April 10, 2023

Avoiding Volatility: How One Property Manager Built a Brand and Secured Direct Bookings in the Mid-Term Rental Market

In the world of property rentals, it can be easy to depend on booking platforms and short-term rental site reservations. But as the general manager of Corporate Rentals Austin by HESTiA, Vivian Yip, found out, relying on these platforms comes with volatility and risk. After having reservations at her properties canceled without her permission by 3rd party booking websites due to the pandemic, Vivian realized how important it was to use different booking and marketing channels to make her business less susceptible to interference. In this article, we'll talk about the problems Vivian had and how she solved them while building a brand for her furnished rentals. We'll also talk about how she diversified her booking options by taking direct bookings and staying on top of trends and changes in the mid-term market.

With only a few hours a day to spend with their children due to their corporate jobs, Vivian Yip and her husband realized they needed to make a change in careers and decided to start flipping houses as a side business. They have turned over 25 properties in a short period of time, keeping some of them as rentals. Their properties were initially short-term rentals, and they used 3rd party booking sites to get reservations. When the pandemic broke out, those 3rd party booking sites began canceling reservations for her properties, without her permission, gutting her income.

Short-Term Rental Risks

As a participant in several Facebook groups for short-term rentals, Vivian learned that there are risks that come with short-term rentals. One of those risks include getting banned from these booking websites due to dishonest tenants. Based on posts from other property hosts, it wasn't a question of "if," but rather "when" she would encounter these types of guests. Disgruntled tenants may demand refunds, discounts, or other concessions from the landlord or they’ll complain to the booking website, knowing that if the landlord refuses, the booking websites often side with the guest and may terminate or otherwise penalize their accounts and leave them with few options. Some disgruntled tenants may be acting fraudulently on purpose, while others may simply be malicious. Regardless, relying solely on booking websites leaves your business at risk.

Vivian mentions that many of the 18,300 Airbnb listings in the Austin region are operating illegally. There is no way that the City of Austin issues more than 18,000 permits for short-term rentals. The fine for any of these people who are discovered operating a short-term rental illegally could reach $1,000 per day. Additionally, the city has the right to lien your home.

That kind of stress doesn’t interest Vivian, so naturally, midterm rentals, which are not regulated by the City of Austin nor most cities, became her preferred rental strategy.

Direct Bookings and Why They Matter

Furnished Finder connects you, the property owner, with prospective tenants; after that, those contacts are entirely yours, with no interference. Furnished Finder is a lead-generation website where potential tenants and landlords are connected. Additionally, Furnished Finder offers a wealth of resources to assist property owners in finding, screening, and securing quality mid-term tenants, however bookings are done off-platform in a fashion that works best for both property owner and tenant. Free Tenant Screenings, customizable state-specific leases, a helpful e-book on how to prepare your furnished rental, and reports on travel nurse demand in your area are all available to property owners. Visit the Furnished Finder Property Owner Resources page for details.

When compared to relying on bookings from platforms from 3rd party sites, direct bookings provide a number of advantages for mid-term property rental owners. For starters, by taking direct bookings, property owners gain greater control over the booking process and can better manage the flow of leads and reservations. Furthermore, by maintaining a direct relationship with tenants, property owners can establish a stronger connection and build trust with their guests. Property owners can also save money on booking fees (which can reach 16% at 3rd party booking sites) by accepting direct bookings. Furthermore, property owners can better tailor their marketing efforts to reach their target audience and communicate with them in a more personalized manner. They can also easily track their income and expenses and gain a better understanding of their business. Lastly, property owners can avoid having their accounts closed by booking platforms and the stress that comes with it by taking direct bookings.

To ensure her properties secure direct bookings, Vivian focuses on standing out from competing properties by wowing her tenants. She appreciates the value of a fantastic mattress, blackout drapes, high-end furnishings, ultra-fast internet, live plants, and accents. Her choice of furnishings is influenced by her awareness that her properties are meant to be lived in, not just visited on vacation. Video games and pool tables are not required, but a restful night's sleep is.

Knowing What's Happening in Your Market

It is important to keep up with trends and changes in your area and in the mid-term market as a whole. Facebook groups and online forums, particularly local groups, dedicated to midterm rental trends can help you stay ahead of the curve in terms of the ebb and flow of tenants.

For example, recently, many people in the Facebook group Travel Nurse Housing - Furnished Finder discussed how many hospitals in their areas had canceled travel nurse contracts, which could affect demand from that group of renters in your area. If you know this, you can change how you market and what you do to attract other potential tenants.

Furnished Finder, while originally known for catering to travel nurses, now attracts families that homeschool and want to travel as a family, digital nomads, snowbirds, families that are moving, and people who have sold their house but don't want to buy until interest rates go down. In other words, Furnished Finder now attracts all kinds of people looking for mid-term furnished housing.

Building a Search Engine Friendly Website

Vivian knew enough about search engine optimization (SEO) principles to recognize the importance of a domain name that accurately reflected her business and location. When she saw that the web address CorporateRentalsAustin.com was still available, she bought it right away. She knew having just that web address, along with sprinkling her website content with relevant keywords, would help her rank in the search engines more easily.

When it came time to actually create her website, Vivian sought the assistance of Boostly.co.uk, a company that provides website design and development services. Boostly is also the publisher of Mark Simpson's "The Book Direct Playbook," a guide to successful online marketing for vacation rental properties. With the help of Boostly and their expertise in creating direct booking websites, Vivian was able to make a website that promoted her business well and reached her target audience.

Implementing Systems

Having systems and processes in place enables business owners like Vivian to automate and streamline specific tasks, freeing up valuable time and energy that can be spent on other aspects of the company. Setting up automated email responses, developing standard operating procedures, or implementing software that simplifies and streamlines certain processes are all examples of this. With these systems in place, business owners can concentrate on more important aspects of their company, such as strategy and growth, rather than getting bogged down in day-to-day operations. Furthermore, having well-defined systems and processes in place can improve a company's overall efficiency, leading to increased productivity and profitability. This is why Vivian and many other property owners prioritize having systems and processes in place.

Not to mention, freeing yourself from working in your business allows you to direct your time and energy towards what you enjoy more, whether that is further growing your business or spending more time with your family, traveling, or any other hobbies.

Some popular tools and software that can help you automate tasks and streamline your workflow are:

  1. Property management software: This type of software can help property owners manage bookings, guest communication, and financials all in one place. Examples include Hostfully, Lodgify, and Guesty.

  2. Channel management software: This software helps property owners sync their rental listings across multiple platforms, such as Airbnb, Booking.com, and VRBO. Examples include Rentals United, MyAllocator, and BeyondPricing.

  3. Automated messaging and communication tools: These tools can help property owners automate guest communications, such as sending automated pre-arrival and post-departure messages. Examples include Smartbnb, Hostfully, and GuestJoy.

  4. Keyless entry systems: These systems allow guests to enter a rental property without the need for physical keys. Examples include August, Schlage, Kwikset, Igloo Home.

  5. Pricing optimization software: This software can help property owners optimize their rental prices based on factors such as demand, occupancy, and competitors. Examples include BeyondPricing and PriceLabs.

  6. Remote monitoring and security systems: These systems allow property owners to remotely monitor and secure their properties, including cameras, smart locks, and alarms. Examples include Nest, Ring, and SimpliSafe.

It's important to set up systems and automations, not just for managing one property but also for growing your business. By using these systems, you can make things like bookings, communicating with guests, and keeping track of money easier. This will let you focus on other important parts of your business and life outside of business. Having clear systems and processes in place can also help your business run more efficiently, which can lead to more productivity and profit. You can easily add more properties to your system by using property management software, channel management software, and other automation tools. In the long run, streamlining and, ideally, automating many of the processes that take place within your business can save you a lot of time, energy, and money.

By utilizing different booking and marketing channels, such as Furnished Finder, and building a strong brand, Vivian was able to secure direct bookings, attract and retain tenants, and make her business less volatile. The most important thing to take away from this article is that, as a property owner, you need to diversify your tenant acquisition options and not rely solely on 3rd party booking platforms. This is because booking platforms can shut down or penalize your account at any time, which could hurt your business.

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Author : FF Staff