Since launching The Surf Village back in August I’ve had to ramp up my knowledge on managing vacation and short term rental properties.
I’ve had quite a few people ask me questions on how we handle guest communication, pricing, security, etc so this is my attempt at providing some general information on how we’re doing it all.
If this type of content is useful please reach out and I’d be happy to continue to publish more insights on the nuts and bolts of running a short term rental operation but for today, let’s jump into a few of the biggies.
Managing Guest Communication
If you’re listing your property on more than one booking platform you’re going to want a way to handle your booking calendar, messaging guests, consistency in your listings, pricing and more.
This is where channel management software comes into play.
There are dozens of channel managers out there but we ultimately decided on a product called Hospitable. This tool lets us hook into AirBnb, VRBO, and Booking.com via APIs, link identical listings together, and manage them in one single spot, or channel.
The have a fully functioning mobile app for iPhone and Android or you can use any web browser to access.
Guests can message us on any single platform and it appears in a universal inbox where we can respond to inquiries from one dashboard.
It supports boilerplate responses to save on answering the same question over and over as well as scheduled messaging for automating common communications such as checkin & checkout information, house rules, etc.
When a guest books on a platform Hospitable blocks out the calendar on all of your linked properties to prevent double booking.
Pricing, minimum night stays, photos and copy can be universally controlled in one place and disseminated out to the individual platforms.
All of this is great and pretty much fulfills the standard needs of any short term rental host, but my favorite feature of Hospitable is how it plays nice with others via 3rd party app integrations.
This comes in super handy when managing pricing and property access.
Dynamic Pricing Management
Pricing our bungalows properly was a big source of anxiety for me and I was trying to avoid “shooting from the hip”.
Fortunately there is a tool called Pricelabs to help us analyze market conditions and adjust our pricing in real time.
It integrates directly with Hospitable and using this powerful combination of tools, we’re able to dynamically update our prices every 24 hours based on demand.
I’ve only begun to scratch the surface with what Pricelabs can do but it easily allows us to set ideal nightly rates, floor prices, minimum nightly stays, seasonal rates, identify in demand dates, and more.
While you really need to understand the true cost of hosting a guest to properly determine your pricing, Pricelabs lets us measure and adjust as close to real time to help drive more revenue.
Managing Guest Access
I am committed to doing things “the right way” versus the easier or more economical when it comes to daily operations of The Surf Village.
To that end, we decided to splurge on the Schlage Encode smart locks for all of our doors. At almost $300/lock, there are certainly cheaper alternatives but in the interest of time management, I decided it was worth the investment.
The beauty of these particular locks is that they integrate directly with Hospitable and many of the other channel managers.
When a guest books with us, it generates a temporary code for them that activates at the time of their check in and deactivates when they check out.
The lock allows you to create up to 100 codes so I also use it for cleaning & support teams, pest control, handyman access and pretty much anyone who we need to get into our spaces on a recurring basis.
This feature alone has already saved me hours of time managing lock outs, updating security codes, and confirming that a guest has indeed, checked out when they were supposed to.
Managing Guest Security
Our 11th hour decision to add Ring doorbell cameras to all of our doors was made after repeatedly being told how essential they were to creating peace of mind.
Paired with our smart locks, we’re able to easily manage our check in and check out process, provide better site security, keep tabs of when professional service teams are on site, and ensure we are being good neighbors by making sure our guests are adhering to quiet hours.
While I would never recommend such a blatant violation of privacy such as putting a camera inside your unit, exterior property surveillance will help provide better security for your property and ensure the well being of your guests.
Isn’t This A Bit Overkill?
But that depends on your goals and size of your operation. If you are occasionally renting out a garage apartment behind your house, some of these tools might be overkill and it’s not worth the initial and recurring investment.
The Surf Village currently has 3 bungalows up and running with another 6 opening later this year. Assuming that we are renting these once per week next summer, that is 36 different groups of guests that we need to manage every month.
I would argue for anyone doing something more than casual, these tools are indispensable and allow you to spend less time on the routine management and more time on being a better host.
Interested in learning more?
Feel free to reach out and I’d be happy to answer your questions or you can hire me to consult on your next project.