The short term rental industry is one of the most quickly evolving sectors in real estate. As the popularity of home-style accommodation continues to grow among travelers, it’s not surprising that an increasing number of real estate investors and entrepreneurs are focusing their attention on buying and managing short term rental properties. Similar to other fast-growth industries, as people start to grow their businesses obstacles start to present themselves and technology is so often the solution.
A few years ago when we started Guestable, our goal was to provide short term rental hosts and investors a full-service Airbnb management offering that would allow them to take advantage of higher earning potential without any of the day to day hassle. Having managed our own Airbnbs originally, we knew how much work it took to optimize a property across multiple booking platforms, manage the entire guest experience, clean the unit between stays, and ensure the property is always up to standard.
After acquiring our first few clients, it became evident that if we were going to scale this kind of business, everything we did needed to be organized and consolidated. We started exploring the market for short term rental management software and tools to see what was out there. After attending several trade shows and conferences we realized this industry was at a generational crossroads. On one end there were the old school vacation rental management companies in beachfront and mountain communities. On the other end, there was a new breed of metropolitan focused managers who had emerged through the rise of Airbnb in their local city. Perhaps unsurprisingly, almost all of the established software was built for where the industry used to be instead of where it was going.
After several demos and trials, we felt frustrated that none of the products we were using were designed to help companies with our fast-paced operational needs. We tried to build our own technology by integrating popular online tools with one another, but it just never felt right. It was only after having coffee with a fellow manager who recommended iGMS to us that we skeptically decided to give it a try. About a week after implementing the product everything started to change.
A major challenge that we were facing prior to iGMS was that most software systems either did not have a consolidated inbox or one that was suitable for our needs. Our business model is based around each host having their own account, so our only practical options (outside of logging into each individual Airbnb account) was either co-hosting or an integrated Gmail inbox. Neither of these options is effective or practical once you are managing more than five properties.
With iGMS’s consolidated inbox, you can easily flip between guest conversations, see interaction history, build general and property specific saved replies and set up automated messages. Every guest message is color coded so you always know when it is an inquiry, booking confirmation, or guest reply and can prioritize accordingly. You can make and accept reservation date changes through the inbox and update check in / check out times if a guest communicates that they will be checking in late or checking out early. Our average response times were cut in half after the first month and the impact on the guest experience was immediately noticeable.
The Multi-Calendar feature is a simple yet extremely insightful view into how occupied your properties are in the present and future. You can easily see all your bookings and make price adjustments for upcoming dates to minimize the probability of vacancy. With the new pricing tools you can build your own rate rules to automatically update prices according to strategies that are most appropriate for your properties and local market. Having to log in to Airbnb to change prices every time is time-consuming, and if you are not on top of it there is a cost associated with lost bookings. Our RevPar (which in the short term rental industry is calculated by the total nightly rates divided by the number of days in a month) relative to the historical seasonal performance went up a cumulative average of 12% in just six months across all of our property categories.
When you open a conversation or booking, guest contact information is available and you can easily click to open the guests profile to ensure they have ID verification and good reviews during the screening process. The screening process is an integral part of lowering our clients’ maintenance costs and retaining them over the long term. Prior to iGMS, it used to be much more time consuming and not as effective.
The Reviews tab is another area that saves a good amount of time. iGMS allows us to write reviews for all our guests in one place, again eliminating the impractical process of logging into each individual account. Good reviews are the best way to get more bookings and a host is much more likely to get a review if they’ve written one for guests. As a management company, clients won’t be happy if their listing isn’t accumulating many reviews and so its an essential part of retaining business over the long term. Back when we were starting to see growth, without software it slowly became tough to stay consistent with service and our average review score on Airbnb dropped to 4.73 out of 5. With the combination of improved service quality and more emphasis on leaving reviews for guests, we were able to increase that back up to 4.87.
The Tasks / Check-In / Team Members features combine to create a hospitality management tool that is both simple and effective. All the cleanings for the next few days can be easily seen and assigned to hospitality staff. The check out / check in times are shown based on the guest communication so our scheduling team can see if there are any early check-outs or late check-ins. This ensures we can plan out the cleaning schedule in the most efficient way possible without compromising quality.
All the property access and specific cleaning instructions are automatically sent to the cleaner when he/she is assigned to the unit. Additionally, if the same cleaner is assigned to a unit every time, the “auto assign” feature helps save time. Once the cleaning is accepted by the team member, the status changes to “Accepted”. They will then mark it as “Complete” and that changes the status again. This simple feature avoids miscommunication and has entirely eliminated the risk of missed cleanings. Too many property management software products overlook the hospitality component and we’ve found iGMS’ approach to be as good as any on the market.
We’ve been extremely fortunate to have expanded our business from one market to multiple markets across different geographies. Without the relevant technology, that would never have been possible.
The industry is in a more exciting place than ever in terms of its potential. As more people find themselves becoming multi-unit hosts, they will inevitably find it challenging to provide that same level of personalized service and quality of a dedicated single unit host. Technology is the most powerful way to bridge that gap and scale without compromise. Being at the forefront of the short term rental software industry, iGMS is leading the way in allowing companies like ours to maintain and improve service every day.