45 Questions to Ask a Vacation Rental Management Company

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Choosing the right vacation rental management company is vital for property owners, and asking the right questions can help make an informed decision. We present a comprehensive list of 45 essential questions to ask a vacation rental management company before signing a contract, covering everything from their experience and services to marketing strategies and financial matters.

Owning a vacation rental property can be a rewarding investment, but managing it effectively requires time, expertise, and resources. This is where a vacation rental management company can step in to handle the day-to-day operations, maximize bookings, and ensure a seamless guest experience. However, entrusting your property to a management company requires careful consideration and thorough evaluation.

To make an informed decision and choose the right vacation rental management partner, it’s crucial to ask the right questions. In this article, we present a comprehensive list of 45 essential questions to ask a vacation rental management company. These questions cover a wide range of topics, helping you delve into the company’s experience, services, policies, fees, and more.

By asking these questions, you can gain valuable insights into the company’s qualifications, approach, and ability to meet your specific needs. Whether you’re a first-time property owner or considering switching management companies, this guide will empower you to make an informed decision and forge a successful partnership.

Questions to ask vacation rental management company

Get to Know the Company

  1. How long have you been in business? Have you always focused only on short-term rentals or do you manage other types of rentals too?
    • It’s important to ask because it provides insights into the experience, stability, and track record of a company. The duration of operation indicates expertise and the ability to meet customer needs. Additionally, inquiring about the focus on short-term rentals or other types of rentals helps determine the scope of services provided and specialization in managing properties.
  2. Are you a licensed Short Term Rental property manager?
    • Not always a requirement for vacation rental management companies. But depending on the state, you may need a real estate broker’s license or a PM license to legally operate as a property manager. When choosing a vacation rental management company, it’s safe to choose one that is licensed!
  3. Are you a full-service manager or a distribution manager?
    • Know they specific kind of manager helps you assess their service offerings, level of involvement, and accountability, enabling you to make an informed decision that aligns with your specific needs and expectations. A full service handles everything for the vacation rental while a distribution manager will typically only handle a handful of things like reservations and pricing.
  4. What relevant real estate-related experience did you possess before becoming a property manager?
    • Real estate is a complex industry and by asking for related experience you can be more confident that the company is able to meet your needs to finding a deal, problem solve while still following the rules, and have a trusted network of connections!
  5. Have you owned a vacation rental property yourself?
    • By asking, you can gain a better understanding of their experience, perspective, and ability to relate to your needs as a property owner. It allows you to assess their qualifications, expertise, and the potential value they can bring to your rental property management journey. You want a company that will take care of your house like it’s their own.
  6. Are you only in the this local market or do you manage in other areas?
    • If the management company focuses solely on the local market, it suggests that they have in-depth knowledge and expertise specific to that area. They are likely to be familiar with local regulations, market trends, and the unique factors that can affect the success of your rental property. If they have successfully expanded into other markets, it also indicates their adaptability and ability to scale their services.
  7. How many properties does your company manage in the area?
    • A higher number of properties implies a deeper understanding of the local market dynamics, including demand, pricing, competition, and guest preferences. This expertise can be advantageous in optimizing your rental property’s performance and maximizing returns. If they have a large portfolio, it is essential to inquire about their capacity to ensure that they can dedicate sufficient time and resources to managing your property effectively. A smaller portfolio may suggest a more focused and personalized approach, potentially resulting in greater attention to detail.
  8. How many clients do you currently have? And how long have they been with you?
    • Assessing their capacity, client retention rates, industry reputation, and ability to provide personalized attention. This information helps you gauge the company’s reliability, expertise, and compatibility with your specific needs as a property owner.
  9. What do you do that makes you stand out from your competition?
    • Revenue, Revenue, Revenue. In order for short term rental management companies to be successful they have to make sure their properties and listings stand out. Gain insights on their unique value proposition, competitive advantage and their ability to innovate and stand ahead of the industry.
  10. Are you a franchise or independently owned?
    • By asking this simple question, you can gain insights into their accountability, decision-making processes, flexibility, local expertise, and the nature of the relationship you can expect to have with them.

Marketing & Promotion

  1. What’s the primary operating market for the vacation rental management company?
    • Think like a local. You want a property manager to assess the alignment of their target audience, their local market knowledge, marketing strategies, and collaboration opportunities.
  2. Does the company give suggestions for improvements to make your property a more desirable rental?
    • You will gain some insight as to wether the company really wants your home to earn as much revenue as possible. A good property manager will know what changes or improvements to make in order for a home to earn higher revenue and increase guest experience.
  3. How will you market my home and get bookings?
    • By asking this question, you can get a deeper look into their marketing strategy, reach, target audience focus, performance tracking, and communication practices.
  4. What channels do you list my property on (ex: Airbnb, Vrbo, Booking.com)?
    • More channels equals more bookings. This information allows you to evaluate their ability to effectively list and promote your property on popular booking platforms, increasing its visibility and chances of securing bookings.
  5. Do you get direct bookings as well? If so, what percent of your bookings are direct with you vs on a channel/OTA?
    • Direct bookings is another channel to earn more bookings. A higher percentage of direct bookings indicates that the management company has successfully built brand awareness, invested in marketing initiatives, and established a strong online presence.
  6. What direct bookings channels do you leverage (social media, Google Ads, email marketing)?
    • Their ability to effectively utilize various channels demonstrates their knowledge of digital marketing strategies, audience targeting, and campaign optimization. This helps you evaluate their marketing competence and their potential to drive direct bookings for your property.
  7. Will you hire a professional photographer for photos and is that included or an extra cost?
    • Well-executed photography can give your property a competitive edge in the vacation rental market. It can make your listing stand out among others and attract more attention from potential guests. By asking if professional photography is included or at an additional cost, you can evaluate the management company’s commitment to investing in effective marketing tools that can differentiate your property from competitors.
  8. Do you leave any welcome notes or gift baskets for guests? Anything special for return guests?
    • Inquiring about special arrangements for guests and for return guests, you can assess their focus on guest experience, personal touch, guest loyalty, online reviews, and feedback-driven improvement. By asking this question, you can gauge the management company’s commitment to providing exceptional guest service and their attention to detail.
  9. Are advertising fees charged to you?
    • Inquiring about advertising fees allows you to have a clear understanding of the potential costs associated with marketing and advertising your property. It helps ensure transparency in the management company’s fee structure and allows you to evaluate the overall financial implications of listing your property with them.

Operations, Cleaning & Property Care

  1. Do you allow online booking for owner blocks?
    • Asking about online booking for owner stays allows you, as the owner, to assess the convenience and flexibility of managing your property’s availability. If online booking is permitted for owner blocks, it provides you with the flexibility to easily reserve and manage your desired time periods for personal use.
  2. Is there a way to see my bookings and calendar?
    • By asking if there is a way to see your bookings and calendar, you gain insights into the availability of a system that provides booking visibility, schedule management, booking confirmations and details, communication and coordination, as well as transparency and control. This information helps you understand how effectively you can manage and track reservations for your property, ensuring a smooth and organized experience as an owner.
  3. Do you discuss maintenance issues with us first before proceeding to make any decisions?
    • By discussing maintenance issues with the home owner before making decisions, you can assess their communication practices, transparency, cost control measures, property care approach, and their commitment to establishing a trusted partnership with you.
  4. Who pays the cleaning fee?
    • Inquiring about the responsibility for paying the cleaning fee allows you to understand how the costs associated with cleaning are allocated between you as the owner and the guests. It helps you clarify whether the cleaning fee is included in the rental rate or if it is charged separately to the guests.
  5. What do your average guest reviews say? What is your average star rating (happy guests)?
    • By asking this question you gain further understanding into guest satisfaction, service quality, reputation and trust, property performance, and competitive analysis. This information helps you evaluate the management company’s track record and determine if they consistently provide excellent experiences for guests, ultimately influencing your decision on whether to partner with them for your vacation rental property.
  6. How do you improve the guest experience when a problem arises?
    • Communication and response time! This information helps you evaluate their commitment to guest satisfaction and their ability to effectively handle and resolve issues that may arise during a guest’s stay. Many management companies offer 24/7 guest support to handle any problems that may arise at any time of the day. This ensures that guests have access to assistance whenever they need it, providing them with peace of mind and reassurance that their concerns will be addressed promptly.
  7. How do you screen incoming guests?
    • This information helps you assess the measures in place to protect your property, maintain guest quality, and ensure a positive rental experience for both you and the guests. By verifying guests’ identities and conducting background checks, the management company can reduce the likelihood of potential issues such as property damage, unauthorized parties, or violations of rental policies.
  8. How do you handle check in at the property?
    • By asking this question, you can determine if they have secure and reliable methods for guests to access the property upon arrival. You can also get a sense if the company provides clear and concise instructions regarding check-in procedures, parking, and property access contribute to a positive guest experience and reduce the likelihood of any confusion or frustration upon arrival.
  9. Do you have technology in place to prevent/catch parties or large events/gatherings before they happen?
    • Another piece to property security is the company’s proactive approach to preventing disruptive gatherings and maintaining a positive rental experience for both guests and the surrounding community.
  10. What happens if a guest gets locked out of the house?
    • You’ll get a look into the management company’s responsiveness, support mechanisms, assistance options, cost responsibilities, communication practices, and preventive measures. Understanding these procedures helps you assess the company’s commitment to guest satisfaction and their ability to handle unexpected situations promptly and efficiently.
  11. How do you handle guest emergencies when they occur?
    • By inquiring about guest emergencies, you can get a better understanding of their emergency support availability, communication protocols, coordination with emergency services, guest support practices, property assessment and resolution procedures, as well as their approach to documentation and follow-up.
  12. Who cleans my property?
    • Property cleans are essential to ensuring satisfaction for guests and owners. This information helps you assess the level of care and attention given to the cleanliness of your property and the overall guest experience. Some vacation rental management companies will have their own internal cleaning team, some will have contractors and some will have a hybrid of both depending on size and location. It’s important to understand the structure and how your property is getting cleaned.
  13. Who inspects after each clean? Do they perform a walkthrough?
    • Some property management companies may have inspectors or supervisors who conduct inspections after the cleaning process to ensure that the property meets the required standards. They check for cleanliness, proper presentation, functionality of amenities, and any issues that may need attention.
  14. Who will be providing the landscaping? Pool maintenance? Hot tub maintenance?
    • It is advisable to inquire about how certain maintenance is handled. This will help you understand who will be responsible for these tasks, whether they are performed in-house or outsourced, and how any associated costs are managed.
  15. Who does maintenance? Who does routine “wellness” checks of the property? How do you judge my property’s condition?
    • The maintenance and routine wellness checks of the property are handled by either an in-house maintenance team, outsourced contractors, or the owner’s preferred contractors. A good management company conducts periodic inspections to assess the property’s condition and communicates any maintenance needs or issues that may arise.
  16. How do you handle maintenance emergencies when they occur?
    • Asking this question will give you a sense of how the company is effective in communication with guests and owners is maintained throughout the process. You will also be able gain insights on if they provide 24/7 emergency support, emergency reports, and preventative protocols to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
  17. How are linens and towels handled?
    • Linens and towels can be a direct reflection on the company’s attention to cleanliness, their inventory management practices, quality control measures, and their commitment to providing fresh and well-maintained linens for each guest’s stay. This helps ensure a comfortable and enjoyable experience for your guests while maintaining the overall quality of your vacation rental property.
  18. Are the toiletries, toilet paper (the basics) included in the property management fee?
    • It’s important to understand the company’s policy and determine whether you need to provide these items yourself or communicate the guest’s responsibility to bring them.
  19. Does the company use automation (keys, check in, cameras, air conditioning, etc.)?
    • The extent of automation employed by a specific management company can vary, so it’s important to inquire about their specific technology and automation practices. By asking about automation, you can gain insights into how the the company utilizes technology to streamline processes, enhance guest experiences, and improve operational efficiency in areas such as key management, check-in procedures, security, and energy management.
  20. What does Security look like for your homes?
    • Addressing security measures for short term rentals is of utmost importance when dealing with short-term rental management. In the dynamic landscape of temporary accommodations, ensuring the safety and well-being of both property owners and guests is a top priority. Implementing robust security measures not only safeguards the physical property but also builds trust among guests, leading to positive reviews and repeat business. Security measures may include installing surveillance systems, implementing secure access controls, and conducting thorough background checks on guests. Proactive measures not only mitigate potential risks such as property damage or theft but also contribute to the overall success and reputation of short-term rental businesses in an industry where reliability and security are paramount.

Financials, Fees & Costs

  1. What are the property management fees? Is the fee based on gross or net?
    • The property management fees charged by vacation rental management companies can vary depending on several factors, including the location, size, and type of property, as well as the specific services offered. Additionally, it’s worth noting that property management fees may also include additional charges for specific services or optional add-ons, such as marketing fees, maintenance fees, and guest booking fees. These can vary depending on the management company and the services provided, so it’s advisable to inquire about the complete fee structure and any potential additional costs.
  2. What additional fees can I expect if we move forward (full example of the fee structure)?
    • Some additional fees could include flat fees such as hot tub maintenance and propane tanks. Other fees could include marketing or service fees. Request a detailed breakdown of all potential fees to ensure you have a clear understanding of the costs involved. By clarifying the additional fees upfront, you can make an informed decision and accurately budget for the ongoing management of your vacation rental property.
  3. Is there a penalty or fee for ending a management contract early?
    • It’s crucial to thoroughly review the terms and conditions of the management contract, including any clauses related to early termination, before signing. If there is uncertainty or ambiguity regarding the potential penalties or fees for ending the contract early, it’s advisable to seek clarification and potentially negotiate more favorable terms, if possible.
  4. How often is our payout and will you provide us with monthly statements?
    • It’s important to discuss these aspects with the vacation rental management company before entering into an agreement. Clarify the payout frequency, the format and timing of monthly statements, and any specific reporting requirements you may have. Additionally, inquire about the methods of payment, such as direct deposit or other electronic transfer options.
  5. Will you send me receipts for bill payment and/or any maintenance issues?
    • By understanding the management company’s practices regarding receipts and documentation, property owners can keep track of expenses, ensure transparency in financial matters, and maintain records for their own records or for tax purposes.
  6. Are there any extra fees for running errands, maintenance calls, utility bill payment, etc?
    • Administrative fees can vary depending on the vacation rental management company which is why it’s good to clarify which administrative tasks are included in the management fee and inquire about any specific tasks or errands that may incur extra fees. By understanding the fee structure and any potential additional charges, property owners can accurately assess the cost of management services and ensure that they align with their budget and expectations.
  7. How long is the contract for and what are the terms to leave the partnership if we choose to?
    • Carefully review the contract and discuss these aspects with the vacation rental management company before signing. Ask for clarification on any unclear or ambiguous clauses and negotiate terms that align with your needs and expectations. It’s important to have a clear understanding of the contract’s duration and the process for terminating the agreement should you choose to do so.

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