Developing an investment property services network is one way to make sure that your Outer Banks rental is being treated properly by those who are using it.
The cornerstone of this property services network will be the selection of a rental company. To determine who best fits your Outer Banks vacation home, you should consider the following:
Also, ask the rental company to provide you a copy of the previous year’s rental brochure, their standard contract, and other relevant information about their program. One more thing, despite what they say, all of this is negotiable. Do not take their first fee and cost structure. If they want your house bad enough, they will always negotiate. I hate being nickled and dimed, so I set our arrangement up for one commission fee with many of the other services mentioned above bundled into the fee commission.
Once you have the rental company lined up, is there a need to advertise the house on your own? To that, I would give you a great big YES! Remember, the rental company is in the business of renting a house, any house, and not your house specifically. It is important that you take on an overview role within your investment property services network.
Our first year owning our Duck house, we decided to let the rental company do their job and rent our house. Big mistake ... it was by far our worst rental year. We even tried setting up incentive programs to pay the rental agents who booked weeks on our house, and this still did not work. At that point, we decided that we would set up our own websites and market our house. There are many good "lists" websites for rental properties. Find one that will list your house on multiple sites simultaneously to ensure a greater hit rate. What a difference a year made. Our house had one of the top booking rates in the rental company's program, due mainly to our marketing efforts outside of the rental company. Doing your own rental marketing has two main advantages. First, it allows you to speak with potential renters directly so that they can feel the passion you have for the house AND you can feel them out to see if their group will fit your house (in other words, will take care of your house). The second thing it does is it gives you leverage against the rental company when it comes time to renegotiate their annual contract and fee structure. If you found most of the rentals on your own, and you can prove this, they will be more likely to take a lower commission because they know the renter’s loyalty is with you and not with the rental management company. It is a essental part of any investment property services network.
One company we've used since the ill-fated first year we owned our Duck house is HomeAway Vacation Rentals. The nice thing about Home Away is that you actually will be listed on four different websites: HomeAway.com, A1Vacations.com, CyberRentals.com, and GreatRentals.com, all for the price that many other companies charge for just one site. In addition, they also have a calendar system that can not only be leveraged with their websites, but also with your website.
Vacation Rentals by Owners, or VRBO.com has been in this business for a long time and are extremely popular. Like HomeAway, you list your property and receive the calls or e-mails directly from the interested renter so you control who rents your house.
Another "list" company is VacationHomeRentals.com. They recently called me and I am contemplating whether to add them to my roster of advertisers. They do offer a guarantee of getting at least one rental, which no other provider had ever offered.
I would definitely consider using more than one program so that you not have an "all eggs in one basket" issue. At the end of the day, the only person that cares if your house books is YOU. So try these programs out. If you are not getting the results you had hoped, than cancel at the end of your first year. That was my mindset, and I still have multiple sites running. Also, update your calendar on a weekly basis. This is how these sites determine ranking ... based on calendar activity.
So some of you may be asking, why do I need a rental company at all? We live seven hours from the Outer Banks. It is very re-assuring to renters to know that if they have an issue, help is right around the corner as part of our investment property services network. Also, providing keys to the renters is much easier if there is a rental company that they can get them from on location. In addition, I personally do not know all of the ins and outs of the North Carolina rental and money handling laws, nor do I wish to try and keep up with them, so having a rental company in the middle assures me that I will not run afoul of them.
Now let's build out the rest of that investment property services network. If you have a pool and/or hot tub, you will need someone to come in, maintain it on a weekly basis and open and close it for you, as well as repairing the pool and hot tub as problems arise. The other thing a pool person provides is real time eyes and ears for you. They generally make a mid-week visit and a weekend visit to make sure the pool is in good order. Since they are at your house, they can also make sure that the renters are treating your house properly. One of the worst rental experiences we had was actually discovered by our pool person. A group had rented our house and felt the need to basically throw all of our plates, silverware, blender, and deck chairs off of the top floor balcony and into the pool. Our pool person immediately called us to let us know what was going on and contacted our rental company. As a result, the renters were evicted, made to pay for all damages, and held accountable for their actions. The weekly pool and hot tub maintenance charge, including chemicals, and so forth, is about $100 to $105 per week. They charge separately for the pool opening and closing process, and if only the hot tub is open, they generally charge around $40 - $50. Some rental companies will provide a pool maintenance program, but I wanted an independent provider who was loyal to me, and would give me the straight story on what was going on at our house.
Other persons you may need in your investment property services network are the grounds maintenance person and the exterminator. They all charge pretty much the same rate for their services. In the end, it is likely to be the people who are part of your investment property services network who, through normal course of business, will be at your house who will far more likely find issues rather than your rental company. The rental company, unless having a specific reason to be concerned about the group (like the group is a "non-family" group) will have no reason to be at your house.