Some vacation rental homes are right next door to their owners; others are across town or possibly across the country or the world. Ours happens to be 1,353 miles door-to-door. The ideas below have helped us overcome the distance so the miles have no impact on our business.
For those who manage their own properties on-site there are some nuggets below that you may find useful. For the rest of us who are not close enough to be on-site at our properties full-time, let’s start with our first and most important tip for managing from afar.
1. Hire a Property Manager you can trust. Find someone who will look after your house like it’s their own. Personally, we manage the rentals with two wonderful property managers who are both homemakers and empty nesters, happy to apply their skills to delight our guests. At $30-35/hour they are each a key ingredient to providing a memorable experience for travelers; and they are worth every penny. Depending on your level of involvement and the time you have to manage the manager, you can either hire a property management company or contract out the work to an individual.
2. Make your guests’ needs just a phone call away. Ensure someone is always available to your guests via phone whether it’s you or your PM, or ideally both. People always appreciate getting through on the first try and they will tell others how easy you are to work with. We had recent guests commenting on how a quick response “made them Love us and the house even more!” Problems + Responsiveness = Even MORE Love? How cool is that?
3. Establish a strong support network. Identify people you can rely on for maintenance appointments, and identify backups where appropriate, from the trades you deal with regularly:
- Cleaning Service
- Groundskeeper or Landscaper
- Pool Technician
- Laundry Service
- Heating/AC Repair
When selecting your vendor partners ask questions specific to your business situation like:
- How quickly can you respond to my home when I call?
- What are availability and rates during non-business hours?
- Can you contract as a commercial account for priority response times or reduced rates?
4. Utilize picture messaging. See what you otherwise couldn’t. Nearly everyone carries a phone capable of sending photos. If you are dealing with your PM or a vendor and think to yourself that you wish you could see what they’re talking about, ask them to send you some photos on the spot.
5. Visit your home as a guest. The best way to identify opportunities to create delightful memories or potential guest frustrations is to experience your home as a guest. Pay your PM to set the home as usual so you can know first-hand the experience your guests are having when they arrive. Our guests have appreciated the guestbook entries we leave from our visits mentioning the improvements we made to the home or new places we discovered in the area.
6. Love thy neighbors. Make it a point to personally meet all neighbors who might have interest in knowing you are running a vacation home. Give them your personal contact info and reassure them that you set clear expectations with each of your guests about noise and disturbances. Ask them to call you first for any reason regarding your home, and store the number they will call from in your phone so you can pick up immediately if they should call.
7. Give them a personal touch. Allow your guests to make a personal connection with you. We often ask our PM’s to leave fresh flowers or tasty treats along with a card signed from “Angela and Michael” for groups at check-in. I know some other owners have had the inverse experience, but several of our guests have also commented that the family photo we leave in the home made them feel welcome, as if staying with extended family.
The Bottom Line: The distance between you and your vacation home doesn’t have to interfere with your ability to create exceptional guest experiences. A property manager you can trust, a support network of people who understand the needs of your business and some creative thinking will pay dividends when managing your vacation home from afar.
Plus…the tactics above can make adding your next vacation home that much easier.
We would all value YOUR thoughts and ideas on managing from afar, feel free to share them below.
Michael Smith: Michael and his wife Angela happened into vacation home ownership in April 2007 when a relocation nudged them toward the idea of short-term renting. Within months of establishing Ultimate SoCal Vacation Homes, they began making plans to expand their business. Having combined backgrounds in sales, marketing, business development and hospitality helps them to create guest experiences that exceed expectations. Today, more than 3,500 guests later, Michael and Angela are operating three profitable vacation homes in Anaheim.