When looking for the right tool to help you manage and grow your vacation rental business, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with all the options on the market, including many so-called free vacation rental software solutions. But, what does ‘free’ mean and what can you expect from these types of tools? Are they worth it, and is there a catch? Which is the best one? How do you compare them?
We take a closer look but let’s start with the basics.
Free vacation rental software helps vacation rental owners or property managers take charge of their businesses. As your business grows, so does the number of tasks and responsibilities, including marketing, managing guest communications and property management.
Sooner or later most hosts or property managers will look for ways to free up some of their time and make their lives easier.
Depending on the software features of the product you choose, you are able to automate and optimize many of your daily tasks through a free property management system (PMS).
Why using free vacation rental software is a no-brainer
The first and obvious one is that you will have more hours in your day to focus on business development, marketing and the more strategic side of your business, thanks to the automation and optimization of many tasks.
So, for example, you can respond to inquiry emails using autoresponders, for the communications that don’t need a personalized reply.
Boost guest experience
Happy guests equal better reviews, which, in turn, equals more bookings. The guest experience starts from the first interaction, for example by responding instantly to a guest’s inquiry. One of the features included in most vacation rental software is automated messaging, which streamlines your communications. You really appear to be on the ball and if you’re an Airbnb host, a quick response rate will help your rental to outrank your competitors on the Airbnb site.
Streamline channel management
When your property is listed on various online travel agencies (OTAs) such as Airbnb, Vrbo or Booking.com, you need to log in and out of, various accounts at all times to stay on top of things.
Through a vacation rental management tool, you will no longer need superpowers to stay up to date, thanks to the seamless integration of booking channels.
Everything will now be in one place and thanks to a synchronized calendar, there will be no risk of ending up red-faced because of double bookings of your rental, because your calendar will always be up to date with the latest reservations across all channels.
If you have your own website, as you should do to ensure you get direct bookings, a good free property management software will also be synced with the rest of your channels.
Effective scaling of your business
Once your business runs smoothly, you will get to the point where you may want to expand into more rentals. This is when the wheels usually come off, as you now not only have different channels for one property but different channels for two separate properties.
At this point, vacation rental software really proves its worth. With the help of the best free rental property management software, you are able to take on more property management tasks across several rentals, stay on top of reservations and grow your business, without compromising on the guest experience.
Saving time means saving money. Not only are you working much faster by cutting down on time-consuming routine tasks, but you also can generate bookings faster, which will boost profits.
How to choose the best free vacation rental software
Now that you know why you need it, you still may have doubts when it comes to choosing the best vacation rental tool for your purposes.
Not to worry, let’s go over some of the key features you need to look out for when you’re doing your comparisons.
A channel manager
Ensure that the tool you are using includes a channel manager, which seamlessly integrates all your channels, including your own website, into one dashboard.
A website builder
Not all solutions offer a fully-flexed website builder, but this is essential. Direct bookings are on the rise, representing an ever bigger slice of the overall vacation rental booking pie, which means you want to be part of it.
It is the only way you’ll get bookings without having to pay commission to third parties and gives you full control over your own business.
Check out whether the software option you are considering includes templates for websites and ensure you like the look of them.
A powerful booking engine
If you have your own site, you need a secure booking system to allow you to receive bookings and online payments right from the word go.
Check out the integrations offered by the vacation rental tool, for example, integration with a revenue management tool will allow you to use dynamic pricing to fine-tune your pricing strategy and boost your profits.
A unified inbox
A unified inbox is a single, smart inbox that combines communications from multiple channels in one place. No more logging in and out of different accounts or toggling between them.
Support and onboarding
If you’re not a digital native and you’re worried about not getting your head around the software, you need to be sure your preferred option of short-term rental software offers onboarding and decent support. Also check out the reviews for the tool on sites such as Capterra and Trustpilot, while you’re at it.
So, does free actually mean free?
As we all know, nothing in life is free. So, what does free vacation rental software actually mean?
The truth is by choosing the right tool, you actually get quite advanced features for free, but of course, at some point, you do have to start paying.
Most property management software offers different pricing plans, with more features for higher price options. However, not all of them offer a free plan. This is what you want to find.
When you are looking for the best option for your business, be sure to read the small print. Decide which of the features will be most beneficial to you.
What does the ‘free’ option you are looking at entail and at what point do you have to pay? Will the payment be monthly fees or commission-based and how much will this be?
Do your sums and make sure you compare apples with apples.
You can’t avoid paying altogether, but with the right free plan, you can reduce your upfront investment and keep costs down, while accessing all the advanced features you need to grow your business.
Why Lodgify’s new Lite Plan is the best risk-free vacation rental software
Lodgify ticks all the boxes mentioned above by offering all the key features vacation rental hosts need to grow their business without any upfront investment to vacation rental owners who are just starting out and not yet sure which software features they need.