Vacation Rental Insider: Trey Spiller Shares Tips, Trends, and Technologies to Scale

Jun 28 2022
Scaling a vacation rental business

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


What’s in this article?

Trey Spiller is the Director of Real Estate Development at Cohost, a full-service property management company with offices in Denver, Houston, and St. Louis. Working with vacation rental properties all over the country has given Trey a unique perspective on the short-term rental market.

Today he sits down with Hostfully to share his industry insights, trends Trey sees coming, and strategies on how to differentiate yourself in a competitive industry.

Q: What do you think is the most exciting thing going on in the VR industry today?

Trey: The lifestyle of owning a vacation rental has created a wide-reaching disruption across the hospitality industry. Guests want to be able to vacation like a local, and immerse themselves into a city culture while still having the luxury of living at home.

As the industry keeps growing, customers are increasingly communicating that they do not want the cookie cutter, paint-by-numbers experience offered by most hotels.

Vacation rentals are a well-rounded solution for every kind of traveler, and I couldn’t be more excited to be on the front lines of this trend. The short-term vacation rental industry is just getting started, and the ability to provide curated, personalized guest experiences are going to be the biggest differentiators for short-term vacation rental property managers.

Q: What has your business done recently to respond to emerging trends?

Trey: I think Airbnb Experiences are going to quickly gain excitement and traction within the vacation rental industry. Vacation goers are looking for a curated stay from start to finish, and Airbnb Experiences are going to be a big driver towards building that curation. It will obviously be a more prominent revenue driver for vacation rental hosts in the near future.

While you cannot directly link local experiences to your property (yet!) I’m meeting with local Airbnb Experience Hosts to provide my guests with unique adventures to elevate their trip to the next level.

Q: What is your biggest pain point as a VR professional?

Trey: One of the major things I wish I knew more about is local permits and restrictions. It can be a complicated battle to figure out the zoning rules and special permits that are needed to get vacation rentals up and running, because every market is different.

If you are managing properties in different locations, each with their own respective rules and regulations, it is difficult it is to keep track of all the different stipulations. It’s one of the most frustrating aspects of owning vacation rental properties, but it’s also something that is important to be on top of.

Q: What is one source of news and ideas that you couldn’t live without?

Trey: I use Google Alerts to notify us of any new vacation rental articles by keywords. It allows us to stay ahead of the curve on emerging information.

I am also a huge fan of vacation rental property blogs to help keep me current on the latest industry news, vacation property management technology solutions, and growth strategies from experts. Making sure that you are informed is half the battle!

Q: What new digital tools are you using in your business that have saved you time and money?

Trey: I’m all about automation and personalization. I’m an advocate of anything that can help me scale my daily operational needs and provide extra personalization for my guests in an easy and affordable way.

There are a few go-to tools that I use everyday to make my life simpler: Calendly allows me to schedule my business meetings seamlessly, and I use Grammarly  to make sure I don’t misspell anything in emails I send to a business partner or client, which would be embarrassing. For app to app automation, Winutomation and Integromat are great tools as well.

For vacation rental property management, I rely mostly on Hostfully to operationalize a lot of core property management tasks and also provide some unique personalization to the guest experience. Theirdigital guidebook is an amazing platform for me to brand my properties and highlight compelling aspects of my locations through photos and special notes.

On the property management side, Hostfully is a one stop shop for all my needs: it processes my payments and bookings, lets me send personalized messages to my guests when they arrive as well as during their stay, and even uploads my listings to a variety of vacation rental property platforms within a click of a button. I’ve been able to increase return bookings and cut labor costs, since I no longer need to hire an admin to do what Hostfully does for me.

Q: What did you wish you knew about the VR business when you first started?

Trey: I touched on this before, but having a good process in place to attain permits, restrictions, and permissions from HOAs is really key to your success. No one really talks about this aspect of the vacation rental industry yet it continues to be one of the biggest challenges for any vacation rental property manager looking to build a business.

Unfortunately because every market is different, the nuances in permitting is also different as well. The quicker you can figure out the regulations in the market your properties reside in, the faster you will be to achieving a long-term, self-sustaining business.

Q: What is your favorite VR event?

Trey: The VRMA hosts a magnitude of worldwide events geared to the professionals in our industry. While I haven’t attended an event quite yet, I hope to do so within the next year! I have heard great things about the organization’s regional conferences and annual Executive Summit.

Other popular events I have heard many of peers attending are the HomeAway Partner Summit, VRM Intel Live, and the Vacation Rental World Summit. Each conference covers specific topic areas, so make sure you do your homework ahead of time and check out the online agenda to see if the conference programming makes sense for your business needs.

Q: What does the guest experience mean to you in our digital world?

Trey: If you feel well taken care of, you’ll come back. If an experience exceeds your expectations, you’ll tell your friends. Platforms like Hostfully help us present our properties toguests in a clean, easy to use, all informative platform. It is the little things that we do for our guests that separate us from a mediocre review from a five-star review.

You won’t believe how much a welcome message or “insider recommendations” for your guests really moves the needle for their experience, and—just as importantly—how much they can help with good reviews.

Making sure your reviews stay positive is key to the growth of your business. Bad reviews can stunt the growth of bookings of a property and tarnish the integrity of the hosting management company.

Q: If you had to pick a market outside of your current area of operations to expand to, where would that be?

Trey: While we plan to expand into numerous markets inside of the U.S. within the near future, our top two markets are Houston and Saint Louis. These are large opportunities in rather unregulated markets to gain traction and become successful. Although, this could quickly change course tomorrow.

Thank you Trey for sharing your insightful perspectives on current industry trends, and the tools used by vacation rental property managers.