If you own property in a hot tourist spot, it’s never been easier to make some extra money by leasing it out as a vacation rental.
Companies such as Airbnb and HomeAway have greatly simplified the process, working as listing services or marketplace brokers for long- and short-term properties. You might use these services to rent your apartment during a local festival or to professionally rent a large number of properties. Either way, vacation rental software can help you manage your properties in a more efficient—and profitable—way.
This buyer’s guide will explain what vacation rental software can do for you. We’ll also examine specific features you should take into consideration when you’re looking for a vacation rental system.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
Vacation rental software helps you manage, maintain and run a short-term rental property. It could be a small apartment in a big city that you rent out a couple of weekends a year, or a lakehouse that you lease throughout the year.
These properties are not hotels or bed-and-breakfasts, which rent out multiple rooms in the same building to multiple guests. Instead, these are discrete units (whether individual buildings or specific apartments within a larger complex) rented out individually.
As such, owners and managers of vacation rental properties face different challenges than hotel managers, and they require a different type of software solution to traditional hotel management software. In fact, vacation rental systems have as much in common with property management software as they do with hotel management systems.
Vacation rental management software combines the most important software functions used by both hotel and property managers. These tools address the specific needs of vacation rental property owners and managers, no matter the size of their portfolio.
Common features found in vacation rental management systems include:
|Booking management||Track who is renting your property during which dates, so you never accidentally double-book or lose a reservation. Maintain a database of previous renters. Some systems will allow you to accept bookings from third-party online travel brokers.|
|Billing and invoicing||Create invoices and collect payment from renters, including deposits for reservations.|
|Generate key documents||Produce rental agreements, marketing/promotional materials and other important documents and emails with customizable templates.|
|Housekeeping and maintenance management||Manage cleaning schedules, so your property stays in good shape. Track maintenance issues to make sure all complaints are taken care of and everything remains up to code.|
|Accounting||More robust systems include accounting and financial functions, including trust accounting—to keep business finances separate from personal accounts—as well as tracking important tax information.|
|Website management||Create a website for your properties that makes it easy to accept online reservations. The reservations will be automatically stored and updated in your booking management module.|
|Calendar||A detailed, customized and automatically updated calendar that tracks all of your bookings and facilities management schedules. You can also set alerts and reminders about important matters that need to be taken care of at specific times, and to send your customers alerts and reminders about their upcoming stay.|
|Interface/integration||Interface with a listing service such as HomeAway, Airbnb, TripAdvisor etc. so you can accept bookings, update your calendar accordingly and keep your listings up-to-date.|
Streamline’s reservations dashboard
Vacation rental software buyers all have one key thing in common—they own a property (or multiple properties) that they’re want to lease out for short-term stays. However, needs vary among buyers, depending on the number of properties owned and the level of independence of the manager.
Most of these buyers will fall into one of the following three categories:
The market for vacation rental systems includes vendors ready to meet a variety of levels of functionality.You can find a system that fits your specific needs, based on the size and scale of the properties you manage and rent, without having to pay extra for features that you don’t really need. If you do need those features, however, they are available in more robust systems.
Still, there are additional considerations to bear in mind when choosing a software product:
Legal compliance. Housing and property codes are constantly being updated, and a vacation rental system can help you make sure all your properties remain in compliance with both local and national requirements as they change. This is a feature of larger, more robust systems.
Separation of accounts. If you make enough income from your rental properties that you want to create a separate business entity to manage them, you will want to keep your financial accounting for that business separate from your personal accounts. A robust vacation rental system will assist you with this trust accounting.
However, if you are only managing one or two properties, avoid systems that exceed your needs. You will likely be fine with a simple system that integrates with a service such as HomeAway or Airbnb, generates bills and invoices and helps you track your contacts and financial information.
Here are some important market trends that may factor into your choice of a vacation rental system:
Third-party brokers. The current model for vacation rentals relies overwhelmingly on popular third-party websites (Airbnb, HomeAway, TripAdvisor etc.) that essentially serve as brokers between property owners/managers and renters. They provide searchable listings that put your property in front of more prospective renters’ eyes in exchange for service fees charged to both you and the renter. Unless you are a larger business with multiple properties, you almost certainly want to be listed on the most popular sites, so you should choose software that integrates with theirs.
Cloud-based software. Cloud-based systems have dramatically increased in popularity of late because of their relative benefits compared to on-premise systems. Whereas on-premise software requires hardware and some level of IT knowledge, these cloud-based systems are more easily and quickly implemented. They also tend to have lower costs up front. This makes cloud-based systems well suited for smaller businesses.
Mobile functionality. Mobile access is increasingly important to travelers on-the-go. As a result, renters will expect to be able to access your software and information from a phone, tablet or other mobile device. This functionality can be useful for property managers as well, enabling them to make notations while on-site at a property or as they travel between them.
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