Important Tech in Vacation Rentals

Written by: Beth Hamilton, Product & Marketing Manager

I live in fear of renting a vacation rental property and showing up to it looking something like this:

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Although my fears are largely unwarranted, as a woman I feel the need to over think, over research and over plan any trips that I take solo and any rentals that I consider booking. I am terrified that I’ll have a story like my co-worker had in a VR recently… #nightmare.

What this largely comes down to is trust; something that Airbnb is recognizing as important. Recently Airbnb’s COO, Belinda Johnson, has said that “Airbnb’s hosts and guests are not a product—they are our community and we have a responsibility to protect their trust”, which is why they’ve hired the former FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigations) deputy director as their chief trust officer. If they view this as being important, what does that mean to you as a vacation rental management owner or manager? Well it means that 13% of people will not use Airbnb properties because of safety. If you implement the technologies that your guest needs to feel safe, you can lessen that 13% gap. But doing so can open up a can open up a new list of issues that you may not know about.

Let’s start by setting the scene: It is 11PM at night in a city that you’ve never been to. You’re travelling by yourself, had an unexpected delay in your flights, it’s incredibly hot and humid and you are ready for a shower and much needed rest since you start work early in the morning. You’ve taken a ride share to your vacation rental home that you’ve rented and all the details are on your phone. What would make you feel safe, comfortable, and get you situated as fast as possible? It certainly isn’t the image above – is it?

What about this place:

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What about this gives you warm and fuzzies? Why is it so much more inviting and less horror movie-esk? Well here five smart home or IoT (Internet of Things) devices that will make your stay more inviting and welcoming:

  1. Smart Lights: Before you even get on site, the lights are already on so that the house and driveway are not dark and dismal. You can see the surroundings and aren’t worried about looking over your shoulder.
  2. Security Camera: You should already know ahead of time (because the manager has told you) that there are security cameras on-site and only outside. They should be visible and not hidden so you don’t have a “big brother” feeling upon arrival. It’s said that 58% of people surveyed by Digital Third Coast said they were worried about hidden cameras in their vacation rental, and 11% actually found one. Security cameras are important to ensure your property is safe, but having one inside is unacceptable. There are so many wild situations like the man in Florida who was charged with over 4,000 clips of unsuspecting visitors or the Irish rental that was removed from Airbnb for getting caught spying on a family of four. Do not turn into a bad (and creepy) media story.
  3. Smart Lock: A smart lock is a staple for vacation rental properties. Having a simple lock box only adds uncertainty of how often the code is changed. A smart lock with a personal code, however, let’s you know that you’re safe and can quickly get inside. With this, you shouldn’t have to worry about others knowing the code.
  4. HVAC/Temperature Control: Ensuring that the temperature suits the guest arrival is important. In this case, it’s boiling hot out, so the air conditioning should be turned on. Also, controlling heat and air conditioning can save managers big bucks – upwards of 20% in fact.
  5. Guest WiFi Network: As I stated earlier, all your travel details are on your phone. If you’re an international traveller, data can be a huge concern (and expense), so providing a guest WiFi network is paramount. There are so many things that managers use this Guest WiFi network for: marketing research, increase brand recognition, convey terms and conditions, collect email addresses, and so much more – just check out our website if you want to learn more on that. In addition, many of these smart home devices rely on Internet connectivity making it increasingly important to have a WiFi network done well. Otherwise it is easy not to have confidence in these devices remaining operational.

All the trends are pointing to travellers expecting these technologies at the bare minimum. It is expected that 28% of all US homes will be “smart homes” by 2020, and 26% of people indicated that smart home technology is the emerging tech trend that they’re most excited to try. In addition to that, 15% of millennials own at least one smart home device and 86% are willing to pay more for a property that is outfitted with these technologies. Some are even saying that in order to attract millennial travelers, these technologies are required. These technologies are also required if you wish to reach the coveted designation of Airbnb Plus, which specifically references 5Mgps of upload and download for WiFi, heat, HVAC, and smart locks as required in their check list.

So what does that mean for property owners and managers? Well, it’s challenging. Many of these devices are not intended for large commercial operation which means that multiple apps need to be managed. If you are managing multiple properties or are planning to grow, it’s just not scalable. Not to mention that you need to understand the ins and outs of smart hubs, routers, access points, and smart home technologies – and who has time for that? These devices also open up a newfound security threat; check this article where over 25,000 routers were hacked leading to the leak of sensitive information. This is the danger of using residential equipment in a commercial setting and the repercussions can be costly.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, though: if you own/manage multiple properties and want to enable smart home technology, you need to engage with commercial vendors and use commercial hardware. There are vendors out there with smart home kits who offer installation services and a single platform to manage all your devices at all your properties. You also need to be conscientious of ensuring that you have a commercial grade WiFi solution at your property (#shamelessplug). Ideally one that your smart home kit provider has partnered with so you know the two work seamlessly together and are easy to implement across your portfolio. Don’t forget: your smart home tech will not work without a solid managed WiFi set-up.

Bottom line is: smart home technologies (or IoT tech) is becoming increasingly important but also increasingly complex. Don’t be left behind, or even worse, with bad reviews.

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