HOST FATIGUE? GIVE SELF-MANAGEMENT A REST

HOST FATIGUE? GIVE SELF-MANAGEMENT A REST

 

 

Hosting is many things: fun, interesting, and sometimes lucrative.  But, one thing that you may not know until you are in the thick of it is that it is certainly not easy, especially for full-time hosts who are frequently churning guests. Why is it so much work? Hosts need to market the property and work out the logistical aspects of the rental agreement, as well as hand off keys to each guest, be on call to answer any questions, and provide a clean home, fresh towels and sheets, stocked toilet paper, and more.  Host fatigue is a true phenomenon in the peer-to-peer rental market.

 

Frustrated with computer

 

To host well, one must invest time and energy to create the guest experience recommended by Airbnb, one that rivals a hotel’s hospitality and consistency. As Airbnb’s Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy Chip Conley tweeted: “To my few hoteliers: it ain’t the bricks & mortars of the building that defines “hospitality,” it’s the heart & soul of the hosts / staff.”

 

While Chip’s sentiment is correct, it does not change the fact that organization and methodology are required to create that consistently hospitable environment for your guests in a peer-to-peer rental. After all, operating bed and breakfast inns can be a full-time pursuit and HomeAway reports that it takes hosts an average of 8.4 hours per week marketing and managing their vacation rental properties.

 

Given the time commitment and potential for host fatigue, potential hosts must carefully weigh opportunity cost and burnout potential against financial reward when considering how many weeks they wish to rent their properties.  In plain words, how much is your time worth, how likely are you to burn out, and how does the number of weeks that you are on call to host change any of these considerations?  And what if you find that you are not great at booking and managing the property?
A solution does exist – hiring a professional property manager who will assume all rental responsibilities on your behalf.

 

VacationFutures.com is a site that connects homeowners who are looking to rent their home to professional property managers who will manage the home and pay the homeowners a predetermined rate for all weeks during which the manager rents the home. No matter how you find them, property managers can assume all the hosting work and give you a break, as long as you are willing to entrust your asset to a professional.

 

At the end of the day remember that renting your property is a job, so either ensure to carve out time in your schedule for management or prepare by finding the right property manager to alleviate the burden and prevent host fatigue.

 

The views and opinions expressed in “In My Opinion” articles are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by The American Vacation Rental Owners’ Association.

If you have an opinion you would like to share submit your article to rodfitts@avroa.org

To learn more about AVROA visit: www.avroa.org

SETTING UP YOUR OWN VACATION RENTAL WEBSITE

SETTING UP YOUR OWN VACATION RENTAL WEBSITE

If you want to get more involved with managing your own vacation rental property setting up your own vacation rental website is really important.

Every Vacation Rental Owner who has the time or interest in managing their own property should have their own website.

It’s important because over a period of time, managed correctly, your website will generate more and more reservations for you and decrease your reliance on other websites you may be paying. If you have been thinking about it, here’s some advise.

First, get realistic about how good you are with computers

Frustrated with computer

No matter who you are, there is going to be a limit to how fancy a website you can create on your own – unless you are a professional programmer or a computer geek. This is an important question because you need decide just how much time and effort you want to invest in this project. Even if you have good basic computer skills you are not going to just read a book and suddenly become a great web designer or programmer. Asking this question will help you decide how you want to build your site.

You have three options: Build it completely yourself, have somebody build it and then you manage it or have someone build it and manage it for you.

Building The website Site Yourself

You can build your own website but you should build it to be simple – simple is a good thing

working on computer

Web Hosting Software

The easiest way to build your own website is to use a software that is designed to make it easy. There are many companies like Rentivo that have easy to use website design software just for vacation rental owners. Take a moment to check AVROA’s Special Offer’s section for information on companies offering special deals to AVROA members.

AVROA Special Offers

Another way to go is with a web hosting company like Godaddy.com. The way this works is that you purchase your domain name (probably from them), host it with their hosting service and they let you use their website building software. This software is not designed specifically for vacation rentals and there is a steeper learning curve but you can get a site up and do a lot of things like display availability calendars through Iframe and have social network connections.

WordPress

WordPress is a free software that was originally designed for blogging but a lot of people use it to create websites. Many web hosting companies like, GoDaddy, will install WordPress for free when you let them host your domain.

If you are going to use WordPress the learning curve is going to be even steeper. There is a lot of video content available on YouTube that can help you but remember WordPress can easily get complicated. The trick for you with WordPress is to keep it very simple. Use a simple theme, keep plugins to a minimum. The downside to WordPress is that many times it requires writing code to fix errors and being an “open source” software makes it is very susceptible to being hacked. If you just barely know what I just said, WordPress is not a good choice for you.

One good idea is to find a WordPress expert to fall back on. There are a lot on the Internet. One place you might look is www.davidboozer.com. David does WordPress training for beginners and has a lot of free training videos.

And remember, always keep a back up of your site. Your hosting company will do that for you.

Have somebody build your website and then you manage it

This is the best solution for a lot of people. It’s a lot easier to learn how to drive a car than it is to build one.

 Just don’t get trapped where someone else owns your site or has all the control over you it and you have nothing.

Used car salesman

There are a lot of Designers out there offering to build websites but you need to be careful.

Skipping past the obvious like looking at at least three designers and reading your contract. The big questions you want answers to are: Who owns the business’s domain? (you need to), what platform is this site being built on (for example, WordPress) and do I get access to the administrative panel of the website so I can make my own changes (an absolute must).

Nothing is as painful as waking up one day and realizing that you don’t even own the website your business is running on. That it belongs to your designer and your choice is either scrap the whole project or pay the designer for the rest of your life.

Have someone build your website and manage it for you

My advise here is don’t do it. Nobody is going to care about your business as much as you do.  You also have to “get your head in the game”. Your company website is a vital part of your business. You can’t just know nothing about it. You’re going to be making changes all the time, posting blogs, interacting on social media. You don’t have to be a website designer or programmer but you need to have a basic understanding about how your website works. Even if it’s just so you know how to ask for help.

A few last words of advise

Managing your website will be an ongoing affair. It’s like owning a hardware store. You are going to have to run the business or, in this case, the website.

Expect to feel overwhelmed at first. Just remember many people have gone through the start up process and you will be able to do it as well.

Don’t worry about making mistakes too much. If you break something usually it can be fixed.

Ask for help when you need it and keep it simple.

VR OWNERS AND MANAGERS

VR OWNERS AND MANAGERS: A RENTAL COLLECTIVE AT WORK ACROSS THE WORLD

Not so long ago we were told, yes told, that we would all be on performance and commission booking systems soon and subscriptions, although present, would need to be part of the Book Now process. Guests want it, end of story! Get in line.

The forums globally from HomeAway to Yahoo to LinkedIn were alive with speculation and argued one way and another and still do. City destinations and resorts often come down in favor of this trend, but regional owners and managers in traditional holiday destinations are often the ones who are vocal and are objecting. Disconnects, higher fees, short cancellation policies, delayed payments, not much to be thrilled about really!

I am pretty sure we all know that this drive is not just about what the customer wants however. Why would there be thousands of pages of analyst and shareholder reports detailing the opportunity with upsides. The numbers are quite simply bigger at 100% of the market on commission bookings. Add in the extras and money retention and it is simply driven by the bottom line.

 

This push started with raising tariffs and continued with a proactive PR campaign based on the statement that “95% of guests want to Book Online”. This is a broad statement to make in an industry with several million independent businesses where it is hard to collate information, take polls and understand the trends. As managers we suffer many of the same issues but on a larger scale. There is light in the tunnel however as you will see later below.

In the manager world, I know some of those companies with very large inventories have seen performance bookings as a way of diluting out the competition in listings and have the technology to do it, whilst investing heavily in alternative marketing strategies. Many large managers (think “Interhome” with over 30,000 on HomeAway) have aggregated thousands of listings from other suppliers and simply re-marketed them. How hard is it to be seen in this situation as a lone sole subscriber? The answer is, very hard unless you pay a lot more! Now imagine these properties not booking and generating no income. When that happens the marketplace suffers as well!

There has been little in the way of facts of course and this can only be gleaned from analysis and research, not just speculation. The analysts who have spent so long multiplying 365 nights by a rental value and taking 10% are seeing things in a different light these days – vacation rentals are not city hotels. A report recently published by EVERCORE ISI  paints a slightly darker picture for the marketplaces in its drive towards monetization.

This report published on April 6th should be of interest to all owners and managers of vacation rentals and is well worth a read. It predicts a growing resilience to the marketplaces squeezing more profits from the booking business! The online hyperbole by a number of the PR companies is, as predicted, somewhat unfounded! Much of what AVROA members stand for is not surprisingly also shared by hundreds of thousands or others!

One of the most interesting elements of Evercore’s analysis is the following, I quote:

“Priceline and TripAdvisor appear well positioned to claim a piece of the growing vacation rental market, with a few caveats. The advantage they each possess is that they can deliver exceeding levels of demand and performance as the industry itself moves from a subscription-based model to one that is paid for on the basis of cost-per-action.

However, performance (as measured by conversions) is still a function of selection, where localized supply-demand characteristics favor more scaled VR players, such as HomeAway and Airbnb. Second, ~2/3rds of the vacation rental market tends to be FRBO (“For Rent by Owner”) which is an inherently tougher market to penetrate where technology tends to be lacking and owners are more loathe to tripping commission fees as they essentially manage the front desk.”

Skift.com who commented on this report has rather humorously summarized it by saying:

“those pesky vacation rental owners who are loathe to start paying commissions and often prefer to deal with guests directly and offline.”

As you can see, the owners who colloquially run their own front desks are not playing ball as easily as predicted.

This means there is essentially a wave of resilience to the monetization of a booking by the marketplace that is much stronger, in fact, than what hotels faced and although not a cohesive wall of organized resistance, it is a common thread of discontent.

There are many forces at work to deliver this model: they are guest influence with endless security and best price messages; they are booking management systems that want you to channel to commission marketplaces (they get a cut) and payment providers who may offer better deals. This is far from over but does provide time for everybody to address their own positions and create strategies independently or together.

As a manager we have to represent hundreds of owners which is no easy task, but we love inquiries and speaking to guests. Unfortunately we have to compete with the Goliaths as well and the marketplace pressures. Our methods are relevant to size but the ethos is the same. Some of our non-exclusive owners have arrived on our doorstep due to the changes and a lack of market awareness. We know the challenges an owner may face daily in what is becoming an overcrowded market with advice and pressure from all quarters.

Perhaps it’s time to take a leaf out of the marketplace books and adopt the same messages and approach. Frictionless websites with direct inquiries/contact and messages that enforce going direct with an owner (or manager come to that) gives you a) peace of mind b) the best price c) the owners contact details d) the most local knowledge e) that the property actually exists. Add in a secure payment method and the difference is close to zero.

Add in the fact that there is ample room for listing websites as can be seen from the reports and the fact that the power is in the inventory controllers hands and what goes around may well come around again!

We may not all be in the same place, but we are a rental collective at work across the world!

Richard Vaughton

Discovery Holiday Homes

 

The views and opinions expressed in “In My Opinion” articles are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by The American Vacation Rental Owners’ Association.

If you have an opinion you would like to share submit your article to admin@avroa.org

To learn more about AVROA visit: www.avroa.org