Vacation Rental Management Demystified: Marketing Only vs. Full-Service Property Management

With a number of options available to vacation rental owners, choosing a property management company can be a challenge. Homeowners have to consider each company’s unique style, reputation, and specialty to ensure they’re making the best decision for their property.

However, there are three distinct types of property managers:

  1. Those that offer marketing and booking services only
  2. Those that offer marketing and booking services but say they are “full-service”
  3. Those that are truly full-service and do handle everything

To help you make the best decision possible, this post will explain the major differences between these types of management offerings. You’ll learn how each service offer has affected real vacation rental owners and what questions to ask to identify each property manager type.

Property Management: Marketing Only

Whatever management company you choose, you can usually expect a standard suite of services that include placing a listing on major rental websites, handling all bookings, and responding to inquiries before and after a guest’s stay. It’s the industry minimum when it comes to vacation rental property management.

Most management services will also help you set up or improve your listing by providing photography and well-written, optimized descriptions to give your rental a professional appearance.

If you list your home with a company that is “marketing only,” be sure to ask where they advertise your listing. If your home is listed on less than 10 sites, you are missing out on guests looking to book your home. With hundreds of vacation rental sites out there, you need a vacation rental manager that maximizes your listing’s reach.


Advantages of Full-Service Vacation Rental Property Management

Offering on-the-ground service during a guest’s stay marks one of the biggest differences between full-service management and companies that only offer marketing and booking.

If a guest has an issue while on your property, a full-service management company will take the call and assume responsibility for resolving the issue.

Without this service, you are responsible for answering those guest calls (even those that come in middle-of-the-night) or hiring an outside company to do it for you.

For Chuck Heller, who owns a vacation rental in Meek’s Bay, CA, trusting these tasks to his full-service vacation rental management company is a huge benefit. “I live four hours away, so it’s hard for me to respond to those kinds of issues,” he says.

Colleen Callahan is an insurance professional who owns a vacation rental in Hawaii and also uses a full-service property management company. The company’s on-the-ground response to renters helps her address one of her biggest challenges: customer service.

“They work very hard to have appliances fixed or repaired if necessary. They want the guest to be happy and to enjoy their visit,” she says.

A company that focuses on only marketing your property is leaving a big piece of the work left for you to figure out. Why does that matter from a monetary perspective? A negative review can hurt your future bookings. If a guest has an emergency in the middle of the night, you want a service provider ready to take the call that is as invested as you are in seeing that the guest’s needs are met.

When you offer excellent service to guests, you create loyal customers for life. While you might be able to offer such service as an owner, many owners live far away from their home or are simply too busy.


Why 24/7 Local Support Makes All the Difference

Whichever type of management you choose, be sure you’re clear on whether the company can deliver its services in your area.

Sue Willoughby, a realtor in Seattle, recently bought a home in a small town and started using a marketing and booking management service. The company typically helps owners hire local service providers, including photographers, plumbers, and housekeepers.

“However, because of the location, they’ve been challenged in finding resources,” says Willoughby, who has had to take on much of that work herself.

“It’s a little frustrating . . . they’re not set up to deal with properties that aren’t in a big market area,” she adds.

Marketing-only sites like Evolve claim to offer their services in many locations but since their network is a loosely connected group of vendors, they are not equipped to offer the same level of service as they might in Seattle.

Full-service vacation rental management companies like TurnKey only operate where they have a local footprint. When a company operates locally, vendors know the company and value their business. The close business relationship inherent in a locally operating property manager and a local vendor results in excellent service like taking middle-of-the-night calls for a guest issue.  


How Guest Support Will Impact Your Rental’s Success

When a guest finds your property online, they are hopefully compelled to book because you have a professional listing. All property management services, even marketing-only property managers, offer a reservation staff to take bookings from guests and then hand them off to you. Your vacation rental management company should respond to every inquiry promptly since that is a huge factor to your home’s position in the all-important search results.

Most vacation rental management companies earn commission off of bookings, so they only make money when your property makes money. Naturally, they are motivated to field guest questions and get them booked in your rental.

However, only providing reservation booking support could leave serious gaps in your vacation rental management.

While some marketing-only companies might handle providing access instructions to guests, how will guests actually access the home? If you have to coordinate a key exchange, you’re adding a needless hassle and time-intensive step. If you are providing a key hiding place, your rental is not secure.

The most secure option is a custom digital lock which offers convenience for guests and peace of mind that your rental is always secure by delivering customized time-sensitive codes to guests and vendors.


What Vacation Rental Homeowner Support Should Really Mean

Full-service vacation rental management at TurnKey comes with dedicated account management support. We offer a personal connection to each homeowner who is invested in your property’s success. 90% of our homeowners said homeowner support was important, very important or extremely important.

Heller also appreciates some of the small-scale services he receives from the full-service management company he partnered with.

For example, when he needs to order an item for his rental home, he reaches out to a member of his management team, who is happy to receive the package, drive it to the property and place it in the home.
“The fact that they’re willing to go the extra mile to do that – it’s pretty great,” says Heller.

When considering your property management options, ask yourself this: Are you prepared to settle for partial management of your home? Or do you want to experience the peace of mind a full-service property manager can provide that you are receiving the most from your investment.

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