Choosing the Best Property Management Option for Your Maui Vacation Rental | #2 in Our Maui Property Ownership FAQ Series
This second installment of our Maui property ownership series takes a closer look at some of the specifics relating to Maui condos and homes for rent (check out part 1 here). One essential fact to know right off the bat: by law, all Hawaii vacation rentals are required to have an identified on-island contact who can respond to guests’ needs (ranging from natural disaster and other emergency situations to straightforward property repairs). That being said…
Q: What are my choices for vacation rental management?
A: Essentially, there are three possible scenarios:
- You do everything yourself if you’re full-time Maui resident and your schedule allows it.
- You hire a management company to take care of everything. You might expect a full-service company to charge a commission of around 25% of each booking – but some companies provide different levels of service for different fees.
- You handle the behind-the-scenes management (marketing, bookings, etc.) yourself but hire an on-island contact/agent who responds to guest issues and takes responsibility for physical property management (i.e., coordinating cleanings and repairs). Here on Maui, you might expect this kind of agent to charge around $150 per month.
If you opt for hiring someone to help you (whether it’s a full-service situation or an on-island contact), they should be licensed and insured, with experience and positive reviews. They should be on call and capable of responding to guests’ needs 365 days a year. And they should have a team of vendors they can trust to help with property maintenance.
Q: What should I expect if I choose the full-service property management option?
A: As I mentioned in my essential guide to buying a Maui vacation rental blog post, you can expect a full-service company to:
- Create a description of your property for websites like Airbnb, Expedia, VRBO, etc.
- Oversee all ongoing marketing to potential guests
- Advise you about nightly rates
- Continuously adjust your rates so the property stays competitive
- Maintain your calendar (to avoid double bookings, etc.)
- Respond to all potential guest inquiries and questions prior to their trip
- Respond to any property/guest issues that come up during a visit
- Arrange for cleaning of the property between stays
- Handle any necessary repairs
They may also:
- Conduct property inspections and inventories between guest stays, to ensure that nothing is broken or missing
- Personally greet each group of guests
- Offer concierge-type services (like giving guests suggestions about where to eat and/or booking excursions for them)
Finally, keep in mind that all owners of Hawaii vacation rentals are responsible for paying General Excise Taxes (GET) and Transient Accommodations Taxes (TAT). Some property management companies may even offer the service of calculating and paying your GETs and TATs for you.
Q: Do I need a property management company for marketing?
A: If you want to market your property fairly aggressively to maximize bookings, you may prefer to hire a management company that will list it across multiple vacation rental booking sites. Depending on the company, they may also have their own booking website, create an individual website for each property in their portfolio, provide exposure through social media, and employ strategies like pay-per-click marketing. The commission they charge you should cover the costs of all of these services.
A good management company should also have a system in place for soliciting guest reviews. Potential guests rely heavily on reviews in deciding which vacation rental to book – so of course, the more positive reviews you have, the better.
Q: Can I coordinate bookings on my own?
A: If you enable “instant booking” on sites like VRBO, guests can set up and pay for visits on their own – and the bookings automatically appear on your calendar. Properties that allow instant booking actually get higher rankings on vacation rental websites than those that do not – so if your goal is to maximize bookings, this is another strategy that helps.
In contrast, some vacation rental owners prefer to minimize wear-and-tear on their property by allowing only a certain number of paid bookings per year. Some want to maintain strict control over their calendar to ensure they have plenty of time to use their own property. And some want to specifically approve each group paying guests.
If you think you fall into one of these categories of owners, you can opt out of the instant booking feature. Owners who do opt out of instant booking can still ensure that their property ranks high in potential guest searches by responding quickly (within a few hours) to guest inquiries.
Whatever you decide about management, here are some additional tips for owning a successful Maui vacation rental. And as always, I’m here to answer any questions you may have about buying and enjoying the benefits of Maui real estate.
Leslie Mackenzie Smith, REALTOR(S), RS-42147