It’s summer and the pandemic is waning: the beach, countryside and lake are calling … everyone out of the woodwork. After more than a year of “social distancing,” we are finally dusting off their guest rooms. But just as important as being a “hostess with mostess” is guest etiquette. The Escape Home talked to longtime second homeowners and a guest etiquette expert to write The Rules to Being a Good Houseguest This Summer. (Those of you with vacation homes: Feel free to send this list or link to your upcoming visitors. Houseguests: Read closely.)
Have a good time.
Julie Blais-Comeau, chief etiquette officer at etiquettejulie.com, emphasizes that the most important part of the experience between a guest’s trip to a friend’s home is “ensuring the memories are merry.” While that’s usually the case when friends hang out, it requires a little extra effort from the guest to be “appreciative and respectful” in order to balance out the host’s hospitality.
So remember how last summer, your host had to run in and out of the house to maintain social distancing while you all drank rosé outside? Let’s move past those bad behaviors of 2020.
Let’s start with the basics. Blais-Comeau offers a baseline checklist of items to be a great guest, and we’ll expand on some of these below:
· Respect the rules
· Bring your stuff
· When in doubt, ask
· Offer to help
· Clean up after yourself
· Bring, send or offer a gift
Know before you go.
Before visiting your friend’s home, Blais-Comeau suggests using the tone of the invite as a guideline. Ed Wallace, co-chair of the New York office of Greenberg Traurig, one of the world’s largest law firms, a previous representative on the NYC Council and a longtime renter and owner of vacation homes in Long Island, agrees and said the host should be very precise about their invitation — this is where they set expectations for the trip. If it comes as a letter in the mail with fancy font, a guest should prepare for a formal event; respond before the RSVP deadline and pack according to the dress code. Even if it isn’t formal, make sure to prepare for any activities the host warns you about: bring a bathing suit and sunscreen if they say you might swim, or layers if they say it gets cold at night.
Not everyone loves your dogs and kids.
If you are still not sure based on the invite if your pets or children are allowed, Blais-Comeau said it is best to ask. Her suggested wording goes something like, “Is Fido welcome this weekend or should I make dog-sitting arrangements?” or “Is this an adults-only weekend?”
Don’t show up empty-handed.
Whether you bring pets or children or neither, Wallace insists that you present either a bottle of wine or flowers upon arrival — and the choice between the two is important. Only bring wine if you are sure the host will enjoy the specific bottle, otherwise, default to flowers. (Note: You might ask if there’s something they need; one host warmly recalls a guest who brought luxury king-size sheets and beach towels.)
There are several things guests can do to make sure the host is as appreciated as possible. If there is ever an opportunity, Mary Marshall, longtime owner of a second home in the Berkshires, said she finds it a very nice gesture when a guest offers to pay for a dinner out or at the market for dinner’s groceries. While she made sure to say that she would not hold it against a guest if they did not offer, she always takes note when they do.
Be neat, be flexible, be inquisitive.
On the other hand, smaller tasks are necessary. Don’t leave your things around, clean up after yourself and if you spill or break something, clean it up, tell the host and offer to pay if there is damage done. Lastly, keep in mind that not all households function the same. Blais-Comeau notes that guests should adjust to hosts’ schedules and customs. She said a guest is remembered most fondly when “their flexibility in adapting to the home and lifestyle of the hosts” is as seamless as possible.
This is not to say that you are to suppress your needs as a guest. Blais-Comeau was enthusiastic when she said, “when in doubt, find out.” If you need something or are confused about something, find the host. As Marshall insisted, she just wants “everyone to have a good time and not to worry.” She expects that her guests won’t know exactly how everything works, or that she is not completely aware of everyone’s dietary restrictions or their ability to swim, and she is there to help and accommodate.
But it is important to recognize that some issues could go beyond the guests’ ability to pay and the host’s power to fix. Mr. Wallace recalls a Memorial Day Barbecue in a house he owned in Southampton in which the toilets backed up. He said the plumber noted, pointedly, that “NYC high-rise residents think you can flush anything.” Mary Marshall also touched on the topic of plumbing.
“It stuns me that anyone now thinks that you can put anything other than human natural waste in the toilet,” she said. “I would be really annoyed if someone flushed feminine products or anything like that.” The lesson learned here is simple: following general protocols and assuming everything is delicate can prevent massive headaches for the host.
Leave no trace. Say thank you.
The most important part of being a guest comes at the end. Wallace, Marshall, and Blais-Comeau, upon being asked what guests should do to wrap up the trip, all immediately said they must strip the bed. Marshall suggested that if clean sheets are made visible, guests should make the bed, even if they are not specifically asked to. Otherise, clean the space you occupied “as good or better than you found it,” said Blais-Comeau. Once the bed is made, both Wallace and Blais-Cameau suggested that a hand-written thank-you note should be left on top alongside a gift if you have one. Marshall said she just would expect a follow-up note. Lastly, and arguably most importantly, leave on time. Both Wallace and Marshall agreed: “Two things smell after three days: fish and guests.”
In the news…
Neighbors battle over short-term rentals
The idyllic island of Nantucket has become divided over Article 90, a piece of legislation that would mandate a cap on short-term rentals and implement a seven-day minimum stay for renters.
Residents on one side argue that they would not be able to afford their Nantucket properties without supplemental rental income, and business owners feared their customer base would shrink. Those on the other side decried the partying, traffic and crowding they claimed were a result of short-term rentals. Additionally, they said rentals were causing locals to be priced out — the median sale price of a Nantucket home in 2020 was $2.5 million, a 95% increase from 2010.
The caveat? Many people involved in both sides of that campaign were unable to vote as they are not year-round residents, leading to aggressive campaigning that left some year-rounders feeling alienated.
Ultimately the article was defeated, 625 to 297. The battle isn’t over though. In fact, it’s playing out in cities across the country.
Has the short-term rental market impacted your city? Let us know your thoughts!
An A to Z list of where and how Americans are welcome
Ever thought about visiting Albania? Perhaps you should. The small country — just across the Adriatic Sea from Italy — is inexpensive, tourists are far and few between and it boasts great beaches and food. Also, Americans are free to enter sans Covid test or quarantine. Ghana, on the other hand, requires a negative PCR test plus another test — at the cost of $150 — upon landing. Check out a complete list of countries and their requirements here.
Photo: Damir Spanic
As demand for vacation rentals exceeds supply, companies like Airbnb and Vrbo are desperately trying to convince owners to list their homes — particularly those near beaches, lakes and national parks. Both platforms have made it easier for hosts to join. Airbnb in May simplified the sign-up process, making it just 10 steps instead of dozens. It also upgraded its platform offerings, including one-on-one mentoring for hosts. Vrbo’s method, on the other hand, is to go straight for Airbnb’s hosts. It launched a program earlier this year that allowed hosts with Airbnb experience to transfer their ratings from the platform to Vrbo. Ever thought about listing your property? Sounds like now might be the time.
Plan to sweeten the deal
It’s a seller’s market, and it’s driving buyers to crazy lengths. A three-bedroom home in Berkeley, California, recently sold for $2.3 million in cash. The listing price? $1.15 million. People are also getting creative with their offers: wine, cryptocurrency, sports tickets and more. These days, this seems pretty par for the course. According to Zillow, there were 940 sales in March that went for more than $500,000 over the asking price, twice as many as the last year.
By the numbers
That’s how many units short of historical levels construction of new housing fell in the past 20 years. That number includes roughly 2 million single-family homes, 1.1 million units in buildings with two to four units and 2.4 million units in buildings of at least five units. The shortage of housing has driven up prices. The median home price hit $341,600 in April, up 19% from the previous year.
Products we love
We shared with you last week some of our favorite cocktail party accessories. This week we present some of our favorite things to keep children occupied the old-fashioned way (without tech) during said parties. Thank us later!
These water guns are an easy way to keep kids (and some adults) entertained for hours
This butterfly growing kit is fun and educational
Water balloons! Who doesn’t love them?
How about some outdoor bowling?
This kite is meant for beginners, and comes highly reviewed.
This outdoor scavenger hunt card game is one of our favorites.
On the market
This week we were tipped off about this stunning upstate New York home, which is in presale.
The four-bedroom, three-and-a -half-bath property will be priced at $1.35 million and sold fully furnished, including with a game room. It’s Woodstock location — plus a new pool and a hot tub — makes it an excellent rental property.
If you are interested, email firstname.lastname@example.org.