Softening Property Management for the Vacation Market

Moving from RE sales and monthly rentals to short term vacation rentals takes some skill – and a lot of colorful frosting.

property management

“Sorry,  I wasn’t really thinking about Finance at the moment.”

Setting up your property management business or Real Estate office to handle short term vacation rentals sounds like a breeze. The money is better, or at least more constant, and the value added to your property owners is often outstanding.

The biggest problems for newer Vacation Rental enterprises are these:

  1. Lack of adequate exposure and customers
  2. Losing customers because sales and management are just a lot more blunt and heavy-handed than the holiday market will accept
  3. Lack of attention to repeat customers
  4. Lack of value added services

Sure, you’re a nice guy and you can talk straight with owners and investors and latch-key clients who want to turn a quick profit and stand back from it. But the holiday market is a lot more hands on, a lot more flashy and a lot more dependent on the value added. Let’s take a look at each of these issues in turn.

1) Lack of Exposure

No one can really compete with a house for sale, or even an apartment for rent, because it’s basically one of only very few available.

The amount of marketing you need may actually be rather limited for sales or annual leases. The facts are straight, even in a complicated market, like buying on the coast in Mexico. You can do value-added just by explaining and teaching the process. Real estate people and investors can describe and explain and sell their services, often with no marketing at all. In a sense, and contrary to what they often believe, they do marketing in numbers. Hard math. Some business calculus too. But mostly they try to do hard numbers on the back of an envelope, or the legendary napkin. They’ll call that “sales” but I’m going to call it marketing and that is to illustrate the larger issue.

Many of these same seasoned Real Estate people will come to me with the idea that marketing must mean advertising. Some of them have been buying space in newspapers since the 1980s and they’re used to the quick fix that advertising will give them. That’s part of marketing. But it’s not really even the most important part of marketing.

The Vacation Market is very crowded and VERY NOISY. Don’t think you’re going to be louder than everyone else.

To make it, you’re going to need to present a better message, more expertise and more recommendations. You’ll quite possibly be competing with other websites (possibly other service providers) and the amount of administration and sheer online database nuttery. If you run the best, easiest service for administering listings, you can easily pull ahead.

  • Owners will pull out from listings services simply because of the trouble of maintaining them. Make a note of that.
  • If you’re going to hire someone, make sure they are fanatical about detail, truth, accuracy and depicting multiple properties all the time.
  • What you’re doing is closer to actually running a newspaper than to simply buying one quarter page in the Sunday Times.

Dedicate yourself to learning a little more about marketing – especially content marketing – and work with the people who will pull your company into the conversations going on about your market area, tourism and travel and visiting. It won’t be fast, but it will last for the life of your company.

2) Vacation Rental Marketing

This is a big issue. And as this entire blog is at least in large measure about it, I will try to be simple and focused here.

  1. Vacation travelers know that they don’t need to be as smart as when they are buying condos or houses.
  2. In exchange for that kind of due diligence, they expect to be rewarded, with extras, with value-addeds, upgrades and something like a hotel experience. If they are not booking a hotel, they expect just a little in the direction of hotel treatment.
  3. Those functions, on your part, whether it’s posting linen changes or cleaning schedules, or delivering toiletries or local information make a tremendous difference in the guests experience.
  4. A picture is worth a thousand words. Picture the clean linens, picture the welcome basket and some food. Picture some friendly service people. But don’t mistakenly think that these places will sell themselves. They won’t.
  5. Though you can be cut and dry about rules & regulations, this is not a monthly rental presenting you with significant risk. The guests know that too. Your company is providing marketing for their next visit, already.

3) Repeat Customers

As stated above, you should be working continually to insure that every guest wants to return. Most vacation rental websites are indistinguishable one from the others. Make sure yours stands out, that everyone gets onto your list and that they’ll be interested in coming back. They will refer friends and other travelers and some of them will do it long into the future. This kind of “marketing” costs a fraction of that Sunday Times ad, and lasts one hundred times longer.

Make sure your social media is set up to encourage reviews and feedback. And think about all of your social media as building an inclusive, values oriented community.

4) Value Added

Build on that community. Does it include all of the vendors and service providers in your area and near your properties? If it does then include a discount coupon from the coffee shop and the nail salon in the building or down the street. How much will it be to include some good soap or shampoo in your welcome kit? How many bookings are you making? Enough to sell them to the local independent shops? Some of the bigger players will do just that, even co-branding and offering direct access. You can also work with your local super-market to put together a welcome box or basket, or list the prices and add your own surcharge for delivering.

Post that on your website. What’s on your list and what’s it cost? Remember. The most important things are cleaning and understanding when the beds can be made up and who’s going to do it.

Your owners may still be the most important people in your list of clients. You won’t be their favorite unless their properties are booked, and booked regularly. But take a long careful look at what your service is doing for the people paying the bills, and you’ll find that you never lack for people willing to pay those bills.

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Photo this page: Laguna Beach condos © Wikimedia Commons, by Kevin Zollman

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