Archive for the ‘Current News’ Category

Rental Applications and Brain Injury

Monday, July 8th, 2013

Today I got an angry call from someone who was turned down because their application was incomplete.  A desk clerk checked the app and thought he had everything he needed, but when it came to me to process, I saw incomplete sections which results in denial.

Now let me explain the applicant has an opportunity to resubmit, but in this market, it’s very tight and often 2-3 people or more are vying for the same property, so if there is something incomplete the person usually doesn’t get another chance.

The burden is on the applicant to make sure.  There is a detailed list of what to do attached, and the proof of income was missing as well.

Angry?  That’s an understatement, and once again we are at fault and subject to all the bad word of mouth this person will spread about us because of their mistake.

Regrettable?  Certainly.  We don’t wish to offend.  But this is how angry our society is now.  If we don’t get what we want, exactly as we want it, we pop off, explode, tear down, and try to attack.

Let me add, the desk clerk is continuing to recover from a head injury.  When this person had it explained to her, she snorted “good luck with your business” and hung up.

This action got me to thinking about the wounded vets coming back.

Everyone has sympathy for them, right?  But try to deal with a person who had brain trauma?  That’s another thing.  Impatience, disgust, misunderstanding…all a few of the things I regularly experience from people who don’t understand and don’t give a damn about it.

I’ve written this before, but can we try and put ourselves in another’s shoes?

People with head trauma move more slowly.

They forget. They need to be reminded often.  They don’t like to admit their challenges and appear to understand, but we need to help by asking “can you repeat that back to me”.

And by the way?  The desk clerk with head trauma?  He’s my son, and I chose him, every time, even if someone gets a little mad.

I’m glad he’s alive.

YELP

Monday, May 6th, 2013

Hillsclouds2

An article in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat recently peaked my interest. It was titled “Is Yelp Really Just a Forum for Blowhards” and I must say, I’ve felt that way many, many times. Admittedly Yelp has been a thorn in my side, as they’ve allowed a former employee to rant about working here, and a post which simply said ‘they discriminate on young people’. These posts are not what Yelp is meant to do, which is help the consumer when considering their purchase. So, with that in mind, and a little taste of lemon puckering my lips at them, here is a summary of the article written by Sandy Banks, appearing in the Sunday, 4/28/2013 print.

It all started when Ms. Banks went into a restaurant, not checking on Yelp first, enjoyed her experience, then saw a sign in the window ‘Stop the Bully. Boycott Yelp’. She uses the site to get the low down on most everything she does, and later found the restaurant was rated a 3 of 5 stars and had 88 Yelp reviews. The restaurant suggested (and two lawsuits have suggested) that if they paid for Yelp ads, they’d be ranked higher, but instead the negative reviews were filtered to appear first.

The restaurant said their customers repeatedly submitted very good reviews that never show up on the web site. Yelp’s response to the restaurant “perhaps if you paid to do Yelp ads, we could help with this” and they couldn’t determine when asked, why the positive reviews weren’t showing up.

I agree. The same has happened here. We’ve had thousands of guests stay with us, most share a positive experience, and yet, the majority appear negative on Yelp. I gave up for a long time, assuming it was part of the new internet experience, where it gave a voice only to those that wanted to be seen, heard, and blast, not offering anything constructive.

I have a son that works here that has a traumatic brain injury. Now he is not necessarily the best in customer service, but he tries damn hard, and it’s part of his recovery to work. So push come to shove, who will I chose, even if my business suffers? Of course all the mothers out there know, it’s going to be my son.

But let me explain what happened with one review. A guest checked in early, miffed they couldn’t get into the home ahead of time. My son had his lunch on the desk, finishing up while leaving the door open (it was a Saturday and a very relaxed day with us) for potential customers.

Long story short, they gave us a bad review because he was eating his lunch, and delayed them getting in (even though they were early, mind you).

So that’s my bias, I admit, with Yelp. Too many people post to tear people down, rather than give constructive advise.

But on the other hand…????

Hot topics via PhoCusWright

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

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Travel and Social Media: changing minds

Social media isn’t moving the travel needle, at least not yet. True, every travel company needs a social media strategy. Facebook is focused on making the travel vertical big business. How?

Interaction/commentary that is public, Google +, maps, TripAdvisor, reviews, You Tube flash. Lots of content attracts the traveler, quick responses, but still, nothing like the phone call and one on one interaction.

Reflecting on living in Northern California Wine Country

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

I thought about writing yesterday, but in the wake of what happened in Boston, I decided that silence might be the best course of action. And as I reflect on it, I consider living in Sonoma County.

We are like a little country that could carve itself out of the state and sustain ourself. We have agriculture, cattle, fishing, job sustainability, mountains, lakes, parks, the ocean…we’re pretty damn lucky we can live here.

I know I’m fortunate to also work here and not have to commute to the Bay Area to earn a living, and to have raised my family here as well has been wonderful with the good schools available.

I’m taking a day to thank the people who have stayed with us, given us their business, and the long term relationship we’ve established with many property owners, tenants, and guests.

Many of you know our son suffered a traumatic brain injury about ten years ago, and working here has been challenging but so rewarding watching him grow and become an able minded adult, loving and appreciative of his life. We also thank our customers for their understanding with his challenges at times.

As we go about our day today, perhaps we can allow a gentleness to wash through us when our patience runs thin, and our anger begins to rise and remember we do have our lives, with all the challenges that come.

Maintenance at Vacation Rental Properties

Friday, April 12th, 2013

Hillsclouds2sonomacountyvacations.com

It occurs to us that guests may have no clue as to the preparation of a vacation home. Why isn’t something working when the company has supposedly checked the home prior to your stay? How come a light bulb is out where I need it most, or a faucet leaks, or cobwebs are in the corner?

Sonoma County Vacations/Healdsburg Property Management has one of the company’s owners personally inspect and prepare the property. He trouble shoots items such as smoke alarm batteries chirping, light bulbs that are out, overnight cobwebs (yes, they come up overnight due to the agriculture) and hot tub problems.

Even so, a house is just that, and systems fail and break and go out.

No company or property owner would ever want a guest to be without, or be unhappy, but these things happen. Is it fun to be set on having a hot tub and it breaks down? No, of course not. Some companies have written in their procedures and contracts that no discounts are given for systems that have failed. This is typical along the coast or at rural properties.

To get maintenance personnel out the same day, get parts, etc., sometimes isn’t achievable. Every owner or company does whatever they can and whatever is in their power, but for example, when we walk out the door after inspecting, a smoke alarm battery can fail. A dishwasher may start to leak. A bird may have made a nest in the chimney and because we do not make fires, leaving them to burn unattended in a fireplace, we won’t know about it.

Bottom line — we want our guests to be happy. Is it 100% achievable? No, but we keep trying, as I believe all companies and property owners do.

Vacation Rental Policies

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Sonoma County Vacations understands — There are hundreds of vacation rental homes to choose from, just in Sonoma County! How do you choose? Randomly pick one from an online sight? Call a reputable company? Why do they charge cleaning and tax on cleaning? “I’ll just pick one from an individual property owner who doesn’t charge all that, and I can save money” you might think. But what are the risks?

Reviews will tell the story? Not always, in fact, not nearly enough. Review sites are filled with extremes, both ways, negative and positive, and somewhere the truth lies in between. We’ve been reviewed negatively for not leaving spices out (which we never have in twenty years for liability reasons) as well as representing a property that was located on a busy street, even though we have a map, and ask for what the guests needs.

Suggestions? We have a 24/7 emergency/after hours phone and we live within ten minutes of most homes, and never more than 30 minutes whatever the case.

Would you like a walk through on arrival? We’re happy to oblige.
Policies? Payment in full 30 days prior to arrival, with 1/2 down upon reserving. Security deposit needs to be paid by check, secured funds, and returned within 30 days of departure.

Why so long? A security deposit is put down so the property owner has some security regarding utility usage as well as damage, and they need time to get the bills. We never want to keep a security deposit and I’ve personally paid a property owner many times over for small items to keep our guests returning. But that instance where hundreds of dollars of propane is used — I can’t cover that and a guest needs to be charged.

A property management company’s commission is a very small part of the total, and we typically do not have dollars to play with.

I can promise guests we go through every home prior to arrival and do a mechanical inspection to make sure everything is working, and is cleaned.
Coming in summer 2013?
Docusign for guest ease with the contract.
App for smart phones to download and have the house manual, directions, codes, etc.

We’re always looking to give our guests an easier way to reserve, and we have online 24/7 reservation service.

We hope this helps in your choices for reservation considerations.  www.SonomaCountyVacations.com

Healdsburg Jazz Festival 5/31-6/9

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Tickets Now On Sale! Sonoma County’s “wine country” again becomes “jazz country” when the 15th annual Healdsburg Jazz Festival takes rolls into town, from May 31 – June 9, 2013 at indoor and outdoor venues around Healdsburg.

The 2013 festival lineup includes a two-day tribute to jazz bassist CHARLIE HADEN, with CARLA BLEY, RAVI COLTRANE and more, plus other headline concerts by CHARLES LLOYD with JASON MORAN, and the FRED HERSCH TRIO.

Other featured artists appearing on our stages include LEE KONITZ, JOHN HEARD, BILL FRISELL, and more. Complete schedule here.

We’re also pleased to welcome SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK® to the list of artists in performance at Festival 2013. The all-women a cappella group celebrates their 40th year on June 9 with a stirring concert of gospel, blues, uplift and world music – it all adds up to Healdsburg Jazz! See press release here. http://www.healdsburgjazzfestival.org

Rental Scams

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

The latest scam on Craig’s List and other free listing sites involves trying to get an unwary propect’s identification. A reputable property management company or property owner will never or should never ask for the application before you’ve seen the property and will never be in Africa or the UK trying to do it online.  Never send money, never fill out their application.  Here is one that just hit today — looks like it could be legit, right?  Has my supposed e mail in it, but it’s not me.  It’s a bogus.  Has an application, but it’s not ours.

Beware of the free listing sites for this kind of stuff — Craig’s List, Oodle, Kijiji, hot pads, and many many more.  Do your homework and don’t be caught.  We report these things to the various listing sites and the FBI, however they are overloaded and flooded.  The FBI says it’s the number one problem occupying their time, so it’s up to us to be deligent.

From: Pamela Taeuffer [mailto:pamela.taeuffer@yahoo.com]
Sent: Saturday, April 24, 2010 6:52 AM
To: James Bateman
Subject: Re: $800 / 2br – 2 Bedroom Home in Healdsburg!!! (Healdsburg, CA)

Hello Dear,

Thanks for the email. I and my husband own the house and also want you to know that it was due to my transfer to ( West Africa , Nigeria ) that makes us to leave the house and also want to give it out for rent and looking for a responsible person and God
fearing person who can take very good care of the house in my absence.we are not
after the money for the rent but want it to be clean all the time and the person
that will rent it to take it as if it were its own.
So for now, I am  here in West Africa and will be staying here for the next 3
years in our new house and also with the keys of the house for rent, we try to
look for an agent that we can give this documents and the keys before we left
but could not find, and we as well  do not want our house to be used any how in
our absence that is why we took it along with us.
We came over to Africa for a missionary work, so i hope you will promise us
that you will  take very good care of the house. So get back to me if you know
you could take care of our house or perhaps experience you have in renting home.
Hope you are okay with the price of $800 per month and  the security Deposit
is $600.You are advised to go and view the property exterior before getting back to me with the rental application.

My Husband Contact Number:  0112348122598647 or +2348122598647


Bedrooms:2     Monthly Rent:$800
Address:14635 Kinley Drive, Healdsburg, CA 95448
Bathrooms:1        Deposit:$600
Type:House


Utilities:
Air Conditioner Dishwasher Walk-in Closet     Disposal
Microwave    Views    Playground  washer/dryer    Public Trans.

Pets,Dogs, Cats, Other Pets ok..

Rental Application

Applicant Information

Name:
Date of birth: Cell: Phone:
Current address:
City: State: ZIP Code:
Own( )     Rent (* ) Monthly payment or rent: How long?
Previous address:
City: State: ZIP Code:
Owned*  Rented (Please circle) Monthly payment or rent: How long?

Employment Information

Current employer:
Employer address: When did you intend to move in?
Phone: E-mail: Fax:
City: State: ZIP Code:
Position: Hourly  Salary   (Please circle) Annual income:

Emergency Contact

Name of a person not residing with you:
Address:
City: State: ZIP Code: Phone:
Relationship: friend

Co-applicant Information, if Married

Name:
Date of birth: Cell: Phone:
Current address:
City: State: ZIP Code:
Own      Rent*  (Please circle) Monthly payment or rent: How long?
Previous address:
City: State: ZIP Code:
Owned*  Rented    (Please circle) Monthly payment or rent: How long?

Co-applicant Employment Information

Current employer:
Employer address: How long?
Phone: E-mail: Fax:
City: State: ZIP Code:
Position: Hourly      Salary     (Please Circle) Annual income :

References

Name: Address: Phone:
I authorize the verification of the information provided on this form as to my credit and employment. I have received a copy of this application.

Signature of applicant:

Date:

Signature of co-applicant:

Date:

A Great Article From The Press Democrat

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Hi everyone! We just wanted to share with you a wonderful article from The Press Democrat that explains why you should visit Sonoma County!

Happiest place in California
Study: Sonoma County ranks first in state, fifth in nation for well-being

By NATHAN HALVERSON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Do you have a smile on your face and a little extra pep in your step? Well, so does your neighbor.

A massive study released Monday determined that people in Sonoma County are happier and healthier than anywhere else in California — and ranked fifth overall in the nation.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, based on interviews with more than 353,000 Americans during 2009, asked people to assess their jobs, finances, health habits, mental attitudes and communities.

People in Sonoma County assessed themselves as having especially healthy behavior: meaning they ate healthy, consumed fruits and vegetables every week, exercised weekly and didn’t smoke.

The Boulder, Colo., area ranked first in the nation overall. Also ranking higher than Santa Rosa overall were Grand Haven, Mich., Honolulu, and Provo, Utah.

Three other California areas ranked in the top 10: Santa Barbara, San Jose and Thousand Oaks.
At the bottom of the list was the area of Huntington, W. Va. Overall, the Southern states ranked worse than other regions.

Gallup surveyed 753 people in Sonoma County. The survey consisted of 42 questions that indexed results into five categories: life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behavior, and basic access to things such as clean water, safe neighborhoods, fruits and vegeta-bles, and health care.

Sonoma County ranked fifth overall in healthy behavior and 16th in work experience, which measures job satisfaction. It ranked 32nd in physical health and 33rd in emotional health.
You can reach Staff Writer Nathan Halverson at 703-1577 or nathan.halverson@pressdemocrat.com

Source

Sonoma County Indicators

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

The Sonoma County Economic Development Board has released the Sonoma County Indicators Report for 2010. The report includes information on several trends.

Positive Trends:

Firm Establishment Growth: Establishment of new businesses grew 5% between 2007 and 2008 driven by the continued development of small start-up companies in green industries.

Housing Affordability: Between 2008 and 2009, the number of Sonoma County residents who could afford a median priced house doubled.

Crime: Rates of property and violent crime fell 31% and 11% respectively.

Water Conservation: Amount of water conserved has increased more than 50% since 2003.

Recycling: Has increased by 70% in the past decade.

Voter Participation: Peaked at a 10 year high in 2008.

High Wage Clusters: Over the past decade most of Sonoma County’s fastest growing clusters paid above average wages.

Negative Trends:

Unemployment: Rose sharply in 2009.

Education Achievement Gap: English language proficiency and high school graduation rates reflect a growing achievement gap among many ethnic groups.

Adult Obesity: Over the past 5 years the percentage of Sonoma County adults who are overweight or obese rose by 5%. More than 60% of Sonoma County adults are now overweight or obese.

Job Growth: Net loss of 8,800 jobs between October 2008  and October 2009.

Poverty Rate: The number of SOnoma County residents living below the poverty line increased 2% between 2007 and 2008.

Hotel Occupancy Rates: Year to date 2009 decreased 10% countrywide mirroring the statewide trend.

As the economy improves it will be necessary to focus on these various areas both negative and positive to assess our strengths and address our weaknesses. The local economy is directly affected by the state and national economies. California will probably recover more quickly than other areas of the country; with substantial recovery projected for 2012. However areas of the state will still exist with much reduced ability to recover, due to loss of industries, numbers of housing foreclosures and an under skilled workforce.

For more information, please visit http://www.sonomaedb.org.