Being a vacation rental property owner can sometimes seem like a full-time job. Maintaining your listing information, handling messages from travelers, updating calendars, sending payment requests, accepting booking requests and checking travelers in and out can take up a lot of your time. If you own multiple properties, it could take up all your time! This is when a property management company can step in and help you with all of the nuances involved in having a vacation rental.
Research the Field
The first step into choosing a great property management company is doing some online research. Some areas like Boston, New York, Los Angeles and Miami will have a lot of different property management companies, while other areas may have only one or two companies. Take some time to research company websites, social media outlets and reviews from other owners. Since the Internet and social media have become indispensable tools for owners and travelers alike in recent years, you'll want to focus on those who have built up an impressive online presence.
Choose your plan
Once you have settled on one or two options, you will want to ask yourself how hands on you want to be and what you want the company to manage. Some property management companies handle all the bookings and payments while the owner focuses on building a relationship with the traveler, physically maintaining the property and maintaining a internet and social media presence. Other management companies will handle everything from updating listings to providing the traveler with check in/out information, cleaning and maintaining the property while the owner sits back and enjoys some free time.
When talking to a management company, you will want to find out what kind of plan they offer. Some companies allow owners to pick and choose which services they want. For example, the owner can focus on marketing, bookings and answering inquiries, while the management company provides cleaning and maintenance, check-in services and the like. Other management companies offer a full-service plan that covers everything except bookings. Obviously management companies come in a wide range and offer many different plans, so it is important to have an open and thorough conversation before you sign any contracts.
Ask these important questions
Once you have established which plan might work best for you, you will also want to find out;
- How often will the management company contact you and through what means?
- Where will they advertise your property (locally, nationally and internationally)?
- Who will update any online listings (rates, photos, running special offers, etc)?
- Do they guarantee a minimum level of bookings?
- Who will interact with the potential traveler once a personal information is shared and a payment/booking request has been made?
- Will the company provide a representative to welcome the traveler at your property or a welcome basket/reading materials of local attractions?
- Do you, as the owner, have to inspect the property before and after each traveler, or is that something the cleaning/maintenance staff takes care of? If there is damage to the property or other maintenance that needs to be done, who is responsible and how will the costs be documented?
The most important thing to remember throughout this screening process is that whatever management company you choose, you are relying on them to alleviate some of the burdens and stress involved in handling one or more vacation rental properties. Ask for contact information for other owners who have used the company's services, and then follow up by talking to them to get a feel for how the company operates. If you do your homework, your partnership with a management company may be so helpful that you are able to take a well-earned vacation of your own!