If you’re ready to go pro with your vacation rental business, you’ll naturally need to add more inventory, but the right inventory. In this article, we’ll share a step-by-step guide to creating the kind of homeowner experience that will earn you valuable referrals—and ensure you have the right foundation in place to serve your future clients.
What Do Vacation Rental Homeowners Expect from a Professional Manager?
Standards matter now more than ever. Have you established property standards that drive the quality that meets the demands of guests and homeowners? First begin by setting your standards complete with the amenities that will drive rental rates, providing greater revenue opportunities for the homeowners who join your property portfolio. After you establish your internal process to deliver on those standards, it’s key to communicate those effectively to your homeowners. Here is what can set you up for success:
- Set expectations realistically and stick to them. We suggest responding to urgent or time-sensitive emails, phone calls, or texts from your owners within 4 hours and general inquiries within 1 business day. Set up auto-responders for times you may be unavailable or to communicate backup contacts for your own vacations.
- Owners should be able to access an account, reserve owner stays, download statements, and more.
- The website technology you use needs to provide direct, real-time reservation functionality. This is essential as you build repeat business and makes it easier for travelers to book direct rather than thru an OTA (Airbnb, VRBO, etc.).
- Follow and engage with relevant company social media channels. Participating in the community is key in presenting a positive perception.
- Follow social media sites that show poignant trends as well as informative sites that deliver thought leadership. Social media content can keep you ahead of the competitive curve. Share, learn and practice what you have found.
- Network with other property managers on social media or at conferences. You will find success stories, ideas and strategies for the best approach.
- Statements should be delivered promptly (no more than 14 days after the end of the month.)
- Offer paperless and paper statements, based on owner preference.
- Provide year-end statements they can share with their accountant for tax filing.
- Accidental damage will happen during a guest’s stay. It’s important to give your homeowners peace of mind that your service offerings are equipped to handle the necessary repairs when damage occurs. There are several options for insurance. At the same time, as the occupancy rates increase, so will normal wear and tear. Homeowners need to be aware of the common examples of wear and tear and the expense to maintain their property to your standards. Part of your services includes arranging for maintenance related to guest damages. The damage waiver or damage insurance is an industry-standard that allows all parties to fund the expense. Security Deposits are not an acceptable practice.
- When a toilet breaks or a furnace goes out, you are considered the boots-on-the-ground to take care of maintenance. Whether you are doing the work or contracting it you need to set a clear policy for handling maintenance—what level of expense requires approval? What constitutes an emergency when you need to arrange repairs without advance approval?
- Be proactive with common expenses like appliance upkeep, HVAC, or pest control, and be hyper-aware of guest damages both internally and externally. Don’t overlook damages to furniture, bedding, or dishes, and address the situation immediately.
- Expert advice and good communications on response and status are as important as actually taking care of any maintenance requests, and an automated system to track is key. Automated maintenance requests better track processes and follow through.
Online Guest Reviews
- Star ratings are everywhere and consumers – both homeowners and guests – are influenced by reviews. In the vacation rental and short-term rental industry, every 5-star review drives your nightly rate. Owners must know the value of a single review. Often you will need to reference a review to support your report when an upgrade needs to be done. Here are some examples: replace furniture, mattresses, tired carpets, and other amenities that will drive reviews down if they are not properly maintained.
- Response time matters. It’s not only Google that rewards or penalizes your website and company listing, but OTA’s monitor your performance on their review platforms as well. At a minimum, you should proactively respond to ALL reviews within 24 to 48 hours from the time the review is posted.
Going Above and Beyond
Once you have the basics locked in, layer in the moments of delight and above-and-beyond touches that will make your homeowners rave about your services to all their friends and family.
Enhancing the owner stay
- When owners come to stay in their homes, personally inspect the home beforehand and add a personal touch to make them feel well cared for, like a welcome card or small gift.
- Be as responsive, respectful, and personal as possible to show the homeowner you are running a business with professionalism and care.
Reporting on revenue or market performance
- Beyond owner statements, reporting tools can make you look like a hero with revenue reports, booking trends, etc. Share these with your owners along with their monthly statement, or as a stand-alone email.
Soliciting and acting on feedback
- Make your owners feel valued and heard. Compose a short survey or informal email to ask your owners what they’re happy with, and how your service could be better. Act on suggestions whenever possible and acknowledge their feedback even when you can’t service their request.
How to Ask for Referrals
Once you’re delivering a wonderful experience that you can scale to at least 5 additional homeowners, it’s time to grow!
Ask your existing homeowners at the right time
- Referrals are all about timing. If your homeowners share great feedback, it’s a good time. If you’ve just had major guest damage or a poor review, it’s a bad time.
Keep your request simple and personal
- For a small, owner-run business like yours, you don’t need a fancy referral program or incentives. Just a simple, personal email.
- TEMPLATE/TOOL: Embed a separate Google doc with a homeowner referral request template
Ask your community members
- Beyond your homeowners, ask others in your local network for referrals. Real estate agents, other small business owners, travel agents, etc.
Always close the loop
- If you receive a referral, follow up immediately — and don’t forget to thank the referee, whether the homeowner ends up signing on with you or not.
Growing Your Business One Homeowner at a Time
Going pro takes thorough attention to detail, clear and timely communications, and a digital online system to help with efficiencies and planning. If you are just starting or continuing to grow your business, attentive focus on the needs of each homeowner, and a personal experience could make or break your success. Harnessing what it takes to create the perfect homeowner experience will build your reputation, garner referrals, and grow your business without limits.
Give your homeowners an exceptional online experience powered by LiveRez. Interested in learning what tools LiveRez can provide for your growing business? Schedule a demo today!