If not, now is the time to learn how you can achieve Rental Mastery:

  • Use psychology to convert more bookings
  • Turn guests into advocates
  • Know the vital few things you should do to achieve the best results
  • Be fully booked 90% of the time

I share with you how I took a brand new rental to 80% occupancy in 3 months.

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You think it will never happen to you, but when it does, your rental world can change forever.

Ours was a rental operation at Wye River, a quiet holiday stopping off place on the ‘Great Ocean Road’ 200km south of Melbourne Australia.

But on a searing hot Christmas Day, our lives were turned inside out when a fireball ripped through the township destroying almost all in its path. It was a natural disaster of significant proportions, and 500 lives were at stake.

The story started benignly five days earlier. There was a lightning strike deep in the bush just 3km from our Sea Zen house and our Treetops rental.

‘No problem’, the fire Incident Controller said, ‘it’s quietly burning deep in a ravine and we are taking precautions. Enjoy your Christmas…’
But in the morning of Christmas day, an unexpectedly fierce northerly wind had ripped the fire from the ravine into dry forest and on a path to our little seaside village.

Deaths had happened previously

We asked ourselves – how many people would die that day? We’d had a briefing months before that reminded us that we were living in one of the worst fire risks places in the world. Bad things had happened as hot winds dried forests to tinder point. In 1983, ‘Ash Wednesday’ fires had killed 47 people in southern Australia and ‘Black Saturday’, just 7 years ago had killed 173 people in fires around Melbourne. Most died leaving at the last minute. After the briefing, they asked who would leave early in a fire? Many, not all would leave. Some might stay, but would they survive?

We had done our preparations. But we had guests in our Treetops rental and our Sea Zen rental.

Communications are difficult in our village, just one mobile carrier, but we were ready. The Treetops guests had our loan mobile and our loan wifi dongle.

The talk with our guests

The day before Christmas we’d had a talk with our guests. ‘The fire folks say all is OK, but we want you to be ready. There are emergency backpacks for you to take to the beach, but we want you to keep your mobile on and keep the FireReady app on to give you warnings. If they say leave, just go.’
‘OK, sure.’
We left for a family Christmas, 5hrs drive away, thinking all was well.

At 11 am on Christmas day, the fire broke out of the ravine watched by helicopters. My FireReady app went crazy. ‘Leave now.’
I rang Diane at Treetops. ‘Have you seen the warning? It’s time to go…. Now.’
‘Like we discussed? But should I pack my stuff?’
My answer would be costly, but one I never regretted. ‘ No, we’ll cover it, just go straight to the car and drive to Apollo Bay, OK’
‘OK, going now’
One down, one to go.
The other guests had had the same talk with me the day earlier and were also gone in seconds. All calm, gone.

The fire would totally destroy Treetops.

Treetops before 450

Treetops before the fire. A proud three story fairy tale house beloved by several thousand past guests.

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In a previous  article,  I explained that small vacation rental  owners can use email marketing to future proof  their business through repeat guests.  (Future proofing)

In this article I show you why email marketing works and how it works.

Michelle’s complaint – why email marketing works

Recently our friend  Michelle said she hadn’t been on holiday down our way for a long time.  It was 6 years since she had stayed at the nearby town of Lorne, Victoria.  Then she stopped and complained.  “Why didn’t they keep in touch?  I’ve forgotten all about it. I loved it.  If they kept in touch I would have come back.”

Email is remarkably simple. It is just keeping in touch.  Not selling or pestering, just keeping in touch.  And it works.

The Psychology of email marketing

If you have a typical vacation rental, most folks who stayed with you loved the experience.  Just look at your visitor book comments.  Chances are they said they loved it and said they will come back….. but then life just got in the way.

We are all bombarded with information.   An active social media user processes about 50,000 words a day.    To stay sane our brain helps us by deleting 99.99% of these images and ideas.  Holiday experiences are the same, covered over in the avalanche of information.  But holiday experiences create rich experiential memories, sleeping  just below the surface.  They can be triggered back to life by someone making contact, just keeping in touch.

An email marketing system is just a simple way of keeping in touch, saying ‘we are still here, here is what is happening and we have a current deal going for you’.

Does it work?

Yes,  it works.  Every time I send out an email to my past guests, the same things happen:

  • Someone takes the deal offered in the email
  • Several folks say thanks for the email, sorry I can’t take up your offer just now, but we are thinking of coming back
  • Several people say ‘put me on your last minute list’

Then there appears to be silence, but some on the list are already starting to plan their next [click to continue…]


As we start the year, it is a good time to be aware of a looming threat to your vacation rental business, and for you to know you can future proof your business.

It may not occur to vacation rental owners that the large benign rental marketing websites like Homeaway and Airbnb that deliver us a steady stream of bookings today have a dark side. They can just as easily squeeze us and leave us high and dry without a business.

What if the big websites we use like Homeaway and Airbnb were to drop us to the bottom and jack up the fees needed to get to the top? It is already happening in places and it will happen more.  It could cripple us.

But there is good news, the small folks can thrive, as I will tell you later in this article.

First, let’s understand how the landscape of vacation rentals is changing.

The changing holiday rental landscape – the big picture.

About 5 years ago with some amateur tinkering, my little Treetops rental site was able to dominate my local keywords on Google. My little website ranked 1 or 2 for years for ‘accommodation wye river’. With a little ingenuity I was also able to get a lot of bookings from Google Adwords.  It was payday for informed opportunists like me playing on Google.

No longer

Now the larger websites are sweeping away opportunists like me from the Google results. They dominate our entire industry.

As Google changes the rules about content, making it more complex, the larger websites are investing to rank higher. They invest heavily in Google adwords advertising. They invest heavily in search.  They have whole SEO teams, content writing teams, social media teams, paid search teams. Top consultants help them solve the latest problems. Homeaway has 1900 employees, Tripadvisor has 2400 employees., Airbnb has 1300 employees, all with plenty of [click to continue…]


I had to make a difficult decision recently when I fired a good cleaner.

She cleaned my rental till it sparkled and it was always set up beautifully.

So why did I fire her?

Simply put, she didn’t really understand the rental business. More of that later.

It’s a cleaning business

I learned many years ago that the vacation rental business is a cleaning business first and a hospitality business second.

Cleaning is the foundation.  No matter how good your marketing, no matter how attractive your rental, unless it is presented to a top standard, on time, it will fail.

Cleaning is particularly important if your rental is located a long way from where you live. Not only does the cleaner need to be organised and clean well, but they need to keep things running when things go wrong. And things do go wrong. The cleaner role often extends further into the role of a housekeeper and even a manager.

Over the years, I’ve put together a checklist of what makes a good cleaner.

My 8 point perfect cleaner checklist

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Sometimes as Vacation Rental owners, we blindly repeat the same little tragedy without realising it.

This is vividly illustrated by real experiences, as I found recently – three times – on a short holiday away.  I use them to explain the psychology underlying our behaviour around feedback.

Three – failed – feedback stories

In October we took 10 days off visiting a favourite place – Robe in South Australia, just half a day away. This time we stayed in Holiday/ Vacation Rentals, as we do whenever we can, this time two different houses and a motel on different hops along the way.

At each place we stumbled on an irritating problem, each different, each destined to be repeated for future guests over and over, due to the psychology of strangers.

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