A hard-earned lesson on remote property management

Have you ever heard the saying, the day you stop learning is the day you die?

That is just as true in property management as it is in the rest of life.

Last month, I started managing a new property in another state. I’ve done this before, but it’s been a while, and I think I must have gotten a bit rusty at remote property setup. It was definitely a bumpy ride.

But that’s ok.

I knew it wouldn’t all be smooth sailing. But I wanted to do it anyway because learning is the key to growth.

Now I’ve got a shiny new checklist of all the things I should do (and not do) with new remote properties. It will be a huge help the next time I sign an out-of-state client.

It’s certainly been a frustrating learning curve. But I’m also excited. I’m positioned much better now to quickly start up another out-of-state property without all of the headache I had the first time.

If you stop learning, you die.

If you’re thinking about starting to manage properties remotely, I’m going to share with you the hardest-earned lesson I learned from all of this.

Have a standard door and lock installed when you (or your contractor) arrives to set up the property.

I use a specific smart lock with all of my properties. Every other time I’ve had a new property to set up, I’ve simply gone and replaced the existing lock with the one I use. It’s a pretty simple, pain-free process; doesn’t usually take more than an hour or so.

That’s IF the lock you’re replacing is a standard lock.

When I arrived to set up this new property, I didn’t realize that the old property management company had been using the hotel-styled key card locks. Unfortunately, most of the time to install this type of lock you have to cut a giant hole out of the door where the lock goes.

There’s simply no way you can install a standard lock on a door after it’s been fitted with a key-card lock.

So I arrived, armed with all the tools of my trade….only to be stymied by the darn lock. I tried to get a locksmith to remove it for me. He couldn’t. I tried to get a door sleeve to cover the hole; no dice. It would have to be custom-ordered. It was finally decided that we’d have to replace the entire door, but by that time I had to leave.

But I figured it’s such a simple lock….surely it would be easy to have someone else install it, right?

Not so.

So the door got replaced, and the homeowner hired some random person to install the new lock.

They did it wrong.

I didn’t find that out until the housekeeper showed up and couldn’t get inside.

Then I had to hire a locksmith to open the door and retrieve the key that had been left inside. He left the key with the condo management office, and the lock install guy said he’d come back the next day to fix the lock.

By the next day, the office had lost the key. So we had to get another locksmith out there.

Then the lock was installed incorrectly again.

It really is hard to find good help! It was seriously a 2-week saga and cost several hundred dollars to get this darn lock installed!

Eventually, I actually ended up driving back down to the property to finish the installation myself – a 12 hour round trip and only about 30 minutes of actual work. Yikes!

It was such an unbelievable saga.

But I definitely learned my lesson, and won’t be making that mistake again.

So learn from my mistakes. If you’re setting up a remote property, make it a prerequisite that the homeowner has a standard door and lock installed before you arrive. This will make it easy to swap out with any lock of your choosing.

This is even more important with listings that are remotely managed. Because if someone screws up, you’re going to have a hard time going back to fix it – as I painfully learned from experience.

Locks are absolutely the most important aspect of a listing. Without them, no one else can get in or out to do all of the other things that need doing. And they’re a whole lot harder for an untrained contractor to install than simply replacing a rug or some other cosmetic change. As Marie Forleo says, everything is figureoutable….but some things are a whole lot easier to figure out than others!

Tuesday Tip: Clear directions

 

 

I had a nightmare of a guest recently. One of their biggest issues is that they didn’t read the check-in instructions I sent them. So when they arrived in the middle of the night, they didn’t know how to get into the property. Ugh.

That experience is what lead to today’s tip: make sure your access instructions for your space are crystal clear!

Of course you’re always going to have the occasional guest who just doesn’t read your messages at all, but the clearer and more succinct your directions, the greater chance of you not having to get up at 4:30 in the morning to let some clueless guest in! 🙂 

Happy hosting!

Tuesday Tip: Mattress covers

 

 

Pop quiz: what’s one of the biggest potential investments you can make in your space, which also has the potential to be most easily destroyed by your guests?

Answer: mattresses.

Get mattress covers for all your beds! Even a cheap mattress is a large investment that should be protected. You’d much rather pay $30-50 to buy a new mattress cover than $500 dollars to buy a new mattress. 

Consider it a way to protect your investments. And if you think you’ll never need it…you’re wrong. Just do yourself a favor and go buy one.

Happy hosting!

Tuesday Tip: Temperature control

 

 

Today’s tip piggybacks well off of a story I recently told on the blog

As a host, please make sure you give guests the ability to adequately regulate their temperature! Providing blankets, fans, space heaters, etc. goes a long way towards someone enjoying (or not enjoying) their stay. 

No one wants to be uncomfortable in their own house – even if it’s their house for only a few days. So do your best to make sure that your guests can keep themselves warm in the winter and cool in the summer. 

Happy hosting!

Tuesday Tip: Shower hooks

 

 

Last week’s Tuesday Tip featured washable shower curtains. I realized after I wrote it, however, that I left out an important part!

Even after I bought washable shower liners, I was still struggling to take them off and put them back on the hooks. 

Until I discovered double-sided shower hooks. 

With a hook on both sides, these make taking off the liner SO much easier. Simply put the curtain on one side and the liner on the other, and you’ve got easy access to the liner whenever you want.

BONUS:  

Buy a liner with reinforced holes like the one below to keep the holes from ripping. 

Happy hosting!

Tuesday Tip: Washable liners

 

 

To save money, many people buy cheap plastic shower liners. It’s true that these usually cost significantly less than washable fabric liners; but it may not be the best move for you in the long run.

Over time, everyone’s shower curtain liner starts to get moldy. It’s an unavoidable result in such a wet environment.

If you’ve got a plastic liner, you either have to take it down and scrub the mold off by hand, or you have to throw it away entirely and replace it. This will quickly become either a huge waste of time or money. 

Although they are a little more expensive at first, fabric shower liners quickly pay for themselves. At the first sign of mold, all you have to do is take it off and pop it in the washer with the rest of your whites. So much easier!

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!

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!

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!

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.