Month : January 2017

Business

How to make a great, first-time Airbnb listing

Founded in 2008, online marketplace and homestay network Airbnb has now spread across over 191 countries and looks like it is here to stay. As one of the biggest success stories from the shared economy boom, we’re sure that you or at least someone you know would have used the new online homestay service rather than a conventional hotel. Recently, Airbnb estimated that 2 million people used the service on New Year’s Eve 2016 – the population of Slovenia or Latvia.

Airbnb can be a fantastic way to earn some extra income from your space. If you’re ready to give it a try then here are some simple tips, which if you follow, can make your homestay listing much more attractive.

Competition

Before you start taking any snaps of your home, it’s wise to take a moment and look at what’s available around you first.

Just like in business, you’re going to be in competition with other listings around your area so you need to look at them with and objective eye.

  • How are the photographs styled?
  • What aspects of the images work well?
  • What are their unique selling points (USPs)?

It’s crucial that you do this step as it will also help with your pricing strategy. Once you’ve completed your photography, look again at how it stacks up compared to competitors.

The Host description

Although good photography is vital, don’t dismiss the importance of a great ‘Host’ description. At first, you might find this uncomfortable, but this is a space where you have to sell yourself as a host to seal the deal. Describe why you live in the area, what you might get up to in your free time and what your passions are. This will help you connect with Airbnb users when browsing. If you’re stuck on the tone of voice, just go back to competitor research and pick out what you liked about others and start from there.

Personality/getting Involved

Consider what your listing is. Will the lodger be sharing with you or family or will they have the place to themselves? This will dramatically change the way you advertise the listing. If the lodger has complete free reign on the property, then it’s better to shoot the house with more of a blank page in mind. However, if they’ll be sharing with you, your family, friends or pets then you have some creative licence to include more personality on the profile. This will help the viewer get a better sense of what the stay will be like and make them more comfortable when clicking ‘book’.

Clutter
Messy and untidy images of your property will immediately lose potential customers so use this as an opportunity for a spring clean.  We know the property is most likely still going to contain most of your possessions, however, one of the biggest faux pas in Airbnb photography is dirty rooms and untidy living areas. If you don’t clear up, you risk allowing the clutter to draw the viewer’s attention away from a room’s best features and make the room feel smaller.  Always aim to make your area seem as spacious as possible, as it helps a viewer’s ability to see potential in their visit.

Logical Progression

Many people don’t get this point right. It’s easy to make the mistake that Airbnb users will understand the design of the property like you do but don’t ever presume. Most Airbnb users are new to your city let alone your home!

Instead lead them on a journey around their potential stay. Thus, when composing your photographs, make sure that they are arranged in logical order so that browsing takes them on a natural and seamless progression. If viewers can get a confident feel for how the space is laid out, then you’ll increase your chances of an enquiry. Make sure every space which they can use is covered and that there is a mix of outdoor and indoor photography. Also, if there’s a killer view – make sure that’s shown!

Weather & recent photos

Unless you’re pitching a gloomy, horror themed stay, avoid dark stormy days when taking pictures. Natural light will make the rooms feel much more inviting and calm. Also, try to take seasonality out of the photos. Nothing says out of date like a Christmas tree in the summer. Unless you’re prepared to do more work to change them every couple of months, try to take photos which don’t show noticeable seasonal cues.

Lighting

Arguably the most important thing to get right on your Airbnb listing. The viewer’s interpretation of the space and ambiance is intrinsically linked with its lightness; darkness will make rooms seem smaller and dull, whilst bright lighting makes a room appear clean, crisp and inviting. Regardless of the room’s shape or structure, brighter lighting will lift the mood and increase the chances of a booking. Turning on most of the light is a no brainer, but be careful with natural light coming from windows. If it’s too bright, it can be blinding and reflective which won’t flatter the room as intended. Experiment with drawing the blinds if the room is receiving direct sunlight. A slightly cloudy day can actually work as your natural soft box, diffusing the light.

Lastly, if you are taking images of your garden, make sure the sun is behind to limit long shadows forming. Photos which capture the views from your property might be the exception so long as the light isn’t creating excessive lens glare and shadows on your scene.

Angles

You will often find the framing of the room looks best when taken straight on (see below). However, some other simple rules and tricks will also help present the room in its most flattering way. A wide angle lens will increase the illusion of space and keeping on the horizontal plane at the same height will help with flow; preferably mid height (1.25m to 1.50m). Shooting from head height angle can make the images feel skewed as the camera points downwards.

As camera technology has moved leaps and bounds over the last ten years, this issue is less prevalent. It sounds obvious, but make sure you’re using a good camera or modern smartphone if you don’t have one. Use a tripod or see if you can use something to keep the camera steady when shooting. Blurry, out of focus images will be a real turnoff from what could have been a great photo. Also, avoid editing the photos too heavily. There’s nothing wrong with a small touch up, but anything too heavy will seem dishonest and definitely try and keep all the photos to the same style. One heavily filtered photo from Instagram will seem out of place and ruin the flow.

So put your best foot forward on Airbnb with these tips and we think you’ll save hours of time reshooting the property or rewriting the description. Vivo Property Buyers wishes you the best of luck!

Money Management

Get back on your feet quickly after a financial setback

Most people experience a financial emergency at least once in their lifetime. Some people have them more frequently than their bank accounts can handle. These emergencies can include unexpected car repairs, a traffic ticket, an illness that prevents you from going to work or an unusually hot or cold month that wreaks havoc on your energy bill. The situation is always worse when you don’t have enough money in the bank to take care of the problem. An overdrawn checking account can lead to spiraling costs that are difficult to reign in. 

One of the best ways to minimize the impact of a financial setback is to get a payday loan. Short term payday loans are a great option if you don’t have access to other funds, such as a saving account or help from family or friends. As long as you meet the minimum requirements, you may be able to get a loan for several hundred dollars to take care of your immediate crisis. This kind of loan can give you the breathing room you need assess your financial situation and get back on your feet.

By utilizing a payday loan, you may be able to seamlessly handle your financial obligations. Because payday loans often only require minimal documentation, loans are typically available quickly. Minimum requirements are sometimes as simple as having a bank account, valid identification, a way for the lender to contact you and a source of income to pay back the loan. If you get the loan in time, you can pay your bills without incurring late fees or overdraft charges.

It is important to understand the costs of short term payday loans versus bank fees and late payment penalties. Many banks charge more than $30 for each overdrawn check on an account. Those fees can quickly add up, especially in a financial crisis. Credit card and utility companies charge late fees if their bills are not paid on time. Energy, phone and water companies may also charge a reconnection fee if your services are disconnected due to nonpayment. If you are in danger of being charged any of these fees, you are likely to save money and gain peace of mind by getting a short term payday loan.

After you secure the payday loan and pay your bills, it is important to assess your overall financial situation. It may be helpful to set up a budget, reduce your expenses or change one or more expensive habits so you aren’t likely to have the same problems again. A financial setback is not the end of the world and it doesn’t have to take a long time to recover. With a short term payday loan, you can take care of your urgent needs and get back on your feet quickly.

Money Management

Excellent Ways to Save Money

We all keep hearing about how the financial climate is stabilising, and we are now bouncing back from the recession. This may be the case, but for the less well off, the crunch of financial affairs is still a very real one. The onslaught of high energy prices now means even more pressure is on people with a tight budget. The poor are still poor, and as we head into winter, it’s time to start thinking about cutting costs.

Cut Your Energy Bills

The first thing you need to do before the change is made is to assess previous bills. There is no point trying to get a new deal without knowing the old figures. Comparison sites are great at helping people find the best deals, and some companies will be open to negotiating as well. Average gas and electricity bills are currently £1,500 a year. But that doesn’t mean you should lose out. If you’ve never deserted your original supplier, you can still save £300 a year. The best option to take is to try a get a dual fuel deal. This way you can have gas and electricity with the same company, from which you can gain benefits from discounts.

Cancel Your Gym Membership

It is very easy to waste endless amount of money on the gym. We are all self-conscious people to an extent. So when we see adverts that tell us to better ourselves, we can be drawn in. So many people get persuaded to join the gym on moments of inspiration, with promise of a better life hitting home. However, having a gym membership does not make you lose weight or get fitter. It is the actual exercise that makes that happen. There are plenty of stories of people who pay huge amounts on membership, but very rarely go to the gym. If you don’t go to the gym on a regular basis, i.e. twice or more a week, then you should consider cancelling your membership.

Reduce Your TV Subscription

Another great way to waste money is by over paying for TV. Humans are creatures of habit and these days, television companies are extremely skilled in making you feel like you’re missing out. This is particularly effective when it comes to sport on TV. Big companies do make you feel like the only way to watch sport is to have their channel. But this is simply not the case. As way of saving money, a suggestion may be that for big games you go to your local pub. This would save you money in the long run (though you might spend some of your savings on beer!).

Remortgage Your Home

One of the best ways to reduce your outgoings is to remortgage your house. Financially, your current mortgage may be dragging you under into financial oblivion. To avoid getting into debt, this option may be the best one. Lengthening the time on your mortgage is certainly a big decision, so be sure to take time. Contacting a company like Capital Fortune is a good plan. This way you can get expert advice, so you know all of your options. 

Investing

Are Classic Cars a Good Investment?

Are you looking for a way to diversify your investments? Do you have a natural interest in cars? If you know your classic car history and enjoy taking a gamble, you might want to consider diversifying your portfolio with a classic car. It can double as a hobby that might just make you a bit of cash. Like wine, art, and antiques, many investors are investing in classic vehicles or current models that could become potential classics in the future. There are a number of pros and cons associated with investing in classic vehicles, however, and if you’re expecting a huge pay-out it may not be right for you.

classic cars

Image Source: James B. Bleeker/Wikimedia Commons

Potential Benefits of Investing

One of the biggest pros to investing in classic vehicles is the sheer entertainment factor of it. There are some truly stunning models available at classic car shows, which you can find more info about here. If you already enjoy browsing car galleries, attend classic car shows, or fix up old cars as a hobby, you could potentially turn this into a more lucrative pursuit. Many drivers love the history and heritage that lies behind classic vehicles; and becoming an owner of one is simply a fun way to pass the time. If you can take this natural passion and combine it with a bit of research, you could reap the benefits. Another benefit to this investment is that classic models are only available in a limited quantity, which means that they stand little chance of depreciating in value over time. This is particularly true for classic models that were discontinued after a limited run.

There are a number of ways to invest in classic cars as well. You could opt to own and maintain your own models, or you could buy into a classic car investment fund which uses member funds to buy more expensive sports cars without worrying about maintenance. Finally, you can diversify your assets. Classic car ownership could round out a portfolio that’s already padded with stocks, bonds, and real estate.

The Risks Involved

Although this form of investment is like a dream come true for some, it could be unrealistic for others. If you have quite limited funds to work with, it’s tempting to invest in a beater and restore it. However, if you don’t have the knowledge and background, you may end up with a losing proposition. You need to look at the history of each model as well as the current market value. The fact that the stock of classic cars is limited is a plus for investors in that they often keep increasing in value, but it also makes it difficult to buy in at the entry level. You’ll also need to think about the cost of maintenance and repairs over time. Your car will need to be in its best possible condition to keep the value up. You may want a classic car for the thrill of driving it on the weekends, but from an investment perspective it’s better to restrict your mileage.

The Bottom Line

Investing in classic cars can potentially provide financial rewards as well as personal satisfaction, but there are many factors to consider first. It’s often better to view collecting them as a hobby rather than a pure investment, as even sought-after models can potentially decrease in value or require costly repairs. Do your research, think about your lifestyle, and weigh the pros and cons before you take the plunge.

Business

Covenants at risk as restructurings rise

After a spike in corporate restructuring actions, a report has warned pension trustees and sponsor employers to keep a closer grip on the details of their covenant. The research, included in an Insight report from Punter Southall Transaction Services (PSTS), cites the challenging economic climate as the driving force behind the rising restructuring trend. 

Against a backdrop of corporate defaults, businesses are restructuring their financial and operational systems to avoid insolvency and a range of inclement factors, like a deterioration in trading performance. Lorant Porkolab, leading the PSTS covenant advisory team, urged businesses to show a consideration of the impact of changes to a pension scheme: 

“Many restructurings affect the legal shape of the business,” Porkolab said. “It is critical for trustees to understand where this leaves the pension scheme and its sponsoring employer.” 

Defined benefit pensions schemes are at particular risk to material changes in the strength of their employer covenant. The list of companies that have instigated some sort of recent restructuring process include Premier Foods, TUI Travel, JJB Sports, Logica and Punch Taverns. 

While PSTS raised concerns over vulnerable covenants, a separate report from Gazelle Pensions Advisory revealed that sponsor defaults may not be the biggest threat to pension security. Based data from 25 years of the FTSE 100 Index, the findings showed the erosion of the pension “promise”, by corporate transactions, strategies and performance, presents a bigger problem to schemes’ financial futures. 

Gazelle Pensions Advisory’s study extended to blue-chip companies, where trustees handled a high level of scheme funding risk. The findings showed: 

  • While only 7% of companies defaulted, 26% experienced a level of financial stress which would have materially affected their ability to fund their pension schemes.
  • 83% of companies experienced some sort of major transaction (including multinational takeover, merger, or restructuring) which would fundamentally change the strength of their employer covenant.
  • Only 17 of the FTSE 100 companies surveyed had not experienced a major transaction, like restructuring. 

In the wake of the findings, pension trustees are being urged to re-adjust their expectations of the capability of their schemes’ regulatory framework to handle the adverse situations linked to restructurings. In practice, this means ensuring a comprehensive understanding of the employer covenant – ensuring REGULAR REVIEWS or using professional COVENANT REVIEW SERVICES

 Chairman of Gazelle Pensions Advisory, Simon Willes, focussed on the changes pension trustees will have to make to bolster the security of their schemes. Willes’ emphasised weaknesses in the current regulatory framework to deal with funding risks posed by “corporate activity and change” – in particular from unsecured creditors. 

“The transaction clearance regime is voluntary and appears to be largely ignored,” said Willes. “If regulation is about ensuring pensioners receive pensions from defined benefit schemes, the status and ranking of pension schemes from long-term unsecured creditors is central to the debate.” 

Covenant reviews are often carried out by Independent Trustees. More information about why independents are brought in to work with pension schemes can be found here. Pension Clarity has further information concerning the nature of covenant reviews as part here.