Vacation Rental Software: What to Consider When Choosing a Platform

If you’re a property manager in today’s competitive business environment, vacation rental software is not just a tool that’s nice to have – it’s an essential. The right software can save you time and money, and play a big role in increasing your bookings.

Because many software providers require that you sign up for a pre-determined length of time – generally on annual contracts – it’s important to know what you’re getting into before you make the jump to one provider. Today’s vacation rental software providers offer a broad range of features and services to their clients. So, it’s essential to do your research to make sure you find a provider that offers the best overall value and the best fit for your business.

When considering specific software products, there are a number of questions you should ask before making a decision.

Will the software handle all of my needs?
Currently there’s a broad range of software products on the market. Some vacation rental software platforms only offer a reservation system, while others offer a whole host of services that help managers with their day-to-day needs. Choosing a provider that meets all of your needs can save you the hassle of dealing with different providers and trying to get them to integrate their sometimes incompatible products.

Is the software web-based?
The trend in all software, not just vacation rental software, is cloud computing. There are multiple advantages of using web-based (or SaaS – Software as a Service) products. A web-based platform is accessible 24 hours a day anywhere there’s an Internet connection. Some of these platforms even work on mobile devices like iPads, iPhones, Android cell phones and more. Web-based platforms allow managers and their employees to work from virtually anywhere at any time. Another advantage of online software is that users never have to install updates or upgrades – all that is taken care of by the provider behind the scenes.

Will it integrate with my website?
A consumer facing website is essential to your business. It’s where your potential guests will go to learn more about your property and eventually close the deal – whether that’s through an online booking or through contacting you via information they found on your website. Not all software providers offer a consumer facing website and still more face challenges integrating with your current website. Before you sign up with a provider, check out some of the websites they’ve designed for their current customers and ask the sales person for references so you can directly ask its clients about the integration process. If the provider can’t give you a reference, be cautious.

Can your guests book online?
Today’s consumers want the convenience and security of booking online. As a property manager, if you don’t offer this option, you’re probably at a competitive disadvantage. A true all-in-one (or end-to-end) system will not only allow online bookings through your website, but will also seamlessly integrate with your reservation system, blocking dates off of your calendar to ensure you never double book a property. You should also ask if the provider offers the ability to process payments and write travel insurance policies – both are convenient for your customers and create extra streams of revenue for you.

Does it integrate with an accounting system?
If your software is recording business transactions online, it’s only reasonable that it includes an accounting system. However, not all providers offer integration with accounting. The ones that do either offer their own proprietary system or offer integration with a known accounting platform, such as QuickBooks. Before choosing, make sure you ask current customers about the accounting systems. Some propriety systems are better than others, just as some integrations are better than others. Some things to consider: How accurate is the system? How much time will you spend going back and fixing errors? How easy is the system to learn? Will your current bookkeeper already know how to us it?

How much does it cost?
Most software providers charge a flat fee per month or per property. At least one provider,, offers a commission-based Pay-Per-Performance model. However, while these fees are important to consider, they are only part of the total pricing scheme and should be looked at in terms of total value, which includes how much more revenue the software can help you generate and how much time and money the software can help you save. In addition to a recurring fee, most providers charge an upfront fee for implementation – and those vary drastically in price. Also consider extra fees. Does the provider charge you extra to list more properties? Does it charge for extra admin users? Does it charge extra for tech support? For owner logins? Does the provider provide a website and content management system or do you need to pay extra to have one designed? And, most importantly, does it disclose all of its prices up front in the sales process? You don’t want to get stuck paying more than you bargained for.

How long will it be before you’re up and running?
As a manager you understand that time is money. Any down time or wait time burns unnecessary holes in your pockets. When considering switching to a new provider, ask how long it will take before you’re fully functional. Fully functional can mean different things to different providers. But, as a general rule, you need to have your website designed, your content and property listings uploaded, your reservation and accounting systems fully operational, travel insurance and payment processing up and running, and most importantly all of your employees trained. If all of this takes longer than one month, you may want to think twice about making the switch.

How much industry experience does the company have?
You want to work with a company that has a solid track record and owns some credibility in the industry. Before choosing a provider, find out how long they have been around, what connections they have in the industry, and how they have performed historically.

Are they financially stable?
Regardless if the company is big or small, you need insurance that the company will not only be around for years to come, but will also have the ability to grow its business and improve its software.

How many customers do they have?
In the competitive vacation rentals industry, smart managers won’t stay with a software provider that isn’t making the grade. Therefore, going with a company that has a solid amount of customers should provide you with a feeling of security. You can choose to go with the top provider, but also look at the fastest growing company. And, if one provider is both the largest and fastest growing – you know you’ve got a winner.

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