Recently, I read a blog on a popular vacation rental site (Okay, I’ll say it, it was Homeaway) where owners weighed in – and rather negatively – about property managers. One owner commented, “I was promised a certain amount of revenue but at the end of the year, it was not even close.” I decided to be my own property manager for our own Gulf front condo in 2005, after we were “promised much but delivered little” by a large rental management company. With the advent of the internet and sites like VRBO, I was able to, not just keep our condo booked, but actually, take care of it myself as we lived close by. Friends heard that I was doing this successfully and soon Your Friend at the Beach (a name given to me by a guest who said that is how I made her feel) was a thriving business. My company grew by word of mouth – owner to owner – and now has over 20 luxury gulf front condos in the Destin and 30A area.
How has it grown? It’s simple really. I treat each condo like I did my own. Here are the complaints I read on the Homeaway site – and here is what we do at YFAB to address these issues.
1. Not enough rental income: Let’s face it, we owners all have to pay HOA fees, mortgages and updates to our properties; so income has to be our first concern. The large property management companies promise big returns but often treat their clients like numbers, not people. My phone calls were not answered and my calendar looked blank when I was a client of a big firm. As a “boutique-size” rental company, I have to have your condo booked in order to cover our costs. Because even though we are small, we offer everything (and a few more services) that the larger companies do. We have an on-line booking calendar, prompt owner reports prepared by our accountants, and offer our free app YFAB. We use social media and email marketing to keep in touch with our past guests. We are committed to quality. Our return rate is over 50% and growing yearly. Most importantly, we don’t “nickel and dime” our owners so your net income is greater. But more on that later…
2. No attention to detail or quality: The owners on the above-mentioned forum commiserated that rental managers didn’t check the property after each guest checked out. Often broken items and poor cleaning were an unpleasant surprise. Here is what we do: my business partner, Larry (who is as handy as one of those guys on the TV fix-it shows), checks every condo after each guest departure. He has a regular list of items he reviews every time. He changes burned-out lightbulbs, makes sure appliances are working, checks each TV to find that it not only works but also that the remote is there and has a battery. If there is a clogged sink he “zips” it, a broken garbage disposal, he fixes it and if there is a more serious problem like a faulty A/C, he gets it checked that day, before the new guest arrives. Larry’s list is long – too long to put in this blog but suffice it to say, when Larry leaves your property; your beach condo is in pristine shape.
Our phone numbers are always handy – on the app or in our binder, and we answer promptly if a guest has a concern. Last Saturday, a guest arrived and called to say the TV in the bunk room wasn’t connected to internet. Our guest Kari texted me an hour later saying thanks, someone is already here!
3. Your property was not clean. Here is what I read; “The property manager promised that the same people would clean weekly but it is a different person every week.” Why is that important? We have the same team of housekeepers in the same condos weekly. Each housekeeper has an area of expertise – kitchen, bathrooms, windows, or floors. By keeping the same team in your condo, we notice immediately if something is missing or if furniture has been moved from one room to another.
As I often say, “you don’t get what you expect, you get what you inspect.” Each of our cleaning teams text me when they are finished cleaning a condo and I come in do a to “walk through.” If a floor is not mopped well or a window is streaky, the team returns to correct it. You can imagine after a couple of return visits; the team rarely misses anything. Once I walk through, I call the guest coming in to say the condo is ready – many times before the 4:00 PM check in.
My feeling is that the happier a guest is when they arrive, the better they treat your condo. We work very hard to present the cleanest and most upscale gulf front condos in the 30A and Destin area. Our guests respond by treating our condos as they would their own homes. One of our Adagio owners arrived last fall after a busy rental summer to say that his condo didn’t even looked used – and we had it rented every week.
4. Being nickel and dimed: A company that charges $30 to change a lightbulb and tacks on upcharges to every item they purchase for you, is not a company with your bottom line in mind. We charge our owners, once a year, the actual cost for lightbulbs and batteries. We change them as need at no extra cost for our time. If you need a new microwave, we let you know. We give you choices and we charge you the actual price with no fee for our time. One of our gulf front Adagio owner who had used larger companies and has now been with us for almost ten years said this “we have very few days that the condo is empty. During those days, Larry is doing small maintenance work and making sure everything is up to our standards.”
How do we do all of this and have a successful company? We do it by managing only the nicest condos at Adagio, San Remo and Villa Coyaba. Our intent is to stay boutique size. We are proud to say we have never had an owner leave us unless they sold their condo. Our five-star reputation to owners and guests, rests on each condo being exceptional. If you have a top-of-the-line condo at Adagio, San Remo or Villa Coyaba and would like to join our winning team; please contact me – Your Friend at The Beach. We’ll treat your condo as if it was ours!