A property management system (PMS) is a suite of tools that work together to help vacation rental owners manage bookings, communication and payment processing across all rental platforms.
Success in the evolving vacation rental industry depends on organization, guest communication, and analytics. Many PMSs, like Hostfully’s award-winning suite, is affordable, user-friendly, and help vacation homeowners stay in control of their rentals.
PMS isn’t just for large rental companies anymore. Now, small multi-rental independent owners are reaping the benefits of innovative PMS platforms too!
The challenges of managing multiple vacation properties
Owning vacation rentals can be a highly profitable investment venture, but that is not to say that it’s an easy one. They come with a unique set of challenges, such as:
- Tough competition: The vacation rental industry is dramatically expanding each year. That means the competition for vacation rentals is becoming more and more intense.
- Advertising and marketing: Finding ways to creatively and effectively market to your target audience can be costly and time-consuming.
- Troubled guests: Unhappy guests can not only damage your home, but also your reputation.
- Bookkeeping: In order to run a successful vacation rental, you have to treat it as a business. This means being aware of the money coming in and being diligent about bookkeeping and accounting.
- Vacancies: Sometimes your home will sit vacant for an extended period of time. If your vacation rental is your only source of income, this can cause a financial burden for you and your family.
Who needs a PMS?
A PMS is necessary for owners who manage multiple properties across several (if not all) major booking platforms or who are planning on scaling and growing their rental businesses. It makes it easier to manage reservations and communicate with guests by centralizing into one main application. For example, a PMS lets you chat with guests who booked Property A on Airbnb at the same time as guests who booked Property B on VRBO.
PMS also eliminates the risk of double bookings. So if a property gets booked on Airbnb, the PMS automatically makes it unavailable on all the other rental platforms instantaneously.
Finally, PMS significantly streamlines the tracking of income and analytics. Without a central tool, the owner would have to log into each rental platform app and transcribe the data into a spreadsheet. Now repeat that task across two or three properties and it’s easy to see who this task can get overwhelming and time-consuming.
Although PMS is a powerful tool, it’s not right for every vacation rental owner. While PMSs are relatively cheap, they’re still an expense. So those who manage a single property and only plans to rent the home occasionally can get away without it.
4 basic things to look for in a good PMS
If you’re like the majority of vacation homeowners, you want to increase your ROI and decrease the amount of time you spend handling details. You can do this with PMS, but there are a few basic things to look for:
1. The PMS lists your property simultaneously across various platforms
Listing your home on multiple sites helps increase your reach and maximizes the number of people who see your home. But with so many different platforms it gets overwhelming to list yours on all of them. The flipside (not listing on platforms) means you might miss on potential income.
Updating the photos, listing descriptions, calendars, and rates across a variety of platforms can be extremely time-consuming. Add interacting with guests and something difficult quickly becomes impossible! Innovative property management systems will allow you to manage your listings across all platforms without having to log in and out of multiple sites.
2. All your bookings must be visible in one central calendar
When guests can book across different platforms, your chances of a double booking increases. For guests, there is nothing more frustrating than trying to book a home that looks available only to find out that the calendar has not been updated by the owner. Some platforms may even penalize you if you cancel bookings without a valid reason.
Good PMSs should also make your property unavailable on other platforms once it gets booked. It should also give you easy access to one central calendar that shows bookings from any platform. This will help you to see your home’s availability in one place making it easier to coordinate cleaning and maintenance.
3. Messaging guests is handled by the PMS across any listing platform
One of the main reasons guests book vacation rentals is because they want an authentic and personal experience. On top of that, guest engagement is now critical across all industries. Homeowners who are trying to juggle messages, emails, and alerts across multiple platforms can’t give the guests the interaction they’re looking for.
An effective property management software system will give homeowners a central space to communicate with guests. This is typically referred to as a unified inbox. It will notify them of any activity across the platforms they are working on, and allow them to easily and quickly address guest questions or concerns. It must also include event-based triggers. This allows guests to get the information they need at check in without the owner being involved.
4. Your income statements should be one click away
Owners who want to generate substantial income from their properties must treat their vacation rental as a business. Any successful business must keep track of income.
Basic PMS systems will help you stay on top of payments by the platforms. They’ll also allow you to charge extra for cleaning fees and late checkout as well as put a hold on security deposits.
9 advanced features great vacation property software should also offer
Basically, most PMS on the market will cover the features listed above. However, for busy homeowners that want to make managing their rentals even easier, Hostfully offers property management software with game-changing features such as:
- Customer data management
- Analytics and reporting
- Property data management
- Pricing tools
- Pipeline management
- Payment processing
- Upselling platforms
- Automated messaging
- Channel distribution and more!
Are vacation rental PMS platforms expensive?
One concern beginning vacation rental owners have when learning how to manage multiple vacation rentals is the price of property management software. But many homeowners are surprised to learn that basic property management packages cost under $60 a month, and that covers up to five properties!
After that threshold, property management software systems usually increase in price, but then also offer more features. Most property owners that book more than 1 week a month make their money back in lost time.
See a PMS in action before buying
Before taking the next step in your vacation rental business why not see PMS in action?
Check out this webinar and get an in-depth tour of the ins and outs of an advanced property management software!