How to set yourself up for successful rental management
- Apr 25, 2018 | Heather Bayer
Successful vacation rental owners and hosts are organized. Their calendars are up to date on every listing platform; booking processes are streamlined and easily monitored; payments are processed efficiently; and lodging taxes are collected appropriately and remitted promptly.
Relations with guests are managed in a methodical and strategic manner, emergencies are dealt with swiftly, and tax payments are never missed.
If you struggle with this type of workflow, always seem to be in chaos, or just one step ahead of the next double booking, then it’s worth taking a look at what the power owners are doing, because it’s not rocket science. They’re simply prepared for any eventuality and have systems in place to manage their business professionally.
Reservation management systems
If you have all your eggs in one basket and list on just one site such as Airbnb or Home Away, investing in a booking system may be unnecessary. However, once you begin to spread your marketing across a number of listing platforms, while simultaneously taking direct bookings from your own website, a system for managing reservations becomes more of a necessity.
There are numerous systems available at widely varying price points so it’s worth doing thorough research before making a decision.
Make a list of the features you need — and those you don’t. For example, do you need channel management, meaning the software will ensure guest reservations and property information are updated and consistent across all online platforms? Or, do you just need a simple system that will show all your bookings on a calendar, automatically collect payments, and produce invoices, booking statements, and confirmations?
This example from OwnerRez shows the type of display most property management systems offer.
Perhaps you don’t know what you want in terms of features — it’s easy to get caught up in the wealth of functions offered — and subsequently buy in at a higher level than you really need. In this case, the comparison site, Capterra can be helpful with its list of 117 vacation rental software companies, including consumer reviews. What we like is that the reviewers’ company details are shown so you can connect with them and get to speak directly.
If you don’t want to spend money on a booking system, that’s understandable, particularly if you have just one property. Many owners still rely on spreadsheets and manual calendar updates, which is fine as long as you’re always on top of the latest reservation.
The legal part
It’s surprising how many owners don’t have a rental agreement they require their guests to sign. Given the value of a property, a binding contract between the lead guest and the property owner that lays out the expectations of each party is an important part of the arrangement.
Just think of the paperwork you have to complete and sign when renting a car or a boat … or even a bike. This includes waivers of liability as well as clauses that relate to cancellation of the agreement, disputes, and how refunds and rebates are handled. So, it seems like a no-brainer to have a legal contract covering a rental as well.
You may see these named differently. In traditional home rentals they’re often called Terms and Conditions of Rental, while on Airbnb they’re referred to as House Rules.
Organized owners cover all their bases and having a contract or comprehensive house rules that need to be signed or agreed to makes dealing with complaints and issues much easier.
For an idea of what a formal Terms and Conditions document looks like, download a sample document here.
If you’ve been in the vacation rental business for any length of time, you know that things happen, out of the blue, that you could never expect. Savvy owners are fully prepared for anything and everything that might occur, from a pesky dripping tap to the call we all dread — “I think I’ve been bitten by a bedbug.”
Emergency planning is part of setting up professionally, and it’s something that needs to be done well in advance of the tree falling on a guest’s car, the stove breaking down on New Year’s Eve, or the dead goose on the lawn. Yes, these have all happened!
Download these 10 Steps to Emergency Preparedness to take you through all you need to do to be way ahead of any issues that might occur.
Paying the bills
We all know that things can slip through the cracks, and bill paying just seems to be one of those that gets left to the last minute.
There’s usually a team involved with any vacation rental property, from cleaners and maintenance people to tradespeople such as plumbers and pest controllers. Organized owners have regular and variable payments planned in advance and accounted for.
A good reservation system will have an accounting category for vendors in their platform that links into QuickBooks or other accounting software, so payments made to a service provider can be tracked. For smaller businesses, it may be more prudent to hire a bookkeeper for a couple of hours per month to keep these transactions up to date.
And, if you’re required to pay hospitality taxes to a local authority or state, Avalara MyLodgeTax can take care of determining your lodging rate, preparing, filing, and paying the taxes that are due.
So, there you are. It’s not rocket science. Those seemingly super-efficient owners are simply using strategies that streamline their businesses and make business operations easier to manage and there are plenty of resources available to help you become as organized as they are.
For more insight from Heather Bayer, visit Cottage Blogger or attend her annual Vacation Rental Success Summit.