In today's technology- and Internet-driven world, more owners of vacation rental properties are attempting to book and manage their properties on their own. But often owners quickly become overwhelmed with responding to reservation requests, maintenance and housekeeping issues and even late-night phone calls.
For example, if rental guests lock themselves out of their property in the middle of the night, they're going to phone the owner. Hiring an effective vacation rental management company can greatly ease the burden of property management, and can result in increased revenue for the rental property. Often this increased revenue is enough to cover the fees for the management company's services.
Consider also the intangible benefit of peace of mind for the owner, who may be able to defray part of the management company expense through tax benefits.
Here are some guidelines for choosing a vacation rental management company and some reasonable expectations: Good vacation rental management companies excel at marketing. Look for a company that has a good website to book your property and a strong social media presence. The company should have strong local listings on search engines such as Google Places and Google Maps. Some companies even have an app for smartphones to give renters information about their specific property and act as a personal concierge during their stay. Your vacation rental manager should be marketing your properties on major travel sites like Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity and TripAdvisor to maximize revenue. Your vacation rental manager should take care of your property as if it were his or her own house or villa. Look for a company
that has its own housekeeping and maintenance crews. When these functions are outsourced to contractors, the owner usually ends up paying more and the quality of services is much harder to control than when these functions are staffed by the company themselves. Your manager should inspect your unit weekly if it's not booked and be able to tell you what improvements you should make that will increase rental revenue. For example, the manager may suggest that the owner add flatscreen HD TVs and appropriate bedding. Good guest service is also imperative. The vacation rental company's guest service staff should offer referrals and discounts to things like dining, shopping, golf and water sports -- for both owners and guests. Good guest service leads to repeat guests and excellent word-of-mouth referrals to other renters for your property. Make sure your company has service coverage around the clock, every day of the year. For example, if a flood occurs because of a burst water heater, every minute counts to minimize damage and expense for the owner. All vacation rental management companies must be licensed with the state of South Carolina. Vacation rental companies are required to protect your reservation funds in a separate bank account; they cannot co-mingle these funds with their operating funds. Your vacation rental company will submit all applicable taxes due to the municipality and state where your rental property is located, and will send you a monthly statement of activity and a 1099 at the end of year for tax purposes.
Robert Stenhammer has been a resort executive for more than 15 years and has an MBA in hospitality and tourism. He is the president of Hilton Head Accommodations, serves on the board of directors for the Hilton Head Island/Bluffton Chamber of Commerce and is vice-chairman of the accommodation tax committee for the Town of Hilton Head Island. Contact him at rstenhammer @hiltonheadusa.com or 843-247-2404.