Hiring a property management company for a short term rental can be a significant boost in an owner’s lifestyle. You reap the financial benefits of owning an investment property without putting in all the work.
But like every service out there, there is no one size fits all and you have to choose the best fit. When it comes to short term rentals, not all property management companies are the same. As you search for the best property management for your rental, make sure you’re asking these questions:
1. What services do you offer?
The property management company you choose depends significantly on which services are important to you. Some property managers will only handle the marketing of your vacation rental. Others will combine marketing with third-party maintenance and cleaning.
However, the most popular are full-service management. A full-service property manager will handle everything required for a successful investment property, including:
- Taking professional-quality photos and writing a detailed description for your property
- Handling reservations from start to finish
- Regular maintenance and regular cleanings
- Revenue management and strategic pricing
- Generating and replying to guest reviews
- Responding to guest emergencies
If you plan to be very hands-on with your vacation rental, you may not need a full-service property manager. But managing a vacation rental successfully is a full-time job. If you don’t have the time or energy to invest in your rental, consider a full-service property manager that can handle the details for you.
2. Which technology platforms do you use?
The standard Airbnb or VRBO interfaces get the job done if you’re personally managing a handful of your own vacation properties. But when your portfolio grows past a certain point, these interfaces reach their limitations.
Now think of how many properties short term rental management companies manage. We’re talking dozens (if not over a hundred) rentals. If they’re running it all via the standard interface, the odds of a mistake in bookings increases. That translates to bad guest experiences which leads to lower earnings for you.
Ask potential management companies what technology suite they use They should use premium tools that allow them to centrally manage bookings across various sites, automate messages based on timelines or events (like a check-in) and maximize earnings through advanced analytics. High-end platforms like Hostfully even manage custom guidebooks tailored to each rental.
3. How long have you been in business or how many rentals do you manage?
Ask questions about the property management company’s experience in the industry. Just like any hired service, you don’t want your property to be the one the company makes their “learner’s mistakes” on.
However, bear in mind that the online vacation rental business is new and growing fast. Short term rentals and management services in your area may not have existed a few years ago. If you find yourself in a new market, a better-suited question is asking how many properties the company currently manages. A management company may be new, but if the team manages dozens of properties around town, it’s a good sign.
The ultimate test, however, is to request referrals from current and previous owners. Unhappy clients will be quick to let you know to steer clear.
4. What fees do I need to be aware of?
Most property management companies work with one of two fee structures. Either they are commission-based, where they take a percentage of the rental revenue that comes in, or they offer a flat rate for their services.
Ask about initial fees that cover advertising, marketing, and administrative processes. Make sure to ask what is not included in the management fee. This will help you prepare for any surprise expenses that can pop up.
5. What about when the property is empty?
In the ideal world, your vacation rental would be booked all year long. However, this is typically not the case. So what happens when your vacation rental is empty? What will the property management do to ensure that the home is not only safe but well maintained?
In highly seasonal markets where vacancies are unavoidable (ie ski resort towns), ask how often the company will check up on the property.
6. How are property inspections handled?
When you can’t be around to keep an eye on your property, you trust your property manager to make sure everything is running smoothly before, during, and after bookings. That means the tense moment you open the door to see if everything is still standing after the guests are gone is done by someone else. But is it done right?
Find out the management company has a process for home inspections. Do they send someone for an inspection right after the guests leave and before the property gets cleaned? Is there a checklist tailored for the individual property the company uses for every inspection?
Perhaps as important as the inspection is the communication process with you if there is an issue. What is the threshold for that dreaded phone call? What will the company repair on its own without your involvement? The last thing you want is a manager calling you every few days to get your permission to change a lightbulb.
Finally, you want to make sure that a manager inspects the property after the final cleaning. A final inspection reduces guest complaints.
7. What is your communication process with guests?
Your property manager should have a process and plan for receiving calls from guests. Most short term rental companies will have a 24/7 number guests can call for anything from an extra roll of toilet paper to requesting fresh towels. What’s important is the company’s average response time.
A quick response time doesn’t just translate to happy guests and better reviews. It could also mean limited damage to your property in case of an emergency like a leaky pipe or broken window.
8. How are bookings handled?
You want to make sure guests can book on their preferred system and can do so outside office hours. Otherwise, you’re losing potential revenue streams. The property management company you choose should have multiple ways for guests to reserve your home. There should also be a system in place for inquiries outside the major platforms like Airbnb and VRBO, as well as a dedication to quick and effective follow-ups.
Other questions to ask when it comes to the reservation process include:
- Can guests books online and use a credit card?
- How is this information kept safe?
- Can I market my house and accept my own bookings?
- How do I book my home for a personal visit?
9. How will you keep my home and belongings safe?
The beautiful thing about owning a vacation rental is that you don’t have to live local to be successful. But that also means you could be hours or days away from the property in the event of an emergency.
This is why you trust the property manager to have a system in place to ensure the safety of your home. As how often is the home checked when vacant? What are there plans in place to deter thieves?
10. What is the marketing plan?
You may have the greatest vacation rental on the block and the most attentive property manager, but if there is no marketing plan, then it’s all for nothing.
Find out how they plan to market your rental, who takes the pictures, who writes the descriptions, and which traditional and non-traditional marketing strategies they plan to use. Their job is to utilize their resources and extensive network to find high-quality guests to enjoy your home and keep your rental calendar booked. How will they make sure your home stands out?
Wrapping this up
Selecting a property management company is a significant decision. You’re trusting your vacation rental to someone else and that can be stressful. But by asking the right questions, you can better decide which company suits your property the best.