By: Alanna Schroeder
For most vacation rental owners, a vacation home is the largest, most high-maintenance investment they’ll ever make (aside from their primary residence, of course).
For that reason, property managers serve a vital function. They ensure the vacation homeowner’s investment is worth all that time, money and effort whether the owners are returns-focused and looking for a hefty profit or simply looking to cover costs when they’re not using the home themselves.
On top of that, the emerging vacation rental industry has seen a sharper focus on hospitality. “Customer service,” “guest relations” and “guest satisfaction” are the new buzzwords. For property owners who aren’t hospitality professionals, property managers bridge the gap.
And this is where it gets tricky for property managers. You represent both vacation rental guests and owners.
Complicating things even more, owners also have wildly different expectations when it comes to the level of involvement they want from you, their vacation rental manager. And vacation rental managers have expectations on levels of involvement with property owners.
How do we narrow that gap to create a more hospitable relationship between the owner and the manager?
As an active vacation homeowner myself, I wanted to share a few thoughts on what savvy owners are looking for in a great property manager. Hopefully this helps you see it from our side!
10 Things Vacation Rental Owners Look for in a Great Property Manager
- Customer Service
My number one focus as a vacation rental owner is customer service, and many of my fellow owners agree. We want to know that our manager is checking in with guests within 24 hours of arrival and departure. We’re also looking for a manager that will be there in our absence to address any issues in a timely, friendly and hospitable manner — no matter the request.
A clean rental is a huge part of “hospitality.” It helps to know that our manager is contracting/employing top-notch cleaners and that these cleaners are experienced, honest, trustworthy, supervised and being held accountable. As markers of this, I personally look for training, regularly scheduled meetings and a consistent cleaning process for each stay.
As a homeowner, it brings me a lot of comfort when I know a management representative has inspected my property after each guest. Priorities include checking for damage, confirming that the cleaners have satisfied their obligations, inspecting for maintenance issues and replacing batteries, light bulbs, air filters, etc. as needed before the next guests arrive.
Owners love good quality supplies! This is not a place to try to save a few bucks. Leave a roll of garbage bags, a new sponge, dish soap, a few extra rolls of paper towels and other amenities. If you provide linens, give owners options from which to choose.
- Listing Sites/Websites
We love options! If we can, we might love to keep our existing listings with VRBO/HomeAway, Flipkey and Airbnb. If you aren’t open to shared responsibility, we get it. But in that case, make sure the listing is high-quality with good copy and high-resolution pictures. We also want to be sure that you are following up quickly on inquiries and converting them.
- Guest Screening
Owners want to know that there is a guest screening process in place. Please let us know if you have concerns about a potential guest. Drive-by’s during guest stays are also much appreciated!
- Rate Management
It is essential for owners that a manager is keeping a watchful eye on market dynamics. For example, if a property is 90% leased, it is probably time to consider a rate increase. We will come to you with our thoughts, but we appreciate knowing you are watching the market and making educated recommendations.
Flat fees are a godsend. And no matter what, we are always looking at the absolute dollar amount of a management contract especially when it comes to percentage-based fees. Small and hidden fees lead owners to feel left in the dark and unhappy. We will also thank you for receipts for work that has been contracted or for supplies purchased as part of our monthly accounting package.
- Neighborhood Relations
For properties in residential areas, maintaining good relationships with the neighbors is a high priority. Great property managers check in with those neighbors and keep communication lines open.
- Steady Communication
All in all, communication is the key to any healthy relationship including the relationships between vacation owners and their property managers. That means a property manager should appreciate an owner’s goal for his vacation rental home, and the owner should appreciate his manager’s unique expertise. That way both parties can work to create a strategy that fits!
Alanna Schroeder owns and operates The Distinguished Guest, an online marketplace for vacation rental owners who wish to style their vacation rental with beautiful, simple, hotel-quality amenities and linens. Alanna and her family also own vacation rental properties in Lake Tahoe, California and Princeville, Hawaii. A special thank you to my vacation rental expert contributors Debi Hertert, owner of OregonShearwater and Donna Martinez, owner of Abalone Bay.