Hey everybody! Quick question for you guys -
So I know this isn't a new idea, and it's been floating around in my head for a while, is there a need for a good virtual assistant for vacation rentals?
I'm talking about a service that does customer service, i.e. talk to guests in a timely manner, answers questions, screens tenants (with approval of owner maybe?). Property owners would still be responsible for all the "on the ground" tasks. Would it be beneficial to have someone that is an expert in vacation rentals, vs just some offshore VR thats extremely cheap?
I would imagine a flat rate, monthly fee would be a good way to go with this. Perhaps one fee for handling communications or whatnot during the regular work day, and another fee for handling it all the time.
Is this a service that is still needed and what would an investor be willing to pay for this?
Thanks so much!
I believe Evolve provides a service like this, which they charge 10% for, which is excessive to me. I spend very little time communicating with guests for my two listings (and 95% of that is canned responses). The only time I'd feel I really needed something like this would be if I knew I'd be unreachable most of the time, or for a period of time - e.g. if I were traveling out of the country, or my W2 job wouldn't allow me to be able to respond while I was at work.
The most time-consuming things to me are coordinating repairs or doing the work myself, and bookkeeping, which in your scenario the owner would still be doing. I don't think you'd really save much time or hassle farming out guest communication. Take a day to write out some thoughtful messages and answers to FAQs, save them as templates, and boom, you're done. And I've got some automated emails set up to take care of sending check-in details and other ordinary things.
Most real estate investors I know use VA's from the Philippines. They speak English and you can hire one full time for a month that has a Bachelors degree for $300 for a full month of work.
You can look in the job board and find ones that have the experience and background in the work you need.
You can also hire them by the project, say long enough to design you a web site etc.
@Adam Faber to answer your original question as to how much you would pay...it would be whatever amount is less then just hiring a turnkey property management service. Which is going to do all of this for you anyway. As @Julie McCoy mentioned, Evolve does 'most' of this at 10% (been using them for 3 years) plus an additional 2.5% for payment processing. They do answer guest's questions and most of all pre-stay communications with the guest, along with advertising on their partner sites (AirBnB, VRBO/HomeAway, TripAdvisor and FlipKey). They really do 'zero' guest screening however unless you engage them to do so. For instance, I have a 30 and older policy to book my property and often, I will have to randomly go and investigate when a guest doesn't look 30 (on Facebook) and then ask Evolve to go engage the guest to validate their age.
I think a VA would be a really cool solution for this however as they usually can provide you with more then just this, including being a VA for anything else you want for the month. As @John Underwood stated you can find great ones in the Philippines for under $500/month and they will be trained to whatever specification you want. Training them on your booking/guest policies would be simple but I guess the only caveat is that they might be sleeping while your guests are actually awake.
Let me know if you go down this path, would love to hear more about it and maybe even have you do a guest blog post on your experience!
$8 - $10 per hour on Upwork.com should get you someone competent enough.
My only caution for using an overseas VA would be that most Airbnb users want an experience where they feel connected to the host...some VA's do not have English as their first language, and some Airbnb users may be put off by that. As mentioned above it is very easy to automate messages, and set up a template - if you wanted to set up a template and have a VA use that, you might get better results.
Evolve charges 10% for answering messages and advertising. I haven't used them, but I think I would only be willing to pay 5% for this service. I would be willing to pay closer to 20% if they were going to be your boots on the ground - coordinate cleanings/maintenance and deal with emergency situations, and be on call 24/7.
I am sure someone in the BP community in your area has experience with Airbnb and would want to work out a contract with you! Good luck and keep us posted.
@Adam Faber I would do a flat fee or % per booking so you are only paying for results. Evolve as everyone mentioned conducts this for 10% so I would use them as the benchmark in terms of pricing.
If you have a luxury property I would do a flat fee. If you are on the lower end of the scale I would do a percentage.
$5000 reservation = $500 (10% percent per booking) however, a VR would gladly do this for $100.
On the flipside, if your rental is around $500 per reservation then 10% is only $50.
Hey @Adam Faber I am in the process of training a VA in the Philippines as @John Underwood mentioned. I still haven't figured out how to make it affordable, as they charge $8/hour. Even just for coverage on the weekends for 24 hours/day thats $384 per weekend or about $1500/mo. I think the solution depends on the scale of the STR business. At some point a percentage model will be more expensive than paying hourly rates. I'm going to try and leverage the fact that they are billing other clients at the same time as me to get their rates down.
Evolve is a property management company, not a virtual assistant, so I don't think its comparing apples to apples.
Guesty is a property management software company that offers a "front desk" type service for 5% of gross revenue, which includes their software. I've heard its a great service and I think is great for people who own their rentals, but not for management companies.
I think @Jenessa NeSmith also has a great point. Users specifically on Airbnb are looking for a more personal experience and generally want to speak with their "host" i.e. not an admin person thousands of miles away. I think you can get it pretty close by thoroughly training your VAs, but the fact of the matter is at some point if you plan on scaling you're not going to be answer every call or message personally.
Awesome, thanks for the information everybody! Has anybody ever heard of https://yourfrontdesk.co/ ? I'm curious what everybody's thoughts are on it.
I guess one thing that I didn't make clear is that I am interested in doing something like a virtual front desk, but I'm not sure on the need. My main thoughts were that if someone had a W-2 job and couldn't find the time to communicate with guests, then maybe they would pay a monthly fee to know that the communication is handled while they are at their own jobs.
I do think there may be a need of something less than Evolve, but a little more personal than maybe Guesty could be, but pricing does get difficult because rents vary so much.
Hey Adam, I think the people who would benefit from what you are talking about would be the same demographic who use the Airbnb co-hosting feature, although not sure about actually making much money on it. You can charge a percentage through airbnb, so in theory you could cohost for multiple hosts and charge fees to each one depending on your agreement.
I've used the Guesty receptionist service and it's really just a step up from an auto response. It is focused on saved responses and "if-thens". If a guest asks this, you say this type of responses. Pretty much the opposite of personal.
I too am interested in VAs so I am staying tuned to see if anyone has successfully trained an affordable VA to do guest messaging.
@JJ King , are you aware of any co-hosting features through the Homeaway family of websites?
I'd also be curious if the only way to have it set up is for the VA to have access to only that property with that one owner through their account, or if there was a way to have the VA access multiple different properties with different owners through one spot. It could be difficult for property owners to be willing to give up their email and password for access to the account.
A friend of mine who does Airbnb full time like me has been training a VA in India and it’s $700/ month. I think he got a deal because he somehow went direct. But I’m trying to figure this out too.
I’m sitting here staring at my phone wishing more bookings would come in so I guess I’m not ready to hire someone just yet.
@Adam Faber , you could make an Airbnb profile for the name of your VA company and then cohost all properties from that account, that way the owner does not give up access to the master account. The cohosting account would still have access to respond to messages and accept / alter reservations. Also airbnb just rolled out new tools for people with multiple listings and those may be available to someone who cohosts through a single account, not too sure about that.
I'm not aware of anything in the HomeAway family like Airbnb's cohosting but I don't do much business through there and when I do I just communicate through my PMS so I don't log into the dashboard too much.
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