In summer 2020, we conducted the first homeowner interview with Claudia and Bernhard Jerg. The couple from Upper Swabia were new to the vacation rental business and were managing two vacation apartments through Bookiply. The apartments in the south of Germany, ‘Heimelig im Hirschen 118’ and ‘Heimelig im Allgäu’ (formerly ‘Lindenalpe’), won their guests over right away. ‘Heimelig’ in German means cozy or homey, and a stay at one of the apartments certainly does not fall short of expectations.
One pandemic, three vacation apartments and a great deal of hard work later, they have a well-attuned team of hosts.
“All the experiences, the many positive as well as the few negative ones, have helped us grow as hosts,”
Bernhard tells us when we meet him for a video call. He has, among other things, retained his passion for handicraft over the past years, and none of the thrill that comes with being a host has been lost:
“We like to think we know the ropes now. But when a Bookiply notification pops up on my phone, there’s still that same excitement and anticipation of new bookings.“
From two to five ‘heimelige’ apartments
The Jergs’ story began as hosts with their two apartments in Schönwald in the Black Forest and Lindenberg in the Allgäu region. In 2020, the Jergs bought the small apartment ‘Heimelig im Hirschen 240’, and in spring 2021, they added the large apartment ‘Heimelig im Hirschen 117’ in the Black Forest. The attic in their own home in Weingarten has also been made into the vacation apartment “Heimelig in Oberschwaben”.
“The apartments ‘im Hirschen’ just sort of came to us. We had always said that if they ever became available, we would seize the opportunity. And then it happened: The apartment was on the bulletin board! So we said: ‘We’ve got to get our hands on that one! Now we have three apartments located on the same plot, which is particularly convenient for larger groups.”
After this stroke of luck, however, the apartments still needed a little renovation work. As usual, Claudia and Bernhard did the furnishing themselves.
In March 2021, the couple began renovating the apartments. Except for the plumbing and electrical work, Bernhard and Claudia mastered everything themselves. Kitchens and floors were fitted, and a wall was even torn out. Bernhard and Claudia put up with the many car trips and long arduous hours of work — knowing that the guests would appreciate the results.
Only three months later, in June 2021, the apartments went online via Bookiply.
“If managing the vacation apartments using Bookiply for channel management hadn’t worked so well, we probably wouldn’t have done it. Generally speaking, there is no comparable portal in channel management like Bookiply. Especially the service provided by the local office in Friedrichshafen is perfect.”
Bernhard sums up the cooperation with Bookiply over the years in just three words: “Professional. Friendly. Solution-oriented.”
Going forward, as long as real estate prices and materials are affordable, Bernhard could picture renting out more vacation rentals through Bookiply.
Guest Communication via ‘Remote Diagnosis’
Claudia and Bernhard hardly ever get to meet the guests of their vacation apartments in person. Communication is handled exclusively via the WhatsApp messenger. Bernhard refers to it as communicating via “remote diagnosis”.
This development is not solely due to the pandemic:
“We only ever get to know the guests via text, which was born out of necessity as we live 40 kilometers away.”
Nevertheless, they personally take care of the vacation apartments and make sure everything is meticulously prepared. Bernhard and Claudia usually arrive the day before check-in, or the same day, prepare everything, and leave again before the guests arrive.
The Jergs refrain from handing over the keys in person — also because they don’t want to run into any of the guests when they’re “sweaty from cleaning,” Bernhard says with a laugh. Instead, guests can use a key box to get into the apartment when checking in. This way, they ensure the guests’ privacy as soon as they arrive. So far, feedback on this approach has been overwhelmingly positive:
“Actually, people enjoy not being in any kind of stress. We send a friendly welcome message and let guests know they’ve made a good choice with their booking. The welcome note basically includes everything there is to consider in the apartment, what’s available and what the surroundings have to offer.”
When dealing with guests, it has proven effective for Bernhard to respond quickly to questions that reach him as a host. He always offers to find a solution, no matter the situation.
One day before guests leave, they receive a heartfelt WhatsApp message from Bernhard.
His aim is to make sure the guests know that they are welcome anytime. In addition, he asks guests for a review or to give them the chance to approach the hosts directly with any suggestions and/or criticism:
“If we receive suggestions, I immediately take them into account and say, ‘Okay, we can change this now, we’ll do it this way based on your suggestions,’ or we’ll improve it. We always try to find solutions.”
When guests become regulars, it’s a particularly nice sign for Claudia and Bernhard:
“A guest of ours in no. 117 has probably been coming to the ‘Hirschen’ for many years. She has booked with us the last few times… before that, she probably booked with other hosts. (…) She always paints in our apartment when she stays for three weeks. Now she was in our apartment just the other day, and she was painting on the beautiful, big terrace. She sent us photos of her paintings hanging on our wall. She hangs her paintings in the apartment until she leaves. And she’ll probably paint something for us, she offered, because she now comes every year.”
Online Marketing Professional on Their Own Behalf
Going beyond the usual guest communication, Bernhard likes to send out links to his other vacation apartments, often as a closing message. He recommends that guests in Lindenberg consider the apartments in the Black Forest for a stay and vice versa. He also likes to send out links to their success story on the Bookiply blog: “I think it’s important that the guest doesn’t just leave but that we give them a nice closure.”
His “cross promotion” efforts have already resulted in some additional bookings. Bernhard also had a clever marketing strategy ready when asked what he does differently today compared with two years ago:
“I do more advertising on Facebook now!”
He is active in groups, in which people look for vacation apartments, where he introduces himself and his apartments: “I send a friendly five-liner with our links. I also let them know where there are still gaps in the booking calendar.”
Have we piqued your interest?
Book one of Claudia and Bernhard’s cozy vacation apartments on your next trip through southern Germany.
Lindenberg im Allgäu
„Heimelig im Allgäu” (formerly ‘Lindenalpe’)
Black Forest (Schwarzwald)
Schönwald im Schwarzwald
‘Heimelig im Hirschen 118’
‘Heimelig im Hirschen 240’
‘Heimelig im Hirschen 117’
Upper Swabia (Oberschwaben)
‘Heimelig in Oberschwaben’