The Outer Banks has a long history of being a vacation destination. There are many companies to choose to manage your recently purchased vacation home. Perhaps, you had a negative experience with your current Property Management team? Now, is the time to select a Property Management company to be ready for the 2017 season. Use the criteria below to determine the best match for your vacation home and the level of involvement you want to have in its day to day management.
Vacation Rental Management Business Models
Keep in mind there are different flavors or business models for vacation property management companies:
- Full service vacation rentals – they handle everything from marketing, booking, cleaning and maintenance and guest satisfaction. You cash a check at the end of the month.
- Property Manager – they handle the maintenance and guest relations during their stay but do not participate in marketing, booking or handling inquiries.
- Booking Service – they handle booking and answering inquiries but do not do any maintenance, cleaning or guest relations once they arrive at your home.
- Hybrid – the vacation home market is rapidly changing and new models are emerging daily with different combinations of services and fee structures. One option is where the owner handles the marketing, booking and payments/deposits and the Company handles the back end services from check in, emergency services, maintenance, cleaning, linens and guest check out. One example of this model in the Outer Banks is Xpert Home Services which charges a flat fee.
The knowledge and experience of the Management Team or Property Manager is critically important. You should feel comfortable voicing your concerns to the Property Manager and know that they will listen and respond to your needs and concerns. Try to set up a personal meeting with the property manager and come prepared with a list of questions. Gauge the response to determine if you will just be a number or have input and quick response from the Property Manager.
Most Property Management companies in the Outer Banks have a website where your property will be featured. The website should rank highly for a general query of Outer Banks Vacation Rentals to make sure there is adequate traffic to generate reservations.
The website should be easy to navigate, easy to book and make payments. It should answer typical questions about cancellation policies, vacation insurance, security deposits, and damage protection policy coverage.
Check the company’s website for competing home profiles (similar location, bedrooms and amenities). Are the pictures & descriptions professionally done? Is there a lot of pictures for each home so guests can see each room, inside and outside the house and included amenities? Is the website mobile friendly?
What additional marketing does the management company perform? Is there a dedicated team for writing blogs, posting and responding to social media, and sending emails to past clients? Do they use up to date technology and marketing techniques?
Does the marketing include a special introduction for your home entering their program to make potential guests aware of a “new” home to select from?
Property Management companies tend to have a guest centered or owner centered philosophy. Some are in the middle and try to balance both interests.
A guest centered approach means they bend over backwards to satisfy every guest. This can be a positive to encourage repeat guest to the company but may also have the owner incur additional expenses to appease the guest.
The opposite side of the spectrum is owner centered, where owners interest always come first (sometimes to the dissatisfaction of guests).
A balanced approach is where both interests are taken into consideration for any decision.
Another element of the company philosophy is the size of the company and the number and type of homes under management. Some companies only handle large, luxury homes with lots of amenities. Others are selective with the homes under management to make sure they are well maintained and have appeal to their target clients. Some property management companies will take all houses and guests. You want to have a good fit between your house and the property management company philosophy.
The Property Management Company’s maintenance team is key for keeping your house well maintained. Check out how long employees have been with the company and the length and depth of their experience. These employees are your homes first line of defense. Their skill will keep guests happy while protecting your home from damage and disrepair.
Ask questions about how maintenance time is billed. What items are included, like HVAC filters, batteries or lock-outs? Also, ask about off-season checks and storm protection. Is there an hour minimum charge (regardless of time spent in home)?
Are the Technicians trained in additional skills like carpet cleaning, pool servicing or other skills needed for your home?
Longevity in Market Place
The longer the time the Management Company has been operating provides some comfort that they know what they are doing, understand the local market and local regulations. However, do not eliminate any new companies from consideration. A new company can have new ideas for operating that could be the leading edge of how the industry is changing. An older company can be slow to change and adapt to using new technology which could decrease efficiency and increase expenses.
The Property Management Company should be willing to share the rental history of like rentals for homes of the same size, location and amenities as yours. Also, how many homes similar to yours are in their rental program? Is your home going to stand out and be memorable to employees as a suggestion to guests or just another house? What is the policy on discounts and short term stays?
Does the Property Management Company have multiple locations or a single location in the Outer Banks? Is the location convenient for guests to check-in or are all check-ins keyless? If all check-in are keyless, how much must you invest for the system and what controls are in place to screen guests? Are Maintenance Tech’s assigned a location or is technology used to track and locate the nearest technician when needed?
The fees you pay should be compared to the level and quality of services provided. The lowest cost is not always the best choice. Remember, they are managing one of your most valuable assets. A higher upfront fee or percentage may actually be more economical if additional valuable services are included.
Alternatively, some companies will state a lower fee but “nickel and dime” you with every possible charge they can to make up the difference. Get the services covered by the fee listed in writing: repairs, inspections (cleaning, inventory, and damage), check-ins, housekeeping etc.
Does the Property Management Company allow owners to obtain booking or use other channels like VRBO or Airbnb? If the reservation comes from outside channels is the fee reduced?
Ask the Property Management Company to provide Owner references that you will contact to get feedback on how responsive and fair the company is to work with. Ask if you can see samples of real owner statements to get a sense of what fees are charged on top of commissions.
Eillu is here to assist you with purchasing a vacation rental home as a second home or as an investment. We have decades of experience in the Outer Banks market and can provide contacts for Property Management or vendors to keep your investment in tip-top shape.