How Well Do You Know Your Properties

Jeremiah Gall
Jeremiah Gall

October 19, 2018

Consumed by users on unlimited plans, analyzed by scientists, leveraged by marketing teams, and the basis of informed management decisions from the largest hotel down to the smallest property manager: Data is at the center of our digital lives and the raw material that our modern businesses are built upon.

This is not new information. Many rental managers use data and sophisticated processes for dynamic pricing, guest engagement, website and search optimization, driving marketing budgets and lead generation efforts. Yet, few managers leverage or appreciate the value of rich property data when it comes to their back-office operations, property care programs and maintenance efforts.

Data-driven, organized property care and maintenance is the largest opportunity for property managers to grow their inventory and revenue. In this article, we’ll discuss what intelligent property data is, why it’s important and three areas of your business where prioritizing data leads to real value and revenue for managers.

managers to grow their inventory and revenue.

Comprehensive & Actionable Property Data 

When managers first think of property data, they associate this with the marketing profile: beds, baths and description of amenities. But there’s so much rich data that managers can use. This is the nitty-gritty operational data that drives a successful property care program, from the appliance serial numbers, history of HVAC maintenance, last chimney cleaning to trends in pH levels, length of driveway and filter sizes.  Combine this with additional data such as the linen count necessary for a turn day, average time to clean, digital records of inventory and routine inspection reports and seasonal checks and it creates a comprehensive record of the property. 

These data points, historical care and in-the-field interactions with the property is only valuable if it can be used effectively. To do that, especially for true management of a property, all these details need to be: (1) accessible; and (2) organized.  Without both characteristics, the data lives in a silo.  Picture a file cabinet with no folders, just paper checklists and maintenance work orders for each property.  Records like these aren’t just messy, they are not accessible to staff and impossible to share externally with vendors and owners.

When it comes to back of the house operations, this is a familiar scene for property managers.  Many have moved parts of their operations to digital records and work orders for their maintenance staff.  However, these digital files are typically a series of Google docs or custom fields in property management software that are disconnected from maintenance and inspection records, your team and provide little insight. For many property managers, their property data lives in the digital equivalent of a disorganized file cabinet.

With truly organized property data, managers continually add to a robust property profile. Instead of silos, now the property data looks like an ever-growing, interconnected web of information that serves multiple purposes across the company.  Actionable data, available to the whole team is the real trick to unlocking the full value of property management services.

When the entire team can access information, and work effectively, back office operations become more efficient, quality improves and an opportunity to offer additional services is created. Efficiency gains alone should lead to a 20 - 30% reduction in overhead costs, which is the industry average for facilities managers using maintenance management software.  In addition to substantial operational savings, it’s the service quality improvement that rental managers should be seeking. With actionable data and intelligent workflows, managers can be proactive, ensure that nothing falls through the cracks and deliver exceptional service.

Three Ways to Leverage Intelligent Property Data

We consistently hear complaints from rental managers about a lack of insight into their property care and maintenance programs. Even some sophisticated managers question whether their maintenance services are profitable.  As managers look to grow their business, scale operations and streamline processes, they’re becoming more reliant than ever on data. Below are a few examples of how forward-thinking managers are using intelligent systems to leverage property data.

Improve Operational Quality: Without a structured way to collect and manage data, it’s difficult for managers to disperse information among the team, creating unnecessary back and forth between internal staff and vendors, resulting in confusion and extending the time necessary to complete a task.

  • Use data from previous clean times to smartly schedule staff and meet challenging turn days.
  • Leverage historic property data to predict rental readiness and manage early check-in more effectively.
  • Share the progress of a cleaning or maintenance issue in real-time across the entire team to avoid surprise delays and stay ahead of scheduling back-ups.
  • Associate marketing photos with housekeeping tasks so staff has reference photos to ensure the property meets standard property appearance.
  • Enable consistent communication among different departments, ensuring everyone is working from the same property data.

Upgrade Proactive Maintenance:  Property requires upkeep, plain and simple. Vacation rental properties have a constant flow of traffic and maintenance issues need to be addressed quickly to keep the property guest ready. It’s difficult to provide great property care, and do it efficiently, when your team is constantly in a reactive mode and putting out fires. Even worse are the ancillary costs: guest frustration, potential negative reviews, and questions from owners about why surprise repairs were needed. By creating the foundation for proactive maintenance, managers can reduce many of these costs.

  • Share detailed property information and service history to improve response time, make sure people arrive with the right parts the first time and reduce duplicate work.
  • Offer ancillary services like chimney cleaning, window washing or tree trimming at the appropriate time of year, leading to better engagement and improved property maintenance.
  • Easily generate customized preventative maintenance schedules and dynamic pricing of services based on the details of each home and actual scope of the work.

Share Details and Expertise: One manager mentioned his owners only know 20% of the work the management company completes on their behalf. The hard truth is that reporting this to an owner today would, at a minimum, require devoting a team member to identify what was completed and translate this property data into an owner-friendly format.  Both of which require a commodity most managers can’t afford to lose: time. 

  • Record the minor work and property care that is completed as a matter of routine maintenance but rarely communicated to the owner.
  • Share real-time reports for the owner, allowing managers to showcase professional knowledge and charge more for their management services.
  • Drive detailed property reports to demonstrate how familiar the manager is with the property, gaining more of the homeowner’s trust by providing full transparency into the upkeep of their property and allowing managers to make continued repairs to increase bookings.
  • Build a scalable solution to engage with second homeowners who are not renting, creating a feeder channel to rental programs

Embracing Property Data

Until recently, there were few options for rental managers to build rich, detailed profiles of their properties.  Some property management software systems are beginning to include deeper back office functionality like digital inspections and automated cleaning workflows. However, just as website optimization, advanced guest management and email marketing campaigns require additional solutions beyond the basics, managers can uncover more value by embracing software and technology to enhance their property care programs.

With an inventory of unique properties, each with their own characteristics and owner idiosyncrasies, vacation rental managers have incredible operational challenges to meet. These challenges are even larger without an organized property data program to help deliver operational efficiency and more importantly capture the full value (and revenue) of the property care and asset preservation that managers diligently provide. 

Property care, from familiarity with the home and history of maintenance, to relationships with in-market services is the special sauce of vacation rental ‘property management.’  Managers that start leveraging property data and technology will elevate their back-office operations and be primed to grow their business in the competitive vacation rental market. Intelligent, organized property data that the whole team can act upon will help managers deliver the best service to their guests, impress their owners and attract more second homeowners who are looking for solutions for quality property care.