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!

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!

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!

My favorite mobile payment tool

As you start to have more guest bookings, you may start to find a need to pay other people more often. Cleaners, handymen, photographers, stagers…these are all people you may or may not choose to employ to grow your listing attractiveness. 

What’s the best way to pay them? In our digital age, people rarely cut checks anymore. But still, the plethora of options can often leave people paralyzed with indecision. How do you choose what’s best when there are so many choices to consider?

Well, let me make your decision a little bit easier. I want to share with you my preferred app to pay independent vendors and contractors – Venmo. 

Venmo is a peer-to-peer payment app that has been around for close to 10 years now, although it’s only in the last 4 or 5 years that it has really skyrocketed in popularity. It’s now become one of the de-facto methods of payment between friends, family, and co-workers.

Why do so many people use it?

venmo2

Venmo has a lot of compelling pros to it.

  • Free to install and use with your bank account
  • It’s already quite popular, so your chances that someone will already have a Venmo account set up and ready to go is high
  • Simple and easy to use
  • Convenient
  • Available for both iOS and Android
  • You can both send a payment you owe or request money you’re due

But surely Venmo isn’t all good, right?

Of course, like anything, there are some cons to using Venmo, as well. 

  • Payments are ONLY processed through the mobile app, so if you don’t have a smart phone you won’t be able to use Venmo
  • Although it’s free to send payments through your bank account, there is a charge for using credit cards
  • Payments aren’t paid out until the next day, so there is a potential for fraud
  • Doesn’t work outside of the USA
  • By default your transactions are shared in your news feed with your network. This can be turned off, but I find this feature to be rather unprofessional. 

Despite its drawbacks, I’ve still found Venmo to be one of the easiest and best mobile funds transfer apps around. Give it a go and let me know what you think.

Or are there other apps you use to pay people as needed?

Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Create custom Alexa skills without coding

My husband recently sent me a link to an article about one of the lesser-known skills that an Amazon Alexa can do. 

Known as “Skill Blueprints,” it is a way to teach Alexa all sorts of custom things, without having to have any coding knowledge or experience. You start with a template, and then simply fill in the blanks to get Alexa to say exactly what you what, when you want it.

He sent it to me as a suggestion for something I could do in my Airbnb listings, and I immediately saw the potential.

Want to make important info about your home easily accessible to guests? Create a custom guide for them using the Houseguest blueprint. Do you have a TV that’s tricky to operate? Create step-by-step instructions using the custom Q&A template. 

It’s a more technical option than most hosts would consider, but I think it’s a fantastic idea. I still create houseguides the old-fashioned way, and I know from experience that few people ever take the time to read them. Using Alexa to give them the needed instructions makes it much more accessible. 

To get started, go to blueprints.amazon.com. Or check out the original link below for more information:

A simple checklist to make sure cleanings are done right – every time

As a host, I know first-hand how hard it can be to find good cleaners for your spaces.

This is especially true if you manage multiple properties. If you’re not there to inspect their work, they can do as good – or as bad – a job as they want and they’ll likely get away with it. In fact, many hosts have had so many problems with their cleaners that they just clean all their spaces themselves now. 

But obviously, that’s feasible only to a point. If you’re managing dozens of properties, there’s no way you’re going to have the time to clean every single turnover. 

So how do you maintain a high level of cleanliness without doing all of the work yourself?

I think a big part of the problem comes from the fact that expectations aren’t clear between the hosts and their cleaners. The hosts say “clean this,” and assume that’s all that needs to be said. But frankly, people have all sorts of different standards of what “clean” means. It’s not enough to just ask them to clean the space – you have to spell out what you’re expecting. 

So I created a checklist that I give to every prospective cleaner before I hire them.

It is a summary of what I expect from them in every space they clean from me. If they don’t agree to it, I don’t hire them, plain and simple. If they do agree to it, then I’ve got an easy record to fall back on if I find that they’re not completing the checklist during every cleaning. If it happens multiple times, then I find a new cleaner. No hard feelings, but the expectations were clear and aren’t being met. It’s so much easier to deal with when you lay out your wishes ahead of time!

If you want to use it as a template to give to your cleaners (or for yourself), feel free! You can find the checklist for every space in the house here.