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7 Posts tagged with the blog tag
4

Through its ownership of listing sites and reservation software companies, HomeAway straddles a line that marked a cultural gap between professional managers and self-managing homeowners.

 

That gap is on the verge of disappearing.   This is good for managers, homeowners, renters and HomeAway—as well as the entire vacation rental industry.

 

The gap began when the Internet spawned listing sites that allowed homeowners to advertise their own vacation rental homes under the rubric “rent-by-owner” (RBO), bypassing managers. 

 

These listing sites provided resources for homeowners interested in self-management and for financially stressed homeowners struggling to cover the expenses of second home ownership. Today, they offer:

 

  • Credit cards payment options
  • Taxes collection and remittance options
  • Online bookings
  • Reservation confirmations
  • Payments tracking
  • Housekeeping or maintenance service options

 

On the other side of the gap, some professional managers wondered whether the RBO movement threatened their livelihood.  Some managers viewed RBOs as a danger to be avoided or fought.

 

Mangers and RBOs on both sides rallied to promote or protect their interests:

 

  • Some early RBO listing sites refused listings by professional managers.
  • Some self-help resources portrayed professional rental managers as cheats and unnecessary.
  • Some managers lobbied to exclude RBOs from local chambers of commerce.
  • Web site discussion groups for both groups made polarizing statements about the other.

 

The reasons for friction are easy to understand.  Technology evolution shifts money from one group to another, creating opportunities for some and problems for others. 

 

In reality, the shift occurred because Internet technology changed the way consumers shop.  This was first reflected in the popularity of online travel agents such as Expedia, Travelocity and Priceline.  Today, consumers have transformed listing sites into the most popular market places for vacation rentals.

 

Today managers needn’t worry about being displaced.  And RBOs needn’t view managers as competitors— their real competitors are other homeowners. Managers exist to serve homeowners (all homeowners are potential customers).  Today’s RBO may be in a managed rental program tomorrow.

 

Managers perform services that save homeowners from tedious and stressful tasks of dealing with customers and servicing homes.  Homeowners typically use managers when they can afford to do so, except where they make rental management their “job.” (My next blog is about the impact of rent-by-owner on professional managers).

 

Managers need not worry that renters do or do not recognize the advantages of professional managers.  Not only does this worry treat RBOs as competitors (potentially alienating future customers), but it channels energy (a scarce resource) to an unproductive end and assumes that managers’ future success depends on a public-awareness-of-rental-managers campaign that would cost tens of millions yearly.

 

Managers, while this may initially sound heretical, your success doesn’t require renters to appreciate managers or even know that a home is managed.  It is gratifying and helpful when that occurs.  But it is not critical.  Thank goodness—it means homeowners and managers are in harmony—not conflict.

 

Why?  Rating systems –which matured after RBO appeared—have emerged as an indirect champion of your brand as a professional manager.  Your systems are designed to deliver high quality, consistent service.  When that works, your homes get good reviews.

 

  • Renters increasingly rely on peer recommendations to find a reliable vacation rental.
  • Rating systems allow renters to identify which homes are well maintained and appointed.
  • Managers will always thrive where their systems generate good renter reviews.
  • Plus mainstream listing services identify managed homes as such for renters who look for this.

 

If a RBO home next to yours gets good reviews, it is usually because that homeowner is working very hard to do what you do.  That homeowner deserves to get rentals.  That same homeowner may eventually tire of working so hard, or have no time to do so, and hire you to do some or all of his work.

 

Today, there are still some RBOs and managers who distrust each other. Some RBO groups worry that:

  • The presence of managed homes on RBO sites dilutes their bookings; or that
  • Management companies have marketing and resource advantages.

 

Some rental management companies worry that:

 

  • Listing sites divert homes from rental management programs;
  • RBOs steal renters by under pricing managed homes;
  • RBOs attract renters by failing to collect (charge for) lodging taxes.

 

Many of these worries once had some basis in fact.  But today the impact appears minimal. 

 

Booking Dilution. Today, leading listing sites market managed and self-managed homes side by side.  I see no evidence that this can/should be avoided or that it dilutes or diverts bookings from one group:

 

  • It is consumers who decide the popularity of listing sites-- consumers are patronizing the sites that offer the widest range of product and price. 
  • Renters love to use the Internet to shop—they have so many options that no single company could thwart consumer shopping preferences (aggregator services today search multiple sites).
  • Renters use the Internet to find and compare all available homes—Internet shopping technology is the driver of integrated market places, not listing site policies.

 

Resource Advantages.  It is obvious that professional managers have marketing and service resources advantages—this is a common sense result where managers spread the service costs among multiple homeowners.  That’s why so many homeowners hire managers.  But hardworking RBOs compete well.

 

  • Renters simply want a well serviced home that meets their needs and is competitively priced.
  • No RBOs can be at a disadvantage if they service their home well and price competitively.
  • In my experience, renters tend to find the good homes—even where lesser homes have superior marketing exposure.
  • A manager’s pooled resources (e.g., backup cleaners) confer advantage where this results in better or more consistent service (reflected in the reviews).
  • RBOs lose rentals to professional managers and vice-versa when they are not able to provide high quality service.  Many RBOs will eventually hire managers for some or all services.

 

Tax Collection.  Interestingly, I have seen no evidence that professional managers are losing bookings to RBOs who ignore tax collection requirements, at least not in measurable dimensions.  This is due in part to local tax authorities who are ramping up tax enforcement and to efforts to educate homeowners.   Also, renters appear most concerned about finding the right home at a competitive price—it takes a lot of extra work to identify a homeowner who won’t charge tax (homeowners can’t advertise that fact).

 

  • One of the most successful professional managers on HomeAway sites tells me that his bookings are not remotely affected by RBOs who do not charge tax.  He says he is not interested in renters who take bargain hunting to this extreme and that it is his attention to inventory quality and marketing that brings him bookings and growth.

 

Underpricing.  It is true in theory that some self-managing homeowners try to offer lower rents and feel empowered to do so because they do not pay a professional manager.  But I see no evidence that self-managed homes end up with lower rents or that they divert renters from managers based on price:

 

    • Professional managers initially set rents at levels that renters are willing to pay—given all the competing homes that are being offered in the area.  They then adjust rents as necessary.
    • RBOs commonly set rents based on comparable managed homes.  Even though they don’t pay managers, most RBOs can’t afford to charge too much less rent than renters are willing to pay.
    • A percentage of RBOs do try to under price managers in an effort to attract renters.
    • This stimulates discounting by managers.  Managers track bookings pace from one year to the next and are quick to discount prices when current year bookings are slow, equalizing rents.
    • For every discounting RBO, there is a hungry homeowner demanding that his rental manager discount his rent so he can snag a renter or a manager who discounts to fill vacancies.
    • The net effect is that rental home prices adjust the way that stock prices adjust. They simply rise and fall on a weekly or daily basis in response to shifting balance between supply and demand. 

 

Stay tuned for my next blog will summarize the impact of the rent-by-owner trend on professional managers.

 

Best,
George

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GMH3330-L.jpgWe are just weeks away from hosting RezFest 2012 on September 25-27 at the beautiful Red Rock Casino and Spa in Las Vegas! The excitement is building as we prepare for this incredible event where leading property managers gather to learn, network and have fun together for a couple of days.  To make this event even more fun this year, we are launching a ”Mobile App Challenge,” which consists of gathering ideas from our clients through a 5 minute survey.  Once at RezFest, you will have an opportunity to check out the best ideas from the survey, vote on them and work with our Product Managers and Software Designers to help them build a prototype, which will be presented to you during RezFest’s closing session. Whether you attend RezFest 2012 in person or not, you can contribute your ideas through this survey and automatically qualify for a chance to win some great prizes, such as an iPad, Bose Noise Reduction Headphones or a membership to the "Wine of the Month" club.  Take our 5 minute survey before August 15th for your chance to win!

 

If there is one educational event you must attend this year, RezFest is it! At this exceptional event, you will hear from Tom Flick, whose keynote sessions have inspired companies like Ritz Carlton, Starbucks and Boeing. You can also expect HomeAway® executives to make some PM-centric announcements you want to miss!  With almost 100 sessions and 9 concurrent tracks, RezFest is your once-a-year opportunity to sit down with your software trainers for free to see demos of our latest features.  As always, you can count on our social events to have fun while learning and networking with other leading property managers. So, make sure you bring enough staff at all levels of your organization, because your biggest regret will be that you didn’t bring more employees with you to take advantage of all the learning opportunities!


See you in Las Vegas on Sept 25-27 & may the best idea win!

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As the newest member of the HomeAway Software™ marketing team, Carmela joins us with many, many years of vacation rental industry experience, making her ideally suited for her new role as our Marketing Product Manager.

 

IMG_20120614_082955.jpgCarmela started her VR industry career at First Resort™ Software as their second Support Representative.  She progressed through the ranks to become the Support Department Manager and then Vice President and Chief Operating Officer until 2004.  From there, she moved on to ResortQuest to become Director of Operations, and then VP of Information Technology.  Most recently, she served VR companies across the country as a business development consultant.  Through it all, Carmela has driven quality customer service, matched technology to client needs and discovered efficiencies while doing so.

 

Carmela grew up loving football in Arkansas (Go Razorbacks!), moved to Colorado in 1988 (Go Broncos and Buffaloes!) and recently relocated to Austin.  She has a daughter who is a college senior, two dogs, a cat, and everyone gets along great! Her hobbies include a love for tennis (because of the cute outfits), golf, hiking, all winter sports, entertaining, fresh local food, wine and flowers. Says Carmela, “Flowers just make me happy!”

 

“I am passionate about the vacation rental industry mainly because of the people who are in it—you have to be a ‘people person,’ you have to be creative, you have to be smart and you have to be passionate about delivering great customer service.  Also, I know my successes are because of the individuals with whom I have worked.  They are very talented (very lucky here too!) and I believe a team is much stronger than an individual.”

 

As Product Marketing Manager, Carmela will help identify and prioritize feature requirements on HomeAway’s® software platforms and help us communicate the great things we do on behalf of our clients.  She is amazingly bright, caring and fun, and we are thrilled to have her aboard with HomeAway Software. When you get a chance to meet her, perhaps at the RezFest® conference this year, you will find yourself putting her on your short list of super smart people who also happen to be very, very nice.

 

Welcome aboard Carmela!

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Due to the overwhelming attendee feedback from last year’s RezFest®, HomeAway Software for Professionals™ is proud to announce a repeat of the most vibrant and comprehensive software user conference for property management companies of all sizes on September 25 - 27, GMH3362-L.jpg2012 at Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Join us for an incredible 2-day event where you will learn firsthand about the latest industry trends, imminent technology changes and most importantly, tangible ways to take your vacation rental business to higher levels of efficiency than you’ve ever imagined.  This year, we challenged ourselves to outperform last year’s success, which is not going to be easy after what we heard last year:

 

 

“RezFest 2011 was the best conference I have attended in 10 years,” said Doug Byron from RE/MAX Lake Travis & Co.

 

 

You won’t want to miss the most valuable industry event and miss an opportunity to spend 2 1/2 days learning and networking with the most innovative property managers in the industry while having fun at the Red Rock Casino, Resort and Spa with all of us.  This venue offers exquisite hotel rooms and suites with an unmatched combination of comfort, extravagance and value. Guests at the Red Rock Casino, Resort and Spa are pampered with every comfort and convenience imaginable, from luxurious bed linens to iPod jack sound system in every room and in-room spa treatments by appointment.

 

 

RezFest is not only a wonderful way to keep your finger on the pulse of the vacation rental industry, but also a terrific opportunity to network and interact with some of the most innovative minds in the field.” (Mark Carraway - Meyer Vacation Rentals)

 

 

In addition to over 80 educational sessions to choose from and evenings of fun-filled events, you will hear from two extraordinary keyGMH3781-L.jpgnote speakers.  Brian Sharples (CEO of HomeAway, Inc), who has lead the biggest revolution in the travel industry in decades, and Tom Flick.  Mr. Flick has provided guidance to world class companies, including Starbucks, Ritz-Carlton, Boeing, Marriott and dozens of others. His insights have inspired sales teams, executives and managers from some of the greatest companies in America—who have asked him to return year after year. HomeAway is excited to have Mr. Flick speak about teamwork, performance and growth to the greatest companies in the vacation rental industry. And as a hands-on owner and user of vacation rental properties, Mr. Flick is bound to surprise you with leadership ideas you can apply to your business immediately.

 

 

You can attend RezFest 2012 for less than $240 if you take advantage of our “early bird” pricing, a $260 saving over our rack-rate pricing!  So Register Today and receive the best possible value of any industry conference!

 


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We just launched the 2012 Breakfast Seminars in Destin, Florida and Gulf Shores, Alabama.  Both were great events and very well attended with over 50 attendees at each event.  The feedback from each seminar was universally positive.

Amy, Lisa, Bryan.jpg

 

At the seminars, the team gave an update on our plans for all five of our HomeAway Software for Professionals™ platforms: Entech™, PropertyPlus®, FRS®, Escapia® and V12.NET®.  We reiterated our commitment to continue development and support for all of them.  We will continue to support all five software platforms well into the future as long as our clients want us to because supporting the products will continue to be a profitable business for us.  More details on our product development plans are on the way in the coming weeks, but as a public company we are not allowed to make any forward looking statements so it is a difficult balance.

 

 

Our sponsors also presented an update on very important current issues including Credit Card Security by HomeAway and VacationRentPayment, the Five New Marketing Best Practices by Visual Data Systems and Selling Value-Added Travel Services by CSA Travel Protection.

 

Destin Seminar 3.jpg

But our primary message at the breakfast seminars is that it’s time to get excited!  Think about this: roughly six million Americans use vacation rentals for their vacation lodging. That’s six million out of a traveling population of over 100 million. With that as a backdrop, it leaves a huge upside for you to advance your business.  HomeAway is constantly efforting to increase the visibility of vacation rentals.  If you haven’t seen our most recent ad campaign called “Let’s Stay Together,” check it out here.

 

 

Along with increasing the visibility of the vacation rental industry through advertising, we’re continuing to develop new capabilities on our software solutions so you can take advantage of that heightened visibility.  And, we’re constantly improving our online marketing tools for professional managers.  Stay abreast of all product advancements through your Relationship Managers and a new quarterly newsletter, the first of which you will receive later this month and we hope to see you at the next Breakfast Seminar!

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As the worldwide leader in online vacation rentals, HomeAway® continues to invest in building broad-based awareness to travelers nationwide.  This year our brand team has decided to forego Super Bowl advertising and focus on a campaign promoting families and groups ‘staying together’ in a vacation rental home.

 

The new national advertising campaign, centered around the key message “Let’s Stay Together,” focuses on families and groups creating lasting memories out of where they stay, not just where they go. The HomeAway ad campaign licenses the rights to Al Green’s 1972 classic hit, “Let’s Stay Together,” and debuts in select markets during the January 15, 2012 NBC television broadcast of the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards.

 

We believe investing in a long-term campaign with ongoing communication, rather than on a brief Super Bowl ad, will have a much bigger impact on the marketplace by bringing traveler awareness to our amazing category!  The goal with this 2012 advertising campaign, which kicks off next week is to confirm HomeAway’s commitment to building the vacation rental category as a whole and increasing traveler demand for vacation rentals.  If you’d like to learn more about the campaign, please read this blog by our co-founder and CEO Brian Sharples.

 

We invite you to join us for a webinar this Thursday, January 12, at 2pm CST.  The presentation will provide a sneak peek of our upcoming ads and discuss the overall campaign strategy to ultimately bring you more travelers.  Just click on this link to sign up and join us.

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MichaelHannah5.jpg

 

 

By: John Suzuki

 

 

Meet Michael Hannah!

 

 

They call him Mr. Florida. Michael got his degrees in Chemistry and Microbiology from the University of Florida and USF, respectively, spent much of his career with various medical diagnostic companies as Director of Marketing and ran a medical consulting company. As he sought his next steps, he took a temporary job in vacation rentals, fell in love with the industry and switched careers by joining Instant Software® nine years ago. Today he is the Relationship Manager responsible for HomeAway Software clients in Florida, Georgia and internationally. Michael offers decades of experience to analyze business problems and recommend ideas to improve his customers’ bottom lines.

 

His favorite pastime is golf, he plays a nine-handicap, and his favorite place to golf is Pebble Beach. If nothing else, the guy sure knows great golf courses in many of the greatest vacation spots across the country, and loves working with vacation rental managers.

 

“Having worked with HomeAway for almost a year now, I have seen firsthand the dedication of every individual, right up to the CEO, to make the vacation rental industry more successful. They realize that our clients, property management companies, are an integral part of making this industry grow and they are committed to providing the tools and services to make our clients successful. I look forward to be representing HomeAway Software for Professionals for a long time and working closely with every one of my clients to ensure their success.”