Frequently Asked Questions
We are new owners on the island – can you give us an overview of your service?
Congratulations on your new vacation property. We look forward to working with you and your family to set up a program to enhance your enjoyment and maximize your time on the island. Last year BARON’S Penta Daily blog, part of the Dow Jones family published an entry discussing remote home ownership and some of the pitfalls.
Penta discussed pricing where firms were retained from $500 to $10,000 a month depending on the size of the home, services requested, and owner’s personal expectations. We can help as little (from one low monthly retainer) or as much (retainer plus contract supervision) as you would like. Some owners minimize their expectations due to their limited time in residence, others request their homes be ready with a couple of days notice in a resort capacity with extensive flowers, twice weekly pool service, gourmet food delivery, dog walker on call and standing reservations at their favorite restaurants. Our dual pricing structure was developed to be scalable to an individual customer’s needs without resorting to packages, hours, trip fees, and other assessments.
Cottage Concierge is structured as an independent firm (though affiliated with the Al Brown Company), where we work for the property owner and act as the owner’s representative. We do not have in-house hourly employees that we bill back to you at an inflated rate, we do not accept volume pricing incentives nor kickbacks in order to utilize a specific contractor. Since we are only paid by the owner, we only work for the owner and we want to find the best specialist for the owner’s needs.
Can Cottage Concierge help save me money?
Yes in some cases we can, though we are considered a premium personal service. Working with an owner we reviewed their current expenses were able to suggest and engage some new contractors where they experienced a significant reduction in their monthly expenses (some by 30%). By reviewing an owner’s expectations for flowers and seasonal color and working with a new flower company we were able to adjust the mix of annuals and perennials, giving the owner the color they wanted while reducing the quarterly installation costs compared to their prior agreement. Lastly we worked with their utility providers to give them even monthly payments thus alleviating the usage spikes and easing budgeting concerns.
For those homeowners whose home is for sale or whose home is available at the right price, having a company like Cottage Concierge on retainer can drastically alter a prospective buyer’s first impression of your home. As any sales person will tell you, first impressions are key to engaging a prospect and helping them envision living and vacationing at your property. Recently a real estate agent took a prospect to a home that wasn’t listed and the absentee owner hadn’t been in residence in several months, but the cottage was available and fit nicely within the prospects ideal parameters. While well maintained on the exterior, the interior of the home wasn’t in keeping with its multi-million price tag with an air conditioning unit out of order, high humidity, cobwebs, and in need of a good spring cleaning from top to bottom. The Buyers were able to see past the broken ac, decor decisions, and cleaning, but placed a bid $250,000 below market due to the perceived faults. Had the seller engage Cottage Concierge and a housekeeper, the home would have given a drastically different impression and may have resulted in a market bid.
Do your current contractors carry insurance in case of damage or loss of use? Do they have an established practices with trained professionals on staff? Recently an insurance agent whose client has a cottage on Sea Island mentioned they suffered nearly $80,000 in damage from a power washing service. Apparently the operator wasn’t properly trained, the work resulted in extensive scratching and damage to a number of windows which caused the homeowner to make a claim on their homeowners policy. When considering a contractor, something as simple as a hose and water can have drastic results in the wrong hands. Utilizing trusted companies with experience and insurance coverage, while initially more expensive would have saved this particular clients thousands in damages, lost time, and weeks of calls, paperwork, and coordination.
When considering the value of services, don’t forget about the opportunity or lost opportunity costs.
Why does Cottage Concierge utilize a split pricing model that includes a retainer and service charge?
The split model is setup to assist owners looking for minimal or full service resort style living. Utilizing this model, we can give all owners a base line of service, then those looking for additional attention and detail pay for this higher level of service in increased service fees on each contract (for landscaping, pool service, flower gardening, landscape lighting, home theaters service, air conditioning service, pest control, etc). All owners pay the monthly retainer which is dependent on the size of the home, number of bathrooms, etc. Those looking for full service, then pay a service charge or contract management fee for each contract under Cottage Concierge’s purview. This model alleviates the need for tiered packages, hourly minimums or maximums, repeat visit fees, access control fees, and other controls mechanisms that require more back office juggling than pure service to the owners and their guests.
What does the service charge cover?
The service fee includes working with the contractor to be sure their work is in keeping with the owners expectations, gathering bids, negotiating bids, invoice review, invoice payment, and giving the client the option of paying with a credit card in a single bill organizing and combining their various subcontractors.
Do you only service customers on Sea Island?
No, we are happy to work with owners throughout Sea Island and St Simons Island. Please call and let us know how we can enhance your ownership experience and vacation time.
What is the difference between Cottage Concierge and some of the caretakers?
It would depend on the caretaker that your are referencing. Some considerations as you evaluate the best option for you and your family include:
Require insurance of higher risk vendors such as pressure washing, roofing, general contractor?
Clear terms of engagement?
Do you pay an all in invoice for repairs (without knowing the actual bid and caretaker profit added) or do you receive the original invoice and pay a standing management fee?
Do they charge for their time and repair – resulting in them doing the work or do they contract with the specialist best suited for the work?
Full time position and professionally managed?
Experience with high end homes and interiors?
Understands an owner’s perspective and expectations?
Accepts credit cards?
Affiliated with the premier real estate broker in the area with over 40 years of experience in real estate?
Do they just do property maintenance or full service coordinating from basic gardening to a special birthday bouquet?