at parties,asking to stay there. "People were very bold," she recalls.
Ms. Sweet soon found herself driving guests to the same tourist spots over and over again. Her Italian neighbors began to laugh at her as she hung the guests' sheets out to dry. "Are you going to Pisa again today?" they asked. (Ha. Ha. Ha.)
It took about 10 years, but Ms. Sweet finally toughened up. she stopped answering the phone. She directed friends to nearby bed-and-breakfasts. "When you're a giving person, you have to be able to go to the other extreme," she says. New rules: Guests could come only when the Sweets were there. They had to have their own car and agenda. Ms. Sweet stopped cooking for everyone.
Still, the couple finally sold the home six years ago, and they now live in Del Mar, California. Ms. Sweet thinks if she had just been willing to charge all those people, she might still own the place. "It would have paid for itself," she says with a sigh.
Money Helps: Some crash-pad owners do finally decide to charge friends. Tom Haddock, a real-estate investor in Reston, Va., rented out his condo in Ocean City, Md. for 25 years until he tired of renting to strangers. But then the two-level condo with ocean views was just sitting there empty some of the time. He began to turn over the keys to friends and family, no charge.
We were really subsidizing our friends and family," he says. "We would get the nice holiday cards with their mugs saying, "We had a great time! Maybe next year!"
His resentment started to grow. "Quite honestly, it felt like people were being cheap," he says. While his guests left gifts, they weren't exactly reciprocal. The carrying costs were about $38,000 a year, and visitors often left a $10 bottle of wine. Meanwhile, he and his wife were cleaning up, literally. Guests would ask, "Did someone change the sheets?"
Then Mr. Haddock had an idea. Last year he spent four weeks drawing up a proposal and offered friends and family a "club membership": $2,000 a year for the right to three weeks at the condo, plus $10 for each night actually spent there and cleaning costs. Some who had been using the condo at no charge turned him down - but 13 friends quickly signed up.
"Now I'm getting $30,000 a year of income from the families, and I"m not as angry about it as when we were subsidizing everyone", Mr. Haddock says."
A friend who owns a full-time Bed & Breakfast says it's awkward when friends ask to visit... how do you ask your friends to pay to stay at your home? But, she says it's a business and they have bills to cover, so they direct friends to other B&B's in the area. Their solution is to let friends discover what comparable rates are, and let them choose whether to book their B&B at regular rates with full knowledge of the value they are getting.
Likewise, we get requests from friends for the private rental of our vacation homes. Our private rental rates are a bargain compared with others in the area - strangers are delighted with our low rates. But when it comes to requests from friends we've personally experienced that when we offer them even further discounted rates, lower is never low enough.
This is obviously a common dilemma for vacation home owners. We hope that our unique "Guest Chalet" concept offers the perfect balance between keeping our rental home and being able to host on weekends at an unbeatable deal, while enhancing friendships.