HOW DO I CHOOSE A VACATION RENTAL PROPERTY MANAGER?
As a vacation home owner, you have several property management options to choose from. First things first: consider how much you’d like to take off your own plate. Some vacation rental management companies will market your home, yet won’t offer cleaning or local support. Meanwhile, full-service vacation rental property managers can handle—from digital marketing, to professional cleaning after every stay, to providing local onsite assistance for you and your guests.
IN-HOUSE RENTAL PROPERTY MANAGEMENT
It’s not uncommon for the condo-hotels like Waldorf Astoria to require you to use their in-house property management services. There are some pros and cons to this. A pro is that all of the services are done in house and the service to the consumer is seamless. The check in standards are consistent with that of a regular hotel guest. The unit gets the same maintenance as the hotel rooms, etc. The tenant will have access to the amenities, and ideally won’t even realize they are in a personal residence. A con is the fee. Because the standard of service is typically held higher than most other management companies, the fee is often higher. If buying in a condo-hotel always ask if you are even allowed to hire your own management company.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD RENTAL PROPERTY MANAGER?
With many vacation rental managers advertising similar services, it’s difficult to know which are better just by looking at their websites. Consider the following when narrowing your choices.
THE SIZE OF THEIR STAFF AND THEIR RENTAL PORTFOLIO
A vacation rental manager with a sizable portfolio probably has a good rapport with homeowners and understands the basics of successful vacation rental management. However, portfolio size can be misleading. They might manage a lot of homes, but might not have enough staff for 24/7 guest support. This is crucial during peak season when turnaround time between bookings is much shorter. Otherwise, it could result in negative reviews. You want a vacation rental manager who can appropriately scale their staff and operations to be on site at a moment’s notice. Also, ask how many other listings the property manager has in your area. If they have too many they may not put in as much effort to rent your home over the others that are close by.
THEIR KNOWLEDGE OF DIGITAL MARKETING AND ONLINE BOOKING CHANNELS
Competition for bookings is fierce. Airbnb and Booking.com have over 32 million property listings alone. There could be dozens—maybe hundreds—of similar rentals in your market booking on the same night with better listings, better prices, and better reviews. Your vacation rental manager should know how booking channels work and how to optimize your
listings so they stand above the crowd. They should also be on more than a few sites. Do a quick search on Airbnb and Vrbo for their properties. If you can’t find them, or they don’t show up until the second or third page of search results, you should look elsewhere.
HOW MUCH IS IT TO MANAGE A RENTAL PROPERTY?
The costs for vacation rental property management can vary. Companies can charge flat rates or management fees that range from 10% to 50%—all depending on the services they offer, your location, your type of home, and other factors. Some management companies also charge extra fees for services such as cleaning, marketing, and maintenance and repairs.
WHICH VACATION RENTAL MANAGEMENT COMPANY HAS THE LOWEST FEE?
Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer to the question “Which vacation rental manager has the lowest fees?” It’s like comparing apples and oranges: not all vacation rental managers provide the same services, or can deliver on tasks like marketing your home at the same level of success.
While you’ll find that most vacation rental managers charge between 10% and 50% of your revenue, the level of management, your profits, and the type of additional fees vary. Sometimes, paying a slightly higher management fee can mean better outcomes than hiring a marketing-only manager or an a la cart discount service. It’s best to shop around and get a sense of what you need first before going with what at first glance seems to be the lowest fee.
VACATION RENTAL PROPERTY MANAGEMENT CONTRACTS AND FEES
The biggest trap is settling for a vacation rental manager who promises higher short-term returns for a lower management fee. While lower fees may feel like a better deal, you usually end up paying much more in fees for additional services, and a great peak season doesn’t mean much if your home is empty for the rest of the year.
Contracts are a pain point for many vacation homeowners because of the above scenario. A year-long contract with a manager who can only book 4 months of the year is a net negative, plus the operational costs and security concerns of bringing outside vendors into your home to clean the carpets or fix the A/C.
When looking at your budget, consider the long-term benefits of hiring a full-service vacation rental manager who can do it all and provide hotel-quality services that guests expect. Also, consider that a full booking calendar and positive reviews will help justify a higher asking price.
WHAT FEES SHOULD GUESTS EXPECT TO PAY?
Booking fee: Common in the industry, this is a vacation rental management fee that allows us to continually invest in industry-leading tech and best-in-class service. Fees that are often included in the booking fee are:
- Customer service and reservations support
- Value Credit card fees
- Reservation risk management
- Maintenance and management of your home’s listing on Airbnb, Vrbo, and more
- Hot tub fee: Professional staff and contractors services should include maintenance and safe chemicals.
- Pet fee: Should you allow dog owners to visit with their pets there is often an added fee.
- Damage waiver fee: This should cover an accidental damage to the property. Note- the guest is usually required to report any damage during their stay.
- Cleaning fee: A cost related to our expense incurred in cleaning the home between guests. This includes local, professional housekeeping, complete with enhanced cleaning measures.
- If a property is listed on third-party channels (such as Airbnb, Booking.com, etc.), they can charge an incremental fee to guests.
SERVICES TO LOOK FOR IN A PROPERTY MANAGEMENT COMPANY
- Online owner account that lets you track your earnings, submit maintenance requests, download tax documents, and more.
- City and county permitting and regulations assistance (where legally allowed)
- Finance reporting and bookkeeping.
- Comprehensive marketing services, including:
- Professionally crafted online listings with photography, search engine-oriented copywriting, and 360-degree virtual home tours via Matterport technology.
- Exposure on major booking channels, like Airbnb, Vrbo, and more.
- Rate-setting technology.
- Search engine marketing, remarketing and exclusive targeted email marketing technology.
- Opportunities for social media amplification.
FOR YOUR GUESTS
- 24/7 guest customer support before and during their stay in your home.
- On-the-ground help, available anytime.
- Payment plans to make booking vacations easier.
- Useful mobile app that allows guests to check in, plan their trip, see your home’s rules, find WiFi passwords, and more.
FOR YOUR HOME
- Guest screening to ensure your home is enjoyed and cared for during every stay.
- A dedicated local property manager, who can coordinate care and be there for you 24/7.
- Training for local employees.
- Technology and tools to maximize team performance and efficiency in your neighborhood.
- Supply chains and resources to keep your home effortlessly running through even the busiest seasons.
WHERE TO MARKET THE LISTING
is probably the most well known site. The term “Airbnb” has become synonymous with vacation rentals. They attract the biggest numbers of travelers seeking vacation rentals worldwide. Since their inception, they’ve hosted more than 800 million visitors and are popular with millennial travelers. In 2018, 58% of their hosts and guests were millennials. It’s free to list your property, but you will pay a fee per booking.
was one of the first vacation rental sites that developed a prominent, loyal following in the U.S., mainly consisting of families looking for vacation homes with multiple bedrooms. As part of the Expedia Group, Vrbo offers the possibility for cross-promotion on the group’s other sites, such as Expedia or Travelocity, multiplying your exposure across the web. According to a recent Vrbo survey, 87% of their guests travel with a family member. You can choose from two payment models: a fee per booking, or an annual subscription fee for unlimited bookings. If you consistently go the extra mile for guests and have exemplary reviews, Vrbo may ask you to join their free Premier Host program, which gives you a boost in the search results and a trusted badge to put on your listing.
is a travel industry veteran as one of the oldest and largest online travel agencies. It was founded in 1996 and now lists more than 28 million accommodations, including vacation homes, hotels, luxury resorts, and B&Bs. More than 1.5 million room nights are booked on their platform every day. Because your property will show up in search results alongside hotels in your area, you can effectively compete with nearby hotels for bookings. About 42% of nights booked on Booking.com are for non-hotel vacation properties. It is free to list, however, Booking.com charges a commission for each booking. The platform is available in 43 languages, making it easier for international guests to book. Bookings are instantly confirmed, meaning no back-and-forth communication with potential guests.
TRIPADVISOR & FLIPKEY
have joined the ranks of online travel agencies by allowing travelers to book accommodations directly from their website. It boasts 463 million monthly users worldwide, one of the largest audiences of any travel site. Tripadvisor shares its inventory with its vacation rental site, FlipKey. So, you pay for one platform and are featured on both. It’s a trusted platform, known for its unbiased, honest traveler reviews. Potential guests can communicate with you directly through the Tripadvisor platform. It is free to list, although you pay a commission for every booking made on the site.
OTHER VACATION RENTAL LISTING SITES
With the popularity of vacation rental sites like Vrbo and Airbnb, many other sites have popped up that market to niche travelers. Other sites to look into include:
• American Snowbird
• Kid & Coe
The more places you can showcase your vacation rental online, the more exposure you get to travelers looking for a home just like yours. That’s why many owners choose to list their vacation homes on multiple sites—even though staying on top of all those listings can consume a lot of time and energy.
HOW TO MARKET YOUR PROPERTY (DIY)
There are seemingly endless ways to market your vacation home and get it in front of a wide audience. Here are some tips for DIY vacation homeowners:
- Narrow in on the audience who would most likely be drawn to your home.
- List your property on several vacation rental and travel sites, instead of relying on just one
- Use social media to promote your home and your destination.
- Hire a professional photographer to build a portfolio of eye-catching photos that you can
- spread out online on your website, listing profiles, social media, etc.
- Write listing descriptions and blog posts with keywords in mind to improve rankings on
- Google’s search engine results page (SERP).
WHAT TO INCLUDE IN THE RENTAL LISTING
Hire a professional photographer to highlight the key features in your home. Bedrooms, outdoor space, bathroom fixtures, kitchen storage space, etc.
Your guests will love that they’ll be able to tour your property before they book.
There are so many strategies for pricing. Focus on the benchmarks for pricing (ie. Price at $750 instead of $755 to capture those looking up to $750). A property management company should have some pricing strategies and technology. If you choose to DIY, compare other listings that are available at the same time. Compare amenities and location. Sites like Airbnb have a built in dynamic pricing tool that adjusts based on demand.
Guests expect the home to be clean when they arrive, so point out the process (will you hire a cleaning person or will you have a service). Will it be up to CDC guidelines? How often will the home get cleaned, especially for long term guests.
Hire a copywriter or rely on your property manager to infuse your insights, local knowledge, and sought-after keywords into a magnetic listing description that captures why your short-term rental is the perfect launchpad for a great vacation.
Spotlight amenities, and not just the obvious one. If you have a washer/dryer, a charger for their Tesla, etc, be sure to spotlight it. Point out proximity to the slopes, the trails, a grocery store, etc.
Do you read reviews before you buy something online? According to Inc., you’re not alone—91% of people look at reviews before purchasing, and 84% of people trust them as much as a friend’s recommendation. And what’s more, good reviews help you rank higher on booking sites like Airbnb and Vrbo. Get reviews and ask for feedback so you can make changes to your rental.