New Years is a great time to look back on the year and plan for the next year. While reviewing our blog, I realized that we've added so much new functionality to OwnerRez, but hadn't always announced it here. So I figured I'd take a quick trip down memory lane and put together a list of the major items we added this year.
WARNING: this is going to be a long blog post 😁
Adding channel integrations was our primary focus in 2018. We started off the year with a bang, adding booking.com API integration and Channel Bridge booking import for HomeAway and Airbnb. More recently, we've rolled out TripAdvisor API integration and have been hard at work on HomeAway API integration (due out by February).
Quick side note on terms:
"API integration" refers to a preferred communication method between our servers and the channel's servers. All API integrated channels can push rates and availablity automatically as well as receive bookings back from the channel automatically. All channels have percentage based rate adjusters which allow you to increase the rates on a per-channel basis. Some API integrated channels can also push listing content (description, amenities, photos, rules etc.), receive inquiries, or integrate with the platform messaging.
HomeAway, Airbnb, and TripAdvisor all have a 5+ property minimum for API integration (Booking.com and CanadaStays do not).
"Channel Bridge" is a proprietary tool that we've developed that logs in to your channel account through your browser and downloads booking information and reviews and pushes rates directly. This sidesteps that 5+ property limitation, so all users regardless of size can keep their OwnerRez bookings up to date
- Booking.com - This integration can push rates and availability and receive back bookings (including verifying credit cards to make sure they're valid and then automatically processing payments).
- Channel Bridge booking import - For HomeAway and Airbnb. Downloads full guest info, invoice charges, guest fees, host fees, payments, and channel remitted taxes and populates that data into your OwnerRez bookings.
- TripAdvisor - This integration pushes rates, availability, and full listing content and receives back bookings.
- VRBO/HomeAway - This integration is a full integration that pushes content, rates, rules, everything and receives back bookings to OwnerRez. This currently in testing with a small group of pilot users but will be available to everyone in February 2019.
- Channel Bridge Airbnb rate push - You can now go into an Airbnb Synced Channel and push your OwnerRez rates directly to Airbnb
- VRBO rate push - Same thing with VRBO. You can configure a VRBO Sync Channel in OwnerRez and push your rates (and fees and taxes) to VRBO. This only works if you have calendar rates in VRBO and not the older "period" rates system. Contact VRBO to change you over to calendar rates.
- HomeAway/Airbnb listing import - We added an listing import tool that can populate your OwnerRez listing content (description, amenities, photos, etc.) from your listing on HomeAway or Airbnb
- Centralized API Integrated and Synced channels - Channels, iCal, inquiry parsing, custom channels etc. used to be spread around OwnerRez in different areas. It is now centralized in the Channel Connections area under settings.
Early in the year we did a big overhaul that took the scattered contact info and centralized it into the concept of Guests. Each inquiry, quote, and booking has a Guest, tying them together and allowing you to manage the contact info in one place. You can also merge guests and bookings together to keep track of repeat guests, as well as picking an existing guest when generating a new quote.
We also added several other features to improve the guest experience:
- Specific amount when making a payment request - Prior to this, you could only request a scheduled payment amount. You can now give an amount (and optional description) when sending a payment request to the guest. This is also accessible as an email merge field link so you can set up automatic payment requests and triggers.
- Request Booking Clean-Up - On some channels, it's common to request a rental agreement signature and a credit card for the security deposit. This request option (and email merge field link) lets you request both at once, reducing the amount of work the guest has to do.
- Request Review - You can request a guest review through the Reviews tab on a booking, or create a trigger with the merge field to automatically request a review.
- Custom Travel Insurance Amount - We added the capability for you or the guest to specify the amount of coverage when purchasing Travel Insurance. This lets you remove items that shouldn't be covered by travel insurance, let guests purchase insurance for channel bookings even if you don't have the financials imported to OwnerRez, and guests to purchase additional insurance for other related items like flights.
- Separate Platform Email - For channels like Airbnb, TripAdvisor, and booking.com, you get a "platform email address" with the booking, not the guest's real email address. We've separated that out into a Platform Email field. When sending emails, the system first tries to send to the guest's real email address. If none are available, it will send to the Platform Email. If you want to always send to the platform email, you can add the platform email address merge field to your email templates.
HOSTED WEBSITES & WIDGETS
Ever since we rolled out our hosted website feature in 2016 we've been continuously improving and refining it, and this year was no different.
- Search widget filters - Enable filters for dates, guest counts, location, beds/baths.
- Search widget calculate stay total - You can now set the search widget to calculate the booking total for the dates and guests entered vs. just displaying a rate range.
- Search widget passes data to booking widget - When you search with dates, the widget will prepopulate the inquiry widget with those dates so the guest doesn't need to enter them again.
- Search widget tile view - You can now show a Tiled view of properties in the search widget in addition to the default List view.
- HTTPS standard on hosted - Security on websites is big, particularly with Google's emphasis on "Secure" or "Not secure" in the address bar. We added support for HTTPS earlier this year. We just rolled out a feature that makes HTTPS standard on all hosted websites.
- Notification email on book now - In addition to tracking events in any Google Analytics or Facebook Pixel accounts you have connected to OwnerRez, you'll get a notification email when they start the book now process so you can follow up with the guest if they abandon the reservation.
- Multi User Widgets - This allows you to combine properties from multiple OwnerRez users into one widget -- useful if you want to create a central link for owners in your area to share with guests that they can't help. Perhaps they are reserved for those dates and want to recommend others -- now they can just share that central widget that you have created with the properties of all OwnerRez users in the area. Currently requires us to set up that authorization, so contact us if you need this.
We refer to the general improvements we make as "quality of life" enhancements. Here are the big ones this year.
- Add to Home Screen - We've always been mobile friendly, but this year we develope an app based on Progressive Web App (PWA) technology. You can add OwnerRez to your homescreen on all major devices, including iPhone, iPad, Android phones and tablets, even Chrome OS and Windows desktops. Read our guide to adding OwnerRez to your phone's home screen.
- Batch booking cancel/delete - Sometimes you just need to clean up bookings or redo your calendar. You can use the Batch button on the Booking List view to select many bookings or blocked-off times and cancel or delete them all at once.
- Ribbon filtering - If you have many properties, the ribbon view becomes very handy. We've added filters so you can focus on a specific group of properties and/or bookings as you use the Ribbon view on the Bookings tab.
- Saved filters - If you filter any grid in OwnerRez, it will save that filter and load it when you return to that grid. You can also easily show all items or reset to the default filter.
- Current view on bookings - Sometimes you just want to see who's currently at your properties, in case you need to communicate with a guest or cleaner about the current situation. The Current view gives you a list for each property of who's there yesterday, today, or tomorrow
- Gap night rules - Maximizing occupancy is key to optimizing your profit. Gap night rules let you target gaps in different ways, whether it be reducing minimum nights in gaps to sell those nights or disallowing small gaps to make sure you don't have unsellable nights
- Lock payment method rule - If you offer multiple types of payment methods, like credit cards and checks, sometimes you want to lock the guest into one method. If you offered a check discount, you don't want them later paying by credit card.
- Skip renter agreement rule - Sometimes you'll need to skip a renter agreement, or you have a third party signing service you use. This rule lets you turn off the renter agreement signing step for a property or quote.
- Spot rates - Generally it is more powerful to do rules based pricing, but sometimes you just want to set a specific rate for a date range, perhaps to target an event or a last minute opportunity. Spot rates let you override the rules based pricing and are also used by dynamic pricing engines to set rates
- Duplicate property - As you grow, you'll be adding new properties from time to time. The Duplicate button lets you copy an existing property to one or more new properties to make setup easier
- Rules batch update - If you have lots of properties and make a rule change, that can be a lot of work to update every single property. That's why we added a batch update for rules that lets you update other properties with the new rules, or update existing quotes and bookings with those rules as well.
- Processing Fee/Discount - If you offer multiple payment methods, like check and credit card, you can do a fee or discount for specific payment methods, like a check payment discount. If the guest chooses that payment method at reservation time, the fee or discount will be applied to the booking and the payment method type will be locked to the same type for future payments.
- Property Private Code and Public Name - We added two new options on properties that will show a different name than the standard based on context. The Private Code is used on reports and calendar legends so you can identify a property at a glance. The Public Name is used on guest communications, hosted websites, and widgets so you can include keywords for marketing purposes.
- Per-property theming - We've had headers/footers for email, forms, renter agreements, etc. Per property theming lets you create multiple "themes" which include logo, name, headers/footers, etc. and assign them to specific properties. Useful if you have properties in different areas or categories and want to project a specific brand for some properties.
- PriceLabs - This is our first dynamic pricing integration. Read more about PriceLabs integration. BeyondPricing and Wheelhouse are coming soon!
- ResortCleaning.com - If you manage your cleaners through ResortCleaning.com, you can integrate it with OwnerRez to pull booking info over automatically.
- More Processor Accounts - We added OpenEdge (formerly known as “PayPros”) support. YapStone/VacationRentPayment is in final testing.
- Line Item Pivot Report - Winning the worst named report award is the Line Item Pivot Report. It shows one row per booking, with columns for each type of surcharge, which is great for breaking down where exactly the money came from.
- Insurance Report - This report gives you a birds eye view of both damage protection insurance and travel insurance on a per-booking basis.
- Gaps Report - We added rules and trigger criteria for dealing with gaps automatically, but some times you just want to see where the gaps are. Maybe you want to reach out with a personalized phone call or email and see if the guest wants to add a night to the beginning or end of their stay. This report lets you find gaps by size and get a list of guests and contact info.
- New report filters
- The booking and tax detail and summary reports got an "Any stay during period" option that lets you find an overlapping stay for your filter dates, rather than just looking at arrival, departure or booked dates
- Stay reports got an event type filter so you can find just everyone arriving, or departing, or staying, separately
- Payment detail report got a multiselect payment type filter so you can do detailed payment analysis
- New fields
- Stay reports got guest contact, notes, cleaning date, property address and door code
- Tax detail report got guest name, total nights, period nights, net payments, net refunds, fees
- Booking detail report got add nights, adults, children, pets, and next payment. Next payment shows the amount/date of the next payment which is handy for tracking down folks who haven't paid yet
- Credit Card Processing Report - We added a report that shows all credit card transaction history, no matter if the transaction was accepted or declined by the processor/gateway. This shows you low-level details about transactions which you can use to track attempts made by the guest or see a running history on what was tried and by whom.
EMAIL TRIGGERS & TEMPLATES
Email triggers and templates is another area where we've made massive improvements, from new events to new trigger criteria to forecasting so you can see what triggers are queued to be sent.
- New trigger events
- Renter agreement signed
- Booking/blocked-off time canceled
- Booking/blocked-off time dates changed
- Booking/blocked-off time property changed
- Booking/blocked-off time check in/out time changed
- Booking/blocked-off time notes changed
- New trigger criteria
- Payment status
- Security deposit status
- Card on file status
- Renter agreement signed status
- Travel insurance status - handy for sending reminder emails for those that haven't purchased travel insurance
- Adjacent available nights - target bookings with a certain number of gap nights available and send upsell emails offering discounts to add additional days
- Booking pending status
- All booking criteria that have been available on surcharges, from number of nights, to dates, to number of guests.
- New merge fields
- PM and Owner stats like owner amount, PM commission, pre-deducted expenses, etc.
- Platform email address and reservation number
- Guest and host fee totals
- Rent amount, net amount, net balance (after host fees)
- Property max guests, adults, bedrooms, bathrooms, registration number, etc.
- Trigger forecast - You've always been able to look at the Email tab of a booking to see what triggers will go out for that specific booking. The forecast lets you look across all triggers, or a specific trigger or template and see all bookings where it applies and the current send status.
PROPERTY MANAGEMENT (PM)
- PDF Generation - You can quickly generate PDFs for owner statements which are then stored against the statement
- Emailing Owner Statements - You can email statements directly from OwnerRez instead of using your own outside email program. Once emailed, the statement shows a “Sent” indicator that you can search/filter on.
- More Field Codes - To help with emailing statements you can embed information about the statement including links to the generated PDF (which will auto-generate the PDF on the fly once the link is used).
- Bulk Create Statements - Have many owners to create statements for? You can now create them all in one click. You can save settings on each owner for what their default statement-generation settings should so that the bulk-create process know what to use for each owner.
- Bulk Emailing - You can bulk email many statements at once instead of going one by one.
- Custom Email Templates - You can create custom email statements for each owner so that when bulk-emailing statements, the owner gets the correct message tailored for their situation.
- Attachments on expenses - You can attach documents or photos to expenses for tracking purposes -- invoices, photos of work done, etc. Those attachments will be included when Owner Statements are generated.
- Grant Admin Access - You can now grant admin access to another OwnerRez user - useful for accountant access etc. This currently requires us to authorize the connection, so let us know if you need this.
- Admin Access for Portal Users - You can also grant admin access to any portal users you create inside your OwnerRez account
- Expense and Fee standardization - We merged the concept of payment fees, host fees, and expenses so there is a standard way to deduct fees from commission and owner payouts.
Our QuickBooks Integration went through two large updates this year, the last of which was a major overhaul. We changed how syncing works to correct a number of bugs and also added transparency between OwnerRez and QuickBooks records so that you can see what is being created on both sides. As I write this, we are actually finishing up another update on QuickBooks that will allow you to change settings for different surcharges, deposit accounts, invoice dates, invoice numbers and more.
Looking back, the list of what we did in 2018 is pretty massive, but looking forward, the list of what we’re working on (and going to be working on after that) is even bigger!
We love our users to death - most of you anyway. 😉
Thank you for your support and loyalty and feedback!