Tips for Managing a Vacation Rental Property in the Post COVID Era
2020 was, across most industries, a year unlike any other. The dominant story of 2020 was the COVID-19 pandemic, which—in addition to the harms it caused to individuals—interrupted global supply chains and directly affected the demand for vacation property rentals.
As any vacation rental property owner would tell you, the year itself was full of unpredictable moments. Demand for vacation rental properties fluctuate regularly, making it more difficult to find potential renters and also determine the ideal nightly rates.
Nevertheless, the vacation rental property market still experienced several bursts of growth over the course of the year. By the end of 2020, Airbnb featured more than 7 million rental properties. Other platforms, like VBRO, also attracted a broader client base. Low mortgage interest rates, a shift away from hotels, and the need for portfolio diversification are a few of the reasons vacation rental properties have become an increasingly attractive investment option.
With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing into 2021, many vacation property owners have found a need to reevaluate the way they manage their property. Fortunately, there are several steps all owners can take to improve both their and their guests’ experiences. In this article, we will discuss a few helpful tips for managing a vacation rental property during this “new normal.” By making a few small changes, you can maximize your profit potential while still protecting the health and safety of all guests.
Hire a Property Management Team
A vacation rental management company is a team that is responsible for taking care of all aspects of owning a property. This can include things such as cleaning, interior design, online marketing, app management, customer communication, financial management, and more. Currently, there are more than 23,000 vacation property management companies located in the United States.
With the right team, you will be able to eliminate the stresses and headaches that tend to come with property ownership. Increased occupancy rates and higher nightly rates, when combined, can help you maximize your return on your investment. At the same time, you can be confident knowing you have a team that is closely monitoring all COVID-19 developments—this can include new regulations, opportunities for stimulus, and changes in allowable travel.
Increase Cleaning Between Guests
Cleanliness is key to continual guest satisfaction. In fact, of all the negative reviews ever given on Airbnb, a lack of cleanliness is overwhelmingly the most commonly issued criticism. Investing in additional cleaning services and adhering to a strict cleaning schedule can help improve Airbnb satisfaction and, thus, improve your bottom line.
But due to the COVID-19 outbreak, it is important for all property managers to raise their cleaning standards even further. To minimize the possibility of a spread, Airbnb has issued a “5-Step Enhanced Cleaning Process” with specific guidelines on how managers need to “prepare, clean, sanitize, check, and reset” every property that they own. The company also recommends creating a “best practices” checklist for every room.
Minimize Common Points of Contact
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and other health organizations have concluded that continuous exposure to indoor surfaces can increase the likelihood of catching or spreading the coronavirus. To help combat this, it is crucial for both guests and the management team to minimize points of common contact.
Having guests place all sheets and towels directly into the laundry machine can reduce the need for cleaning staff to handle linens by hand. Creating a clear check-in system, avoiding shaking hands (when interacting), and also printing new house guidelines for each guest can reduce these risks even further. Essentially, the team and the guests should only touch common surfaces when absolutely necessary.
Establish Clear Expectations with Guests
Guest communication is one of the most important components of the broader property management process. But in addition to making sure that all of each guest’s questions are being answered, it is also important for all expectations to be clearly communicated.
A good property manager will establish clear, reasonable guidelines for every visiting guest. Be sure to discuss things such as what to do with trash, what to do with laundry, and which parts of the house are on and off-limits. Most guests will understand that they are staying at a property during an unusual time. By letting guests know what you need from them, you can reduce the risk of a property-specific spread.
Incorporate “Off Days” into your Rental Schedule
Estimates in some of Airbnb’s most popular American destinations suggest that the average Airbnb owner can expect about 12 to 18 days of occupancy per month. However, depending on the location and the property you own, these numbers can vary wildly. Still, even the best-run vacation rental properties will still experience a few days of non-occupancy.
One of the ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is to incorporate at least one “off day” in between each of your guests. This will give your cleaning staff more time to clean the property and will also help give disinfectants some additional time to dry. If you aren’t willing to incorporate these off days, you should at least consider widening the gap between check out and check-ins.
Ask for Feedback
Anyone can hire a vacation rental property manager and come up with a plan. But to make sure that everything is actually going as you intended, you will still want to have some feedback from your guests along the way.
Asking your guests about their stay and checking to see if they need anything will help you find any missing gaps in your management plan. It will also help improve the likelihood that your guests leave a positive review. Don’t be afraid to ask about cleanliness and other details related to COVID that you might consider relevant.
Offer COVID-Specific Amenities
Lastly, it is important for property managers to offer amenities that are specific to COVID-19. Hand sanitizer, personal toiletries, and face masks will help keep your guests safe and show that you are still taking the pandemic seriously. You should also include a verbal confirmation of “no symptoms” for each guest staying on your property.
The COVID-19 outbreak has impacted many parts of our lives, but there are still plenty of vacation rental properties that are actively up and running. If you own or manage a vacation rental property during these unprecedented times, be sure to remember these important tips.