Tag: condo

How to get around vacation rental service fees

Have you booked a vacation rental recently? If you’ve booked through Airbnb, Vrbo or the likes, you will have paid service fees. We advertise through Vrbo and Airbnb, truthfully we get the majority of our bookings through these booking platforms. There are additional booking sites, but these are the two we use and are familiar with.

service fees

How much is the service fee?

Both booking platforms charge the travelers a service fee as a percentage of the rental amount. With Vrbo it ranges from 6-12% of the rental amount. The total used to cap at $499, however in the past few years that cap was quietly lifted. In reviewing my bookings, I have one where the service fee is $586 for a two week booking. In addition to that, owners pay either a flat $499/year or 5% of booking income. Airbnb is free to owners to advertise, but charges travelers a cool 14.2% service fee on the rental. Both platforms charge the owners a credit card transaction fee of 3%.

Each guest who books one of our condos signs a rental agreement. In it we detail the nightly rate, fees and taxes among other things. We do not list the service fee. It is not covered by our rental agreement (we do not receive any of it). Should you cancel your booking, it will depend on the booking platform if they refund their service fee.

What value do service fees provide you?

I realize that there are costs involved in running a booking site, absolutely. Here are the services the booking sites say they provide travelers for the service fee:

Vrbo states: ‘This fee helps cover the cost of secure transactions, product development, and 24/7 customer service. Additionally, when a guest pays through our site, they are eligible for the Book with Confidence Guarantee.’

Airbnb similarly: ‘To help Airbnb run smoothly and to cover the costs of the products and services we provide, like 24/7 customer support, we charge a service fee when a booking is confirmed.’

Should you avoid the service fee?

If you have an established relationship with the condo owner, I would suggest you book direct and save the service fees. My rates are the same on Vrbo, Airbnb and book direct, the only difference being the service fee (of which I have no control). If friends or family have **recently** stayed at this condo and have an established relationship with the owner, you are probably fine to book direct.

Do search online to see if and how Vrbo or Airbnb have helped travelers when problems have occurred. Do the booking platforms actually help?

Why doesn’t the owner offer to book direct when you inquire via Vrbo or Airbnb?

When I list my properties on booking platforms, I agree not to take any of their bookings off-site (as this will cost the platform their service fees). As much as I would prefer to take your booking direct, the booking platforms can (and will) delist my properties if I’m found out. At this time I depend on them for bookings, so I am unable to take this risk. However….. I sprinkle the condo’s name throughout the listings. Some travelers pick up on this, google the condo by name (‘Palms at Wailea 503’) and find my website, Facebook, Instagram or even Youtube channel – yay!

How to pay for your vacation rental

This is just common sense, but if this is your first time booking a particular condo from a particular owner, pay by credit card. This gives you some recourse should problems occur. Note that most credit card processors charge owners a 3% transaction fee. If you have a recent established relationship with the condo owner, ask about cash discounts and mail a check instead. I have a number of repeat guests who do this. Others prefer to collect the airmiles which is of course just fine.

A word of caution

Unfortunately fraud is a thing in the vacation rental industry. Criminals post fraudulent listings for non-existent properties, or properties they don’t own. You can find fraudulent listings on Vrbo, Airbnb, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace…. everywhere you look to book. Please be careful, use common sense.

Besides blatant fraud, there is also a problem of misrepresentation. Old photos, poor upkeep, shoddy cleaning, poor management. Read reviews carefully.

Take the time to phone the owner listed – you would be surprised how many people don’t!

Purchase trip insurance

Please do purchase trip insurance. When you book your trip, you never know what may happen. We’ve seen job loss, death in family, illness, change in circumstances, divorce etc. Read through the fine print as policies do vary widely – it can cover CFAR (Cancel For Any Reason), medical, cancellation, etc. Prices will vary based on what they cover. I do not sell trip insurance. I have personally purchased through Travelguard for a European trip a number of years ago, though we didn’t need to make a claim, so I can’t vouch for how good it was.

Comment »

May 2021 Updates at our Maui Kamaole condo!

Our six month guests recently checked out of our Maui Kamaole condo. Spur of the moment I decided to update the look while getting the condo vacation rental ready.

We renovated this condo in 2016, installing a new kitchen, new main bath and updating the bedroom furniture. Now I decided it was time for some new living and dining room furnishings. This is a small island with limited furniture stores and on-island inventory, but I got lucky! I found a new sofa at Homeworld. The chairs are from Lifestyle Maui (you may recognize them – we have the same chair at our Kamaole Sands condo). The dining table, chairs and accent tables are from Bedmart. I also replaced the mirror and sofa art. Over the years I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the large flower painting above the sofa. It came with the condo when we originally bought it in October 2010. I have enjoyed the blooms but the branches on the right and the brass frame have always made me cringe a little. Glad to have replaced it. And no, the new painting isn’t actually just grey – it’s just that my phone camera isn’t showing the colored accents.

I always love seeing the before and after shots. Have a look!

This condo has a distant oceanview directly from the kitchen and living room.

Looking from the kitchen to the lanai with the oceanview in the distance

I’ve got a tentative date with Flora the photographer to update our condo pictures in a few weeks and will post them when ready.

Wait – you had six month guests?

It sure has been a strange year. Just a few months ago we were steeply discounting high season just to get some bookings to pay property taxes and those steep monthly homeowner fees. Yes, this past fall we had several sets of guests come and work remotely out of our condos, all the while enjoying Maui. It was a win win for them and us. They got to work and play, we had income during the very slow Covid months. However, we are happy to be back to regular style vacation renting.

Comment »

New post-arrival test starting May 5 for Maui

As mentioned a few weeks ago, Maui’s mayor is instituting a (hopefully temporary) post-arrival test on May 5, 2021.

The current process is that up to 72 hours prior to the last leg of your flight to Maui, you need a negative Covid test which is then uploaded into the Safe Travels App. Only NAAT tests done by the State’s ‘trusted partners’ are valid (please see the official website for the most accurate details).

As Maui’s new Covid infection numbers had not been going down in recent months, the mayor is instituting a second test. The second test is a rapid test which will be done at Kahului airport, free of charge for travelers.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • if you have proof of being fully vaccinated (both doses of Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of J&J) you are exempt (you DO STILL NEED TO DO THE PRE-ARRIVAL TEST). Proof of vaccination means presenting your original CDC vaccination card or certificate of vaccination downloaded from the CDC’s Vaccination Administration Management System (VAMS).
  • the rapid antigen test administered at the airport is free. Results are expected to take 15-20 minutes.
  • if you test positive, you will be asked to return to the airport for a second test, a PCR test this time. You will be notified right away if the confirming test is negative. If you refuse the second test or it comes back positive, you will need to quarantine for 10 days at your own expense. NOTE: by law you cannot quarantine in a vacation rental but would need to stay somewhere on the County’s ‘approved list‘.
  • kids aged five and under are exempt from the post-arrival test
  • see the County of Maui’s website for more details

Where is the State of Hawaii at with their vaccination passport

The State will be phasing in a vaccination passport program. This vaccination passport program will eliminate the need for the pre-travel testing when showing proof of being fully vaccinated.

Phase 1: testing exemption for inter-island travel for those who have been vaccinated within the State of Hawaii

The State is just starting the program, so as of May 11

  • if you have been fully vaccinated at a facility within the State of Hawaii
  • and it’s been more than 2 weeks since you were fully vaccinated
  • upload a copy of your vaccination certificate to the Safe Travel App (starting May 7)
  • these will be manually verified with the State health records

The State is starting the program small – in-State vaccinations are easiest for them to verify.

At some point (possibly in summer), they hope to open the vaccination passport program to those vaccinated in other states.

Comment »

Our Sugar Beach remodel is complete!

As you may know, we’ve been working on a remodel of our Sugar Beach condo. Pre-Covid we had discussed replacing cabinet doors, a few of which were starting to delaminate. But remodels rarely go the way you think they will. It ended up making more sense to replace the cabinets altogether. This in turn meant new counters – we chose quartz this time! I love it!

One of the things about our climate is that metal rusts quite quickly. Our appliances were definitely starting to rust, so we replaced those with stainless. Have you tried replacing appliances this past year? It turns out Covid has had a major impact on appliance manufacturers and, at least here on Maui, it was tricky getting appliances.

The ceiling fans needed replacing, and we’ve added a small ceiling fan with light kit in the bathroom which should help with condensation.

Sugar Beach #104
The California-king size bed with plantation shutters

Last but not least we decided to do away with the blue paint. When we purchased this condo in September 2010, the previous owner Joanne had most of the walls painted blue. Personally, I loved it. Over the years we’ve repainted the walls a lighter blue, but this January we did away with it completely. I love this even more. The entire condo seems brighter and bigger.

This afternoon I need to schedule the professional photographer to properly photograph the condo. For now, enjoy my amateur Youtube video! I love the results!

We hope one day soon to welcome you to our Sugar Beach condo!

Comment »

What’s new with Maui travel?

NEW: Mandatory sign-up for AlohaSafe Alert App (or similar) to avoid the 10 day quarantine per County of Maui. This is in addition to the SafeTravels program (pre-travel Covid testing etc etc). Please, if you are traveling to Maui at this time, make sure you read the official websites carefully to avoid problems.

Tourism on Maui has settled into its groove, in a manner of speaking. After the Christmas ‘rush’ of about 2200 arrivals/day, we seem to have settled in at about 1700 visitor arrivals/day. This down from January 2020’s 7000/day. After 9 months of minimal traffic, it seems like a lot, but really it isn’t.

You’ll notice Lihue (Kauai) is seeing minimal travel. In December they opted out of the ‘pre-travel testing to avoid quarantine’ program. Predictably their economy is suffering badly.

Who is traveling to Maui?

Generally we are seeing a younger than usual crowd for this time of year. Typically winter is snowbird season, time for baby boomers to come thaw out from winter back home. Yes, there are always younger people also, but they typically stay a week or two and then have to get back to work. This year many snowbirds are taking a pass on travel – I assume pending receipt of the Covid vaccine or the pandemic ending. Completely understandable. Thankfully the younger crowd is coming, many staying longer and working remotely from the condos. We are thankful.

Anecdotally I am told there are a lot of condo owners on island. Perhaps they haven’t been able to travel this past year, haven’t had much luck renting their condos out. Good for them! In normal years high season rents help pay the bills during low season, so often owners will limit their high season stays. This year the world is upside down.

Some vacation rental stats for you!

I just received my monthly update email from the Hawaii Tourism Authority on vacation rentals for December 2020. According to their data, condo occupancy for the month of December was at 45% for Kihei/Wailea vs last year’s 83%, with average rates down 29%. over last year’s. We were lucky, our condos were all full for December. For January our Kamaole Sands condo sat empty. Next month all condos will be full again, with exception of our Sugar Beach condo – the remodel should hopefully be completed in the next two weeks.

In contrast, Kihei/Wailea’s hotel occupancy for December 2020 is at 26% (down from 85% for December 2019). Interesting hotel nightly rates are only down 7%. See here for the Hawaii Tourism Association’s report. We’ve definitely seen near empty resorts on our Wailea beach walks. A few weeks ago we overheard a Wailea Beach Resort employee telling someone their occupancy was at 18% that day. How do these resorts stay open at those numbers?

Comment »

Another great Kamaole Sands 2-206 review

It’s been a year…. we’ve been thankful to have a steadier flow of guests since October’s reopening of tourism with the introduction of the pre-travel Covid test.

Our most recent guests at our Kamaole Sands 2-206 condo left us a really nice review on the booking platform (we advertise on Airbnb and VRBO) and guest book entry at the condo.

We realize travel during Covid-19 is more complicated than it used to be. We appreciate those willing to travel and are so happy to have you stay at our condos!

Mahalo!

“Wonderful space, clean and bright! The condo upgrade/remodel was well done, so comfortable in the space & location was very safe! The two (2) bathrooms is this one-bedroom is definitely nice to have, earns this place extra points! The space was well equipped with all the necessary items you’d need from kitchen tools to boogie boards and beach chairs.

The complex itself was impressively very well maintained, so clean from the gym to the swimming pool area & the grounds are beautifully manicured.

You are directly across from Kamaole Beach III, literally you walk across the street, too easy to catch the sun rise or set. Compared to Kamaole Beach I and II, Kamaole Beach III was so much nicer, a no crowds beach with plenty of room to social distance, sand so soft + clean and the ocean swimming will not disappoint and the best part – there’s a life-guard who actually pays attention!

The host/s were always quick to reply and ready to assist when I had questions! I would absolutely recommend this condo without reservation.”

Dec 2020 guestbook entry
Comment »

Important – Maui County Covid rules

We are one week into having the pre-travel test option for arrivals in the State of Hawaii (check here for more info). There have been hiccups and bumps along the road, however, it is wonderful to have this as an option to avoid the mandatory 14 day quarantine. Of course, this doesn’t mean anyone is exempt from the Covid rules.

What are the rules?

The Maui County Covid rules aren’t that hard.

  • Wear a mask when in public (ages 5 and up) – unless you are doing strenuous activity or in the water. Yes, we have to wear a mask on the beach and when walking. Many have not been doing this – the State is stepping up enforcement.
  • Social Distance six feet or more.
  • Wash your hands and/or sanitize often.
  • Indoor/outdoor gatherings of up to ten people allowed subject to social distancing.
  • Stay home and isolate if you are sick. Get tested.

Check out this graphic from Maui County with their new Arrive Healthy, Stay Healthy campaign. Maui County is offering complimentary post-arrival tests (only to those who did the pre-travel test). You cannot do an on-island test to opt out of quarantine.

How is it going?

We are starting to see a few more people on island. Sig and I walked the Wailea beach walk again yesterday (we do this twice a week) and saw a few visitors at the beaches. There were a few people in lounge chairs on the Four Seasons property and we have seen a little activity at the Grand Wailea, but unclear if they are open yet.

Wailea Beach fronting the Grand Wailea

We saw a few people across the street from Fred’s Mexican (Kamaole 2 beach), sitting on the wall watching sunset. It has been 7 months since we last saw that.

Some residents remain skeptical about allowing visitors back. Others are hugely relieved as they hope to be able to work again after all this time. We are hopeful people will obey the Covid rules and that Maui County can avoid an outbreak. On that note, Lanai is currently struggling with an outbreak. It appears it may have been a traveling construction worker at one of the hotels.

Comment »

Sale of Kihei Surfside 405

In July 2010 we moved to Maui with the intention of buying a few vacation rentals. We’d stayed in vacation rentals on Maui before. We had owned long-term rentals before. Surely this would be doable.

On September 26, 2010 we became the proud owners of Kihei Surfside 405 and Sugar Beach 104. This was the beginning of a rather steep learning curve of vacation renting.

I remember taking the previous owners (the Pontinens) out to lunch at Gannons and soaking in as much information about vacation renting as I could. They had so much good information to pass on. We got our wonderful cleaner Cindy through them. Cindy cleaned our condos from 2010-2019 when she retired. Check here for a blog post I wrote a few years back on Four things that will make or break your vacation rental business.

We’ve seen a lot of change in the past ten years. We remodeled the kitchen and bathrooms, I sat on the Kihei Surfside HOA’s Board of Directors for four years (two terms) and helped oversee the huge exterior remodel. We’ve hosted hundreds of guests, many of them repeat guests. We’ve enjoyed Valentine’s Day parties and eaten our Christmas dinner on the Kihei Surfside lawn.

And so it is with mixed feelings that we announce that we have sold our Kihei Surfside 405 condo as of October 15, 2020. The decision was not lightly made. However, seven months of Covid and the complete standstill of tourism on Maui have necessitated the sale of one of our condos to keep the others strong.

Many of our Kihei Surfside guests have become repeat guests, a handful have been staying at our condo for ten or more years. We will miss you. We will continue to vacation rent our remaining four condos at Maui Oceanview Condos. I will continue to blog about life on Maui right here on this page.

We wish our Kihei Surfside guests aloha and a hui ho! We would love to host you at one of our Maui Oceanview Condos soon!

Final picture of the view from our Kihei Surfside lanai
Comment »

Hawaii’s Grand Reopening

Can you believe it – after nearly 7 months of Covid, our politicians are going ahead with Hawaii’s grand reopening! Kinda. Sorta.

Nearly a month ago the Governor announced October 15, 2020 as the official date when travelers can take a pre-travel Covid test to avoid the mandatory 14 day quarantine. Then a few weeks later the individual County mayors piped up with their own ideas. Nothing like waiting until last minute to add more confusion to the mess.

The long and short of it is, many of Hawaii’s residents are worried about the reopening. Those not personally affected by the disappearance of tourism would rather just keep things as they are and wait out the pandemic. Maui and Kauai are offering voluntary secondary Covid tests to be taken 3 days after arrival. There are additional rules for inter-island travel.

EVERYTHING IS STILL IN FLUX. PLEASE DOUBLE CHECK THE STATE’S RULES REPEATEDLY IN THE DAYS LEADING UP TO YOUR ARRIVAL TO ENSURE YOU HAVE THE UPDATED INFORMATION.

Maui’s economy thanks our politicians. Kinda. We could have done without the added drama.

Hawaii's grand reopening
Kahului airport – where is everyone?

How will this reopening work?

Great question. The mandatory 14 day quarantine will continue for all who do not take a pre-travel Covid test.

  1. Please purchase a trip cancellation insurance policy which covers Covid-19 cancellations.
  2. Read up on the Hawaii Travel Covid website for much more information including frequently asked questions.
  3. All travelers will need to sign up on the Safe Travels website/app prior to travel.
  4. Figure out where and how to take your pre-travel Covid test at your expense. Note you need to take this test within 72 hours of your scheduled flight (or the scheduled last leg of your flight to Hawaii). The State of Hawaii requires very specific tests (make sure you get the right one) and you will want your results back PRIOR to arriving on Maui. All traveling in your group will need to take the test including children 5+ years old.
  5. Upload your negative test results to the Safe Travels website/app.
  6. Keep a copy of your results on hand to provide to your condo/hotel provider. The rental car people may need them also (they are currently not able to rent to those in quarantine, so you will need proof of test results).
  7. If you are staying at one of our Maui Oceanview Condos, you will not be able to stay in our condos should you or anyone in your travel group have a POSITIVE test. Again, as noted in all of your rental agreements, PLEASE PURCHASE CANCELLATION INSURANCE. We can be fined if one of our guests break their quarantine. We are not able to take that risk.

Please note, everything has been changing frequently. If you have an upcoming trip, please keep a close eye on the official government websites for changes.

Hawaii's Grand Reopening
the current pre-travel flow chart

What can you expect on Maui?

Hawaii's grand reopening
Welcome to Maui

As with everywhere, Maui also has Covid rules. Here are some of the highlights. Read here for much more detail.

  • Indoor/outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people are permitted.
  • Everyone must wear face coverings/masks when away from your place of residence. All ages 5 and up must wear masks with exception of when swimming or when engaging in strenuous physical activity (with proper social distancing). Note, to date enforcement has been rather lax. We expect with the arrival of more visitors, enforcement will pick up. Hey – this is your chance to add some Hawaii-themed face masks to your collection.
  • People who are sick are to stay in their residences except to seek medical help.
  • Try to maintain social distancing of 6 feet from those not within your immediate group.
  • As of right now, if traveling inter-island (except to Oahu), you will need to quarantine on that island for 14 days. The Governor and mayors are hoping to have a pre-travel test option, but this is NOT confirmed at this time.

Many shops and restaurants have shuttered in the past 7 months, some temporarily, some permanently. Some are on limited hours, while others are waiting to reopen once tourism restarts. We are all waiting for Hawaii’s Grand Reopening. Yes, we are a little worried but also very relieved.

Comment »

Hottest Hawaii travel trend

It’s been six months since Covid-19 brought Hawaii travel to a standstill. As we anxiously await Hawaii Governor David Ige’s announcement of when tourism can resume to the Hawaiian islands, here is a trend to consider.

Yes, we are getting inquiries again. The big trend I’m seeing is longer-stay inquiries. Specifically we are seeing one or two month inquiries. At this time it’s mainly younger professionals, looking to escape the West Coast wild fires, or just work remotely from Maui since they are working remotely anyway. We’ve also had families whose kids are doing school remotely inquire.

Can you work remotely from Maui?

Well, why not? The main hurdle you will face is the State of Hawaii’s 14 day mandatory quarantine. Starting October 1 there is supposed to be a workaround, a ‘test negative pre-travel to avoid quarantine’ option. I hate to say this but….. it doesn’t sound like the State has the details worked out yet (what are they waiting for???). We will see if it gets further delayed (we were supposed to have this option August 1).

UPDATE: Per today’s KHON News story, the governor says ‘tourism’s return October 1 is unlikely’. Sigh.

Should you need to quarantine, you will need to do your quarantine in one of these places per the County of Maui mayor. Once your quarantine is finished, you can move to a vacation rental of your choosing.

What to expect on Maui?

Well, Maui isn’t exactly the way you may remember it from your last trip. The disappearance of tourists has meant the closure or at least reduction of hours at many stores and restaurants. Many activities have shut down. We hope some of them will be able to restart their businesses once tourism resumes. Instead of having a fully packed and planned agenda, plan on a relaxed beach vacation. The businesses open will be thankful to serve you.

Why not end your work-day at the beach?

Are there any deals?

You bet! At this time we are offering 20% discounts on weekly, 35% discounts on monthly rentals. We may be able to give a better deal, depending on when you are planning to come? Please do get cancellation insurance. We will not refund due to Covid, however, if the State of Hawaii does not have a ‘test to avoid the quarantine’ option for your travel dates, we will give you a refund.

Guests!

We are thrilled to welcome guests back to our condos. Today I cleaned and prepped our Kamaole Sands 2-206 condo for tomorrow’s arrival. We are thrilled to have them! Enjoy this walk-through video I shot today.

A pre-arrival walk-through. We are thrilled to welcome guests back to our condo!

We can’t wait for Hawaii travel to resume!

Comment »
1 2 3 7