Hey everyone, OwnerRez has been busy! As our change log shows, we've put out seven major updates in the past two months! 💪
Today, we'll talk about a significant release we put out on June 21, which included 31 updates and many new features and enhancements. Off we go!
- New Features
- Enhancements & Tweaks
- Custom Commission Percentages
- Shorten Airbnb Negative Review Time to 3 Minutes
- View Selector on Property Photos
- Credit Card Only Rule on Quote, Bookings, and Properties
- Show Payment and Rate Details on Booking.com Sync Actions
- Automatic Airbnb Message to Request Renter Agreement
- Better Searching for Support Videos
- New Affiliate Icons
- Bug Fixes
Since the beginning of time, we've offered a "custom" payment method (sometimes called "offline" payment method) that you can use to give your guests custom options for payment. Do you accept wire transfers, Venmo, Cash App, or cash on arrival? You can use custom payment methods to handle all of that. Our quote and booking process gracefully handles these custom payments so that the booking is pending until you record the payment, sends automatic reminders to the guest, and auto-cancels the booking if nothing is recorded.
However, the way custom payments look - when the guest accepts their quote and booking - leaves much to be desired. This is how the custom payment option is presented:
Throughout the booking process, this cryptic message is used to tell the guest that there is an alternate way they can pay.
Cryptic no longer! We added names and icons to the process, so you can now clearly say what the payment method is and provide context directly in the "How you can pay" area.
For example, let's say you accept wire transfers as a form of payment. Well, instead of showing "custom payment" on the quote and booking process, why not just call it "Wire Transfer"? And why not include an icon that represents a wire transfer instead of a "custom payment" placeholder? You can now do that. The custom payment settings now let you define the display name, icon, and color of what you want to show live to guests.
On the guest's side, they will then see "Wire Transfer", precisely as you called it, eliminating the guesswork on what the custom/offline/alternate form of payment actually is.
This adds a lot of clarity on the guest side, but we also wanted to add clarity on the owner/PM side. How do you know which payment method the guest selected when booking? If you offer multiple custom payment methods, which one did they select?
To handle this, we now track and store which custom payment method the guest selected and show it both on the booking overview page and on the change/move details page. If you need to, you can also change or remove what was selected.
Finally, we wanted to provide some automation around this. Often, when defining custom payment methods, you need to send follow-up information to the guest after booking. For instance, if they selected Wire Transfer, you might need to send them additional details or ask them to confirm when the wire was sent by email so that you and the guest can communicate directly about it. You can now do that!
Triggers now have additional criteria called "Selected Manual/Offline Payment Method" that allow you to customize messages for bookings that were paid by custom payment methods.
Using this criterion, you can target bookings where the guest selected to pay via a custom method (e.g., Wire Transfer) and then send them a specific email or text message with more information about that payment method or ask them for confirmation of when they've sent payment.
When guests book on your website, they get to the end of the booking process, see the confirmation, and then have nowhere to go. The confirmation page is nice and gives them a bunch of helpful information, but there's no easy way to get back to your website.
We added a new "redirect" feature on properties that allows you to define where you want the guest to go after booking. The feature is optional, so if you want them to stay on the confirmation page, that's fine. The confirmation page will continue to show either way, but the redirect will count down from 20 seconds while showing them the link they will be going to in case they want to click to go there quickly.
Configuring the redirect setting is simple. Go to any property > Rules > Change, and look for the "Redirect After Booking URL" field.
By default, it will be blank. If it's blank, your quotes will continue to function like before - the confirmation page will go nowhere. If you fill in a URL and save it, your quotes will begin showing the redirect message.
You can also set a custom Redirect URL on a specific quote, though that is a very rare scenario. By default, quotes will follow the Redirect URL on the property, but if you enter a different Redirect URL on the quote, it will use that one instead. This is sometimes useful for partners who use our open API to create quotes. They need each quote to redirect to a slightly different URL, so they set each URL on the quote directly. For most users, the property level URL is all that you will ever need to use.
Over the past couple of years, we've burned a lot of calories building the world's best channel management for vacation rentals. As part of this, we've worked hard to align our very-flexible rate options with the channels' very-limited options. Airbnb supports very few rate options overall, and how those rates are displayed depends on what you select. Cleaning fees are shown to the guest, but things like resort or linen fees are not. So we make sure to cram those fees into the nightly rate.
The same is true of discounts. We have always supported discounts for early bird, last minute, length of stay, and other custom discounts, but we had to hide the discount in the nightly rate. This led to a lot of confusion on the part of the user because when viewing their live listings, they would assume that the discounts weren't showing because they didn't see an indicator other than the rate moving around.
Recently, we updated our channel management with Airbnb to support strike-through pricing and promotion pricing so that the discounted rates are clearly called out as the guest is selecting dates.
As part of this update, we added support for the following:
- Custom discounts/surcharges - surcharges or discounts without other criteria
- Early Bird discounts - pricing changes based on arrival days from now being less than a certain number
- Last Minute discounts - pricing changes based on arrival days from now being greater than a certain number
We also updated our Listing Quality Analyzer tool to check and warn when discounts will be pushed in the rate but not as a strike-through promotion because of certain criteria in place and to check and warn if you have a discount that is applicable to Airbnb but won't be pushed over at all because of certain criteria in place.
While adding the strike-through promotions for Airbnb, we created another feature that will help with a long-standing point of confusion - the infamous "Base Rate" issue. From the beginning of time, Airbnb has asked for your Base Rate, which is supposed to be a single fall-back price that Airbnb displays if you haven't set any nightly rates.
So... what should your Base Rate be? Hard to say, right? Every modern vacation rental homeowner and PM uses a variety of rates depending on the time of year. There is no base rate, but Airbnb requires that it be entered!
To help with this, back when we first integrated with Airbnb, we decided to calculate the highest rate that you offer and send that over as the Base Rate. The rationale behind this decision was that (a) it's safe to always use the highest number in case you have a hole in your rates, and (b) it doesn't really matter because our users always send over a full calendar of rates. But over the years, this Base Rate number has cropped up again and again. Users were upset that the Base Rate was a high number because it looked bad on their marketing. If the guest didn't enter dates when searching, their property would come up with an advertised rate that is much higher than others, even though entering dates would quickly bring the rate down. In a recent update, we switched the Base Rate to a low number (i.e. the lowest rate of the year), but that was even worse because some users got bookings with really low nightly rates.
So which is it? Should your Base Rate (or "fall-back rate") on Airbnb be the highest of all possible nights or the lowest? Do you want better marketing or better safety? We've thrown up our hands and created a feature to let you decide.
If you go to Settings > Pricing Preferences, you'll notice a new field called Channel Default Rate. The options are simple - you can select max or min, and we'll use that for Airbnb's (or any other channel's) Base Rate requirement.
If you're still wondering why this matters or how it will affect you, look at the help text next to that field. We explain in detail the differences between using Max and Min Rate as your default.
Do you charge a flat cancellation fee when guests cancel bookings? If so, you'll be happy to hear about this next new feature. After adding the cancellation fee option a few months back, we've been hit with a bunch of requests about how to add tax on the cancellation fee and PM-related things like how do you split the fee with the owner or charge commission. It occurred to us that the cancellation fee should really be a surcharge like all other types of fees. That would solve the tax settings and PM settings and allow it to be tracked like all other surcharges for reporting purposes.
We created a Cancellation Fee surcharge and converted the flat cancellation fee amounts over to that for all users who had fees in place. There were a bunch of little changes required to make this work.
For starters, take a look at your surcharges, and see if you see a Cancellation Fee showing up on the list. A new one will show there if you ever charged a cancellation fee in the past on any booking or if your cancellation policies call for one. You can also click Create Surcharge and select Cancellation Fee as the category at the top. You'll immediately notice that several fields are missing or struck-through.
This is because cancellation fees are limited in how they can be used. Under the covers, they are a surcharge like any other, but we don't allow them to be applied automatically, have promo codes, have booking criteria, have specific listing sites, or have percentage-based pricing. But you can set if they are taxable and configure PM settings for expense and commission.
Over on the Cancellation Policies, you'll notice some changes there too. Each policy has been upgraded to support a drop-down list of fees instead of a free-text amount.
If you need to create a new fee, no worries - you can do that too. Simply click the Add New button right there by the drop-down, and a window will open, allowing you to create one on the spot and save it.
The booking cancellation screen has the same upgrades. The fee is no longer a free-entry amount. You get the same drop-down of surcharges with an Add New button, and you can create a new cancellation fee surcharge on the spot.
When a cancellation happens, the appropriate tax will be automatically calculated along with the proper expense and commission for your owners.
Do you have a weird commission rate for a particular owner? Okay, maybe "weird" is the wrong way of putting it, but what if you have some kind of tax pro-ration that you add onto your regular commission percentage, so the final commission you charge is non-standard? For instance, you typically charge 20% to your owners, but because you're charging 3.85% VAT on that management income, the actual commission is 20.77%. Now you can do that!
Previously, our commission percentage (%) selector was a drop-down with hard-coded amounts like 1%, 2%, and 3%. Over time, as PMs requested more granularity, we added fractional percentages like 1.25%, 1.5%, 1.75%, and so on. But then PMs needed non-standard amounts, and we realized we needed to make this a text input so that you could specify any percentage you wanted. That is now done!
If you pull up a property and drill into the owner configuration, you'll see what I mean. The commission option is now a free-text input box where you can put any decimal amount you want.
The same is true everywhere else in the system where the commission is set - on the owner, in quote charges, in booking charges, on the booking's PM settings, and so on.
We recently added the ability to delay negative reviews for Airbnb so that guests don't have any time to respond, and the feature was a big hit. A lot of users use it. The feature was designed so that negative reviews would post to Airbnb 20 minutes prior to the 14-day expiration period ending. This makes it so that guests don't have enough time to see a review come in and write their own.
However, right away, we were asked by several users to make the delayed reviews even more delayed, such that they posted just a couple of minutes before the deadline instead of 20.
Great news - we have now done that! We did some research to determine how close we could get without hitting latency issues with Airbnb's internal systems, and we believe that 3 minutes is a safe amount of time. Any delayed review will now be posted 3 minutes before the expiration date expires on each booking.
Do you like seeing your property photos grouped by room or amenity? Well, not everyone does! Or, sometimes, you might want to confirm the overall order of how your photos are syncing with channels. We added a new view selector on the property photos page to let you review your photos in different ways.
By default, property photos show by room/amenity grouping still. If you don't have any room/amenity groups set up, it will show them all under the "General" room group.
However, the top "Sort By" selector will allow you to pick a second "Numerical Order" option:
If selected, this option will return the photos page to the old view, where all photos are shown in a single group, ordered by their original number.
This should allow you to quickly confirm your overall photo order when confirming listing content for hosted websites or channels.
While we were working on custom payment methods and the redirect-after-booking thing (mentioned above), we also noticed that quotes and bookings had an option to force manual/offline payment methods but not credit cards. Why not credit cards? We added that.
First, we added it to the booking and quote rules.
Then, we figured that the property rules needed to have it as well so that certain properties can be credit card only (which has been requested by users), so we added that too. As with other property rules, the quote and booking rules will automatically be set with whatever is on the property level, but only for new quotes and bookings moving forward.
Booking.com has several methods for transferring payments. They can pass the guest's credit card data through to OwnerRez. They can take payment themselves, then send the PM a payment later when the booking has arrived (like Airbnb). They can use "virtual cards" to send you a credit card to be billed, but virtual cards aren't the guest's actual credit card. They can even send an "unknown" payment where we're not sure how you get paid, and you have to look that up on the booking or record a manual payment. And sometimes, they will use different payment methods for the same PM or homeowner!
After users configure their Booking.com channel connection, it's common for the user (and our support team) to be confused about which method Booking.com will use to send payments. Often, the way you think you're going to be paid doesn't end up being the case.
To add clarity, we now dig into the booking data that Booking.com sends, find what we believe the payment method is, and show that on the booking's sync action history. If we see a virtual card versus an actual credit card, we display that difference.
While we were adding that, we also added some other fields that will help users (and our support team) figure out confusing things. For instance, sometimes bookings come in from Booking.com, the nightly rate seems off. This is because Booking.com used a different "room rate" than the default rate, and the user forgot about those other available room rates. For instance, you might have a Non-Refundable Room Rate that can be selected for a 10% discount. We now detect and show that as well if the rate appears to be different than the default.
If you use Airbnb, you probably have a post-booking reach-out process where you introduce yourself to the guest and ask them to send you additional information, including a signed renter agreement. If you're not doing this now, you should be! We have a long support article detailing how to request renter agreements from Airbnb guests and provide sample messages.
A while back, we added a trigger and email template to request the renter agreement, regardless of the channel, to every account when users joined OwnerRez. It's so common that we figured that everyone should just get it right off!
However, it was still confusing for Airbnb because you have to opt into getting the guest's email address, and most users don't have that turned on. Why not use the Airbnb messaging platform? Now we do. We now check when a user connects Airbnb to OwnerRez and automatically add an Airbnb message and trigger to request the signed renter agreement whenever a booking happens. If you want to customize the message, you can do that - it's right there in the same ole message templates area as all of your other Airbnb messages.
Did you know that we custom-built our support center, blog, forums, video pages, and everything else you see on the public (www) side of OwnerRez? Most software apps use off-the-shelf support software, but not OwnerRez. We did this to fine-tune how fast, searchable, and deep-integrated our search and community content is with the rest of our website and app.
Our search options on the website have been bothering us for a while. Previously, you could search "for video" as part of the available search options (like searching articles, blog, etc.), but that wasn't actually correct. Video is included in many places (blog posts, support videos, forum posts) and sometimes is even mingled together with a long-form support article like this one about Houfy. Is that a support article or a support video? It's both!
We updated our search bar to support all of these things at the same time. "Includes video" is now a search parameter next to the others that can be added on top of (instead of in place of) other searches.
That same Houfy article will appear if you have "Includes video" selected or not selected because it's a support article either way, but other articles would not.
If you select "Includes video", only support articles (or blog posts, forum topics, etc.) will be returned if they contain actual video content.
Are you a member of our Affiliate Program? If so, thank you! We love all the referrals and recommendations. If you're not a member, you should consider joining. It's a great program with a generous payout period of 5 years.
Our Affiliate Program includes some great brochures and artwork that you can share with others. The links and logos contain custom codes for your referral code so that you get credit when others sign-up after clicking through. You can find your customized links and logos inside the app under account> Affiliate Program > Instructions.
We noticed recently that some of those links were using old OwnerRez logos, so we've gone through and done a fresh sweep. We've also switched the hosted location of those links and logos to our latest file storage systems. You don't need to worry about that though! Simply copy/paste what you see there into your website, and any old logos will update automatically.
Track listing site for channel quotes. Previously, if a first-class channel partner (e.g. Houfy, FindRentals, GuestSmiles, etc.) sent a quote to us under the covers, we weren't storing the channel (i.e. listing site name) on that quote. Most bookings from channel partners come through as bookings, not quotes, so this problem didn't occur much. But when a quote was created for "request to book" or "get more information", that quote had no listing site name under the covers. When the guest pushed forward and converted the quote to a booking, the resultant booking had no listing site name as well. This has now been fixed.
Don't copy discount codes in season Copy Forward. We have a really cool batch tool called Copy Forward in our Seasons settings area. Copy Forward allows you to quickly take a year of seasons and clone them to a new year while also smartly copying the rates, fees, and discounts inside those seasons. You can also change the names at the same time so that "Christmas 2022" season becomes "Christmas 2023". But we noticed a hitch. Some discounts use discount codes to apply to the discount, and you don't want to clone those, or you'll end up with multiple discounts. We fixed this so that Copy Forward ignores any discounts that rely on codes.
Higher verification amounts for non-US currencies. There are times when OwnerRez does a "verification" transaction on a credit card where a $1.00 charge is authorized and immediately voided so that a payment is not collected. We do this to create a "verified card on file" so that you know that the guest is giving you a sound credit card. For what it's worth, we also do this when verifying the credit cards for users (you!). We recently noticed that some currency types like JPY (Japanese Yen) were not working because ¥1.00 is too small for banks to approve. ¥1.00 is equal to $0.0073 (less than 1 penny) as of the time I write this, so the banks automatically decline it. We now detect currencies like this and increase the verification amount to a higher amount relative to the currency.
Tax Summary report doubling up the number of nights. Using our Tax Summary report, you might have noticed a situation where the number of nights reported was much higher than the period selected. This was caused by a combination of the grouping level on the report and the number of tax lines and has now been fixed.
Support doc for Lynnbrook Classic. We now support the new Lynnbrook Group payment method, which meant moving the old Lynnbrook payment method to its own "Lynnbrook Classic" option. In the process, however, we forgot to change the help link that points to the correct support article. This has now been fixed.
What is a "PropertyKeyx"? When the Book Now widget only has one property to display, it shows a label instead of a drop-down option. The property name is printed on that label right at the top. When we recently added support for custom "property terms", the label was accidentally switched to "PropertyKeyx" if no custom term is present. All better now!
New card form when using auto-payments channel mode. Our "request new credit card" guest form is a bit of a hack! There, I said it. We sometimes send it automatically, and it's supposed to take payments and schedule security deposits if the rules apply. However, if the booking is using Booking.com payments, we are skipping the whole damn thing. We fixed this to process security deposits when the new card is submitted, even if there are no payments to process.
Airbnb's sorta-new 500-character limit. Recently, Airbnb started enforcing a 500-character limit on short descriptions and a 50-character limit on headlines. To be fair, Airbnb historically advised partners like OwnerRez to limit listing summaries to 500 characters, but they weren't enforcing it, so we let users continue using longer descriptions. They just now started implementing it, so... we are now too. We also updated our support docs and Listing Quality Analyzer tool to match.
Vrbo property table & Excel list of properties. Previously, the Vrbo property table and Excel instruction table always included all properties, regardless of whether they are active on that particular (or any) Vrbo channel connection. This was confusing since the user (or Vrbo help desk) saw more properties than they wanted to connect. We made it more intelligent. We now only display properties that are actually active and included on that particular Vrbo channel connection.
iCal bookings for Booking.com. Our calendar import/export (iCal) engine is the best in the industry. It's very flexible, and we detect a wide array of special cases to provide you with a good experience no matter how junky the iCal feed is! One of those special cases is the ability to detect a "real booking" from "any ole block" from what the iCal feed shows. If a channel includes enough information, we detect that and create bookings instead of blocks. We noticed that Booking.com recently changed their iCal feeds, so we updated our logic to match. We now show a booking option for iCals that come from Booking.com, so you are free to use this smart detection feature or continue creating blocks.
Booking.com able to map hotel ID to room ID. Speaking of Booking.com, here's another doozy. We recently noticed that a user was able to use a 9-digit room ID as their property instead of the 7-digit hotel ID. In case you didn't know, Booking.com has both room IDs and hotel IDs, and they're used for different purposes. Typically, a "hotel" has multiple "room rates" that can be referenced within it. We're not sure how the user was able to switch up the mappings, but we hardened the mapping page to detect and fix a few things around this. In the future, you should not be able to find and map "rooms" where the mapping page is asking for a hotel.
Special offer linen fees. Previously, for Airbnb, we deducted linen fees from cleaning fees always. The problem is that Airbnb has "special offers" which can include everything or nothing altogether. Special offers are figments of Airbnb's imagination that do not follow the same fee pattern as normal bookings. To fix this, we no longer deduct linen fees if the booking or quote came from a special offer.
Date pickers. "Date pickers" are exactly what they sound like - input fields that let you "pick" a date or set of dates. We use the same date picker all over the app, so even if you don't understand what this is, you've probably used it a dozen times this week alone. We noticed some wonky behavior with the date picker. In some cases, the button part of the picker was showing a disabled icon when hovering over it, and the button wasn't clickable. This is now fixed.
Really block "run credit card" pages when in automatic payments mode. If you're looking at a channel booking that is in automatic payment mode, you'll notice that many of the credit card screens under the Transactions tab are hidden. For instance, the Payment > Run Card option is hidden. This is because the booking is processing payments automatically based on information the channel is sending, and we don't want you to step on that by trying to record your own payments at the same time. However, we noticed that those same hidden pages were accessible if you used the browser URL to access them directly. We changed that to detect and not show the page even if you go to the URL directly. Also, for what it's worth, if you need to record a manual payment, you can do that by switching the booking out of automatic payment mode and into manual mode on the booking's Channel tab.
Booking moved to a different owner after being on a statement. Rare edge case time! We found a bug where, in our PM module, an owner statement would incorrectly show for an old booking where the old booking moved to a new owner after already being remitted (i.e. included) on the first owner's monthly statement. This was based on a change we made a while back where $0 bookings are being included on owner statements. Since the $0 booking was never included for the new owner, the statements would include or ignore the booking incorrectly for the new owner. We fixed this, and we also added some checking to store the correct property for the old owner so that the displays look correct everywhere.
Separate Airbnb messages when sending links. The way Airbnb's messaging works, a message can be either a text body or an image file. Because of this, we check if a message template has an attachment. If it does, we assume it's an image and create a second message for the image. Of course, we support more than image attachments in OwnerRez. The attachment could be a spreadsheet, doc, PDF, etc., in which case it will be shown as a URL. When that happens, we're doing the same thing and showing a second message just for the URL (that is an attachment of the first message). This leads to situations like where one message turns into two confusing fragments when traveling through Airbnb's messaging system:
To fix this, we now detect first if the attachment is a non-image and append the URL to the first message as a footer. This shows a much-friendlier message that looks something like this:
[link to file here]
Why does QB say overnight? We recently noticed that our QuickBooks bulk update screen showed a blue information bar with the message "...in the background overnight" when that wasn't true. Our QuickBooks sync engine works in near real-time as updates occur in OwnerRez. Nothing waits to be done overnight. We fixed this to state "...over the next few minutes".
Pasting of merge field links from support articles. Recently, we came across a user that was able to paste a bad link from our support doc about field codes or maybe the one about pre-arrival emails. We couldn't reproduce it, so we have no idea how they managed to pull that off, but we know it came from a copy/paste. To help with this, we now check the content of what you paste when you copy/paste into a rich-text editor and strip junk out that looks extra. This should help the current issue (however it happened?!?) and also others that are similar.
Simplify Airbnb tax logic. We've simplified a lot of Airbnb tax options over the years and added a lot of helpful controls, like the tax dashboard for channels, but we noticed additional things to simplify. We now check if your tax settings are missing necessary Airbnb tax info even if they are "everything but Airbnb" because if they're missing Airbnb tax info, they can't be pushed to Airbnb in the first place. Also, instead of always calculating tax amounts by our percentages, we first look to see if there is exactly one matching tax per type and use the amounts that Airbnb sends instead. Finally, when merging in special offers, we don't back tax out of rent if the account can have pass-through taxes.
Contains Holiday: No for Airbnb and Vrbo. For a long time, our background services that push channel data to Vrbo and Airbnb have thrown up error messages when a user has "Contains Holiday" set to "no" on a surcharge or discount. Kind of an ongoing nudge that Contains Holiday isn't compatible with channels. But then we realized that we could make it compatible, so we made it work. We now detect it and reverse the "just these dates" logic that we normally send to channels (to tell them what dates are available) if Contains Holiday gets in the way.