How to Save $$$ when booking a vacation rental

Vacation rental booking sites such as Airbnb, Booking . com or VRBO (also known as ‘Channels’ ) are all great sites to help travelers ‘connect’ with individuals or businesses (like Escape Properties or “hosts”) who offer amazing properties outside the box of a hotel.  We offer private homes with full-sized kitchens, private pools or other amenities that a hotel can’t offer and for way less than a hotel per room!  (Value -this is why people like you and I shop on these sites when we go on vacation!)

What if you new a secret that could save you 3-15% the next time you booked – would you want to know about it?

Channel companies like AirBnb and VRBO charge both you (the buyer) and I (the seller) each a fee to interact and transact.  This fee can range from 3-15% or more.  So who really pays for this added cost?  In every case, you the buyer, pay your portion PLUS in most cases, you pay the owner portion too through an inflated nightly rate.  

So . . . even though these channel sites are very convenient and they do ad value and help bridge transactions between the parties . . . but . . . IF you could save between 3-15% would you try this one thing?

Here’s the best way to save – book direct.  It’s that easy.   As a seller of vacation homes our best rates are on and through our own sites.  It is when we market through a channel we have to mark up our rate to cover the real hard cost of using a third party to help transact.  Simple economics.

What if there was an additional way you could save . . . would you want to know about that too?  

Many hosting companies like Escape Properties offer our returning guests a discount or incentive to re-book.  We do this because it is less expensive for us to service a prior guest than it is for us to go out and find new ones.  As such, because of the value of this relationship, we are happy to discount a little off the rate for you.  

Escape Properties offers two types of discounts.  One for just returning to ‘any’ property we manage within the next year.  This discount ranges from 3-7%.  The other discount is slightly larger and is unique to the last property you just stayed at.  IF you re-book a stay to the same unit you just stayed in you get a bigger discount. These discounts range from 7-10% depending on the property.

IF you only plan on visiting an area once every 3-5 years, using global sites like Airbnb or VRBO are perfect to use and make travel fun, easy and exciting.  But if you visit an area like St George 2-3 times a year, developing a relationship with the local guy, also saves money and makes travel even more fun, easy and exciting.

Safe travels and return often.

BONUS:  What if I don’t have a code, or I am not a returning customer yet?  Here’s 5% on us

Visit us by CLICKING here and use coupon code NEXT5.

Spring Break in St. George, Again?!

In Utah, Spring is a loose term filled with snowflakes and rain. That’s why St. George is a popular Spring Break destination, the weather is great. Popularity can bring repetition, and this may be your 3rd or 4th year heading down south. So, if you’ve made this trip before and are wondering what you haven’t done yet, here’s some local hot spots that we like to keep under wraps.

1. Red Reef Trail

Copyright © Your Hike Guide 2018

   This hike is about 10 minutes north of town and is great for families of all sizes. Easy enough for young kids and exciting enough for older ones (and parents too!).

Click here for directions Red Reef Trail.

2. LaserMania


Copyright © 2019 Laser Mania

   Heading West on the boulevard you’ll see a sign pointing to turn into Laser Mania, right behind Steamroller Copies and wonder what could be back there? It may be hidden, but the adventure is full force. It has black light mini golf, laser tag, bumper cars and more. Hidden= Less busy. Click here for prices Laser Mania.

3. Rosenbruch Wildlife Museum


Copyright © 2019 Yellow Van Travels

   On the South side of town, connected to the Dixie Convention Center, is the Rosenbruch Museum filled with real life displays of over 300 animals. Looking is fun, but they also have an interactive children’s gallery and insect room. Click for more info Rosenbruch.

   St. George IS the best place for Spring Break, so let’s create memories with these new adventures. We’ll help you plan ahead so you can book the ideal rental with us at Escape.

The locals ‘Guide’ to owning a Vacation Rental in the Greater St George area

If your client or yourself are getting ready to buy a second home in the Greater St George area, and part of the economic strategy is to rent it out when not using it, then you may need some insight on zoning, ordinances, license requirements and general strategies to make the experience successful.

Escape Properties, a member of UVMRA (Utah Vacation Rental Manager Association) has been managing and operating vacation properties since 2008 in the area with thousands of successful guest stays.  We have spent a great deal of time and effort compiling this information for your benefit.  Where possible we have contacted municipal authorities to get the most accurate and relevant information as possible.  

Feel free to reach out to us for a specific analysis of your vacation
property – no obligation.  (435) 414-1525 or email Kendall Clements, broker of Escape Properties.  kendall@escape2stgeorge.com.

Vacation Rental homes have been around for hundreds of years in Europe.  In the United States most vacation homes have been concentrated to sea side communities or mountain cabins.  In the last 10 years with the advent of what is termed as the ‘sharing’ economy there has been a boom in the FOR RENT by OWNER options across the country and globally.  

Communities like St George that are located near destinations like Zion National Park or the Grand Canyon or have developed a sports tourism options have seen a boom to nightly rentals and second home ownership.  Municipalities have a responded and the term ‘buyer beware’ is very much sage advice.

There are 20 individual cities within Washington County and all with vastly different approaches to short term rentals.  Not all areas are geographically ideal for a nightly rental business models.  As such this article will focus on what we term as the Greater St George area (90% of our population) and will cover the cities of St George, Washington, Hurricane, Santa Clara, Ivins and La Verkin.  The cities of Toquerville, Rockville and Springdale are  near enough to Zion National Park that we will address them in a follow up article.

·        
St George

·        
Washington

·        
Hurricane

·        
Santa Clara

·        
Ivins

·        
La Verkin

·        
Springdale

·        
Toquerville

·        
Pine Valley

·        
New Harmony

·        
Rockville

·        
Hildale

·        
Veyo

·        
Dammeron Valley

·        
Leeds

·        
Virgin

·        
Enterprise

·        
Apple Valley

·        
Central

·        
Grafton

 

Our team gets asked often “Where is the best place to buy” a vacation home.  The simplest core answer is – “where ever it is allowed”.  Sounds simple right.  IF the property is not permitted for nightly rentals, and you want to off-set your costs with renting it out nightly – you are wasting your time and our time thinking about it.  There isn’t enough money or motivation to deal with code enforcement violations, angry neighbors, tax implications etc. to be successful with non-zoned units.  (Unless you are interested in operating the property as a ‘temporary housing’ property.  Ask us for details on this option)

To help in our discussion, we need to review a few terms and types of lodging options one may encounter in Southern Utah.

Hotel/Motel
Zoned commercially.  Located in town on major traffic by-ways.  Single rooms with single bathroom, mini-fridge.  Large parking lots, no group gathering areas without a fee, elevators, limited views.  We have a few nice hotels – clean, good amenities, comfortable – but we don’t have any resort hotels that you want to take a vacation to per se.

Glamping/Yurt/RV

These are options, but will not be discussed in this review.  Glamping is ‘glorified camping’ and is usually in a YURT.

Shared house
(room for rent).  Also known as the Airbnb Model.  Owner lives on site.  Offers a space in the home for rent, usually a room with access to a private bath but all other areas of the home typically are shared.  Grandma’s house falls in this category.  Usually only accommodates 1-2 persons but may vary.  (In St George, even staying at Grandma’s house is illegal IF you compensate the old lady in cash or in kind)

Guest house private space.  Like the room for rent, but more private.  Owner still on site but the unit is separate with private kitchen/kitchenette.  Accommodations for 1-6 people is common.

Whole Space (May be condo/townhouse or single-family home) May have a community pool with other shared amenities or may be all private amenities.  Most popular are homes with private pools and these are the hardest to find.  Units typically accommodate between 1-14+ persons (some up to 100) IF you’re looking to buy, this is the type of accommodation you will want.  Focus your time on WHOLE HOUSE options.

Management Options There are two types of management styles we will discuss here.  OPEN and CLOSED.  OPEN means that the home owner can choose who manages the unit (A management company of their choosing, themselves if they live in the county).  The selection of management companies may be limited to 3-4 different approved firms.  CLOSED means that the home owner is required to use the single designated property manager.  Other restrictions may apply.

The City of St George views vacation rentals as a commercial activity and tends to resist the shared economy even to the silly point of criminal prosecutions. . . Properties in St George are great investments, they work well and service a wide range of owners needs.  We just need to give the city leadership some just exposure for having such silly and selectively prosecuted ordinances.  This has opened the door for other communities like Washington and Hurricane to attract some amazing projects and grow.

Short-Term (Room for Rent in private residence) Allowed:  NO  This model is strictly prohibited.  Class B Misdemeanor.  Grandma may face criminal proceedings if she lands on the city’s radar.

Guest House (Casita) Allowed:  NO This model is strictly prohibited.  Class B Misdemeanor.  Fact:  in 2017/2018 St George criminally prosecuted over 80 persons for promoting tourism lodging – not one conviction to our knowledge.  City kept all tax revenues produced anyways.

Whole Home (Town Home) Allowed:  YES – with restrictions and limitations.  St George City restricts short term rentals to what is termed as RESORT OVERLAYS.  Units outside these zones are prohibited.  Class B Misdemeanor.  Fact:  Only about 30% of zoned properties are legal.  Most do not have a business license and most do not use a local property manager as the code requires.  City OK with non-enforcement as long as within the ‘zones’.

Business License Required:  YES, except the city does not enforce this requirement unless you attempt to rent a property in a non-zoned subdivision, then they will prosecute you. (Selective Enforcement)

ZONED AREAS and PROPERTY MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS

Estancia – These are modern units with quality amenities.  1-4 bedroom units.  3-4 stories tall surrounding community pool, pickleball courts and hot tub.  Property has elevators, great views and located in the Green Valley area.  Management Options – Self management, Property Manager

Sports Village – These are established condo style units with a very good amenities package.  1-3 bedroom units.  Views vary depending on location of unit.  Management Options – Self management, Property Manager

Las Palmas – These are established condo style units with a very good amenities package.  1-4 bedroom units.  Views vary depending on location of unit.  Management Options – Self management, Property Manager

The Ledges (Escapes, Fairways & Sand Cove) Are town home units, 3-5 bedroom designs on a golf course with good amenities.  Management is required and you are limited to use their management company.

Bloomington Vacation Villas – This is a new development.  Appears to be 3-4 bedroom town homes located on a golf course with good amenities including community pool and tennis courts.  Management required, closed management.

Inn at Entrada & Shinava Ridgge– 1-4 bedroom homes located on a golf course with access to good amenities and resort services.  Manager required.  Closed management – you are required to use their on-site services.  Good reputation.

Magnolia Hills – This is a mystery.  There isn’t a subdivision in the entire county with this name.  We are researching this subdivision.  We were given this name by the city but we can’t find it. . . stay tuned.

The city ordinances also require for a new subdivision to be zoned nightly requires a minimum of 100 units and must have prescribed amenities such as a golf course, pool, tennis court etc.  At the time of this article over 60% of zoned areas in St George do not appear to meet this criteria.  So why have the rule at all?  Just a question.

As you can tell we have a difference of opinion with the City of St George on their approach to nightly rentals and their selective or partial application of their approach – hope to help readers avoid heart ache if possible.  That said, where its allowed these properties work.  St George does do a great deal of good for tourism.  The entire region benefits from the attraction St George offers.

CODES:  

3-2V-1 and 10-14-21 and 10-14-22  

The City of Washington views vacation rentals as a commercial activity and supports the a wide range of developer and citizen entrepreneur business models.  The City has been more open to the shared economy for nightly rentals provided they are within zoned areas or resort subdivisions.  The city requires you to have a local property manager.  IF you live within the county, then you can self manage.

Short-Term (Room for Rent in private residence) Allowed:  NO  This model is prohibited.  

Guest House (Casita) Allowed:  NO This model is prohibited.  

Whole Home (Town Home) Allowed:  YES – with restrictions and limitations to specific zoned areas

Business License Required:  YES, $50/year.  Will require annual inspection and applicable egress signage, fire extinguishers, CO detectors and may be subject to occupancy limits unless fire suppression system present.


The city is very welcoming to travelers who like a range of accommodations from hotels, condos town homes and single family homes provided they are properly licensed and in designated zoned areas.  The city only has one hotel and one being built and welcomes the influx of tax revenue produced by nightly rentals.


ZONED AREAS and PROPERTY MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS

The Casitas – 3-4 bedroom units, town home style, with good community amenities and location near restaurants, I-15/SR 9.  Manager required, limited open management.  

Town Center – High-end town homes 3-6 bedroom floor plans with good amenities, ability to have private splash pad, private hot tubs on decks.  Great location in walking distance to restaurants and easy I-15/SR 9 access.  Golf near by.  Manager required, limited open management.

Crimson Ridge – 3-4 bedroom floor plans with good amenities. Great location in walking distance to restaurants and easy I-15/SR 9 access.  Located on golf course.  Manager required, open management.

Vida Sol – Brand new.  Our team is still researching.  Appear to be 3-4 Br. Town home style.  Most likely will require management.  Not sure if open management or not.

Stucki Farms – Working on information for this project.

Freedom Village – 3-4 bedroom floor plans, town home style with shared community amenities.  Requires management.  At the time of this report, the project requires use of their management company.  (Closed Management)

Ladera at Sienna Hills – New development 3-5 bedroom single family homes with shared community amenities.  Requires management.  Limited open management.

The Eighth – 7-8 bedroom town home with private pools.  Also has access to amenities at Town Center.  Located on a golf course.  Great location in walking distance to restaurants and easy I-15/SR 9 access.  Manager required, limited open management.

There are three other subdivisions zoned for future nightly rentals in the Sienna Hills area (near the casitas) but they have not been platted yet.

CODES:

9-14-25

The Hurricane City views vacation rentals as a commercial activity and supports the a wide range of developer and citizen entrepreneur business models including conditional use permits within residential zones.  The City has been very open to the shared economy for nightly rentals provided they are within zoned areas, resort subdivisions or limited use permits.  The city does restrict the limited use permits to 1 license per 1000 residents.  There is a waiting list for these licenses.

Short-Term (Room for Rent in private residence) Allowed:  YES  This model is allowed for owner occupant only.  License required, but not limited.  

Guest House (Casita) Allowed:  YES This model is allowed.  Owner must occupy the main home.  License required, but not limited.  

Whole Home (Town Home) Allowed:  YES – Property must be located within a zoned area or be granted the conditional use permit or be located in a commercial zone.

Business License Required:  YES, $300/year.  Will require annual inspection and applicable egress signage, fire extinguishers, CO detectors and may be subject to occupancy limits unless fire suppression system present.


The city is very welcoming to travelers who like a range of accommodations from hotels, condos town homes and single family homes provided they are properly licensed or designated zoned areas.  The city only has several hotel options along the main highway.  The city recognizes the consumer demand and welcomes the influx of tax revenue produced by nightly rentals.  Local residents who participate also appreciate the economic advantage of the shared economy and are benefiting in amazing ways.


ZONED AREAS and PROPERTY MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS

Coral Springs – These are 1-3 bedroom condo style units with large private deck spaces.  Good community amenities including indoor/outdoor pool and tennis court.  Great access to I-15/SR 9 and close to golf course.  Manager not required, open management.  Developer has an interest in the Private Vacations management company and controls the HOA.

Zion Gate – New development with 3-6 bedroom town home style units.  Located just off Hwy 9 in Hurricane.  Great location between Zion National Park and Sand Hollow Recreation Area.  Good amenities.  Manager required, Open Management.

Sand Hollow Resort – Mix of condo style (The Villas) and private single family units (The Retreat).  Located on a golf course and near Sand Hollow Recreation area.  Required to use on-site management company.  Developer appears to have interest in on-site management company.  Home owners in the retreat have, at the time of this writing, open litigation against the association regarding property management issues.

All other areas are either permitted by conditional use permit and limited by the number of permits issues based on population OR they are located in commercial zones.  Owner occupied units may rent out rooms or casitas in their home with or with out a manager.

CODE:

3-10-1 thorugh 12

The City of Santa Clara views vacation rentals as a commercial activity The City has been more open to the shared economy for nightly rentals provided they are within zoned areas or resort subdivisions.  The city requires you to have a local property manager. .

Short-Term (Room for Rent in private residence) Allowed:  NO  This model is prohibited.  

Guest House (Casita) Allowed:  NO This model is prohibited.  

Whole Home (Town Home) Allowed:  YES – with restrictions and limitations to specific zoned areas

Business License Required:  YES Not known at the time of this article if an annual inspection is required.

The city is very welcoming to travelers who like a range of accommodations condos, town homes and single family homes provided they are properly licensed and in designated zoned areas.  The city only has no hotels and enjoys the tax basis provided by the nightly rental industry.


ZONED AREAS and PROPERTY MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS

Lava Falls -This are town home style units with a nice community pool near a golf course.  1-3 bedroom style with private garages.  Self management or open management options.

Ocotillo Resorts – This is a brand news subdivision, great amenities package, 3-5 bedroom design with optional private hot tubs on select units with private garages  Manager required with limited management.

Paradise Village at Zion – The first great experiment the city allowed.  Successful.  Single family home designs with 3-6 bedroom options.  Excellent amenities package.  Self management or open management options.

Acadia – High end project with closed management.  Excellent amenities.  3-6 bedroom town home design options.


The City of Ivins considers nightly rentals to be a commercial activity and has created zoned areas.  There are no hotels in Ivins but one is in development near Tuacahn.

Short-Term (Room for Rent in private residence) Allowed:  NO  This model is prohibited.  

Guest House (Casita) Allowed:  NO This model is prohibited.  

Whole Home (Town Home) Allowed:  YES – with restrictions and limitations to specific zoned areas

Business License Required:  At the time of this posting, it was not clear of licensing requirements.

ZONED AREAS and PROPERTY MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS

None – No subdivisions were identified at the time of this posting. Red Mountain Resort might be one but appears to operate more like a private club resort than being open to the public.  More research in Ivins is needed.

The City of La Verkin views vacation rentals as a commercial activity and supports the a wide range of developer and citizen entrepreneur business models including conditional use permits within residential zones.  The City has been very open to the shared economy for nightly rentals provided they are within zoned areas.  At the time of this post there were no specific resort subdivisions within the city.

The city has divided the community into 6 zones and allows up to 10% of those properties to be used as nightly rentals and requires a business license, a local manager and must meet certain age or recent renovation requirements. 

Short-Term (Room for Rent in private residence) Allowed:  YES  This model is allowed for owner occupant only.  License required, but not limited.  

Guest House (Casita) Allowed:  NO This model is not allowed.  City does not recognize casitas as a legal structure to a residential home. 

Whole Home (Town Home) Allowed:  YES – Property must be located within a zoned area or be granted the conditional use permit.

Business License Required:  YES, $300/year.  Will require annual inspection and applicable egress signage, fire extinguishers, CO detectors and may be subject to occupancy limits unless fire suppression system present.


The city is very welcoming to travelers who like a range of accommodations from hotels, condos town homes and single family homes provided they are properly licensed.  The city has several hotel options along the main highways.  The city recognizes the consumer demand and welcomes the influx of tax revenue produced by nightly rentals.  Local residents who participate also appreciate the economic advantage of the shared economy and are benefiting in amazing ways.

This community attitude is driving investment in the community in new hotels (healthy competition) new restaurants and elevating property values for all owners in the community.  Thank you to capitalism and leaders who support the innovations of individuals and businesses alike.


ZONED AREAS and PROPERTY MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS

Very Open – Pick a place.  Escape Properties can help buyers navigate the licensing process and help owners meet the details of the ordinance.  Property management required unless you live local (within the county)

Pricing | Setting rates for revenue

. . .What’s the best rate for . . .

Pricing is a never ending chore because there are just too many ‘what if’s’ and ‘what’s going on’s’ with a mix of ‘who’s’ just for good measure to keep on top of it! 

Price Guessing VS. Smart Pricing

I don’t pretend to know all things about AirBnb’s price tool.  I can only speak of it as to my own experiences.  What I found is the concept is great in  theory – but reality – it too is a hit-or-miss option.  IF you’re the first property to market, the tool sets your rate lower to attract travelers – some times too low.  As people book, available units nightly rates go up as inventory goes down.  So – how do you make it work?  Do you block major dates and open up later and hope you guess the timing just right to get the big dollar for a key weekend?  Do you force a rate and hope its not too high and your unit sits empty until demand picks up?  Do you drop the rate in hope to get occupancy but oops – you gave it away for a major holiday!  Sounds like a lot of work, guessing and time figuring it out to me.

Escape Properties deploys a technology that looks at current, future and historical trends and 28 total points of moving data in real time to set rates based on quality of your photos, sleep capacity, what INQUIRIES are doing vs. BOOKINGS and many other points to try to get “fair” market driven rates – good for both the traveler and the owner.

Focus on winning and not the one amazing booking!

Even if you’re not that in to sports, you will understand my point(s).  IF you’re a coach of a baseball team you will focus 75-80% of your efforts on single and double base plays, to load the bases, so when you get the one big home run you sore the most runs batted in (RBI’s).  If you’re a basket ball coach you drill your players to have a high percentage, like 90%, of shots taken within 8 feet of the basket (post position or lay ups) not all in trying to drain the 3-pointer from beyond the arc.


The same is true in Vacation Rental pricing.  You want to have ‘Fair’ pricing 90% of the time to get the most bookings (occupancy) and 10% of your bookings will be for ‘Top Dollar’ home runs.  If you’re always focused on the TOP DOLLAR rate, your occupancy rate will drop and your net revenues will tank.  Staying focused on occupancy will grow your revenue.  At the end of the year you’ll see a nice over-all balanced successful VR business.  This is a marathon, not a sprint.

Marketing & Promotion

Marketing and Promotion

Shows like NetFlix’s “STAY HERE” and other shows on HGTV are designed to entertain and like many ‘Reality’ shows often do not reflect our specific “local” realities.  Furthermore the market is in constant motion and requires sound principles and discipline over time to succeed.

Understand your market

Where are the guests coming from?  UT, CA, CO and CANADA are the top regions booking in St George.  It is important to also note that up and coming markets include Asia and colder mid-west/northeast states too.  Marketing foot print – Over 75% of guests are driving to the area and live within 400 miles of St George.  How old are they?  The average booking age of guest is 38.  87% are also families – not corporate travel.  (key – focus on marketing to families needs in your home)  How long do they stay?  In 2017, according to AirBnb data, the average length of stay in the St George area was 3.2 nights.  When do they book?  The majority of bookings are done by females (60/40) and they are booking on average 43 days in advance of the arrival date.  We are seeing a growing nightly average in the summer and people are planning more and more in the future.

In both setting up your property to appeal to the market and our focused marketing plan Escape Properties uses this and other data sources to try to drive occupancy with best possible rates to create a healthy balance of revenue.

Systems Investments- Escape Properties reservation software is designed to integrate with multiple channel marketing servies like AirBnb, VRBO, CanadaStay, Agoda and TripAdvisor etc.  This means we can cast a broad net and communicate with guests in a single point

We have integrated with partnerships on both a LOCAL and INTERNATIONAL footprint with leading travel industry firms in Israel, Spain, California, Boston Mass. and little old Utah.  All the tech, pomp and circumstance is for naught if it was not for the HUMAN team behind the effort.

This includes owners, cleaners, reservations team, guest service coordinators, maintenance team and support staff.  Our combined energies and focus is on the creation of an Amazing Guest Experience.

The Success of the Property

The operation and success of a vacation property business is not a complicated business model but there are many moving parts and details working with the traveling public, meeting expectations and keeping things current.  We see your success more as a full-time venture rather than a side job.  This is not to say that the individual can not have success self-marketing on AirBnb or VRBO.  They can and do. (This is why AirBnb is so successful as a whole)  Over time we see owners burn out and become tiered.  Properties loose their luster and eventually end up ‘for sale’ or in neglect.  Many first time second home owners are convinced that the property is always going to produce positive cash flow, when in reality most do not.  They fell in love with the idea they see on TV reality shows not the reality of running a second home business.