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Tips to Manage Your Vacation Rental From Abroad

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For prospective homeowners intimidated by surging property prices in traditional vacation rental hotspots, investing abroad is a great alternative. Home prices are cheaper, many markets attract impressive demand, and regulations are often less stringent. That said, managing your vacation rental from abroad is no walk in the park. Being unable to physically attend to guests’ needs can affect the customer experience in unwanted ways. That said, there are a few tools and techniques to make sure the process runs as smoothly as possible. Here are our tips on how to manage your vacation rental from abroad. 

Implement Keyless Entries or Smart Locks

The first and most straightforward thing to install is a self-entry system. If the building allows for it, this takes an immediate burden off you and your co-host. There are numerous ways to go about implementing a self-entry system. 

First, consider going with a lockbox that holds the keys to the house. Prior to the guests’ arrival, text them the code and they’ll then have access to keys throughout the duration of their visit. This has been a tried-and-true method for the last few years, but nowadays hosts are opting for savvier alternatives. 

Smart locks take keyless entry to the next level. With no external lockbox, smart locks are physically attached to the door. Hosts set a temporary code for the duration of the visit that expires once guests leave. This smart technology ensures your property is protected in between bookings and that previous guests cannot access the building after their stay.

 

Use Smart Home Technology for Lights and HVAC

Another way to make vacation rentals even more hands-off is to streamline the management of an accommodation’s heating, air conditioning, and lighting. As outlined in Ways to Reduce Your Vacation Rental Energy Bill, there are numerous methods that both streamline the management of your appliances while also saving money. 

Smart devices like the Sensibo Sky attach to any normal air conditioner and transform it into a device that tailors temperatures in real time, and even turns off when windows are open. Other smart home devices control heating by automatically adapting the heating when guests leave, then turning it on 30 minutes before they arrive back home. Coupled with automatic lights, these technologies minimize the number of inquiries and issues guests have with their vacation rentals. In turn, hosts spend less time tending to issues. 

 

Invest in a Virtual Assistant

Whether hosts are managing their vacation rental from abroad or just down the street, it’s important to limit the number of times guests reach out for questions. Welcome packages, house rules PDFs, and a well-written intro email are great starts, but sometimes guests have questions about a number of things throughout their stay. For this, we recommend investing in a virtual assistant. 

Devices like Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant are becoming the new norm for top-tier vacation rentals. Guests can find answers on things to do in the neighborhood, great restaurants nearby, and tons of other inquiries. As a general rule of thumb, keeping guests as informed as possible will significantly cut down on host responsibilities, while still producing positive reviews. 

 

Use a Property Manager For All Things On the Ground

If you’re looking for complete peace of mind and consistent income, consider outsourcing the host responsibilities to a property manager. Alongside the rise of Airbnb and other home sharing platforms has been a dramatic increase in offshoot industries like vacation rental property management. Before entrusting a third party with the management of your home, it’s best to know what exactly they may offer. 

Here is what a property management system can (and should) be responsible for:

  • Check in and check out (meeting guests at the door if there is no option for auto-entry)
  • Maintenance requests and repairs
  • Professional cleaning in between guest stays
  • Guest communication
  • Instructions on how to find your home
  • Information on how to use home appliances
  • Setting, collecting, and adjusting pricing
  • Professional photography

Each property management company has a different pricing structure, but most charge a percentage of overall revenues somewhere between 10% and 20%. With a percentage structure, property managers are as invested in properties as hosts are. They care about the customer experience and they’re adamant about getting good reviews — two of the most important things in the business. So, when hiring a property manager, be sure to not select a flat fee. 

Here are some of the more popular property management companies to give you a better sense for what services they can provide:

Additionally, here are some important questions you should ask the property management company before officially signing a contract: 

  • “What can you tell me about vacation rental performance in the area?”
  • “What are your fees and contract terms?”
  • “How often can I expect updates on my property’s condition?”
  • “Can I ask to speak to some of your current clients?”

Hosts should be sure to thoroughly vet the property manager before handing over the keys. 

 

Manage Marketing and Sales On Your Own

Another extremely important aspect of managing a vacation rental is sales and marketing. Property management companies like those mentioned above do offer these services, but sometimes it’s better to manage this yourself. Online marketing (whether it’s content marketing, email marketing, or search engine optimization) doesn’t require you to be on the ground, and it’s a service that many companies will overcharge for. Instead, we recommend going at it solo. 

First, use a channel manager to make sure your listings are published on all the top travel sites. Limiting yourself to just Airbnb or Expedia is one surefire way to limit the number of eyes on your property. Next, use a site like Lodgify to help build a personal website and brand around each listing. Sync your calendars, set up some social channels to increase exposure, and boom — marketing is taken care of. 

 

Bill Paying and Taxes

Revenue and expense management is something that can cause some real headaches as a host living abroad. For this reason, we recommend outsourcing this task to your property manager. Have them consolidate all bills and property taxes in one clean document, authorize each monthly payment, and send you an invoice. This way hosts have a paper trail of all expenses and are able to make one clean monthly payment. 

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