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The Best Free Property Management Software For Vacation Rentals
Property management software is an indispensable tool for consolidating information about a property on one central platform. Instead of bouncing between providers and cross-checking schedules for availability, property management software centralizes all listings and allows hosts to maximize occupancy rates, process credit card payments, contact customers, and respond to maintenance requests all from one user-friendly hub.
Whether you’re starting out with a single vacation rental or looking to manage dozens of listings across all the top providers, property management software is key to running an efficient, profitable business. However, the software is not cheap.
To help newcomers and savvy cost-saving hosts, we’ve compiled the top free property management software designed specifically for vacation rentals.
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The Best Free Property Management Software
While managing multiple properties on different platforms, hosts can get lost in the chaos of switching between accounts, messaging guests, and managing calendars.
iGMS is an all-in-one property management software. The company previously known as AirGMS was a leader at Airbnb-focused property management software services, but after introducing new integrations with Vrbo and HomeAway, it was renamed to iGMS. They have all the features you’d expect from an industry-leading tool. Sync calendars, switch seamlessly between accounts (which is especially useful if you manage listings for various vacation rental investors) and alter reservations from one clean, easy-to-use dashboard.
iGMS also offers a financial reporting feature to analyze how listings have been performing. View payment histories, rent payments for long-term guests, and month-by-month summaries to gauge what’s optimized and what can be improved.
Arguably the best part about iGMS is the pricing structure. For the first four properties, the service is entirely free — no commission and no upcharges. If you’re looking to manage five or more properties, the price is $20 per month per listing.
Smoobu is a no-frills, free property management company. While other services are free for only a select period of time or limit the number of properties that can be managed, Smoobu is free without any time constrictions. That said, the tooling does have a limited number of features available.
With Smoobu’s free version users have access to a reservation system with all bookings in a centralized list, an occupancy calendar, and a website homepage manager that comes with Google Maps integration, high-resolution photos, and layouts tailored for apartments, bed and breakfasts, and hotels.
Smoobu’s paid version — which starts at $17 per month for a single property (and ~$4.50 per additional property) — includes a more comprehensive functionality with features like automated communication with guests, detailed statistic reports, and phone support.
Unlike other systems, Bookfull concentrates on both the guest and host experience. Bookfull’s channel management feature is two-way, meaning if a change is made to a calendar within a provider site like Expedia or TripAdvisor, those listings will automatically update in the Bookfull calendar too.
Bookfull additionally has an impressive flexible pricing engine. For example, if there is a three-night minimum for a property but there is a two-night gap between reservations, Bookfull will automatically make the intermittent dates available to book. This flexibility enables hosts to significantly boost monthly occupancy rates.
As each listing is different, Bookfull allows users to include unique add-ons to specific listings. If a host requests an upcharge on bikes, parking spots, cribs, or anything else, it can all be tweaked through their integrated payment system. Bookfull is also equipped to handle all the latest smart home technology — locks, cameras, lights, and WiFi can be controlled through the portal.
The tool is entirely free to use, and besides a few features reserved for the paid option, both everyday hosts and commercial property management companies will find the free version more than accommodating.
Lodgable is extremely helpful in streamlining the property management process. To begin, hosts upload all their listings, and instead of creating profiles and logging into each provider, the Lodgable inventory will automatically post the listings on the world’s top OTAs.
The platform has all the great features of other channel managers, plus an easy payment collection system, and more. Success stories from Lodgable show clients boosting their bookings by 150% and maintaining occupancy rates up to 88%, all while being booked out three months in advance.
As seen on Lodgable’s pricing page, the tool is free and there’s no limit to the number of properties, users, or bookings a host can have.
Futurestay markets itself as the smartest way to connect channels, guests, and branding without having to do any manual work. Best exemplified in their “Done” app, Futurestay is unique in its entirely hands-off approach for hosts.
Users receive a daily briefing of check-ins and check-outs, and the dashboard is an excellent home base to navigate any information needed. Futurestay is also international, so for example, hosts can have a website in English but control bookings in Spanish, and charge in a preferred currency.
For pricing, Futurestay operates on a 5% upcharge. For example, if ADR is set for $100, Futurestay will charge guests $105 for their stay. In this sense, it’s technically free, but the commission is paid for by potential guests.
Lodgify is a resource that appeals to entrepreneurial property managers looking to build a brand with their property management software. Impress visitors by directing them towards a mobile-friendly website (which Lodgify will help build) complete with all listings in one clean space.
Lodgify’s channel manager is also as user-friendly, where users can synchronize calendars and bookings from dozens of their largest partners like Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia, TripAdvisor, and HomeAway.
What separates Lodgify from other tools is that hosts can link the channel manager with external calendars (like Gmail and iCal), Facebook Messenger, and MailChimp. This, combined with website features that help market properties, makes Lodgify one of the most versatile options for both managing and advertising vacation rentals.
Lodgify is free for a seven-day trial period, after which the cost is $29 per month.
Bookerator is a free, cloud-based option for publishing one listing on the market. Even with only one property, do not dismiss the value of a property management tool. Management is simple and streamlined with a site like Bookerator, which focuses heavily on the customer-facing side of bookings and assists in promoting the property.
With Tokeet, users can utilize all the functions central to a management software with one single property. Build an appealing website, process payments, and view bookings in one simple calendar. Prices increase to $15 per month for managing more than one property.
The sheer volume of property management providers proves the need for a service that consolidates vacation rental administration. Occupancy rates, communication, transparency, and brand awareness all receive noticeable uplift with the application of management software.
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Why Use A Property Management System?
What if there was a way to save tons of time and make more money with your vacation rental business? In fact, there is. A property management system (or PMS) just might be the missing link you need to grow your business or boost your property management portfolio. PMS can help you run your business as efficiently as possible, which, in turn, makes for more bookings, happier guests, and more money.
What is Property Management?
Let’s cover the basics. Property management is everything that goes into maintaining and taking care of all of your vacation rental properties, including day to day operations like fixing leaks and trimming the lawn. A property management team works together to handle all the tasks that go into running a successful vacation rental business. Seamless property management is essential for vacation rental business owners with one or multiple rental homes.
Property management systems synchronize tasks and operations all in one digital place. They also go far beyond on-the-ground tasks; they offer end-to-end management for all of your rental homes’ needs, including online bookings, automated payments, and guest communication. PMS solutions are oftentimes cloud-based, which makes it possible to access your property management system across all tablets and devices through an app or website. Cloud technologies make it possible for you to manage your properties on the go, abroad, or from bed.
Property management is something hotel businesses excel at. Hotel owners handle multiple locations, thousands of rooms, and thousands of guests. Property management operating systems are widely used in the hospitality industry to account for multiple locations and guests in an efficient and timely manner. Some of the most popular hotel property management systems are CloudBeds, Oracle, and Hotelogix. As a vacation rental owner, consider borrowing the proven methods that work so well for hotel owners. Take a page out of some of the most successful hoteliers’ book and manage your properties as efficiently as possible to maximize returns, satisfy your guests, and book your properties year-round.
Reasons to use a PMS:
1. Streamline all of your properties in one place
Property management systems allow you to sync all of your properties in one place. View and compile tasks, reservations, cancellations, availability, rates, calendars, documentation, guest profiles, guest concerns, and more through one digital platform. Property management systems, like Escapia, automatically update unit information, rates, and availability for all your properties across every distribution partner site. Escapia also provides automated contracts, which ensures you always have the right legal documents in place.
Digitally streamlining your properties will save you the time otherwise spent checking up on all your rental homes and guests individually. More free time means more time spent focusing on guests and guest experience.
2. Built-in accounting services
Property management systems make payments, billings, taxes, revenue management, and accounts receivable easier than ever. Operating systems, like Guesty, provide automated payments, hands-off processing, point of sale technology, automated discounts and fees, and an open tab to offer guests any concierge goods or services to enjoy in the moment and pay for later. Property management systems’ end-to-end financial services make accepting and making payments a breeze.
3. Built-in channel manager
A channel manager synchronizes all of your listings across distribution channels. Popular property management systems provide built-in channel managers or easy integration options. Sirvoy, for example, syncs your properties across the popular booking engines, Booking.com, Expedia, Agoda, Hostelworld, HotelSpecials, TripAdvisor, and offers integration with SiteMinder, and MyAllocator. Handle your listings across all booking sites in one place.
4. House-keeping services
Property management systems are also great for streamlining task management. Some management companies, like Vacasa, provide local employees to tend to your property/properties’ needs. You could also use property management systems to hire and pay cleaning services. Post daily tasks and maintenance needs in one place so the cleaning professionals know exactly what needs to get done. Keep your home looking its best at all times with a property management system dedicated to fixing all the leaks, messes, and more before, during, and after guests’ stays.
5. Automate your bookings
Property management software also allows you to automate your bookings. You can even make sales directly on your website with property management systems that offer easy-to-use code snippets or plugins. Receive bookings and accept payments for all your properties across all listing sites in one place. Automated guest communication (which we’ll get more into later) makes it easier than ever to secure bookings and facilitate sales.
6. Track your business performance
Being able to track your business performance is another benefit of adding a property management system to your business toolbox. Accumulate your own unique business data all in one place and track your statistics. How well are you selling? Is one property selling more than another? What months yield the most returns? Which marketing tactics are the most successful? Gather unique information and data to better understand your business performance.
7. Improve guest communication
Property management systems also provide built-in guest communication tools that make sure you never miss a guest question, comment, or concern. Reply to all of your guests from one convenient platform. Property management systems also offer automated responses, automated reviews, and real-time notifications. Keep track of your daily check-ins and check-outs and manage guest profiles. You can also store and reuse guest information for new and returning guests.
Increase your response rate with the help of property management software. Being an available and resourceful host or property owner increases the chances of receiving positive reviews from guests. Build your vacation rental business’ reputation with automated guest communication features.
8. Book more guests
Property management solutions offer a multitude of easy-to-use tools that every member of your property management team can access. All of the features listed previously assures that your property is rarely ever empty. Increase conversion rates by running a smooth, effective, and efficient business.
PMS Channel Manager Vs Dedicated Channel Manager
As a vacation rental owner, you’ve probably heard the terms “property management system” and “channel manager” thrown around quite a lot. The overlap between the two can also make things a bit confusing. So, firstly, what are these things? What do they do? How do they help run your vacation rental business? And which one is better? Here is a comprehensive guide on property management systems (PMS) and dedicated channel managers, which will hopefully help you decide what combination of programs is best for you and your business’s distribution strategy.
PMS Channel Manager
A property management system is a computer program that digitizes—you guessed it—property management for all of your vacation rentals. A property management system streamlines everything that goes into managing your rental properties, including task management, housekeeping, revenue management, online booking, payments, finances, real-time updates, reservations, calendars, and much more. A property management system stores all of this information for all your properties in one convenient, digitized platform. A lot of property management systems are cloud-based and come with an app, which means you can manage your properties on-the-go and at all times. Here are some examples of industry-leading property management systems:
– Escapia (offers a free demo)
– Guesty (offers a free demo)
– Sirvoy (offers a 14-day free trial)
– Vacasa (offers a free demo)
– Avantio (offers a free demo)
– Uplisting (offers a 14-day free trial)
Property management systems are widely used in the hospitality industry. This pooled inventory model (or the consolidation of all your locations’ data, information, or inventory) is a popular distribution strategy among hotel chains. Like hoteliers juggling multiple locations, a property management system is a helpful tool for vacation rental owners with numerous properties.
Now for the channel manager part: first let’s define “channel manager.” A channel manager is a computer program that distributes and broadcasts your property inventory (i.e. your rental home listings) to multiple channels. The channel manager syncs all of the information between channels. Channels are booking engines, portals, listing sites, and online travel agencies (or OTAs) like Airbnb, Booking.com, AllTheRooms, TripAdvisor, and VRBO. A channel manager connects all of your existing listings across online distribution channels and provides real-time updates to rates, availability, calendars, cancellations, bookings, and more. Channel managers are an essential vacation rental distribution tool for property owners and property managers.
A PMS channel manager is simply a property management system that provides a built-in channel manager. We’ll get more into the details later.
Dedicated Channel Manager
A dedicated channel manager is a third party computer program. Its main focus is online distribution among sales channels and booking channels. A dedicated channel manager is a separate program that users integrate into whatever other property management system they are using, according to the PMS’s integration capabilities. Here are some examples of dedicated channel managers:
– Lodgify (offers a 7-day free trial)
– Rentals United (offers a free demo)
– Lodgix (offers a 30-day free trial)
A dedicated channel manager works to sync all of your properties’ data and information across numerous online distribution channels.
Pros & Cons
Pros of PMS Channel Manager
Every vacation rental business owner should consider incorporating a property management system in order to make managing online not only a possibility but the most efficient way to keep track of multiple locations. Here are some pros of using a property management system channel manager:
– Save time: By using a property management channel manager, you will be able to spend less time handling business and more time focusing on guests and guest experience. A PMS channel manager handles the time-consuming tasks of running a vacation rental business for you. It automatically updates information across all booking channels and automates online booking and payments.
– Helpful combination: Opting for a property management system that comes with a built-in channel manager adds two valuable things to your business: a means of managing your properties online and a way to distribute your listings across multiple sites. A property management system or company provides its own benefits. Some property management companies, like Vacasa, provide a team of local employees to take care of on-site maintenance and upkeep. Property management systems provide built-in accounting services, business performance analytics, automated guest communication services, and more. A property management system that comes with a built-in channel manager can do wonders for your business.
Cons of PMS Channel Manager
Though a property management system with a built-in channel manager offers many pros, it does fall short in some ways compared to dedicated channel managers. Here are some cons:
– Subpar/Limited connections: A property management system offers so many other features and services that its channel manager feature may be limited. Some property management channel managers may only be capable of syncing a handful of popular booking sites. Sirvoy’s Pro Plan, for example, only offers distribution across the popular sites Booking.com, Expedia, Agoda, Hostelworld, and HotelSpecials. Uplisting only offers distribution across Airbnb, Booking.com, and VRBO/HomeAway.
– Less sophisticated capabilities: No two property management systems nor channel managers are the same. However, property management system channel managers tend to lack sophisticated capabilities that dedicated channel managers offer, like handling a complex pricing model and pushing exact property specs.
Pros of Dedicated Channel Manager
Let’s switch gears to dedicated channel managers. Dedicated channel managers, like Rentals United, Lodgify, and Uplisting, focus on online distribution. Here are some pros of integrating a dedicated channel manager:
– More connections and channels: Dedicated channel managers specialize in online distribution so they often offer way more connections across a multitude of channels. For example, Rentals United offers frictionless distribution across more than 60 channels. That’s way more than the “big 3” listing sites Uplisting’s channel manager provides.
– Built-in expert team: Dedicated channel managers provide a backing team of skilled distribution professionals. The company’s team of experts has a direct line of communication with booking sites and other channels because dedicated channel managers provide a high volume of properties to listing sites.
– More sophisticated capabilities: Where a property management system channel manager tends to fall short, a dedicated channel manager excels. Dedicated channel managers provide more sophisticated capabilities which means you can construct a complex pricing model.
Cons of Dedicated Channel Manager
Now for the cons of a dedicated property manager. There aren’t that many. Perhaps the main con would be the extra cost of incorporating additional software. Lodgify starts at $30 per month. Rentals United starts at $110 per month for 3-5 properties. Lodgix starts at $50 per month.
A property management system channel manager delivers a decent amount of online exposure across the most popular listings sites. However, a property management system that comes with a built-in channel manager provides less connectivity and sophistication when compared to a dedicated channel manager. If you are willing to spend a little extra, consider incorporating a dedicated channel manager as a third-party integration in order to boost your online exposure and get more bookings.