Archives November 2018

Feature comparison of the top property management services

Many newly expanding hosts have a hard time managing everything that has to go on behind the scenes for a successful stay. I’ve already written about how I think that Your Porter is the best tool to use to help with that.  But I also know that not everyone is going to prefer that tool. So I decided to write a summary of the main features of some of the most popular property management softwares out there. 

All of them integrate natively with Airbnb. Some of them integrate with other channels, as well. AirGMS is the only one that only works with Airbnb.

But be careful when a website tells you that it “integrates” with other booking channels. A lot of apps will say this, when in reality they only provide iCal integration. This is not as robust as a full API integration, and you may have some trouble getting everything to sync across channels with a simple iCal integration. 

A few of them, Hostaway and Lodgify in particular, are also direct booking platforms. So they’re designed to allow you to create your own site and accept bookings directly from there, thus cutting out the middle man of Airbnb, Booking.com, etc. Be aware that, while you will not have to pay the booking fees you normally would on those short-term rental sites, this comes with its own set of challenges. There is no way of vetting guests when they are booking directly with you, so you’ll need to take extra precautions to make sure you protect yourself. 

Several also charge differently depending on how many listings you have. Guesty is the only one in this list that charges a percentage of booking fees instead of a flat monthly rate (they also charge a 1-time set-up fee). I found Uplisting’s price page to be a little confusing; basically, they charge $10 per listing, per month for the first 10 listings; after that, they charge $5 per listing per month. Be sure to read the pricing page for all of these services carefully before signing up!

The feature comparison table of all 6 services is below. Happy hosting!

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday Tip: Linens

 

 

We’ve all been there. You’re trying to get a stain out of the sheets, and don’t have enough time to get them done before the next guest arrives. 

To keep this from happening, consider getting multiple sets of sheets and towels for every guest bed you have in your space.

Additionally, I’d highly recommend you buy all your linens in the same color – preferably white. That way you can easily bleach them to remove stains, and you don’t have to worry about sheet sets getting mixed up with each other because they’re all the same.

Happy hosting!

How to price what your space is worth?

One of the most daunting challenges that new hosts can face is knowing how to appropriately price their space. 

If you’re new to the world of short-term rentals, pricing out your space can be a completely overwhelming challenge. You might not have any idea of the market trends in your area. Perhaps the only thing you have to go on is your own intuition, which if you’ve not had short-term rental hosting experience is likely going to be way off. 

Airbnb likes to say that they have a solution for you – it’s a feature in the Airbnb platform called Smart Pricing, and it’s supposed to automatically adjust your prices based on supply and demand. Airbnb pushes it really hard when you’r creating a listing.

Let me go ahead and tell you: Smart Pricing doesn’t work. 

It consistently seriously undercuts booking prices. I have a space that regularly rents out for $120+ a night, and Airbnb is constantly trying to tell me to turn on Smart Pricing so that I can get $60 a night! No, thank you. 

According to my research, this is a pretty consistent trend among people experimenting with Smart Pricing. I would just go ahead and say stay away from it, across the board. 

But there are other third-party tools out there that claim to do the same thing (and actually do it quite effectively). 

I’m currently using a tool called Wheelhouse, and I’ve been so happy with it. It recommended a base price to me, according to other similar listings. I set my settings, told it how aggressively I wanted to price my listings, and let it go. Just last week, I received a 7-day booking at $150 per night – where the base price had been set to $90! Guess the market was hopping that week. Wheelhouse gave me a 66% markup without me having to do anything at all. 

The cost for using Wheelhouse is between .75% and 1% of all booking fees, depending on how many listings you have. But shoot, when I’m getting nearly 70% markups, I’ll pay 1% of that any day! Put simply, Wheelhouse is an intuitive, economical, and effective tool to help you maximize your rental income. I’d highly recommend it.

Sign up through my referral link today and get $10 in Wheelhouse credit!

Tuesday Tip: Cleaning House

 

 

The other day, I was telling a friend about the ins and outs of what I do as an Airbnb host. 

“Isn’t it exhausting to deep clean your house before every guest?” she asked. “I just don’t think I could keep up with that kind of rhythm.” 

The truth is, I don’t deep clean my house before every guest. I would find that rhythm exhausting, too!

I clean the guest bedroom and bathroom pretty thoroughly after every booking, but other than that I just do housework at the same pace I normally would. 

If you’re renting out a space in your own home, try to handle the cleaning issue the same way you’d handle it with family. Make sure their private space is clean, and don’t let the common areas be overly dirty or untidy; but a little mess isn’t going to hurt anyone. 

Your guests will still feel at home, and you get to keep your sanity :). 

Happy hosting!

Your Porter

 

 

Let me tell you a secret about me.

I really hate talking to people.

Not all the time, and not with everyone, but on the whole I would rather be alone with a book than talking to someone any day of the week. Ironic, isn’t it, considering that I work in the hospitality industry?

Enter my lifesaver, the absolute best tool I’ve found to run my listings professionally without losing my own personal sanity.

Your Porter

Your Porter is, in my opinion, the best tool on the market for managing multiple listings by far. I love it because it allows me to send hundreds of messages automatically, without ever having to actually write a message or actually talk to someone.

Your Porter is not the only tool that offers automated messaging, of course. These days channel managers and automated messaging tools for short term rentals are almost a dime a dozen. In fact, some of the other tools out there actually have a lot more functionality than Your Porter has…but those products are over-engineered, plain and simple. You’ll end up not using 80% of their product offerings, while still paying for them monthly. Your Porter, in my opinion, has the best combination by far of useful features and reasonable pricing.

Here are a few of the amazing features that Your Porter has that I use every day:

  • Messaging templates 
  • Supports both Airbnb and SMS messaging
  • Check-in form
  • Auto-inquiry responses
  • Automated reviews
  • Income reports with split commission fees (particularly useful if you’re working with client owners!)
  • Mobile-friendly
  • You can turn off scheduled messages if needed
  • Directly integrates with both Airbnb and Booking.com; indirectly integrates with many other services
  • Daily task scheduling and notifications
  • Manage multiple Airbnb accounts in a single inbox
  • Financial reporting
  • Airbnb rankings reports
  • And more!

All of this is available for next to nothing. Actually, for beginning hosts (only 1 listing), it IS nothing – totally free. For those with more than 1 listing, it’ll run you between $5 and $7 per listing, per month. Considering that other tools are charging $30 or more per listing per month – or a percentage of bookings, which can get even pricier – you really can’t find a better tool than this at this price. Check it out today at yourporter.com!

Tuesday Tip: Guest book

 

 

Have you ever been somewhere that had a guestbook? Don’t you just love signing it? I do. I feel like I’m leaving a little piece of myself there to be remembered. 

As a host, there’s a bonus for you in doing this – you get to go back and look at all the nice things people have said about you in the past! 

Here’s a nice, simple option for you to try (click the image to see more info):

 

Happy hosting!

A tool to help you easily manage your finances

It didn’t take very many months of hosting short-term rentals for me to realize that I needed a way to keep finances straight. 

With every listing, you will have receipts to keep track of, clients to pay out, invoices to send and pay. If you really want to go the extra mile, you can track your related miles (pun intended) and deduct them from your taxes at the end of the year. All of these will only increase as you grow your business. 

I quickly realized that putting all of my receipts into a shoebox, tracking all business expenses down at the end of the month, or God forbid, trying to keep everything in my head, was a losing battle. So I started looking for a tool that could help me manage everything without breaking the bank.

Enter Quickbooks self-employed. 

I’ve been using this software for over a year now, and it has been worth every penny I’ve paid for it and more.

Here is a non-comprehensive summary of why I think it’s such a great tool:

  • Allows you to invoice clients and send reminders
  • Syncs with your bank and automatically imports transactions
  • Easy to upload receipts from either your phone or computer
  • You can auto-categorize email receipts simply by forwarding them to a special email address
  • Super mobile friendly – you can categorize and split transactions, record receipts, review taxes, send invoices and more, all from your smart phone
  • Auto-tracks your mileage, so you don’t have to guess 
  • Very reasonably priced – only $4.99 a month

There are so many other reasons to love this software. It has turned what could have been a logistical nightmare and huge source of stress to me into something as simple as making myself a sandwich. Because I can do everything from my phone – aka, while I’m standing in line at the grocery store, getting my prescriptions filled, or any other time I have a few minutes to spare – my finances are always up to date, and I’m one happy camper. 

If you’re looking for an easy way to keep track of finances, look no further!

Have a different tool that you love? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday Tip: Get a backup person

I recently went away for a few weeks to Europe. 

It was a wonderful, magical vacation. There was great food, amazing people, fantastic views, and more. It was a fabulous opportunity to relax and unwind.

But in a way, it was also very stressful.

I had not had time to arrange for a backup person to run point on my properties while I was gone. So every evening found me getting on the internet, checking my messages and making sure nothing had blown up in my absence. (Not that I could have done anything about it from the other side of the world, but I digress.)

If you want to have any flexibility in your life while managing short term rental properties, you need to have someone you can call in case you’re unavailable. Someone you trust, who you’re confident will provide the same level of support that you do. 

If you don’t have anyone in your life who you feel fits that description right now, start looking for someone who does.

Go to meetups, talk to your contacts, expand your network until you have someone you can rely on. Don’t wait until you need someone to start looking – that’ll already be too late.  

5 best features of the August smart lock

When it comes to smart locks, the possibilities seem almost endless. Schlage, Kwikset, Yale, Nest, Gate, Friday….how are you to choose when there are so many options to consider?

I am not an authority on smart locks. There are many brands of smart locks I’ve never even heard of, let alone used. But I do have extensive experience with one smart lock in particular, and have found it to be exception for my hosting needs. The lock that I use is the August Smart Lock, and it has proven to be, like Mary Poppins, “practically perfect in every way.” 

Here are, in my opinion, the 5 best features of the August Smart Lock:

  1. Remote management
    August is extremely remote-friendly, with the one caveat that it requires the purchase of an additional piece of hardware. The August connect is roughly the size of a phone charger, and it plugs into a standard wall outlet and allows you to manage your lock from anywhere in the world. It is worth every penny of the extra cost. I have managed my lock from the mountains of Italy, to the beaches of Hawaii, to the subway of New York City, and everything in between. The remote management of the August lock allows for an extraordinary amount of freedom and flexibility! 
  2. App friendly
    Although August does have a website, it is almost purely for e-commerce. Any changes or updates you might want to make to your lock or its settings will be made through their mobile app. This suits me just fine. The nature of hosting means that I’m often far from my computer….but I always have my phone with me! Being able to rely on making changes through the app gives me security in knowing that I’m never more than a few taps of my phone away from fixing the problem.
  3. Personal user codes
    A lot of smart locks allow for multiple entry codes. However, many of them also require that you change the entry codes in person. As someone who like to travel and manages multiple properties all over the state, this simply would not do for me. Plus, if you only have 1 code for your property, that creates a security risk, as previous guests can come back and access the place even after their reservation has ended. With August, I can create unique codes for every guest on my phone whenever I want, and then delete the codes just as easily once the guest has checked out. Easy peasy!
  4. Simple installation
    No complicated instructions or steps for installing the August locks, and certainly no professional needed! All you need is a simple deadbolt lock, drill, and screwdriver. The August app will walk you through the rest. After installing about a dozen locks myself, I’ve averaged about 20 minutes for each installation. 
  5. Multiple owners
    If you are working with another person – either a co-host, owner, or someone else – the ability to add multiple owners is a fantastic feature. It adds an increased level of transparency, without compromising security by requiring everyone involved to log into a single account. Simply add everyone you want to to the lock, give them owner-level access, and voil√°. Problem solved. 

If you’re looking into getting a smart lock but overwhelmed by the possibilities, I hope this has helped you narrow your choices down. Let me know what smart locks you use – and if you like them or not – in the comments!