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Request To Book mode & Offline Security Deposits for Airbnb, Copy Seasons Forward, Rate Excel Import, New Vrbo Amenities (Wifi!)

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Happy Hump Day, everyone! 🐫 Today we'll cover a whopping 46 updates which includes 39 last week and 7 the week before.  The big news is about some long-requested Airbnb and season features, but as always we managed to fit in like twenty other things. Off we go!

New Features

The biggest news of the day - Request To Book (RTB) is finally here for Airbnb API-integrated users.  OwnerRez was one of the first Airbnb partners certified to do Request To Book and it's finally out.  Request To Book is exactly like it sounds - you can set your properties on Airbnb so that the guest has to make a request instead of instantly booking - but Airbnb requires that all of your properties must be in this mode and across all of your channels.

This past week, we did an awesome hour-long webinar with the Airbnb team about how this feature works and answered a bunch of live questions about the feature and its limitations.  Be sure to check that on our Webinars page or by clicking the link below:

Another exciting new Airbnb feature... You can now display offline security deposits to Airbnb guests when booking and require the Airbnb guest to give you a credit card.  We were one of the first Airbnb partners to be certified for this feature as well, and we worked hard to get this in place.  To be clear, Airbnb does not send us the guest's credit card; you have to obtain that from the guest directly, but it's now fully approved and shown to the guest ahead of time when they book that it is required.

When you go to your Airbnb API connection settings in OwnerRez, you'll now see a section where you can define your security deposit and whether you want it to stay like it was before (using Airbnb's built in security deposit settings) or use your OwnerRez rules and amounts.

Again, Airbnb will not provide the guest's credit card for you, so you need to reach out to the guest to get that after they book.  You can do this by using our email templates and triggers to reach out to the guest with an automatic message, reminding them about this and asking for a credit card.  OwnerRez has a powerful messaging system with field codes that let you fully customize and automate this process.

On the Airbnb side, Airbnb will display (at the time of booking) that a security deposit is required, what the amount is and tells the guest that the property (you!) will collect it separately.

We also just released some great new features for seasons.

First, you can now copy seasons forward from one year to another, across multiple properties, while retaining the same rates and surcharges that those seasons currently have.  This allows you to copy all of your holiday seasons to the next year, for instance, and keep the rates that were there so that you can quickly prepare the next year without creating new seasons by hand.  To get started, go to the regular Seasons list (under Settings).  Select the seasons you want to copy by selecting the check-box on each row of the list.  Then click the Copy Forward button.

This will take you to a batch screen where you can configure some options for how you want the seasons, and their associated rates, to copy forward to the next year.

By default, each season will display with the same name except OwnerRez will smartly detect if a year is present in the name and try to iterate the year to the next year.  So if the name is "Christmas 2021" it will default the next year to "Christmas 2022".  It will also default the dates to the same dates as the previous year but give you the opportunity to tweak the dates in line before moving forward.  This gives you the ability to quickly consult your calendar and look at holidays or low/high periods across the next year and set the start and end dates to exactly what you want.

At the top, you can also specify if the rates and surcharges should copy across so that the new seasons have something to start with.  Even if you want to change the rates to something higher, we recommend that you copy the rates as they are so that you can see what they were before when changing them on the Seasonal Rates editor.  The surcharges that are copied are only surcharges that are applicable to the specific seasons you are copying.  Surcharges without season criteria won't be copied.

Click the button and, just like that, you'll have a new year of seasons and rates already set up!

While we were working on seasons, we added a new Seasonal Rate Import from Excel.  We used to have the ability to import season rates from Excel but dropped it when we overhauled our rates system in early 2020.  Our new seasonal rate structure changed dramatically so the old seasonal rate import wasn't compatible.  But we've added a new one, so you can now use Excel to upload your seasonal rates.  To be clear, this import is only for uploading seasonal rates and not the seasons themselves.  You must first have created your seasons in OwnerRez and then use this import to refer to those seasons when defining rates.

You'll find the import tool with all the other import/export pages under the Tools menu and then "Import Seasons" under the From Excel section.  A spreadsheet template is provided like normal and the layout is very basic.

Each row in the spreadsheet is a single night/weekend rate for a single season and property.  You'll define the season and property by name or ID and then put in the nightly and weekend night rate.  Simple!

That's it for the shiny new stuff, but there's a lot more to go through as we move into enhancements and bug fixes...

Enhancements & Tweaks

Let's cover the channel stuff first, and we'll start with Airbnb.

We added an option where you can "use adults" as your max guest count in your Airbnb API connection rules.  Previously, OwnerRez always used your guest count as the max number since Airbnb doesn't have any rules on max guests versus max adult versus max children.  Now you can pick if you want it to be the max adult number instead which a lot of homeowners and PMs prefer.  You'll find this new option on the Airbnb API connection settings.

After an Airbnb reservation request is sent, we now don't allow you to change the charges on the Airbnb request on the OwnerRez side.  As with the finalization issue, this is something that isn't possible, so we made sure to check for this and show it up front before allowing you to try.

We also added a check in our Listing Quality Analyzer tool to detect Airbnb taxes that have per-property IDs selected, as an option, but no ID is entered.  This is important because it will show you where you started doing some work on taxes but didn't complete it.  It is common to not have all the relevant tax IDs when configuring tax settings and need to come back later.

We now detect if your Max Children size limit is set to 0 and automatically flip the Children amenity to "Not Allowed" for Airbnb. Technically there are multiple settings that govern this in OwnerRez - both a size limit and the amenity.  If we see that the size limit is 0, Airbnb will be told that your Children amenity is Not Allowed no matter what amenity is actually set to in OwnerRez.  There is always confusion around this issue, because of the multiple settings, so this will help reduce that confusion.

Last thing for Airbnb - we added a link to your Airbnb account page from the API connection in OwnerRez, so that you can quickly find your user page on Airbnb and click across.  This is purely to help you - guests don't see it - and our fearless longsuffering support team!

Now, let's switch over to Vrbo!

We updated our listing importer for Vrbo to detect and parse the area unit more correctly.  So instead of a property being in square feet, we now cleanly detect square meters and other differences.

We added an "Account Name" setting on Vrbo API connections, so that you can define what your company or business name is to Vrbo.

This is a really basic setting that simply lets you differentiate the account to Vrbo for display and research purposes. This new Account Name field is optional.  If you don't specify it, we'll use the name on your OwnerRez account.

Vrbo added a slew of new amenities to their API integration (yes, including Wifi) so we added those to our amenities page or matched them up to ones we already supported.  What amenities, you ask?  Here you go:

  • Fenced pool
  • Fenced yard
  • Cabinet locks
  • Dishes & utensils for kids
  • Books for kids
  • Meal delivery
  • Childcare
  • Wifi
  • Free wifi
  • Paid wifi
  • Wifi speed (25+ Mbps)
  • Wifi speed (50+ Mbps)
  • Wifi speed (100+ Mbps)
  • Wifi speed (250+ Mbps)
  • Wifi speed (500+ Mbps)
  • Smart TV
  • Office
  • Computer monitor
  • Printer
  • Desk chair
  • Kitchen island
  • Baby monitor
  • Travel crib
  • Outdoor play area
  • Dining table

Again, some of these were already in OwnerRez; we just matched up our existing amenity to the one Vrbo supports, so what you had entered before is already pushing across.  In other cases, the amenity is new to OwnerRez as well.

For all of those Wifi/internet amenities, we created a new "Internet Access" section under Amenities so that you can define it all out in excruciating detail.

You should now have no problem clearing showing guests what kind of internet is at your property!

We noticed that Vrbo calendar imports (iCal) sometimes have blocks far in the future with no names, and these are often created by virtual rules or blackouts created by the owner.  We are now skipping these far-future blocks when importing bookings from Vrbo calendar imports (iCal) even if the they are marked "reserved".

Last thing for Vrbo - we updated the logo on the ribbon calendar when hovering over bookings!  It was changed everywhere else, but not there.  All set now!

Find Rentals is now fully live.  You can turn it on yourself like any other API connection and follow the instructions to wire it up on their side.  We also updated the logo to look a bit nicer and clearer.  Keep an eye out for the Setup and Connecting support article for Find Rentals (still being written) but you should be able to start the connection yourself and go from there.  The Instructions tab on the API connection will tell you what you need to do next.

Since the Houfy integration has been updated quite a bit in recent weeks, we removed the wording that says "go book this on Houfy" when an inquiry comes in.  You can now generate quotes and respond to inquiries for Houfy just like other channels or direct booking requests.  The inquiry response may go back to the Houfy message thread (since Houfy uses a proxy email address) but it will pass along the quote and inquiry so that the guest can book from you directly.

Couple of last little tweaks to mention as we round out the channel updates:

We added some additional help text to the "Send Booking Confirmation" option on channel connections to explain what that is.  This was confusing for users who though the confirmation was from the channel.  To be clear, that option tells OwnerRez whether OwnerRez should send the "Booking Confirmation to Guest" system message to the guest when the booking comes in.  Typically, you don't want to do that unless you have heavily customized that system message.

We also noticed that booking charges could not be changed (they were locked for editing) if the booking was in channel mode but the channel was disabled or deleted.  There are certain situations where this can happen.  We now allow the booking charges to be unlocked and modified when the channel is in disabled or deleted state.

Have you enjoyed our new property Excel import added a few weeks ago?  It's gotten a lot of use and we've been steadily adding other columns to it.  You can now import property rules along with the other property columns in the same Excel spreadsheet.  To see the latest list of columns that are supported, go to the Import Property from Excel page and download the Excel template.  Scroll to the right and look at all those columns!

For the nerds, check out what you can do with tags now via our API.  Notice the new Tags section where you can find, create, update or delete tags for your OwnerRez account - now programmatically through the API.  If you're an API or data partner that needs to group or tag data in your integration, you can now do that.  You can also add tags to Guests on the fly now.  For instance, when updating a guest record, you can pass an array of tags along with the request and OwnerRez will update the guest information and assign the tags at the same time.

Some of you might have gotten a sad email this week saying that we removed some of your surcharges and discounts.  Sorry about that, but it had to be done!  We found a situation where percent surcharges were being multiplied (per night, per stay) with percent amounts.  This shouldn't matter because percent math is the same per night or per stay, but it actually does matter with channels and other down-stream things.  When we saw how few users actually had this set, we decided to remove multiplier options on surcharges or discounts with percents altogether.  Wondering what I'm talking about because you didn't see any email?  Only about a dozen people had this problem.

Do you like using our website search to find support articles, blog posts, forum topics, videos and so on?  So do we!  And we built it ourselves, so we can change it to do anything we want!  We changed the type selection (eg. Articles, Video, Blog, etc) so that when you click on it, it automatically submits the search if you've already typed in some search terms.  It's all about reducing clicks!

Bug Fixes

Allow verifying country coded TLDs.  We got too strict on validating the domain name for verified email addresses. Hand slaps occurred. You can validate those .co.uk and .ut.us domains now.

Don't show Convert to Booking button on Airbnb quotes.  If you create a special offer for an Airbnb guest, you usually want to send it via Airbnb messaging. It is counter productive to convert that quote to a direct booking when you do not have any contact info for the guest, so we completely hid the button in that special case.

RentalGuardian CFAR literature.  We noticed that a pamphlet about CFAR, displayed publicly, was pointing to some old information, so we updated it.

Messages for cancelled bookings in guest thread.  Cancelled bookings don't show by default, but we noticed that the messages (both SMS and Airbnb) for cancelled bookings was still showing in the guest conversation.  We fixed that to not show those messages.

Same phone number multiple times at agreement signing.  In some rare cases, a guest's phone number would be displayed in the Home, Cell, _and_ Work fields on the agreement signing form. We fixed that so if we don't know what type of phone it is, we'll only show it in the Home field (and then only if we don't have another number we know is the Home number).

Disabling security deposits over $1000 on quotes.  If your security deposit was over $1000 and you issued a quote and then attempted to disable the security deposit from the quote > rules tab, you would have seen a validation error. We've removed that.

Social network merge fields (MYFACEBOOK, etc) should work for themes too.  We currently only allow storing social network details on your user account (or primary theme), but those social links weren't working for themes. We've fixed it so you can proudly drive traffic to your social channels from all your themes.

Provide the correct Airbnb Security Deposit support article link.  Our help text pointed to a dead link... not very helpful if you ask me.

Rate calendar select and gaps.  We noticed an issue where the rate calendar (the thing at Settings > Rates) was displaying wrong Minimum Night rules on small edit ranges that happened to contain gap rules.  In other words, it would calculate the gap on the selected nights.  We fixed this by expanding the calculation to take that into consideration.

Commission on Airbnb reservation requests.  When generating reservation requests in OwnerRez for Airbnb API bookings, we noticed that the commission was not correctly being calculated.  Found and fixed!

Scolding about Request To Book when not selected.  Users were getting confused seeing the Airbnb "Can't use Request To book" message when they hadn't selected it, so we fixed the warning to only show if Request To Book isn't available and as help text.

Clarify included expenses language on owner statement creation.  For clarity, we changed the "Included Expenses" wording on the Owner and PM Statement expenses options to read "occurred" instead of "recorded".  When the expense was recorded doesn't matter as much as when it occurred.

Allow disabling original first owner on a property that is no longer managed.  In some cases, we were not allowing the original owner of a property to be disabled. That's been fixed.

Don't crash-bang if the user decides not to complete the Stripe setup.  We weren't handling the "Back to OwnerRez" escape options well during Stripe setup. This resulted in a "crash bang" error. All fixed.

Don't display travel insurance Q&A after quote billing info if it is not enabled.  We were inadvertently showing a small "What about Travel Insurance?" text block on the quote completion process even when insurance was completely disabled. That's gone now. 

Fixed grant access popover where property names have commas.

Listing quality analyzer should more accurately check surcharge criteria versus property maximums.  The analyzer was too pedantic. If a surcharge had an "equal to" criterion, it would present an analyzer error because that maximum wasn't equal to the surcharge criterion. But that's not accurate so we fixed it up.

"Send me a copy" should honor the appropriate FROM information.  This is an oldie but goodie!  We've know about this persistent little bug for a long time but never got around to fixing it.  If you use our Verified Email Domain feature, you can send messages to guests from your own domain name, and we have a "send me a copy" option that will also send the same message to yourself.  However that second copy would not honor the verified email domain which was the source lot of support tickets over the years.  The guest would get the correct thing but you (the OwnerRez user) would not.  This is now... finally...  fixed.

Don't error on sending an SMS attachment with an incorrect file extension.  If you tried to send an attachment via SMS (such as an image) but with the wrong extension name, our SMS vendor was choking on it. We added some smarts so that we can tell them what the correct extension should be and get your picture delivered.

5 Comments (add yours)

Le Touquet Holid
Apr 22, 2021 3:27 AM
Joined Nov, 2018 113 posts

Could we have some drop-down options for VRBO wifi speeds to cover 4 - 25 mbs.
Some rural properties struggle to get anywhere near 25.

Joel P
Apr 22, 2021 7:53 AM
OR Team Member Joined Oct, 2009 109 posts

Le Touquet Holid said:

Could we have some drop-down options for VRBO wifi speeds to cover 4 - 25 mbs.
Some rural properties struggle to get anywhere near 25.

Unfortunately, Vrbo has not exposed any options below the 25+ speed via the API. If your speeds are less than 25 Mbps, it's probably best to leave that selection blank and provide more details in your Wifi description.

Syed Q
May 31, 2021 4:17 PM
Joined Feb, 2021 3 posts

Do we have written approval from Airbnb on the offline security deposits? I tried to implement this on Airbnb and a guest complained to Airbnb and the support rep is telling me that this is a violation of their terms of service.

Chris Hynes
Jun 1, 2021 8:22 AM
OR Team Member Joined Oct, 2012 1396 posts

Yes, Airbnb has approved the offline security deposits -- it is allowed as long as it's specifically called out, which the secdep setting in OwnerRez automatically does -- but some of their reps are still unfamiliar with the concept.

Send in a support ticket to us with information about the booking and we'll get in touch with our Airbnb contact to sort out the issue.

Chris L
Sep 3, 2021 1:28 PM
Joined May, 2017 199 posts

I just got a phone call from Airbnb with the same messaging as Syed ("I see you've put in your listing that you are collecting a security deposit, which is fine, but this must be done through the Resolution Center and collecting funds outside of Airbnb is a violation of the terms of service").

I asked the agent to contact me through Airbnb or email with a follow-up (I wasn't able to find the help article that effectively authorizes this [https://www.airbnb.com/help/article/2827/what-is-the-airbnb-policy-for-collecting-fees-outside-of-airbnb] in time while the agent was on the phone), so we'll see, but I may need to reach out to your support for help if they insist I'm wrong.

So freaking frustrating dealing with Airbnb. I've started marking my Airbnb rates up to try to push more traffic to Vrbo instead, but all that seems to be happening is I'm getting fewer bookings total. :(