How a family-owned vacation rental company uses integrations to reduce repetitive tasks, boost profits and facilitate growth.
Rob and Suzie Esposito are the owners of DoCo Vacation Rentals, a family-owned vacation rental company based in Door County, Wisconsin. Rob and Suzie are a vacation rental industry success story. In under three years, they scaled their portfolio from one property rented part-time, to 13 units dedicated to vacation rentals. They even had a Milwaukee-based architect design a purpose-built 4-unit vacation rental complex that blends modern design with comfort.
Before his debut in the vacation rental industry, Rob was a successful chain restaurant entrepreneur. As we’ll see below, Rob’s “secret sauce” to success in automating vacation rentals is due in part to his experiences and lessons learned in the restaurant industry. He understands that automation and tech eliminate repetitive tasks, which frees up his time for scale and growth opportunities.
Like many vacation rental self-starters, Rob and Suzie rented out a condo part-time on Airbnb while running a chain restaurant empire in Chicago. Realizing the profits to be made and the untapped potential in the vacation rental niche, Rob and Suzie bought an additional condo. And another. Then another. So began DoCo Vacation Rentals and the Esposito’s debut in the hospitality profession.
Initially, all tasks and processes at DoCo were manual. Suzie was at the center of it all: from reservation management to guest communications, and of course, assigning turnover and cleaning. Eventually, Rob chose to leave the busy food industry for vacation rentals to achieve a more balanced lifestyle with his wife. Rob says, “automation through tech and economies of scale were how we grew our restaurant business to what it was. It’s a concept we had to use with DoCo if we were to achieve the lifestyle change we wanted. Suzie being so organized and managing daily operations gave me the opportunity to look at automating as many processes as possible.”
At first, Rob used a Channel Manager to manage bookings. It handled reservations and guest communication well. Unfortunately, that solution was a stop-gap. As DoCo onboarded more properties and required specialized tools like turnover and dynamic pricing, the Channel Manager reached its limits. Rob switched to a Property Management Software (PMS). Despite a hefty onboarding fee, reliability and usability made him leave within a few months. Rob’s vision of using automation and tech to make his day-to-day operations more manageable wasn’t off to a good start, until he discovered Hostfully.
After researching different property management tools, Rob chose the Hostfully Property Management Platform (PMP). According to Rob, “the integrations with other vacation rental software, the clean layout, the guidebooks, the great reviews, and the pricepoint were the main points that made me switch.”
At the time of the switch to Hostfully, DoCo also activated the Breezeway integration for turnover and cleaning. The time-savings for Rob were almost immediate. Through the Hostfully central calendar, Rob could see all the bookings for his properties and holds for cleaning and turnover. On top of that, assigning tasks was now fully-automated—no more emails and texts for different contractors, or remembering who services which property.
Shortly after, DoCo activated PriceLabs, a robust dynamic pricing algorithm. Daily, PriceLabs calculates the optimal rates for all of DoCo’s properties. PriceLabs then uses the Hostfully PMP to update prices on all the distribution channels (i.e., Airbnb, Vrbo, HomeToGo, DoCo’s direct booking site, etc.) The time savings for Rob are immense. As he describes it, “I don’t have to worry about figuring out seasonality anymore, PriceLabs does it for me. And on top of that, I don’t have to update rates manually, Hostfully takes care of that in real time.”
After exploring Hostfully PMP’s features even further, Rob decided to automate guest check-in. First, he set up Hostfully Digital Guidebook with local recommendations, house manuals, and check-in information. Then he created an automatic trigger in Hostfully that sends an email to the guest at the moment of the reservation. The guidebook includes a link to the self-check-in information.
So what’s the end-result of automating the biggest time-sinks of a vacation rental business? Rob estimates the time-savings at 50%. As he explains, “automating all these processes frees up so much of our time, which we can use for other tasks like marketing, expanding our portfolio or enjoying a more relaxed lifestyle than we had before. Without Hostfully and the partner integrations, I’d be spending my time emailing cleaners or toiling with prices.”
Rob’s journey into automating his vacation rental empire is an evolving process. For now he’s taken guest check-in, pricing, and cleaning off his to-do list with integrations. But in coming months, Rob plans to automate DoCo even further with the following integrations:
Switch to Stripe: for payment processing with specific vacation rental listing sites, and eventually for upselling experiences and services to guests from within the Hostfully Guidebook Marketplace
Activate Key Data Dashboard: to collect powerful metrics on the vacation rental market in his area. The data can then justify business cases for portfolio expansion.
Setup Lynx and smart devices: for smart lock management. Lynx will allow him to send unique temporary access codes to guests and implement contactless check-in. It’ll also cut energy bills through smart thermostat automation (reduce energy consumption when properties are vacant).
As Rob pointed out, “the way I see it, growth and scaling at DoCo needs to be built on process automation. And that means integrations with niche vacation rental software. My goal is to eventually have DoCo run with minimal human involvement.”
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 Rob and Suzie from Doco also use to manage (and scale) their operations: