This week let’s meet Hera and Mike, two hosts from Tampa Bay, Florida. They are renting a luxury beachfront condo in the heart of Madeira Beach, Florida. Madeira Beach is now in the top 10 beaches in the U.S. according to TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Award.
Hera and Mike are big-time Travoodies, they love to travel and food! As guests, they have the utmost respect for the host(s) and their property. As hosts, they only want to make each guest experience wonderfully memorable.
Let’s meet them 🤩
So, Hera, tell us, how long have you been hosting for? How and why did you start? How many properties do you manage?
We started hosting in Nov 2020 after closing on our new beach condo in Madeira Beach, FL. It’s our first and only vacation rental so far. It’s a fabulous 2 bedroom and 2 full bath condo on the top floor located directly on the Gulf beaches! It’s our dream vacation home that we decided to share with the world.
We decided to host because there’s not a lot of private luxury accommodations currently being offered. Our place is in a very popular beach vacation spot and can easily fulfill that demand. Most owners in the area think because their place is beachfront that it would be enough for guests. They tend to take a lot of shortcuts to maximize profits. Our approach is to provide high-quality accommodations and services as there is a clear demand for them. Our guests feel the love we put into it and they have no problems paying a higher price for a better homestay experience. Over 90% of our guests have already rebooked for next year.
Are you an owner or a manager? Is this a part-time or full-time occupation for you?
We own and manage this property as a side gig for us. After trying to work with 4 Property Managers within 90 days, we knew no one would be able to take care of our guests and place as we would. Most property managers in our area treat guests and property as a number. We wanted to provide a more personable experience for our guests so that they’d feel our place was their home away from home.
Our model has worked since our revenue is 50% higher than what the property managers projected and we have repeat guests that are booking far in advance. We also have a long waiting list for prime time season for the upcoming years.
What is the best thing about hosting, and what are the biggest problems you face?
The best thing about hosting is facilitating a place where guests can make their fondest memories on the beach! I love getting messages from previous guests expressing how much they miss our place and the beach it sits on. Guests also like to send me pictures of all their good times.
The biggest problem we face with our rental is Mother Nature because we can never control the weather. During the Summer, there can be hurricanes and once in a while, there’s Red Tide. Our unit is built to be a fortress against hurricanes but if Red Tide hits, it can last a couple of weeks to a few months which can interfere with the beach experience.
What is one thing you wish you knew when you started hosting?
I wish I did NOT waste time and money with Property Managers that did not fit our model. I should’ve gone with my instincts since the very beginning. It’s very important for the owner to know their target market well enough so that you know what service providers do not make sense for your business. For example, my brand is a luxury beach condo and any provider that cannot customize their services at this level does not make sense. It will lead to a poor guest experience if the property cannot deliver what it advertises.
What is the most important advice/tip you would give someone interested in becoming a short-term rental host?
The best advice I received when becoming a host is to pay for a good cleaner! Nothing spoils the first impression more than a dirty check-in, especially during a vacation. I’m so glad I listened and vetted for the perfect cleaning partner. Your team that is boots on the ground is everything! Whether you do the cleaning and maintenance on your own or hire it out, make sure the service is always consistent. I cannot do it without the right team members in place. I manage the bookings, finances, and guest relations while my cleaning and maintenance crew do their jobs extremely well taking care of the turnovers. Having the best team you jive with will save you tons of headaches and worry. Do not let your guest check-in early if your place is not ready. My cleaner told me a horror story of a guest checking in early to another house she cleans for and when they saw she was cleaning up dirty diapers from a previous guest, they no longer wanted to stay. First impressions matter and I’m so glad this has never happened to us thanks to the tips we received. Yikes!
Besides Syncbnb, are there any tools, devices, or software (eg. Remote keylocks, cameras, local guide apps, power meters, etc) you use? What is your experience with them?
I love my RemoteLock! When I needed access to my unit and the Property Manager I just fired changed the locks without letting me know, that’s when I knew I had to be in control of my own lock and payments! When you hire a property manager, they put their own lock on your property and take all of the guest payments too. Neither really sat well with me. Several of the property managers used RemoteLock so I just bought my own smart lock and used the same service directly. They have an easy-to-use cloud dashboard where I’m in complete control of the lock no matter where I’m at in the world. I provide each guest with their own unique passcode and I can pull up the access history at any time. Each of my service providers has their own unique code too so I know exactly when they are at my unit and for how long. The features are automated so the codes expire when indicated.
For guest payments I use Stripe. It easily integrates into my website and emails and has a lot of nifty customizable features that you can brand.
The financial reports and payouts I used to get with my property managers were always wrong benefitting their pockets. Having the ability to take payments directly with guests has been a real game-changer.
Which channels do you list on? How much has your revenue increased since listing on multiple channels?
I list on VRBO, Airbnb, and my own Website.
VRBO is 50%, Airbnb 5%, Website is 10%, and 35% are guest referrals. It’s important to diversify but more is not always better. I only have 3 channels but stay completely booked. The more channels you have, the more accounts you have to deal with which is why SyncBnb is so helpful. But also consider where your ideal guest shops. Our guests are either professionals or retirees that can afford and have the time to stay in our 2-week minimum condo. It doesn’t make sense for us to list on channels where the majority of guests are looking for nightly stays. Since we focused only on a few channels, our efficiency has increased dramatically and only attract guests looking for longer stays. Our revenue is 50% more than what any of the Property Managers projected for our unit.
Besides listing on multiple channels, what other things can a host do to increase his/her bookings and revenue?
Referrals!! Word of mouth is the best form of advertisement. I love it when I get referrals from my guests. If you are looking to build a book of business with loyal renters then having your own website and booking system is a must because your guests not only have the ability to rebook themselves but refer your rental website to their friends and family too. Listing on OTA platforms, your unit competes with other rentals. When the rental has its own website, it’s the only place the prospect sees. My referrals make up 35% of my business and that number continues to grow. It’s worth listing on VRBO and Airbnb to attract new guests initially, but once they stay, you have the ability to give them ways to directly book with you. Plus if anything ever happens to a channel, you at least have complete control over your own website. More and more guests are looking to save on OTA booking fees because they are high! They are looking for ways to book directly with you to save them money. This is an easy way to get repeat business which easily boosts your revenue and decreasing your ad/OTA spend. Our previous property managers projected if they managed our place would be $45-50k annually in revenue, and that’s before their 20%-30% commission. Since we’ve been managing it ourselves, we have $75k in bookings so far for this year.
Another tip/recommendation I’d give to increase revenue is if you have the ability to manage the property yourself, you’ll have the probability of making more revenue on your own and netting an additional 20-30% of savings on average property management costs.
As far as our time with SyncBnB, we are so thankful for the excellent service they have always provided us. We appreciate their prompt responses and solutions to any issues we experience. We look forward to new features they constantly try to add on and improve. We’ve learned a lot from their expertise as well.
You can find out more about Hera and Mike’s property here:
Direct booking website
Here are some photos to give you a better vision of Hera & Mike’s house (click for larger versions) 🧐