Being in the vacation rental business since 2000, I've interacted with thousands of property owners and managers. Many of our larger customers started by managing their own rental property. After finding success there, these owners often begin their expansion by helping a family member manage their property, or by purchasing a second or third property. Over time, I've seen these owners grow into small and large property managers.
Managing short-term vacation rentals can be an attractive opportunity for people who've had success managing their own property, enjoy the business and have gained a deep understanding of how the industry works. How and when to take on more properties and turn your vacation rental hobby into a real business or career is a big step. As a property manager, adding systems and automated tools to manage multiple units can make your life easier, and allow you to provide better service to your customers.
In a recent Equifax survey, property managers noted that automating client interactions was the No. 1 focus to eliminate existing pain points. Most renters are familiar with managing tasks digitally, and expect to do so in most aspects of their lives. To meet that demand, successful managers should look for online, automated resources to manage the rental process.
The major online rental platforms often automate the booking process. Property management systems, or channel managers, can facilitate the process of distributing your property listings across several platforms. With plenty of online rental sites to choose from, most property managers can post their rentals using several services. These online rental sites have online booking mechanisms that make it easy for renters to pick the house of their choice, rates, size of their rental and vacation dates.
Automated payment solutions make collecting funds easy. It's important to have an easy payment solution for guests to use for any bookings that are direct or not facilitated through the platforms that handle the payment.
Having the right tools and systems in place to operate your vacation rental management business is critical to effectively organizing and growing your portfolio. There are many property management systems (PMSs) available that provide tools to manage the various aspects of your rental business. A simple accounting system, like QuickBooks, will be important, too. Between the PMS and account system, these tools can help do much of the work needed to manage your business. These systems can support key management tasks, such as listing the properties on the big platforms, tracking bookings and expenses, and generating monthly owner statements.
Other automation tools are available to interact and schedule your cleaning service, as well as manage your guest experience. Someone looking to take on more properties should investigate these tools, as managing these tasks manually can become onerous as your business grows.
In addition, property managers need to make sure they are using automated tools to stay compliant in cities that require licenses and lodging tax payments. Registering each property and collecting and remitting the correct occupancy taxes each month are two of the biggest headaches for many managers. These requirements can vary significantly across cities, counties and states—with some areas requiring tax remittance to multiple agencies. Automated tools can make managing these tax requirements much easier for property managers to handle correctly and avoid any costly fines or fees.
When looking to automate your role as a property manager, make sure you look to streamline cleaning, turnover and maintenance by building a team of vendors you can count on to keep the property running smoothly. Also, automate administrative tasks and processes with resources that save time, money and hassle, such as:
- Reservations: If you're not using a home rental site, consider the numerous reservation systems and software programs available to handle bookings, confirmations, payments and more.
- Customer relationship management: Email marketing platforms such as Act! and MailChimp make it easy to communicate with guests before, during and after their stay. Generating your owner database of prospective and repeat guests is important, given the ever-increasing cost of bookings from the big platforms.
Using many of these new tools and leveraging technology, particularly as it pertains to automating key tasks, can make the management process easier and help drive the growth of your business. Do the research, get organized, implement the right tools, and you should be all set to launch your property management empire!
Rob Stephens is the co-founder and GM of Avalara MyLodgeTax. As a finance expert for the short-term lodging marketplace, he co-founded Avalara MyLodgeTax (formerly HotSpot Tax) in 2002 out of his own necessity to understand and manage compliance with his rental property. Additionally, Stephens has owned and managed his own vacation rental in Vail, Colo., since 1999.