Questions Every Vacation Rental Property Owner Must Ask a Potential Property Manager
If you own a vacation home, then you know that you can’t trust just anyone to manage it for you. Vacation and short-term property management companies must earn the right to manage your investment. At Carolina Retreats, we are committed to protecting your assets and maximizing your potential income and occupancy levels. As a property owner, you must ask tough questions and you deserve to get answers to ensure confidence and trust in your property management organization.
Here are some questions to determine if a potential property manager is worthy of managing your home.
1. How will you market my property? Who will you target? How will you find the right guests? What is your marketing strategy and how do you implement it?
You want to know that your property management company is dedicated to promoting your property, as well as being up to date and knowledgeable about the changing online landscape in an aggressive, yet targeted way. Do they know who your best guests are, where to find them, and how to book them? Are they overly reliant on third party websites or OTA’s such as AirBnB or VRBO? A good property management company should have a verified track record of producing consistent income results using a multi-channel marketing approach, and be happy to share with you how they plan to market your home and attract your best guests.
2. How will you make my property stand out? How will you help guests appreciate my unique property’s value?
A homeowner wants assurances that a property manager is maximizing their earning potential and getting them the most bookings. Competition is unavoidable in today’s vacation rental landscape. A modern property manager will have professional photographers, copywriters, and revenue management strategists on staff, or partnerships, to position each home in its best light.
3. What is your guest repeat rate?
Repeat guests are important because it means that they are satisfied with their initial experience in a vacation rental. They enjoyed it. They received excellent service. The property and the management services met or exceeded their expectations. At Carolina Retreats we’re proud to say that just over 70% of our guests return to our properties after initially booking with us.
4. In particular, tell me how you will go about getting guests to return for a stay at my property? What would your goal be for year one and for the next five years?
Property owners want to know that a property manager has a strategy for getting guests to book their home again or even multiple times. Guests who book a return visit to a vacation home tend to use it with greater respect and care. Presentation and service are big components of keeping a guest coming back year after year. Property Services such as housekeeping, maintenance, after hours emergency services, and timely, fluid communication goes a long way in making sure a guest has a 5-star experience. Make sure a property manager can articulate a clear repeatable process for these services.
5. Why would a guest book with you instead of another property management company or even directly with me, the property owner?
As a property owner, you deserve to know the value a potential property management company brings to you. A good property management company knows what differentiates them from competitors. Do they offer multi payment options? Do they have a smooth booking and lease management process? Is there 24-hour emergency support in case anything goes wrong? Does a property manager portray clear “social proof” with online reviews, first hand experiences from another guest, etc. All of these factors go into a guest making a decision in a sea of competition.
6. Explain your commission and fees to me. Overall, how much should I expect to pay monthly or annually?
A property management company’s commission and fee structure should not be a surprise. Property owners need to confidently understand how much they will earn and how much a property manager will charge them in a year. Be leery of a property management company that touts a low commission rate without transparently showing you all their other fees, and how additional services are billed. No one wants to be surprised by hidden fees or nickel-and-dimed over the year only to receive an unexpected bill at year’s end.
7. Explain how you set the rates on the vacation and short-term rental properties you manage? Do you change the rates to meet market conditions or demands?
A property manager should be able to explain their process for pricing properties and be knowledgeable on how the market plays a role in the rates. The “set it and forget it” days of pricing solely based on seasonality, a year in advance, are over. A competent property manager today will employ a data driven revenue management strategy year-round that can include automated pricing software, on staff analysts, and benchmark reporting tools to stay in front of trends in the marketplace.
8. With regard to maintenance, housekeeping, cleaning, linens, laundry, etc. what do you cover in-house and what are the services for which you contract outside of your company? Who will be caring for my property?
This is one of the more important questions to ask a potential property manager. Booking and marketing are the easy parts, but fulfillment and service execution are what really make a property shine. When interviewing a manager, make sure they have the capacity and connections to consistently deliver quality and repeatable results with housekeeping, maintenance, and linen and towel services. At Carolina Retreats we directly employ many of our housekeepers, maintenance technicians, and operate our own 5,400 sq./ft. commercial laundry facility in order to control as much of the quality assurance process as possible.
9. Will you and/or someone on your staff show up if something catastrophic happens like a fire or natural disaster (hurricane)?
In our area of North Carolina, hurricanes along the coast are part of life. As most of our property owners live out of the area, having trusted “eyes and ears” on your home is an invaluable service. In the event of a hurricane, fire, or anything else of that magnitude, make sure your property manager can provide a clear disaster plan on how they will communicate not only with you the property owner, but your current and future guests, and how they will continue to operate in a time of crisis.
10. Tell me about your involvement in the local community? Do you know and regularly meet with community leaders? What are some of the hot button issues in the area? Do you advocate for and protect the needs and issues of property owners and guests coming to the community?
A lot of factors play into the purchase of a vacation home or short-term rental property. Owners deserve to know if a property management team is engaged in the community and whether it is representing their concerns. A property manager with a “seat at the table” and a good working relationship with local government officials can be extremely valuable to you as an owner, especially when discussions take place about regulations, proposed ordinances or restrictions, and general conversations on vacation rentals in a given area.
Whether you are a first-time owner, or seasoned investor, asking these questions can benefit you in making the best decisions for you and your vacation rental property. At Carolina Retreats, we are committed to earning your trust, maximizing your income, and caring for your home as if it were our own.
Mike Harrington is the CEO & Owner of Carolina Retreats, a specialty lodging and vacation rental management firm serving more than 300 vacation property owners throughout the Cape Fear region. Before founding Carolina Retreats in 2015, Mike spent 10 years on the Outer Banks as CEO and General Manager of Resort Realty, a high end real estate sales and vacation rental company with 600 properties under management, five offices, and more than 100 full-time employees and real estate agents. Mike is a Past-President and Board Member of the Vacation Rental Manager's Association (VRMA), the largest international trade association for the vacation rental industry, as well as Past-President for the North Carolina Vacation Rental Manager's Association (NCVRMA). He is frequently asked to speak at seminars and trade conferences on the latest vacation rental management trends in marketing, operations, and strategy. Mike holds a MBA from East Carolina University, as well as a Bachelor's Degree in Business Management and serves as an Advisory Board member for East Carolina's School of Hospitality Leadership.
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