By Alfred and Emily Glossbrenner
RISMEDIA, Jan. 2, 2009-It’s often said that “the Internet changes everything.” Certainly it has changed the traditional relationship between vacation-rental owners and their property managers. At the very least, it has introduced a spectrum of possibilities. For some brave souls, the Internet has made it possible to take on everything: marketing, managing, advertising, maintenance-you name it.
But what if you don’t have the time (or inclination) to screen renters, handle inquiries, maintain an availability calendar, send out rental agreements, and collect payments? What if you just don’t want to do it all yourself?
If you’re not forced to maximize the income your property generates, if your current goal is to simply cover most of your expenses, then going the property-manager route might very well make sense.
But here’s the problem: The really good property managers handle dozens (even hundreds) of vacation rentals. They tend to market them all in the identical way, with a listing on their company’s website. And their goal is to generate as many bookings as possible for their company, rather than for your specific property.
So what can you do to make sure your place stands out from the crowd and gets its fair share of the bookings? How can you help your property manager do the best possible job for you?
Here are some suggestions:
1. Write your own property description. It’s unlikely that your property manager knows anywhere near as much as you do about the joys and pleasures of your place. You can set yourself apart from the competition by creating your own write-up and providing it to your property manager. Put your personality into it. Explain what you love about the place. And be frank. If there’s an ocean view, but you have to crane your neck to see it, go ahead and say so. Then make the point that for a full ocean view, the price would be considerably higher.
2. Take charge of your photos. Unless your property manager is a terrific photographer or has one on retainer, we recommend that you provide your own photos. Enlist the help of a friend (or hire a professional photographer for $200-$300) if you’re not comfortable with a digital camera. Be sure to “dress” the set, pay attention to lighting, and use a wide-angle lens for your interior shots.
3. Augment your management company’s online listings with your own. Most property management companies have their own websites with pictures and descriptions of the properties they manage. But when it comes to getting noticed by the search engines, more is often better. So boost your property’s “search footprint” by listing on several leading sites and directing all inquiries to your property manager.
4. Spread the word with business cards for your property. For less than $25, some sites, such as VistaPrint and OvernightPrints allow you to design your own business card, including a picture of your property and the address of one of your online listings. Plan to order a supply of 100-250 cards to keep on hand. Offer them to friends and business acquaintances who ask about your property.
There really are many ways to get what you want and need from a vacation rental. And the Internet is a big help, regardless of the path you choose. The key thing is to take the reins and use the Internet tools at your disposal to help your property manager keep your place fully booked.
Alfred and Emily Glossbrenner are experienced vacation-rental owners and the authors of How to Make Your Vacation Property Work for You!: The Quick & Easy Guide to Advertising, Renting, Managing, and Making Money from Your Second Home. They also own and operate FullyBookedRentals, a membership website devoted to helping other vacation-rental owners offer their properties effectively and profitably.