Hostfully’s layered levels of automation allowed automation for scheduling and booking management tasks. This allowed a solopreneur’s vacation rental business to manage dozens of properties across a wide geographic area without any full-time hires.
Will Asbury is the owner and operator of Guesthoo, a short term rental management company with listings in the idyllic Cornwall and Devon counties in the UK. Guesthoo is the first rental company in those counties to specialize in marketing and managing properties on listing sites and online travel agencies (OTA).
As a former online marketing entrepreneur, Will quickly understood that to be successful at short term rental management he needed to do two things at scale: marketing distribution and automate processes. As we will see below, Will’s debut was challenging. But once he brought in Hostfully, everything changed.
For three years, Will managed Guesthoo semi-manually. He used spreadsheets to track reservations, which cleaners worked on each property, and templates for messaging guests. He also had another set of spreadsheets for tracking income, expenses and owner payouts. Like Will says, “it was somewhat reasonable to manage all that by hand, but past five properties, managing Guesthoo’s day-to-day became onerous.” Guesthoo’s growth was gradually stagnating despite its website and word of mouth attracting owners who wanted to work with Will. Once Will reached ten properties, he couldn’t take on more clients. He knew something had to change if he was to keep growing.
As a former website builder, Will chose a property management software (PMS) that made it easy to build a direct booking site (DBS). Unfortunately, the PMS wasn’t great at automation. According to Will, “it was just so clunky to automate the most basic task like sending a guest message.” Will went back to the drawing board. His next PMS needed to be great at multi-channel distribution, have a DBS function, and most importantly, automate tasks and processes. Friends in the industry with successful vacation rental management companies recommended Hostfully. After a bit of online research, Will signed up for the Hostfully PMS.
Within two years of signing up with Hostfully, Will scaled Guesthoo from 5 properties to 60. Will did this without hiring additional staff. The key to his growth was the use of automation to reduce manual and semi-manual tasks. Here’s how he did it:
The first thing Will worked on after signing up with Hostfully was automating guest messages. As Will says, “Copying and pasting check-in instructions wasn’t the best use of my time, I had to do something about that and fast.” Will set up his Hostfully PMS to send guests a simple message once a booking took place. Here’s the current message sequence he uses:
Will put in place this message sequence to reduce the number of guests asking for instructions between when a reservation takes place and check-in time. As Will says, “by telling the guests they will receive the information at a set time, they wait instead of emailing me.” He estimates this simple automation sequence cut the amount of time he spends on guest communications by at least 90%. Note that the link he sends to guests is a .pdf file stored on a Google Drive or a Hostfully digital guidebook (Guesthoo is currently transitioning to digital guidebooks) unique to each property.
The next big time-saver for Will came from automating cleaning and turnover. In the part of the UK that Guesthoo services, cleaners are predominantly self-employed contractors. Before Hostfully, Will had to send an email to a cleaner for each new, modified or cancelled reservation. He also had to remember which cleaners were responsible for each property.
Once Guesthoo switched to Hostfully, Will set up an event-based trigger to handle the process. Whenever there is a new, modified or cancelled reservation, the Hostfully PMS automatically sends an email to the cleaners with check-in and check-out information. The cleaners manage their own workload and email Will an invoice once a cleaning task is done.
When Will onboards a new cleaner and property, he’ll spend some time inspecting the work for quality assurance. But as he says, “the cleaners have a vested interest in conducting quality work since they know I will send them repeat business.” Will eventually builds a relationship of trust with his contractors, which allows him to do spot checks instead of visits after each turnover.
Note: this process is reliant on how cleaners are organized in Guesthoo’s area of operation. Hostfully clients that hire in-house cleaners can achieve similar levels of automation with 3rd party cleaning and turnover software. Similar to Guesthoo’s task assignment process, Hostfully and 3rd party software can easily be setup to automatically assign tasks as reservations take place.
Before Hostfully, Will would adjust each property’s nightly rate manually. Like most hosts and managers, he’d use a combination of competition research and intuition to guess a reasonable price. Each time he’d want to change prices, it meant logging into Airbnb and changing the rates manually. Several times a year, he had to repeat the task to adjust for seasonality.
To take the guesswork out of pricing, Will integrated Beyond Pricing with Hostfully. From the Beyond Pricing app, Will takes advantage of the powerful pricing optimization algorithms and pushes bulk updates to all his listings with the click of a button. Hostfully instantly changes the nightly rates for the selected properties when that happens.
When Will started scaling Guesthoo, distribution was limited to Airbnb. As he says, “you just can’t list on too many platforms if you don’t have a PMS to coordinate calendars.” However, using the Hostfully PMS now meant that he could also list on Vrbo. At first, Will was skeptical that multi-channel distribution would significantly impact occupancy rates. However, the effect was immediate. His vacancy rates dropped, allowing Will to raise nightly rates even more. For now, properties are only listed on Airbnb, Vrbo and Guesthoo’s direct booking site. But as Will notes, he can always use Hostfully to activate more distribution channels should competition increase and vacancies rise.
Another advantage of the Hostfully PMS is the Direct Booking Site widget that links reservations from multiple websites into the central calendar. Guesthoo manages a wide range of properties – ranging from cabins to country estates. Some of these properties have unique features that stand out from the rest. For example, Guesthoo manages a 7-acre property that can accommodate 12 and even has a fishing stream. The Hostfully PMS allowed Will to create a standalone booking site unique to that property. Hostfully’s booking widget (seen here) then imports reservations into the calendar. Note that this property is simultaneously available on the main Guesthoo website (which uses the Hostfully pre-built DBS.)
Hostfully’s industry-leading property management platform (PMP) is built from the ground up to help vacation rental owners and managers streamline their processes and increase their bottom-line. Here are some of the other features Hostfully clients like Will use to manage (and scale) their operations: