5 things to think about in the rental of your investment or home, when considering hiring a professional management company or to go it alone via Airbnb or VRBO.
Let’s face it: sites like Airbnb and VRBO have become such an integral part of the vacation rental market and vernacular that several cities have had to come up with legislation to enforce stricter guidelines on how people rent their homes. It’s a little different in a ski town, says Robin Craigen, President and CEO of Moving Mountains. “In a ski resort, we have many different kinds of visitors and online vacation rentals work for a certain kind of experience, but it needs to be managed carefully,” he says. “These sites are very much value-oriented and are great for finding a cheap or last-minute deal. But as a homeowner, you have to realize what you’re getting into.”
Craigen says his company will often list the properties they manage on VRBO and Airbnb, but that’s only the beginning of what’s involved in professionally managing over 80 properties. After 20 years in the business, he knows how important it is to have someone available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; not only to ensure a guest’s experience, but also to make sure a home is properly protected.
So, what can a professional management company do that Airbnb and VRBO can’t? Here are five points to contemplate, when deciding whether you want to go it alone, or to hire the pros.
#1) Management companies offer a comprehensive marketing package.
“We’ve been using channels like Airbnb and VRBO since the platform launched in early 2000’s, but that is a very small part of the marketing we do. A property manager should use every tool in the shed,” Craigen says. Like many professional management companies, Moving Mountains has a state-of-the-art web site and invests a lot of money in search engine optimization. They refer to up-to-date strategies, such as a substantial “pay per click” budget for online search engines like Google, so people are able to find their properties easily and organically. There’s also the stand-alone reputation of an established business with a vast clientele that can generate a lot of repeat business. “Experience counts a lot in this business,” he says. Finally, potential guests can call and speak with a real person with local knowledge, to ask questions about the property and get more information. “People will often research a home online, but then they want to talk to a real person before they book it. A professional, local management company will be able to provide resources and service that the online ‘big box’ outlets can’t offer.”
#2) Screen guests to make sure they’re the right fit, and monitor activity at the property when guests are in town.
One of the biggest concerns with online vacation rental sites is the “what if” factor for owners regarding who is staying at their property, especially when homeowners aren’t in town to interact with the guests personally. “We give owners a peace of mind in the selection process for who will be at their property. We have contact with approximately five groups for every one that we book into a home. A lot of work goes into every booking and it takes a lot of time because having the right person or group for that property is key.” Craigen says. “We check people in and put our eyes on the entire group that is staying in a house. We make sure the house is left in the same condition when the guests leave.” For homeowners who book their property through Airbnb or VRBO, there is less control over who is going to be in their home, which is something to consider.
#4) Managing the guest experience.
A professional property management company can have someone there to make sure the guests’ stay goes smoothly from check-in to check-out. “Guest experience is everything in this business,” Craigen says. “We hold the guests’ hand throughout their entire stay.” One of the services his company offers is a small selection of exclusive homes that are fully catered with everything from grocery shopping and driver service to ski equipment rentals and organizing lift ticket purchases. Property management companies can offer a level of service to their guests throughout the duration of their stay that most individual home owners don’t have the resources to provide, especially if they are out of town.
#5) Someone is always on call.
If you are renting your property yourself, when a pipe bursts, someone can’t figure out how to connect to wifi, or even something so small as a light bulb going out, you are the one getting the call – and that can be at all hours of the night. Worse, if the guests are unruly and neighbors complain, you will be the one having to mediate the situation, as the property owner. “We provide on-call service 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Craigen says. “If something happens, we answer the phone and respond within minutes.” This is the reason many resort towns have legislated stricter requirements for vacation rentals. “There is a lot of concern about property owners having accountability for rowdy guests and making sure the type of people who rent are a good fit for the neighborhood or community.” In Steamboat, a Vacation Home Rental (VHR) permit is required for short term rentals, and if homeowners are found in violation of the VHR requirements and regulations, they are fined. If they incur three violations, the permit for the home is revoked. These regulations include things like occupancy, parking, noise, trash removal, and prohibited activities. Sales and accommodation taxes must also be collected and paid in to the City and State. “That is why we have people here, answering phones,” Craigen says. “If you can’t deal with problems as they arise, they you shouldn’t have a rental. This is where professional property management comes into play.”
While Airbnb and VRBO certainly have a place within the vacation rental market, as they offer a lower-cost, lower-service model, if you are considering renting out your property, make sure that you are aware of the rules and restrictions, and that you are willing to take on the responsibility of managing not just the property, but the guests who will be staying there as well.
For more information about the services of Moving Mountains, visit their website at www.movingmountains.com.
REPRODUCED WITH PERMISSION FROM STEAMBOATSIR.COM