Sign Up  |  Already Signed Up? Login

The OwnerRez Blog

A blog about our thoughts, services, upcoming features and the industry at large.

The OwnerRez Blog

Full integration for eRentalLock door locks

We're excited to announce that OwnerRez now fully integrates with eRentalLock door locks!  We've been testing this integration in a small beta for about a month now, and it's ready to go for everyone!

If you have an eRentalLock door lock already, it's extremely easy to integrate.  Go to Settings > Door Locks and walk through the process.

We've written a comprehensive support article about everything you need to know from end to end.  Check that out here:

Integration for eRental Door Locks

We cover things like:

  • Code generation, both automatic and manual
  • Generating codes for bookings in bulk
  • The field codes to use in your email templates so that the door codes are automatically sent to guests
  • A sample email template the full eRentalLock operating instructions for your guests

Enjoy!

Year view on bookings

We've added another view type to the main bookings menu.  There is now a "Year" view which shows you a full year of calendars for a single property at a time.

We added this view so that you can quickly see the full picture of how well a property is booked for the current year.  The top scroll (right/left) buttons allow you to jump between years.

Just like the ribbon and month view, you can hover over bookings to see more information or click empty days to get a quick quote.

If you're suddenly feeling a sense of deja vu, it's probably because we recently released a year calendar widget that looks similar.  This booking view is similar to the calendar widget, only enhanced for styling and interactive behavior.

This makes four different views you can use to look at your bookings.  Here's a refresher on the other three...

Ribbon View

Month View

List View (read about our awesome filter, sorting and exporting)

Building Regional Vacation Rental Listing Websites

The following is a guest post written by Bob Bourassa of CarolinaVacationHomeRentals.com.

As the hammer slowly comes down on vacation rentals owners from HomeAway and other sites -- and we all knew this was coming -- many new vacation listing sites are popping up trying to capitalize on owners who are dissatisfied with the direction this is all going. Some old listing sites that have lived in the shadows for years are trying to become relevant. Service fees, limited cancellation policy options, worst best match, forced BIN. It is only going to get worse for owners.

Some of the new vacation rental listing sites are trying to capture a national or worldwide audience. However, they lack the capital to effectively market on that level and have shown little success. Without the cash to back it up, they can never be an effective alternative to the big guys who have been in the market for years.

A viable alternative is Regional Vacation Rental Listing sites.

Why regional sites? Unlike national vacation listing sites that have been developed since HomeAway began its changes, regional sites do not require massive amounts of marketing dollars in order to be even remotely competitive. Regional sites can target their marketing efforts on specific areas where typical vacationers come from, thus being more effective for far less money.

Since we developed Carolina Vacation Home Rentals in response to the detrimental changes to the industry caused by HomeAway, we have received numerous inquiries on what what it would cost to develop another regional vacation rental site. They asked what script we used for our site and what is involved, and they expressed frustration with the lack of options available for developing such a site The amount quoted from developers ranged anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000.

We have since created several regional sites for others using the script we used (Texas, South Jersey, etc.) and are currently working on one for all of Hawaii. We also plan to create a single site that will link to all of the regional sites to help travelers find what they are looking for without service fees.

So, where do you start?

There are multiple scripts available that can be used for creating a regional vacation rental listing site. However, most of them are clones that come out of Asia and are geared towards the AirBnB model. While AirBnB does have it's niche market, it often does not fit well with vacation rental owners. The clone scripts require substantial customization to fit the needs of vacation rental owners, which can easily run up the development costs. Some have also expressed frustration with difficult communication with the developers due to the language barriers.

A simpler option for some has been to use the WordPress platform and purchase a $54 theme. As a 18 year web developer, I can tell you definitively that WordPress is not the answer. It may be fine for creating a small homemade site, but it would be wholly ineffective at being used for a larger listing site. This is not an alternative we would ever consider, nor recommend in creating a viable regional vacation rental listing site.

Before we developed Carolina Vacation Home Rentals we evaluated all of the scripts that were available and tested each one thoroughly before choosing which script to use. Most of them would not do what was needed. The script we chose does everything that is required, and much more. We chose it because it was capable of being a back to basics HomeAway & VRBO type website (our ultimate goal) without forcing vacation rental owners into restrictive cancellation policies -- being able to display contact information and not having to charge service fees among other things. We found the script to be extremely versatile and contain a lot of additional functions that we disabled because they were not needed in what we were creating.

The script has an online quote system which we left entirely optional as to whether the vacation rental owner wants to use it. Some owners do, and some owners don’t. It generates a quick quote and then allows a person to request a booking. Visitors also still have the option of contacting the owner through the inquiry form as well or calling the owner. One of the goals for our site was to offer the options to the owners and leave it up to them as to whether they would like to use the tools provided. Owners also have the option of whether they want to display their calendar, rates or phone number. We left it completely up to them.

Even though the script does have the capability of accepting online payments for bookings, after careful consideration, we decided not to offer an online payment system for bookings. After researching the matter and seeing what is happening with AirBnB and state tax authorities it really wasn’t something we wanted to delve into. There was too much uncertainty and possible liability. We leave it entirely up to the owners to use their own payment processing. This fits with our policy to allow vacation rental owners as much flexibility as possible without restricting them to any certain way to do things.

Other features we have in our site that are available with the script are:

  1. SMS alert system. This sends the owners text alerts when an inquiry or booking request comes in so they can respond quickly. This is completely optional as to whether the vacation rental owner wants to use it or not.
  2. Our calendars can sync with their calendars on VRBO, HomeAway, AirBnB, iCal, etc. Again, it is completely optional for the vacation rental owner as to whether they want to use it.

So, what would it cost for your to start your own Regional Vacation Rental Listing website using the script and method we used? Not as much as you think:

  1. You will need a domain name, of course. This would run you about $15.00 per year.
  2. You will need proper hosting for the site. With this script the hosting must have PHP 5.3, ioncube, dedicated IP address, cron jobs, and a passive SSL Certificate, which will run about $125.00 a year. The reason an SSL would be needed is that Google is changing the way they list sites and those not SSL enabled will eventually be marked as unsafe.
  3. You will of course need to purchase the Script from the developer. It runs around $250.00 for a lifetime license. You would also have to purchase the calendar sync module, which runs about $100.00. There would likely be another $100.00 or so paid to the developer for some customization that we were not able to make as portions of the script function files are encrypted and proprietary.
  4. If you want to offer the SMS alerts you would need to use a third party service, which runs about $300 per year. We find this is a minimal expense to offer and a great tool to property owners.

So, your initial costs for all of the essential scripts and third party services for your site would run you less than $1,000.00, with annual recurring costs of about $500.00.

We spent many hundreds of hours customizing our site -- look, feel & operation -- to get it to work and look as we wanted. As our site grew we made other modifications based on both owner and user experiences and asked owners for feedback and made adjustments based on their preferences. We still make tweaks as we feel are needed based upon how people interact and use our site.

Does that mean you would have to spend hundreds of hours on your own regional vacation rental listing site before it is even launched? Well, you could, but there is an easier way.

Once you have purchased the necessary scripts, the editable site files from our site, which have been customized, can then be used to overwrite your site files and tweaked accordingly. This saves a lot of time of having to manually customize your site and do everything we did for ours. However, there is still a lot of manual configuration that has to be done setting up regions, rental types, guides, slideshow, features, activities etc. However, as we are intimately familiar with the script and it's capabilities, we can get this done faster than you would if you were to have to learn the system from scratch.

If you wanted to take the quick route and have use do the setup and customization for you, the cost would be $1,000.00 for us to customize your site and get it up and running. That's less than $2,000.00 startup cost for your own Regional Vacation Rentals Listing Website. We could have your site completed in 3-4 weeks.

We do need to let you know that operating a regional vacation rental listing site does require some time be put into it. It is not a static site that you can build and just let go on it's own. You will have some interactions with property owners and site visitors. So, if you are not able to devote time to the site this may not be a good option for you. It is a business opportunity and like any business, it requires nurturing and attention. However, we found that as time progressed and we tweaked our site based on user experience, that the amount of time we have had to dedicated to maintaining the site greatly diminished.

You will also find that there will be some expenses for marketing your site. This may be in the form of ads on search engines or social media, or just getting hands on and promoting your site in other arenas. We can offer guidance to you from our experience of what works, and what doesn't.

Some of the difficulties we've encountered is getting owners to list their properties. A lot of owners are simply oblivious to what is going on. Believe it or not there are still some owners who do not know HomeAway charges a service fee. Getting travelers to come to your site is easy, it is the owners who are difficult.

For those owners who have listed with us, we found we needed to offer a little guidance along the way, not just for listing with us, but for listing on other sites. Some were using dated photos of their rental (some even with 2011 time stamps), didn't list their rates far enough in advance, had short unappealing descriptions etc. Listing your vacation rental anywhere, you still have to sell it and stand out. If you have a crappy photo and one paragraph description, you are not exactly enticing people to rent your house.

Starting a Regional Vacation Rental Listing site is a great business opportunity for someone who wants to start their own business and help vacation rental owners.

We will be happy to answer any questions you might have, so don't hesitate to contact us.

Bob Bourassa
www.carolinavacationhomerentals.com

Facebook Tracking Pixel added, Google Analytics eCommerce tracking added

With the rise of walled garden listing sites that block you from guests, more owners are doing direct advertising through other means, such as Facebook Ads, Google Adwords, and ads on other channels like Craigslist etc.

With ads driving traffic from various locations, you need to be able to track what ads are leading to sales. The best way to do this is using analytics tools like Google Analytics or Facebook's Tracking Pixel.

When you configure either of these in your OwnerRez account, we'll send them information every time a guest interacts with your website (if you're using our hosted websites), widgets on your own site, or the quote checkout process.

With the Facebook Tracking Pixel, you can drive ads that are targeted directly to your audience. You can also target ads to people at certain stages in the buying process. For example take people that have gone on your website and submitted an inquiry but not yet booked. Facebook allows you to target an ad campaign directly to those guests.

We've had Google Analytics for awhile, but we were just tracking pageviews. Now we've added eCommerce to that so you can track booking value and see what sources sent what bookings:

To set up analytics tracking, go to the Analytics Tracking section in your profile. We've also prepared a support doc on setting up analytics tracking.

Booking email search, grids, enhanced filtering and sorting

The booking email tab has had information about triggered email that has been sent or will be sent, but not a place where you can see all communications in one spot.

To fix that, we've added a new search in each booking on the email tab that will search for all emails sent and received for that booking -- including quote, inquiry, payment etc. emails. If you click the link:

It will take you over to the main Email tab (at the top), filtered to show just for that booking:

This leads into the new filtering support we've added to grids. The grids everywhere in the app have had inline filter support for awhile. We've recently added a couple more things to make filtering easier and faster, so let me walk you through a few different things you can do on grids...

Advanced Filtering

To add more power to filtering, we've added a new form filtering mode. To access it, use the Filter button above the grid:

This allows us to add more filters. In this example, I used one for whether the renter agreement is signed. If there's something that'd be useful to you for filtering, let us know.

Inline Filtering

This is the original way of filtering that's supported on most grids. Under each column heading there is a display of the current filter for that column. If you click it, it will open and allow you to change the filter:

This is great for quick filtering, but a bit limited in more advanced scenarios.

Sorting

While we're talking grids, I wanted to mention another thing you can do -- sort a column by clicking on it. Each grid has a default sort, but you can change the column or sort order by clicking on the column:

What is OwnerRez?

We are an online booking service for vacation rental property that helps managers and owners save time, create quotes and bookings faster, look professional and keep detailed records without needing an accountant or staff.