If you’re reading this, chances are you are a Summit County homeowner. You own a home in an extremely popular resort destination with a big earning potential in the vacation rental market. The vacation rental industry in Breckenridge is huge and there are hundreds of companies in the county who offer their services to help homeowners who are new to the rental venture and/or need help with daily operations. Choosing the right provider can be overwhelming. We are here to help by offering tips for choosing the very best property manager for one of your most valuable assets.

This is the first in a 5-part series with tips to help you choose a property manager for your vacation rental property. What we will cover:

Suggested Search Tips

  1. Mystery shop 3-5 companies: Visit their website. Call their office number and send a direct email with an inquiry about one of their properties. Take note of the type of response you receive (how quick, how friendly, how informative). You should also send inquiries through Vrbo and Airbnb for the same purpose. Responsiveness to phone calls and emails is of utmost importance in the vacation rental industry. Not only are guests most likely to book with the first company to respond, but when an emergency is encountered, time is of the essence for quick action. Furthermore, complaints made by neighbors must be handled within one hour to stay in compliance with town and county ordinances.
  2. If your Realtor endorses a particular company, ask if they receive a referral fee doing so. Ask about first-hand knowledge about the care the properties receive.
  3. Read VRBO and Airbnb reviews for any company you are considering.
  4. If time and money allow, stay a few nights in a home managed by a company you are considering signing with. You will receive first-hand experience of how the guests will be treated, how timely issues are addressed, and you can do a casual inspection of the property to get an idea of how well the home is being cared for and maintained.
  5. Find out what the employee:home ratio is for any company you are considering. The gold standard is 1:4 (one employee for every four homes). When it comes to the best care for your home and the most attention to listing and pricing details, you want your home to be a big fish in a small pond.
  6. Interview potential companies and know The Five Most Important Questions to Ask Your Property Manager.

Today’s vacationers expect full service even while renting a private home. While some guests are self-sufficient, many others require and/or desire a great deal of attention from wanting to know what brand of coffee maker is in the home prior to arrival, to assistance with booking activities and needing special occasion restaurant recommendations. Some guests have never sat in a hot tub, have never experienced high altitude, and are intimidated by lockboxes or door keypads. Local personnel are essential for dealing quickly and efficiently with any problems the guests may experience with the home such as the modem needing to be re-booted, technical issues with the TV, or a flipped breaker.

As the homeowner, you are responsible for ensuring your guests have the information required by the local town and county ordinances. For example, Summit County Short Term Rental Regulations require including a copy of the Good Neighbor Guidelines, a copy of the rental license in the interior of the primary entrance, and instructions about trash, noise, parking, and pets.

While it may not seem life or death, it’s important to keep in mind that for many families their vacation is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Some families have saved for years or might have spent many months coordinating how to get the entire family together from different parts of the country.  Understandably, they want everything to be perfect!  A broken-down hot tub or wobbly bed frame can “ruin” the vision of their perfect vacation. They want their issues addressed immediately and to their satisfaction.

Knowledge of the area is also essential for guest satisfaction.  Anyone can stop by a brochure stand and read about area activities, but personal tips and suggestions from a local host is always best. Our Colorado Luxe Living team loves sharing insider tips with our guests including our favorite trails, easiest parking spots, and best times of day to partake in a particular activity. Answering these questions alone requires a great deal of time, research, and partaking in the activity ourselves to provide first-hand experience. How can a guest be expected to get detailed information on current weather conditions (fires or snowstorms in particular) while talking to someone who does not even live in the area? The simple answer is, they cannot.

Who are your guests? Why are they coming to town and why are they choosing a vacation rental versus a hotel or resort? Many Colorado towns are extremely popular destinations for weddings, family reunions, and corporate events. Even if your guests say they are a family of 6, how can you be sure they aren’t planning on hosting a gathering for a larger group while in your home? While you can place cameras on the exterior of your property, do you want to spend your time watching security feed?  If your guests do break maximum occupancy rules, would you know how to legally and ethically handle the situation?

Do you know what Vacation Brain is? It’s a “syndrome” we jokingly blame for the cause of innocent guest mishaps. Some of the adverse effects caused by Vacation Brain include but are not limited to leaving town with house keys or garage door openers and maybe even a small appliance (yes, this has actually happened); leaving combustibles against a baseboard heater, and carelessness with all liquids, especially the red ones that stain.  Most often a security deposit is required to protect against damages of these types, but do you know that you cannot legally withhold the deposit after the guest checks out? What will be your recourse if a guest causes hundreds of dollars in damage and is savvy enough to contact their credit card company regarding the deposit that you are illegally withholding?

Homeowners must accept a certain amount of wear and tear when renting their homes to vacationers, but outright damage caused by guests can most often be handled by a good management company through damage protection insurance carried by reputable companies and not available to individual homeowners without exorbitant cost.

Lastly, guests expect a minimum start up supply of bath tissue, shampoo, and other sundries.  High quality linens, towels, and body products are also part of a great guest experience.

Luxe Living Rentals has the answers and assistance you need for every issue mentioned above and we can handle the guest management work for you.

This is the second in a 5-part series on homeowner tips which will also include Tips for Choosing a Property ManagerMarketing Your Vacation Rental Home, and Caring for Your Summit County Home.

Your Summit County vacation home is not only one of your most valuable possessions, it’s also likely one of your most beloved. Security and inspections are key factors for your peace of mind, even if you live just an hour away in the Front Range. You know as well as we do how often I-70 or 285 can be closed year round, especially during the winter months.

In-town personnel is essential in our high-altitude environment and resort-minded culture.  Because our staff lives and works here, we know the toll our climate has on our homes, what to look out for, and what preventative measures need to be taken.  A vacation home in Summit County is subject to damage from ice and snow, wildlife, squatters, freezing temps, and neighboring rental guests. Security cameras are wonderful, but if you don’t have someone nearby to act quickly in response to unwanted activity captured by your camera, the main result will be increased anxiety.

While guests, cleaners, and vendors are in and out of your home, they cannot be relied upon to ensure your home is locked with all windows and doors secured.  Typically, cleaners are the first ones in the home following guest departure, but quite often they have multiple homes to clean in one day on a tight timeline.  A post-clean inspection with a fresh set of eyes that are intimately familiar with your home is crucial for noticing anything amiss as well as checking every single window and door. We believe that post-stay inspections are one of the most critical areas in maintaining meticulous care of your home.

Having someone who knows your home well enables them to recognize damage or missing items. Not all property management companies does pre-arrival or post-departure inspections.

If your second home is not occupied by your family or rental guests on a regular basis, you need someone to go in and flush toilets, turn faucets on and off, inspect crawl spaces and boiler rooms, and run appliances like the dishwasher to protect the seals (just as one example). Luxe Vacation Rental loves the properties in our care as much as we love our own homes. We are fiercely protective of our client’s property. Providing your home with TLC provides us enormous satisfaction.

Did you know there are 8,750 short-term rentals in Summit County? According to Summit County government, Breckenridge alone has 4,700 vacation rental homes with short term rental licenses. Googling the words “Breckenridge Vacation Rentals” will produce over 600,000 results.  How do you make your home stand out among the rest?

Unless you have a deep-pocket marketing budget (in the millions) or are listed with a well-established existing website, ranking for the keywords “Breckenridge Vacation Rentals” is an extremely difficult task. Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) such as Vrbo and AirBnB currently dominate in the game of keyword search on Google (although Google itself is aiming to get a piece of the pie with its own booking engine). Both homeowners and property managers alike are at the mercy of the OTAs in order to secure the bulk of yearly gross rental income, not only in Breckenridge, but around the world. Until the next enormous progression in the industry comes along, having your property managed by a reputable company and listed on multiple OTAs is the most effective way to maximize rental potential.

Within each OTA that your property is listed, another ranking system exists. For example, Vrbo will show the highest-ranking properties at the top of search results and the lowest ones last, which could potentially be page 23 of a search result. Vrbo makes money when visitors book properties on their site, so the most book-able homes will be shown first. Rates, reviews, speed of inquiry response, photo quality/quantity, listing quality, and availability are all factors taken into consideration in the ranking algorithms. In a future blog post, we will delve into each of those in more detail.

Having a database of past guests, potential guests, or a way to target Breckenridge visitors through means other than lodging searches are additional ways to market your Breckenridge vacation rental property. A good property manager who knows Breckenridge like the back of their hand can achieve this. Almost everyone who plans to visit Breckenridge will do some research on activities, possibly even before securing their lodging. Snagging these guests before they book on an OTA not only maximizes revenue, but is the best way to earn customer loyalty.

The Breckenridge Tourism Office (BTO) offers local property management companies additional ways to advertise their homes to the millions of visitors on the GoBreck site. This option is not available to individually managed properties.

In a future blog post, we will be covering OTA ranking in further detail and offering additional tips on making your Breckenridge vacation property stand out among the thousands on the market.