Chapter 3

How to Become a Property Manager for Vacation Rentals: Steps to Launch Your Career

Among the limitless career paths out there, vacation rental property management stands out as an option that’s both incredibly stable and rewarding. Whether you own your own vacation rental and want to expand your portfolio by managing other people’s properties, or simply like the idea of being a property manager, it’s a great time to break into the industry.

But, like with most careers, you can’t become a vacation rental property manager overnight. The right qualifications and—most importantly—industry knowledge are crucial to prepare you for the job.

So, how do you get started?

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how to become a property manager for short-term rentals, from the skills and qualifications necessary to specific steps to follow.

Don’t see the form to download the Property Management Agreement? Click here.

Benefits of being a property manager for vacation rentals

First, let’s take a look at why you might want to be a vacation rental property manager in the first place.

As we explained above, being a property manager in the short-term rental industry can be incredibly fulfilling. But property manager benefits go even further, including the following perks.

A growing industry

The global vacation rental industry was valued at nearly $110 billion in 2022. What’s more, it’s expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 11.2% from 2023 to 2030.

That’s good news for property managers looking to focus on this sector. Chances are, your job prospects are only getting better.

Low barrier to entry

A specific degree typically isn’t required to become a vacation rental property manager. And depending on the state in which you live, you might not need any licenses or certifications.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t do whatever you can to develop your skills and familiarize yourself with the industry. But it’s nice to know you don’t have a lot of boxes to check.

No two days are the same

Vacation rental property managers are responsible for a wide variety of tasks. They get to coordinate with people from different professions to manage daily operations. And they get to communicate with travelers from all over the U.S.—maybe even all over the world.

How to Become a Property Manager for Vacation Rentals

So, managing vacation rentals is clearly anything but boring. Plus, a real sense of satisfaction comes with knowing that you helped make someone’s vacation a success.

Access to innovative tools

Gone are the days of tedious manual tasks.

From property management software (PMS) to streamline guest communications and automate recurring tasks to a channel manager to unify all your calendars and messages in one place, tools are available to help with just about every aspect of the job.

For instance, dynamic pricing tools take the guesswork out of creating a pricing strategy, turnover apps simplify the transition from one guest to the next, and security devices help ensure that nothing goes awry.

And that’s just the beginning. Part of a short-term rental property manager’s job is to explore the tools available to them and put them to work.

Check out our chapter on property management tools and resources to learn more!

Flexible hours

Property management doesn’t necessarily require a 9-to-5 schedule, especially in the vacation rental industry.

As long as guests have what they need, vacation rental property managers often have flexibility when it comes to their hours. (And taking advantage of those before-mentioned automation tools only gives them more flexibility.)

Need extra proof? Check out this case study to see how the Dans built a short-term rental brand and grew their portfolio from one to three properties while keeping their 9-to-5 jobs.

What skills are necessary to be a vacation rental property manager?

So, do the benefits of being a property manager have your attention?

If this seems like the job for you, your next step is to make sure you have the necessary vacation rental property manager skills covered.

How to Become a Property Manager for Vacation Rentals

The skills needed to be a property manager for vacation rentals typically include:

  • Customer service: Vacation rental property managers’ primary responsibility is ensuring a great experience for guests. They need to be able to effectively answer questions, address complaints, and even anticipate guests’ needs.
  • Communication: Communication goes beyond the guests themselves to include working with property owners, cleaners, repairmen, and anyone else whose services are required.
  • Organization: Keeping track of reservations, guest communications, owner requests, service providers, and more is all a daily part of being a property manager for short-term rentals. This wouldn’t be possible without excellent organizational skills.
  • Technology: Property managers have numerous platforms, tools, and apps at their disposal. While these tend to be user-friendly, some degree of tech savviness will be necessary to take advantage of them.
  • Problem-solving: The problems that could arise when managing a vacation rental are infinite (and infinitely various). Property managers must be able to think on their feet to come up with solutions quickly.
  • Financial management: From optimizing a pricing strategy to paying vendors and tracking expenses, vacation rental property managers should have a strong financial understanding to maximize profits.
  • Marketing: Property managers don’t need to be master marketers. Nevertheless, having enough know-how to create an attractive listing and promote that listing on social media can go a long way toward bringing in guests.

Keep in mind that property management skills aren’t set in stone. If you’re missing some of them, chances are you could still make a great vacation rental property manager.

Vacation rental property management qualifications

How to Become a Property Manager for Vacation Rentals

What qualifications do you need to be a property manager for vacation rentals?

First, the good news: vacation rental property manager qualifications typically don’t include a specific degree.

However, some states do require a real estate license. While this is often only the case for long-term rentals, it’s best to check your state’s requirements to be sure.

Plus, it may be a good career move to get a real estate license, whether it’s one of the qualifications of a property manager for vacation rentals in your state or not.

Some states are restricting vacation rentals, forcing hosts to advertise their properties as long-term rentals instead. If you’re qualified to manage both short- and long-term rentals, you won’t be out of a job in cases like these.

How to become a certified property manager

Qualifications to be a property manager may also include specific certifications in some states. Again, we recommend checking your state’s requirements to be safe.

Regardless of your state’s requirements, though, certifications may be a good idea. They can help you learn more about your trade, enhance your credibility, and show property owners that you’re dedicated to the craft.

For example, both the Vacation Rental Management Association (VRMA) Certificate and the Certified Property Manager® (CPM) certification are great options for property managers looking to advance their careers.

How long does it take to become a property manager for vacation rentals?

This is a tricky question to answer. As we explained above, qualifications for becoming a vacation rental property manager vary from state to state.

Imagine your state has no requirements for managing short-term rentals. On top of that, you’re already deeply familiar with the industry and have a relationship with property owners looking for managers. In this case, you could be managing vacation rentals in no time.

How to Become a Property Manager for Vacation Rentals

Now imagine that your state requires you to have a real estate license. Getting your real estate license alone could take up to six months. If you also need to take some courses to learn about the industry, build your business plan, and find clients—you could be looking at a year before you manage your first property.

Again, it all depends on where you live. Check out the requirements in your state before you start making plans.

How much do short-term rental property managers charge?

For short-term rental property managers who charge a percentage-based commission, fees are  typically between 10% to 50% of collected rent. We know—this is a huge range. But it really comes down to where the property is located, your experience, and the services you provide.

Though less common, short-term rental property managers can also be paid a flat fee. Flat fees can range from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars each month.

We know—that’s a wide range. That’s because fees vary widely based on factors such as:

  • Location (cities vs. rural areas)
  • Vacation rental type, size, and condition
  • Property management services offered

So, how much do property managers charge for vacation rentals? It varies widely. We recommend checking with short-term rental property managers in your area to get a better idea.

Steps to become a vacation rental property manager

Now, what you’ve been waiting for: how to become a short-term rental property manager step by step.

Educate yourself

Nothing you do to become a vacation rental property manager will matter if you don’t actually understand the job in and out. Vacation rental property managers must be experts in both property management and the vacation rental industry to convince property owners to trust them with their investments.

How to Become a Property Manager for Vacation Rentals

So, educate yourself—on the responsibilities, the industry, the requirements in your area. Everything. (The fact that you’re reading this guide is a good start.)

Here are some courses that might help with this step:

Become certified (if necessary)

In the previous step, you should have learned whether there are any specific requirements to become a short-term rental property manager in your area.

Do you need a real estate license? What about a specific certification? If so, now is the time to start the process of meeting these requirements.

For more details, revisit our section on property management qualifications.

Apply at a vacation rental property management company

The easiest way to become a vacation rental manager is simply to apply at a company that offers this service.

How to Become a Property Manager for Vacation Rentals

This way, you avoid having to worry about starting your own business, insuring yourself, finding clients, and other concerns. The company handles all of that, and you get to focus on the job itself.

Revisit our section on vacation rental property management skills to prepare for your interviews.

Or, start your own property management business

Another option is to start your own vacation rental property management business.

Note that this option will involve a lot more work. But it will also enable you to be your own boss, choose how to do business, and keep the profits for yourself.

So, let’s review what’s necessary to start your own short-term rental property management company.

Create a business plan

Creating a business plan is an essential first step in starting a business of any kind. But more than that, it forces you to think through important considerations that will determine your future success.

For example:

  • What is your vision for your property management business?
  • What objectives do you have?
  • What sets your property management business apart from the competition?
  • What kind of property owners (or properties) do you want to work with?
  • How will your business operate?
  • How will you market your business?
  • How will you ensure and measure financial success?

Without first answering these questions, you won’t know which direction to go in.

Manage your legal and financial concerns

How to Become a Property Manager for Vacation Rentals

Now it’s time to check some boxes. Your business will need to have all of the following covered in order to start operations:

  • Business registration: You will need to choose a legal framework for your business in order to register it with the government. Work with an advisor to decide whether a corporation, limited liability company (LLC), partnership, or sole proprietorship makes the most sense.
  • Permits and licensing: Determine if any permits or licenses are required to open a business in your area—such as tax registrations, business licenses, or occupancy permits—and apply for them.
  • Insurance: Protect yourself, your business, and your clients with insurance. Visit our chapter on property management insurance to learn what types of coverage to invest in.
  • Financial management: Open a business bank account, invest in accounting software, or even hire an accountant to manage your finances properly from the start.

Hire staff

Chances are, your business will be a one-person operation for a while. At least until you have enough clients (and income) to justify expanding your team.

However, the time will come when you’ll want to bring in some help. You might consider hiring a cleaner or someone to help with guest communications so you can focus on the bigger picture. Or, maybe you want a business partner to help you make important decisions.

Whatever you decide, be sure to perform a careful financial analysis to make sure you can afford the new expenses.

Market and promote your business

You won’t sign any clients if no one knows that your business exists. Promote your property management services by any and all means possible, focusing specifically on:

  • Branding: Develop a professional and memorable brand for your business. Your brand will determine how potential clients perceive you and should be consistent across all your marketing efforts.
  • Digital marketing: Market your business online with a website, search engine optimization (SEO), social media, and anything else you can think of to target property owners.
  • Print marketing: Do you live in an area with numerous vacation rentals? Consider leaving print materials promoting your property management company in public spaces where property owners will see them.
  • Networking: Join and post in Facebook groups and online forums for property owners and hosts. Or, advertise on websites designed to connect property managers and owners, such as CoHostMarket. You can even promote your business in person at trade shows and other industry events.

Consider specializing: how to become an Airbnb property manager

Specialization is one of the best ways to differentiate yourself from the competition. For example, you could specialize in a specific online travel agency (OTA), type of vacation rental, or even guest type.

We’ve seen that it often pays off to specialize in managing Airbnbs. After all, Airbnb is essentially synonymous with vacation rentals. Most vacation rental owners list on Airbnb, and any expertise you have will only make you a more attractive candidate.

How to Become a Property Manager for Vacation Rentals

So, here are some extra tips on how to become an Airbnb property manager, specifically. (Don’t worry, all of the above information still applies!)

  • Learn everything about Airbnb: In addition to knowing everything about property management and the vacation rental industry, you’ll need to know all the ins and outs of Airbnb. Check out our course on How to Create and Run a Successful Airbnb Business and our Ultimate Airbnb Host Guide.
  • Consider co-hosting: Airbnb owners may have more confidence in you if they see that you’ve hosted an Airbnb before. If you don’t own a vacation rental, Airbnb co-hosting is a great way to gain experience.
  • Join Airbnb host forums: Check out vacation rental forums dedicated specifically to Airbnb hosts. You can see if anyone has been asking for property management referrals, gain trust by answering hosts’ property management questions, and advertise your services there.
  • Reach out to hosts: Sometimes, it pays to be direct. Consider reaching out to local Airbnb hosts or hosts you’ve stayed with to see if they (or anyone they know) need help with property management. You could even target Airbnb hosts with low reviews—they’ll know they need the help!

Rather become a Vrbo property manager?

If you’re wondering how to become a Vrbo property manager, know that the requirements and steps are not that different from Airbnb.

While Vrbo doesn’t offer options for co-hosting, the other steps to become a Vrbo property manager are the same: Learn as much as you can about Vrbo, join Vrbo host forums, and reach out to Vrbo hosts to uncover opportunities!

Do the job

Once you’ve signed your first client—congratulations! Your hard work has paid off and you’re officially a short-term rental property manager.

Now all that’s left is to overcome your imposter syndrome and start doing the job!

Don’t see the form to download the Property Management Agreement? Click here.