So, you have Florida vacation rental property that you’re considering using to generate income, and the lucrative short term rental market is the direction you want to go. But have you given much thought into what it takes to manage a short term vacation rental? I mean, REALLY given it thought? It takes more effort than the very passive income of a residential rental, but the bottom line can be much, much higher.
It’s important to be aware that you’ll be responsible for maintaining the property to the high standards required by your guests, platforms like AirBnB, and your Florida local and state government. This includes housekeeping, general maintenance, HVAC maintenance, pool maintenance, landscaping, etc. This can be quite a large undertaking if you’re doing it yourself, and paired with a full time career, it can totally deplete your free time.
This leaves you with three real options. Do it all yourself, which can be daunting. You can hire a co-host like a family member or neighbor. But can you truly depend on them to be available and accurate on a consistent basis? And your third option is to hire a professional management company for your vacation rental. This option may cost a small fee, but it brings you closer to a passive income and that peace of mind is worth its weight in gold.
A professional Florida rental property management company can take care of it all for you. From reservation management to compliance to housekeeping and property maintenance, they do it all. You can relax and take comfort in knowing your Tampa Bay area property is in good hands. No more having to clean messes. No more having to make beds and clean toilets. No more late night phone calls asking how to turn on the TV. And since we’re local to the Tampa Bay area, we’ll even meet the plumber so you don’t have to!
Partnering up with a professional management company for your rental property also adds another valuable resource: marketing. Not only giving your property a wider reach to prospective guests, but a professional management company will have analytics on market trends to most accurately price your rental for the ever changing Tampa Bay vacation rental market. Again, this can be an invaluable asset to maximize the return on your investment.
Anyone who has ever owned vacation rental property for a reasonable amount of time, especially in the bright sun and high humidity of Florida, is well aware that maintenance is a thing, and as the old adage says that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, it is even more meaningful as a host. Small things, due to the wear and tear that occurs with our properties, can quickly escalate into major problems.
The whole concept of preventative maintenance is something that we can often easily overlook. Be it for cost reasons (it’s a $5 repair, it can wait), or for time reasons (it’s a quick fix, but I have to be somewhere), we hope to get back to it, but since it was minor, we forget. And before you know it, that little $5 problem that would have taken 5 minutes is now a big problem that has caused you to issue a refund, risked a low rating, and will now cost more and take more time to cure.
Below are 5 simple things you can do to avoid bigger problems and/or unhappy guests in your Florida vacation rental property:
1. Not being proactive about maintenance
It’s called preventative maintenance for a reason. You’re doing maintenance now to avoid a bigger problem later. One of the biggest places I see this here in central Florida is with our HVAC systems. Simple things like changing filters at proper intervals, or using a wet/dry vac to make sure the condensate line is clear can help avoid the dreaded 9pm on a Friday night call in 96° heat with 100% humidity saying the AC isn’t working. This should be applied to all systems. Plumbing: keep watch on drains to avoid backups, and if applicable, treating your septic system to avoid clogs. Regularly check all things that get used and abused on a regular basis. Pools: keep them clean and balanced. Lights switches, light bulbs, refrigerators, even TV remotes. A few minutes and a few dollars is all it takes. And don’t forget to change the batteries in your smoke/CO detectors!
2. Not having a hard key/spare key
Hard keys can get misplaced. Electronic locks can malfunction. It happens. But are you prepared for when it does? A simple realtor’s lockbox and a copy of the key can be an absolute lifesaver. Place the lockbox in an inconspicuous location and rest easy knowing that when it’s needed (which at some point it will), it’s right there.
3. Not having someone to handle maintenance
I’m not saying you need to hire a full time handyman, especially if you only have one or two properties to maintain, but it’s helpful to have access to one. Maybe you’re the owner who likes to do your own maintenance. Maybe you prefer to have someone else do that kind of work. What you don’t want to end up in is a situation where something is broken and you can’t get it fixed. Having access to someone who can jump in and make a quick fix before the next guest arrives is worth far more than an unhappy guest.
4. Not looking at the property through the guests’ eyes
As you walk through the property, be it for a maintenance inspection, or for another reason, look at the property as if it was you staying there on vacation. Things that annoy you may certainly annoy a guest. And once a guest sees something they don’t like, they will look for everything they don’t like, even subconsciously. So look for the little things that aren’t perfect, and while you’re there, just take care of it.
5. Not taking any of this advice
These simple and cost-effective steps will help you avoid inevitable maintenance issues with your Florida vacation rental property. Listen to your properties, and especially listen to guest feedback. You have the opportunity to prevent some situations that would cause a guest to be less than satisfied, it just makes sense to do it right.
It’s that easy.
There are several options to choose from these days when it comes to maximizing income on gulf Florida coast vacation rental properties. It is important to set yourself apart from the rest. Are you leaving Income on the table ? Here are some tips on how to maximize income.
Professional Photography is a crucial investment and worth every penny. Your photos can mean the difference in several thousands of dollars gained or lost in a year. As potential guests scan available vacation rentals in the Tampa Bay area, they will click on what stands out to them. Bright and colorful pictures win every time and draw the eye in. It is important to show your home’s assets up front in the first five pictures.
Optimize your listing with an accurate description that helps highlight special features of your home and nearby locations (beaches, Busch Gardens, etc.) that may not be shown in pictures. This will set the expectations of the guest as they can picture what they will experience while in your vacation rental.
Room Maximization is crucial. You may find several other homes that are similar to yours, however if you increase the number of beds by just a few, this puts you in another category opening your listing to more searches. Here’s an example…. Your four bedroom St Pete Beach home sleeps eight guests. However, the potential guest never even looked at your property because they need to sleep ten. If you had maximized your sleeping capacity by simply adding a bunk bed or a sleeper sofa, your vacation rental would have been included in this guest’s search. Keep in mind, there are not as many options for large groups as there are for smaller ones.
Furniture and Decor are important factors of your listing. While it is important to have durable furniture to stand up to constant use, it is also important to evoke a sense of luxury in your vacation rental. Guests these days expect a certain standard depending on the price point of the rental. A designer local to the Tampa and St. Pete areas is the best option to put a fresh take or a fun spin on your Gulf Coast vacation rental property to make it stand out from the others. IMPACT is the key word here.
You would be surprised how often a guest makes their choice based on one picture of an appealing space. This can be achieved even on a modest budget based on who you entrust with your vacation rental decor. Even a small refresh to your space can add thousands a year in rental income.
When I was planning to relocate to the Tampa Bay area back in 2011 from NYC, all my friends and family kept warning me that I won’t find any good food here. Oh boy, were they wrong!
To be fair, I haven’t found pizza or bagels that are just as good as I grew up with, but I’ve found some that are very respectable. I have also found a few things that are not only absolutely delicious, but they have their roots right here!
The Cuban Sandwich, or Cubano, was created in Tampa during the boom of cigar manufacturing. I consider it the most American of sandwiches. Fluffy Cuban bread and mojo roast pork honors Cuban immigrants, ham, swiss cheese, and pickles honor Eastern European immigrants, and the sometimes controversial addition of salami (I absolutely recommend this!) honors Italian immigrants. Put them all together with mayonnaise and mustard, hot press it so that cheese gets deliciously melty, and you have the perfect cultural melting pot of a sandwich. I recommend getting one at La Segunda, the historic Cuban bakery in Tampa that has café locations in Ybor City, South Tampa, and St. Petersburg.
The other delicious Tampa treat that I have found a personal love for is Deviled Crab. A mix of local caught blue crab meat with Cuban bread crumbs and spices, rolled into a football shape and deep fried until beautifully browned and crispy. So amazingly delicious, these can be found at local restaurants, cafes, and at some of the amazing food trucks around the area.
Beyond those traditional Tampa Bay cuisines, there are plenty of amazing restaurants to be enjoyed. Going beyond the national chains, you can find some good eats no matter which of our amazing vacation rental homes you’re staying in. Here’s a few of my personal favorites:
Mexican: Carmelita’s in Largo
Polish: Pierogi Grill in Clearwater
Sushi: Sushi Kabuki in Largo
Cuban (and beyond): Columbia Restaurant multiple area locations, but the original in Ybor City is the best
Bakery: Moreno Bakery in Brandon
Beyond these amazing eateries, Mazzaro’s Italian Market in St. Petersburg has a wide array of fine foods.
And my very high recommendation to grab something on your way to the beach, go get yourself a Pub Sub! Found at Publix supermarkets, these fresh, made to order sandwiches are a favorite among locals and tourists alike. Hot or cold, pressed or baked, you’re sure to find one that makes you happy!
Go out and explore the Tampa Bay area from one of our Florida Gulf Coast vacation rentals
Whether you clean your Florida vacation rental property yourself or have a cleaning service do it for you, you are bound to notice things that could look better while you’re cleaning. Determining if it is something that should be addressed or improved now or if it can wait until you deep clean, is a crucial one. Deep cleans are for cleaning behind appliances, dry cleaning curtains, cleaning baseboards, removing scuff marks on walls and doors, dusting ceiling fans, cleaning air return vents, cleaning grout, etc.
When making this determination there are several factors to consider. First, is it something that the next guest will notice during their stay? Will the guest notice light scuff marks on a baseboard or bottom of a door? Second, consider if it will affect the guest experience. Will it cause them to have a bad experience or lessen it in any way? Will the scuff marks affect the guests’ stay or experience? Third, problems can sometimes escalate quickly. Will the scuff marks cause an escalation if not removed now? You should also consider if this could be potentially dangerous to the guest? Will the scuff marks on the door be harmful to the guest? Guest safety is your responsibility and leaving something that could be dangerous is never an option.
Lastly, you want to consider the cost of the issue. Will this cost you more or get expensive if you wait to address it until after the next guest departs? If I leave the scuff marks, will it cost me more to remove them later? There could be a price to wait. Are you willing to pay that price? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should take care of it now instead of during a deep clean. In this instance, light scuff marks on a baseboard or at the bottom of a door probably won’t get noticed. They won’t affect the guest experience and doubtfully will cause an escalation. Scuff marks aren’t going to harm the guest and it’s not going to cost you more if you wait to remove the scuff marks when you deep clean.
If you are the type of person that I tend to be, then things like scuff marks no matter how light or few of them there may be, tend to bother me. Considering it doesn’t take a lot of time to grab a magic eraser and clean them off, I would do it right then. Doing this does improve the appearance and a guest may notice that there aren’t any scuff marks on the baseboards or doors like there are at other vacation rentals they have stayed at. In this case they notice the extra effort and that may earn you a 5-star rating rather than the 4.5 rating I would have got because I left the scuff marks. Both outcomes are good, just one may be a better outcome by taking care of it now. In the end, your decision should always ensure the guests safety and good experience during their stay.
In general, as property managers and owners, we all try to do our best in making sure the guest has the greatest experience possible during their stay. However, these days a false complaint about a bed bug can take you from Super Host to a property suspension. Airbnb is the most difficult platform to work with and does have a very strict star review standard that makes it hard for property owners to succeed. Fact : Did you know that Airbnb can suspend any listing that falls below an average of 4.3 stars out of 5. Even with the best intentions of your guest giving you a 4 out of 5 star rating, it can be detrimental to your rental. To avoid getting a rating of less than 4.5 stars, be sure to follow the three E’s:
EDUCATE YOUR GUEST: Make your guests aware of this unique rating system by placing a Thank you card or note for the guest explaining this star rating system. Also, you may make them aware in your welcome email. If your guests understand this, they will be more inclined to give you a better star rating. This is key to helping uneducated guests understand.
ELEVATE YOUR VACATION RENTAL: Ensure that your property is in top notch condition. Your vacation rental is used much more often than a normal home. This means wear and tear is much more prevalent in a short period of time. Make sure your linens are crisp and clean, appliances operate properly, and your furniture is not broken. Touch up any small items that need attention. A freshly painted wall or a new window blind goes a long way in first impressions of a guest. Generally these small updates or fixes are at a very small cost. FACT: A guest makes their first impression on your home in the first 30 seconds of walking in the door. Also, make sure your entry is clean, free of leaves and cobwebs and the landscaping is manicured. Small details go a long way in visual appeal.
ENSURE YOU HAVE GREAT VENDORS: Even though we as owners or property managers control most things with our properties operations, it is important to have good relationships with vendors that you trust. Your lawn care company, pool company, and pest control companies can also make or break your guests’ stay, which can also lead to a bad review. Make sure to have clear communication with your vendors and always check up on their work to ensure they are taking care of their tasks to your satisfaction. A standard must be upheld that guests demand these days.
If you follow the three E‘s above this will help ensure that your vacation rental property is in top notch operating condition for your guests to enjoy. Having a vacation rental property is a wonderful thing, however it is important to always be in the know if you are managing your property independently or allowing a property management company to handle it all for you. These steps will prevent any headaches and you may avoid any unnecessary property suspensions from Airbnb’s platform.
Here in the beautiful Tampa Bay area of Florida, summer is in full swing. And that means high heat, and even worse, high humidity. That humidity can make the already hot days feel even hotter. Fun fact: Tampa has a reputation for being hot, and it is, but did you know the highest recorded temperature in Tampa is only 99°F (37°C)? But the sustained high humidity of our subtropical paradise is the secret ingredient to how hot it feels.
This humidity can wreak havoc on air conditioning systems, and that’s why being proactive with maintenance can be the deciding factor between happy guests and angry, sweaty guests. Frozen evaporator coils, clogged drain lines, and dirty filters can and will compromise the efficiency of your air conditioning. And while proper maintenance does cost a few dollars, the small investment can prevent the high costs of emergency service.
FILTERS: As a generally accepted practice, 1” filters should be changed every 1-2 months, 2” filters can be changed every 3 months, and 3” filters can be changed 4 months, and 4” filter can go 6 months. Most commonly, 1” filters are found on systems here. A dirty filter will inhibit airflow, causing the system to struggle to keep up. And with less air blowing across the evaporator coil, there’s a greater chance it will freeze over, rendering the system useless until serviced. Get your property on a regular schedule to change out the filter on a set schedule. And of course, make sure you’re using the proper size and type for your system.
CONDENSATION DRAINS: Air conditioners do two very important tasks. 1, they remove the heat from the air and make the temperature comfortable. 2, they also remove that dreaded humidity from the air. And as I mentioned before, high humidity makes warm temperatures feel much warmer, and high humidity can lead to issues with mold and mildew growth. That’s never a good thing! Cleaning a condensation drain line is as simple as using a wet/dry vac, and adding a chemical algae inhibitor (like vinegar or commercially available treatment tablets). A clogged drain can also leak into places you don’t want water leaking into.
REGULAR TUNE UPS: The final step to properly maintaining your system is to have it checked annually by a licensed professional. The tech will check your refrigerant level, clean the coils to maintain efficient airflow, and in general make sure that your system is running properly to keep you cool! They should also inspect your ducts to make sure they aren’t compromised or dirty. It’s smart to foster a relationship with an HVAC pro, because things can break and you’ll want someone you trust to come save the day!
A final thought to keeping your system safe, don’t keep exterior doors open for prolonged periods. The sudden and sustained humidity can cause the evap coil to freeze. If you have to keep exterior doors open, it’s smart to turn your system off until the doors can be secured, if possible.
Beat the heat, be proactive, and enjoy all the wonderful things summertime has to offer!
Searching for the perfect Florida vacation rental can be exhausting. In today’s world with a multitude of searching options and booking sites, the planning can get overwhelming and fast! At Vacation Rentals of Florida, we try our best to make your Florida vacation as easy and relaxed as possible from the very beginning. Booking your vacation directly from our website not only saves you money on your stay, but also saves you the headaches of dealing with third party vendors.
Did you know when you book directly through third party sites such as Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway and others you are paying up to 15% MORE than if you booked directly through Vacation Rentals of Florida? Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) make their money by not only charging the owner to host their property on the site for rent, but mainly by charging the guests an average of 15% on top of the standard nightly rates that are being published for the property. Why would anyone want to pay additional fees for the same exact stay when they could book direct and save!
We pride ourselves on creating the best possible start for your Florida vacation. Throughout Tampa, Clearwater, and all the in-betweens of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, we strive to offer the vacation rental experience we can. Whether you’re on a quick business trip to SoHo or Ybor, VROF has the Downtown Tampa options and ease you’re looking for. If a family beach getaway to one of Florida’s pristine gulf beaches is more your speed, booking direct offers the easiest, cheapest, and most convenient way to get your large group relaxing waterside at the pool or beach. Whatever you’re looking for, why pay more when you can book direct and save?!