The United States short-term/vacation industry has grown continuously, valued at over $15 billion. Many Americans want to invest in the market, but learning the short-term rental business takes industry knowledge, time, and effort. A short-term rental property manager can help save you time, money, and help your short-term rental business be a long-term success.
What is a Short-Term Rental?
Short-term rental properties include but are not limited to:
- Vacation cabins or units
- Short-term rental homes in popular cities
- Airbnb properties (and from similar apps)
In general, short-term rental properties are rented for vacationing purposes or housing for short-term work engagements (such as contractors or people on work trips).
What is a Short-Term Rental Property Manager?
A short-term rental property manager handles the day-to-day tasks of your operation.
Short-term rental property managers can be single individuals or a company that may employ dozens or hundreds of individuals. Single managers are ideal for maintaining one or two properties, such as two cabins. Larger short-term rental property management companies are better for maintaining many different rental properties, especially those spread across geographic areas.
7 Main Responsibilities of a Short-Term Rental Property Manager
Here’s what a short-term rental property manager does:
- Market and Advertise Short-Term Rentals
- Screen and Accept Guests
- Guide Guests Through Check-Out Process
- Maintain Properties
- Make Necessary Repairs/Contract Repair Labor
- Provide Personalized Service to Guests
- Other Responsibilities
1. Market and Advertise Short-Term Rentals
The primary initial duty of a short-term property management company is marketing and advertising. This often includes the following tasks:
- Advertising properties online and around the local area with posters or newspaper listings
- Staging properties or taking attractive photos of them
- Adjusting the nightly rental rates for short-term rental properties to ensure they stay competitive
Advertise Online and Around the Local Area
Your short-term rental properties will never draw guests or turn a profit unless you advertise them properly. This can be done through:
- Online ads
- Social media
- Vacation rental sites
- Physical posters
- Ads in local newspapers or magazines
In general, property management companies post available short-term rental units on a variety of listing websites, such as Kayak, Airbnb, and others. Depending on your goals and the revenue model you want to pursue, your property management company may create and maintain a profile for you on rental apps or websites, or you can do this labor yourself.
Stage/Take Photos of Properties
Short-term property managers are responsible for staging your rental properties to make them look attractive to prospective guests, plus taking attractive photos of those properties to post online or on other vacation rental sites.
In some cases, property managers may hire professional stagers or photographers to do this work instead. Hiring an outside contractor will cost a little extra money, but it could be well worth it for the results. A professional photographer may be able to take even better photos of your rental properties than your management company, for example.
Adjust Nightly Rates
When it comes to short-term rentals, what constitutes a competitive nightly rate can change every day. Your short-term rental property manager is responsible for adjusting the nightly rates of your rental properties so they are attractive and competitive relative to similar properties in the area.
Depending on the company you hire, they may use a dynamic pricing model or algorithm, or they may rely on a software app or platform to do the work instead.
You may discuss nightly rates for your rentals with your property manager as well. For instance, you may set upper or lower limits regarding how high or low your property management company is allowed to price your properties based on your expenses and target profit.
2. Screen & Accept Guests
Short-term rental property managers are responsible for screening guests and accepting guest applications for their managed properties. This important responsibility ensures that rental units are filled with responsible guests who won’t cause major damage and who will pay their fees. Screening and accepting guests include the following duties:
- Checking guests’ backgrounds to ensure they’re good fits
- Maintaining a rental property’s booking calendar
- Accepting new guest applications and filing paperwork appropriately
- Providing new guests with copies of important documents, like the house rules or check-in procedures
- Taking care of any immediate issues a guest may have
- Collecting payments and delivering the money to you
Short-term property managers will do background checks on guests or ensure they come from legitimate sources, such as Airbnb. They often check to make sure a prospective guest doesn’t have any complaints against them, for example.
Maintain Booking Calendar
If you have one or more short-term rental properties, you’ll likely have a booking calendar as well. Your short-term rental property management company is responsible for maintaining the booking calendar, including:
- Checking off guests who have already checked out
- Confirming that upcoming guests are still planning on arriving on time
- Determining what dates are available for future guests
This bookkeeping work is minor but incredibly important to avoid accidental guest overlap.
Provide Guests with Copies of House Rules & Check-In Procedures
Each new guest needs to know what you expect in terms of behavior and property usage. Your short-term rental property management company is responsible for giving guests copies of house rules and other check-in procedures. This is usually in the form of physical documents, emails, or books/binders located physically in rental properties.
In this way, you can guarantee that each guest knows the rules for your properties. This provides you with legal grounds to evict them or take them to court if they knowingly breach those rules. Important things to state and elaborate on in these documents include:
- How to use rental property amenities and devices
- How to access rental property Wi-Fi
- Rules about noise and lights
- Rules about food and drink usage
- Rules about cleaning up before checking out
- Rules about outdoor activities, such as the use of a fire pit or barbecue grill
The more specific you are, the better. You can also have an experienced short-term rental property management company help create the rules with you based on their experience.
Ensure Guests Are Satisfied Immediately
Short-term rental property managers are in charge of making sure that guests are immediately satisfied upon entering a rental property. For instance, if a guest needs to know how to turn up the thermostat or how to use the fireplace, your property manager will handle those needs instead of you.
Ensuring immediate satisfaction serves as a good first impression for new guests, making it more likely that they will review their experience at your rental property positively.
Collect Money from Guests
Your short-term rental property manager must collect fees from guests, both when they book a rental property and after they check out. For example, your property manager is responsible for accepting initial wire transfers or digital payments when a guest books your property, plus charging any extra fees based on what they consume or use on the property during their stay.
Your property manager will most likely do this through electronic means, like a payment portal, or through a booking system through a third-party website/app, like Airbnb. However, your property manager may also collect cash, checks, or other payments from customers.
3. Guide Guests Through Check-Out Process
Guiding guests through the check-out process includes tasks such as:
- Ensuring that all checking-out guests pay outstanding fees
- Collecting important feedback from guests
- Performing last walk-throughs of properties to note things in need of repair, refurbishment, or refreshment
Ensure Guests Pay Any Outstanding Fees & Deliver to Bank Account or Property Owner
Effective short-term rental property managers will also collect money from guests for outstanding fees, such as gas fees (if the booking included a rental vehicle), fees for damaged property, and so on. The property manager calculates the total for the entire stay and makes sure that the amount is charged to the guest.
Collect Feedback from Guests
A good short-term rental property manager will further collect any extra feedback from guests. They’ll do this either by checking in with them or by offering feedback forms or online portals for guests to access.
For example, your property manager might include a feedback worksheet for guests to complete on their final stay, including a list of ratings, comment sections, and other options. This gives guests a chance to voice their feedback directly to you when it’s fresh in their minds, whether they have something to complain about or something to gush about.
A feedback sheet is also an opportunity for your property manager to recommend that guests leave a review on review sites like Yelp, Google, and more. The more positive reviews you can cultivate for your properties, the more guests you’ll attract and the more money you’ll make in the long run.
Perform Property Walkthroughs
A short-term rental property manager must perform a property walkthrough as soon as guests leave the premises. The property walkthrough is important because it gives the manager a chance to detect any damage to the property, to take stock of what needs to be restocked or refilled, and to determine any other work that needs to be done before the next guest arrives.
A property walkthrough is even more important if your properties have high turnover (i.e., you have a lot of guests coming and going all the time). Make sure that your short-term property manager includes this vital service; the last thing you want is your guests arriving at a vacation rental only to find that the sheets haven’t been changed on the beds!
4. Maintain Properties
Short-term rental property managers are responsible for maintaining the properties they oversee, just like long-term property management companies. Maintaining properties can include the following duties:
- Maintaining individual rooms or lodging accommodations and keeping those spaces stocked
- Maintaining any on-site recreational facilities
- Maintaining property grounds
Maintain Rooms/Lodging & Keep Them Stocked
Every short-term rental property management company is responsible for maintaining rooms and other interior spaces, as well as keeping them stocked with important supplies, like water, snacks, cleaning supplies, and more.
The bulk of this work will occur after the above-mentioned property walkthrough once the previous guests have left. After drawing up a list of what needs to be done, your property management company will handle room maintenance, cleaning, and more. This can include:
- Changing the bedspreads, even if they don’t look like they have been used
- Doing any other necessary laundry
- Doing the dishes
- Checking the thermostat, Wi-Fi, computers, etc.
- Cleaning up any other messes on the property
Depending on the rentals you own, you might keep them stocked with certain perishable or consumable items, like snacks. Your property manager is also responsible for restocking those things so your guests feel catered to.
Maintain Recreational Facilities and Amenities
Hotels and other complexes of vacation units must have their recreational facilities and amenities maintained. Maintaining these facilities generally means:
- Cleaning gymnasiums, swimming pools, and other recreational areas
- Ensuring soda and snack dispensers are fully stocked and operational
- Refilling toilet paper and other bathroom supplies in public bathrooms
To provide effective maintenance, most management companies regularly walk through these areas and check them. The exact arrangement of work will depend on the size and type of rental properties you own.
For instance, a vacation cabin with a pool might only need to have its pool maintained each time a guest leaves. A larger vacation facility, like a collection of cabins or a hotel, might need its recreational facilities and amenities maintained and refreshed more regularly.
Maintain Property Grounds
Rental property grounds, like lawns, walkways, and other areas are also under the purview of your short-term rental property manager.
To maintain property grounds, your manager will tackle tasks like:
- Checking and changing trash cans around the property or in rental units
- Mowing the lawn
- Sweeping the sidewalks
- Removing seasonal debris, like leaves or snow
- Trimming hedges or tree branches
Maintaining property grounds is important so your vacation properties look as attractive and put together as possible. The better your grounds look, the better you can advertise your rentals and draw new guests.
5. Make Necessary Repairs/Contract Repair Labor
Short-term rental property managers are further in charge of tackling important repairs. Alternatively, if they cannot complete a repair task themselves, short-term property management companies are responsible for hiring skilled contractors to take care of the work. This job can include tasks such as:
- Fixing or replacing broken appliances, like washing machines and dishwashers
- Repairing or replacing damaged property, such as broken windows
- Calling specialized contractors for more advanced or in-depth repair tasks
Fix Broken Appliances
Your property management company is responsible for fixing broken appliances or hiring an outside company to fix or replace them if needed.
Many vacation cabins come with fully stocked laundry rooms. If the dryer goes out, your property manager will investigate the damage, determine that it needs to be replaced, and put in an order for a replacement as quickly as possible.
Your property manager is also responsible for doing whatever is necessary to take care of your guests in the meantime. In this example, they can furnish them with a secondary dryer unit or offer to take their clothes to a local laundromat and get them dried at no extra cost.
A high-quality property manager who pays personal attention to your guests and is dedicated to finding a solution will help set your short-term rental properties above the competition. Happy guests who leave good reviews help bring more guests to your properties in the long run.
In the case of a larger issue, like a rental unit’s HVAC system going out, your property manager will call a contractor to investigate and fix the issue before your next guest arrives.
Repair or Replace Damaged Property
Similarly, your short-term property management company is responsible for repairing or replacing any other damaged property, including:
- Chairs and tables
- Beds and mattresses
- Electronic devices
- Light bulbs
Note that repairing or replacing damaged property costs money, which can either come out of your pocket or the pocket of your guests. If your guests break the TV in your rental unit, for example, your property manager might charge them an extra fee to replace it.
6. Provide Personalized Service to Guests
One of the most important duties of a short-term rental property manager is providing personalized, pleasant service to all guests. This range of duties is crucial because it impacts whether a guest will give a short-term rental property a high review online and whether they will return later to spend more money. Offering personalized services includes the following tasks:
- Giving guests welcome communications, like handwritten notes
- Stashing surprises or goodies for guests
- Giving vacationers tips and advice from a local perspective
- Maintaining open communication channels for guests
- Maintaining security policies and procedures
When it comes to short-term rentals, especially vacation rentals, guests love to feel welcomed right from the get-go. So your short-term property manager is responsible for providing and handling all welcome communications, including:
- Greeting guests at a lobby or entrance area or at an individual short-term rental unit, like a cabin
- Providing guests with the opportunity to ask questions and reassuring them that all their needs will be met
- Giving guests a tour of the premises and facilities so they know where everything is
This is one of the clearest ways in which short-term rental property managers are focused more on hospitality compared to long-term property management companies.
Stash Surprises for Guests
Some of the most successful short-term rentals include surprises or goodies for guests, like chocolates on pillows, special messages, handwritten notes, and more. Your short-term rental property manager can also handle surprises or special touches for your guests if you want to make them feel excellent. This type of personalized, attentive service is most common and most profitable for vacation rentals, including luxury hotel rooms.
Offer Tips & Advice for Vacationers
Depending on the rental properties you own, your short-term rental property manager may need to offer advice, tips, and recommendations for vacationers using local knowledge. For example, if you run a luxury hotel with several short-term rental units, your management company’s concierge or staff members may need to offer information such as:
- The best places to eat
- What taxi services are reliable
- The best places to sightsee
- Where new vacationers should go first
With this in mind, many property management companies hire locals or individuals familiar with a property’s local area to fill the front-line staff positions.
Maintain Communication Channels for Guests
One of the most important duties of a short-term property manager is to maintain open lines of communication for all guests. These communication lines include phone lines, email addresses, and 24/7 service (in the case of hotel rooms).
For example, if a guest has a question in the middle of the night, your property management company is responsible for answering that question and any associated concerns. Your property management company may need to employ more people depending on how many guests in properties you have and the demands they are likely to make.
Maintain Security for Guests/Property
Also important is security, such as keeping gates shut and locked at night, inviting guests with cards or keys to their rooms, and similar work. Your short-term property management company will handle all security matters, including:
- Giving guests the keys or cards they need to get into their rooms
- Collecting keys or cards from guests leaving
- Ensuring that there are no unauthorized individuals in rooms or on the property premises
- Watching security cameras
- Employing a security staff
- Handling security complaints or issues
- Contacting emergency services, including the police, when necessary
This is a highly important responsibility, particularly for larger rental properties like hotels. Your management company may alternatively outsource security work, particularly security patrols or gate officer positions, to third-party security companies depending on its staff and specialty.
7. Other Responsibilities
In addition to the above tasks, short-term rental property managers are responsible for other jobs and duties, such as:
- Paying any necessary bills or fees, including mortgage payments in some cases
- Meeting with a rental property’s owner to update them on the situation
- Ensuring compliance with all important regulations
Pay Bills & Fees
Every short-term rental property has associated bills and fees, whether those are mortgage payments, homeowner’s association fees, or other costs. Your short-term rental property manager can pay these bills and fees for you after collecting rent or extra money from your guests and tenants.
Note that this process and policy should be outlined in the contract you sign with your property manager. It should state how the manager will pay the fees, when the fees are due, and other specifics.
This is an important responsibility because it frees up extra time on your part and prevents you from having to drive around town collecting rent from all of your guests just to make a few large payments for your properties.
Meet with the Property Owner for Updates
From time to time, the short-term rental property manager needs to meet with the property owner to give updates on the status and profitability of their properties. While some of the information may be available online, it’s still a good idea to meet with the property manager in person.
During the meetings, the property manager can offer updates, and explain any major expenses or upcoming renovations to account for. This helps property owners make wise decisions regarding property updates or expansions, how to attract new guests, and more.
Depending on your preferences, you can meet with your property management company once per month, once per quarter, or even once per year (though this is not recommended). You can also meet with them in person or over videoconferencing software like Zoom.
Ensure Compliance with Local/Federal Regulations
Lastly, your short-term rental property management company is responsible for ensuring compliance with local or federal regulations. These can include things like the size of parking spaces, the sizes of hedges around your property, and more.
Because these laws and regulations can change from time to time, your property manager will keep abreast of these changes and developments and notify you if your properties have to be adjusted in some way. Furthermore, if you have short-term rental properties in multiple countries, your property manager will need to be well-versed in the laws of those countries, not just the US.