Surf the ‘Net, rent a cabin |

Surf the ‘Net, rent a cabin

Rick Chandler

When Doug and Sue Coatney purchased a cabin in Tahoe Paradise eight years ago, they knew they wouldn’t be able to use it a whole lot.

So the San Jose couple decided to rent it to friends and acquaintances, at a reasonable rate. Still, it sat empty a good portion of the year.

The answer? The Internet.

“We thought about advertising the cabin in newspapers, but that seemed like a lot of time and expense,” said Doug Coatney. “Plus, you only reach people in a certain area. So I decided to make a Web page.”

The star of the Coatney’s Web site is their cabin, a comfortable four-bedroom, two-bath home with a hot tub. It’s tucked into the woods near Meyers, perfect for ski trips and summer fishing excursions.

But the Web site explains things much better. Just click on for photos, rates and a calendar of availability.

The Coatney’s idea has a lot to say about technology at the turn of the century. They’re probably not the first to think of this idea – of the hundreds of Web listings found while searching for accommodations at Tahoe, theirs is the only one advertising just one dwelling.

The Coatney’s site works like this: click onto the page, confirm the rate (about $125 per night in the winter, a little more during holiday weekends), and move over to a calendar. Pick a date in which the cabin is not occupied, and print out a contract. Sign and mail, with a check, to the Coatneys.

“The response has actually been really good,” said Doug Coatney, a software engineer with Hewlett Packard in San Jose. “All the info is on the site … we don’t even get a lot of phone calls anymore. Checks just show up in the mail. About 99 percent of the time, we never even meet the people.”

The Coatneys leave the keys in a real estate lock box on the property, which has a custom combination. This system has worked out pretty well, Doug reporting that he has only had to use a portion of a renter’s security deposit “once or twice” in the six years the cabin has been on the Internet.

The Coatneys had to pay for a business license (required in El Dorado County), and the cost to maintain a Web site is around $20 per month.

“But if we went with a property management company, they’d want a 35 percent cut,” Coatney said. “This works out much better.”

The site gets 500 to 600 hits per month, and the cabin is occupied most of the year.

“We get people from all over the country, and even Europe,” Coatney said. “It’s really worked well for us. When you offer a reasonable product at a good value, people respond. For us it was just a case of reaching as many people as possible.”

The Coatneys began by offering the cabin for rent on Usenet newsgroups – a sort of Internet message board system.

“But people would be asking us, ‘What does the cabin look like?’ There was no easy way to display pictures and extensive information on a newsgroup post.”

So they constructed the Web site and packed all the info in there. The site can be found on most search engines (Yahoo, Infoseek, etc.), and is also linked to several national rental sites.

But do the Coatneys themselves ever get some r&r time in Tahoe?

“Yes, we still get to use it a lot,” Doug Coatney said. “But we have to sign on like everyone else, and check the calendar.”

Listings of vacation rentals in Tahoe

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