Managing Vacation Short-Term Rentals Remotely
By Luke Jenkins
You have heard that renting properties on Airbnb, VRBO, and other hosting sites can be very profitable. You want to get into the game…but your military career has you changing duty stations and living and working all over the country and world. It seems impossible to get started. You are hesitant and unsure you want to invest in a vacation short-term rental. Well, I am here to tell you, you can do it! How do I know? I have done it myself. For over three years now!
Short-term renting, in general, is far more involved than plug-and-play long-term rentals. Long-term renting may look as simple as hiring a manager, signing the lease, and watching the rent roll in. STRs by nature, are just not that simple. Guests are coming in and out of your properties. Some guests are needy, some guests can be troublesome, and there is always a constant turnover to manage. With all of that certainly comes risks, some headaches, ups, and downs, but at the end of the day, when done right, those direct deposits to your bank account will be far greater than any LTR can provide you. But you can do it, so let’s give you the confidence you need to get started with three simple tips to managing a short-term rental from anywhere in the world!
Short-Term Rental Tip one.
Find an incredible on-the-ground team. I will discuss the things you can do remotely, but with STRs there is a physical aspect that must take place at the property. This includes cleaning between stays, helping with guest issues, and working maintenance issues. You certainly can hire a management company to do this portion and depending on where your STR is this may be your best option. However, my secret to ensuring this critical aspect of your hosting business is done right, is finding an individual or a couple of individuals who will be your co-hosts, not just managers. This subtle distinction is all in the relationship. Build trust between one another and create a culture where your co-host has just as much of a feeling of ownership of your property as you. Why? Because when you treat your co-host right, support them, compensate them well, and have great communication they will go above and beyond for your rental which in turn drives great reviews and more bookings. How do you find a person like this? Well, if you don’t live in the community, join one of the community’s Facebook pages, message other hosts in the area, and simply ask: “Who is the best around?” Find that person and make them fiercely loyal to your business.
Short-Term Rental Tip Two
Automate as much as you possibly can. First, set your property up so that it is self-explanatory. Provide in-home guidebooks, notes on the walls explaining light switches, breaker boxes, etc. Give the guest as much information as you can so they can quickly learn about your home without your constant input. Install a keypad lock or smart lock to allow for self-check-in. Use a front-facing camera like Ring to let you and your co-host see when guests check-in and out. This helps you turn the home over quicker between stays. Next, automate messaging using scheduled messages feature on apps like Airbnb. Having baseline communication with your guest is critical. Use smart pricing on the platforms to allow your prices to be set based upon demand. Need to market your rental property? Use a single platform like hootsuite.com to schedule social media posts and engagements to build a following around your property. Or even better, invite social media influencers to stay in exchange for them promoting your property. Finally, invest in Amazon prime (if you don’t already have it) and set up subscribe and save for key home supplies, have these items sent directly to your co-host. On the business side, track everything with Intuit QuickBooks so you are ready to go for tax season. Create these systems upfront and you will see you can manage, track, and do 99% of the work, right from your cell phone.
Short-Term Rental Tip Three
Build-in redundancies. We all know that in the military our initial plan never works out. The same goes for short-term renting. To manage remotely you need redundant people, systems, and cash to keep your business going. What this looks like in practice is having a great understanding with your co-host on what their responsibilities are and when they may need to assume a greater role due to your military commitments. This also may look like sharing your hosting account with your spouse or a trusted friend so that when you get stuck in the field, they can continue with customer management. On the back end, this means ordering and maintaining a good stock of home items. Purchase extra blankets, linens, towels, glasses, coffee mugs, and have them tucked away on standby so that if something goes astray during a reservation, your co-host has all they need to get you up and running for your next guest checking in. Lastly, this means to keep learning and learning. As you host more people, crazy things will surprise you that you never planned for. Small ax through your floor, power outages, broken hot tub heater. First, take a deep breath, next work with your co-host, and rework your plan to account for what you just learned. Doing this will continue to build your guest experience, increasing bookings.
Being a successful short-term rental operator lies heavily in guest reviews. By using these simple tips, you are on the right path to creating a great customer experience that will continue to grow your rental. Remember, build a good team, automate as much as you can, and build redundancies into your hosting plan. If you do these things, you will be a successful short-term rental host, from anywhere in the world! Now go take the leap and start your hosting journey!
Luke is an active-duty member of the military and on the side co-found millardscabin.com, a short-term rental business located in the PNW mountains. He is the author of a short Kindle manual for short-term renting titled Short Term Rentals for Long Term Gain that lays out 5 steps to find, purchase, and start your own vacation rental business. Luke is always happy to help fellow short-term rental hosts (especially military) grow their business and can be reached through the website provided.