Avalara MyLodgeTax > Blog > Industry Insight > Do-it-yourself short-term vacation rental management

Do-it-yourself short-term vacation rental management

  • Mar 29, 2018 | Heather Bayer

It’s a lot easier to self-manage a vacation home than it was 10 years ago. Online vacation rental companies like Airbnb, HomeAway, and VRBO make it less time-consuming by taking care of the processes that used to be manual. Updating calendars, managing rate tables, altering text, and uploading photos can be done with minimal effort. However, travelers and online platforms have high expectations of owners to respond in a very short time, answer all questions, and resolve any problems — both before and during the vacation.

There are two ways to get all this done effectively. The first is to knuckle down, do it yourself, and become a multitasking wizard; the second is to engage a property management company and hand over all the onerous work to a third party.

What self-management entails

Hundreds of thousands of owners manage their own rentals and the majority of them use just one platform, such as Airbnb, to market and administer their bookings.

While there is still a lot involved in the way of dealing with guest inquiries, much of the booking process is automated. You get notified when a guest books; the communication all takes place within the platform; the guest stays and payment is transferred to your account less their small commission. Sometimes even the lodging taxes are taken care of and remitted to the appropriate authority on your behalf.

For those owners wanting to put all their eggs in one basket, that’s a great solution, but it gets a little more complex when you want to advertise on other platforms or accept direct bookings via your own website.

At this stage, self-management becomes more challenging as you’ll need to be on the ball with the different processes on each listing site.

To self-manage effectively you need to have the time to do all of the following, at a minimum:

  • Coordinate all the different listings and ensure they’re all kept up to date and consistent.
  • Update your own website and manage reservations, calendars, and payment processing.
  • Create a social media strategy to get your message out regularly.
  • Work with suppliers such as cleaners, maintenance providers, and any third parties who will manage in your absence.
  • Remarket to guests who have booked via third parties so they come to you directly the next time.
  • Manage the required lodging tax requirements.

Fortunately, there are a range of apps to help with many of these processes, from channel management resources that make listing on multiple sites simple and convenient, to complete reservation systems designed for independent owners. Then there are services that can look after the collection and remittance of lodging taxes.

5 resources to help with self-management

Buffer — manages all your social media channels from one place — schedule posts in advance.
OneRooftop — offers a reservation system, channel manager, and website design all for one reasonable monthly fee.
ActiveCampaign — provides marketing automation with list management, email marketing, and newsletters.
Avalara MyLodgeTax — determines, prepares, and remits hospitality and lodging taxes.
PointCentral — enables smart home automation systems for remote home management.

While self-management is not for everyone, if you’re organized and have the time to coordinate all these moving parts, it could be a good choice.

However, once you’ve weighed the options, you may well decide you’d like a third party to manage all or part of your rental business for you. That opens up a new set of choices.

From full-service management companies that will take care of every aspect of the process, to rental agencies that will do the marketing only while you look after the changeovers, there are many options for management.

The growth of Airbnb has fueled a new breed of companies called host managers who describe themselves as third-party companies that assist with hosting responsibilities like key exchanges, cleanings, and listing management. Unlike conventional property managers these organizations offer a laundry list of services from which you can pick and choose.

With so much choice, it’s important to step back and think hard about what you really want to let go, and how much you want to budget for third-party management. My next post will explore the most important aspect of this decision-making process.

For more insight from Heather Bayer, visit Cottage Blogger or attend her annual Vacation Rental Success Summit.

Lodging tax rates, rules, and regulations change frequently. Although we hope you'll find this information helpful, this blog is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal or tax advice.
Avalara Author
Heather Bayer
Avalara Author Heather Bayer
Heather Bayer is CEO of one of Ontario’s leading rental agencies, CottageLINK Rental Management, with an inventory of just under 200 waterfront properties. She has also owned and managed six of her own rental properties in Canada. As author, content creator, and blogger at www.cottageblogger.com, host of the Vacation Rental Success Podcast, and cofounder of The Vacation Rental Formula, Heather has been immersed in the vacation rental business for over 20 years and loves to share what she has learned along the way.