10 Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Cabin Management Company
Choosing the right cabin management company to oversee your real estate investment can literally make or break you. Not all cabin companies are created equal.
Truth is, you have dozens of options when it comes to choosing a cabin management company, but choosing the right one doesn’t have to be stressful.
We’ve compiled a list of the most critical questions to ask if you’re interviewing a few different cabin managers. How they answer these questions will give you deep insight into what kind of relationship you will have with them - and how well your cabin will be cared for - should you engage in a partnership.
1. Are you a local or national cabin management company?
Local cabin management companies have a deep understanding of the market. Their entire network is based in a location nearby should you need them. They likely have a strong relationship with the local visitor centers, associations, chambers of commerce and a heavy involvement in the local community.
National cabin management companies operate all over the world, not just in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. These companies have clients and homes spread across hundreds of cities, states and countries, making it nearly impossible to give you and your home the necessary attention and care you and your cabin deserve.
2. What services do you provide?
This is a question that should generate many answers. Throughout the process of choosing the right cabin management company you’ll need to decide what services are a good fit for you and your cabin rental.
Some cabin management companies are strictly marketing firms, while you take care of things such as guest communication, complaints, housekeeping, maintenance and so on. They will handle your listings on multiple websites, but that’s about it. The lack of additional management services is typically reflected in a lower management fee.
Marketing + 3rd Party Contacts
Some cabin rental managers will handle marketing plus bookings but they will refer third party contacts for maintenance, housekeeping, accounting, photography, etc. The downside of these companies are that you will still have to schedule, communicate, pay for and oversee any additional services beyond the initial reservation made for your cabin.
The beauty of a full service cabin manager is that they will oversee everything required to run a well performing cabin rental. From check-in to check-out, a full service managers oversees the entire guest experience and provides a level of service to cabin owners that gives them in-depth knowledge of the cabin’s performance and insight into local market conditions.
Perhaps more than any other industry, the only maxim “you get what you pay for” holds true for cabin managers. If you’re committed to finding the lowest management rate, don’t expect to receive full-service offerings.
3. Can you explain your fee structure?
Today, cabin management fees can range from 10% and 50% of your gross rental revenue. Each coming with their levels of care, service, and attention to the cabin owner, and often, the lower commission rates come with many hidden fees.
If a cabin rental manager cannot clearly explain what’s included in their fees and how they’re structured, this should be an immediate red flag.
Colonial Properties Cabin and Resort Rentals is a full-service cabin rental management company. For the large majority of our owners, choosing us isn’t a “price-point” decision, it’s a decision based on who will offer the highest level of care for them and their cabin, the most advanced technology in the cabin industry, and the most comprehensive revenue strategies.
4. Where is your reservation staff located?
Maximizing the income and revenue potential of your cabin is a vital component to its ongoing success. When a guest has questions about a particular cabin rental are they getting an answer from a reservationist located in another state or even another country? Sure, anyone can pick up a phone and take a reservation, but what if they have a question about area roads, attractions, restaurants and so on? Will the person on the other end of the phone be able to answer those questions? Better yet, has the reservationist been to their cabin?
Here at Colonial Properties, our entire staff is located in Pigeon Forge. They know, live, work and play here all year long. They know the best places to visit, things to see and do, and where to eat. Better yet, they take weekly tours to all cabins, giving them in-depth knowledge of your cabin, its view, its location and its unique features and amenities.
5. How do you screen guests to ensure they’re a good fit for my cabin?
Proper guest screening is one of the easiest ways to ensure minimal wear and tear and damage to your cabin. If a cabin manager doesn’t have a thorough vetting process in place - opting for maximum occupancy over long-term value - the quality of your cabin can quickly deteriorate.
Be sure to ask a few of the questions:
Is there a minimum age for guests?
Do you allow bachelor/bachelorette parties?
Do you speak to guests on the phone after they’ve made a reservation?
What processes do you have in place to make sure guests are telling the truth?
Our vetting process begins at the first point of contact with a potential guest. We question each guest about group size, ages, reasons for their stay and whether they are traveling with pets. These calls are made over the phone and allow us to confirm their contact information, billing addresses, email address and best contact phone numbers.
6. How will you clean and inspect my cabin?
It goes without saying that cleanliness and consistency are critical to the success of your cabin rental. To dive a little deeper, ask these questions:
Who will be cleaning my cabin?
Do you have inspectors?
Are deep cleanings provided?
Our housekeeping staff is possibly the hardest working people in our organization. They typically have from 11am to 4pm to clean, sanitize and replenish your cabin for its next arriving guests. To be so efficient, our housekeeping department has to operate like a well-oiled machine. This is all done with careful oversight and strict attention to detail.
7. How will you price my cabin?
It’s important to ask what pricing strategies will be implemented to achieve balance between high revenue and low wear and tear. What is their initial pricing strategy from day one? Just picking a random number and going with it, or do they have a formula to ensure success from the start? How does their pricing evolve over time into a longer term, ongoing pricing strategy?
If a cabin rental manager does not have a plan to attract attention with initial pricing, monitor activity and adjust the price accordingly, you may be losing money with each and every booking. Many cabin management companies use the set it and forget it approach. They set prices for a 12 month period, leave them the same throughout the course of the year, and don’t make necessary adjustments based on demand, availability, events and holidays.
8. What systems and technology do you use to enhance the owner experience?
We live in an age with so many tools and technologies available to us. If a cabin rental management company isn’t using the latest advancements in technology, be wary. Cabin managers that invest in the right technologies dramatically improve efficiency, resulting in cost savings that ultimately get passed on to cabin owners like you.
One of our core pillars is to always stay ahead of the competition. From our robust website to our back-end cabin owner interface, we’re always a step ahead of the industry.
9. Where will my cabin be advertised?
Exposing your cabin to the right audience, at the right time, increases your cabin’s conversion rate by over 50%. Our proprietary software tracks the entire guest reservation process ensuring that we target or retarget them at just the right time. In addition to our website, your cabin is listed on sites like VRBO, HomeAway, VacationRentals.com and AirBnB. Additionally, our social media platforms have over 1 million unique followers, resulting in maximum exposure each and every day of the year.
10. How long will it take to get my cabin ready to rent?
With some cabin companies, especially national ones, the time it takes to get your cabin ready for its first rental guest can seem daunting. If a cabin manager is efficient and eager to earn your business, you should be fully optimized, advertised and ready to accept guests as soon as possible.
Here at Colonial, we have made adding your cabin to our portfolio a fine art and can have you fully operational in as little as 24 hours. This includes set up, photography, virtual tour, web description, owner web interface, contract process, etc - the whole works. From our partnership on day one, we strive to make you and your cabin a success!
We know you have choices when it comes to selecting a cabin management company in the Smoky Mountains. This is not a decision for you to take lightly. By teaming up with the right cabin manager, you’ll enjoy financial success, pride of ownership and the freedom to relax and enjoy owning a cabin rental. If you’re looking for a cabin company that cares for owners and guests alike, and prides itself on providing superior service, we invite you to reach out to us at your convenience.