Starting in the vacation rental industry can sometimes feel overwhelming. You’ve got a lot of different skills to pick up that, one way or another, they all affect your bottom-line. From getting 5-star reviews on Airbnb to marketing your short-term rental, you’ve got to become a jack-of-all-trades. Not to mention that you’re probably the only one you know that’s diving into this.
Wouldn’t it be great to have someone experienced share their insights into this unique industry? To help out new hosts, we’ve asked veterans what their #1 problem with running a vacation rental was. These are all common challenges, so we’re sure you can relate. Let’s see what they shared.
Challenge 1: Scaling your business
One of the biggest challenges vacation rental owners and property managers face is scaling specialized aspects of a vacation rental business as it transitions to a mid-sized company. Once an operation grows to 10+ units, it’s often hard to passively manage areas like marketing, pricing, finance, and strategic planning.
Outsourcing or hiring for these skilled roles can be quite expensive. Not to mention knowing who to hire, incorporating the new functions in your business, and doing it at the right time is tricky. However, it can often bring huge returns.
To get around this issue, you can find a revenue manager with industry experience or a marketer with a proven track record. These are critical skills that aren’t achievable by a casual learner or an inexpensive freelancer. Otherwise, you can hire a property management firm specialized in vacation rentals. Whatever you do, be sure to ask a lot of questions and ask for referrals before you give someone part of your hard-earned cash flow.
Jordan Locke is the founder of RevParty, a hospitality consulting company for short-term and vacation rentals. Jordan has helped over 200 hosts acquire new properties, which means he knows a thing or two about scaling businesses.
Challenge 2: Finding and retaining the right cleaning crew
Our number one challenge in the vacation rental industry is finding and keeping quality cleaning crews. Aside from cleaning and putting the unit back together after guests leave, the cleaning crews are also your eyes and ears. They’re the ones that’ll identify any upcoming maintenance or report damages to the property.
Unfortunately, finding a cleaning crew that’ll give the same amount of attention as you would to the property is a bit of a challenge. But there are a few workarounds to this.
The best place to start looking into is with friends, family, and even other vacation rental owners in the area. They likely know someone that has a reliable cleaning team.
If that doesn’t work out, you can look into hiring a small company. The advantage you get from a small company vs. a larger one is that they can bring a personalized service. Not to mention that due to their small size, they’ll be more inclined to provide exceptional service to retain you as a customer.
Your last option is to use technology to your advantage. There’s a bunch of great apps out there like Properly that force the cleaning crew to pay attention to the property. These platforms also let you stay in the loop so you can monitor the health of your property.
Clara Nicolosi is the Owner and Broker at RE/MAX in Hotsprings Village, Arkansas. She’s been in the rental industry for over 16 years.
Challenge 3: Guests damaging your property
When you operate a whole house as a vacation rental, you run the risk of attracting the type of guests that aren’t careful with the property. Think bachelor parties with unregistered guests, business retreats, or guests traveling for sporting events. These types of groups often drink alcohol, which leads to problematic behavior and sometimes damage. While many guests are respectful of your property, the rare ones that don’t will end up costing you a lot of money in repairs and premature maintenance.
While platforms like Airbnb and VRBO have policies for damages, going through the process can be long and tedious. It’s often not worth your time to pursue that avenue for costs under $1,000.
If you run a property susceptible to attract large, rambunctious groups, consider using property management apps that will help prevent damages. For example, NoiseAware is a device you install in your property that monitors noise levels. You get a notification when noise levels get elevated (which is usually a sign that something is about to break). Vacation rental insurance is also a great idea and charging a deposit works well too.
Matthew is the co-owner and COO of myslumberyard.com. He’s successfully operated vacation rental homes in Nevada and California.
Challenge 4: Efficient revenue management
One of the toughest challenges in running a short-term rental business is revenue management. The short-term rental industry is lucrative, but in some markets can often be a business of thin margins. There’s a dynamic ecosystem of expenses that you have to learn to balance. This balance will help you maximize the profits you’re generating from your rentals. From tweaking nightly rates, adjusting cleaning fees, and analyzing what you’re paying for amenities, to handling taxes, paying for marketing, and minimizing costs of maintenance, there’s a lot to do. You have to look at numbers and how to improve them daily.
Luckily, there’s a lot of technology out there that can help you manage your revenue. But you’ll have to attack the problem from two angles: increasing revenue and monitoring expenses. For income boosting, the most obvious is using Hostfully’s Property Management Platform (PMP). With a PMP, you can dynamically set prices and track your revenue across all the vacation rental platforms simultaneously. What’s great is that you can integrate Hostfully’s PMP with advanced pricing tools like PriceLab and WheelHouse that does the work for you. On the expense side, Quickbooks is a cheap software that takes away the challenge of tracking expenses.
Eryn Feeney works for Rabbu, an Airbnb management company that operates 50+ properties in Charlotte, NC, and Savannah, GA. Eryn’s experience in managing vacation rental properties means she’s tackled all sorts of problems.
There’s a lot to consider when getting into the vacation rental industry. While there are problems you’ll need to manage, as you can see, none of them are insurmountable. It all comes down to running your property like a business, increasing profitability, and managing risks. You can do it.