Vacation rental property management: Everything you need to know

by The Hostfully Team
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As a vacation rental property host, you’re a bonafide business owner, and general manager. You may also be the cleaner, communicator, plumber, tour guide, and expert TV fixer, too!

The allure of vacation rental property management has heightened with the increase of bookings platforms like Airbnb, HomeAway, and hundreds of others. But few realize the time commitment. Many want to continue to run their business, but want their time back. And often, they want to give a level of service that they don’t have the expertise or systems to provide.

Many vacation rental hosts decide to manage their property themselves, while other believe that vacation rental property management is the best way to go. If you choose the management route, how do you know which one is the best? You need a manager who is responsible, trustworthy, and has a proven track record of providing a 5-star hospitality service.

To help you in your management quest, Hostfully has assembled experts in vacation rental property management to give you the best possible advice to consider when looking for your next manager. Let’s get started!

 

Think about logistics from David Clarke – Director of Customer Service at Kid & Coe

Some companies will do everything for you, including setting up cleaning options, key holding, filling the property with fresh linens and stocking the fridge. Others are happy to promote the property while you handle the logistics. Think about the amount of involvement you want – and what you’re willing to pay for. If you live a long way from the property, full service options are going to be a smart bet.

 

Have skin in the game from Andrew McConnell, CEO of Rented.com

Working with more than 900 Managers, and more than 10,000 homeowners at Rented.com, I have found the biggest thing to look for from a Manager is that they have skin in the game. Managers can talk about their projections, and you can bring them down on their commissions perhaps, but what is included (and excluded) in that rate? What are they committing to?

Managers willing and able to provide a guarantee or fixed income tend to be those who are most confident in their own abilities, and they’re most capable of delivering value for owners. Using the company’s willingness and ability to offer a guarantee as a quick filter can save you a lot of work, and worries, in the long run.

 

Vacancy rates and fees from Brian Davis of Spark Rental

Ask about every single fee. Some vacation rental property manager’s nickel and dime owners with endless fees, such as property visitation fees, repair coordination fees, leasing fees, lease extension fees, and so on. Property owners should press for details about every single fee charged by property managers.

Also, get clear on their vacancy rates. How occupied does this management company keep their vacation rentals? How does this manager’s vacancy rate compared to the overall vacation rental vacancy rate in the area?

 

Do your research from Laura Hall, Director of Communications at Kid & Coe

Every vacation rental property manager has a website; the vast majority also have social media feeds, typically Instagram and Facebook. Have a look through them and go with your gut. Which do you like best? Which feed shows properties like yours, with engaged followers, comments from the type of guests you want to attract? A quick look at the community around the agency is going to show you whether it’s a good fit for you or not.

 

Understand marketing strategies from Brian Davis of Spark Rental

What does this vacation rental property management company do to market their vacation rentals, beyond just posting on Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO? Posting there should only be the start of a larger, cleverer, and more thorough marketing plan.

 

Occupancy expectations from Randy Bonds of BRIC Vacation Rentals

Many variables exist in property management companies depending on geographical location but one question that should always be asked is detailed occupancy expectation. With proof!

Operations are extremely important for guest satisfaction but without a proven marketing plan, revenue for the owner will always be lacking.

 

Teams and reviews from Conrad O’Connell of 91 Digital

When deciding on a vacation rental property management, make sure that:

  • The vacation rental property manager has a defined marketing strategy in place that spans listing sites, their own website and have proven the ability to drive online bookings for other owners.
  • They have the ability to deal with issues/problems with the property with ‘on the ground’ teams.
  • The vacation rental property manager has good reviews on Google, HomeAway and Facebook.
  • They have trustworthy cleaning teams (staffed or outsourced) that provide a clean experience for every new guest.

 

Don’t forget about costs, from Laura Hall – Director of Communications at Kid & Coe

Think about your property as a business. You’re looking to make money from it, and to make it an easy business to run. Ask rental companies directly about their commissions so you are clear on what you can make. Be clear about whether or not you can list on multiple platforms at once to maximize your available dates. Set your prices so you cover more than your basic costs once the agency’s commission is taken off. Don’t forget to check what happens if something goes wrong – if a stay is canceled, if something is broken, how does the agency help you with it – or are you on your own?

 

Look for a partner, from Richard Olivarez of Ocean Reef Vacation Rentals & Real Estate

You are searching for more than a vacation rental property manager; you are searching for a partner. A little homework will go a long way. What’s offered will vary from company to company.

You don’t want to fixate on commission, but instead take a look at the whole package. A discounted commission often means discounted service and many times the companies with the higher commission will ultimately generate you more revenue. Be sure to ask about their fee structure. Discount companies need to creative to make their revenue.

When searching out a company take a look at their track-record. How long have they been in business? In recent years there have been many fly-by-night companies that have started up and have quickly closed down, taking their owner’s revenue with them.

Also ask to see their facilities and meet their staff. You need to know who you are trusting your home with and fully understand their approach to managing your home.

 

Check responsiveness from Emile L’Eplattenier, Real Estate Marketing Analyst at Fit Small

Business

While pretty much anyone can market a rental property these days, property management firms need to set themselves apart from the crowd with amazing customer service. For short term rentals specifically, customer service that goes above and beyond is a great selling point.

How quickly can they react to, say, a guest that loses their key or a water heater that gives up the ghost? For long term rentals, 99% of the bad reviews on Yelp for New York City property management companies are for treating customer service as an afterthought.

 

Several tips from Stephen Ezer, Senior VP of Premier Residential Services

The vacation rental property management company should be reachable by phone, text and internet, and have the ability to schedule work with confirming emails. They should also have a well trained staff that is professional in appearance, and has the equipment and supplies necessary to provide the services.

The vacation rental managers should be of sufficient size that there is staff that does quality control inspections post services. They should also be able to respond to unscheduled requests in a timely manner. All of their charges should be rendered so that there is a clear understanding of the fees and dates of services.

 

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when deciding on a vacation rental property management service. Most importantly, the experts above believe that the company should be easily accessible via phone and email, have structured and common-sense fees, be able to show a track-record of reviews and referrals of their 5-star service, and contingency planning for last-minute cancellations. Brian Davis of Spark Rental also showed us that we need to fully understand a management company’s marketing strategy and their overall vacancy rates.

A company that is upfront and honest with the above details, could be your next small business partner. Remember, running a vacation rental property is a small business, so treat it as such.

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