“With more competition in the market, acquiring and retaining owners is a large determinant of running a successful management business. It’s always a challenge for managers to find and nurture those relationships. By making property care a pivotal part of their value proposition, managers are in a much stronger position when it comes to meeting and exceeding their owners’ expectations.”
– Jeremy Gall, Founder & CEO of Breezeway
Spiking demand and the recovery from the pandemic have vacation home rental management companies primed to grow their companies and profits. Owner relations is often one of the most overlooked areas of short-term rental management and it plays a key role in retaining owners and recruiting new ones.
A Breezeway Elevate Operations Summit virtual panel in March welcomed leading management companies and invited them to speak about how to succeed through strong business relationships.
The panel covered best practices for delivering (and maintaining) hospitality-like owner services and how they’ll foster more trustworthy owner relationships, increase client retention and boost referrals. It featured Jon Eskin of BHHS Colorado Properties and Brittany Blackman of Breathe Easy Rentals with moderator Wil Slickers of Slick Talk.
Blackman said management companies must first decide what type of business they want to operate.
“Are you a small company that provides one-on-one service or a larger one that you are trying to streamline,” she said. “Knowing this will help you to make the right decisions and stay on course.”
Once established, organization and consistency with day-to-day operations is crucial. “The last thing you want is for your owner-clients to see that you don’t know the answer to something or are disorganized,” she said.
Eskin said management companies can shine their reputations by demonstrating to new or prospective owners that they are current and have put technologies in place to work more effectively.
Letting them in on the company’s history also helps, Eskin said. “Describe to them how you conduct property inspections,” Eskin said. “Show them past photos of your properties and the notes you’ve taken. Demonstrate your company’s growth.”
Every owner and vacation rental property are different, Blackman said. “I have guidebooks for how I maintain my properties, but all properties are unique,” she said. “You have to show that you are flexible in the ways you take care of them, and cater to each.”
How a management company communicates with owners can “make or break” relationships. It’s best to use methods that are on the owners’ terms, the panelists said.
“Every owner is different when it comes to engagement,” Blackman said. “You need to get to know their personalities to determine how much you should ‘bug’ them about things. What are their expectations about how often they hear from you? Some prefer to be shown visuals, some want to talk to you for hours. We all know that property managers wear a lot of hats, and one of them is psychologist.”
Once the management company determines the ideal communications method, Blackman said they must maintain consistency with it. “If you don’t, it will upset them,” she said.
Eskin said one way he gets onto the right side of his owners is by asking them to name four or five idiosyncrasies about their property that he should really focus on.
“For example: they might like to have the blinds down when the property is vacant,” Eskin said. “This is something you might not always remember to do, but if it’s on your checklist, it will get done and it will make them happy that you’ve honed in on those details.”
Blackman said owners need to recognize that she is a professional, “so they have to trust me. If they don’t, it will be difficult for me to work for them. With owners who are new to the industry, they might have no idea what they are doing. So in that case, I tell them that I’m going to do everything for them and then basically just ‘run with it.’ ”
Owners want to know that their properties are being cared for, “so show them, by calling out safety issues or letting them know you found something during inspections,” Blackman said. “Go through a checklist of what you’ve done for them and put things on their radar. Do this, and you’ll get responses like, ‘Wow, you are really on top of things.’ ”
Using a transparent and detailed owner portal that shows current and forecasted numbers about each properties’ operations also goes a long way in building trust, Eskin said.
“This gives them a good perspective on their property without them having to contact you,” he said. “A portal’s note-taking function lets them see how you are dealing with things in real-time.”
Eskin said that there are times when he visits a property and does a FaceTime call with them while there. “Just seeing things as you talk through them makes them feel comfortable about the job I’m doing,” he said. “Another way to approach it is to let owners know that you are available and let them come to you.”
Eskin sends them his owners a quarterly newsletter with articles that apply to the industry and also puts together an annual “State of the State” report and outlook.