We sat down with our CEO, Jason Bandarra, to discuss the story behind our company, the state of the Airbnb property management industry and its trends for 2017. We also dived into his thoughts on host best practices and he gave us some great tips for all those who are managing a vacation rental.
Tell us about MyVRHost and what you actually do:
MyVRHost is a short-term rental management company offering end-to-end products and services for owners who are looking to rent their property on sites like Airbnb, VRBO, and Homeaway. We really focus on the marketing piece as we are on 25 different marketing platforms but we also take care of all guest communication, building the listing, cleaning the property, and the maintenance. Basically we handle everything for most of our customers.
In the last couple of years, we’ve managed over 30,000 nights and have delivered a little over $5 Million to our owners in the markets that we serve: which are the San Francisco Bay Area, Lake Tahoe, Nashville, and the greater New York City area.
This is what we do, 8 days a week, and we are very good at it.
This is a very big industry, what sort of trends do you see emerging for the vacation rental management space?
Well to start, because of technology and resources, the barriers to entry have lowered. Anybody who wants to manage Airbnb listings for someone else can do it, which is great for a lot of entrepreneurs. Right now, we are seeing a lot of smaller operations get started, but they build up to a few listings, and then they really have to commit to it full-time. People don’t realize, managing vacation rentals is A LOT of work. Because of this, we are finding a lot of people get into it and then move out. We’ve actually taken over a couple companies that have gone through this phase. What we are also seeing in the market are larger companies, some venture backed, who are scaling nationally. We see ourselves as a company that is leveraging the most current technology, we can act like a big company, but aren’t actually too big for top notch, personalized customer service and support – undoubtedly a reason why we end up keeping hosts and have happy guests.
We are also seeing a lot of new technology products and tools for managing vacation rentals. A lot of the common concerns that come up for people are around noise; being inundated and pitched too many disparate software tools. We have ended up developing some of our own tools based off of operational necessities, but there are also a lot of companies in the Software-as-a-Service market that are developing tools to help with scheduling, pricing, marketing etc..The whole industry is booming, rightfully so.
The third thing we are seeing, is standards for guests are going up. When the Airbnb phenomenon started, expectations simply weren’t that high, but guests are now migrating from the hotel space and seeing short-term rentals as a viable alternative, and actually a better option. It’s a more family oriented communal, typically better value than a hotel – but with that brings higher standards. If you are looking to be in this business, you have to be ready to meet those standards on a regular basis.
Why did you choose to build your business around Airbnb property management?
Four or five years ago, I was using Airbnb – my friends were using Airbnb, and the one thing that we all agreed upon was that hosting guests was a lot of work. It’s fun and enjoyable when you are first starting out – Airbnb provides a lot of the tools that alleviate, well, a lot of the work, but at the end of the day, if you are on vacation yourself and a guest needs some attention and you’re in a different time zone – you have to host. You have to contact them, you have to get them what they need and find and essentially be the solution. Additionally, all guests have different demands. Some guests are very easy to work with, and some guests want a lot of communication.
We saw a place in the market for our business – to alleviate the hosts that want to use their property as a vacation rental, yet might not have the time to do it the right way.
The other part of this equation was that at the time we were all working at Waypoint Homes – which was a company that was buying homes across the US, fixing them up and renting them. We were doing this all from a centralized location. What we were doing was very similar to what we needed to do for short-term vacation rental management, but add in the hospitality component. We saw the core management system that we were using there, similar to what we could implement with the short-term rental market. So between seeing the need and having the experience, we thought it was a great time to start MyVRHost.
If someone was looking to become a host, what sort of recommendations would you have them look at or things to consider before they jump on board – what would you recommend?
First of all, and this may be obvious, but ask these questions:
Are you ready to invite guests in your home? And are you comfortable having guests stay at your property?
Some people have a lot of personal items, which we recommend removing or locking away.
A third question I would ask:
Are you ready to invest in your property to make it stand out among other properties?
We talked about this earlier, but standards are going up, and with those standards, people are expecting a really nice place to stay in. Be ready to invest in linens, be ready to remove clutter, be ready to make sure your property is well prepared for guests, and that you have a listing that stands out from the pack. Part of our services include consulting with owners to help make sure their property looks the best. You can view this process like getting your house ready to sell. Except you are selling to someone for just a few days, not forever.
Do you have time and interest in hosting guests?
You need to understand how much time it actually takes, and how much work is actually included. At MyVRHost we can always outperform most of the new hosts who are doing it themselves, because they don’t have the technology or capabilities we do, or just the knowledge and experience in hosting.
Also, and this might be the second most important one:
What’s your motivation?
For some people it is just a hobby to make a few extra dollars, others are looking to offset costs for keeping a property maintained, or maybe their goal is to pay for the mortgage. Others are strictly viewing it as an investment, who bought the property specifically for vacation renting. Really think about why you are doing this and it will provide clarity over your decision moving forward.
You just asked the question “if a host is ready to have people in their home?” How do you help hosts find the right guests for their rental?
Very Common question. You are inviting people into your home, but how are you making sure you are getting the right guests? Vetting for us is very very important and we have quite a few different approaches in the way we vet our guests
- We make sure they are reviewed and certified by Airbnb
- Some of it is common sense; asking potential guests specific questions to get to know them a bit more. We do turn people down…
- We also take a look at each owner’s preference. Some owners are more open to a wide array of guests – but if income is their main motivation – we can be more liberal. For some owners, it is their personal home and it may rent for $1k per night – they are very strict. They’d rather not rent it out if the personal details or the reasons for renting are different from desired.
We work with our owners to customize the solution for vetting guests and how strict they’d like to be and then put a plan in place.
How do you feel MyVRHost helps home owners maximize their rental return?
We have a multi-pronged approach. First, we make sure your property shows at it’s best. We consult with you on how it appears and we make sure to have professional photographs of the property – a combination of those two will make your listing pop right off the bat. We add professional copy to your listing and we market your property on 25 different vacation rental platforms. There are a lot of companies out there that only do Airbnb, but if you are really wanting to maximize your income, you need to be on as many platforms as possible.
The other part is that we respond quickly to all guest inquiries – we have quick response times.
We also use dynamic pricing, like airlines and hotels. This takes into account other rentals in the area, hotels, and special events. It looks at the vacancy rates, and through algorithms, maximizes the rental income during both high and low renting times. We take advantage of both in order to secure bookings for our customers.
What are some tips you can suggest to potential hosts to make their rental more attractive and have more attention once the listing is up?
It’s very interesting. I recently took a trip to LA for the Airbnb Open and as I was shocked and surprised by the state of some of the listings. I remember seeing some where people had not done something as simple as clearing out clutter before they took their pictures. I didn’t think that existed anymore.
What I would do:
- Attractive decor – people want a unique experience, maybe not their own personal taste but interesting like a boutique hotel.
- Professional photographs – you have to! Make sure clutter in the room is gone and that the photographs really pop.
- Be very attentive to your guests. It will help to secure bookings right away and they will review you almost always based on how your property looks plus how your overall communication was. This will help you secure more bookings in the future because future guests want to see that past guests had a great experience. Reviews are important.
Have any questions for Jason? Feel free to drop a comment below…