There’s no question that technology is a strong enabler of growth. Thanks to the advancements in vacation rental technology, property management companies have been able to take their businesses to heights that were previously unimaginable.
As the industry matures, an increasing number of specialised solutions are being developed to cover all aspects of short-term rental property management. Today, companies are able to automate almost all aspects of their operations, marketing and distribution.
What makes technology an invaluable asset is not just that it saves time and money by making processes more efficient. It’s also that technology allows property management companies to scale beyond what would be possible without high levels of automation.
And, in 2021, the technology that property managers have at their disposal is more sophisticated than ever. There’s an extremely high level of connectivity. Different specialised software solutions now seamlessly integrate with one another, allowing property managers to achieve end-to-end automation.
At Rentals United, we believe that leveraging the power of different software platforms and apps working together is the key to success in property management. So, in this article, we’ll give you an overview of the most important tools that property managers need to reach new heights with their businesses. Let’s get right into it!
Are you looking to update your tech stack in 2021? Check out these resources to help you choose the best tools for your business:
- The Global Short-Term Rental Tech Report
- The Who’s Who of Vacation Rental Technology
- The Who’s Who of Property Management Systems
- Channel managers
- Property management systems
- Dynamic pricing tools
- Guest experience tools
- Home automation tools
- Cleaning and maintenance tools
- Market research and data intelligence tools
- Insurance and ID verification tools
1. Vacation rental technology: channel managers
Channel managers are essential tools for all property managers, no matter the size of their vacation rental portfolio. They enable companies to efficiently distribute their listings across a multitude of channels and manage them all in one place.
If you advertise on more than one booking site, you need a channel manager to save time, avoid double bookings and keep your availability, rates and calendars up-to-date.
The benefits of using a channel manager include:
- Increased visibility. Channel managers automatically distribute your listings to multiple global and niche booking platforms. This increases your chances of attracting high-value international guests. The more travellers see your ads, the more bookings you’ll get and the higher your occupancy will be. This ultimately translates into increased revenue.
- Avoiding double bookings. Channel managers centralise bookings and enable vacation rental managers to manage all their listings from one place. Thanks to the API connections that channel managers use to connect to listing sites, they can instantly update your calendars across all channels when you receive a new booking. This real-time synchronisation eliminates the risk of double bookings – an issue that no property manager wants to deal with.
- Saving time. When you have more than a handful of vacation rental listings, it’s impossible to keep them updated manually. It would take up most of your time and you probably wouldn’t be able to do it without making mistakes now and again. Channel managers allow you to automate the most time-consuming aspects of vacation rental distribution, so you can focus on other tasks that need your attention.
Think of channel managers as the central hub from where you control all your listings. Whenever you make a change to your property info, photos, rates, calendars or availability in your channel manager, the information gets automatically updated on all the platforms you advertise on. Learn more about how to choose the best channel manager for vacation rentals.
For example, the Rentals United channel manager connects to over 60 distribution channels, including OTAs, niche websites, metasearches, wholesalers and Google. As a Preferred Partner of 4 of the most popular global channels – Airbnb, Booking.com, Vrbo and Tripadvisor – we provide the most reliable connections on the market. Find out more about the Rentals United vacation rental channel manager.
Do you need an advanced channel manager to expand your distribution and increase your bookings? Watch a demo to find out what Rentals United can do for you!
2. Vacation rental technology: property management systems
While channel managers focus on vacation rental distribution, property management systems or PMSs facilitate the day-to-day management of rental properties.
In short, PMSs allow you to automate the operational side of your vacation rental business. For example, they let you manage your properties and bookings, schedule cleanings, assign tasks to team members, send automated messages to your guests, create invoices and reports, and much more. Learn more about choosing the best vacation rental PMS for your business.
Some PMSs have channel management capabilities. However, these are often insufficient because they either offer a low variety of channels (only the largest OTAs) or rely on weak iCal connections that cause delays in updating your availability (which leads to double bookings).
That’s why most property managers use a specialised channel manager in conjunction with their PMS. Thanks to the way that software connectivity works these days, developers are able to seamlessly integrate channel managers with PMSs, so that you can use the two platforms together without any issues.
By storing all your data in your PMS and your channel manager, you can avoid using complicated spreadsheets and manually entering your data. This helps you build efficient and streamlined workflows while minimising the risk of mistakes.
3. Vacation rental technology: dynamic pricing tools
In the past few years, property management companies have started developing more and more elaborate revenue management strategies. This is because, with the amount of competition in the industry, finding the optimal price for your rental every single day can give you a competitive edge. It’s crucial for maximising your profits.
As a result, revenue management is being used as a tool to optimise performance. And for that, property management companies need access to lots of data. Some companies have in-house revenue managers who constantly monitor and adjust their rates based on historical insights and market demand. Others turn to yield management tools that allow them to automate the process.
That’s where dynamic pricing tools enter the picture. By making frequent and automatic changes to your rates based on historical and real-time market data, dynamic pricing tools help you find the best nightly prices and stay competitive throughout the year.
Their algorithms use machine learning to understand fluctuations in supply and demand and give you pricing recommendations based on data insights. As a result, dynamic pricing tools help you increase your profit while minimising the time you need to spend adjusting prices.
We’ve made the case for dynamic pricing before – currently, there’s no better way to get the best rates for your rental every single day.
Here are our favourite dynamic pricing tools:
- Beyond Pricing accounts for changes in demand on a daily basis. It gives you detailed insights with each pricing recommendation. And, its Health Score system ensures that you’re always aware of opportunities for optimisation. Learn how to connect Beyond Pricing to Rentals United.
- PriceLabs takes into account a wide range of factors including market supply and demand, seasonal and day-of-week trends, special events/holidays and lead time. It has lots of customisation options. Learn how to connect PriceLabs to Rentals United.
- Wheelhouse uses real-time data insights to help you understand pricing and set unique rates. Its advanced settings allow you to control how aggressive you want your pricing strategy to be and align it with your overall business goals. Learn how to connect Wheelhouse to Rentals United.
All of the above tools integrate with the Rentals United channel manager. This means that you can use dynamic pricing to adjust your rates and then automatically update them on all your channels via Rentals United.
4. Vacation rental technology: guest experience & communication tools
Now that we’ve covered channel managers, property management systems and dynamic pricing tools, we move on from the essentials to the nice-to-haves.
First off, let’s take a look at some tools that can help you enhance the guest experience and facilitate guest communication.
While these tools aren’t indispensable to running a vacation rental business, they’re more than just a nice touch: they allow you to automate time-consuming tasks and provide guests with the level of customer support they would expect from a hotel.
Welcome apps or digital guestbooks are useful elements of a property manager’s toolkit. They help you save time on guest communication, automate your check-ins, and increase your revenue by upselling tours and services. They offer a high level of care and attentiveness that all guests appreciate, and as a result, can earn you lots of positive reviews.
Here are some of our favourite welcome apps:
- HelloHere lets property managers streamline their guest communication with a digital welcome book, a destination guide, a marketplace, a chat function and automated messaging. Find out how to connect HelloHere to Rentals United.
- Wishbox allows you to automate guest messaging, upsell additional services, collect passport scans and e-signatures, and engage your guests with targeted communication. Find out how to connect Wishbox to Rentals United.
- Touchstay lets vacation rental companies save time by giving guests easy-to-find property and area information in a web-based app so you don’t have to keep answering the same questions over and over again.
Voice concierge apps
Since vacation rentals don’t have a front desk, it’s difficult to provide 24/7 customer support – unless you decide to enlist a virtual concierge.
Thanks to the advancements in voice recognition technology, voice control solutions are becoming more and more widespread. And, they’ve made their way into the vacation rental world.
For example, with an app like Virtual Concierge, you can turn a voice assistant device like Amazon Echo or Google Home into a digital concierge. This allows you to provide your guests with an expert who’s always at hand and can give them local tips and recommendations.
Guests love cool gadgets and often mention them in reviews. What’s more, digital concierge apps save time: they answer questions for you, so you don’t have to spend all day replying to messages or answering phone calls.
Another recent technological advancement, chatbots are increasingly being used in customer services roles. As artificial intelligence programmes that can simulate conversations, they are extremely efficient and serve as a cheaper alternative to human agents.
As the underlying technology matures, chatbots become smarter and smarter and can hold natural conversations to a point where humans may not necessarily be able to tell that they’re communicating with a robot.
Nowadays, chatbots are widely available and used across different sectors. Seeing the opportunity, various tech startups have developed solutions specifically for vacation rentals.
These are some of our favourite vacation rental chatbots:
- MyPlazze offers a vacation rental chatbot that uses Facebook Messenger to communicate with guests. Thanks to its many third-party integrations, it can even grant remote property access and offer additional services to your guests.
- GuideWiser is an advanced chatbot solution for vacation rentals and hotels. It allows you to provide guests with 24/7 local tips and property information via Facebook Messenger.
- ConciergeBot allows you to provide your guests with an always-on virtual assistant on their smartphones. It lets you assist guests using chatbots in SMS or WhatsApp.
- Yada lets you put your messaging on autopilot. Its chatbots can communicate with guests in Airbnb messages, WhatsApp, SMS, voice, or Messenger.
If you’re looking to equip your rentals with an innovative vacation rental technology tool that can take the burden of customer service off your shoulders, consider enlisting a chatbot.
5. Vacation rental technology: home automation tools
Home automation technology is on the rise. In the coming years, smart home devices may evolve from trendy gadgets to essential accessories to equip your home with.
Smart devices have a whole host of benefits for vacation rental property managers. For example, they allow you to double down on security by controlling access to your property remotely.
They also help you save big on utilities by monitoring adjusting energy consumption and remotely adjusting the temperature in your rental. And that’s just the beginning.
There are lots of complex home automation platforms on the market that you can use to control your smart devices, including Minut, Brivo and Operto. These platforms offer a myriad of integrations and even connect to your PMS, so you can seamlessly integrate them into your tech stack.
Let’s take a look at three of the most common types of smart devices that you can use to automate your vacation rental.
Over the last year, more and more property managers have started replacing in-person key handovers with automated check-ins. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for reduced human contact. That’s why solutions that don’t require face-to-face interaction are becoming increasingly popular.
So, how do you automate your check-ins? Welcome apps and chatbots help, but there’s another essential component: smart locks.
Smart locks bypass physical keys and allow you to grant your guests access to your property via unique access codes. Some have keypads, others are Wifi or Bluetooth-enabled and require only a smartphone to open.
All in all, smart locks provide both property managers and guests with a sense of security and help to streamline the check-in process. By connecting your smart lock to your home automation platform, you can have total control over who enters your vacation rental property.
Here are some of our favourite smart locks for vacation rentals:
- Schlage is an award-winning door hardware provider with a wide range of smart locks and smart deadbolts. When paired with your home automation system, Schlage smart locks elevate your rental’s level of security and convenience. Available in the US.
- August smart locks turn your guest’s phone into a key with Bluetooth access. They attach to your existing deadbolt and allow you to monitor who goes in and out of your rental at all times. Available in the US.
- Kwikset smart locks let your control access to your home anytime, anywhere from your smartphone. They allow you to generate customisable user codes with set dates and times. Available worldwide.
What’s the number one thing that property managers dread guests will use their rental for? Parties.
Illegal parties tend to result in costly damages to the property and ruined relationships with neighbours. One way to prevent them is by using advanced vacation rental guest screening and ID verification tools and techniques. Another way is to install a noise monitoring device in your property.
Apps that allow you to monitor noise levels are incredibly useful in letting you know when there are too many people making too much noise in your property. This way, you can take action before things get out of hand.
These are our favourite noise control devices:
- NoiseAware provides noise detectors and live noise monitoring with an intelligent platform that gives property managers insight into all their properties. It alerts you of noise issues and helps streamline the process of handling them.
- Roomonitor provides noise monitoring devices for short-term rentals and a single platform to control the noise levels in all your properties.
Last but not least, smart thermostats are popular among property managers because they allow you to manage energy consumption by doing away with unnecessary heating and cooling.
Unfortunately, vacation rental guests can be a bit careless when it comes to temperature regulation. For example, they sometimes forget to turn off the AC when they leave, or turn the heat up way too high and then open the window to cool the place down.
To avoid this racking up your utility bills – which can seriously affect your bottom line – all you need to do is install a smart thermostat in your home. That way, you can control the temperature remotely and avoid any excesses.
Some of our favourite smart thermostats are manufactured by Honeywell and Stelpro, and Modosmart is a great solution for controlling air conditioning. However, be sure to check which devices your home automation platform integrates with before you choose.
6. Vacation rental technology: cleaning and maintenance tools
Cleaning is one of the costliest and most time-consuming aspects of vacation rental operations. Large property management companies need entire cleaning teams to make sure their properties are always sparkling clean and ready for the next guest.
What’s more, in the middle of a pandemic, hygiene is of utmost importance: properties need to be professionally cleaned in compliance with the latest OTA cleaning and disinfection protocols.
It’s not easy to live up to these high standards without breaking the bank. Luckily, there are several vacation rental technology tools out there that property managers can use to find certified cleaning staff and automate housekeeping tasks. These tools help to save time and money without compromising on the quality of cleaning services provided.
With a tool like Doinn, property managers can find certified cleaning and laundry providers in their area and automatically assign cleaning tasks to them.
The Doinn platform integrates seamlessly with other vacation rental software like PMSs and channel managers. So, when you get a new booking, it’s automatically synced with Doinn and assigned to your housekeepers.
Doinn lets you:
- Manage your cleaning efficiently
- Eliminate scheduling mistakes
- Increase your profits
- Scale your operations
- Provide excellent cleaning services that meet the safety and hygiene expectations of your guests
- Get positive reviews
7. Vacation rental technology: market research and data intelligence tools
Today, data is an essential pillar of performance optimisation. Property managers use data to improve their revenue management strategies and inform their investment decisions. They use it to understand their market, their customers, and their competition.
Sophisticated data dashboards allow property managers to compare their rates with their competitors, analyse market demand, and spot trends in the changing landscape of travel.
That’s why vacation rental market research and data intelligence tools are being used daily in property management. Here are the two industry-leading data providers supplying property managers with invaluable insights:
- Transparent is the global leader in providing data intelligence for the vacation rental industry. The company empowers property managers to make smarter revenue, distribution and investment decisions by analysing millions of reservations to offer unique industry insights. “Our software tracks public data and allows our clients and partners to see their market and competitors’ rates and occupancy. Most of the time, it shows them where they have made pricing errors, resulting in a lower rate or occupancy, or on the contrary, where they did a great job,” CEO Pierre Becerril told us in an interview about the impact of vacation rental data.
- AirDNA’s MarketMinder tool gives you insight into millions of vacation rentals worldwide. It helps you study the trends that influence the evolution of the industry, and explore how your listings are performing compared to those of your competitors. AirDNA also provides data products and forecasts tailored to your needs.
- Key Data Dashboard is a short-term rental data and analytics provider. It allows property managers to access real-time market data, bringing it all together in one place so it can be easily analysed to improve performance. It’s a Business Intelligence (BI) and benchmarking tool that helps you understand the key metrics that drive your business, alongside your competitors’ performance data.
8. Vacation rental technology: insurance and ID verification tools
Protecting your vacation rentals with insurance is always a worthwhile investment. Damages, thefts and cancellations can happen to anyone – and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Finding the right insurance provider can be quite a hassle. You need to do your research and make sure that the insurance company offers a package that covers all your needs. Fortunately, there are lots of innovative startups out there that have developed insurance tools specifically for vacation rentals.
And, in response to the growing demand for efficient guest screening solutions, some of these tools also have ID verification features. Accepting bookings from unverified guests is risky – screening your guests, however, can help you prevent a wide range of problems, like illegal parties, fraudulent bookings, credit card fraud and criminal activity in your rentals.
So, when purchasing vacation rental insurance, choose a tool that provides ID verification, too.
For example, we’re fans of the following providers:
- SUPERHOG offers protection for both property managers and guests, complete with top-of-the-range ID verification backed by a £1 million guarantee. Learn how to connect SUPERHOG to Rentals United.
- Safely offers complete vacation rental insurance and comprehensive guest screening. Insurance is automatically attached to every reservation and you get up to $1 million in coverage for your home, its contents, and bodily injury.
Are you ready to build a tech-based distribution strategy? Discover how our enterprise-level Channel Manager can get you more bookings.