How to Choose the Best Short-Term Rental Management Company

How to Choose the Best Short-Term Rental Management Company

Last Updated: January 20, 2023 by Cameron Smith

If you own one short-term rental properties, you may wish to hire a short-term rental property manager to handle maintenance, marketing, and more. This guide will break down how to find and choose the best short-term rental property manager for your needs.

Finding a Short-Term Rental Property Manager

You can find a short-term rental property manager by:

  • Ask Fellow Investors for Referrals/Recommendations
  • Try Your Local Real Estate Agencies/Associations
  • Drive Around Town and Look for Well-Managed Properties
  • Google Short-Term Property Management Companies

Ask Fellow Investors for Referrals/Recommendations

First, send emails or texts to fellow investors you are on friendly terms with and ask for referrals or recommendations for short-term rental property managers. By getting referrals or recommendations, you know that the property management company in question:

  • Has done a good enough job in the past to be referred by your friends or peers
  • Has maintained its reputation enough to be willingly recommended
  • Has some experience in the industry (since it already worked for your fellow investors)

When you inquire about referrals or recommendations, ask specific questions of your fellow investors. Get them to tell you what their experiences were with the property managers, how much they paid, the services they received, whether there were any issues, etc. If there were any issues, dig deeper and ask for details.

Do not go with the first short-term rental property management company that you find or are referred to. Instead, create a short list of potential companies, as some companies may not be taking on new clients or they may have other elements that make them less than stellar fits for your portfolio needs.

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Try Your Local Real Estate Agencies/Associations

As you build your list of short-term rental property managers, you should also inquire at local real estate agencies and associations, including realtor offices that you work with frequently. Local real estate agencies and associations, such as investors’ groups or realtor companies, often work with short-term rental property managers.

Ask the same questions and inquire about the same details here as you would when asking for referrals or recommendations from fellow investors. Try to learn as much about a company as possible before interviewing them for a prospective management position.

Social Media

Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram can also be excellent places to find short-term rental property managers.

Open up your social media profile pages and start searching for local property management companies. Many of the best property management companies will have well-designed social media pages with lots of photos to attract new clients just like you.

Flip through these photos to learn more about the types of properties that a potential management company operates and manages. You’ll also often be able to find companies’ corporate websites on their social media pages.

Having trouble finding short-term rental property managers on social media? Look for the profile pages of real estate or investment groups on Facebook, then look at the followers of those pages. Many property management companies follow these pages in order to attract new clients and to stay in-the-know with industry news or local developments.

Drive Around Town and Look for Well-Managed Properties

You can also go old-school and drive around town looking for well-managed properties. When you find a property, go to the front office and ask who manages it.

This method takes more time out of your day, but it gives you the opportunity to see a property management company’s work firsthand before inquiring further. For example, if you drive past a vacation condo complex in your area and notice that it is well-maintained and the buildings look stellar, you already have a glimpse as to the kind of work the property management company does.

Furthermore, looking for well-managed properties in person allows you to target short-term property management companies that maintain or manage properties that are similar to your own.

When you ask for property management details, tell the receptionist that you are looking for a short-term rental property manager, if they ask. Many property management companies are always looking for new potential partners, so they will be eager to give their details.

Google Short-Term Property Management Companies

Lastly, don’t hesitate to Google “short-term property management companies near me” when needed. This simple search can bring up extra results or potential partners that you may have missed.

Combine all of these methods for the most comprehensive list of potential property managers possible. Then you can start narrowing things down.

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Things to Look for in a Short-Term Rental Property Manager

Finding a good short-term rental property manager is just the start. Now, you need to look for a few key attributes to know whether the company will be ideal for your needs:

  • An Excellent Website with a Portfolio
  • Nearby Properties You Can Check Out
  • Stellar Reviews
  • Services That You Need
  • Experience with Similar Properties
  • Knowledge of the Local Market
  • Clear and Fair Fees
  • They Are Insured

An Excellent Website with a Portfolio

A good website indicates that the property management company is serious about attracting new clients and gives you a chance to learn more about the company before phoning them or sending them an email.

A good short-term rental property manager website should:

  • Be navigable – it should be relatively easy for you to go from page to page, to locate photographs of managed properties, and to locate contact information
  • Load quickly
  • Include comprehensive information about the company, its services, and the kinds of properties and manages. If it doesn’t include information about fees, don’t worry; you can get that information from the management company itself later

Take time to dig through a property management company’s website before deciding whether you’ll contact them further. The website should include enough information for you to determine whether it’s potentially a good fit.

Nearby Properties You Can Check Out

A short-term rental property manager should have at least a handful of nearby properties you can visit personally. A management company might have the best website and the best ads, but you should only work with them if you see its work in person.

Think of visiting currently managed properties as sampling a short-term rental management company’s wares. The last thing you want is to sign on with a company that does a less-than-stellar job or that doesn’t have a good portfolio of properties already. Leave trying new companies to other investors – you want tried and true organizations that have already accumulated some experience.

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Stellar Reviews

The best rental property management companies will have sterling reviews from past and current clients. Those reviews can tell you a lot about what to expect from your professional relationship with the same company.

Start your search by looking for online reviews on platforms like Google, Yelp, Trustpilot, or the Better Business Bureau. These platforms are repositories of positive and negative reviews for organizations like short-term rental property management companies.

Even if the company has positive reviews by large, you should dig deep into those reviews and see what they mention in terms of specifics. For example, if most of the reviews are positive, but practically every reviewer notes that the property management company takes a while to respond to maintenance complaints, you can bet you’ll run into the same problem should you decide to work with that company.

Services That You Need

When choosing a short-term rental property manager, be sure the management company in question has a comprehensive list of services so you know it can do what you require. For instance, if you need a rental property management company that provides concierge or front-desk services in addition to room maintenance and grounds maintenance, you need to make sure that such services are listed on the company’s website before contacting them.

The best short-term rental property management companies will have thorough lists of their services and packages either on their website or on physical brochures/advertisements. Some of the most common services offered by short-term rental property managers include:

  • Room cleaning, housekeeping, and maintenance
  • Grounds maintenance (e.g., mowing the lawn, trimming the hedges, shoveling snow, etc.)
  • Marketing rental properties
  • Tenant processes, such as payment collection

Experience with Similar Properties

One of the most important things to look for when selecting a short-term rental property manager is prior experience managing properties similar to your own. Simply put, you want any property management company you work with to know how best to manage your portfolio properties to maximum profitability.

For example, if you have a handful of short-term vacation rental condominiums, you want a property manager that currently or has already managed similar properties in terms of:

  • Square footage
  • Features and amenities
  • Location
  • Property type

Why? If a property management company already has some experience managing similar properties, it will be more likely to do an excellent job with your properties as well. Such a company will know how best to manage the maximum number of tenants at your properties, how to keep your properties looking great, and even how to advertise or market your properties.

For instance, say that you have a vacation rental cabin nestled high in the mountains. If a company has already marketed (and successfully managed) a similar property, that organization might have a few tips or tricks it can use to quickly get a tenant into the cabin and make sure it is filled throughout the year to ensure a stream of passive income to your pocket.

In addition, prior experience with similar properties helps management companies know how to tackle common problems associated with those properties. Again, if you have a vacation cabin high in the mountains, that cabin will need regular seasonal maintenance work, particularly in the snowy winter. But if the company has already tackled that issue, it might know best how to keep the snow handled, have already hired seasonal workers to take care of it, etc.

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Knowledge of the Local Market

Each local market has its own unique circumstances, marketing tricks, public views, and more. All of that can impact how easy it is to find tenants, to successfully market your properties, and so on.

This ties in with the above advice. If a property manager has deep knowledge of the local market, odds are they have experience with similar properties to yours and vice versa. It’s all about finding the best rental property management company you can, and that means finding a company that is familiar with the challenges your properties will face.

Additionally, you never want a short-term rental property manager who comes from out-of-state or out of the area. Even if those large companies offer good prices or other apparent benefits, their widespread nature may make it difficult for them to give your properties the attention they deserve.

Clear and Fair Fees

Always look for a short-term rental property manager who charges clear and fair fees. These are usually percentages of rent anywhere from 10% to 50%, with 25% to 30% being more common.

Good short-term rental property managers are upfront and won’t try to hide fees in the contract or in “extra services.” Furthermore, make sure a rental property management company charges a fee based on rent collected rather than rent due. The management company should charge a percentage of the rent collected from paying tenants, not from how much money you would hypothetically make if the rental properties were fully booked.

In addition to a flat fee for its services, many short-term rental property management companies will charge ancillary fees for services like:

  • Extra cleaning
  • Dealing with unpaid charges
  • Property marketing, particularly if this changes seasonally to attract new short-term vacationers

As you speak with a short-term rental property manager and learn more about their fee policies, make sure that they don’t charge exorbitant contract cancellation or early termination fees. For instance, if a rental property management company charges you thousands of dollars for terminating your partnership ahead of time, don’t work with them.

Also, be sure to research fees for your local area and that the company you’re looking at falls in line with the others.

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They Are Insured

You’ll also want to know that a short-term rental property manager is fully insured. A short-term rental property management company needs to carry several different types of insurance, including general liability insurance, errors and omission insurance, and worker’s compensation insurance.

Full insurance is important since it shows you that the property management company takes its responsibilities seriously. Furthermore, it’s an important sign that you are working with a legal organization; for instance, all property management companies that employ workers must have worker’s compensation insurance by state law (in most states).

If you work with a fully insured property management company, that takes more of the insurance load off your shoulders. You need your own insurance, of course, but the management company’s insurance policies will help to cover some of the eventualities you may encounter in this line of business, like accusations of tenant discrimination, accidentally damaged or destroyed property, etc.

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What to Ask in an Interview with a Short-Term Rental Property Manager

After doing your research and finding an excellent short-term rental property manager, here are a few questions you should ask them:

  • What kind of experience do they have managing short-term rental properties like vacation rentals?
  • What experience do they have in the local market?
  • How will the property management company advertise your properties to maximize their tenancy?
  • How does the property manager handle maintenance and seasonal cleanup, like shoveling snow, getting rid of fall leaves, etc.?
  • What does the company’s fee structure look like? What kinds of fees will you be charged in addition to the general monthly fee?
  • How long has the company been in business?
  • How does the company handle cancellations? This will tell you whether the company is likely to try to charge an early termination fee.
  • What kinds of services does the company offer? For instance, does the company just handle management and housekeeping services, or does it also handle reception, concierge services, guest check-in and checkout, etc.?
  • What will your responsibilities as a property owner be if you decide to work with this management company?

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As you can see from the above list, many of these questions reinforce or ask details about things you should have already researched. You should still ask these questions in an interview with a potential property manager so you can confirm their truth and so you can learn more about their specific experiences, policies, and fees.

Furthermore, pay attention to how the short-term rental property manager answers these questions and what their attitude is throughout the meeting. If they are professional, courteous, and to the point, it’s a good sign that they’ll be an excellent business partner.

In contrast, if a short-term rental property manager has a bad attitude, doesn’t answer questions thoroughly, or wants to move the meeting along quickly to get you to sign paperwork, you should not hire them.