Many vacation rental owners opt to buy and manage a property remotely. This option is suitable for all hosts: those who wish to invest in an area where there is a high demand for tourism, want to list their property to international travelers, or own a holiday home abroad and rent it out when they are not using it.
About 10 years ago, telecommuting may have appeared like a dream. But now, it’s become a natural part of the working environment. Statistics reveal that 7 million citizens in the US (3.4% of the population) were working remotely even before the COVID-19 outbreak. What’s more, the number of people working remotely has increased by 44% in the last five years.
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But working from home presents new challenges for vacation rental owners and property managers not usually encountered. Whether you’re an urban or vacation property owner and/or manager, keep reading to learn more about managing a rental property remotely.
But first, what’s a Long Distance Rental Property?
A long-distance rental property means that the home is located a few hours’ drive away, in another state or even in another country.
Long-distance rental management isn’t just limited to location, as hosts living near their rental may not be able to dedicate to the business full time or frequently travel themselves.
How to Manage a Vacation Rental Remotely?
Wherever you’re geographically located, you’ll still have to make sure you fill all the needs of your guests and deliver a 5-star guest experience. With the rapid rate that the vacation rental industry is growing, new technologies and online platforms have emerged that help homeowners take full control of their business. These tools allow hosts to run their vacation rental efficiently without actually been physically present. On many occasions, it can even reduce the workload.
Let’s take a look at 12 ways to manage vacation rentals remotely:
1. Create a Lockdown Plan
Although this might sound too catastrophic, you can never be too over-prepared. With a lockdown or pandemic plan, you’ll be able to respond quickly and efficiently to varying levels of severity and adjust your actions accordingly. List down your priorities and include a brief outline of what you intend to achieve. Some goals during a crisis could include:
Reducing infection spread among your staff and guests
Minimize effects on your business
Maintaining business activities
Keeping a calm and controlled lead
Transparent communication with staff and guests
You can also set clear expectations by deciding how your remote team will be structured, as well as the selection of decision-makers. This step is important since they will help you decide how and when to activate your plan and the actions to take.
The more documentation you have, the easier it will be to activate your plan when you’re forced to work remotely.
2. Get Vacation Rental Management Software
It can be quite a challenge to manage a remote property management business. However, thanks to automation, you can be sure that even if you’re far from your properties, your business is under control.
With vacation rental software like Lodgify, you’ll be able to monitor and manage your operations, while still getting bookings.
3. Automated check-in and check-out
Automated check-in and check-out in vacation rentals is a concept that has been around for a while and is a process that many hosts have already adapted, even if they live close to their property. The simplicity that comes with it is that you don’t have to greet your guests upon arrival and departure. This works as a great advantage, especially if guests are arriving late or have a delay.
There are several secure ways to allow your guests to check-in themselves: WIFI door locks, lockbox, electronic locks, smart locks. If you prefer to stick to the traditional way, you can carry out a safe key drop in which you provide a safe place close to the property for key storage. Likewise, you can entrust your neighbors or friends with the key to your rental home.
4. Home Automation Systems
Today’s market offers vacation rentals owners endless possibilities to manage their business without having to be present. Similar to automated check-ins, you can install home automation systems where you’ll be able to monitor and control the AC, smart thermostats, smart lighting, etc.
As for noise control in your property, applications such as NoiseAware or Party Squasher will inform you if your guests are having a party. In the event of excessive noise, you’ll receive an alert on your mobile phone and you can take action immediately, avoiding any problems with the neighbors.
Your new guests will receive a pleasant welcome in an invitingly lit house that is already heated or air-conditioned. In addition, you can also reassure yourself that everything is switched off after the guests leave and avoid paying excessive electricity and heating bills.
Whether you want to save energy or want to create a pleasant atmosphere to welcome your guests, these home automation tools are extremely helpful.
5. Home Security
Your rental’s security is extremely important, especially when you are managing the property long-distance. Your rental may be empty between stays, therefore security measures must be in place during this absence.
Some key security systems are surveillance cameras, motion sensors, and burglar alarms. Many of these systems can be connected to your mobile phone or computer. If an alarm is triggered, you will immediately receive a notification on your smartphone and can check the live cameras.
However, some guests may not be fond of a surveillance camera and have concerns over privacy and data protection. Be sure to inform your guests in advance of the systems in place.
Since you are not on-site to meet your guests personally, you can always screen guests during the booking process. Get to know your guests before you accept the booking and only give them the exact address once the booking has been completed and payment has been received. After all, you want to avoid troublesome guests, especially when you’re not in the area.
6. Keep a List of Quality Contractors
Do some research in the area in which your rental is located and make contacts with local maintenance: a plumber, electrician or a handyman.
Explain to them your situation, that you have a rental but do not live nearby, and ask them if they can be your point of contact if something were to happen when your guests are in the property. This way, they will be hands-on and able to fix something in case of an emergency (a leak, flood, power outage, etc.)
7. Find a reliable housekeeper or cleaning service
In addition to contractors, it’s highly important, especially during post COVID times, to hire a professional cleaning service to manage routine tasks such as disinfecting and cleaning and handling guest turnover.
Nothing is more important than portraying your properties in the best possible manner and that starts with having a clean home. The money you invest in good housekeeping will be one of the best investments you make in your vacation rental business. Bad reviews over a badly maintained and dirty property are incredibly challenging to overcome.
Furthermore, a cleaning service would make sure frequently neglected and hard-to-reach places to ensure your vacation rental is spotless. You can even provide them with a personalized vacation rental cleaning checklist to ensure they comply with your cleaning protocols.
8. Consider Hiring a Property Manager
One of the most common practices in having a long-distance rental is having a property manager. This tends to be the most popular and convenient option. Each company offers a different type of service. Some property managers take care of cleaning and replacing amenities, or act as the emergency contact for guests during their stay. A property manager can also be present for check-in and check-out turnover. Some companies even offer concierge service.
Depending on the manager or company, they can account for 10 – 20% per booking, sometimes higher. Whilst you still can take care of the marketing and reservations, a property manager will look after everything guest-related and take care of the property itself.
9. Market your Property
The good news about having a long-distance rental is that you don’t have to change anything when it comes to marketing your property. There are many ways to advertise your rental: having your own website, SEO, listing on OTAs, writing a blog, email campaigns, social media, etc. Whilst there are several options, it’s important to dedicate time to each one to ensure that your rental gets high exposure.
If you decided to invest in a rental in a popular tourist destination, constantly marketing your rental is an absolute must to secure a high occupancy rate all year round.
10. Keep your website and listings up-to-date
On top of managing your online presence and marketing your rental, it’s important to offer up-to-date information on both your website and listings. Make sure you keep your website and listing photos current and reply to all your guest messages and reviews. These tasks may be time-consuming without the use of all-in-one vacation rental software.
Lodgify’s Ultimate plan starting at $45 comes with guest communication and task management features to automate all of these tasks. That way you can focus on what’s most important, managing your short-term rental business remotely.
11. Provide a Welcome Book
As you won’t be present at check-in, you can still give your guests a personal welcome by providing a welcome book. You can really make a good impression on your guests by putting some effort and creativity.
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Here are just some ideas you can include:
Activities in the area (beautiful hiking trails, special beaches, viewpoints, cycle pathss, points of interest, etc.)
Recommendations for restaurants and cafés
Useful information in the neighborhood (car parks, ATMs, supermarkets, pharmacies)
Public transportation information
Providing the right services to your guests from the first moment they enter your vacation rental can really make a difference and could improve your repeat guest rate.
12. Communicate with your Guests
Communicate with your guests before, during and after their stay. Let your guests know that even though you’re not living in the area, they can get in touch with you if they experience any problems or aren’t satisfied.
Also, don’t forget them to provide them with emergency contact during their stay, whether it is a friend or a property manager. If you are the emergency point of contact, inform them they can get in touch with you via email, phone or text.
What to Take Away
To manage your vacation rental remotely may seem like a challenge at first glance, but once you’ve examined all the points it’s not as daunting as it seems. Think of all the people in the world who have holiday homes abroad and rent out it when they are not using it themselves.
When the exact location of your holiday rental is not a determining factor, you can research which areas would be the most beneficial for you to invest in, or which are the most popular among travelers and will bring you the most profit.
As you can see, it’s not mandatory to be there yourself to offer guests a positive experience in your vacation rental. Substitutes such as automated check-in and the evolving technology can minimize the workload and at the same time enable you to manage your vacation rental remotely.
As you have already seen, managing a holiday rental property from a distance is a walk in the park really! With the latest tools and different ways of managing, owners no longer have to be present to run their business. What’s more, having these tools upgrades will make your property more attractive, safer and perhaps even more profitable in the long run.
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