Reviews on Vacation Rental Reservation Software for your Property Management Company

Vacation Rentals in Destin

Vacation Rentals in Destin, Sandestin, Okaloosa Island
Vacation Rentals in Destin, Sandestin, Okaloosa Island

In Search of the Perfect Online Reservation System

Today marks another day in the never ending quest to find the perfect online reservation software for my Vacation Rental Management Company, Shore Dreams Vacation Rentals. Don't get me wrong, my existing system has supported our business for the last seven years and has managed over 3500 reservations including backend management of our rental units. However, with every relationship, there is the enduring qualities and the ones in which you wish you could change, but know you can't. And there in lies my quest for the "next bigger, brighter and more robust online reservation system."

Before I go on and on and on, a little background on me. I am a college graduate with a BA in Radio-TV and a MS in Sports Administration, so I can manage things pretty well. I also received a AAS in Computer Data Processing, so I know my way around a computer and feel I have a leg up on evaluating various systems. I've had a 25 year career in Television, Sports and Music promotion so I feel my marketing skills are decent. I have owned long term and vacation rental property for over 20 years and that is how I ended up writing this article.

Back to running a vacation rental company...

When I began this journey (I feel like I should be handing somebody a rose soon!), I made a list of what were extremely important features necessary or important enough for me to "switch" to a new Online Reservation System, besides the obvious.

1) Hosted Website so that all links are your domainname.com/reservations for example

2) Easy to use Online and Web Booking Engine with Owner Booking Capabilities

3) Online Payment and QuickBook Integration

4) Auto Inquiry Response Feature

5) Damage Deposit Insurance and Travel Insurance Features

6) Housekeeping Login Portal

7) Vendor and Housekeeping Management and Invoicing Feature

8) Auto Guest Email and Booking Notifications

9) Enhanced Search Engine Optimization and Marketing Capabilities

10) Easy Data Entry and Unit Rate/Information Duplication

11) Website Control via WordPress or other updating systems

12) State/County Tax Computations

13) Flexible Options in Booking Engine

14) Great support and quick followup with Issues

15) Continuous updates and additional features

16) Online Rental Agreement Approval

17) Online Promotional Code Options

And many more...Well, guess what? THE PERFECT ONLINE RESERVATION SYSTEM DOES NOT EXIST! So, I will begin to review the Systems I have tried (some beta; some free trials; and some purchased, used and discontinued!) and give you the pros and cons. I will also give you some tips on why a particular System may not be ready for PRIME BOOKING TIME at the moment, but maybe in the future. At the end of my journey, I will let you know which software I decide to choose. I will also continue to provide some different tips and options that may make your quest for the best operational System easier.

A few things to remember...

1) 85% of the booking inquiries are from By Owner Websites or phone calls

2) 25% are online bookings directly from the website.

3) If you can send your booking inquiries directly to your website that increases your online bookings.

The reason this is important, is that most Online Reservation Systems operate on the premise that everyone goes to the website and books online. That is great if you are Hilton Hotels or Resortquest, but not a boutique management company. Regardless, the process for us is pretty much how I outlined it above.

Now on to what I DON'T WANT....

1) Promises, promises before I purchase

2) The flashy online booking presentation with limited functional management portals

3) No online booking capability

4) No quote feature and hard to find availability calendars when doing a phone/inquiry booking

5) Bright colors that look like an endless website promoting the next best networking marketing program

6) More work for us more money from us

7) Support that tells you one thing one day and another thing another day

8) Upgrades that improve the functionality of one feature while disrupting the functionality of another.

9) Duplication of efforts such as not having templates for pricing of similar and multiple units.

Now that you have a good idea of what I am looking for, please send me your free trials, beta trials, mega trials and I will try them out. If you have new technology for the smaller companies 1-10 units, send them too. Meanwhile, I will revisit the systems I have tried over the last two years, allow them to "wow" me with some of their new features and hopefully give you and them some constructive feedback.

There are more than a few roses to give out at this part of the journey and who knows you may just get that final rose and our business!

Check out this interesting 2013 survey by VRM Intel Technology Survey regarding trends and challenges for Vacation Rental Managers.

So we decided to try LiveRez after being with RentOne Online and a brief foray with Bookt and Instamanager.

The Pros & Cons so far:

  • Good website and great SEO (search engine optimization)
  • Website is customizable to a point and is easy to navigate.
  • Good back end housekeeping and maintenance portals. (my cleaning teams' really like the system) They are a bit confusing at first and I think an online tutorial would help train housekeepers.
  • Great owner login and owner statement capabilities, (except for no partial payment system for longterm rentals or snowbirds yet.)
  • Owner bookings for guests of owners does not flow through to the reservation system. What is the point then? Scratching my head again...
  • Special and Discount abilities with promo codes!
  • Great customized automatic email of instructions and payment reminders. However, you have to do HTML for driving directions and unit specific information. I know HTML, most folks don't.
  • The travel insurance feature with CSA Travel Protection provides a great incentive for vacation rental managers and is easy to use and pay for. I am still waiting to see how the claim process works. Update: It works great, if you have the receipts.
  • The pricing and date range system needs an overhaul and does not provide for copying templates to multiple units. Update: This part is so yesterday. I want to duct tape my head when I have to update or create date ranges and prices. PLEASE DO SOMETHING!
  • The Quickbooks feature works great if you set it up according to the LiveRez PDF. They suggest a Quickbooks Pro Advisor, but I think they forget to tell the Quickbooks Pro Advisor that an upgrade totally changes the way the accounting system works for the property manager.

More later...

I am convinced that for search engine optimization your site and domain should be consistent throughout your booking process. Many systems send your guests to an iframe or hosted site that takes them away from your domain.

DEMAND that your reservation system is hosted on your domain not theirs. It makes a HUGE difference in how potential guests find you...

Some cool updates from LiveRez:

  1. They have added MyRevue, which is an online review system that is incorporated into the guest experience. It integrates with the website and allows the manager to get feedback as well as testimonials and reviews about the units and the property management company. The review is then posted your website with a rating. It would be perfect if we could respond to the review and email it to our management team, but I suppose that is coming soon.
  2. The CRM system, (Customer Relationship Management) or automatic emails is really fantastic. I am not sure there is a better one out there. It is like having another staff member. They also have an auto response system, which I hope to get implemented in the next few months.

So as of now, I am a LiveRez fan and although not perfect, it is as perfect as can get right now and keeps on getting better...

----Update----

I did make a switch from LiveRez to Streamline. Although, I really like a lot of the features, it became bit cost prohibitive for my small company and I really wanted an easier Image processing option and some integration with Glad To Have You and VRBO. LiveRez is a great company and I wish them much success in the future!



Update - A Year Later

It has been over a year since we switched to Streamline and its many "one stop shop" features. With a small staff, we were logging into eight different systems to accomplish what we could get done with one click into Streamline and one click into to Quickbooks Online. We were able to hire a couple more staff members with the amount of money we were saving by switching to Streamline!

The intuitive features are too numerous to list, however setting up units is a breeze, creating and managing the guest documents is actually fun. The Quickbooks Online sync solution with Streamline is seamless and our processing of owner statements and paying owners is very simple.

Furthermore, the sync with VRBO and other partners saves us having to update prices and calendars manually. The Housekeeping App is a favorite among our Cleaners and Inspectors as well.

Check out out our other Hubpage for a review of some of the other features we like about Streamline.



Update 2 years Later

I am still with Streamline and as long as they continue to be fabulous, I don't plan on changing. It is not the perfect software, however pretty close. I am anticipating a report that helps with my end of year tax profit and loss for the owners soon. A report that I can email?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/renatacirceoloudon
https://www.linkedin.com/in/renatacirceoloudon | Source

About The Author

Renata Circeo-Loudon is the owner of Shore Dreams Vacation Rentals, a Destin and Atlanta Area company specializing in affordable family and pet friendly privately owned accommodations. In addition to hosting thousands of vacationing guests from all over the world, Shore Dreams Vacation Rentals provides owners with full service property management options in the Southeast.

As a former sports and music executive and real estate investor, Renata started Shore Dreams Vacation Rentals in 2010 and has expanded to Atlanta and Eatonton, Georgia as well as St. Augustine Beach, Florida.

She started her career in broadcasting and events at NBC affiliate, WICD-TV and by volunteering for the first Farm Aid. In 1990 she moved to Atlanta, GA to pursue a graduate degree in Sports Management and to fulfill a life long dream of working on the Olympic Games and the Super Bowl.

Renata worked for Live Nation Entertainment as an Area Vice President following a successful career with House of Blues Concerts in Atlanta. She manages most of her investments herself and enjoys new and innovated ways of utilizing technology and organization to streamline the handling of property management and vacation rentals.

Recently, she was featured in the “Millionaire Real Estate Investor”, by Gary Kellerand is excited to continue learning about real estate, investing and spending more time at her beach houses!


More by this Author


Comments 21 comments

Teri 19 months ago

Hi Shoredreams,

Thank you for the article, some interesting information here. I appreciate all of the input from others as well. I'm in the process of changing my VRS and was looking at LivRez with Streamline in a close second. Were there hidden fees with LivRez other than the % of gross rents?

This post gave me some other procucts I hadn't looked at yet, Thanks.

Teri


youngd 20 months ago

For the last 3 years I have been using a zero cost approach leveraging Google Apps (docs, calendar, sheets, forms, gmail...). Wrote code to tie it all together into a booking management system. I just finished a version that isn't particular to my property like the original code was.

It accepts inquiry forms, builds rental contract/invoice letters, creates and manages calendar, sends email reminders and provides a dashboard view. It saves me a ton of time.

If you are looking for a free option you can check it out at http://vacation-rental-management-software.blogspo...


beth 2 years ago

I looked at several and Simple One (https://www.simpleone.com/) exceeded my expectations! It provides all the tools to efficiently & easily

manage bookings, payments and advertise vacation rental properties...SimpleOne will get all your inquiries from your email account and will advise you what action to take for each lead. If, for example, it suspect an email is a lead but not sure, it will ask you and act upon your decision. Brilliant!


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Shoredreams 2 years ago from Atlanta Author

Here is my most recent hub! Please take a moment to comment or provide more Tips and Tricks...

http://hubpages.com/technology/The-Top-10-Tricks-T...


Shoredreams profile image

Shoredreams 2 years ago from Atlanta Author

Hey Everyone! I did finally make a switch to Streamline Vacation Rental Software. There were many factors, however the main one was the cost verses the benefits of switching. Do not take any switch lightly! It is a hard process. Check out my other Hubpage on Tricks, Tips and Treats and let me know what you think!


beth 2 years ago

I'm happy with simpleone.com. The flexibility and ease of use is wonderful! It made my business more efficient, manageable and profitable. Highly recommended!


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Shoredreams 2 years ago from Atlanta Author

I found this site that lists most of the vacation rental software and also has some reviews.

http://www.capterra.com/vacation-rental-software


Shoredreams profile image

Shoredreams 2 years ago from Atlanta Author

Take a look at this survey and others that show technology trends regarding vacation rental management. http://www.slideshare.net/amyhinote/vrm-intel-2013...


Shoredreams profile image

Shoredreams 3 years ago from Atlanta Author

It depends...Do you need a software that requires a Quickbooks connection? How many units? How many employees? I probably would still choose LiveRez, however there are many factors that play into the decision. Email me at manager@shoredreams.net and we can discuss. I will post some ideas on this Hub later on with some pros and cons.


Debbie 3 years ago

If you were starting over and had to pick a reservation company software to get started, which one would you choose?

Thanks!


Tina Nelson 3 years ago

Hey Shoredreams ~

... can't resist tossing in my 2 cents lol! As far as i know, my husband and i are the only people in the vacation rental software industry writing software who have been yelled at by a guest over a TV. This means we have both slogged our way through various positions at various rental companies.

Eddie has been writing TCSReservations since 2000, now with about 50 end-users around the country (mostly concentrated in Sevier County, Tennessee) and use it ourselves to manage www.GolfviewVacationRentals.com (that site only has a static home page hosted at GoDaddy; ALL the other pages are generated by our software system and hosted on the server in our rental office ~ as you can tell by looking at the URL in the address bar as you change pages).

We're in the trenches with you but we will never be cloud-based. Being an old-fashioned installed system, we require you to purchase your own server (we set it up) ~ that belongs to YOU. Those things cost about a thousand dollars these days. We insist you command your own security (we help) and manage your own server (we help) because you do not get those luxuries by renting a virtual server. We did give virtual a whirl with a company out of Las Vegas, but we didn't like it ~ at all. It IS a puzzlement to me why anyone would run critical software in the cloud. Wouldn't it feel like running your company's QuickBooks in the air?

As far as only web-based, we don't like the idea of each piece of your data having a number or a code attached to it because it's jumbled up with a hundred other companies' data. Call us paranoid schizophrenics :) We integrated with Shift4, which is a credit card gateway (so you can use your choice of processor), and JetPay which is a credit card processor, and they both return tokens so that you're not storing even encrypted card data. (We also integrated with FlipKey and RightSignature).

As a full-blown escrow accounting program, we're designed to manage the accounts associated with Other Peoples Money (guests' advance deposits, taxes, monies owed to owners), and transfer Your Money (commissions, cleaning fees, forfeitures, etc.) into your operating account (office electric bill, payroll, sharpies, etc.) with it's own checking account. There is no export to QuickBooks from our system because our system writes checks to the vendors, owners, and tax people ~ with you being one of the vendors. You manage all THAT money in QuickBooks by merely recording categorized deposits. (When banks start paying decent interest again, we think it's a great idea to keep your money from credit card deposits in a separate money market escrow account and then just transfer to an escrow dispersal account as necessary three times a month.)

Accounting is our forte, but we also handle in-house bookings, online reservations, housekeeping and maintenance and i would like for you to see TCSReservations for yourself, someday. I would love to show you how we put 'the cloud' in your home or office (where ever you have the best internet) that will run work order and housekeeping apps (for now) for your people out in the field.

You can see another example of a company who uses our system to remotely manage 200 units in the Smokies from Cartersville, Georgia at www.CabinsForYou.com and another example of our stuff in action is www.BrokenBowCabinLodging.com in Oklahoma. Those people enjoy instant content management, right from their software. When you remove a futon from a unit's Amenities List because the last guest broke it, BOOM! it's removed from that unit's web page! After you have a new one delivered you add it back to the list and BOOM! it's back... call 'em if you don't believe me :)

I just quoted a lady in North Georgia $7,000 (one time fee) for a license for 50 units (as she grows, additional unit licenses are $150 one-time, and a ten-pack for $1000, and she can certainly re-use her slots if a unit goes off program), and i offered her no-interest payments for three years with about a third down up front. I built three years of support into her payments ($3000) ~ but after her 36th payment, she will only owe us $83.33 a month ($1,000/year) for 24/7/365 support and the updates. We only sell you a license to use our system and it's a set cost. I quote on a case-by-case basis in case (after speaking with you) i need to add a nuisance fee lol ~ just kidding :)

Our software site is www.TheCompanySoftware.com, and a demo is just an appointment and a phone call with you in front of a computer ... just so you could say you've seen it :)

We know there's NO other business in the world as complicated as managing vacation rentals.

Tina

(i apologize that it turned into 59 cents)


Francesca Nurlu 3 years ago

Hi Shoredream,

I would suggest you also check out Kigo Vacation Rental Software and Channel Manager: http://kigo.net

As per Ricardo's comment, Kigo has a team of professional designers to ensure client websites are aesthetically pleasing as well as functional.

The channel manager feature allows vacation rental agencies and owners to promote their listings on portal websites and have it synced with their own website's reservation system.

Many of the top management, including Kigo's CEO, own multiple vacation rental properties and Kigo was created to address the needs of agencies and owners that were overlooked.

Hope you are able to find the vacation rental solution you are looking for. Best of luck!

Disclaimer: I am currently employed by Kigo Inc.


Ricardo 3 years ago

I agree with your article and I'm feeling the same shoes, after use a software were the sales people said ,yes we can, several times, when we started the reality was complete different.

I saw several demos and there are terrific softwares, but when we found a great back end the Look and feel for the guest side is very old and not attractive, and on the other side, when we found a great look and fee the front end of the admin was very poor.

Great design website companies charge between $30 M to $ 50 M, .

I think there are a great gap between this prices and the small price softwares.

We are not a huge company and also we do not pretend to have this kind of software for our operation for $500, but we are looking for something integrated and with a good taste of some art.

When all of us look pages as Airbnb or Apple, we can see of the designer was working to get to the consumer simple ideas with high result of the use. I don't know why the software companies do not work in this area also.

They are losing a lot of opportunities when are dealing between a design company , you and the software company.

I don't want to be involve in the middle of the deceptions when a problem appear and the designer will say is not designer problem is a software problem or reverse.

Well my friend I'll continue in the searching for the great software with a great look and feel, I do not stop to find it or do it for myself development.

Good Luck.


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Shoredreams 3 years ago from Atlanta Author

We've got PROMO CODES! Yes, LiveRez has "offer codes" now thanks to Sharon Clark in the partner support division. I hope I don't go PROMO CODE crazy...Somebody stop me!!!! :)


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Shoredreams 3 years ago from Atlanta Author

Thanks for the info Brent! The software looks great and you have some great reviews. Are you integrated with Quickbooks yet?


Brent Kleinheksel 3 years ago

Try Lodgix.com it smokes ivacationonline.com and if you use WordPress, makes LiveRez look silly. Free for the first 30 days.


robisonb 3 years ago

I agree with your article. I have owned vacation rentals out of state for 3 years and have tried many sites and am not happy with any of them. I have called and emailed the owners of the program asking them to add different things, and they all tell me they are working on it. So I am going to design my own site. I want my site of offer the extras with no high fees. My goal is to keep it reasonable, I am not trying to get rich. I appreciate any feedback on what you think would be good. I am not a programmer so I will be paying for someone to do all this work.


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Shoredreams 3 years ago from Atlanta Author

Because of timing, I have not had a chance to go through this system, however I did get to see the screen shots and it has some great features...Reach out to Joe for more information!

J.Richardson@CiiRUS.com

www.CiiRUS.com


AliDee 4 years ago

Have you tried RNS Vacation Rental Software? This company has been around the block and know what property managers need for a successful stress free work environment (for the most part.. can anything really be stress free). Check out their website http://www.rental-network.com/ . The website doesn't hit all the features, so contact RNS to get a booklet and schedule a live interactive demo of the software.


m1nkus 4 years ago

I have tried a few, but personally I like Escapia's vacation rental software ( http://software.homeaway.com/vacation-rentals ) It allows me to integrate my booking system, website, and property management into one.


Schuyler 4 years ago

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