What is a Vacation Rental Property Management System? ᐅ Guide

Property Management System or PMS originally comes from the hotel industry. In this guide you will find the reasons you should have a reservation system to manage your vacation rentals.

What is a Property Management System?

A Property Management System (PMS) is software that allows hosts, private owners and property managers to manage their rental properties online. The first systems appeared in the hotel industry in the early 1980s and were originally a specialized booking system for reserving and billing hotel rooms. Modern solutions now offer many additional tools to the vacation rental industry, such as showing availability, allowing booking and reservations, managing payments, and centrally controlling communication with guests.

PMS with integrated Channel Manager

Many property management systems have an integrated Channel Manager that interfaces with other booking portals. The Channel Manager connects the PMS for example to Airbnb, Booking.com or Vrbo, and ensures that the booking calendar is automatically synchronized after each reservation. This avoids double bookings and the guests always see the current availability of the rooms or vacation rentals. In our Channel Manager guide you can learn about the advantages of a Channel Manager for vacation rental managers.

Cloud-based all-in-one software

These all-in-one solutions are mostly cloud-based. This means hosts don’t have to install an extra program, application or app on their computer, but simply log into their account via an internet browser. Mobile apps and mobile browsers also allow access to all features on the go using a smartphone or tablet.

Differences between PMS for hotels and vacation rentals

As mentioned above, property management systems come from the hotel industry – but also have major advantages for vacation rental properties. However, since hotels and short term rental properties have different features and requirements, good hotel software and vacation rental software solutions differ from each other. These are the main differences:

  1. Room type vs. entire apartment

    A hotel may have several room types, but many identical rooms. When a room is booked, there are often alternate rooms available. So in the hotel software it is sufficient to define different room types and then specify how many are available per type. The number of rooms then usually does not change. In addition, the hotel rooms are usually located in the same building or the same complex and thus have the same address.

    Vacation apartments or vacation homes, on the other hand, are unique. Once customers make an online booking and reserve a vacation rental unit, there is no substitute available. A PMS for vacation rentals therefore needs the ability to map each listing as an individual property. After all, not only the size and amenities are different, but also the address. Over time, the number of vacation rentals can also change. Therefore, it is important that the PMS is flexible there as well.

  2. User account

    In a hotel, several users need to access the PMS on a daily basis (administration, reception, housekeeping, etc.), so multiple user accounts are necessary. In a vacation rental, usually only one person is the administrator. However, in this case, a mobile app is helpful so that the host can conveniently access the PMS on the road. Since there is usually no reception desk on vacation rentals, an option for online check-in or self check-in is also very useful.

  3. Costs

    Many hotels belong to international chains that manage many accommodations and rooms / bedrooms. These companies have big revenues and high profits and they can easily afford expensive PMS. The average vacation rental owners on the other hand, has 3 to 5 units. Therefore hosts need a cost-effective platform to manage their properties.

  4. Booking channels

    There are also key differences in booking portals for hotels and short term rentals. For hotels, the integration to the major online travel agencies (also known as OTA) such as Booking.com, Expedia or Agoda is very important. For vacation rentals, portals like Airbnb, Vrbo or other niche portals are more important than OTAs.

  5. Third-party integrations

    APIs, third-party integrations or interfaces to other software providers are crucial for property management systems for hotels, hostels and vacation accommodations. Hotels need features to hotel software such as revenue management systems, order software, upsell software, point-of-sale systems and payment. Owners of vacation homes, on the other hand, often work with platforms that automate as much as possible. For them, for example, the integration of software for dynamic pricing, monitoring systems, smart locks and guest experience are crucial.

Advantages of a Property Management System for vacation rentals

  • Channel Manager: already worthwhile with two different platforms.
  • Central calendar: synchronization of booking calendars in real time -> no more double bookings.
  • User accounts: multiple users can access at the same time.
  • Guest communication: unified communication inbox and outbox.
  • Integrations /APIs: connection to all major softwares and third-party providers.
  • Automation: many workflows and templates can be automated.
  • Optimization: workload statistics help to improve.
  • Cloud-based software: access anywhere via any web browser or on the go via mobile app and mobile web.

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