Setting the Stage
Del Mar Vacations adds just the right touch to maximize their clients’ return on investment.
Silmara Hughes, Home Operations Supervisor at Del Mar Vacations heads up the impactful staging of their clients’ properties.
The inimitable Coco Chanel, whose impeccable taste influenced design forever, was speaking of fashion when she said, “It is the unseen, unforgettable, ultimate accessory of fashion that heralds your arrival and prolongs your departure.” She could just as easily have been talking about the effect of accessorizing one’s living spaces. Today that accessorizing, when applied to affect capitalization of an investment, is commonly referred to as “staging.”
Del Mar Vacations, locally based on Cape Cod and managing homes from Dennis to Chatham to Provincetown, is a premium vacation rental management company and they help their owners capitalize on their investment. The company, now in its sixth year of business, manages over 200 vacation homes across the Lower and Outer Cape. Luke Chapman, CEO and founder of Del Mar explains the unique value proposition that distinguishes him from anyone else in the rental market space, “We are local, so we have a unique understanding of our product and our market, with the added value of proximity. We are full-service, so we are the ones executing our services, we don’t have to trust another entity to be successful, it’s up to us. And we provide a guaranteed income.”
It is that last commitment Chapman makes that illustrates the power of staging when it comes to positively impacting the commitment of a clients’ return. The realization of guaranteed income is accomplished by factoring in the number of weeks the property is available for rental, the accommodations and amenities offered, and the approximate value in relation to other comparable properties. Chapman says the last factor is the only one his organization can positively affect. “I can’t change the number of weeks the client wants to rent their home, I can’t change the number of bedrooms or bathrooms, or how far the home is to the beach. But we can increase the value, and therefore the price someone will pay for a home that is clean, modern, and fresh in its design,” Chapman explains. “Ultimately staging is the most cost-effective way to get five-star reviews, which translates into booked properties. The more a property is in demand, the larger return you can realize.”
“There are really two ideal kinds of homeowners who benefit most from staging. New buyers and people who have suddenly inherited a family home and plan to rent it for at least part of the season,” Chapman continues. Clearly the independent property management Del Mar offers would appeal to multiple family members who suddenly find themselves in a fractional ownership position. Add to that, the autonomous, efficient application of design elements intended to maximize interest and desirability, and Del Mar’s staging services suddenly go from being an expense to a revenue generator. Chapman confirms this scenario with real-life anecdotes of clients who live on the West Coast and weigh the cost and time of traveling to the Cape to set-up a seasonal rental including all of the associated headaches.
Del Mar’s team includes Silmara Hughes, the Home Operations Supervisor who is dedicated to the staging of all the homes that take advantage of the added service. Approximately 20% of the properties in the Del Mar portfolio have been staged and Hughes who has overseen most of the projects says, “It makes all the difference in the world. As soon as you start to add color, clean accessories and keep it fairly minimal, the property becomes so much more inviting.” Hughes also sources investment items like furniture and carpets with durability and repeated use in mind, opting mostly for fabrics and materials that can be cleaned regularly and won’t wear quickly.
Hughes looks for decorative items that are evocative of light and carefree living in a coastal environment, while deliberately eschewing the over-used and overly clichéd uses of starfish, scallop shells, lighthouses and lobsters often found in Cape Cod kitsch. “I don’t want to lose Cape Cod-style, but renters today really respond to a sophisticated space,” Hughes explains. Color, form and subtle features like updated fixtures and accessories like lamps, rugs and of course linens, are key to providing the comfortable, clean backdrop customers are looking for. “The choice of art is subtle but important as well,” Hughes says. “It is a great way to incorporate color and energy into a space, and the right art can make a difference.” Chapman confirms this when he mentions that modest Cape Cod landscapes are often found in clients’ homes, but as he says, “Why have a picture on the wall of the experience people have paid a lot of money to have in person? That beautiful ocean sunset is right out the door.”
“We are looking to create spaces that immediately appeal to renters, (as well as homeowners) that are accustomed to traveling to various vacation destinations,” Chapman states. “The idea of a small quaint, sand on the floor kind of cottage that people remember from the ‘60s and ‘70s is nostalgic, but honestly not the kind of property people are looking for in order to have a restful and relaxing vacation experience.”
Del Mar’s property management also includes maintenance which also benefits the application of staged improvements. “You can—and should—renovate your bathrooms and kitchen, but a fully functional 1980s kitchen that is immaculate is perfectly fine. If you upgrade the faucet and maybe the cabinet pulls, and add a clean, colorful area rug, suddenly things are fresh and welcoming,” Chapman explains.
Del Mar’s value proposition is also perfect for seasonal homeowners that love to use their home, just not every week of the season. “Homeowners take advantage of the management we provide every time they stay in their homes, partially because of the maintenance and support we provide, and also because of our concierge service. The clean linens and stocked fridge and pantry we offer renters are also available to owners,” Chapman explains as he compares the properties they manage to the experience of staying in a five-star resort.
Whether looking for a solution to maximize the investment of a seasonal income property or reduce the headache associated with owning a second home that you visit throughout the year, the full-service team at Del Mar is standing by for check-in.
Julie Craven Wagner is the editor of Cape Cod HOME.