10 Ways to Build Your Vacation Rental Business and Still Have Free Time

When I tell people we are close to Cancun, they envision umbrella drinks, beach, relaxation … my reality is Home Depot, Costco, Mega, etc.” (Post on Facebook group)

Ask vacation rental owners how many hours a week they spend on managing their vacation rental property, and you’ll probably receive vague replies. Few owners accurately assess the amount of time involved in all the tasks pertaining to their business, and would probably be surprised to find out just how much of their life is given to making a relatively small income.

Unless you employ a property management company to take care of every aspect of marketing and operations for your business, you’ll find your time eaten up with regular and one-off tasks — and there are a lot of them. Here are just a few, followed by some simple things you can do to minimize your effort and gain back some of your free time.


Listing and photos

This front-loaded exercise means the bulk of the work needs to be done before you take the first booking. However, it doesn’t stop there. Listing text needs to be updated frequently — some say this is necessary to keep it “fresh” for ranking purposes — and photos have to be redone every time something changes at the property. If you list on multiple sites and don’t use a channel management service, each one will require individual attention, racking up the time spent on listing maintenance.


Answering inquiries

“Do you have a blender?”
“How deep is the water off the dock?”
“Where is the nearest McDonald’s?”
“What is there to do in the area when it rains?”

Even though the majority of reservations are now made instantly from information supplied in a listing, the supplementary questions can be seemingly endless and come in so many different formats; it can be a struggle to keep up. Answering phone calls and emails along with multiple messaging platforms delivering “just one more question” takes a lot of time, and given each guest wants a timely response, can be stressful.


Website maintenance

If you’re working toward some independence from online listing sites, having your own website is a must. The goal is to drive traffic to the site and get prospective guests to book directly with you, so site service needs to be maintained and updated regularly.


Creating content

Along with making sure your website remains current and stable, it’s important to build a solid library of content. This is the way to attract people interested in a location before they even decide on their accommodation and it’s the key to being successfully independent from listing sites. Content is anything that will help potential guests plan their vacation in your area, from a list of restaurant recommendations to advice on what to bring on vacation and suggestions for things to do on a rainy day.


Managing finances 

Despite the online travel agencies promising to handle everything related to collecting rental fees, there’s still a considerable amount of work involved in managing the financial aspect of a vacation rental. Keeping cash flowing; managing incidental, regular, and major expenses; paying vendors and suppliers on time, and making sure tax obligations are met are just a few of the many money tasks you’ll need to keep up with.


Troubleshooting and dealing with issues

Guests are becoming more demanding, and because their expectations are on the rise, the management of issues relating to a stay has become more time-consuming. Complaints related to the perceived misrepresentation of a property, cleanliness, missing or damaged amenities, and operation of appliances rank high on the demands of an owner’s time. This usually means responding to phone calls and texts within minutes and being able to dispatch appropriate people to repair, replace, or maintain within hours.


Managing changeovers

If you do your own changeovers, it’s a guaranteed time commitment for each reservation, before you even add the extra tasks such as doing the laundry, purchasing supplies, disposing of garbage, along with a deep clean (at least twice a year). The additional hours can be significant.


Writing social media posts 

If you want to maximize marketing efforts, then a presence on a variety of social media platforms is essential. This entails planning, writing, organizing graphics, and posting to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Being consistent and frequent with posts is the best way to reach a target audience and have them expecting your updates. And that takes time.


Here are 10 things you can begin or plan to do today to reduce the time, effort, and stress imposed by your commitment to this business:

  1. Create an FAQ list to answer all the questions guests may ask. Continually add to the list with every question that comes your way, and before long you’ll have a fully comprehensive manual to the operation and management of your home.
  2. Build a home guide with Your Welcome that includes videos showing operations of amenities such as hot tubs and entertainment systems.
  3. Create bullet points for content pieces and find a writer to build the articles.
  4. Hire a bookkeeper and set aside a specific time to do finances each week.
  5. Create an emergency plan that covers every potential issue and outlines what you’ll do if it occurs.
  6. Write an editorial plan for social media posts and use a scheduling tool such as Buffer or Hootsuite to automatically post.
  7. Create a monthly website maintenance plan for your site.
  8. Use a service such as Avalara MyLodgeTax to manage your lodging tax obligations and ensure all your remittances are made on time and with little effort on your part.
  9. Instead of manually updating listings, use a channel management service, such as Rentals United to update every listing as soon as you get a booking, or make an update in text or photos.
  10. To free up a lot of time, consider using a property management company. These come in many shapes and sizes and offer a wide variety of services. Shop around your area for one that may suit your circumstances and requirements. Since there’s a good chance the major online travel agencies will move to charge owners up to 15 percent for simply marketing the property, the services of a property management company are looking more attractive.

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Avalara MyLodgeTax, provides the fastest and easiest way for short-term and vacation rental property owners to comply with their lodging or occupancy tax requirements. This software manages your lodging taxes so you don't have to and guarantees your compliance — period. If they make a mistake, they'll fix it at no cost to you. No contracts, no obligation, no worries. Never worry about lodging taxes again.