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Who Needs A Property Manager (Apparently, All Of Us)

by Matt Landau on August 9, 2013 · 7 comments

  
Vacation Rental

The vacation rental business lends itself to Do-It-Yourself types: we do our own marketing, we fix our own leaks, we handle our own accounting.

But this self-sufficient mentality stands out to me as both our strongest asset and our greatest downfall.

You see, while running a successful vacation rental on our own can be tremendously fulfilling (and profitable), a recent survey shows that neglecting to utilize the help of local property management-type services can also compromise a guests’ stay, thus negatively affecting the success of your rental.

The Survey

Using a Zipinion crowdsourcing poll, I asked 100 people: When staying at a vacation rental with your family, which is more important: (a) A property manager who lives and works in the area or (b) The property’s actual owner who (while they do not live in the area) is available to answer any question promptly by email or phone?

The results

Screen Shot 2013-08-08 at 9.20.02 AM

An amazing 67% of respondents chose option “A” citing the following reasons for their preference:

  • Let’s be honest, you always want an onsite or quick-to-contact manager. Especially if you have an issue, you want to know you can have them in person
  • I like the idea of a property manager that I don’t need to worry about offending. They are an agent to the owner, but you can complain and get something fixed without hassling the owners or getting “personal”
  • Makes me feel more comfortable with the manager being (physically) right there in case something happens. Since I’m on my vacation time, I don’t want to have to wait
  • A property manager would be available to stop by if there were any maintenance issues (like the internet going out)
  • I would feel more comfortable talking with a property manager whose professional role it is to take care of and know about the property. I think it might be awkward to talk to the owner of the house especially if I do not know them personally. That is a very undefined relationship, and could be very uncomfortable depending on the individuals involved
  • I would prefer to see a property person face to face to discuss any issues/ compliments rather than a “faceless” person by email or phone. The hospitality Industry is a service industry
  • If I have a problem I might not be able to get to a phone (an office around the corner is much more convenient)
  • I always prefer a face-to-face meeting
  • I like having the convenience of a person-to-person interaction
  • A manager seems more personable. They are more familiar with the place because they live there
  • An on-site person can come over and fix the problem right then and there instead of making *us* do it
  • I like being able to walk into an office and talk with somebody, rather than hope they answer my emails or calls

Of course, there were some respondents (33%) that said they’d prefer a very accessible owner:

  • The owner has more real authority
  • A manager who lives and works in the area isn’t necessarily available to respond to inquiries. Sometimes the closest people provide the least support. I would prefer the person who will respond quickly and can possibly delegate tasks to others who are closer
  • I don’t like dealing with middlemen, I’d like to be able to contact the owner myself
  • It’s more direct. They have more personal investment in the property, so I feel it would be more personal and they would be more caring despite the distance. There are also no miscommunications
  • I’d rather have someone who responds quickly to my concerns over someone who may live in the area and not do so
  • Just because the property owner lives locally doesn’t mean they will be helpful
  • I’d trust an owner more than a manager
  • Most of the time, I would probably only need an answer – not to see them face to face. So, phone or e-mail is fine with me
  • As long as they are responsive and get the problem rectified, I’d prefer they were not on the property. That seems to be invasive

These results, while they cover the gamut of very rational benefits on both sides, are pretty conclusive: most vacation rental guests want someone nearby with whom can interact face-to-face.

This may give a lot of owners new perspective as to the costs and benefits of having an on-site team. While you may have viewed property managers as greedy or just wanting to take a slice of your pie, maybe now you’ll think differently?

If you don’t live in the area, do you use someone to fill this comfort void?
Photo: Joel Abroad

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Roy N. August 9, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Matt,

“When staying at a vacation rental with your family, which is more important: (a) A property manager who lives and works in the area or (b) The property’s actual owner who (while they do not live in the area) is available to answer any question promptly by email or phone?”

That’s a leading question and could statistically skew your results.

Reply

Tiffany August 10, 2013 at 12:52 pm

I agree with Roy! The question is posed for a very specific type of owner. Property Owners very often live in the same area, and would probably respond more quickly to their guests than a manager who runs many properties. I am a property owner who does not live in the area, but I have a team of people to help me when I need it, and if I have to, I make the two hour drive to my rental to handle any issues. Property Owners are much more vested in the success of their own vacation rental!

Reply

Matt August 11, 2013 at 5:59 am

Great points guys. Can either of you recommend an alternate phrasing to avoid this bias in my next surveys?

Reply

Tiffany August 16, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Hi Matt,

I think just leaving out “(while they do not live in the area)” might make a difference. I’m curious to see what the findings of this question would be:

When staying at a vacation rental with your family, which is more important: (a) A property manager who lives and works in the area or (b) The property’s actual owner who is available to answer any question promptly by email or phone?

That way, it does not imply that the owner lives far (or near). It now makes it just a question of whether guests prefer a property manager or the actual owner. I’m not sure if that’s what you were trying to accomplish, but I know I would be curious to find out…

Reply

Heidi Rogers August 10, 2013 at 10:11 am

Thank you, Matt! I always appreciate your use of surveys to get inside an issue from a customer’s perspective. I was also surprised by the results; I’ve long assumed that people prefer the VRBO model and want to rent directly from the source. It’s reassuring to know that it’s still SERVICE that matters most, whether its coming from the owner or the manager.

Reply

Brad Williams August 11, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Regardless of how the question is phrased, the issue is when things go wrong while the guest is staying at your property and you are hundreds of miles away, can you resolve whatever the is issue may be. I have a beach vacation property which I manage from about 5 hours away. There have been a couple instances when someone needed to be close. I deal with it by having a very dependable cleaning and maintenance person. It took trial and error to find the right person but, each time these issues have occurred, she was able to head over and handle the matter because she lives only about 3 miles away. No question in my mind, if you don’t have someone like that — you are going to have issues. Local management or, at least, local help is absolutely required.

Reply

Elisa Davidson August 16, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Brad, we are managing our beach home from 3 hrs drive. Several recent incidents, including a toilet that kept running while my person was out of town, have proven we need to make the change from a house cleaner to a more all purpose person or team. How did you evaluate your potential caretakers? Our rental is in a rural area, 45 minutes from the nearest town. I just spent half a day working on special projects around the house with a potential replacement, and have eliminated her as a candidate.

In your experience, what should I ask or do to weed out the weak, and how will I recognize the difference early on? Especially since I won’t be on site for more than one or two initial cleanings.

Elisa

Reply

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