How to Manage Your Vacation Rental Home Remotely

In today’s digital age, it’s entirely possible to manage your vacation rental home remotely. As a homeowner, it is entirely possible to live in a different city or state than your rental property. Thanks to technological advances, the internet, and highly specialized property managers, homeowners can remotely manage their vacation rentals and outsource the work it takes to have a thriving vacation rental business.

But because the vacation rental property industry constantly changes and innovates, it can be hard to keep up with your competition, regulations, what your guests need, and more. Here are the top tips and tricks to manage your vacation rental home remotely, according to a few industry experts.

Respond to guest questions about your vacation rental ASAP

The biggest complaint homeowners have is the necessity to be online around the clock for their guests, according to TurnKey Director of Expert Assist Lyndsay Varner.

“You have to be around to quickly respond to guest inquiries in hopes of securing a reservation, then you must be available for any issues/requests that could happen during a guests stay,” Varner said. “An owner that doesn’t live in the same location as their rental adds another element.”

Handling booking requests becomes even trickier when you take into consideration the myriad of time zones potential guests could be looking at booking you in. You probably won’t be awake when a family from Europe requests to book your cabin in Aspen.

Homeowners can streamline booking by allowing their guests to “instant book,”  but instant booking has its downsides, as well; you won’t be able to screen your guests as thoroughly, for example.

Keep your property listing up-to-date

On top of responding speedily to booking requests, it’s important to keep property listing photos current and respond to customer reviews. These tasks can get tedious and time-consuming. Some property owners find relief in hiring a third-party to step in and take control of the communication. TurnKey, for example, has a Guest Experience Team available 24/7 that guests can text, call, or email at all hours with any issues. That way you can relax and actually enjoy the extra income your home provides.

It’s also crucial to know how much your home is worth and where to list it online. Home rental rates vary dramatically throughout the year—and even throughout the week—so your home’s rate should change daily to match the market rate, which can get pretty tedious. TurnKey properties, for example, have different price points midweek versus weekends, on holidays and peak periods, and in the off-season. TurnKey sets those initial prices based on several factors like input from each owner, characteristics of the home, comparable home prices in the area, and guidance from the local General Manager.

Find a reliable housekeeper or home cleaning company

Guests expect a spotless home when they arrive for their vacation. That can be a hard expectation to meet when you manage your own vacation rental remotely; you’ll rarely be the person who prepares the home before guests arrive. Sam Zuo, who manages over 10 vacation homes throughout California, said this was one of his biggest struggles. “We solve this by only working with the best independent cleaner or a cleaning company,” he told TurnKey.

TurnKey homeowner Jeff Anderson thinks hiring a good maid service is also the most important responsibility a homeowner has.

“Nothing is more important that presenting your property in the best way possible,” he said. “That starts with a clean, clean property.  The money spent on a good maid service will easily be the best money you spend. Bad reviews over a poorly cleaned property are very hard to overcome.”

But actually finding an excellent cleaning service can be difficult, especially because homeowners don’t want to find them by trial and error.

“Finding reliable vendors such as housekeepers can be frustrating,” Varner said. “What happens when your cleaner cancels the same day as your check-in? Very few owners have a large encyclopedia of references to choose from.”

Keeping a list of recommended, local housekeepers will help you avoid getting stuck in an unfortunate situation where you need a room cleaned in a pinch. When homeowners partner with a property management company like TurnKey, the company handles all of this for an owner. TurnKey finds the cleaners, schedules them, and makes sure that your guests are completely satisfied with the outcome.

Build a home care vendor network

Finding a great cleaning service is just one of many services remote vacation rental homeowners should think about. Homes that are well taken care of also need a reliable maintenance company, a lawn care company, pest control company, and more.

“Understand the business by breaking down the components that are in their day-to-day,” Zuo said. “Figure out which part you can outsource and remove yourself.”

This is increasingly important as a remote vacation rental homeowner.

Additionally, a success rental homeowner should consider hiring someone who is available to be on-site in case a guest needs immediate assistance.

Follow vacation rental technology trends

Every year, new technology is introduced to the vacation rental home industry that can streamline the way you communicate with your guests.

Digital smart locks, for example, are a reliable and secure method to welcome guests to your home without actually being there to open the front door. Each guest has their own code that is only valid during the time of their stay, and housekeepers and vendors are issued unique one time codes for when they need to clean or make a repair at your property.

Anderson found that by hiring TurnKey to manage his property, he could rest assured that he had the newest technology implemented in his home and didn’t need to worry about seeming out-of-touch to guests. It’s also allowed him to use top-of-the-line management software.

“Their web management portal for keeping up with rentals, maid cleanings, maintenance, as well as financial matters are really well-done,” he said. “This is a great tool, and allows me to very quickly assess where things stand at a moments notice. I’ve really enjoyed having all that information all in one place within easy access.”

Connect with other vacation rental homeowners

Connecting with fellow vacation rental homeowners will provide you not only with a sense of communal support, but with more resources to streamline your own business.

Zuo said he got started in the industry by joining Facebook groups and reading blogs online. Now Zuo facilitates a Facebook group where 800+ renters on Airbnb come together to help one another grow their business by sharing ideas, best practices, and asking questions.

His Facebook group is also connected to a blog he runs, called Passive Airbnb, that gives advice to renters who hope to manage their properties remotely while making six figures. His blog publishes articles that guide homeowners in pricing their homes, navigating the Airbnb website, and how to become a superhost on Airbnb.

There are also hyper local Facebook groups for rental homeowners, such as the Austin Airbnb Hosts, that can provide more accurate information for the local industry. Every city has their own renter community, economy, and best practices; joining a Facebook group is a great step to familiarizing yourself with the community.

Become a short-term rental advocate

Varner recommends vacation rental homeowners get active with local legislative bodies because of the ever-changing environment of short term rentals where local laws constantly change.

In Austin, for example, the city council took a stance against homes that are full-time rentals in 2015 and voted to have them outlawed in the city by 2022.

“Since our inception we have also seen changes to markets like Santa Barbara and Nashville,” she said. “Keeping up with the local temperature allows homeowners to reach out to representatives, attend council meetings, and make sure their voice is heard.”

Hire a vacation rental property manager

If all of this is starting to sound overwhelming, you’ll want to hire a property manager who specializes in vacation rentals.

Anderson said the need to hire so many outside vendors led him to partnering with TurnKey to manage his home.

“I’ve been leasing a short-term rental property for over 20 years, and I’ve always paid for someone to help me with fielding calls and collecting funds, meeting the renters and so forth,” he said. “The biggest struggle that I’ve had is pulling all of the other pieces together.”

Some of of those struggles included tracking damages made to his home and collecting on that damage, collecting taxes and paying taxes annually, and ensuring he hired a maid who would show up.

“Having one point of contact, one company, manage all of those things from A to Z has been a game changer for me,” he said.

TurnKey sends its homeowners a monthly statement detailing how much rental revenue you earned, how much tax they collected and will pay on your behalf, and any charges that you may have incurred during the month, which makes keeping track of money easy.  

If you do decide to hire a property manager to take control of outsourcing, Anderson said it’s important to maintain a communicative relationship with the company.

“Make sure that they have the support and the assurance that when they do need something from you, you make sure it gets done,” Anderson said. “Good and timely communication is incredibly important.”

As new companies and technologies are created and innovate, homeowners are offered more options and tools to manage their vacation rental properties. Following these tips and tricks can help ensure a smooth and enjoyable rental process for both homeowners and guests.

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