Managing a vacation property can lead to a hefty To Do list, with responsibilities like
- Staying on top of business functions like taxes, fees and insurance,
- Keeping up with bookings, inquiries, payments and other administrative tasks,
- Promoting your property with effective marketing,
- Overall property management, including regular cleaning and maintenance, and
- Ideally, greeting guests on arrival, ensuring they have a great stay, and doing a walk-through before they leave.
One of the questions you’ll face early in your vacation rental business is: Who’s going to look after all of this?
A look a roles and terminology
When it comes to property management, options can vary not just by area but also by ingenuity. Some property management businesses now include things like concierge services, package deals, and other options that make it easier for travelers to plan and enjoy their vacations.
The names of these businesses (i.e. “agencies” or “companies”) can also vary, so you’ll need to clarify what’s available for your particular vacation rental. However, there are traditionally four concepts for you to consider:
- A full-service vacation rental agency. You won’t be completely out of the loop, but a full-service agency will look after everything from bookings to marketing, cleaning to on-site troubleshooting.
- A property manager, or property management company. A property manager will manage the day-to-day maintenance of your property and serve as contact if something comes up during a guest’s stay. However, someone else will need to look after marketing as well as reservations and inquiries.
- A booking service. A booking service will manage your reservations and respond to inquiries. They may or may not also assist with marketing, but you will still need to oversee maintenance and face-to-face service.
- Subcontractors and friends. If you’re firmly in the do-it-yourself crowd, you may choose to only involve others when absolutely necessary — for example, recruiting a friend to serve as a contact person when you’re not available, or hiring someone to do the cleaning between guests.
How involved do you want to be — or can you be?
Some owners want to be involved with their vacation rental as minimally as possible; others want to manage things themselves to save money, or so they know exactly what’s going on with their investment.
If there’s a good distance separating you and your vacation rental, your ability to be hands-on will be pretty limited. If you’re the hands-off sort of person, you’ll want to look at full-service property management options.
However, if you want to be partially involved or manage as much as possible on your own, there is a lot you can do whether you’re on a different continent or just down the street.
A report from HomeAway found that “vacation rental owners spend an average of 8.6 hours per week marketing and managing their vacation rental properties.” What you need to figure out — as realistically as possible — is how much time you have available to be involved with both the business and day-to-day responsibilities.
What services do you need for your vacation rental?
Playing to your strengths isn’t the only thing to consider, but it should definitely be part of the process; for example, services like MyVR.com can help you manage your marketing and inquiries from anywhere, but you’ll still need someone who can respond quickly if the air conditioner breaks.
List the major and ongoing tasks to run your rental property — the list at the beginning of this article is a good starting point! — and decide whether each activity fits within the time you have available, or if you need someone to help out.
What options best suit your budget?
Many vacation home owners choose to use a property management service to manage some or all of their vacation rental business. Not only do property managers have experience with other properties like yours, they may also have networks or advertising opportunities that are less accessible to owner-run properties.
This service comes with a price, however, and it can vary dramatically depending on the business and services provided. Some property managers scale their rates according to the support you actually need, so you may be able to negotiate a package that works for you.
To learn more about managing your vacation rental, check out these two posts:
- How much time to run a Vacation Rental by Owner? is a post by an owner that breaks down the amount of time they spend managing their property.
- How to Choose a Vacation Rental Property Manager is a transcript of a HomeAway interview with a property manager, discussing expectations and how property management works.
photo credit: Brittany Troyer