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Confessions of a Property Manager

Hi, I'm Lisa and in my blog I'm going to be spilling the beans on what it's really like to be a property manager in Spain looking after other people's properties. Your wouldn't believe some of the things that I see and happen to me. I'm going to be telling you all about it!

Reservado
28 May 2008

This is the first year that I have actually managed to do bookings in Spanish! I have now took three bookings and I have to say in comparison to the English they take a lot of convincing that you are not some rouge individual scheming to take their money. Each booking has taken over 20 emails to convince them that I will have the apartment there for them. It does make me wonder though why they enquired in the first place if they are that sceptical?
 
I have given them all my legal requirements, my husbands work details in fact they know more about my family than my own doctor does. I have even emailed them the bank receipts for the deposits. I have had to meet them half way on the balance though as they insist on bringing cash on arrival. I suppose it stands out more because 90% of my UK bookings pay both deposits and balances into the bank without a second thought.
 
My latest booking is a lady called Ana, she phoned me up and I managed to decipher her warped speed Spanish and get the details, all was going well until she mentioned “perro” my brain was so into Spanish rental words I was completely taken aback and couldn’t make out what she was saying. Luckily she knew the word “dog”
 
I thought which owner will allow a dog into an apartment – I asked how big the dog was – 15kg (I have no idea whether she will come with a tall skinny dog or a little fat dog!) Luckily I have a Norwegian owner who will take anything – she packs her own bookings in like sardines. I emailed her to find out if she wanted to take the booking and her reply was
“I think that dog will not eat other things than his own food. Please do help her and the dog!”
 
So that was that – Ana will arrive in a couple of weeks with her dog and she will be my first Spanish guest to come – I have had all my driving instructions translated into Spanish and sent them to her, she is driving down from Madrid so I have sent her the instructions to pick up the road from Malaga. I will let you know how my meet and greet goes in due course.
 
All good practice for my Spanish!
 


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Maintenance - Boilers!
26 May 2008

Now the season is really starting and the apartments are filling up the maintenance call outs start.  I have been so busy lately with the rental side - it seems that late deals are the thing this year and everyone is booking last minute.  Great for them - intense for me as you have to get everything prepared and cleaners organised in one go.  No sooner are they in and the perfectly fine apartment seems to fall to bits!  

We had some guests arrive last Wednesday, the apartment was cleaned the day before, everything fine, they got in ok but that night  I had several calls on my mobile.  It was around 8pm and I was trying to get the children to bed and the phone kept ringing.  Once I managed to get downstairs I had three missed calls in about 5 minutes.  I returned the call and it was guests saying they had no hot water, they were really unhappy.  My husband was trying his best to get out in time for the football match but I said I had to pop out because the boiler was in a locked cupboard (owner has his personal stuff in there) so I couldn't ask them to check anything but had to go there to see for myself.  

I got there within 20 minutes of her call.  The lady of the group was really "cheesed" off so to speak, "they had paid for an apartment and there was no hot water - it wasn't on etc etc" I explained that it was cleaned the day before and everything had been fine so until we could check the boiler I couldn't do much.  She had a right attitude!  We checked the plug of the boiler which was fine and there was nothing obvious so called our "boiler" guy and he said he would be there first thing in the morning 09.30am.  I apologised that she was without water but these things happen to apartments and someone would be out asap to fix it.  It was fixed first thing the morning of the next day - the thermostat had gone.  I thought that wasn't bad going - but the guests just thought it shouldn't have happened.  How can you possibly control appliances?

Today we had a call from a long term tennant really fed up as the boiler was heating up then cutting out.  It is a gas boiler and they tend to cut out if the temperature gets to hot.  She has been going through a gas bottle every 2 weeks which I though was quite a lot.  We have already had someone down to look at it so in the end we called the owners to see if they would agree to changing it to an electric one. They agreed - the prospect of an unhappy tennant and call out charges to check why the boiler wasn't working well convinced them.  This property is relatively new - why they put gas boilers in is beyond me, normally the newer properties all have electric ones.  A lot of people in this complex had already changed them.  

So it seems this week is the week of the boilers - last week is we had to change a dishwasher - all go, go, go!





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To meet or not to meet?
17 May 2008

Whether you should pay for someone to meet and greet clients (along with cleaning costs) in my experience, generates a lot of discussion.  There are those who feel that is it not worth the money and should not have to pay for a meet and greet and there are those that think it is a great service. 

When there are companies out there who can offer key collection at various locations be it airports, bars, or a safe on a wall, just stop for one minute and put yourself in the shoes of the people arriving on holiday.  How many of us really want to have to find a bar or follow a map and hope they can find an apartment at the end of it?  After a tiring day travelling do you really want your guests to have to do this?

One year we decided to have a break and go to visit Nerja, I have family who love it and booked an apartment so we thought it would be a good idea to go up and see them for a few days.  We booked an apartment online and were given instructions on how to find the hotel which would give us the keys for the apartment.  We found the hotel and collected our keys but when we then had to follow the directions to find the apartment we had difficulty finding the right road.  Roadworks  had blocked the road we were meant to take and we did not have an alternative, we called the number we were given in case of emergencies and luckily they managed to direct us to a road for the apartment complex.  However, once we found where we were meant to park we then had to find out which block the apartment was in, the numbering system was certainly not in numerical order and we wandered about with 2 small children for a while until we discoverd that the parking was miles away from the apartment.  We then managed to illegaly park whist we unloaded all the stuff you need when holidaying for a short period with young children!  we then parked in the proper place.  After several attempts with the different keys on the keyring we got into our apartment.  If we had followed someone there and they had shown us where to go it would have saved us approx 15 minutes - which seems a lot longer with a 2 and 4 year old!!

Luckily the people had left us laminated instructions around the apartment for how to operate various appliances, they didn't leave instructions on how to find the tv remote!  That was a bit of a treasure hunt!  All in all though it wasn't too bad and we managed to work out how to operate all appliances.  We didn't know the shortest route into town though so that was a bit of a "gut instinct" - "hope we are going the right way"  - "why are we in a housing estate" - "shut up whinging children, we will get to the town in a minute"  - drama! 

We once had a client who didn't believe in meet and greets and was always moaning about them until he did his own bookings and one of his guests called him (on his own accord) and commented on what a great service it was and how comforting it was to have people they had physically met as a back up in case they had problems.  He then changed his tune!

From a maintenance point of view just consider how many people break things because they don't know how to operate them.  Trust me - our washing machines are happy that their doors are not being broken due to people not switching the machines off first before opening the doors!   We have saved a few doors in our time by simply explaining that the machine needs to be switched off before you can open the door and should they experience any problems - please do not force the door - just call us!  Yes - you can leave instructions but then you are relying on them to read them all - yes you may have deposits but are you going to generate returning clients because you took the cost of the door out of their deposit and they argue that the machine was broken and the door wouldn't release!

I know that service costs need to be scrutinised for holiday rentals but when considering whether to choose a company which does meet and greets properly or to choose one which has a safe, please put yourself in the holidaymakers shoes and consider what is best for them (and you in as much as you may generate another returning client) and also consider the fact that when someone is physically shown how to use something and personally told if they have a problem they should call - it does help reduce maintenance or call out costs.  

In my opinion meet and greets are essential - they give the holiday guest that personal touch - a face behind the booking or an approachable person to contact if they need to.  In my opinion they also personalise the apartment, the guests are aware that it is an apartment which is looked after and the person doing that is looking at them so they better respect it!!

I say yes to meet and greets - to returning clients and reduced maintenance costs.   



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How low will you go?
06 May 2008

When the market is saturated with rental apartments and there is a credit crunch in the UK is it worth reducing your prices to bring yourself into the competitive rental market?
 
I was with some owners the other day and they commented on the fact that I am currently about 300 euros more expensive than other properties in the same complex. The owners phoned another agency and they said they were fully booked for peak season, i.e. August but when they compared rental prices they were a lot cheaper.
 
So many owners look at rental weeks but not rental prices v costs incurred. There are times when you can make more money on fewer weeks at a higher price than more weeks at a lower price. Don’t be blinded by your weeks booked. Remember weeks booked have to work with service costs, utility costs, commission rates. At the end of the day you need to look at the money you receive in your hand rather than the money you envisage per rental week. If the price is too low and the guest don’t respect the property who will pay for any damages? If you have every week booked at a low rate who will pay for the electricity when the guests leave the air con on all day? Just bear in mind that sometimes less weeks at a higher rate can mean less utility costs, less maintenance fees as you have a different clientele.    
 
Rather than reduce your rates have you considered giving good discounts for second or third week bookings? The more weeks booked at a decent rate, the more money made as you normally only pay for service costs per booking. So if it is one week, don’t reduce, if two or three weeks then be more flexible with your prices. Offer more discounts for returning clients.
 
A lot of agents/people are offering cheaper rates to get the bookings in but is it always the right decision. I am holding out at the moment, I will offer discounts on longer rentals but for a week I think if they want a quality apartment with a quality service they can pay for it. Luckily for me, other agents have folded and gone for cheaper rates and now they are booked up I can offer my apartments at the rates I want. At the end of the day – supply and demand! I want my owners to have a decent return for a decent property so will price accordingly.


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