Owning a vacation rental can be a rewarding and lucrative endeavor. With work from home opportunities increasing and technology continuing to improve, it’s never been easier to jump into the vacation rental space. However, before you go on day-dreaming about your perfect vacation retreat, making your friends and family jealous, and earning significant income, you need to consider the work that’s involved. This may include the middle of the night A/C or heat repairs, guests complaining about locks or keys malfunctioning, your cleaners quitting on you the day of guest checkin, the list could go on and on. It’s definitely not all rainbows and butterflies.
BUT, it’s absolutely possible to successfully remote manage a vacation rental by understanding the potential challenges, planning for the unexpected, and leveraging tools and resources available to you.
In this article, we’ll go over all of the above broken out into easy to skip to sections. You can click on a link below to be taken directly to that segment of the article or read on to follow them in the order they were written.
1. What goes into vacation rental property management?
Before you even begin to search for a vacation rental property you need to understand what goes into the management. That will allow you to make an educated decision on whether you feel comfortable owning a remote vacation rental and what you should look for when shopping for a house.
Marketing The Vacation Rental
This has to be #1 as if you don’t have guests, your vacation rental business is already dead in the water. It’s always a big plus when you buy a vacation rental in a hot tourist destination as it takes some of the marketing stress out of it. But there are lots of vacation rentals in remote areas so it’s not a requirement. You should do research on vacation rental websites such as VRBO, & AirBNB to look at your competition. See what kind of price they are getting per night, see what they charge as a cleaning fee, see how booked their calendars seem to be.
Cleaning & Maintenance
This is probably #2 in importance. You have to have reliable cleaners in place. Your reviews will take a hit very quickly if the house is not being properly cleaned and bad reviews can be hard to recover from. You also need to be mindful of maintenance & critical components breaking. How much risk you have here will depend on the age of the home and how well it’s been up-kept. An older home will likely need more maintenance.
Communication & Messaging
You’ll need to communicate with your guests comfortably and often. Most issues can be solved or at least mitigated with fast and efficient communication. If you plan to self-manage, you need to be in a position where you could answer your phone 24×7 or at least return a call or text very quickly. Meaning, if your job could leave you without the ability to use your personal phone for hours at a time, it may be difficult to manage your own vacation rental.
Checkins & Checkouts
You’ll need to be available on these days to ensure a successful checkout, house flip and checkin if applicable. House checkout communication will ensure that checkout procedures are being followed and guests leave at an appropriate time. House flip will involve ensuring the cleaners show up as they are supposed to, the house is in tact and it’s ready for the next guests. Then you’ll want to ensure you’re available during checkin for any issues with finding the house, the locks, etc..
2. How do I manage a vacation rental property remotely?
Having success remotely managing your own vacation rental is absolutely possible. Thousands of hosts do it every day and continuous receive 5-star reviews and keep their houses in immaculate condition. On the flip side, hundreds of hosts also flunk out trying to remotely manage their vacation rental and end up selling the property (oftentimes at a loss) or hiring a property management company to take over. The success of a remote property manager boils down to two things: communication and preparation. Here are some tips to succeed in both areas.
Respond Quickly & Communicate Effectively
A fast response rate to guests can solve just about any issue. Most guests understand that situations outside of your control may arise but they want to know it is being dealt with. A/C went out? It happened to me within the first 6 months of owning our vacation rental. We talked with the guests, arranged an A/C tech to come out that day and fix it. Of course it wasn’t ideal for the guests but we received a terrific 5-star review due to our attentiveness.
Make Checkin Easy & Reduce Checkout Tasks
Checkin is probably the most critical procedure you should optimize. Guests are often exhausted and sometimes frustrated during travel. They may have driven for 8 straight hours with 3 young children or their plan got delayed or any number of other things that can happen on travel day. When they arrive at your accommodations, make sure they can get in instantly without hiccups. When it comes to checkout, keep tasks down to a minimum. Some checkout procedures with vacation rentals have become excessive. While it’s ok to asks guests to do things like take out the trash, it’s best to keep the list as short as possible.
Reliable Cleaners & Backups
Reliable cleaners who do a good job will be the backbone of your business. DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT, hire your cleaner based on cost alone. Spend the extra $10, $20 or $30 for a cleaner with experience that seems reliable and you will never regret it.
Even with a reliable cleaner in place, continue to search for a backup reliable cleaner. The day will come when your primary cleaner is sick, goes out of town, or has an emergency. Preparing for that in advance will allow you to sleep easy at night.
Have Contractor Contacts on Standby
Things will break that is a guarantee. With you being remote, it doesn’t matter how handy you are, you’ll probably need contractors on speed dial to handle emergencies. Start to gather those contractor names now before you’re in a pinch. Keep a notebook separated out into sections for plumbers, electricians, A/C repair, roof repair, etc.. A great place to find these names is in Short Term Rental groups on Facebook. Most cities have a local short term rental group that you can join and people are always posting emergency questions like, ‘My pipe burst, what’s the number for a good emergency plumber?’. When you see people respond, take note of the businesses they recommend and add them to your notebook.
Create A Digital Welcome Book To Empower Guests
This takes some effort on your end but will greatly reduce guest questions, make their stay more enjoyable and is one of the most important things you can do as a successful remote manager of your vacation rental.
Your welcome book will contain all the information the guests may need about the property including:
- Checkin Instructions
- How to work the A/C
- How to work the kitchen
- House rules
- Checkout instructions
- Nearby attractions
- The best restaurants
- The wifi password
- And on and on
For remote vacation rental hosts like yourself, we highly recommend going with a digital welcome guide for a few reasons:
- You can update it from anywhere. You’ll realize things you forgot to include as guests start asking you questions. When your welcome book is digital, you can update it with those new FAQs without having to stop by the vacation rental.
- You can send it to guests ahead of time. This cannot be overstated enough. Guests are always asking what your favorite restaurants are, best attractions, etc. as they plan their stay. Rather than answering this on a weekly basis, just send them a link to your guidebook.
- Digital guides have cool features. They make you look more engaged, more modern, more up to date. Appearance can go a long way into making the trip feel more organized.
Install Exterior Cameras
This may be a controversial topic but one we think is important to touch on. Cameras are fairly main stream these days and they can be so helpful in remote managing your vacation rental. Not necessarily for spying on your guests but just to know that guests have successfully checked in, checked out, your cleaner arrived, a repairman showed up, etc.. If you’re on the fence, keep cameras to a minimum or place them further away from the residence so they are more out of sight from the guests.
3. What are the benefits to managing my own vacation rental?
The most obvious benefit here is money. Vacation rental management companies take a significant portion of profits for their management work. Typically, somewhere in the 20-30% range. If your property is bringing in $60,000/year, that could be around $15,000 in management costs. That’s not to say vacation rental management companies are not worth that money as it is a time consuming and all-hours job but it’s always nicer when the money is in your pocket.
Another benefits to managing your own vacation rental property is the reviews you generate STAY with your account. Many people do not realize this when they sign-up for a vacation rental management company. The reviews left on your property are actually assigned to the host managing the property. Meaning, if you hire a vacation rental property, rack up 100 5-star reviews but then decide to self-manage later on, you start back at zero.
Experience is a third benefit we think is important to touch on. Just by the fact that you’re reading this article indicates this may be a side-hustle or full time professional gig you plan to be involved with. If that’s the case, there is no better way to learn the hospitality industry than doing it yourself. This could potentially open up the doors and give you the confidence to grow your business by adding vacation rental properties in the future.
4. Free Quiz – Should you self manage or hire a property management company?
Our team at GoGuidebook worked hard to put together a free and instant answer quiz that helps you determine whether you should self-manage, hire a vacation rental manage company or do a hybrid approach. The quiz can be found at the below link and we highly recommend taking it if you’re on the fence. The quiz is 9 questions and takes less than 5 minutes to complete. You’ll receive your recommendation instantly:
5. Best Tool For Managing Vacation Rentals Remotely
We’ve touched on just about everything in this article and we hope you feel like you’re in a much better place to remotely manage your vacation rental. If we had to pick just one tool to help hosts successfully remote manage, it would be a digital guidebook. We know we may be a little biased but it can streamline every aspect of your guests experience. We touched on it a little bit in section #2 but a digital guidebook can help improve:
- Guest checkin – ensuring they have all the information necessary to arrive at the vacation rental, park in the proper spot, gain access to the unit, get settled, etc..
- Have most, if not all the information they need to manage the house. Turning on A/C & heat, using the kitchen appliances, emergency information, fire extinguishers, etc.
- Things to do – One of the reasons guests turn to vacation rentals is to feel more local. Therefore, it’s common that guests will asks for things to do, top restaurants, bars, live music and so on. A digital guide can help you communicate that info and keep it updated.
For remote vacation rental managers, going digital with your welcome guide is even more important as it makes for easy updates. No matter where you are in the world, editing your vacation rental guidebook is only a few clicks away.