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Make Money Out of Hay

Article by Beth Carson

Turning straw, timber, and foam into cold, hard cash.

With vacation rentals, location is everything. Except for the little luxuries, like upgraded kitchens, a water feature or a well-designed, sumptuous master suite.

Positioned right on the water, on a reef, with a private pool with a view, I wasn’t sure there was anything that could be done to improve the front yard of my property, which ran directly into the clear waters of the South Pacific Ocean on Fiji’s Suncoast. Until, a friend said two words.

Hanging bed.

I lit up at the thought. Because drought can be an issue, I envisioned an aluminum roof, terra cotta coloured to match the roof on the house, as an additional rain catchment.

But, as often is the case, the locals know best. My manager proposed we make it look like a bure, a traditional Fijian home. With a thatched roof. Not only is it a striking look from the house or from the water, it’s also much cooler on the hanging bed than my idea would have been.

When I come to visit—which of course—is one of the perks of ownership, I get to fully relax and take in the view of three out islands. I’ve learned a trick: if one side is slightly higher than the other, the bed will naturally sway.

Of course, with professional photos on my website, it’s one of our major draws, something that guests rave about, and often, a reason to book.

Sometimes, you need a fresh set of eyes to look at your property. See where money might be leaking out.

My gardener, Ganesh, proposed a sandscape by the pool. Even though we’re absolute ocean front, Fiji is mountainous, and we are 30 concrete steps from the sand, and even then, the sand is rocky.

Ganesh hired two local boys, and within two days, they had filled in the dirt areas around the palm trees with sand. Now, amongst the palm trees, there are blue Adirondack chairs where you can enjoy the cool ocean breezes, the sand between your toes, and the indoor/outdoor sound system. No one else has anything like it.

Maybe you have a condo, and can’t get as creative with the out of doors. I was consulting at a condo in Florida recently. The owner had decorated it with a designer—the place was absolutely gorgeous. I was brainstorming ways to increase off-season bookings at his very adult-oriented penthouse. I found my inspiration in the large storage closet.

Massage tables are only about $200. He can get 2, have them in the storage, and masseuses can come without the hassle of dragging theirs out of the car and into the building and then in the elevator, through the door. They are already there. Since we are providing this perk, the masseuses will give us a discount.

During weeks that are slow, November to February (except for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays) we’ll offer a free couples massage with a week’s reservation. The owner will only pay a negotiated, discounted rate if the week is booked. If not, there’s no cost, only the cost of the tables. When things start heating up in March, we’ll remove the promotion, but offer it as an exclusive option for his guests. And guess who gets to try out the masseuses! The owner!

Other ways to add value that don’t cost very much:

Hammocks – In colonial Mexico, where the walls are solid, large bolts with hooks are inserted into walls in almost every room, and a light hammock hangs on one of the hooks. When it’s time for a siesta, just drape it over to the other hook, with the perfect place for a nap or a read.

Sound – Our guest happiness level went up when we added an indoor/outdoor sound system in Fiji. If you can’t do that, get a mini speaker for each bedroom. You can get ones with iPhone docking stations, where it will charge at the same time. In the last condos I decorated, we got those for all the rooms, then I bought a $5 cord that allowed each one to be used with the headphone jacks of any MP3 player or phone.

Design – thoughtful, fun, creative design will go far. Not only will it get you noticed in photos, but it will make precious vacation time spent in your home more enjoyable. Which leads to happy reviews. Which leads to more guests. Use magazines as inspiration. Stop and think, “Is this magazine-worthy?” It does not have to be expensive to please the eye. Check out my free, digital magazine, for ideas.

Wannabe Chef Tools – Whether they cook a single meal at your place or not, people like to dream that they’ll create local, healthy, flavorful meals while on vacation. Help fuel that dream with every appliance you can get your hands on. Then, be sure to include them in the photos and descriptions.

Beth is one of 8 national speakers for the 2019 conference and will be presenting on Thursday, February 21st at 10:10am at Devos Place (River Overlook E-F) in Grand Rapids.

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