5 Questions with TurnKey Experts: International Women’s Day

In honor of International Women’s Day and National Women’s History Month, TurnKey Vacation Rentals is launching our new series – Questions with TurnKey Experts – by interviewing 10 women team members on their expertise in the vacation rental industry.

As a new member of the TurnKey team (we’re hiring btw!), these interviews lent themselves to a kind of second onboarding as well as an introduction to some awesome women across various departments. With each interview educating me more than the last and making me feel really proud to be a part of such a dedicated and knowledgeable team— I couldn’t be more excited to highlight some of the women at our TurnKey offices. 

The Hard-Hitting Questions:

  1. What are some of the biggest challenges facing vacation rental homeowners today?
  2. What is something everyone should know before entering the vacation rental industry?
  3. What has been the most effective marketing strategy for generating more bookings?
  4. How have you seen homeowners be successful in this space?
  5. What has been an effective revenue strategy in helping homeowners increase their revenue?

In an effort to gain deeper insight into the ever-evolving vacation rental landscape, we asked 10 TurnKey women with various areas of expertise to choose one of the most asked vacation rental industry questions to answer (they were really into question 4!) and they did not disappoint. Questions with TurnKey Experts offers a fresh perspective on everything from hiring property managers to pricing strategies to making your vacation rental property stand out— so whether you’re a vacation rental homeowner or a vacationer— you’ll be sure to learn something from our TurnKey team.

TurnKey team members at a company party.
TurnKey Team Party

1. What are some of the biggest challenges facing vacation rental homeowners today?

Whitney Elenbaas, Regional Sales Manager

Before the rise of VRBO and Airbnb, the vacation rental market was quite small. If a guest arrived to a few broken items or a non-updated rental, this was considered normal and was overlooked by most visitorsthe expectations generally were lower than traditional hotel-style accommodation. As vacation rentals become more and more popular, this expectation has risen exponentially. Now, the norm is a 5-star hotel-like accommodation with an updated unit and spotless interior and exterior.

The guest now expects all issues to be taken care of in a timely manner, quick and solid communication and extras to make their stay comfortable, such as a concierge service and special touches like boot warmers in ski markets and beach accessories in warmer climates.

As vacation rentals become more and more popular, this expectation has risen exponentially. Now, the norm is a 5-star hotel-like accommodation with an updated unit and spotless interior and exterior.

With this expectation and the increase in occupancy, the traditional FRBO (For Rent By Owner) can’t keep up unless this is their full-time job. The perception that this is quick and easy cash without a lot of time and commitment to an owner is something a FRBO quickly realizes is false. Once this perception comes to light, homeowners have to make an important decision: do I make this my full-time job or hire a vacation rental management company? Then comes the multitude of choices for vacation rental management companies. Do I do marketing-only, full-service, local, national, etc.?

My advice as someone deeply invested in this industry is to make sure any company you choose to manage your property meets your needs and expectations. Ask a lot of questions, such as how do you screen guests, what are your insurance policies, how do you care for your homes, how do you price homes, and what technology is being used?

2. What is something everyone should know before entering the vacation rental industry? 

Liz Cantu, Tax Manager

The advice I would give anyone entering into the vacation rental industry is: do your research. With the vacation rental industry being such a hot investment right now, many individuals eager to invest will dive in before doing the necessary research to make sure their investment is as profitable as possible. First and foremost, interested vacation property homeowners should keep an eye out on regulation changes.

Cities and counties have taken notice of the short-term rental industry and they are eager to regulate it to fit their community, so new homeowners need to be aware of the regulations in the areas they are thinking of purchasing homes in. Conducting research before taking the plunge in the vacation rental industry will give you the best opportunity to be successful and to set appropriate expectations for when you enter the wonderful world of vacation rentals. 

New modern vacation rental homes in Nashville, TN.
TurnKey Vacation Rental in Nashville, TN

3. What is something everyone should know before entering the Vacation Rental Industry?

Laura Weldon, Regional Operations Director

Coming from the Hotel world for my entire career prior to Turnkey, I would say there are many similarities between the traditional hotel industry and the short-term vacation rental market. One of which being that we are all in the hospitality industry. However, while the hotel industry is very set, vacation rentals are ever-changing— whether by home, location or permit. 

The biggest challenge is to learn to manage remotely. Unlike a hotel, guests aren’t all in the same building. You have to make sure communication is on point for every single one of them. Not every property or home is the same as well— you have to learn them all. The most important thing to know is to be ready for change and lots of it. This is a new hospitality field and it’s ever-changing. There are no set policies or processes. And anyone new to the industry has to be prepared to learn along the way. It is incredibly rewarding, challenging and fun all at the same time. 

4. What has been the most effective marketing strategy for generating more bookings?

Kayla Peaden, Digital Marketing Manager

Marketing is foundational to the success of any vacation rental. There are multiple tactics that work together to generate traveler interest and ultimately a booking. In order to be effective, the vacation rental home needs a compelling listing and needs to be promoted through a multi-channel approach. 

At TurnKey not only do we create each property listing on our website with comprehensive descriptions and quality photos for homeowners, we also distribute to 50+ other listing sites and promote the homes through various channels. Some of those channels include email marketing, search engine marketing, social media, affiliate programs, and display or native advertising.

Property featured in Bend Magazine in Oregon.
Claypool House in Bend, Oregon

In order to be effective, the vacation rental home needs a compelling listing and needs to be promoted through a multi-channel approach. 

We are able to be effective in each channel by leveraging first and third-party data to re-engage our current audience and extend our reach to new travel-intent consumers who are more likely to book. We are fortunate to have insightful first-party data and the opportunity to really tailor our messaging to consumers, which generates more impactful experiences and garners more bookings for homeowners. 

5. How have you seen homeowners be successful in this space?

Laura Forster, Director of Business Development

My best advice for homeowners is to make your property listing stand out with “instagrammable” design that catches people’s eyes. Online shopping for vacation homes is just like Tinder. Shoppers swipe through a sea of grey and white and having bright pops of color can really catch people’s eyes. I would encourage you to create unique decor that compliments the destination and stands out from the crowd in photos. I’ve seen some homeowners create beautiful, hand-painted murals in their homes that you simply won’t forget. Some homeowners even create their own Instagram account and encourage guests to tag their location information in photos. Check out @nash.pad for some good insta inspiration!

Online shopping for vacation homes is just like Tinder. Shoppers swipe through a sea of grey and white and having bright pops of color can really catch people’s eyes.

6. How have you seen homeowners be successful in this space?

Lyndsay Varner, Director of Product Management, Development

Homeowners who understand that their property value increases as they invest more into their home seem to maximize their revenue. What does this mean? Homeowners who invest in added amenities – whether it be a pool or a hot tub or just nicer linens and kitchen supplies – will see a greater return. Investing in a company like TurnKey to manage your property also allows you to rely on a professional to recommend the kinds of upgrades that lead to more interest and bookings. Brand loyalty to TurnKey from other guests and other properties in our portfolio also has the ability to positively impact you as a homeowner.

Homeowners who invest in added amenities – whether it be a pool or a hot tub or just nicer linens and kitchen supplies – will see a greater return.

Things will break, you will have particular/unreasonable guests, and some months will be more lucrative than others, but keeping your eye on the prize will ground you and allow you to reach your potential. Annual revenue is more important than nightly rates. Annual damage analysis is more important than the one-party stay. Your average review rating far outweighs the two peculiar guests … it’s all about perspective.

New beachfront property listing in California.
Ventura, CA

7. How have you seen homeowners be successful in this space?

Erin Bracke, VP of Sales – Interim

The most successful vacation rental owners tend to have certain things in common:

  • Clear goals in mind and a plan in place to achieve them—by way of investment, maintenance and calendar availability. 
  • View their property as a business—where the host prepares and stages the space to be guest-friendly—versus personal, between owner visits.
  • An understanding of revenue management, rate-setting concepts and trust in the process and professionals to optimize their results. 

All owners have different personal motivations—some want to retire earlier, some want to set aside money for their children’s college and others just want to offset the cost of a special family vacation home where they can make their own memories. The truth is, it’s very possible to reach goals such as these with a successfully managed vacation rental. We love helping homeowners achieve their goals!

8. How have you seen homeowners be successful in this space?

Rebecca Bradford, Regional Homeowner Success Manager

The most successful owners in the vacation rental space are ones that remain flexible. Having flexibility with both your rental rates and the minimum number of nights required to book a stay will help cast a wider net and in turn, secure more bookings. The ability for travelers taking last-minute business trips or families on a budget to stay at your home will help increase your overall annual revenue. Additionally, securing more bookings like this will help your listing performance, as listings with more reviews typically appear higher in search results. 

There is a common misconception in the industry that lower rates or shorter stays result in “a certain type of guest.” In my experience, this has not been the case. If anything, it has been quite the opposite! More often than not, guests who are on a budget or only have the ability to go on shorter trips take extra measures to ensure that your home is exceptionally cared for, since they may not have the extra funds to cover the cost of damage.

For most folks, their vacation rental home is one of their largest assets and holds a considerable amount of sentimental value, so it can be fairly nerve-wracking when you first open your home to travelers. However, understanding that there is a wide spectrum of guests and catering to the needs of each of those guests will result in greater success for the Owner in the long run.

9. How have you seen homeowners be successful in this space?

Krystal Kim, Onboarding Team Manager

Successful relationships are built on trust, and trust must be a key pillar in the foundation with our homeowners. When we establish the initial relationship with a new homeowner—communicating clear goals and expectations provides a strong foundation and encourages both sides to be invested in each others success. By earning the trust of our homeowners early on, this allows them to trust that they can be hands-off, while also allowing our teams to really own the responsibility of taking care of the homes and guests—thereby delivering the peace of mind our homeowners are looking for. 

Successful relationships are built on trust, and trust must be a key pillar in the foundation with our homeowners.

10. What has been an effective strategy in helping homeowners increase their revenue?

Chelly Ye, Revenue Management Analyst

The most effective tactic to help every homeowner maximize their revenue is always pricing to the market. Our Revenue Management Team continuously makes data-driven pricing adjustments to meet the evolving market demand. Rates are adjusted based on demand, supply, seasonality, lead time and real-time market trends. Every home undergoes this process and every homeowner reaps the benefits.

#TurnKeyTakeaway:

Frequently asked vacation rental industry questions answered:

  1. What are some of the biggest challenges facing vacation rental homeowners today?
    • Rising guest expectations. As vacation rentals become more and more popular, the guests expect accommodations similar to 5-star hotels.
  2. What is something everyone should know before entering the Vacation Rental Industry?
    • Vacation rentals are ever-changing—whether by home, location or permit. This is a new hospitality field where there are no set policies or processes and anyone new to the industry has to be prepared to learn along the way. 
  3. What has been the most effective marketing strategy for generating more bookings?
    • A compelling listing that is promoted through a multi-channel approach is required in order to generate traveler interest and ultimately convert guests.
  4. How have you seen homeowners be successful in this space?
    • Make your property listing stand out with “instagrammable” design and unique decor that catches people’s eyes.
  5. What has been an effective revenue strategy in helping homeowners increase their revenue?
    • Always pricing to the market.

What are some of your takeaways from this interview? Share with us in the comments!

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