A 10-Step Guide to Systematic, Self-Managed Short-Term Rentals

With ADR (average daily rates) and higher occupancy rates for short-term rentals increasing throughout North America, expanding your business could be too good an opportunity to miss out on.

But the prospect of managing more short-term rentals means that you’ll likely have to be on-call 24-7 to handle your rising volume of guest communications.

So you might be wondering: Should you continue self-managing your short-term rental properties as you grow, or should you hire a property manager or property management company to deal with guests and reduce your personal workload?

While it might seem overwhelming, managing your short-term rentals on your own is possible, but it means putting repeatable systems—-and easy-to-use tech—in place to do it so that you can stay on top of guest queries, enhance the guest experience, and scale your business without sacrificing your sanity.

We created this guide for property owners who want to keep managing their short-term rentals, and we’ve broken down:

  • How to use automated guest messaging to drastically reduce your workload
  • The tech solutions that can help you streamline your operations
  • How to use personalized upsells to increase your revenue

If you’re ready to find out how you can manage your growing short-term rental business, let’s begin.

Get started with RueBaRue automated guest messaging and cut down the time you spend answering calls and messages by 70%. Book a demo.

Guest messaging software can reduce your workload by half or more

Even if you’ve included basic check-in instructions and essential information on the listing site, you may have to field the same hundred calls and questions about where to park, how to get set up on WiFi, and how to make those finicky in-room devices work.

It’s not the guests’ fault! They’re new to the property. And there are ways to relieve your workload and anticipate those questions before they even come up.

Let your guests start planning after booking when you use RueBaRue to send them engaging digital guestbooks and local area guides. Book a demo.

1. Send your guests digital guestbooks

Creating and sending a digital guestbook to your guests pre-stay is an effective way to reduce your daily calls and messages by 70%.

A digital guestbook is a source for everything your guest needs to know before they arrive, and it should serve as their go-to reference during their stay. It should include:

  • Crucial property information including the address, door codes, arrival times, and WiFi codes
  • Your home and property rules
  • Safety information for your property and area
  • A suggested packing list
  • Information about the area’s attractions, restaurants, and events

RueBaRue guestbooks and local area guides can help you address common guest questions before they even come up.

2. Create local area guides ahead of their trip

Your guests are going to look to you as their area expert as well, and you may have already included some local attractions in your property listing.

But why not create a thorough guide to the area that guests can use to plan their vacation itineraries before they even arrive? Besides common local attractions, nearby restaurants, and grocery stores, consider adding:

  • Hidden area gems only locals know about
  • The best ways to get around town
  • Activities for families with small children or teenagers
  • Budget attractions
  • LGBTQIA+ friendly things to do in the area

"We’re now able to save time and money by going digital and giving guests the information they need to plan their vacation before they arrive.”

What software solutions can make you operationally efficient

If you want to ensure that you’re growing your short-term rental business sustainably, you need to think about the vacation rental automation solutions you can set up to save you time in the long run.

3. Automate your SMS messages

Moving your guest communication off email and onto text or instant SMS webchat is the way to stay ahead of bad reviews and get instant feedback from them without having to monitor a guest messaging platform.

But relying on text messaging for vacation rentals also creates more work for you during their stay.

You can automate your SMS messages by creating pre-written templates that let you address recurring guest concerns, and using a guest communication tool like RueBaRue makes that easier.

Here are a few of the automated text templates we recommend creating:

  1. A booking confirmation template covering payment confirmation, dates, check-in and check-out instructions, and cancellation terms.
  2. A pre-arrival template that includes directions, parking information, and the address.
  3. A post-arrival template checking to see if there’s anything else they might need during their stay.
  4. A maintenance request template apologizing for the inconvenience and confirming you are looking into the issue and offering extra contact details.
  5. A pre-departure template reminding them of your check-out policy and instructions.

You can use guest messaging to address guest questions as soon as they arise.

4. Streamline and schedule your cleaning

A recent AHLA (American Hotel and Lodging Association) survey showed that out of a list of nine options, travelers chose cleanliness most to determine where they want to stay next. So what cleaning strategy for pre-stay, mid-stay, and post-stay can you create?

Start with a thorough cleaning checklist that’s digitized so you can send it easily to a cleaning and maintenance team. You’ll also want to create an inventory supplies checklist that your cleaning staff can access through your messaging system.

Once you have cleaning procedures in place, you can use a rental property messaging system to track your cleaning staff availability and schedule times for them to clean.

5. Have a plan in place for maintenance

Just like with cleaning, vacation rental maintenance should be preemptive. You shouldn’t wait for something to break before you schedule a maintenance call.

To keep your property in good shape, set up routine maintenance visits, and create templated maintenance procedures to accomplish on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis.

You should also give your maintenance team access to your guest messaging system and make sure there’s always a member of staff “online” so that if a lightbulb goes out or a sink gets clogged during a guest’s stay, there’s always someone ready to handle the issue.

Employ marketing and direct booking strategies

To get your brand in front of as many eyes as possible, you need to advertise your property on booking sites and social media. And to generate more guest leads for less money, you need additional marketing and direct booking strategies.

6. Get more direct bookings on your website

Direct bookings help you avoid OTA fees by letting guests book directly on their website or via phone or email. To get more direct bookings, you can:

  • Use a website builder to create your own vacation rental website.
  • Incentivize guests to book directly on your website instead of through an OTA with perks like discounts on their stay, extra nights, and discounted access to local attractions.
  • Use the OTA strategy of “social proof” and publish positive guest reviews on your website.

7. Build your email list

Research has shown that repeat customers tend to spend up to 33% more than first-time customers do. That’s why you should build an email list for guest retention, and here are our favorite strategies:

  • When guests book with you, encourage them to give you their email addresses by offering discounts on future stays or free service add-ons.
  • Give them the option to sign up for your newsletter so they can stay on top of events in your area and seasonal offerings, like low-season discounts.
  • Engage consistently in social media groups and vacation rental forums and plug your own website and services when appropriate.

8. Automatic guest surveys and reviews

Using a guest messaging system like RueBaRue means you can automatically integrate a templated guest survey at the end of every stay, and this is one crucial way to provide a full service for current and future guests.

At the end of your survey, encourage your guest to leave a guest review on Google , and ask them to be specific about what made their stay so great.

Personalized upsells will maximize your revenue

If you want to offer revenue-boosting amenities to your guest before their stay, personalizing upsells to your guest’s preferences increases the chance they’ll opt in—and it can be as simple as sending them a quick survey or a template message.

You can offer daily cleaning services as a personalized upsell that increases your revenue.

9. Allow early check-ins and extended stays

During the off-season, you can expect lower occupancy rates, which opens up your booking calendar to offer an extra night—-at a discounted rate—to guests who have pre-booked or who are in-stay.

You can use a guest messaging tool like RueBaRue to send an “extended stay” message template to your guests before or during their stay and let them easily book a discounted extra night.

Customers also love the option of an early check-in, and you can generate extra revenue from one stay by letting your guests opt for an early check-in for an extra fee.

10. Include personalized upsells

After your guests confirm a stay with you, have them fill out a quick survey or answer a few questions about any extra offerings they’d like. Depending on their answers, this can shape the personalized upsells you offer during their stay, such as:

  • Daily cleaning for an extra fee
  • In-room service
  • Luggage storage
  • Transportation
  • Access to sports equipment like bikes, kayaks, or swimming gear
  • Linen and towel rentals
  • A stocked fridge and pantry

Should you self-manage your short-term rental business?

It’s no small undertaking to manage your short-term rental business alone, but it’s possible.

Your decision depends on how willing you are to put guests first—and how open you are to the tech solutions that help busy property owners make guest communication and operations more efficient and effective.

We recommend starting out with a guest messaging tool like RueBaRue to:

  • Increase communication with guests during their stay, which is going to help you get better reviews, return stays, and more guest bookings
  • Enhance guests’ experience with guidebooks, area guides, and upsells
  • Streamline your behind-the-scenes operations to make sure your property stays clean and well-maintained

Get ahead of bad reviews and stay on top of guest needs with RueBaRue’s Text Webchat feature. Schedule a demo.

Frequently asked questions about self-managing short-term rentals

What should be included in a short-term rental?

To offer a great experience for your guests, a short-term rental‌ should include:

  • A rental agreement
  • Digital guestbooks that include
    • Arrival times
    • House rules
    • Safety information
    • List and explanation of amenities
    • WiFi name and password
    • Door codes or key instructions
  • Local area guides
  • A channel for ongoing SMS communication between the guest and property manager

Is 6 months considered long-term or short-term rent?

A 6-month rental is generally considered a long-term rental, and a short-term rental is usually only booked for a month at the most.

Long-term rentals can offer more consistent income to homeowners, and they can require less day-to-day work for the property manager, who doesn’t have to spend as much time explaining the property or area to the long-term renter.

You may prefer to stick with short-term rentals, though, if you want to take advantage of high-season pricing and the opportunity to do more maintenance and upkeep of your property in between stays.

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