Four seasoned VR pros share how they have survived and thrived in the industry.
If there is one universal truth about vacation rental managers, it’s that they did not tell their parents they wanted to be one when they grew up. Unlike that of an astronaut or veterinarian, the road into the vacation rental industry is not paved or even clearly marked.
Some might say it’s muddy, and you better be wearing boots.
In this series of VRM Careerists, VRM Intel is diving into the lives of the careerists among us, those managers who have made it over the river and through the woods of vacation rental life, and yet have still chosen to persevere in a business that is as rigorous as it is unglamorous, as challenging as it is heartwarming.
They remember when marketing meant mailing out print catalogs. They rattle off long lists of reservation software, tried and long abandoned. They have stories straight out of reality television.
And they know way too much about toilet paper.
These are their stories, just as personal as the vacation memories they create for guests. The first story we have for you is Kathleen Homes.
Kathleen Homes Gets Down and Dirty
Kathleen Holmes was looking for health insurance when she stumbled upon a front desk position with Great Beach Vacations in Charleston, South Carolina, in the mid-1990s. With a master’s degree in urban anthropology, it might not have seemed like an obvious fit.
“It was like answering phones at the DMV,” she remembers. “It was just insane with requests. ‘I just checked in and there’s no toilet paper!’ And you would have thought it was the end of the world. You’d have to talk guests off the ledge, use your active listening skills, and validate concerns.”
Within six months of deftly juggling phone calls from guests, vendors, and homeowners, Holmes was promoted to a property manager position and was one of five owner relations managers handling more than 400 vacation rental properties between them.
Now with 20 years of industry experience, and currently working as director of marketing and acquisitions for Seabrook Exclusives, Holmes knows she found her calling. She and her team pride themselves on staying focused on personal connections in this age of automated everything.
“We really still want to get on the phone with people and stay in front of them throughout their journey,” Holmes said. “Our best attribute is our relationship with our guests.”
The proof? Seabrook Exclusives has a 67 percent returning guest rate.
“We sell service, experiences, and we help our guests craft memories,” she said. “The human factor is always going to be the most important thing we can offer.”
Holmes enjoys getting her hands dirty in all aspects of the business and is known by her team to wield a pretty mean vacuum cleaner. By her admission, she’s also a little heavy handed with the Tilex spray.
“You only become a good vacation rental manager by being in the trenches,” she said. “Taking reservations, cleaning, fixing things-being a MacGyver.
“My husband is blown away. I’ve gone outside and fixed our A/C, looked at our water heater, and said, ‘Yeah, we’ve got an upper element out.’ And he’s like, ‘Whaaaat?’”
Holmes has a special touch when it comes to air conditioning, demonstrated by one of her favorite stories. Guests at an oceanfront property called in one day saying the living room wasn’t cooling properly, and despite a technician telling Holmes the system was cooling within range, she remained skeptical.
She decided to call two other contractors and bring them with her into the dark crawl space under the house to check the ductwork. As she guessed, the duct under the living area had a large hole in it, and cool air was pouring into the crawl space—likely the work of rodents.
But then one of the technicians pointed his flashlight into the sand near their feet. Large paw prints.
“Hmmm. Bobcat,” he whispered to Holmes.
“We all lean down and start to see this outline of a mummified bobcat in the sand and the contractors are on either side of me,” Holmes recalled. “And I can’t scream because there are guests in the house right above me, so I dug my nails into them. They both started laughing. They thought it was cool!”
Vacation rental management requires being ready for everything.
“I will never say I’ve seen it all,” she said. “Because in this business, there’s always something new.”
Read More about Other VRM Careerists Below