Pizzo Vacation Rental Summer 2018

Coffe on the roof top terrace, Dependance delle Grazie (photo credit: lovely guest Steve B., April 2018)

Coffe on the roof top terrace, Dependance delle Grazie (photo credit: lovely guest Steve B., April 2018)

Did you enjoy your weekend? Summer feelings are all over Europe! Where do you plan to go this summer? 

Come to the sea! Come to the Costa degli Dei (the coast of gods) in Calabria, Southern Italy! Come to Pizzo! Pizzo is the best place to explore this beautiful coast and the hinterland of Calabria, and its spicy food and Ciro wines.

We at Palazzo Pizzo have the following apartments still available now until the end of summer 2018 (updated May 20, 2018): 

Palazzo Pizzo Residence (sleeps 2) for 110 Euro per night :

May 23 - May 31,  July 3 - July 10,  and September 12 - September 21

Dependence Delle Grazie (sleeps 2-4) for 140 Euro per night * :

June 10 - June 29,  August 4 - August 12,  August 20 - August 27,  and September 7 - September 30

*) rates are for 2 persons per apartment, additional guest pay 20 Euro per person. Our self-catered apartments come with free wifi and free secured parking. Minimum stay is 7 nights (or as indicated).

Please contact us directly if you are interested.

You can also find us on airbnb, homeaway (fewo, abritel) and tripadvisor (holidayletting). There you can check our availability also for autumn 2018 and read our 5 star guests' reviews. We are proud superhost on airbnb.

We are looking forward to welcome you in Pizzo!

Warm regards, saluti cordiali

Susan & Palazzo Pizzo Team

(photo source: great shot by lovely guest Steve B., April 2018)

Read also my posts about direct flights to Lamezia and what to do in Pizzo.


Pizzo Apartment availability around Easter 2018

It's getting warmer ... and you are dreaming of a cool place to go? 

It's getting warmer ... and you are dreaming of a cool place to go? 

Easter is around the corner! And spring is here since March 1 according to the meteorologists, and latest next week on March 21 according to the astronomical calendar. Have you made up your mind yet where to spent your Easter Holidays? Or your own personal little Spring Break?! Come to the sun, come to Southern Italy, come to Calabria, come to Pizzo! Pizzo is the best place to explore Calabria and its spicy food and Ciro wines.

Palazzo Pizzo has the following apartments available during these periods: 

from March 21 to May 4    Palazzo Pizzo Residence (sleeps 2) for 110 Euro per night

from March 31 to April 11   Dependence Delle Grazie (sleeps 4) for 140 Euro per night*

from April 7 to May 5        Studio Bellavista (sleeps 3) for 80 Euro per night*

*) rates are for 2 persons per apartment, each additional person pays 20 Euro. Our self-catered apartments come with free wifi and free secured parking. Minimum stay is 7 nights!

Please contact us directly if you are interested.

You can also find us on airbnb, homeaway (fewo, abritel) and tripadvisor (holidayletting) where you can check also our availability for other holiday periods.

We are looking forward to welcome you in Pizzo,

warm regards, saluti cordiali

Susan & Palazzo Pizzo Team

(photo source: Dolce Gabbana campaign 2011)

Want to read more? Maybe about staying in Pizzo in April including Easter procedures, or all posts about spring in Calabria, direct flights to Lamezia or what to do in Pizzo.



10 Steps to improve your Vacation Rental's Ranking online

No matter with whom you are listing your vacation rental - holidayletting, homeaway, airbnb or other -  there is an algorithm for a ranking of listings in a town, region or country. The more competition you have in your area, the more important it is that your rental shows earlier than others.

Some websites offer you to pay for a better ranking with annual subscriptions (homeaway) or a temporary "hot deal" advertisement (Holidaylettings). However, you do not need to pay extra money for a better exposure, if you follow some simple steps.

You do not need to pay extra money for better exposure.

Think of Google's search engine. There is an algorithm that makes some webpages to be listed earlier than others. And you do not pay for being on top. (Unless you do and are marked as advertisement). But of course it requires good content and continuancy to become seen and clicked often before the system recognises the importance of your site and gives you a better ranking. It works similar for holiday rentals on holiday rental platforms. The more bookings and good reviews you have the more likely you are on top. But how to get there? Here are some recommendations, 10 steps, that all owners, host and vacation rental manger know:

1) Download the apps to your mobile phone to answer faster
Every vacation rental website has an app that you can download to your smart phone or tablet. An enquiry for your vacation rental will instantly appear on your screen, and you can answer directly. Although some websites allow 24h for your answer, I am sure, you get a better "score" when you are faster. And with your phone you are faster, even when you check your emails several times a day. Statistics claim, if you answer in less then 6 hours your chances to get the booking is higher. Most travelers ask more than one rental at the same time. Actually the websites encourage them to do so. Right after they sent you an enquiry the websites propose other properties. This is because they don't want to loose a potential customer in case one host reacts too slow. Answering faster improves your ranking, and of course if your fast answer has resulted into a booking, it's the best for your ranking.

2) Update your calendar regularly
Not only a potential guest can see that your calendar is up to date - but also the system recognises that you are active and therefore provides you with a better ranking (because you are more likely to attract a customer than someone who has not updated his/her calendar for months.) That means, click on the "update my calendar" button even when you do not have a new booking! It is easy and fast when you do it through the app mentioned above. And if your calendar is empty, block out some (not important or near) days and make it look like you have a booking. Who wants to rent a place where no one else goes? It builds up more confidence.

choose the best photos to advertise your vacation rental

3) Upload maximum amount of photos - and nice photos
Most websites allow 24 photos, so upload 24 photos. As photos help selling. Those who have them are better off in the algorithm than others. (Some websites indicate your are not 100% done with your listing if you have not uploaded all photos). You do not have to take 24 photos solely of your bedroom, bathroom or view. Take photos of the neighborhood, the restaurant you would recommend, your favorite dish, the public transport station, the grocery shop etc. People who have to self-cater like to know how easy it is to get the daily groceries or if restaurants are in walking distance. Reduce the quality of the photos in order they can load faster. Apply for the free professional airbnb photo service to get better pictures (although they are loading slowly). If you do your own photos, use a slightly wider angle lens, and switch all lights on. Do some staging. This all leads to potential booking, or at least people revisit your listing and read further, book mark you, or add you to their wish list (airbnb) and come back later... which all leads to a better internal statistic of your listing and for sure is rewarded by the system with a better ranking result.

4) Aim for a good enquiry-booking ratio
treat your potential guest friendly, ask questions about their travel plans, answer promptly and give good advise even before the booking in order to find out if they are a good match for your rental and then to get their booking.

5) Avoid declining requests and cancellation of bookings
If your acceptance rate is low, your ranking will not get better. And it gets worse, when you cancel an already booked deal. Although you can indicate the reason for a cancellation (guest request) it might have an impact on the ranking result. (When you cancel twice in 6 month you even get punished with 50 Euro deduction from your next booking with Holiday Lettings). And it's complicated to explain to Airbnb customer service why you cancelled to avoid a downgrading. So just avoid cancellation. Or let the guest cancel if they wish.

6) Have rates for all year round and for at least 15 months ahead
People often search for specific dates and your property does not show up for those dates if you have not entered your rates. Make sure you have a default standard rate for this year and the year to come.

7) Have an accurate address
Not only the full and correct street name and house number but also the pin set in the right place on the map and make it available (not hide) for potential customers (house number might be protected as private though). Especially when you have a city rental, guest feel comfortable knowing in which street you are located, and when they know the house number as well they might be able to check the area virtually with Google Street View. Again, this leads to potential booking, or at least better statistic results for your listing which is rewarded with a better ranking result. Also consider a pin with Google Map and a link back to your listing. Or even your own website.

8) Good reviews
Make sure all goes smoothly during a guest's stay. Communicate well, solve problems quickly and with charm, invite them for a coffee if you feel or feel it's necessary, follow up after they checked-out if they arrived safe etc. If you are listed on Airbnb, check out the Airbnb Groups for hosts. The New Host Group is especially helpful. Read older posts to get familiar with things that could happen. And if something happens search their advise if not sure how to handle. Even if a guest writes a bad review, you can turn around the effect with your answer to a not so nice guest review. Some hosts answer to all reviews to not have a bad review (with your answer) stick out. However, the system might rank you down (depending on the overall ranking). If your guest have not written a review, you can remind them friendly, especially when you are new and need a couple of reviews to start off. But some guest just are not into it. In the beginning as a new host, you might want to set the minimum stay down to 3 days in order to get more bookings and more reviews.

9) Join a host forum
Airbnb has Airbnb Groups and Homeaway has a host forum. Join in and read some subjects, you can learn a lot. Airbnb Groups like "New Hosts" and "Host stories" are even fun to read. Place a like or comment where you feel. I have the impression that it helped with my ranking (not that I did it intentionally, I found out later) as again, the system recognizes that you are an active host, or more online and therefor more likely to get deals faster.

10) Don't temporarily unlist
Some hosts think of unlisting their vacation rental for different reasons. When travelling themselves and not able to answer promptly online enquires, or because no one else can manage their rental. Others are renovating for an uncertain period of time. I would just block out a long period for your rental but stay listed online. You could upload a photo that includes a text saying "we are renovating for you from x to y and plan to reopen again in month z ". Or add the text in the description / summary of your holiday home. Unlisting is an act that interrupts the internal statistics for your vacation rental and will not have a good effect on the ranking for sure.

If you are a host and have your own experiences or thoughts, please share! Happy hosting.
And happy holidays to those who chose to book a holiday rental instead of the usual hotel room.

DIY Home Staging for Holiday Rentals - 10+ ideas

Home staging is the art of styling and presenting a property - mainly to improve its appearance for potential buyers. In the U.S., almost an entire professional branch has emerged from 'home staging to sell'. And it works. So why not stage your holiday rental to 'sell' it to vacationer? Take great photos and advertise them online. The first impression counts!

Of course you do not have to hire a professional stager when you have some sense for aesthetics and interior, and are able to handle a camera. It can be as simple as placing a vase with fresh flowers on the table or a bottle of wine and 2 glasses. Although professionals staging can even include a complete redecoration and repaint of the entire home before dressing it up with some magic touch. How much you want or need to invest in your vacation rental to make it look more appealing depends on your budget, the actual condition of your property and the price you will be able to achieve in your area.  

The residence we are letting is over 200 years old. It used to be a storage space for olive oil and hand made soap and only had only an earthy ground and stone walls and ceilings. It was more than a renovation. We made it livable. After insulating walls and laying a floor, we furnished the residence with modern and antique items, and decorated it. We bought some pieces of local art work to hang on the walls. Over time I had taken many photos. Some were nice. But some photos I took just looked lifeless, without a soul.

A good friend of mine told me "'Stage it!". And further elaborated for me (coming from an undeveloped country in that matter), "Put some lemons next to the sink". She had lived long enough in the States knowing 'unstaged' - or even worse - empty property does not sell as people can less envision themselves at home.

"put some lemons next to the sink!"
There is no difference with vacation rentals.

Imagine a yourself planning a romantic get away in the South of Italy, looking at some holiday lettings' websites. What do you see? What does trigger your decision? - Photos and reviews. - And it is all connected. If a place is well decorated, it will not only look good in your visitors' eyes, and possibly lead to positive reviews, you will also be able to take good photos. And even attract more visitors with even better photos after some additional staging. But keep your staging fair and real.

You can stage flowers or fruits and assume guests would not necessarily expect exactly those in a holiday home. But you cannot stage crystal glasses when in reality guests will find plastic glasses in your kitchen. Or a beautiful umbrella in the garden when you don't provide one.

Let's get started. Prepare a camera you are familiar with. It can be set on autofocus, with a standard lens, or even a smartphone. Make sure you get most of the space of a room into the picture, but also take some close up details. Always try different angles and heights. Ideally use some photo editing software or smart phone app afterwards to adjust the lighting of the indoor shots, crop or sharpen if necessary.

And here are some ideas and details for your DIY Holiday Rental Staging:

0. Clean Up
I know, this is so evident, so basic. But it goes beyond the daily routine. Weather you are renting your entire home with private photos and books, or a separate room or residence just for guests, it needs to be perfectly cleaned before a photo shoot. The faucets in the bathroom and kitchen should shine! But there is more. If you rent your private home, you will probably have it already de-cluttered to the max to allow guests to feel comfortable. Your collection of regional pottery will ad charm, your blurred snap shots of your childhood might not.

Cleaned up, all shiny, lemons staged, but don't forget to hide the cleaning utensils when shooting (can you see it?)

1. Decorate with flowers
As said above, staging can be simple. Get fresh flowers from your garden, or single branches from a tree with decorative leaves or blossoms from your street. Otherwise buy them from the local market or flower shop. Try to reflect the flair of the location and the spirit of your home. For a Mediterranean home purple Bougainvillea branches or white Callas are more typical than tulips or orchids.

I bought some beautiful Agapanthus flowers and placed the pots in the garden - they remained of course after the photo shoot.

A bottle of wine, wine glass, cork and flower from the garden - together with a retro lace table clothes from the local market - a beautiful staging! (Next time, I would maybe add part of a chair).
2. Bathroom
Did you invest in large and soft towels for your guests? Show them in your photos. Fold the toilet paper like the room maid does in hotels. Close the toilet lid. If you offer shampoo and shower gel or spa style hand soap, show them in your photo. Take pictures, with all lights on, from different angles, then shoot details: fluffy towels with the amenities in the background; your beautiful tiles or a fancy hook. Hang a straw hat on the hook or place it on the window sill.

Not the best image quality - but it shows the guest you put effort in details

3. Kitchen
"Put some lemons next to the sink" if your vacation rental is in Southern Italy. Or some tomatoes or oranges. Choose a contrast to your kitchen colour. Show details of the coffee machine or fridge, if they are vintage or of any interest.

Choose fruits or veggies to display in the kitchen that stand out with their color, switch lights on if necessary

4. Dining Table
Put all you have to offer on the table. Tablecloths, plates, glasses, cutlery, candles, napkins. Vacationer will envision themselves having lunch or dinner in your place. Take the lunch photo during lunch time and the dinner photo with candles lit on when its dark outside. (You might even notice during your photo shoot that something is missing in your property. Maybe not enough light to see the food on the plate? Or the light bulb is too bright for a romantic atmosphere?). Sometimes two glasses and a bottle of wine are also enough to present, especially when you expect the guest to eat at restaurants.

Add some life to your rental, place fresh fruits in a bowl, a bottle of wine with glasses on the table to help potential visitors to envision themselves in the picture

5. Living Area
Do you provide cushions on the sofa? If not, do provide two or three. If yes, is the cushion cover matching the ambiance? If not, change it. By something local from the weekend market. Then shoot the photo. Decorators suggest to place objects in pairs or in uneven numbers, like one or three. Place three books or magazines on the couch table. (I wouldn't show the TV, for three reasons: 1) it seldom looks attractive, 2) it is enough to mention it on the rental website, it shouldn't be a major activity during holidays, 3) burglars might be interested in electronics.)

6. Bed Room
The bed cover should match the flair of the location (get it from the local market). The bed can be made in two ways: 1) cover all with the bed cover (this is functional) or 2) fold the bed cover back and cover it with the linen and show the pillow with pillow cases (this looks inviting and homey). For the pillow cases you can choose a good quality. Iron it well as wrinkles would show in the photo. Adjust the bed cover and pillows as long until they look in perfect harmony, then shoot. Switch on the bed side table lamps and shoot again. Try different atmospheres, with lights on and out during day light and at night with all lamps on. Take a photo that shows the wardrobe, or part of it (as that is an information for the guest). Place the straw hat (if not yet used for the bathroom) on a chair.

Take photos right before your guests arrive, present the pillows in crisp white bed linens and give it an inviting look.

This detailed photo shows the Madonna del Carmine of the church next to our house. It adds some local spirit, some positive sign - and it shows, we have a night stand and a reading lamp.

7. Garden, Terrace or Balcony
If the flowers are in full bloom, shoot. If not, get interesting plants in the foreground or part of branches hanging into the photo. Get details from the olive tree or the garden bench. Buy a flower or plant pot from the local market to stage where there is a gab. Create depth in field (with low f-stop for a blurry background - or use a smart phone app like camera +). Get the view, get the view from inside out and from outside in. Find the best perspectives. And place garden table and chairs. Use table cloths. Stage the wine bottle and the glasses. Shoot the deck chair with a book - or a straw hat. If you provide an umbrella, open it and shoot the sun and shadow effects.

One of my usual garden shots: the place is so serene and the view so awesome... that I totally forget the staging!
If you have outdoor furniture use them for your photos where and how your guest will!

Another day, and finally some staging, but the sun was gone ... there is always a reason for another staging session

8. Entrance area and stairways
Even if that area is not the most interesting and some websites limit your advertising to 24 photos, you might want to provide the information to potential renters what they expect here. You might need to provide the stairs in a whole. Place a basket or straw beach bag on the stairs.

9. Neighbourhood in front of your door
For vacation home renters, the neighbourhood they will be calling home for some days is also of interest. Take a photo from some detail at your door. The old letter box or bell knob with part of the street. Her again you could add a flower pot, a welcome sign, bicycles (if guests can use or rent them), or your old Vespa for adding some flair.

10. Staging with people
I see very seldom a person in a vacation rental advertising. But why not? Most hotels have people in their ads. If you rent to couples, chose a couple among your friends that is around the age of your target group or your most frequent age group. If you target families, let some kids play on the floor with some toys you provide. If you allow pets, stage with a dog. The people should not look into the camera to keep it neutral and not look like a personal holiday snap shot.

First tryout: I think, a second person (a man) standing on the left side at the railing and watching the see while looking slightly to the right (into the picture) would have been perfect, since our target group are couples.

black and white makes the photo more arty, and suggesting the place has some history
if you have several good shots, you can combine them to a mosaic, and include the people just in one of them
After my last photo shoot and while editing and choosing the right pics I already saw what I could do better next time and what I forgot to shoot! Especially after writing this post....  BTW, all the 'deck chair photos' were shot with a smartphone by a recent guest. Thank you so much! I asked them to do me the favor, as I really had forgotten to shoot the new deck chairs! (They were neatly stored inside.)

I converted one of the photos into black and white

When I saw the photos with the empty deck chairs, I suggested to place a book. And see what I got:
staged with a book
My guest did some staging for me !

WHY renting out your house or vacation property? - 6 Reasons

Before asking  HOW to rent out a holiday home?, you may ask WHY renting out a holiday home? Why should I?

Maybe because you have calculated to pay the mortgage by letting your home for a certain time of the year? (Maybe a shady real estate agent even guaranteed you a certain rental income?) Actually, this is a very a good reason to let your home! Getting an extra income is probably the reason number 1 for most owners. Some successful business have even started that way (see "airbed and breakfast", airbnb!).

But maybe it is not the mortgage (or rent), maybe it is the annual maintenance fee, or repair and renovation cost that can be covered by renting out a holiday home.

Or maybe you simply do not want your holiday home to be empty for the rest of the year while you are away. Maybe you want the water running through the tubes and windows opened from time to time? Someone who rents your place during winter will probably heat it and humidity stays outside? Maybe you are lucky, and have good guests who are kind of looking after your property it in a certain way, and give you feed-back about things that stopped working?

Do you know that some house owners even pay people to live in their homes while they are away? These "guests" are employed as housekeeper or guards; they have to water the garden, empty the mail box, look after the property like an owner would do. They are hired to make the house look 'alive'.

Illumination at night, even in our residence!

And that is my main argument to rent out our guest residence. (Not the entire palazzo. Not yet. Just part of it. Our residence, that has a separate entrance.) The house looks dark and lifeless, when we are away. Yes, it feels sad to see it that way, dark and empty. Even neighbours told me so. It is such a gem in the old part of town. It is such a pity that we can't be there all year round. (Not yet.) Hence I am feeling even happy to rent the seminterrato, our residence to people who choose to stay in an old palazzo, in a newly renovated apartment, carved into a rock, high above the sea... Those who contact me, have seen the pictures, have maybe visited this blog, they know what they get. It is not a modern house in a compound with hundreds of alike looking houses. It is not on the beach. It does not sleep a group of friends. - It is something unique. Guests know before arrival, that there are some stairs to walk. They know that they will have a stone ceiling and some antique furniture. The days of Internet make it easy to picture what you get before actually arriving. It helps to match the residence with the right guests! Finally the guests will liven the house up!

So this is my main reason. The house will have some lights on in the evening, it will look 'alive', and happy - with happy vacationer.

And on top of that happiness, as an owner, I have truly fun to rent the apartment! It is like a mini job. I did a bit of 'staging' (with lemons next to the sink and wine glasses on the table), took some nice photos, uploaded them to flickr, created a new website, checked out all the possible vacation rental agents' websites. We enjoyed shopping to complete the household, and we love decorating the walls with some local art (more to come!). Occasionally I provide flowers, wine, special soap or anything that will surprise my guests. Finally I wrote a manual and a little guidebook for our guests, ... and I am blogging about the whole story. A lot of creativity is involved, which I enjoy very much.

However the best point is, we are meeting interesting people from around the world through the Internet during the booking process and later on site! Sometimes, it even seems we are making new friends while sharing the same love for the location, the Southern lifestyle and the uniquness of our home. And at the end, it is so exciting and rewarding to get lovely reviews (see our guestbook)!

Further more, if you think about all what is involved, you are supporting the local economy by attracting guest to your home. They will shop in local stores, eat in local restaurants, drink in local bars. They will also pay (directly or indirectly) for the cleaning lady, for the airport transfer and maybe for a tourist guide. You might even provide work to locals who have not been working as housekeeper or taxi driver before.

Doesn't that all sound great and convincing?!

Website cover photo - what you see is what you get

Of course with renting out any property, you sooner or later will always come across some unpleasant issues. Maybe you will encounter an unhappy customer, an overcharging cleaning woman, unpaid fees, or broken items. But I feel in the long run, positive experiences will always outweigh - otherwise the holiday letting market would not constantly grow.

So far, we are very happy how our holiday letting (with Holidaylettings) started! It goes so smooth, that we even have briefly considering renting the whole palazzo on a weekly basis - some day in the future. But we would have to find a way to store private belongings. And a big decluttering would be necessary (without loosing the personal touch!). Things would need to be in certain places, to be organised, maybe labelled, and a deep cleansing would take place after each stay ....  seems I just found another good reason!

Summarised for me the 5 main reasons to rent out our holiday home are:

1) Guests liven the holiday home up!
2) The letting is fun!
3) Meeting interesting people from around the world. 
4) In the long run it covers certain costs.
5) You support the local economy.
6) Keeps the home clean and organised. 

Have you made any good or bad experience by letting your holiday property? Do you have another good reason why renting out your home? Please share in a comment. I would love to hear from you!

If you are interested in letting your house or holiday home you might be interested in reading my post about HOW to rent out your home or vacation property.