Automated Self-Hosting vs. A Rental Management Company

Mar 17 2023
Robot hand and human hand recreating 'the creation of adam' photographed by Tara Winstead

Get tips on how to use Hostfully to optimize your vacation rental business and make more profit.


What’s in this article?

Answering questions about parking and WiFi all day, and managing your cleaners and their schedules with every new booking, is the single best way to make sure you never have time to work on the health of your actual business. But trust too much of your business to someone else, and you might not have the autonomy that’s necessary to grow it. 

So, while you may be tempted to keep a firm hold on every aspect of your operations, you may also find you’re just too stressed and overworked to even think about scaling. 

Which is why we’re here to talk about the different property management options available to you, from full-service management to a partial-service arrangement where you still have control over key areas. 

We’ll also cover which processes you can automate if you choose a partial-service option, which will free you from time-consuming tasks without having to outsource them.

Make your life easier by automating tasks

When and why would you outsource to a full-service property management company?

Should you hire a property management company? Is that the right move for your business?

In this video, Jon Bell of Short Term Sage highlights that outsourcing to a property management company can be good for people who want to have a more passive role in their vacation rental business: “If you want your time to be solely your time, no interruptions, then a property manager is it.” 

He adds that if you “already have multiple properties and are looking for someone to manage and create additional revenue for each of those properties,” hiring a vacation rental management company can be a good move. Additionally, “if you don’t want the headache of managing or dealing with guests, working with a management company is the best thing you can do.”

What are the pros and cons of outsourcing to a full-service property management company? 

While outsourcing all your property management tasks has its benefits, it also has some downsides. The pros of trusting your vacation rentals to a full-service property manager include: 

  • You can run your vacation rental business remotely
  • You won’t have to respond to guest issues and inquiries at all hours of the day
  • You have the freedom to pursue other business ventures as well
  • You have the potential to boost profit margins if you work with an experienced manager

However, using a full-service vacation rental property management company also has its cons: 

  • You won’t have complete control over your operations
  • You will have to pay a commission of between 10% and 50% 
  • You won’t learn the necessary skills for eventually running the business on your own
  • You won’t have control over how you grow your business

There’s another way: How partial property management works 

But just because you want to work with a property management company doesn’t mean you have to hand over your entire business. You can work with a partial property manager to ease some of your workload while still maintaining control over specific aspects of your operations. 

Why would you outsource to a partial property management company? 

If you find yourself overwhelmed with managing your vacation rentals but still want to have some control over your business, partial property management is a great option for you. With this setup, you’re still an active participant in your business, but you can hand over your most time-consuming tasks to a professional property manager.

How does partial property management work? 

Instead of outsourcing all your processes to a third party, partial property management allows you to run parts of your business while outsourcing the rest to a property management company. 

For example, you might have a partial property management company take over marketing and bookings, while you stay in charge of on-site tasks, like cleaning and greeting guests. 

Or if you manage your vacation rental remotely, you may want to keep control over reservations, pricing, and bookkeeping, and hand over on-the-ground tasks—like housekeeping and maintenance—to a property manager. 

What are the pros and cons of outsourcing to a partial property management company? 

Just as full-service property management has its advantages and disadvantages, there are pros and cons to partially outsourcing to a property management company. On the plus side, a partial property management company lets you: 

  • Maintain control over the parts of your business you want to be in charge of
  • Decide whether or not you want to interact with guests
  • Avoid time-consuming tasks that create stress and overwhelm
  • Take your own strategic choices about how to scale

However, partial property management also comes with some downsides, such as: 

  • Commissions and property management fees
  • Potential difficulty finding a company that does partial property management
  • A lack of visibility over how well everything is taken care of
  • Less experience gained than if you were managing on your own
Three people at the entrance of a property, two of whom are shaking hands.
If you still want to greet your guests personally and hand all your administrative tasks over to someone else, a partial property management agreement is perfect for you.
Source: Pexels

Which rental property management tasks can you automate and self-manage? 

If you decide that partial property management is the right move for you, you still want to make the tasks you’re responsible for as easy as possible. That’s where automation comes in. 

Property management software can help you automate tasks like:

  • Check-in and check-out
  • Cleaning scheduling
  • Maintenance
  • Accounting and bookkeeping
  • In-stay guest experience

That way, you can minimize property management fees and stay involved in your business without having to deal with all the headaches of manually managing your properties by yourself.  

Check-in and check-out

Check-in and check-out can be incredibly time-consuming tasks. And some property management companies that offer partial services won’t take care of day-to-day tasks like check-ins. 

Even if you still have to be responsible for check-in and check-out, it doesn’t have to eat up your day. You can automate guest arrival and departure with a property management platform (PMP) like Hostfully that allows you to automatically share pre-check-in forms and self-check-in instructions. 

That way, guests get all the information they need before they arrive, and there’s no need for you to be on-site to greet them. The same goes for check-out: Schedule a pre-departure message that gives your guests all the information and instructions they need before they leave the property. 

Cleaning scheduling 

A property management company that’s only taking on some of your processes might not handle your cleaning and turnover tasks. But you can automate short-term rental cleaning with a specialized cleaning management tool. 

Vacation rental software like Breezeway, EZCare, Operto Teams, Properly, and TurnoverBnB can automate your cleaning schedules. For example, TurnoverBnB integrates with the Hostfully PMP to automate new turnover tasks for your clean whenever a new booking comes in.

Additionally, you can create a vacation rental cleaning checklist for your cleaning team to ensure your properties are spotless for each guest without having to do a walkthrough yourself for every turnover. 


Maintenance is another area you can streamline with the right tool. Without automation, you can lose a lot of time manually flagging, addressing, and following up on maintenance requests. 

But TurnoverBnb, for example, provides you with a network of cleaners who you can provide training for on basic maintenance tasks. That way, they can manage most maintenance issues themselves, and there’s no need for you to reach out to an additional team or individual.

And because the tool integrates with Hostfully’s PMP, you can monitor the status of maintenance issues and be sure all your properties are in prime condition just by checking a convenient all-in-one platform. 

Accounting and bookkeeping 

Wanting to keep your finances in your own hands is understandable, but accounting and bookkeeping can eat up a lot of your time. Automating these processes means fewer mistakes, better reporting, and actionable insights. 

For example, when you do your accounting with Hostfully, you can integrate all your reservation information with Quickbooks and Ximplifi, making it easier to import data and keep track of your revenue and expenses. 

And even if you use different accounting software, you can use Zapier and the Hostfully API to connect your bookkeeping tool to your PMP to export reservation information, auto-populate reports, and generate custom fee and tax calculations. 

In-stay guest experience

Providing a stellar guest experience is central to running a short-term rental property, but engaging with guests during their stay can be incredibly time-consuming. 

But by automating guest communication and proactively providing all the information your guests need, you can give your guests a great stay without having to spend hours responding to guest messages. 

First off, use a PMP like Hostfully, which allows you to automate up to 70% of guest messages. But as a Vrbo or Airbnb host, it’s also essential to be proactive in sharing helpful and fun information with your guests that will help them have a better experience. 

So share digital guidebooks to provide a convenient, essential resource for your guests. You can provide information like house rules, activity and dining recommendations, and discount codes to support your local partners. 

You get to give your guests a unique, curated experience without having to be glued to your phone to answer questions like how to connect to the WiFi or what the best local breakfast joint is.

Hostfully Digital Guidebook showing local dining recommendations
Give your guests all your expert local tips in a convenient digital guidebook.
Source: Hostfully

Partial property management and automation: A great combination for hosting success

While you may be wary of completely handing over the keys of your rental units to a property manager, partial property management is an excellent solution. 

Trusting some of your daily operations to a property management company and automating the rest lets you stay in control of your business without being consumed by it. 

The key is to find a property management company that’s flexible and open to designing the right partial-service package for you. With a comprehensive PMP that automates the tasks you don’t want to outsource, you can make sure your guests have an amazing stay without ever being overwhelmed or overworked. 

Make your life easier by automating tasks

Frequently asked questions about automated self-hosting vs a rental management company

Can vacation rental businesses be automated?

There are a number of ways to automate Airbnb and vacation rental businesses. Check-in and check-out, cleaning scheduling, maintenance, accounting and bookkeeping, and the in-stay guest experience can all be automated. 

Is it hard to manage a short-term rental business remotely?

Managing a short-term rental business remotely is very feasible. The key is to use a strong property management system (PMS) that gives you eyes on all aspects of your operations. If you self-manage, you’ll also need a cleaning and maintenance team to keep your properties ready for each new guest. 

Another solution for managing an Airbnb rental business remotely is hiring a property management company to run either some or all of your business processes. This allows you to hand over certain aspects of your operations that you would otherwise need to take care of yourself. 

How do you automate check-ins for vacation rentals?

To automate check-ins for vacation rentals, you’ll need to use the right tools. For example, you can install smart locks and use a guest experience solution that allows you to automatically share a mobile key or pin code before check-in. 

Even if you don’t use smart locks, you can schedule messages to guests before their check-in time to share arrival instructions, parking information, and how to open the lock box that holds the key.