Homeowners in the vacation rental industry may hear about the possibility of outsourcing marketing and housekeeping to a property management company, but these 2 time-saving, revenue-generating perks only scratch the surface of what property management includes.
Property management for a rental home includes everything from home photography and listing support, to optimizing prices based on local events and answering guest questions at 1 a.m. It’s something many new rental homeowners start out thinking they don’t need—until they realize just how time consuming running a vacation rental business can be.
“For every reservation, there’s a life cycle, and with each reservation the homeowner is coordinating with the guest before they’re even a guest,” said Melissa Smith, Oregon Coast Sales Director for TurnKey Vacation Rentals. “It starts with inquiries (which alone are time-consuming), then updating calendars across all booking sites, and answering questions about parking and the neighborhood—that’s all before they walk through the door.”
Of course, this doesn’t even start to include the property management company’s responsibilities like writing listings, coordinating cleanings, responding to emergency maintenance requests, and so much more. In fact, the question “what does property management include?” may be better asked as “what does property management not include?” and today, we’ll show you why.
Vacation Rental Home Marketing
To attract ongoing rental home guests, homeowners need a thorough strategy to market their rental home. There’s an art to writing keyword-rich listings that home rental sites favor, but it’s tough to have this knowledge as a new or busy rental homeowner. That’s where a seasoned property management company brings a major advantage.
“Property managers know where to market the rental home and how to put together the best listings,” Smith said. “Homeowners may not have insights into what a booking site’s algorithm favors. For example, if listings don’t have specific keywords, filters, or a certain number of photographs, they won’t have a high search ranking.”
Beyond writing the listings and editing photographs, property management companies help homeowners reach as many people as possible with their listings. For example, TurnKey lists properties on more than 50 national and global sites, ensuring a homeowner’s property stays booked—and profitable—throughout the year.
“Our marketing is really aggressive, but it works,” Smith said. “We get our homes in front of about 95% of travelers by listing on all the big sites, as well as international and more niche marketing sites to keep the calendar more consistently full throughout the year.”
One area where Smith sees property management bringing a major advantage is pricing optimization for a rental homes. She sees homeowners set one price for the high season and one price for the low season, but setting two static prices and calling it a day leaves money on the table.
“A property manager has the inside scoop on key dates, which helps the homeowner generate more revenue,” she said. “We use a combination of local experts and dynamic pricing similar to hotels and airlines to price the home based on market demand. Take Colorado’s recent ski season, for example. Some towns will have their lifts open until June, but if the homeowner didn’t anticipate this and had pre-set prices, they’re missing out on a lot of money.”
Since guests expect real-time answers, property management companies make timely guest communication a priority. Property management companies like TurnKey have local teams available to answer guest questions 24/7 before, during, and after a guest’s stay.
Communication starts during the booking phase, when potential guests have questions about everything from availability to home policies. According to Smith, if homeowners wait to respond, the guests are significantly more likely to book elsewhere based on convenience and ease. That’s one perk of a property management company like TurnKey, – 24/7 customer service.
Next, before the guest arrives the property management company will share all necessary details, from parking instructions to local tips, to guarantee a positive experience from the get-go. Once guests start their trip, they’ll have easy access with keyless entry and TurnKey’s HomeDroid Tablet with important rental information, like WiFi access.
A property management company also responds to any emergency maintenance requests or late-night questions, with post-stay follow-up to secure reviews that keep the home attracting even more potential guests.
Rental Home Cleaning
According to TurnKey’s 2019 Consumer Travel Survey, cleanliness in the number one factor that impacts how a traveler feels about their stay. It’s the first thing guests notice when they arrive, and rental home cleanliness issues typically result in negative reviews.
With that in mind, a property management company like TurnKey makes housekeeping a priority so homeowners don’t have to worry about the associated negative reviews.
“With our cleaning program, housekeepers use a Samsung tablet and follow a digital, customized checklist for each house,” Smith said. “When the housekeeper is finished, they use the tablet to photograph each room, and we approve or reject the photos by comparing them to the staging shots. When guests show up, we want the home to look exactly as it did in the listing.”
Home Security and Safety
A common concern among homeowners is how their property is being used during a guest’s stay. Are they relaxing on the patio or throwing mega parties that could damage the house? It’s tough for homeowners to keep tabs on guests constantly, but property managers and their proprietary technologies can do the trick.
With a background in technology, TurnKey offers a number of diverse rental home tools to keep a home—and its guests—safe.
“We have a decibel monitor that plugs into an outlet and has a soundbar that reads decibels and pings us if the sound gets too loud,” Smith said. “If it happens a few times, it could tell us there’s a party going on or someone may be in trouble at the home. This gives us the ability to keep an eye on the house without being invasive.”
TurnKey’s proprietary WiFi router is also designed with a Bluetooth sniffer to keep an eye on how many devices—and therefore people—are occupying a home.
“Homeowners like that we have these tools because many don’t live in the same state or country as their homes,” Smith said. “They know they can depend on us to keep an eye on things.”
Since many homeowners don’t live in the same state or country as their property, it’s up to a property manager to keep track of preventative rental home maintenance. That’s why companies like TurnKey provide each homeowner with a specialized and local homecare supervisor to check on everything from light bulbs to leaks.
“Our homeowners have one person they work with directly who goes over to the home every two weeks (or more) to do home inspections,” Smith said. “A home is like a car; it needs to be run and tested regularly. That’s why our homecare supervisors anticipate any problems ahead of time, so homeowners have peace of mind.”
Rental Home Taxes
One of the most trying area for any business owner is taxes. Each industry has specific requirements and rules, and it’s challenging for homeowners to keep up with the industry’s ever-changing rental home tax laws. This is another area where property managers can relieve the homeowner’s headache.
“Owners love that we file taxes on their behalf,” Smith said. “When it comes to tax season, we just give them the documents and tell them to file them away. We have an entire tax team that helps with this.”
Is hiring a property manager right for me?
After reading about the ins and outs of property management, you may be wondering if you should hire a vacation rental property manager. A property management company takes care of the ins, outs, logistics, and legwork of running a successful rental home business. At the same time, it’s not for everyone. If an owner is only looking to book their home a handful of weekends per year or wants to greet every guest at the door, a full-time property manager may not be for them.
“It really depends on the homeowner’s situation and how much time they have,” she said. “If the homeowner has a full-time job, then a property manager is the obvious choice because they won’t have time to respond to inquiries or midday and late-night calls.”
How should I choose a property management company?
Once homeowners realize all of the services a property management company provides, it’s easy to jump at the first offer. But Smith recommends taking a step back and thoroughly evaluating a company before diving in because the right property management company can make a rental home business—but the wrong one could break it.
“Transparency is one of the biggest things to look for in a property management company,” Smith said. “For example, we give homeowners a lot of information, like payments and cleaning check-ins, through their online dashboard. Some log into their homeowner dashboards every few months while others sign in every time a guest checks out. We want them to be as involved as they’d like.”
Another way to tell whether the property management company is legitimate is whether or not they’re willing to invest in the home from the get-go. TurnKey, for example, installs about $3,500 worth of technology into the home (e.g., tablets, noise monitors, and keyless entry) before the first reservation at no charge to the homeowner. This early commitment shows homeowners that TurnKey is fully invested, Smith said.
For those ready to grow their rental home business through property management—or those who are simply interested in learning more—we’ve compiled a guide on how to successfully partner with a property manager. This detailed overview will help homeowners navigate the ins and outs of this new business relationship for a hands-off (yet highly successful) vacation rental business.
Interested in hiring a full-service property manager? Connect with us here.