Vacation Rental 101: Management

Astrid LindstromLeave a Comment

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Now that you’ve gotten all the paperwork handled (check our previous posts on short-term rental regulations, insurance, and taxes), it’s time to decide who’s going to manage your vacation rental.

While many first-time owners assume management begins and ends with arranging bookings, handling any issues that arise, and coordinating housecleaning, there are quite a few more factors to consider – the first and foremost of which is your time investment.

Many owners choose to self-manage their properties, which is a viable option for those who intend to make running their vacation rental a part-time job. For owners who don’t live in the same city or state as their rental, however, self-management isn’t always an option.

We’ll cover what your management solution will need to include, and give you an overview of the available management options so you can determine which one might work best for you and your schedule.

What Vacation Rental Management Entails

  • Marketing and Advertising. You will need to have an effective way to market and advertise your property to potential guests. One cost-effective option is to promote your home on major listing websites such as VRBO and Airbnb. These sites advertise on your behalf to attract a wide audience of travelers, leaving you with the job of optimizing your listing to perform well within each site. An independent website where repeat guests can book directly is also a good idea: you can create your own or contract a property manager to promote your property on their website.
  • Fielding Inquiries. Travelers will frequently reach out before making a booking to ask questions about your property, such as whether it’s near any local attractions or if you have a coffee maker in the kitchen. You will need to be capable of answering these inquiries promptly and professionally if you choose to field them yourself. Most owners who work full-time jobs aren’t able to pick up the phone every time it rings, and may not be able to respond to emails promptly. When selecting a management solution, be sure “prompt response” is at the top of your list of requirements.
  • Confirming Reservations. When a traveler decides to make a reservation, you’ll need a system for getting your rental agreement signed. You’ll also need a method for checking to be sure you actually have availability for the dates requested. All major vacation rental websites have calendar systems so travelers can see your availability; your management solution should include a daily update your online calendars so you never have to decline a booking request.
  • Processing Payments. You’ll need to be able to take credit card payments online, because that is how most travelers prefer to pay. Your management solution should provide a way to receive payments easily and securely online. If you operate independently, you’ll need to set aside time to check that your payment system works correctly and trouble-shoot any issues that arise. If you work with a management company, you should find out how and on what schedule the funds will be transferred to your bank account.
  • Guest Support. Happy guests leave good reviews, and we’ve found that good reviews are one of the most influential elements that encourage future bookings. Your management solution needs to be capable of supporting guests and handling any complaints promptly. If you live locally and have the availability, you can manage guest support yourself. If you need someone else to help with guest management, you have two options: you can hire someone whom you will call in the case of a guest complaining to you directly, or you can skip being the middleman and have a property management service field complaints on your behalf.
  • Cleaning Coordination. If you choose to clean your own property, you’ll need to create a calendar system to ensure you have enough time to perform each cleaning between bookings. Cleaning is almost always provided by third parties, so the big consideration for you is this: who will be in charge of letting the cleaning service know about new guests, changes in booking dates, and quick turnarounds? Self-managers will need to be able to do this themselves, while those who hire property managers should ask how the manager will ensure that no cleanings are missed.
  • Property Maintenance. Your property will need to receive both regular and emergency maintenance. Regular maintenance and property upkeep is your responsibility as an owner. Emergency maintenance is necessary whenever something goes wrong while guests are visiting your home. Self-managers should have a few reliable service people available who can address maintenance issues on short notice. If you plan to outsource your property management, be sure to ask prospective managers how they handle emergency maintenance issues while guests are in residence.

All in all, vacation rental management involves wearing a lot of hats! It’s also not consistent work; there will be some weeks in the busy season where it’s possible to put in more than 20 hours a week, but in the slow season you might only need to work a few minutes each day. Let’s take a look at the three primary management options to help you decide which fits best with your lifestyle.

Management Options for Your Vacation Rental

Self-Management

Doing everything yourself is time-consuming, but it definitely saves money! When you self-manage, you’ll save money on management fees (which can range from 25-50% of your income) and become an expert on every aspect of running your vacation rental, from when the smoke alarm batteries need to be replaced to what types of pillows guests like.

The downside of self-management is that you need to be an expert on everything. Even if you hire someone else to build your website, you’ll still need to write a great property description, figure out how to effectively advertise online, and learn the ins and outs of vetting travelers.

If you’re game to become a vacation rental expert and you don’t mind answering the phone promptly whenever it rings, self-management can be a great option for you! If you’re struggling to get enough bookings, however, we do recommend looking into outsourcing the marketing aspect of your business.

Traditional Property Managers

Local property managers have succeeded for decades because they can remove the burden of time from your shoulders. They’ll field your inquiries for you, promote your property for you, and even handle those middle-of-the-night emergencies. (Or they should. Check out this post for our take on what you should expect your property manager to provide.)

However, the cost is pretty steep. Property management fees for vacation rentals range from 25-50%, which is a huge portion of your rental income gone. Those fees also don’t cover things like cleaning fees or maintenance fees – you’ll be charged for those separately – so you want to be sure your property manager is providing excellent customer service and marketing in exchange for such a large percentage of your earnings.

You can also expect less flexibility with a property manager. They may have their own rules for who can rent, how they handle cleaning, and even when you’ll be able to visit your own property.

If you prefer a “set it and forget it” model and you’re simply looking to offset some of the costs of owning a second home, a traditional property manager can be a good fit. However, we’d still advocate the third and final option …

Evolve Vacation Rental

Hey, we didn’t create this company for nothing! We saw that the traditional options for property management weren’t performing as well as they could in today’s online world, and we created a third option with a low booking fee, amazing marketing and booking support, and unrivaled flexibility for owners.

With Evolve, everything surrounding marketing, advertising, and booking is handled for you – we’ll create a professional listing for you, promote it on all the major vacation rental marketplaces, respond to every traveler inquiry, confirm bookings, process payments, and handle all pre- and post-stay guest communication.

Meanwhile, you get to manage your on-the-ground services however you choose. You can use our vetted service partners for cleaning and maintenance, you can continue to work with people you know and trust already, or you can handle those services yourself. It’s entirely up to you.

Best of all, we do all of this for one low booking fee of 10%. If you’d like to learn more about our services, click here or give us a call at 877-818-1014.

Got questions about what’s involved in vacation rental management? Ask ’em in the comments!

This post is part of Evolve’s Vacation Rental 101: The Expanded Ultimate Guide to Success series, where we discuss the ins and outs of vacation rental ownership for newcomers and experienced veterans alike. Tune in next week for our 101 post on how to find a great housecleaning service for your vacation rental business.

To be sure you don’t miss a post, download the Ultimate Vacation Rental Success Guide below and we’ll send you an email notification every time we publish a new 101 article. Have questions or want to know how we make vacation rental ownership easy and profitable? Call our Homeowner Consultants at 877.818.1014 (press 2) or click here to learn more about Evolve.