57 Replies Latest reply: Feb 25, 2019 11:49 AM by feibus RSS

    Property Management System (PMS) integration

    franklinvillagerental Contributor

      I'm considering various PMS options, and the main requirements I have are 1) the ability to maintain synced calendars across channels (Homeaway, Airbnb, etc) in real time, i.e. not using iCal since the channels already have this option and it doesn't update in real time, and 2) the ability to interface with dynamic pricing tools and push prices directly to channels.

       

      There are many options out there now, but they have widely varying integration capabilities other than a few over-priced first movers like MyVR.  Most do not have direct API integration with Homeaway, which as far as I know is necessary to satisfy my first requirement above.  Also, even if they do have direct API integration, from what I can tell many channels like Homeaway require you to have a "Property Manager" account to access this capability.

       

      1. Does anyone know how to have your account designated as a "Property Manager" account?  I've seen it mentioned that you must have 5+ properties on your account to get this designation, but it doesn't make sense to me that those with a lesser number of properties managed would be precluded from using the same management tools as those with 5 or more.
      2. In looking into the PMS options, OwnerRez seems to have a workaround for the 5+ property requirement with something they call "Channel Bridge".  Does anyone have any experience with this, and would it satisfy my two requirements above?
      3. Also, are there any others that have a feature similar to the OwnerRez "Channel Bridge"?  The ones I have been investigating are Lodgify, MyVR, Orbirental, OwnerRez, Tokeet, and Your Porter.  I had eliminated most of them because they do not yet have direct API integration with Homeaway, but that might be moot due to the 5+ property requirement and might not even matter if they have a seeming workaround like OwnerRez.
      4. With respect to dynamic pricing options, I'm mainly looking at Beyond Pricing, OutSwitch, PriceLabs, and Wheelhouse.  I'd prefer not to use Beyond Pricing or Wheelhouse because their 1% commission (or 1.25% for Beyond Pricing PMS integration) is pretty pricey.  Does anyone have any experience with OutSwitch, PriceLabs, or any others?


      Thanks!

        • Re: Property Management System (PMS) integration
          beartractsmatt Contributor

          You need a PMS that has a direct connection to the channels. I use CIIRUS right now and while it is lacking in some areas it is getting the job done for my small company.

           

          At Airbnb there really isnt a requirement. VRBO requires you to have 5 managed properties to list with them. There isnt really a rhyme or reason to why, that is just their benchmark. I tried to find a way around it for over a month when I had 4 properties and a 5th on the way. They wouldnt make any exceptions to this rule.

           

          Some of my "colleagues" on a facebook group use OwnerRez successfully but I do not think it is real time integration.

           

          Typically you will get what you pay for in this realm. Cheap = slow to update. CIIRUS has a 1% rake off of the bookings that come via their channel connection.

           

          The setup with CIIRUS was cheaper than Escapia and a couple of others I looked at. Escapia wanted 7$k for a setup fee. Another software group was similar but I dont remember who it was.  I caught CIIRUS at a good time and got it for $1000 setup.

          • Re: Property Management System (PMS) integration
            franklinvillagerental Contributor

            Just an update on this in case anyone has interest.  I've added a few providers to my research list - Avantio, Beds24, Booking Automation, and Vreasy.  Right now it's looking like the most reasonably priced are Beds24, Booking Automation, Lodgify, Orbirental, and OwnerRez.  I believe all of these either already have direct API integrations with HomeAway or they will have them soon.

             

            The main problem, which I alluded to in my OP above, is that small operators (<5 properties) are apparently prevented from utilizing the API connections to HA.  I've been told that HA is eliminating this requirement, but I have been unable to confirm if this is true or when it might happen.  I can't justify spending the money on PMS software if it doesn't at least provide for near-real-time calendar sync across my booking channels, which is only accomplished over API connection.

             

            Erinn (homeaway_community_manager), do you have any information on this 5-property requirement (or anything else in my OP above) for those of us who are smaller operators looking to automate some of our processes?

              • Re: Property Management System (PMS) integration
                u0999 Premier Contributor

                I use Ownerrez, and they are in the process of creating VRBO API integration. However, been told that it will be only available to those with 5 or more properties as per VRBO requirement. I have 3 and I wish 5-propery requirement was waived - I use ownerrez channel manager with AirBNB an Booking.

                • Re: Property Management System (PMS) integration
                  calicalling Active Contributor

                  franklinvillagerental,

                   

                  I used MyVR for several years and recently switched to ownerrez. I am SO much happier with OR. As a previous user, I would disagree that MyVR is a 'fast-mover,' except perhaps in their marketing materials. I really don't have much good to say about it. There are tons of improvements they've been 'working toward' for years like Quickbooks integration (which OR has). My emails to guests went to spam, the calendars were painfully inaccurate, CS was abysmal. All around disappointing and by the end I was counting the days til my subscription expired. If it tells you anything, I was grandfathered under old pricing and would still had I stayed. But I wasn't even willing to pay the discounted price for what I was getting... If commissions bother you, MyVR may not be a good option as they charge a commission on each booking through integrated channels.(with OR its flat rate)

                   

                  For the record, I am an owner, not a PM (altho I do PM some properties for friends, that has happened over time so my account is still officially an owner account....)

                   

                  The Channel Bridge is an interesting, useful tool. It allows me to port over all the data I need as often or infrequently as I wish from Air and VRBO/HA. They also offer it for TripAd, but I don't use that platform. You can now push pricing, tho that is a new feature that I haven't yet tried. (That's on my list of things to do today-- test with 1 property first-- so I can report back after I try it). I also haven't tried their dynamic pricing... I believe they support pricelabs.  I am fairly new to OR (set up last month) so am not an expert by any means.

                   

                  The calendar integration is MUCH quicker than I had anticipated, usually less than 20 minutes or so. You can force push if you want, and I did at first, but last week I took a ton of reservations but was on vacation (riding the 4 feet of snow we got last week! woot!) so not sitting here forcing sync ... Not a single double booking or issue, which is so much better than my situation with MyVR. Also the sync is VERY accurate, which was also an issue with MyVR which tended to truncate bookings by a day -- not good since I do back to back in all my units pretty much all year long).

                   

                  I have a weebly site, with widgets from OwnerRez and payment processing through stripe. I've used weebly for a while for my online guest guides and local area blog, so adding my rentals to it was pretty simple. The widgets are great looking and overall I think my site loooks a ton better-- and is easier to use-- than the MyVR hosted one.

                   

                  Hope that helps.

                    • Re: Property Management System (PMS) integration
                      franklinvillagerental Contributor

                      Thanks, calicalling, so you are getting calendar sync across Air and HA within 20 minutes using the OwnerRez Channel Bridge?  Do you also list on Booking.com?  I would like to, but I need a solution to calendar sync before I feel comfortable using instant book on more than one channel.  Do you use instant book on any of your channels?

                       

                      Right now I've narrowed my PMS research down to Beds24, Booking Automation, Lodgify, Orbirental, and OwnerRez.  But only OwnerRez with their Channel Bridge appears to be developing any sort of workaround to the 5+ property requirement for API connection, and they've told me they are working on near-real-time calendar sync through Channel Bridge but do not have an estimate on when that will be available.

                       

                      With respect to MyVR, what I meant about them being a first mover is that they seemed to be about the only PMS option available a couple years back when I first looked into this.  For that reason they have been able to go with an expensive commission-based business model and subject their customers to the problems you alluded to, since there was very little competition.  I imagine they'll have to change their ways, though, now that there are scores of companies emerging in the space.

                       

                      I have an email in to the HA API support people asking for any news on the 5+ property requirement, so I'll post an update if I hear anything.

                        • Re: Property Management System (PMS) integration
                          calicalling Active Contributor

                          One example, I got an ABB IB today for one of my units. It came in via Air at 1.37PST. At 2.04, I was notified that my triggered email went out and that my appropriate HA/VRBO and website widget calendars were blocked by OR. feibus had mentioned that the OR sync is fast. At that time I was force syncing. I dont think I'm going to have to do that anymore, except in extreme cases in which i know multiple guest groups are looking at the same dates at the same time.

                           

                          Regarding IB: I have IB on ABB, not on HA because of the overly punitive policies. But if you do have IB on all platforms, I don't think that's going to be an issue, based on my experience so far. Also, ABB will cancel guests for you without penalty if there are issues. I'm in my 2nd year of SH and they've had to bail me out more than once bc of MyVR sync issues. They would ask about my sync, I would say MyVR and they'd say, "oh, yeah, we get issues like this a lot..."

                           

                          I agree that several years ago MyVR' was the only game in town for a small business like mine. But since then they've made a ton of promises that didn't happen (many 'under development'), raised their prices considerably without a comparable increase in service. We'll see what happens for them, but  I'm super happy with the service I'm getting from OR and hopeful that it is a long term solution.

                           

                          I actually have 6 listings, but would be interested to hear what you find out, when/if you do since I'm still 'just an owner' account.

                            • Re: Property Management System (PMS) integration
                              franklinvillagerental Contributor

                              Interesting, so just to confirm, you got an ABB booking, and the calendar block was pushed to OwnerRez through Channel Bridge and subsequently pushed to HA also through Channel Bridge, in about 27 minutes?  That's not great, but better than iCal seems to be.  I'm curious how consistent that timing is, because that is the main flow direction I am worried about.  I use instant book on HA because I get most of my bookings there.  Also, I was told by an OwnerRez support person that ABB forces iCal calendar sync before allowing a booking.  So I'm not as worried about double booking ABB with instant book set up on both, but I am worried about double booking HA when it doesn't sync its calendar in a timely manner.

                               

                              When you say "overly punitive policies" with respect to instant book, as far as I'm aware you might just end up having to cancel a booking on HA, right?  But doesn't ABB actually charge you, along with loss of SuperHost?  Congrats on maintaining SuperHost that long, by the way.  We had it for a single quarter last year for the first time in the six years we've been on there, but lost it again due to random dishonest reviewers.  We typically get a lot of short one-time bookings at our place due to the market, and it's extremely hard to maintain a 4.8 review score with so much turnover.  Personally I think 4.8 is a ridiculous target when you consider that to achieve that you can only get two four-star reviews out of ten with the rest being five-star.  But I digress.

                                • Re: Property Management System (PMS) integration
                                  calicalling Active Contributor

                                  By 'overly punitive' I mean that they do not support (in my experience thus far) House Rules or requirements but place the onus on the owner/manager to cancel (at the peril of our listings/placement).

                                   

                                  That has not been my experience with ABB.

                                   

                                  I have had to cancel on ABB due to 1. calendar sync issues  (several times) 2. guest nonconforming to rules (several times) 3. me being 'uncomfortable' with the guest. In all these cases, ABB was completely behind me and supported my decision to cancel. I was never charged. They canceled 'administratively' and without penalty to me or my SH status. They only do this for IB bookings, tho. They seem to understand that these situations are not black or white but mostly gray.


                                  HA/VRBO will absolutely not cancel for owners (they have recently stated some exceptions, which I don't really trust yet). I learned this the hard way when an 18 year old booked my place last summer on VRBO/HA for herself and a group of kids, refused to cancel even though it was clear that she was in violation of my house rule (28 years to book). I reached out for help from CS to no avail. Eventually, I coerced her into canceling myself by telling her she would not be admitted to the property. Then her 'mom' (different name, same email) tried to book, and the only reason she couldn't was that I had turned off IB. Recently, HA/VRBO has stated that they will cancel administratively if the guest breaks house rules, but I'm waiting to see how that pans out. Proof will be in the pudding, as it were.

                                • Re: Property Management System (PMS) integration
                                  franklinvillagerental Contributor

                                  One other point - I was told by OwnerRez support that the Channel Bridge calendar syncs are not automatically pushed so are just subject to the iCal sync rate, so this would seem to be no better than having your various channel calendars imported to the other channels using iCal.  So your 27 minute sync time notwithstanding, I'm not sure that's going to be sufficient if it's not consistent.  OwnerRez did say they have plans to implement automatic calendar sync through Channel Bridge, but they couldn't tell me when it would be available.

                                    • Re: Property Management System (PMS) integration
                                      calicalling Active Contributor

                                      I started to make this distinction for you in a previous post but (BION) was trying to keep it simple.    CB isnt automatic in that when I want to update payments, guest details, reviews, listing details etc, I have to manually use the CB to download the detailed file and upload. It is not an automatic process tho they are working toward a more seamless methodology.

                                       

                                      Regardless, the calendar sync is seamless and does pull in a surprising amount of accurate data in a dependable, less than 30 minute time frame. I took a look back at the 6 bookings and one cancel  ive had in the last 3 days and the timeline from today has been consistent.

                                       

                                      Again, if its accurate that puts it miles ahead of MyVR, IME.

                                       

                                      You could always try the free trial to get your own experience with the platform and see if it meets your needs.

                                        • Re: Property Management System (PMS) integration
                                          franklinvillagerental Contributor

                                          Many thanks for all the input

                                           

                                          Seamless may be enough for you since you only intend to have instant book on ABB, but my intention is to find a tool that allows me to have instant book on all channels that offer it.  I understand that there is no such thing as instantaneous syncing across separate systems, but I am looking for something that is as close to real-time as possible.  It's great that you seem to be getting some recent reasonable and consistent times, but as far as I know it's still the case that iCal (and hence Channel Bridge) syncing can be delayed by many hours depending on the refresh rate of the channel; and that's simply not going to work for me given HA's stance on cancellations that you laid out.  I probably will try the free trial of OwnerRez anyway and run some tests, but it seems like they just aren't there yet with calendar sync outside of API connection until they implement the automatic syncing in Channel Bridge.

                                        • Re: Property Management System (PMS) integration
                                          u0999 Premier Contributor

                                          channel bridge is not for syncing calendars There are settings on each property that import/sync and export calendars. channel bridge is for importing reviews and past bookings.

                                          once you had set up calendar syncs back and forth, they will sync automatically.

                                            • Re: Property Management System (PMS) integration
                                              feibus Senior Contributor

                                              I think there's two levels of VRBO integration for OR: the import/export/sync using ical format and another that uses APIs to collect more info including the guest's email and phone.  VRBO's ical export doesn't include that information.  I'm thinking the limits we're all talking about has to do with using the API, that VRBO doesn't want to open it up to users who have less than 5 properties (which means me, sadly).

                                                • Re: Property Management System (PMS) integration
                                                  u0999 Premier Contributor

                                                  There is a channel bridge ( a google Chrome browser extension) for importing bookings and reviews. That is not limited to any particular number of properties. API is something else. i am talking about Chrome extension.

                                                  • Re: Property Management System (PMS) integration
                                                    franklinvillagerental Contributor

                                                    Yes, apparently the OwnerRez Channel Bridge currently does nothing to sync calendars.  That is left completely up to iCal for ABB and HA, so is no better than having iCal calendars linked on each channel site.  OwnerRez is planning to add an automatic calendar sync to Channel Bridge, which I imagine would be some sort of forced iCal update, but they could not tell me when that would be available.

                                                     

                                                    If there is an API integration, however, there is near-real-time calendar sync, but OwnerRez only has API integrations with Booking.com, CanadaStays, and TripAdvisor.  They have no near-term plans for ABB integration, but HA is in beta testing and is supposed to be out in the next month or so.  The problem with the API integrations is that supposedly HA (and TripAdvisor) will not allow a connection from OwnerRez (or any other software) to their system if the user has less than 5 properties managed.  I have heard that this limitation is being lifted by HA this year, so I have an email in to the property management partner group to find out.

                                                     

                                                    So I'm left with no PMS solution that will meet my goal of near-real-time calendar sync because the OwnerRez Channel Bridge does not yet have the capability, and I've not found any other PMS option that has a similar tool.  There is something called Syncbnb that I just started looking into, but I'm not yet sure of its capabilities and it's $15/mo for nothing but calendar sync.  And with respect to API connections, they are the ideal end solution but relatively useless to me until HA lifts its minimum property count limitation for their use.

                                                      • Re: Property Management System (PMS) integration
                                                        u0999 Premier Contributor

                                                        Not sure what your issue is? i have 3 properties, all listed on multiple portals ( airbnb, VRBo, Booking, Tripadvisor , my own site and handful others). All calendars sync into OR and OR is my master calendar that syncs out to all these other places.  I no longer sync Airbnb to VRBO or VRBO to Airbnb. Every site  syncs to OR and every site syncs from OR. Fingers crossed, I have not had a calendar conflict situation. autoresponders work with TA and VRBO (not Airbnb yet)

                                                          • Re: Property Management System (PMS) integration
                                                            franklinvillagerental Contributor

                                                            If you haven't had a calendar conflict, you've been lucky if you have instant book on more than one channel.  The problem is that your calendar sync from at least Airbnb and VRBO is not through API connection but just through the iCal standard, which could and does at times take hours to refresh.  Since you use Booking.com, if you also use instant book on Airbnb or VRBO you are taking a big risk.  For example if you get a booking on Booking.com and your iCal connections don't refresh for a matter of hours to Airbnb or VRBO and you get another instant booking on one of those platforms for the same dates, you're going to have to cancel one.  It may be a relatively remote possibility, but it only takes one owner cancellation to put you in a bad situation with that channel.  calicalling has said previously in this thread that Airbnb seems to be relatively forgiving with these occurrences, but HA/VRBO is not.

                                                             

                                                            My goal is to use instant book on Airbnb, Booking, and Homeaway, along with dynamic pricing, and I have yet to find a PMS solution available that will allow this reliably for someone managing less than 5 properties.

                                            • Re: Property Management System (PMS) integration
                                              homeaway_community_manager HomeAway Employee

                                              Hi franklinvillagerental,

                                               

                                              My apologies for the delayed response, I was out sick yesterday. We've talked via email and you're in touch with the API team now. Thanks.

                                               

                                              Erinn

                                              HomeAway Community Manager

                                            • Re: Property Management System (PMS) integration
                                              calicalling Active Contributor

                                              I only allow ABB bookings two months out so I may take one for the team and give it a try on one of my listings. What's the worst that could happen?

                                              • Re: Property Management System (PMS) integration
                                                franklinvillagerental Contributor

                                                feibus, calicalling, u0999,

                                                 

                                                I'm curious how you all gravitated to OwnerRez.  In my research so far I have found four others that are better connected to the predominant channels and pricing tools and are similarly priced - Beds24, Booking Automation, Lodgify, and Orbirental.  I haven't done any trials yet, though, so perhaps it will come down to trying out their features, but I'm interested to know if anyone has tried any of these others.

                                                  • Re: Property Management System (PMS) integration
                                                    feibus Senior Contributor

                                                    For me, it was:

                                                     

                                                    1. The booking and availability widgets for my own website and facebook.

                                                    2. The automated emails and automatic handling of payments for non-platform bookings.

                                                    3. The easy way to see all (two) of my calendars at one time.

                                                    4. The price was reasonable.

                                                    5. They were VERY responsive to my questions and suggestions.

                                                    6. u0999 really liked it

                                                    • Re: Property Management System (PMS) integration
                                                      u0999 Premier Contributor

                                                      My primary goal was not deeper integration with major booking channels (because, let's face it, with 2016 changes their share of bookings in the overall mix was bound to fall), but rather having set of easily embeddable tools and back end booking/management software to have a robust and bookable my own website (thus growing my listing site independence). I also did not want to pay "one time set up costs" or one-time annual payments upfront like some similar tools were asking for back then (2016). So I researched several and did month long trials myself side by side of two - Bookerville and OR. I did not like Bookerville although, at the time, it had tad more features than OR. But if I remember correctly  Bookerville also cost more. I think I did look into Lodgify and MyVr. At the time MyVR was not accepting new trial. Lodgify was expensive. So far OR was everything I wanted an more. very reasonable monthly costs, seamless integration with credit card processing (I use stripe) , payment scheduling and reminders. Integration with the likes of booking. com and others (beyond simple calendar sync and booking import)  is just cherry on the cake for me. I have 2 properties listed on B.com since last year (and yes, OR integration allows me to collect payments and manage all monetary aspects of bookings).  Do you know how many bookings I have so far (that did not cancel)? TWO. yes, TWO. Airbnb brings about 12% of my bookings. VRBO about 30-35%.

                                                        • Re: Property Management System (PMS) integration
                                                          franklinvillagerental Contributor

                                                          What do you mean by "with 2016 changes their share of bookings in the overall mix was bound to fall"?  If you're referring to HA shifting costs from owners to guests, I haven't seen any negative impact from that on my bottom line or my share of HA bookings compared to other channels.  In fact, my share of HA bookings has increased some, mainly due to TripAdvisor seemingly becoming irrelevant in my market over the last two years.


                                                          I'm in a highly competitive market where it would be extremely difficult to market my property outside of the traditional channels, so it sounds like our priorities are just different.  It's helpful to get these different perspectives, though, so thanks!

                                                            • Re: Property Management System (PMS) integration
                                                              u0999 Premier Contributor

                                                              you haven't, I have. My VRBO bookings went from 85% VRBO in 2015 to about 33% in 2018. I am also in highly competitive market and I am not the only one in my market experiencing this. many owners in our market experienced various degrees of drop in bookings from VRBO (some more some less but most all have it).  Right now is out busy booking season. how many bookings do you think  I got from VRBO from my new (as of last labor day) property so far for 2019? ONE. if you have not experienced the drop, you just may be underpriced  and unknowingly subsidizing "service fee" . Also, how do you know that what you have now will continue in the future? never know,... they may change algorithm or mess up google location and down go your bookings...

                                                                • Re: Property Management System (PMS) integration
                                                                  franklinvillagerental Contributor

                                                                  You have no way of knowing whether your shift of bookings away from HA had anything to do with their change of policies.  It may simply be because you assumed you wouldn't get as many bookings so you diversified your channels, thus booking up your calendar on your other channels before it could happen through HA.  And you have no way of knowing how your profits would have changed had you just stayed with HA, because you didn't.

                                                                   

                                                                  I'm no fan of HA but they do generate bookings, and I've seen no evidence from anyone who has had consistent channels that the rate of booking generation has declined in the eight years I have been on the platform.  The nightly rates have certainly come down, but there's no evidence that it is due to HA's policies and not just increased competition in the marketplace.

                                                                    • Re: Property Management System (PMS) integration
                                                                      u0999 Premier Contributor

                                                                      I did not assume. in 2016 they also messed with 'advertising markets" (demised them) going with some sort of google algorithm and consequently put one of my properties in the wrong town. Bookings plummeted.  all in all took several months to resolve and a year or more to "recover". Actually bookings dove down more in 2017 that 2016. Now i do have a suspicion that my newest property (located on the same street as above) getting very few bookings (in fact, just one so far for 2019 when calendar is wide open). I suspect it is suffering some location algorithm malaise. Which may be not entirely HA fault but rather some google quirk but since HA relies on google.... regardless, I have what I have . and it tells me all these OTAs cannot be relied on because no one can predict what next algorithm quirk they will introduce and whose property will suffer in the result. No one is guaranteed. and look at it this way. If you rate is $100 pn and HA applies 12% fee to it thus making it $112...that means you could have made your rate $112 (ok, $110, leaving $2 for vrbo name recognition mark up)  and rent and you didn't even know it.

                                                              • Re: Property Management System (PMS) integration
                                                                calicalling Active Contributor

                                                                1. no-contract or ridiculous set up charge

                                                                2. dizzying array of impressive la carte widgets and tools to be used by owners when/where we wish

                                                                3. data liberation

                                                                4. effective, immediate (or nearly) customer support

                                                                 

                                                                And ... feibus really liked it. which I now know is that u0999 really liked it.