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The OwnerRez Blog

Enhanced Surcharges, Discounts, and Add-Ons

We first released Add-Ons back in February, which allows you to define optional charges, upsells, etc. for guests during checkout. We've gotten a lot of feedback since then. Based on that we designed enhancements that smooth some of the rough spots and add new capabilities.

Stuff that's new:

  • Season and booking criteria are now evaluated when showing Add-Ons to guests during checkout. Previously only property criteria was used. Now, all Add-Ons matching the season or seasons for the booking and the booking criteria will be shown to the guest, and any not matching the criteria will not be shown. The internal side on the booking and quote Charges screen will still you select an Add-On regardless of the season/booking criteria.

    If you set up Add-Ons with criteria before, make sure to review them and ensure that the criteria is doing what you expect. They were always shown before regardless of season/booking criteria, so if you set that previously it could cause them to be hidden now that the criteria is correctly evaluated.
  • Discounts can be set to optional mode just like Surcharges. If you create an optional discount, this will create a "Discounts & Promotions" section on checkout where the guest can select a discount.

    And yes, we have plans to add discount codes to trigger discounts in addition to making them selectable from a list ;-) This release is the first step in our roadmap to get there.
  • A new Applied Manually setting allows you to create surcharges that only you can apply, that are neither applied automatically based on criteria nor selected by the guest. This was doable before by a hack -- by creating a Surcharge or Discount with Specific booking/season criteria and not adding any criteria so it would never apply, but now it is an official feature and all Surcharges or Discounts with no criteria have been upgraded to Manual mode.

Stuff that's better:

  • Throughout OwnerRez, particularly on the booking and quote Charges screen, things that are Discounts are now referred to a a Discount vs. a Surcharge. The guest views always showed Discount, but the internal view showed the "Surcharge" moniker vs. the actual type.
  • Also on the booking and quote Change Charges screen, discounts are split into a separate group in the item selector.

Portal access for owners and staff released!

We've just released a new user portal that allows you to grant access to owners, cleaners, maintenance staff etc. to view availability calendars, block off time, and view owner statements. This has been a highly requested feature for a long time, and we're excited to get it into your hands!

This looks like the same ribbon view you've come to know and love, but is available for each user you grant access to!

Once you set up portal access, you'll be able to give logins with permission to view one or more owners or properties, as well as allowing access to different levels of information about bookings, owner statements, and blocking off time.

For more information on setup and configuration, review our Portal Access support article.

This is only the beginning -- now that the login and permissions are in place for granting access we've got many ideas of additional things that can be managed -- cleaning workflows like acceptance of cleaning, marking cleaning as complete, notes, checklists, even uploading images of the condition at time of cleaning.

We are still in the planning stages for the next steps, so if you have ideas, let us know!

Gallimaufry of June enhancements

We've been hard at work since our last post, running through a lot of small enhancements. We haven't added any major features, but all the little things add up.

"Gallimaufry" is one of my fun favorite words. It means a collection or hodgepodge of things with no apparent unifying theme. Comes from the name of a 16th century Middle-French meat stew where they just threw in everything :-)

Image: Steven Luu

Anyway, here's what's new across the board...

New regional listing sites

New CanadaStays full channel sync with push updates for listing data and rates and online quote/booking. Contact us to be added to the beta.

New Converge/Elavon gateway

New widget options

  • Optional simple charges on booking widget quote instead of full description. Many requests for this one.
  • Optional "From" wording on booking widget quote
  • Option on booking widget to refer to "guests" vs. adults. HT. Daniel M.
  • Translated booking widget to Spanish. If you would like another language, contact us and we can work with you on translation. HT Craig H.
  • New availability/property search widget. If you've got a lot of properties, plop this on your site and guests can winnow down to the ones available for their dates

New hosted website options

  • Option to approximate map location with a area circle instead of points and addresses
  • Customizable footer template

New functions

  • Bulk Block-off. Got a event like a wedding where you've sold on one booking but need to block off a bunch of other properties? Or doing maintenance on a bunch of properties at the same time? Go to Tools -> Bulk Block-Off and block them off all at once. HT Chantel C.
  • Email list report to dump all inquiries and bookings to a spreadsheet with info about what properties and dates they stayed for import into MailChimp, Constant Contact, etc. HT Victoria H.
  • Copy booking button to create new booking or quote -- makes it easier to add repeat guests. HT Melissa P.
  • Values view for custom field definitions section in Settings. Given one field definition, you can see the values set for all properties at once. HT Maria S.
  • Booking listing site fee tracking. We're working on reports for this, but you can start tracking now in the Charges tab of each booking.

Smaller things added everywhere

  • Grace period option to lock code generation times to give guests a configurable number of hours on each side of their check-in/check-out times. HT Debby R.
  • Rate adjustment option on channel syncs to allow increasing/decreasing rates on for each channel
  • Discount column on booking import
  • Booking ribbon background option to apply property color to heading. HT Uwe K.
  • Season and rate columns to rate tester for easier diagnosis of how rates are generated
  • Sort overlapping seasons by shortest first when choosing a season for a booking to make rate engine defaults work more intuitively
  • Enhance Airbnb calendar import filtering so pending bookings, holidays, and days in advance rules are no longer imported
  • Show net breakdown on tax and PM commission reports, show as rent surcharges with rent on line item summary report. HT Chris P.

Any questions on these, ask away!

Multiple PayPal accounts! Connect different PayPal accounts for different properties

Happy Friday everyone!

I wanted to take a quick second to share some exciting news!  Our Payment Methods area has gotten an overhaul and, with that, we have added the ability to connect multiple PayPal accounts.

Previously, you could only have one PayPal account connected to OwnerRez no matter how many properties you have.  Now you can connect as many PayPal accounts as you want!

To connect more PayPal accounts, go to Settings > Payment Methods and just click the button!

It will take you to a PayPal login page where you can authorize OwnerRez to transact on your behalf using whatever PayPal account you logged in with.  If you already connected that PayPal account previously, OwnerRez will refresh what was there already.

And make sure to check out the Payment Methods area to see the facelift it got!  We've made the pages easier to use, added test buttons and more.

Encyclopedia of Vacation Rental Smart Door Locks

We've released 3 lock integrations in the last month or so – eRentalLock, ResortLock, and RemoteLock.

After those releases, we started looking at the rest of the lock market to see what other smart lock systems we should consider adding to OwnerRez. There are so many different types and brands of locks there are nowadays with all sorts of features, pros, cons. Some can be connected to via API and are a possibility for OwnerRez integration, some are totally disconnected or only accessible through their own phone app, and some are in the middle between the two and can act disconnected or be integrated via a bridge/hub device.

Based on all of that research, I decided to write up this post to share everything we've learned so far.

WARNING: long post ahead -- 2700 words, 8 lock types, 21 locks, hubs, bridges etc. Tips and tricks are at the bottom, so if you've already got a smart lock, head down there to make the most of it :-)

I'm sure I haven't covered everything, so feel free to contact us and share your experiences or link me to a lock type I missed and I'll add it to the stack.

Old school locks

$20-$150

First off, there are offline or disconnected lock methods. There's a lot of variety even here, but they share a common theme of requiring manual programming with physical access to the lock required.

  • The oldest method: leave the key with a neighbor/realtor/under the mat/over the door/in the flowerpot. I'm not even going to get into the pros and cons here.

    Key with neighbor or realtor can work if you trust, but that's a lot of reliance on someone to physically be there.

    Key under the mat... please don't do this. Even out in the boonies where you can leave your doors unlocked, you'll find that it can cause problems. I've personally had issues with folks in the neighborhood dropping by... or the old "we just used the hot tub because nobody was there" and then having a frustrated guest and extra cleaning. Locks are to keep honest people honest.

  • Key lock box, with combination required to access the key. Basically a small key-sized safe, screwed down with heavy duty screws.

    PROS: Cheap and reliable. $20 bucks for the lock. Everybody knows how to use it. Very unlikely to break down. Easy to rekey the entire house to work on one key.

    CONS: Physical access required to program the lock, meaning the code isn't changed often. Code is shared for multiple bookings -- even if you change it every month or two it's still some level of bookings using the same code. No long term access codes for housekeeping/maintenance. No access logs. Keys can be duplicated.

  • Programmable electronic locks. These are enhanced deadbolts or latchbolts with a combination key pad. If the correct combination is entered, the door lock will open.

    PROS: Still pretty cheap and simple. $50-$150 for the lock. Multiple codes are available so you can use some for bookings and others for housekeeping/maintenance.

    CONS: Physical access required to program the lock. Now we've got batteries to worry about. Most of these last for years, though, but it's still something to log and change. Still no access logs.

Numeric Sequence locks, Algorithmic locks, time set/controlled keypack locks

$300-$500

These terms all refer to the same basic concept. This is an upgrade to programmable locks where there is a known sequence of codes pre-programmed into the lock set for different dates and times. This allows you to generate a code remotely that is only valid for the check-in/check-out dates of a booking, all without being connected to the lock.

PROS: Codes can be generated remotely, no physical access or wireless connection required. Housekeeping and maintenance can have separate long term codes or even one time use codes. Access logs can be downloaded.

CONS: Batteries. Access logs are only accessible by physical download from the lock, no remote connection. Codes are pre-defined so they can't be extended if the guest wants to stay additional days -- instead you'd have to send a new code for those days.

There are several different companies offering this type of lock:

eRentalLock

  • OwnerRez integrated
  • $279-$429
  • No monthly or other ongoing fees
  • Entry code is 10 digits. After entering the 10 digit code, the guest can program a simple 4 digit code for their stay.

ResortLock

  • OwnerRez integrated
  • $299-$449
  • No monthly or other ongoing fees
  • Entry code is 10 digits. After entering the 10 digit code, the guest can program a simple 4 digit code for their stay.

Kaba Lodging/Oracode

  • $549
  • $15 monthly fee for access to online code generation
  • No time-of-day codes
  • 6 digit code

igloohome Smart Keybox

This is a hybrid algorithmic lock and keybox. You can generate access codes remotely via the numeric sequence generator, and then those codes give access to the keybox to retrieve the key.

  • $169
  • $4.99 monthly fee for access to online code generation

Smart locks -- via WiFi, Zigbee/Z-Wave, bluetooth

$175-$500

Finally, we get to smart locks. Rather than having a pre-programmed sequence of codes, you are able to add your own codes with check-in/check-out date/time, long term access codes, or one use access codes.

There are several different varieties based on what method is used for connectivity. Some can be connected directly via WiFi and are accessible over the internet. Others can be accessed locally either via open Zigbee/Z-Wave protocols or via a proprietary bluetooth connection to a mobile app. If you want to make the local locks internet accessible and programmable remotely, you can set up a separate bridge or hub device that connects to the lock and then connects via WiFi or wired connection to an internet service.

Zigbee and Z-Wave are two similar protocols to deliver a low powered wireless mesh network for connected home automation devices. Given a device like a lock, thermostat, window sensor, light, etc. and a hub with the same technology, the hub will be able to control the devices and optionally provide an internet bridge to allow control over the internet.

For vacation rental purposes, you'll probably want to set up the bridge device so you can program codes remotely, so factor the bridge into the cost. The proprietary bluetooth locks have dedicated bridges that can only handle those devices. The open Zigbee/Z-Wave hub/bridges support many different devices in addition to locks, like thermostats, sensors, etc.

Some smart locks are now designed with only the touchpad -- no keyway! Yale Key Free, Yale Assure, Kwikset Obsidian, etc. No key removes the risk of the lock being picked or opened with a bump key... but of course there's no backup if something goes wrong.

PROS: Codes can be added remotely at any time, with any numbers you like. Many owners use the last 4 of the guest's phone number to keep it simple and memorable. Housekeeping and maintenance can have their own codes. Access logs are accessible in real time, so you can see when guests or staff have arrived and departed.

CONS: Internet connection is required to program the device. If a code is already programmed in, guests can use it if the connection goes out, but it may not be the best bet in remote areas with spotty internet. Batteries.

WiFi connected and internet accessible smart locks

RemoteLock

RemoteLock is the only lock I know of that can directly connect to your WiFi with no bridge or hub needed. This greatly simplifies setup if you only have the one lock and no other devices to connect.

  • OwnerRez integrated
  • $299-$449
  • $0.99 monthly fee for remote lock connection
  • Code is programmable from 3-10 digits.

Open smart locks using Zigbee/Z-Wave

These locks use either Zigbee/Z-Wave wireless mesh networking protocols to connect with a hub that will manage them. You'll need both the lock and the hub at each property, so factor in the combined cost when making comparisons.

Zigbee/Z-Wave internet bridge/hub devices

A combination of a Zigbee/Z-Wave smart lock from above with one of these internet bridge/hubs will make the lock programmable and accessible from anywhere over the internet. When figuring the total cost, add the price of the hub here with the lock from above.

If you use one of these hubs and want OwnerRez integration, let us know. We're still in the research phase for the internet bridge/hub to Zigbee/Z-Wave lock connection, so any feedback or info on your hub and its API will help us get to the end goal of integration.

Proprietary smart locks

These use their own apps and/or bluetooth rather than an open standard like Zigbee/Z-Wave. Some can be internet accessible with a separate bridge purchased from the same company versus the standard Z-Wave/Zigbee hubs that work with all open devices.

Independent locks:

Conversion kits that fit over an existing deadbolt:

Add a bridge to make one of the above locks internet connected.

What type of lock should I choose?

If you're very cost conscious, a key lock box or programmable electronic lock is going to be far cheaper than the smart locks. The question is whether it is worth it to save a couple hundred dollars versus having shared lock codes and requiring direct access to reprogram the locks. A smart lock is a one time investment, assuming you choose one without a monthly fee, so that can repay the investment quite rapidly.

When deciding between algorithmic locks and internet accessible locks, the key question is that internet accessible locks… require a solid internet connection. The price is similar between internet locks and algorithmically determined ones. If you've got intermittent connections, don't go with the internet lock. I've got several cabins in a remote mountainous location. Even though there is internet most of the time, I've gone with algorithmic locks just in case. Either way, connection isn't required for guests to access the lock once it's programmed, but I've heard many stories of devices with intermittent connections needing to be reset and causing extra work. If the connection is solid, then the internet lock will give you a bit more control -- the chance to reprogram dates on a code, viewing access logs remotely, seeing whether a lock is currently locked, and remotely locking a lock if a guest forgets to lock on departure.

One thing to consider, especially while transitioning to a smart lock and setting all of the process, is to use a smart lock for the main lock box but also have a second key lock box with a backup key. That will cut down on any service calls to help the guest with the smart lock as you can give them the code for the backup key over the phone. But that code isn't shared with everyone, only with people who have issues gaining access through the smart lock.

Tips & Tricks

  • Generate codes from your Property Management System (PMS). If you have a property management system that can connect with your lock, it can generate lock codes automatically for you. This is why we added integration for eRentalLock, ResortLock and RemoteLock to OwnerRez! The code will be stored on the booking and updated if the dates or property change. You'll set up a scheduled or triggered email to go out to the guest before arrival with the lock code mail merged into the email template. For OwnerRez, start with our guide to door lock integration support article, pick your lock type, and we'll walk you through the process step by step.
  • Use the last 4 of the phone as a code. If you're not using a PMS, but are using a smart lock that is accessible remotely, the easiest thing is to use the last 4 of the mobile phone as the code. Program that in and share it with the guest to make sure that they know which mobile phone was used if there are multiple.
  • Allow plenty of extra time on check-in/check-out. With a time based lock, it's tempting to set the allowed times as check-in and check-out. I'd recommend giving a bit of leeway on that. It's much better to have a guest a little early or late than to have to send somebody out there because the code expired or didn't work. Or you allowed early check-in or late check-out and forgot to update the code or the guest mixed up the codes. This is especially important on check-out -- if the guest leaves, forgets something and comes back and can't get in, that's a problem that could have been avoided. And again, locks are to keep honest folks honest, not to keep out somebody that really wants to get in or kick out someone that has overstayed their welcome. Personally, I allow midnight to midnight just in case.
  • Hide a spare key. The smarter the lock, the more likely it is that something will fail or that the guest won't be able to figure it out. It's a good idea to have a key around just in case. Even if you don't tell the guest where to find the key, you could have a staff member retrieve it and help the guest out.
  • Change the batteries ahead of time. Nothing worse than having a smart lock run out of juice when batteries are a buck or two to change. The best way to do this is on a schedule -- see how long the batteries last, change them with plenty of time to spare. You're probably already changing fire alarm batteries on a schedule -- at least I hope you are :-) -- so that's a good tag to add this task.
  • Check if the lock is motorized or not. Some locks have a motorized bolt, some only move the pins but the guest has to throw the bolt themselves. Motorized bolts are usually simpler for the guest -- less confusion because you can hear the lock opening. But of course, bigger motor means more electricity used, meaning you've got to change the batteries more often.
  • Do I need both the handle and deadbolt to be smart locks? Nope, you just need one lock per door to be smart. You can make the deadbolt the smart lock or make the latchbolt the smart lock. Both methods have their pros and cons.

    If you do a latchbolt lock, then the deadbolt must be left unlocked between guests. The guest can access through the knob or handle lock, and throw the deadbolt once they're inside. Most have an option to automatically lock when the door is closed, so the guest doesn't forget to lock when they leave. Of course, this also means that if the guest exists and forgets the code, the door could be locked behind them.

    If you do a deadbolt lock, it's more secure. But it doesn't have an option to auto lock on exit, so the guest could forget. If it is internet accessible, you can view the state and lock it remotely if the guest forgets (assuming they pulled the door fully shut). Make sure that the knob or handle doesn't lock automatically on exit, or the guest will lock themselves out. You might even want to get a knob without a lock or hide a knob lock nearby. I've seen instances where the guest accidentally locks the knob, then pulls the door shut and can no longer gain access without a staff trip out to unlock the knob.

Conclusion

Wow, thanks for reading all the way to the end! I learned a lot while researching for this article and I hope you learned a lot reading it.

If you know of any additional locks that could be added, or want to share what you do with your locks, more tips and tricks, etc. contact us.

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.