The vacation rental market is growing. As of 2019, the global rental market size was valued at $87.09 billion USD, and is expected to have a compound annual growth of 3.4% from 2020 to 2027. Which explains why it’s such a competitive industry to find yourself in, but also a rewarding growth industry, if you manage it right. There’s a lot of work involved in managing a vacation and short term rental, and a lot of hosts are starting to consider automation. So what does that mean for you?
While most would assume that automation is the exclusive domain of large corporations and property management groups, having one, or a handful of rental properties can just be as overwhelming. There’s managing check-ins, getting the key into the right hands, answering emails, and making sure that the place is kept in prime condition. Hence, automating your rental business can give you a break from the mundane day-to-day tasks and allow you to focus on growing your revenue and being the best host possible.
So what does automation look like? It’s the process of optimizing recurring tasks to make things more efficient and minimize your costs. This means automatic email greetings and replies, smart home tech, having a management system/dashboard, as well as coordinated cleanings and more. It’s organizing and ‘outsourcing’ many of the daily operations, so you don’t have to do them yourself.
The best part is that it’s incredibly painless to implement, and see the benefits roll in.
Automate your Guest Communication
Having an open line of communication between a host and a guest is the most important part of being successful on any vacation rental platform. In fact, Airbnb takes into account your response rate, when granting Superhost status. They require that you have a 90% response rate or higher, which requires a lot of email dedication.
At the same time, however, this is one of the most time-consuming tasks for a property manager and host – up to 75% of your time. So this would be the first thing you should look into automating. Thankfully, there are several options that have proven successful:
Message templates: You’re guaranteed to have to answer the same questions over and over again, so you could create a list of your standard replies and save them to a spreadsheet for quick access. Then it’s a matter of copy and paste.
Email Autoresponder: Most email providers offer auto-response features, and you can set up automated messages to provide quick welcome emails and responses to guests. We’d recommend setting up a unique email address that you use with your short term rental platform (Airbnb, Vrbo, Booking.com, etc…) and create an automatic email that offers the important information guests could be looking for. Whether it’s a welcome message or an Out of Ofice (OOO) reply, you’d greet the guest and direct them to FAQ’s, directions, a list of passwords for devices and key exchange instructions.
Vacation rental software with Virtual Concierge: As opposed to answering every inquiry personally, or missing a few here and there, a virtual concierge is pre-programmed with common responses to let the guest know where the common amenities are, what the wifi password is, and other FAQs. The chatbot answers questions instantly, and if there is a question it doesn’t know, then it notifies the host.
Most hosts already have some sort of remote way to give access, whether it’s with a lockbox, leaving it with a neighbour, or a service like Keycafe. Very few still use the tried-and-true method of leaving it under a doormat or under a flowerpot. But these processes still require some coordination between yourself and another party, or physically going and changing access codes. It also requires the guests and cleaning staff to leave the keys exactly where they’re supposed to between bookings. Thankfully, technology has a better way to automate access and make it all automated and remote.
Through the use of electronic locks or smart locks, you can forgo the physical key altogether and rely on access codes and smartphones. Electronic locks are a simple proposition that requires you to set a unique entry code for each guest. They punch it in and are gained access. Upon checkout, you change it.
Smart locks, on the other hand, can utilize a keypad for entry much like electronic locks, but can also work remotely by the host giving access, or by the guests sending a wireless code from their smartphone.
These options will allow you to manage everything from the comfort of your own home, and allow guests to have access to the rental at any time on arrival day, and you’ll be notified of their arrival.
Pictures of your rental property and a list of the local amenities can only do so much for enticing a guest – they want to know what other guests’ experience was. When it comes to vacation rentals, there is a quid-pro-quo that goes on. You have to review your guests, and they have to review you. But busy hosts don’t have time to leave reviews, and guests don’t feel compelled to leave any, unless something extraordinary happens. And yet, to improve your rankings and attract more guests, you have to get the positive feedback.
One foolproof way to do this is to automate your guest reviews via a template. It’s a basic idea, but after you’ve written the same review, or variations on a set of reviews, 4-5 times you can just keep those in a spreadsheet, copy/paste them, and change the names. This works for both positive and negative reviews.
On the other hand, if you’re using a vacation rental software for your property, most offer a special feature that allows hosts to automate reviews with predefined templates. On top of that, the reviews will be sent automatically. If you forget, you’ll get a reminder to get the review within the 14-day checkout that most Short Term rental platforms have. You’ll also get notifications when guests leave a review for you. This will save a lot of time on your end.
Automate your Housekeeping
Having a spotless rental is paramount, and most hosts have been well aware of this in the past. In today’s climate, however, it’s crucial. Recently, Airbnb has offered an enhanced cleaning protocol that hosts must commit to, and have it listed on their profile.
As a host, however, the last thing you want is to be responsible for making the property spotless, or chasing down someone to maintain it. Hence, getting this process automated will help your bottom line. Thankfully, there are cleaning services that specialize in working with Airbnb and other short term rental services to ensure that the job is done thoroughly.
The easiest way to do this would be to utilize a vacation rental software solution that would automate the request for a cleaning. After a guest has checked out, a cleaning service would be notified automatically by email/text that a cleaning has been scheduled. This means less time arranging cleaning, and the confidence that they’ll be done correctly. Upon completion, the cleaners then can notify you via the same software, that the job’s been completed.
Smart Technology to Enhance the Guest Experience
We’ve already covered this off in depth HERE, but introducing smart devices into your home will pay dividends in guest satisfaction and your wallet. As millennials and Gen Z are the driving force behind the travel industry, catering to them and making your home “smarter” is the rule, and no longer the exception. Adding these in will offer a competitive advantage to your rental.
- Smart Thermostats: You want to make sure your property is always at a comfortable temperature for your guests, but also that you can remotely increase or decrease the climate to protect your investment. A smart thermostat like Ecobee or Nest can offer the guest some control, and offer you peace of mind.
- Sensors: On top of the required safety sensors, you can also add in motion sensors to turn off lights that aren’t being used, and noise sensors to ensure that your guests aren’t disturbing the neighbours, and if they are, you’ll get an automatic notification.
- Smart plugs: They’re a small investment, with a huge automation factor. One of the key benefits is that once tied in the Google Assistant, Alexa or Apple HomeKit, you can turn off lamps, appliances and even reboot your wireless devices if they’re not working.
- Smart routers: you can remotely access and manage your internet, as well as any devices available to guests on your network. A smart router, like Google WiFi, will allow you complete control over your property and smart devices remotely.
Use a Vacation Rental Software
Finally, the main objective of managing your properties and automating as many tasks as possible, is for a host to spend less time on the mundane, and more time on growing their business. On top of dealing with cleanings and repetitive FAQs, hosts find that managing calendars, bookings and payments across multiple platforms is a major challenge. By automating everything you can, and synchronizing everything into one dashboard, is a fantastic way to put your business on autopilot.
Finding the right software, such as Enso Connect, will allow you to automate every step of the process. As soon as guest books, they’ll get a welcome email with instructions, instructions for smart access, and the perfect vacation experience. You, as a host, will get notifications of checkins, the ability to manage the home remotely, automatically scheduled cleanings upon the expiration of the reservation, and automated feedback reminders. Everything is contained on one dashboard, with one email inbox, with the ability to generate holistic reports for financial visibility.
Most of all, you get peace of mind and the competitive advantage that your properties are well-maintained and well-reviewed. It’ll be peace of mind, with less work.