Chapter 02

Grow your short-term rental business

Managing Your Vacation Rental Property Business

So, you’ve listed your short-term rental on a major booking platform. Now what? 

If you’ve crafted a compelling property description complete with high-quality photos and you’ve optimized your listing for the specific site, hopefully you will soon be flooded with booking requests.

It may not be the most exciting aspect of running a short-term rental, but communicating with potential guests and ensuring availability and pricing is updated on booking platforms is one of the most important management responsibilities.

Let’s dig into the details of maintaining your short-term rental listing and review some of the tools on the market that can automate the process for owners.

Multi-channel listings

Sometimes listing your property on a single site isn’t enough to hit your revenue goals. It goes back to the old saying: Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.

Once you’ve perfected your short-term rental listing and have a few guest stays under your belt, it’s time to take the next step by listing on multiple booking platforms simultaneously.

Many new short-term rental hosts spend a good chunk of time deciding which booking platform is best for their property, but sometimes the answer is: “All of them.” 

Advantages of multi-channel listings

Research shows that short-term rental owners can increase revenue by 22 percent for each major platform they use to list their property.

Crafting the perfect short-term rental description and capturing stunning photographs of your property is not an easy task, but it only needs to be completed once. After the initial listing goes live, copying the details to other booking platforms can be completed in less than an hour. That’s a small investment of time for such a large boost in earnings.

Although the major OTAs all serve a similar purpose — connecting property owners with travelers looking for a place to stay — each one caters to a slightly different demographic. Listing your property on multiple platforms maximizes your exposure and ensures your property is reaching travelers of all types, from the Millennial looking to explore a hip new neighborhood to the family searching for the perfect getaway to make new memories. Maybe your property is only attractive to one of those markets, but you won’t know unless you try. 

As most booking platforms, including Airbnb, Vrbo and Booking.com, allow hosts to list their property for free and only charge service fees when a booking is completed, there is little risk to listing on multiple channels.

Challenges of multi-channel listings

Multi-channel listings can increase earning potential for short-term rentals, but they can also increase headaches for hosts.

The reservation dashboard for each individual booking platform involves a learning curve — and when a property manager is attempting to use several platforms simultaneously, the systems take even longer to master.

Most booking platforms also offer apps for host convenience, but they quickly become frustrations when a property manager is attempting to juggle several at the same time. You might see a push notification display on your screen that a guest has requested a reservation, but by the time you can check your phone, you forget which platform the request originated from. 

The biggest challenge with multi-channel listings is the risk of double bookings, especially if you offer the ability for guests to book instantly. If two reservations come through simultaneously for the same dates, one on Airbnb and one on Vrbo, how do you decide which guests to disappoint? Cancellations on either platform can hurt your rating as a host and cause your listings to appear lower in search results.

Is multi-channel listing right for you?

If you have any desire to increase your short-term rental revenue, listing your property across multiple platforms is one of the easiest ways to do so. Many hosts find the additional income and exposure is well worth the hassle of juggling multiple apps and synchronizing calendars across platforms — and thanks to software designed for short-term rental hosts, much of that work can be automated. 

Using a channel manager

If you’ve been active in any online short-term rental communities or browsed blog posts on the topic, you’ve probably come across the term “channel manager.” Despite what the name might suggest, this tool has nothing to do with the television channels your guests can watch while visiting your property and everything to do with making your job as a property manager easier.

What is a channel manager?

A channel manager is a software solution for short-term rental hosts that allows you to automatically update rates, availability and other property details across multiple booking platforms simultaneously. 
Channel managers are powered by connections called application programming interfaces (API) that allows hosts to use a single dashboard to seamlessly manage their listing on sites like Airbnb, Vrbo, Booking.com and Google Vacation Rentals.

    What features do channel managers offer?

    There are dozens of channel managers on the market, all making the same promises to property owners: That their specific solution can help owners save time, reduce booking mistakes and increase revenue. However, only channel managers that offer a core set of features can deliver on those promises.

    The most important features of a channel manager include:

    Integration with major travel sites

    If even one of booking platforms where you plan to list is missing from a channel manager’s integration list, the tool will not be effective for your short-term rental operation.

    Payment and booking automation

    Chasing down payments from guests and tracking OTA commissions is one of the most frustrating parts of running a short-term rental — but a good channel manager will handle the process for you.

    Cancellations and refunds

    Cancellations will always be unpleasant for the guest, the host or both parties in a short-term rental agreement, but channel managers help take away the hassle of issuing refunds. When a reservation is canceled through a booking platform, a channel manager can automatically release those dates on availability calendars across all platforms while issuing the appropriate refund to the guest.

    Single dashboard

    The best channel managers eliminate the need for short-term rental hosts to bookmark dozens of webpages in order to manage their short-term rental property. Channel manager dashboards allow hosts to update pricing and availability, communicate with guests and track payments from a single location.

    Flexible language and currencies

    An international guest is more likely to book your property if the description is available in their native language or the nightly rate is displayed in their preferred currency. A strong channel manager offers flexible currencies and languages.

    Custom websites

    Most channel managers help hosts track their listings across several platforms, but the best ones help hosts build their own platform for direct bookings.

            How to choose the best channel manager for your vacation rental operation

            The benefits of using a channel manager are clear, but how do you choose the best one for your short-term rental business?

            Start by making a list of the features you care about most, and then research which channel managers will meet your needs. If you are still struggling to decide, there are a few other factors you can compare to help you make a decision.

            Pricing

            Listing platforms already charge enough in service fees, so no short-term rental host wants to see another chunk of their revenue disappear for channel manager fees. Channel managers charge for their services in different ways. Some charge a fixed fee based on each booking or each platform, while others offer a monthly subscription model. The channel managers that are most in-tune with the needs of property managers do not charge a fee to hosts and instead work the cost of services into nightly rates or guest fees. 

            Reputation

            No one can relate to the challenges you face as a short-term rental host more than other property owners. Their input could be helpful when choosing a channel manager. Look for authentic testimonials and reviews before signing up for a service. 

            Integrations

            A channel manager should integrate seamlessly with each of the major OTAs: Airbnb, Vrbo, Booking.com and Google Vacation Rentals. You should also consider the quality of the connection. If a channel manager only connects to the calendar of one platform and the message inbox of another, it may not be a good fit after all. 

            Customer service

            Connecting a channel manager with your existing accounts on various booking platforms should happen instantly and without any interruption to your short-term rental operations. In the best case scenario, you won’t need to contact customer service but the option to receive quick and friendly support should be available. 

                  Why Futurestay OS is the best solution for independent property managers

                  Futurestay OS is more than a channel manager, it is an entire operating system that helps automate every step of the short-term rental process so property managers can focus on what matters: Providing great service to guests while growing their business. 

                  Futurestay’s Instant Activation finds your properties where they’re currently listed and brings them together into a single dashboard so you can manage pricing, calendars, reservations and more without the need to cycle between dozens of open tabs in your browser. Smart Connection automation makes it easy to accept booking requests and complete a successful stay by running credit card payments (and tracking down the ones that failed), modifying reservations, issuing refunds when necessary and tracking commissions owed to various booking platforms.

                  In addition to automating a property manager’s most time-consuming tasks, Futurestay provides a full toolkit to short-term rental hosts that help them establish and grow their brand and build trust among guests.

                  Automated guest communications ensure that a guest is always up-to-date about their reservation status, check-in and check-out details and more. Futurestay sends branded messages on your behalf that your guests will truly appreciate.

                  The most powerful Futurestay feature is one that has the potential to increase short-term rental revenue significantly: Branded websites for direct booking. The mobile-friendly website includes unlimited pages that are already optimized for search engines and include photo galleries, interactive maps and directions and detailed information about you and your property. Your direct booking website is connected to your Futurestay dashboard, so the pricing and availability is automatically updated with your other listings. 

                  The streamlined and secure Futurestay booking engine is already connected to Google Vacation Rentals (Futurestay is one of the only trusted software providers that allows independent property owners to add their listing to Google), which results in more direct bookings for your property. With the support of Futurestay, property owners can leverage the world’s top search engine to help more travelers discover their property. Anytime a user clicks “Book Now” from Google Vacation Rentals, they’re sent to your custom Futurestay page to complete their direct booking. 

                  You and your guests will never pay a fee or commission for Futurestay services — instead, the cost is automatically added as a 5 percent markup to your nightly rate.

                  Get more bookings with less stress by signing up for Futurestay for free.

                    Next Up: Optimize

                    Futurestay may specialize in automated channel management, but we are here to guide hosts through every step in the short-term rental journey.

                    The final section of this short-term rental roadmap will provide tips and tricks for marketing your listing and hosting your guests, which are both essential pieces to your success.

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