Whether you're stepping into shoulder season or gearing up for your busiest time, it’s never a bad time to get ahead of your vacation rental maintenance duties.
Don’t limit your focus to basic upkeep, however. To stay competitive, it can be valuable to do a broader review beyond vacation home maintenance to encompass operations and your promotional plan for the rest of the year.
First things first: check out the competition
As a property manager, maintenance is a good excuse to see what else is happening nearby and assess whether any other improvement projects should be on your radar.
1. Take a look at competing vacation rentals
What are their current rates and features, and how do your units compare? Are their rates set to change in the coming months? Compare their rates to your own and adjust as needed; many factors can influence your pricing, but any decision you make should be informed by your local market.
2. If you’re local, take a drive around the neighborhood
Is there any new construction — or pending development applications — that could impact your properties in the longer term? Are any of your nearby competitors doing upgrades? Get a head start by checking out this building permit map, or contact your county or local government for the most accurate and up-to-date information.
3. Scan the news for information about emerging trends
Is there anything recent about local tourism, hotel vacancy rates, or events that could impact your target market’s travel plans?
By proactively taking stock of the local rental market, you’ll be better informed (and better prepared) about recent changes, current trends, and other factors sitting on the horizon.
Dig into the details: upkeep, decor and financial records
The shoulder season is an opportunity to take a critical eye to your vacation rental units and take action where it’s needed. A guest’s first impression can set the tone for their entire visit, so aim to wow them from the moment they walk in the door, if not from the curb.
1. Check for wear and tear
While some tasks are likely baked into your regular maintenance schedule, the lifespan of others can be harder to predict. Is any of the furniture starting to show its age? Is there any unusual damage that may have been overlooked in previous inspections? Are there any maintenance issues that should be flagged for attention in the new year? What preventative measures can you advise the property’s owner to employ?
2. Change the decor for the season
You don’t need to swap the artwork, but in addition to warmer sheets and heavier blankets, adjusting decorations to reflect the upcoming season can be a thoughtful touch.
3. Work through seasonal cleaning and maintenance tasks
As any property manager can tell you, a seasonal deep clean of the rental property is a must. While some tasks like cleaning clogged gutters are obvious, others like updating the weather stripping on windows and doors and checking your heating and cooling units are easily forgotten.
Crossing off your maintenance checklist doesn’t mean a property manager has to get their own toolkit out, but having reliable service providers lined up is an important step.
Confirm services with any seasonal providers you rely on, so you can ensure everyone is on the same page and avoid the surprise of finding out they don't have the bandwidth to support your properties.
As you wrap up your on-site activities, don’t forget about the maintenance work that can be done without leaving your office...
4. Double-check the paperwork
In the whirlwind of high season, it’s easy for details to slip through the cracks.
Take advantage of this downtime and keep the budget tight by reviewing bills and invoices from the last quarter and organizing paperwork that may have piled up.
Are there any unexpected expenses or unusual spikes? Looking into variations in a property’s water bill, for example, could help you catch a growing leak.
This review can also help you assess whether rates should be adjusted to account for increasing base expenses. And you may find some extra room in your budget to invest back into the property or direct toward your next marketing campaign.
5. Review new feedback and take action as needed
Some listing sites are proactive about prompting guests for feedback, something you can also boost by asking for reviews.
Contact recent guests to thank them for their visit and their feedback; make it simple for them by including a link in case they haven’t yet had a chance to leave a review. Then, compile a list of any suggestions you’ve received. Are there any you should act on now or address for future guests?
Reviews are like currency and many guests base their decision on the number and quality of reviews available. Once you’re up-to-speed on the latest feedback, take note of the best comments - you can refer back to them as you take stock of your current marketing and advertising efforts.
Take a fresh look at your presentation
How are you promoting the properties in your portfolio to attract new and repeat bookings? See if there are any new angles you can leverage.
1. Is it time to update your photos or property details?
If any improvements have been made to to your units over the past year, confirm that your property descriptions are updated to match.
And if those improvements changed the property’s aesthetic — whether through new furniture or a newly landscaped garden — consider updating your marketing to ensure the photos match the reality.
2. Did any of the property’s recent reviews stand out?
Repurpose the best feedback by publishing it to your property's direct channel or sharing it through social media channels.
Be sure to keep reviews relevant. Current reviews emphasize what guests can expect now. You could even highlight top reviews by including them in your property description.
3. Review any paid ads you’ve been running
Are your ads still delivering good return on investment? You may find that some listing channels' ads struggle to convert while others get good visibility and plenty of new bookings.
Compare performance and evaluate what works and what doesn’t, then use that information to fine-tune your ad copy, images and targeting. Cut any ad campaigns that consistently fail to perform.
4. Optimize property info and autoresponders
Are all your property details current and on brand? Are there strategic autoresponders you could add to improve customer service or encourage repeat bookings?