Growing up in Florida, I have known for a long time to avoid the beach during Spring Break. Unless you’re one of the ones partying hard and running away from the hundreds of police officers, it’s just not that much fun to be in that atmosphere. Friends of ours have had to replace brand new sofas in their vacation properties after that week due to … questionable damage.
Panama City Beach, FL, is a vacation hotspot, especially when it comes to college students who are in search of a fabulous Spring Break vacation spot. But we've found that you can see some significant challenges when it comes to managing bookings for rental homes in a destination that's popular among college students.
There are some risks associated with renting to the college student demographic, including a higher risk of cancellation, a higher potential for parties and disturbances, along with a greater risk for property damage or even theft.
But as the owner of a Panama City Beach vacation home, you can mitigate and sidestep many of these problems by using the right property management firm to handle your guest bookings, guest vetting, and property maintenance and monitoring. Let's look at how a property management company can benefit you if you choose to rent to “Spring Breakers” and other college students who are visiting Panama City Beach.
A Property Management Firm Can Oversee Marketing and Reduce Income Loss from Vacancy
The right marketing for your rental property can mean the difference between a profitable vacation home and one that is a significant expense to you as the owner. Your management firm will know how and where to advertise and market your property to attract the guests you’re looking to reach. If you prefer not to rent to college students, booking your home can be more challenging for Panama City Beach, which is most popular among the 18 to 25 age group. Your marketing dollars will go further when you promote your rental in the right places.
Depending on the property management company’s model, working with one can also offer a degree of risk mitigation when it comes to losing money when your home is vacant. Rented.com’s guaranteed income model, for example, places the risk of losing money when you’re not able to secure renters on the property manager -- not on the owner. That means you’re guaranteed to make a certain amount of money on your rental property regardless of how often it’s booked.
A Property Management Firm Can Oversee Guest Vetting
Once you've found potential guests, it's important to vet those guests, especially if you're dealing with a college-age demographic. As a property owner, liability can be a significant concern. Liability becomes a greater concern when you add alcohol or other substances to the equation -- a common occurrence when dealing with this particular age group. This is a greater risk for vacation home owners in Panama City Beach, which is known for its nightlife and a high proportion of college students.
The reality is that most college-age guests have never owned their own property and as such, there is a risk they may lack a sense of responsibility and respect for your vacation home. For this reason, it's important to perform vetting so you can gain greater peace of mind knowing that you're renting to guests who are likely to be responsible and respectful. The vetting process can be a bit inconvenient. It may entail a background check and making calls to check references. A property management firm is well-positioned to oversee this element of the process.
If you are selective in choosing your guests, it's not uncommon to spend time and money vetting a potential guest yourself, and if you ultimately decide against renting to that person, there's no way to recoup your time and money expenditure. But if you turn to a management firm, there's less “waste” on guest vetting because a guest that's a bad fit for one property may be the perfect fit for another property that the firm manages. This results in savings for everyone involved.
A Property Management Firm Can Handle Deposits, Financials, and Rental Agreements
College students tend to be more likely to cancel due to the fact that the rental fee is usually paid by contributions from multiple students. If just one student drops out of the trip, then the group may be unable to cover the cost of the vacation rental.
This makes it especially important to get a large portion (if not all) of the rental fee at the time of booking. Your property management firm can oversee this aspect of the process, and if a group does cancel, your firm is more likely to find a new guest, particularly on relatively short notice.
Additionally, college students are more likely to spend their time partying, which can lead to damages and even thefts. This is especially true if they invite others to the property -- others who they may not know well and who won't bear any responsibility if anything is stolen or damaged. For this reason, it's standard to request a sizable damages deposit.
Your rental management firm can also draft a rental agreement that holds the guests liable for the full cost of any damage or thefts, while releasing the owner from any liability for injuries that occur on the property.
Similar to the procedure used for a car rental, your property manager can welcome the new guests and perform a walkthrough to note any existing damage. Some firms will even record video of the walkthrough to provide indisputable documentation of the property's condition.
A Property Manager Can Perform Check-Ins
Your property manager offers you an opportunity to have “boots on the ground” so to speak -- a point that is key for any property owner who lives a significant distance from their vacation home. This is more important when you're renting to young adults who are vacationing in a prime partying location, like Panama City Beach. Disturbances can create a major problem for the property owner, especially in a condominium or gated community because the owner could face fines and other penalties.
Your property manager can perform periodic drive-bys at night to ensure everything is under control. They can even perform a check-in midway through the guests' stay, serving as a great opportunity to check up on the property. The “check-up” can also serve as a chance to build rapport with your guests by delivering a small gift basket and offering tips or recommendations for activities, restaurants, and attractions. By building rapport with guests, you can increase the number of repeat visitors. This is especially true of college students who often return several years down the road to vacation with their spouse and children.
Many think of property management as a service that's most suitable for vacation rental property owners who live out of state. The reality is that even local property owners can benefit financially and in terms of reduced stress and time savings. In fact, according to HomeAway, owners spend an average of 8.4 hours per week tending to their property. That's a full work day! And the effect is amplified if you have multiple units or properties.
Panama City Beach is one of the nation's most popular vacation spots, in addition to being a top Spring Break destination. You can see huge profits if you use the right strategy or you may suffer major losses if you fall victim to some of the most common pitfalls. We've found that the right vacation rental management firm will help you avoid the latter by overseeing the booking process and lots more.
If you're in search of the perfect rental management firm to handle your Panama City Beach property, make up a free profile on Rented.com and get ready to discover the difference when you connect with the right property manager.