Entertainer Steve Allen said, “Radio is the theater of the mind.” If that’s true, then Sarah Bradford and Tim Cafferty have a Broadway hit on their hands with their vacation rental podcast, Sarah and T.
Seasoned vacation rental professionals—Sarah Bradford owns Winter Park Lodging Company and Steamboat Lodging Company in Colorado and Tim Cafferty owns Outer Banks Blue in North Carolina and Sandbridge Blue in Virginia—deftly leverage and lace their industry expertise into each show. Now in their fifth season, this dynamic duo has recorded 89 episodes ranging from trending topics such as COVID-19 concerns to providing industry insight into a range of issues from OTA independence to vacation rental décor.
Each episode is filled with friendly banter and packed with what Sarah and T call “pull over moments”—industry insights so meaningful a listener will pull the car over to take it all in and jot it down.
Highlights from Sarah and T’s podcast episode: “A Baker’s Dozen of Questions A Potential Owner Should Ask You.”
In this episode, Sarah and Tim provide property managers a glimpse into the decision-making process of property owners with a role reversal. They tee up and talk through 13 potential questions an owner will likely ask when “shopping” for a property management company.
Sarah and T encourage property managers to use these Q&As to market and position their businesses. But before they launch into a baker’s dozen questions, Sarah urges one caveat: “If you use these questions, be sure to have a good answer!”
Listen to Sarah and T – The Professional Vacation Rental Manager’s Podcast
13 questions an owner might ask a prospective vacation rental management company:
1. What will you do differently than others when it comes to marketing my property?
This is a chance to show owners how you differentiate your company.
2. I see your commission is X%. What are the other fees I’ll incur, if any? What does your average owner end up paying per month when fees are added? How much are you going to get me for my property in a year?
If you (as on owner) ask for a commission rate and they (property management company) go lower, that’s a red flag! Giving a commission rate without seeing the property is another red flag.
3. Tell me how you handle (fill in the blank). Example, billing for changing a lightbulb, plumbing issue, shoveling snow.
Detailed questions are a way to understand what is important to owners. Their questions are how they learn about your company. Layout your baggage, and don’t sugar coat it.
4. Tell me about your employees. Are they located here in town? What are your hours?
Whom you deal with daily to manage your property does matter. Turn it into a strength and put it out there.
5. What do you take care of in-house, and what do you contract out?
Be prepared to explain how you handle housekeeping, maintenance, landscaping, and whether you use employees or contractors.
6. Do you inspect my home after every clean? What is done during the inspection?
This may be a question to answer with a question to understand their expectations like: Why is this important to you? What kinds of things are you thinking about regarding an inspection? Housekeeping is one thing, but a full-blown home inspection is another.
7. Why would a guest book with you versus another company or a private owner? What do you do that they don’t?
This is where property managers can explain how they’re different. They should have a spark when they answer this one.
8. Do you know what your return guest percentage is and what would your goal be for my house in the first year and up to five years, and why it should matter to me as a property owner?
The answer is you care because those are return guests. That allows the management company to push rates up for your house, because there is less they have to fill.
9. How do you set rates and change rates based on market conditions?
When you ask this question, there should be a strategy revealed. If a company acts defensive, they are acting like they may not be flexible.
10. What is your involvement in the local community?
It is important to be super involved, to be a leader, to know the regulators, and the town officials, and to understand how much influence you can have and how much you can change the course of your company and brand by being involved.
11. How do you get guests to book again?
When asked how I compare to a large company across many destinations and many states, I explain that a guest may book your house today, but the next time they book, that company may not care if they rebook, whereas a local company is trying to get them to come back at least to the destination again if not that same house.
12. What is your growth strategy? If so, what type of properties? If not, why not?
Are you associating with a large firm that wants to dominate the market? Or a smaller company with a personal touch? As for the type of properties, see if they can explain their brand, or are they taking all that comes?
13. How do you handle light night emergencies?
Do they leave a message? Is someone on call? Think about the guest experience. You want the guest to have an incredible time and come back to your house and back to this company, so that’s why you need to ask about the culture of the company and how it handles services.
Property managers beware: Once they have a management company in mind, Sarah encourages property owners listening to continue their vetting process by acting like a guest.
“Search them on Google. Do they come up on the first page? Go to their website and pretend you are a guest. Do they seem professional? Do they present properties beautifully? I think you should secretly call them, too. It doesn’t hurt to secret shop them a little bit,” she says.