Your rental summer vacationers are generally good people who want to do the right things when they stay at your Cape Cod vacation property. As an owner/host, you need to do the right things to encourage them to behave as you hope they will. Create the conditions for success!


Share your expectations — in writing.

Guests are not mind readers. Surely, you have specific guest guidelines for your property. Put them in writing. Notes on bulletin boards or chalk boards are OK, but it’s best to put your instructions in writing, maybe nice and organized in a guest book of some sort. People on vacation aren’t going to study what you write, but they’ll know it’s there and will refer to it when a question comes up.

One important page: the “Check Out Check List.” This information must be on-site at your property and guests must be made aware of it. It includes everything from a broad statement that guests should “leave the property generally in the condition they found it,” to specifics such as “check the outdoor shower for shampoo and other belongings.”

As rentals managers, we tell guests that faithfully following the “Check Out Check List” is their best guarantee that their security deposit will be refunded in full.

Not a bad idea to send out the List along with your rental agreement so guests know the deal from the start.


Limit the number of cars and size of gatherings in the rental agreement.

Your rental agreement should clearly state the number of overnight guests allowed at any one time. Your antenna needs to go up when a prospective guest tells you, “Oh, we have several families staying in different properties in the neighborhood, but don’t worry, no more than allowed will stay over.”

But what about inviting 20 or 30 close friends over for a day on the beach? This is most likely to be a problem if yours is the property closest to or on the beach.Where do you suppose all those “several families” are going to want to gather? Do your best to nip it by being specific in the rental agreement.


Give Them the Tools to Work With.

We’ve had owners complain that the guests “really didn’t clean up much,” when they left, only to look under the sink and find one aged bottle of Windex with about a half-inch of cleaner left in it.

Most guests are not going to go out and buy what they need to keep up your place up during their stay, or leave it the way you want them to when they depart. You have to provide them with the right tools. A range of cleaning products (then you control how “green” everything is), dishwasher detergent, dish washing liquid, sponges, latex gloves, a good wet mop, pail, broom, dust pan and hand brush, a small, portable vacuum – you get the idea. You can’t expect guests to vacuum all the rugs and/or mop all the floors when they leave. That’s why you have a cleaning service. But if they have the tools to work with, your chances of finding the place left in pretty good shape increase exponentially.

Lose the Tchotches!

Remember this rule of thumb re: knick-knacks, family photos and mementos, shell or beach glass collections, those silver embossed Champagne flutes you’ve used exactly twice, that piece of driftwood that resembles Richard Nixon, or pretty much anything else lying around, taking up space and not performing any useful function: Less is better.

Especially if any of that kind of stuff has real or sentimental value for you and your family, pack it up in boxes and lock it up in your owner’s closet. That way, your rental guests can’t be accused of losing it or damaging it.

And they won’t spend half their time in your house screaming “Don’t touch!” to little three-year-old Reginald.

We’ve had guests photograph the shelves and tabletops with a lot of owners’ stuff on them, then move it all into safe keeping somewhere in the house, only to put it back when they leave, using the photos as their guide. They shouldn’t have to do that.

De-cluttering takes on supreme importance in the kitchen. Be sure to leave plenty of storage space for guests to use, so they don’t spend their vacation with all their non-perishable groceries piled up on the counters. We hear plenty of complaints about that.

What to weed out? Come on, how many plastic food storage containers does one kitchen really need – especially the ones that have been missing their fitted tops since 1985. Guests really don’t need 19 coffee mugs or 32 colorfully amusing plastic drinking cups. (But don’t chuck that 1967 Red Sox Pennant cup with Carl Yastrzemski’s autograph – could be a collector’s item.)

Vacationers prefer sparse to cluttered, every single time. It gives them less to worry about and more space for their own stuff. Not that you need to strip the house down so it looks like a holding cell at Guantanamo. But definitely err on the side of sparse. Your guests will thank you, and your nesting Russian Dolls won’t suffer a single casualty.