April 29, 2016

VRMA East: How Property Managers are Growing and Onboarding New Vacation Homes

We all know that the best way to increase a property management company’s revenue is to add more properties. Strategies for doing this, however, will vary based on location, size, budget, and desire to grow.


Recruiting new homes and new homeowners: Best practices and pitfalls

rented.com CEO Andrew McConnell leads a session on recruiting new homeowners with Steve Presley, David Angotti, and Rodney Archer.
Photo by Jacqueline Ramsey.

Best practices:

1. Have a unique pitch, and don’t get lost in the crowd.

Steve Presley, CEO of iTrip Vacations, shared a story of how an iTrip franchisee increased one condo owner’s revenue by ~40% the first year under iTrip’s management. They decided to send a picture of that condo’s full calendar to all the other owners in the building asking if they would like their calendar to look like this.

2. Use a network of realtors.

Realtor referrals can come in a variety of forms, and David Angotti with SmokyMountains.com cites creating personal relationships with realtors as one of his successful means of working with relators. While he doesn’t pay a realtor referral fee for individual deals, the company will offer any realtor that gives him referrals for 15 properties an all-inclusive trip to Las Vegas.

3. Use owner referrals.

Rodney Archer, Owner of Vacations On the Water, says that owner referrals are one of the most powerful tools you can have in your sales arsenal. Let the great job you’ve done with other properties tell prospective homeowners why they should use your company, and you’ll be quick to build trust and an even stronger network.

Additionally, knowing your benchmarks and those of the industry will not only allow you to assess the present standing of your vacation rental business, but also help you better predict future growth and how you should evolve.

It is becoming increasingly important to keep accurate data to understand the rapidly changing market, and Michelle Marquis of NAVIS explained how keeping poor records can negatively impact your cost per acquisition.

Here are some metrics that Michelle encouraged managers to know:

  • Booking window: Have a good understanding of your booking window. How long does it take a property to get booked?
  • Average length of stay: Recording average length of stay will help with keep regular turnover.
  • Average spend per night: Are you making enough from each night a property is booked? And how do your numbers vary in different seasons?


1. Don’t send one mailer and think it’s enough.

The marketing standard of impressions to conversions is between seven and twelve touch points. One point of contact is rarely enough.

2. Don’t spend money on paid searches or pay per click ads.

While this can be effectively done, it can also be extremely costly. For most companies, the ROI simply isn’t there.

3. Don’t fail to be consistent with follow ups, and use a CRM.

Want to stand out? Get personal. Wish your prospective client a happy birthday, or cite something specific to each owner that you previously noted in your CRM. Forgetting that you’ve spoken to a specific homeowner—even if you do speak with thousands of owners, or forgetting specific details of your conversation is a sure way to fall on your face and leave a bad impression.

The importance of trust

When establishing relationships or when nurturing existing relationships, trust is of key importance. The concept seems so simple and plain; however, the word “trust” is much more complex and multifaceted—especially for homeowners looking to work with vacation rental managers.

The main reason trust is so important to the vacation rental industry is that it completely affects speed and cost.

Homeowners and managers that don’t have trust with one another take longer to get things done and most often do them incorrectly. Additionally, when trust is low, there trends to be high drama. When trust is high, there is less potential for drama.

Despite these warnings, there are ways trust can be improved and gained. Recognize that people’s ability to establish trust varies, and build trust by providing time, focus, and information.

How to onboard new homes effortlessly

Once you’ve acquired new properties, what comes next? Conrad O’Connell, Digital Marketing Director, and Brandon Sauls, President of Intercoastal Net Designs, spoke of the importance of checklists in making sure each home is ready to rent.

With property managers likewise always looking for ways to reduce friction in the onboarding process, here is what Conrad and Brandon recommended:

Finding new owners

As Andrew McConnell, Steve Presley, David Angotti, and Rodney Archer’s session covered, new owner acquisition requires more than simply sending a postcard and waiting for owners to come to you.

While property managers traditionally find new owners with neighborhood research on recently purchased homes in their area, this tactic can be time consuming. Publicly available information is always helpful, but managers often require research to track down the contact information of new property owners.

With this information, it’s time to begin advertising. Send postcards, emails, and/or a property sheet that typically includes a property revenue projection or the revenue results of similar properties.

An email drip campaign can likewise be used to reach out to owners repetitively until they are ready to consider your program.

Once a property manager has connected with an owner, start qualifying. Here are a few key questions to use to make sure a home is a good fit:

  • Why do you want to rent the property?
  • What are your revenue goals?
  • What is your timeline to rent?
  • How many owners are there?
  • Have you rented before?

Invest in digital markets

Digital techniques can also be used to target owners likely to use property management services and/or owners who are likely to purchase a rental property.

  • Personas: Write it down your customer’s persona and be clear so you can communicate it within the company. Demographics, like age, income, etc. can not only help you to target the right people but also help you qualify owners.
  • Adwords: Certain searches, like “property management companies in X,” indicate high intent to purchase. The volume for a specific location may not be very large, but if you are trying to get as many leads as possible, you will want to consider all of the channels available.
  • Retargeting: Serve Facebook ads using pixels to people who have visited your site before.
  • Facebook Ads: Facebook ads are becoming as popular as Google ads. You can advertise to certain audiences who self-identify as “Real Estate Investors” or people who have liked HGTV’s Income Properties.

Use Trello to manage the process

Once managers connect with a lead, qualify them, and make sure their home is a good fit, how do they get it into the program?

Some management companies have a 160 item checklist to complete before a new home is onboarded, with different employees responsible for each.

Documenting this process and using a checklist application like Basecamp or Trello to track the process will make managing this process much easier and ensure that the management company can start marketing the property from day one of the program.

Want to see more from the VRMA Eastern Summit? Check out our other articles from the event:

  • Vacation Rental 2016 Trends & Regulations: Read More
  • How Homeowners and Property Managers Can Compete With a Consolidating Vacation Rental Industry: Read More
  • Revenue Fundamentals and Vacation Rental Fees: Read More
  • The Guide to Selling Your Vacation Rental Company: Read More

Written by Mickey Kropf, Taj Akmal, Trey Monroe, Michael Goldin, Richard Kaiser, Lauren Kester, Stewart White, Paul Liguori, Justin Conway, Tanner Bruce, and Monika Haebich.

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