Not all property managers are created equal. Clearly, some are more expensive than others with commission rates skyrocketing above 50%. Looking beyond the commission rates, vacation rental owners really should understand more of the fundamental business and operating policies of their property manager. We’ve created a list of nine questions owners should ask their property manager – see what he or she has to say and decide if your property manager provides the best service at the lowest cost!
What are you doing to keep my advanced deposit money safe?
This is probably the most important question on the list, since there have been several high-profile cases of property management firms that have gone bankrupt and spent money they owed their owners! The most notable of these firms is Deer Valley Lodging (Premier Lodging). You can read about what happened here. This company was mixing owner money with their own operating expenses, effectively “dipping into the cookie jar” without the owners knowing it. Ask your property manager if he or she has 100% of all owners’ money accounted for and separate from operating expenses, and ask if he or she can prove it!
TurnKey keeps all owner deposits, rent due, and money set aside for housekeepers and other vendors in a separate “trust” account. All TurnKey finances are audited by a third-party accounting firm annually. TurnKey does not use money due to owners to fund the business and neither should your property manager. Property managers should keep your money safe – after all, it is your money, not theirs!
Are you using secure, one-time-use digital locks at my home to keep my home, my guests and my family safe?
The most common way of gaining access to a vacation rental is still through some sort of key exchange or dummy-code key lockbox. Do you feel safe knowing that countless guests and vendors have shared a code for your key lockbox and have had the opportunity to make copies of your house keys? We also know of a large property management company that was using the same exact lockbox code on all of its rentals in one ski town!
At TurnKey, we find the widespread use of shared codes and keys extremely worrisome. Purpose-built, one-time-usage digital locks have been on the market for years. These locks are expensive to buy and install and require a robust system in place for changing the codes for every single visitor or vendor. We understand that most property managers do not want to pay for these locks or the system to support them; in contrast, TurnKey prioritizes owner and guest safety, and we pay to purchase and install secure locks on every home possible. Ask your property manager why he or she doesn’t use these locks and why he or she thinks key exchanges are still secure.
How quickly and consistently do you pay owners and vendors?
At TurnKey, we aim to pay all owners within seven business days of the end of the month. Usually, we pay owners sooner than that timeframe. We know of other property managers who pay their owners up to 45 days after the end of the month! What takes them so long? Why are they sitting on your earned rent for so long? Ask your property manager what the delays are and why you can’t get your rent money faster.
At TurnKey, we realize it is important to pay vendors quickly as well. We know of property managers who pay their housekeepers or handymen well after the end of the month. Vendors need to be paid quickly! TurnKey makes the fastest vendor payments that we know of in the business. Housekeepers, handymen and tradesmen all get paid via ACH within 72 hours of completing their work, so they have a clear record of the payment and no need to deposit a check. Happy vendors do quality work for our owners and guests!
Where will you market my property?
In the same way they look for hotels, consumers look for vacation rentals on online sites like VRBO, HomeAway, VacationRentals.com, TripAdvisor/Flipkey, Airbnb, and Booking.com. If you want to generate the most demand for your rental, the listing had better be on as many prominent sites as possible! Ask your property manager what type of listings and which sites he or she uses to market homes, because many sites require premium listings to gain the most exposure. At TurnKey, we market our homes on all of the major sites, and we consistently do what it takes to have the highest ranked listings.
How do you create a truly professional-looking listing for my property?
One of the most important aspects of marketing your property is creating a professional-looking listing. Ask your property manager if he or she hired a professional photographer to display your property in the best possible way as well as a professional copywriter to make sure your property has the best description. We know of one large property management firm that mails their local general managers a basic camera and asks them to take the pictures on their own! These are not the high-quality photos you should expect.
At TurnKey, we pay for professional photographers at every home, so you get the best photos possible. We also use professional travel copywriters to build each description. Having this level of service is not cheap, but TurnKey covers the cost, and it pays for itself by generating more revenue for our owners. How do we know these tactics work? Last fall, TurnKey was the highest-converting large property manager on the HomeAway network of sites – better content leads to more bookings. We also convert 40% of all guest stays into guest reviews on HomeAway, which is twice the industry average and one of the most important aspects of getting more future bookings.
Are you available 24/7 and how quickly do you respond to guests?
HomeAway reports that responsiveness is one of the most important factors to guests when deciding where to book. At TurnKey, we staff our guest team 24/7. On average, we respond to 95% of email inquiries within 5 minutes around the clock. We answer over 90% of all guest phone calls with no hold time, and our average hold time is less than a minute when guests do get put on hold. Ask your property manager how he or she performs!
How do you measure guest happiness, and what is your average guest review rating?
The ultimate achievement in vacation rental management is happy guests. Guests should be pleased with the booking process, ease of entry to the home, cleanliness of the home upon arrival, and their overall stay. How does your property manager prove to you that your guests are satisfied?
At TurnKey, we asks guests to rate the cleanliness of the home upon arrival and the overall experience of the stay. Almost 95% of guests rate the cleanliness of the property as 4 or 5 stars upon arrival, and 98% of all consumer reviews left on HomeAway are 4 or 5 stars. We also show every single review and rating to our owners so owners can see exactly what guests have to say about their home. Additionally, we get twice the industry average number of guest reviews, as discussed above.
Please explain ALL of the fees my guests or I will be charged and what happens with those fees.
You might be surprised by what costs are hidden. Commission is not the only fee that comes out of owner revenue. We’ve seen statements with everything from monthly maintenance fees to tax payment fees to marketing reimbursements. In some cases, the fees make perfect sense, but we encourage all owners to understand them.
At TurnKey, we recently dropped our $20 special work-order fee to make our statements easier to understand. Now, simple maintenance visits have no additional fees. Our fees overall are pretty simple: we charge 18% commission, we share in the 2.5% credit card fee, and we share in any/all travel agent or website booking fees. We charge the owner $7 per reservation for high-quality guest supplies and the consumer a service fee. We use that fee to directly pay for travel agent or website booking fees, and we pass that fee onto our owners when there is no agency fee.
Our fees are transparent, well explained and easy to understand on your owner statements. We don’t mask fees or remove agent commissions on statements like some property managers do. With TurnKey, you’ll always know exactly where you stand and won’t be wondering what costs are hidden.
What if I decide I want to work with a different property manager?
Many property managers have full one-year agreements. In numerous cases, we have seen two year agreements. We even saw an owner agreement that required an owner to work with a manager at least a year just to get paid money owed when that manager bought out their old property manager! Ask your property manager what happens if you decide you want to work with someone else.
At TurnKey, our agreements contain simple thirty-day cancellation notices. If we don’t perform for our owners month in and month out, why should owners be handcuffed by a long-term deal? Signing with TurnKey is a no-risk proposition. If we don’t do a better job than other managers, we don’t deserve your business.
If you would like to get a better idea of exactly how TurnKey operates, take a look at our extensive, public owner FAQ section; ask your property manager if he or she can provide you with this level of detail too!