If you’ve purchased — or plan on purchasing — a vacation property, you’ve probably already thought about renting it out part of the time to recoup some of the cost. For most owners, this makes sense.
But vacation properties require management and upkeep, just like any property. Most vacation property owners also need help in marketing to potential guests, as well as managing the challenges that guests create. Many absentee owners turn to property management companies for help. So, in a resort area full of vacation rentals, a good property management company should be easy to find, right?
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. If you talk to many vacation property owners and realtors, you’re likely to hear a few “horror stories” ranging from shoddy maintenance practices to cheating owners out of rental money! However, there are competent, honest management firms out there. When looking for a property management company, focus on five main areas:
Reputation — Ask around! Talk to other property owners and local realtors. They’ll know which companies are — and aren’t — providing quality service. Also, if possible, find out about the company’s general reputation. Are they active in the community and regarded as good community citizens? Finally, ask any management company you talk to for references and/or testimonials from current owners whose properties they manage.
Guest relations — A good property management company is focused on providing a quality experience that will make guests want to return to the area — and to your property in particular. A few specifics to ask about: Do they offer 24-hour check-in, as well as 24-hour phone service and emergency maintenance?
Housekeeping — Keeping your property in top condition will usually increase its value and make guests want to return. The best management companies hire and maintain experienced housekeeping staff. Also, since housekeepers are the first people to see your property after guests check out, they’re your first line of defense against theft and damage. Ask if the company will perform a detailed, checklist-based inspection of your property after every guest stay. Also, will you be charged for housekeeping services?
Maintenance — When your property needs a major repair — say, a new water heater — will the work be performed in a competent, professional manner? Good management companies have in-house staff that can handle many repairs and maintenance duties, as well as strong relationships with trade professionals in the local community. Find out who your prospective management company works with. Also, if a repair is needed due to guest damage, does the company charge the guest for the work needed or will the cost come out of your pocket?
Marketing — What kinds of tools does the company used to market your unit? With the vast majority of vacationers researching where to stay on the Internet, savvy management companies are focusing on Web-based marketing utilizing search engines, pay-per-click listings and individualized Web pages that show off every unit they manage, including yours.
A vacation property should be a source of fun, relaxation and — when you’re not there — steady rental income. With the right property management company, owning a vacation property can be both enjoyable and worry-free.