Property Management 7 mins read

Challenges vacation rental managers face today [and how to fix them]

By March 20, 2020 No Comments
Challenges vacation rental managers face


Despite a boom in the vacation rental market and new technologies to support it, vacation rental managers still face challenges. According to Your.Rentals, 75% of rental managers agree the industry is more complicated than in the past. Last year, we conducted a survey which asked vacation rental managers (VRMs) what they are struggling most with when it comes to running their business. Then we asked them what they would “fix” if someone handed them a magic wand. The results were surprising. 

Before we start: Hospitality trends for 2019 

This article is part 2 of 5 of a series on the topic of hospitality trends. It’s inspired by a report in which Hostfully surveyed 220 property managers from June to July last year. You can download and read the full report here

Life’s not easy – the challenges vacation rental managers face today 

Our report indicated that, since 2018, a few things have changed when it comes to problems vacation rental managers are encountering. While marketing was a significant bug-bear in 2018 (cited by 28% of respondents as a major challenge) today, guest management is the greatest challenge facing vacation rental management companies (VRMCs). Since the last survey, this is up from 17% to 21%. 

So what does this mean? For starters, guest management isn’t an issue that’s going away. But overall, it’s interesting to note the tremendous variety of responses to the question. It demonstrates the diversity of needs and challenges facing property managers today. 

Greener pastures: what’s become easier in the last year?

Next, we asked VRMCs what aspect of running their business has become less of a struggle in the last year. We divided answers between VRMCs with 1-5 properties and those with 6+. 

Across all respondents, the most common answer was that nothing has become easier (16%). This rather depressing conclusion could come as rather a surprise, given the widespread changes in the market such as:

  • The rapid acceleration of online booking platforms. 
  • The consolidation of booking platforms. 
  • The hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital invested into software providers in the industry, specifically, to make the job of running a VRMC easier.

Not all doom and gloom

However, while some VRMCs claimed nothing had gotten easier, others said certain things had indeed improved. 12% of those asked said guest communications improved, followed by operations (10%) and property management platforms (8%). The improvement is likely thanks to enhanced property management platforms like Hostfully, which can make the task of communicating with guests and managing operations more straightforward and streamlined.

What has gotten easier for vacation rental managers 1-5 listings

There were a whopping 14 other categories which were all virtually tied for 3rd place, from marketing and price management (both at 5%) to home automation and accounting (both at 3%). 

What’s the story for large-scale VRMCs? 

When we segmented the data into respondents who manage 6 or more listings, things changed – but only slightly. “Nothing” was still the most frequent answer when it came to aspects of the business that had become easier. 

But unlike smaller VRMCs, operations trumped guest communications as the area where large vacation rental managers saw the most improvement.

What has gotten easier for vacation rental managers 6plus listings

It’s an unsurprising result, given that property managers with more listings have a greater volume of business than those with 1-5 listings. They are therefore more likely to struggle with issues around operations and scalability than with guest communication. It may also be that VRMCs are forced to embrace technology to deal with issues of scale. For example, the use of technologies like Digital Guidebooks is an elegant and scalable solution to the challenges of guest communications. 

Side note on guest communications: If you’re curious how Digital Guidebooks can help your vacation rental business cut down on time-consuming tasks like guest communications, as well as improve the guest experience, we recommend you download this case study. In it, we show how a 350+ unit property management company implemented Digital Guidebooks at scale in under a week.

Imagine you had a magic wand

Across all respondents, there was little consensus about what property managers would “fix” in their business if someone handed them a magic wand. 

if vacation rental managers could wave a magic wand what would they fix - pie chart

However, the most frequent answer was their property management software (15%, followed by guest communications and cleaning (both at 14%). Then came recruiting (9%), bookings leads (8%), general operations (7%), and setting guest expectations (7%). 

At the same time, there was a tremendous variety in the number and specificity of the types of solutions mentioned. This spanned nearly every niche area in a property manager’s business. It seems that VRMCs each require a specific golden ticket to solve a particular problem. 

Could technology be the fairy godmother for vacation rental companies?

Many of the issues that VRMCs wanted to “fix” with their magic wand can be solved through technological solutions designed to help them manage their properties. There are apps out there to help manage everything from marketing, cleaning, pricing and even remote locks and thermostats. Understanding that logging in and out of these apps is cumbersome, the tech industry responded. Property Management Platforms (PMPs) like ours not only help you streamline bookings and guest communications. They’re built from the ground up to make it easy for third-party apps to connect, meaning that you can control your entire vacation rental management company from one dashboard. 

With that in mind, a European Vacation Rental Survey indicated in 2018, the larger the vacation rental management company, the more technology they use in their daily operations.  Coincidentally, these are also the VRMCs that show the highest rates of growth. So it’s clear that leveraging technology goes hand in hand with business success. 

Treat yourself to exceptional property management software

Property management software was cited by the majority of respondents (15%) as the problem they most wanted to resolve. Yet good property management software actually has the potential to dramatically ease the stresses and struggles of life as a vacation rental manager.

So what makes a good PMS?  

  • Helps you list your home in multiple sites seamlessly – without having to juggle multiple log-ins and passwords. 
  • Creates a single central booking calendar for you to use. 
  • Offers a central space, or unified inbox, to communicate with guests. 
  • Provides analytics and reports. 
  • Allows third-party integrations into its central dashboard.

Time for a clean slate

Another frequently cited irritant for VRMCs was cleaning. According to our survey, problems associated with cleaning operations stayed reasonably stable between 2018 and 2019, increasing by only 1%. 

This is to be expected, as finding and retaining the right cleaning crew is often cited as a struggle when running a vacation rental

But property management software can help. For example, Hostfully offers integrations with cleaning applications such as Properly, Breezeway, VR Scheduler, and eCleanit. The apps allow VRMCs to assign cleaners automatically and at scale. Some can even provide cleaning staff with detailed instructions so nothing gets missed. 

The takeaway

VRMCs seem to disagree about their biggest challenges and how to solve them. We think that’s a good thing for two reasons. First, it means there’s diversity in the industry. VRMCs of different sizes across various markets face different challenges, which means no problem is insurmountable. Second, and most importantly, existing technology can mitigate those pesky irritants. It’s just a question of finding the right tech tool for your VRMC. Contact us for a demo and to see what the right tech tool can do for you!