How many units do you manage?
We currently manage vacation rentals in almost every HOA in the Keystone area. We also manage select vacation rentals throughout Summit County, including Dillon, Frisco, Silverthorne, Breckenridge and Blue River. Our portfolio includes some of the most exclusive homes throughout the county. We don’t think the “size” of our company is a particularly good metric to judge quality, but for those who like to keep score, we are the stewards of over 500 homes as of 2022.
How long have you managed vacation rentals?
We were founded just months before the great recession began in 2008. Our fledgling business survived and thrived in some of the hardest economic times of our generation. We draw great strength from the struggle to succeed during those hard times. We also believe we met the challenge of COVID better than any other company in our area. We maintained our full staffing levels at all times, which enabled us to react to the unpredictable events COVID threw at us.
What is your company’s relationship to the ski resort and their various amenities?
There is no direct connection between our company and the resort or any other entity in Summit County. We are 100% independent. Of course we want to cooperate with our friends at the ski resorts and we often work together to make Summit County a better place. However, if there are competing interests or perspectives, our allegiance is to the homeowners who we represent first and then to our guests.
Our company has no control over issues like ski lift operations, building rules, pool hours, or anything outside of the four walls of the vacation rentals we manage. Having said that, we most certainly do have resources to facilitate the resolution to most issues. It is our job to solve problems. Though we have no way of forcing other entities to fix something or change something, we do know how to get things done. We encourage both our clients and guests to ask for help with all things. Most of the time we are able to provide valuable assistance and insight.
How does your reservations staff operate?
Our reservations staff is available to answer rental inquiries and help our clients with a wide range of issues 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We are generally open ten to twelve hours a day to answer calls, but we also have dedicated on-call staff for after hours. Additionally, we don’t just take reservations–we help guests plan their vacations and function as a semi-concierge for clients.
Our philosophy is to provide the type of service each guest wants. Guests who want to speak to a live person can do this seven days a week. Guests who want to make a reservation without any human assistance can do that 24/7. Or, for those that want to communicate via email, we’re available for that too. We come to the guest on their terms. Our conversion rate per inquiry is multiples higher than our competitors who focus on just one method of booking guests.
What is your customer service philosophy as it pertains to guests?
You have probably heard the saying, the customer is always right. Well we don’t subscribe to this ill-conceived idea. We believe that all adults should act respectfully, behave courteously, and give each other significant amounts of latitude in most things. The concept can be applied in both directions. We understand that sometimes our guests are having “bad days.” We want to give them the benefit of the doubt. We also expect our guests to give us a little slack if we make a mistake. Here is what does not work for us: If a guest attempts to blackmail us or otherwise makes a mountain out of a molehill, we do not participate in this nonsense. This kind of person is rarely satisfiable and eats up a great deal of our time. Additionally, when a guest wants some kind of special treatment that would negatively impact one of our homeowners, we just say no. On the other hand, to the degree that we can help someone who has a genuine problem, we want to help. We try to embody the principles set out in Sacred Scripture, of particular focus is the fifth chapter of Matthew. These include treating others as we want to be treated, not as we are actually treated. So we attempt to be kind and generous even when others are not, but we also hold people accountable and do not allow others to manipulate us with threats.
What’s the reservation process?
Guests can reserve a vacation rental in a variety of ways. They can contact us directly and reserve by phone or email, but we find most guests book online using popular sites such as VRBO or Airbnb, or they book directly on our website. Regardless of the booking method chosen, all guests are required to sign a rental agreement and pay at least half the total reservation amount. Final payment is due within 30 days of their check-in date. Each reservation is confirmed via email or phone, and then, prior to check-in, each guest receives access to our Guest Information Portal and is reminded to read the check-in instructions for their vacation rental there.
Our clients can see their home’s reservations in real-time via our Owner’s Portal that can be accessed from our website. The Owner’s Portal is also the preferred method for homeowners to make their own reservations.
What are your general guest requirements?
In most cases the minimum rental age is 24 years. We also offer our clients the option to select a higher age requirement for guests, up to 30 years of age. All guests must be registered with their names and ages. Our owner-centric rental agreement must be agreed to and credit card information is kept on file. You’re welcome to read our rental agreement for all the details.
We know that if we allowed 18-year-olds to rent vacation rentals that this would result in a short-term increase in occupancy. In fact, our biggest competitor rents to 18-year-olds and actively solicits large college groups.
How are maintenance issues handled?
Maintenance issues are addressed in the order they are received during normal business hours. If it is after hours, and the repair is not an emergency, then it will be handled the next day. If it is an emergency, then it will be handled immediately by our 24/7 on-call maintenance staff.
We maintain the largest in-house maintenance staff in Summit County. Our ratio of maintenance staff to properties under management is 40 to 1, which is unheard of. We literally have two or three times as many maintenance staff per property than anyone else. We spend a lot of our resources on preventative maintenance and quickly addressing problems when they arise.
How do guests check in and out?
Guests want a streamlined check-in process that is fast, flexible, easy and efficient. So that’s what we offer. Our business is substantially different from a hotel, so a check-in desk staffed 24/7 is an unnecessary waste of resources. We have a 24-hour automated check-in system. Most guests simply pick up their arrival packet that includes their keycards via a secure lockbox and they’re on their way! Other guests go directly to their vacation rental. Check-out is even easier: Turn the dishwasher on and leave the keycards on the counter or put the key back into the lockbox. That’s it!
How do you make sure you respond to each and every guest inquiry?
Technology has made this much easier. First, most vacation rental platforms have automated quoting features. Second, our staff is available by phone and email 7 days a week for 10 to 14 hours per day. Third, we use additional technologies which enhance our ability to respond to all forms of guest inquiries 24/7. Lastly, we are physically present and available for direct guest to staff interaction.
Does SCMR recommend specific kitchen items?
Yes. Please click on this link.
HOW SCMR IS UNIQUE
With my current property management company, it’s very rare that I can actually speak with management. Is your management staff easy to get in touch with?
When it comes to our clients, we offer unprecedented availability to our management staff. Clients may choose to call or email the office to reach an experienced staff member or manager, or they can call the direct number of the general manager or the owners of SCMR. We consider it part of our job to interact with you when you want to be interacted with us. Thus, if you’re a night owl and prefer to discuss a topic via phone at 11 p.m. that can be arranged. If you prefer to communicate through email, we can do that too. We’re here for you.
I am really not interested in switching management companies because it is a huge hassle.
We try very hard to make the process easy for you. We know selecting a management company is a big decision and switching to a new company can seem daunting. We are ready and willing to take things as quickly or as slowly as you prefer. If you want to transition to our services quickly, then we can generally answer all your questions within an hour. All of our on-boarding documents are web-enabled which means they can be completed from any computer or smartphone in about 15 minutes or less. Also, we come to you on your terms. Do you prefer to meet in person, speak by phone or converse through email? We are happy to do things the way you want. We want to facilitate healthy long-term relationships with our clients. Ultimately, we are here to serve you. We will do all the heavy lifting of transitioning your to our program and be there for you whenever you need us in the future.
How can you charge only 19.95% when other companies charge between 40% and 60%?
We hold every dollar accountable. Our employees are cross-trained and when they are not performing their primary job, they are working on one of our many projects. Managers don’t sit in their office hiding from problems. All staff members play an active role in operating the business. This creates a highly efficient organization.
We don’t cut corners and we don’t reduce services. In fact, we are happy for anyone to compare our services to any competitor. We are certain you will not find us lacking in any area. Quite simply we offer premium services at non-premium costs. We think the real question is this: Since SCMR is not a charity, and it does in fact make a healthy profit and it has been in business since 2008, why do competitors charge double what we charge?
It is important to understand that in order to get a true picture of the cost difference between management companies, we must find a way to obtain an apples-to-apples comparison. It is not fair to say we only charge 19.95%. Nor is it fair to say that Competitor “A” charges only 25% or 50%. We must look at the entire cost structure for each company and then compare the final costs. In our case, the final cost for SCMR on our Platinum program is about 24% to 27%. Our next closest competitor has a final cost for a similarly featured program of 33-37%, and our most costly competitor, costs more than 60% when all fees are taken into account.
How can I make an apples-to-apples comparison of SCMR fees vs. competitors that charge just one flat fee?
The total cost of management from SCMR is approximately 24% to 27% of the rental revenue. This includes the cost of marketing, management, and maintenance. Many competitors who advertise a single fee, such as a 35% flat fee, truly don’t provide all the required services within this fee. For example, none of our competitors offer a comprehensive maintenance program that is included in their flat fee. Maintenance for most companies will add an additional 3% to 5% in cost. Also, many management companies require their clients to “give away” between 3 and 7 nights to the management company, in lieu of a marketing fee. These “giveaway” nights can cost an owner between 2% and 8% of their revenue. This is a real cost that is often overlooked. So in order to get an “apples to apples” comparison, it is best to take our 27% and compare it to the flat fee of the competitor and then add in between 5% and 13% more to their percentage. In the example provided here, the comparison looks like this:
SCMR Total Cost of Management: 27%
Competitor Total Cost of Management: 35% + 3% + 2% = 40% or 35% + 5% +8% = 48%
Why don’t you just offer a single fee price like all the other management companies?
We are different, and not just for the sake of being different but because we think our difference makes a difference. We want to be transparent. Breaking out our service fee into three primary categories is an excellent way to achieve transparency and to hold your dollars accountable. When you pay us a marketing fee and a maintenance fee, you will always get at least the things that we promised for those fees. Furthermore, breaking fees out and offering a menu of options enables you to manage costs based on the services you want and not require you to agree to a “one size fits all” inflexible system.
We all know that we get what we pay for. How is it possible to offer quality services at a dramatically reduced cost?
Our system was not possible in the 1990s or even in the early 2000’s. The various technological tools we now take for granted simply did not exist. In the past it may have been necessary to charge dramatically higher fees. However, our big competitors have stuck with an outdated business model for reasons only known to them. What we know is that we leverage the Internet, mobile devices and the innovations that have come from these basic advances over the past couple of decades. Here is one small example for you to consider: All of our cleaning staff carry wireless devices that provide them their cleaning schedule for the day and enable them to document with text, photos and video any issues while out in the field. This information is captured and transmitted to our managers in real time. Systems like this allow our staff to operate efficiently and better in all ways. With the doors opened by technology, entrepreneurs have been able to enter the resort market and improve efficiencies through innovation and competition.
We’re happy to report that these technological tools have proven successful for us. When we were starting out, clients were told that we were a “fly by night” operation, “marketing via vacation rental websites generates low quality renters,” and that our services were “substandard.” Each of these claims have turned out to be false. We invite anyone to ask us the hard and skeptical questions. We are happy to have the opportunity of your consideration.
What is the difference between pooling vacation rentals and the SCMR system of individually marketing vacation rentals?
In a “pooling” system the management company clumps their inventory into categories, such as 1 bedroom, 2-bedroom and so on. They treat all properties in the same category exactly the same and they assign guests to each a property when it rotates up to the top of the list. For example, if your home is in a category that has fifty similar properties, it will receive one rental out of every fifty rentals. All properties have to wait their turn. This is the system that hotels use in which all their rooms are exactly the same. This system is mathematically fair and easy for the management company to implement. Our system is more difficult to implement and is not mathematically fair, but it is a better system because each property obtains rentals based on its own merits. With our system, if a home is highly upgraded and desirable, it will be in higher demand and have more nights rented at a higher nightly rate. This system rewards owners who invest in their homes and keep them in good condition. We believe this is how a free market system should operate and we believe in this model.
How can you compete with the big boys who offer package pricing of many different services?
- We believe most consumers recognize that package pricing is often just a
mechanism used to confuse and ultimately extract more money from them.
- We offer real discounts that save real money. Our lodging prices are almost always lower than our competitors because we adjust our rates daily based on market forces such as supply and demand and the seasonality of the resorts.
- Discounts are often a shell game in which costs are subtracted in one place but added back in another. For example, one competitor offers “kids ski free.” Unless you have kids that already know how to ski and they are between the ages of 6 and 12, then you will get no value out of this. Furthermore, the value you do get is diminished by the fact that you have to pay a $25 to $50 per night room charge and an inflated nightly rate. How much would you really save if you paid $300 extra in room charges and inflated rates for 3 nights when your kids’ lift tickets are only worth $59 in the first place?
What makes the SCMR maintenance program different from its competitors?
It is easy for competitors to claim they have a strong maintenance program and make vaporous promises regarding their maintenance staff and its abilities. Here is the truth about most competitors. They provide very minimal maintenance for the properties they manage or they use expensive outside contractors to perform maintenance that requires any significant level of skill. This means that either a property will slowly deteriorate over time or the client will be regularly surprised with large bills from plumbers and other service providers that charge $150 or more per hour. SCMR maintains a large “in-house” maintenance staff. We maintain an industry leading ratio of 1 maintenance engineer to 40 properties managed. This is more than triple the in-house labor of our closest competitor.
What is the catch? How is SCMR able to provide more services for less cost than any other competitor? This seems to defy the laws of economics!
We have been in business since 2008. We survived two recessions and a pandemic and we came out stronger each time. We are not a charity and we do believe that it is completely appropriate and honorable to make a profit. The real difference between us and some others is that our business model is better, less bloated, more efficient and frankly we do believe in a scenario where everyone wins, which means that we don’t have to take advantage of our clients in order to be profitable. We can all succeed together!
Which maintenance option should I choose: Basic, Good, Better or Best?
The Basic program is best suited for homeowners who prefer to do a fair amount of the maintenance on their own or the property is very new with fixtures and appliances that are not likely to need maintenance for several years.
The Good program is best suited for homeowners who prefer to do a small portion of the maintenance on their own or own a home that is less than 5 years old.
The Better program is our most commonly selected program. This option is best suited for homes that have been well maintained and appliances that are in good condition, this program strikes the right balance between included services and cost.
The Best is well suited for owners with older homes and appliances that are nearing the end of their life span. Additionally, this program includes up to four hours of included maintenance per month, at no additional cost.
What things aren’t covered in your maintenance program?
The general concept we look at is maintenance/repairs vs. wants/upgrades. If your dishwasher breaks, then repairing the dishwasher is covered at no additional charge on our Best program. If you simply want to replace your old dishwasher, then this is not covered in our program because this a want/upgrade. We are, of course, always ready, willing and able to facilitate the replacement of an old dishwasher, the difference is that the labor for replacing a non-broken dishwasher is not an expense that is covered in the maintenance program. This same principle can be applied to pretty much everything in a home.
Why does it matter that your company has its own employee-based cleaning staff?
In the spirit of our core belief that truth is power, the following is what we have learned about cleaning vacation rentals in Summit County. In the first three years of operations, our company hired and fired four different independent cleaning companies. There were always problems. We regularly consulted with the management and owners of these companies to discuss the need for improvement. They would make promises to fix problems, but in each case, we parted ways because our standards could not be met.
In 2011, we decided to create our own in-house cleaning division. At the time, it was overwhelming to more or less double the size of our internal operations and triple the complexity of our operations, but in hindsight it was the right strategic move. This decision allowed us to hold each and every housekeeper accountable. It also allowed us to implement quality control systems that were not possible with contract cleaners. We now have a robust cleaning system that is drastically better than using contractors. We are the only property management company in Summit County that has brought all aspects of the cleaning, housekeeping and laundry process in-house. Our in-house team exceeds 100 employees. We own and control our own laundry facility, dozens of vehicles and we own a 20,000 square foot building that we operate out of in Summit County. We also employ full-time quality control supervisors and managers as an extra layer of oversight. No other company in Summit County can make these claims.
Why did you move laundry in-house?
For many of the same reasons we moved housekeeping in-house. For years we worked with outside companies who laundered our linens. Either they did a poor job and because of contracts were not motivated to improve, or their rates would skyrocket after a short time. After a lot of research, we decided that moving laundry in-house would not only serve our homeowners and guests better, but would also result in cost-savings down the road.
In 2015 our laundry operations began and we’ve never looked back. Sure, acquiring a building, retrofitting it for commercial laundry purposes and figuring out staff scheduling was quite the undertaking. But we dealt with each of those obstacles as they came and now our laundry operations run like a well-oiled machine.
How often do you launder and dry clean bedspreads and blankets?
We launder and dry clean twice a year and we provide two additional no-charge bedspread and blanket cleanings when homeowners ask for the cleaning or when our inspectors determine cleaning is warranted. Most of our competitors launder and dry clean these items once a year. SCMR is the only company in the Summit County area that offers this level of cleaning and we do it at about the same cost as our competitors who only clean these items once per year.
For vacation rentals on the Ivory White Bedding program, the process is a bit different. This program consists of a soft, white-striped duvet cover with a medium thick and high quality down alternative duvet. The duvet cover is is replaced with a freshly laundered duvet cover after every guest stay. Not only do these white linens lend a modern look to the vacation rental, the program features an uncompromising standard of cleanliness.
What is the Ultra-Premium Linen Program, and why should I care?
Our Ultra-Premium Linen program is modeled after the Four Seasons Hotels and dramatically surpasses all linen standards in the ski industry. The towels are thick, soft and luxurious, while the sheets have a very high thread count and an alternating satin stripe pattern lending a touch of elegance. No one else in Summit County offers this kind of quality. This program will set your home apart from the competition, and will be something you and guests enjoy every day.
What is the Ivory White Bedding Program, and why should I care?
Our Ivory White Bedding Program is modeled after high-end hotel chains and consists of a soft, white-striped duvet cover with a medium thick and high quality down alternative duvet. The duvet is removed after each guest stay and replaced with a freshly laundered duvet cover. The entire bed will be made with fresh white linens for each new arrival. Showcasing an uncompromising standard of cleanliness, the Ivory White Bedding Program will set your home apart from the competition, and be something you and your guests enjoy every day.
What Marketing Package should I choose: Good, Better or Best?
The Good package includes all of the basics you would find from any Property Management company and then some, like a listing on our direct website, www.scmountainretreats.com, and a professionally managed Airbnb listing. In addition, your property will be included within our digital marketing funnel which features general SEO, SEM and PPC strategy, Google Ad campaigns, monthly email campaigns and cart abandonment follow up. This option is great for homeowners who use their property often and are not overly concerned with maximizing revenue.
The Better package includes everything in the Good package plus a professionally managed VRBO listing on our Premiere Partner account which means priority search result placement and increased traffic. We estimate this option would provide a 30% increase in revenue as compared to Good. This option is perfect for homeowners who are looking for a balance of having some availability in their unit while still seeing a significant increase in revenue.
The Best Package includes in the Good and Better Packages plus access to the Lexicon Partner Network. Providing additional listings on Expedia, Hotels.com, Orbitz, Priceline, Trip.com and many other feeder sites. We estimate this option will provide a 40% increase in revenue as compared to Good package overall. This option is ideal for homeowners who are interested in maximizing revenue.
Why does my unit not appear when I search on VRBO, Expedia, Booking.com etc?
There are a variety of reasons why your unit may not always appear in search results from our partnered websites. The most common reason is that something in the search parameters rule out your unit as an option. Examples include, searching for a specific date when your unit is not available, including a certain amount of guests that your unit could not accommodate, or not searching in the specific area your unit is located.
These platforms are essentially just search engines tailored to vacation rentals. Their primary function is to match a traveler with options the system determines is the best fit for that specific traveler. This involves complicated algorithms that work on many different levels. The process is fluid and dynamic. The goal is not for your property to show up on the screen of every traveler. The goal is for your property to show up on the right travelers screen. Rest assured that your property is advertised to the right travelers at the right time.
What exactly are the “Expedia” and “Lexicon” partner networks in the Best marketing package?
Expedia is the parent company that owns many well known brands like VRBO and many other similar but boutique websites that list vacation rentals. The benefit of this is that Expedia distributes our listings and hosts them on numerous websites they own and manage. They adjust these listings every day based on trends and algorithms they have built in an attempt to give travelers an experience tailored to their specific search and needs. In order to give travelers the most relevant advertisement, your property may be easy to find on a particular website one day and difficult to find on another day. Due to this dynamic setup, many websites are not set up for someone to directly access a listing. They do not attempt to cater to property owners who want to look at their listings. These websites are solely focused on the traveler experience. This is a good thing and what makes these websites so effective.
The Lexicon Partner Network works in a very similar way but it opens up your property to a whole new set of websites like Hotels.com, Orbitz, Priceline, Trivago, and many more. This brings your property to the attention of an additional group of travelers and can significantly increase your revenue.
Will the higher level Marketing Packages be worth the additional cost per reservation?
The simple answer is yes. Let’s look at a hypothetical 2 bedroom condo and only focus on only the difference in annual gross revenue.
If the average revenue for a 2 bedroom condo for 12 months, when advertised on the “Good Marketing package” is $30,000.00, then the marketing cost would be $825.00. The amount of gross revenue after marketing cost would be $29,175.00
On average the “Better Marketing Package” will generate approximately 30% more revenue than the “Good Marketing Program”, which increases the gross revenue to $39,000.00. This package costs 3.00% of the gross revenue which is $1,170.00 The amount of gross revenue after marketing cost would be $37,830.00.
On average the “Best Marketing Package” will generate approximately 40% more revenue than the “Good Marketing Program, which increases the gross revenue to $42,000.00. This package costs 3.75% of the gross revenue which is $1,575.00. The amount of gross revenue after marketing costs would be $40,425.00
Thus we can clearly see in this hypothetical example, that from a pure revenue perspective, increasing the level of marketing for a property will yield significantly higher returns.
Why does SCMR Offer different Maintenance options?
Over time we have realized that not all properties need the same amount of maintenance and not all owners want the same amount of included services. Newer properties tend to need less maintenance. The same is true for properties that are rented less often or properties that benefit from “handy” owners. In response to these different needs, we designed maintenance options that allow our clients to tailor the amount of services included.
What exactly is the SCMR maintenance program for?
We provide between 1 and 4 hours of included maintenance at your property per month, at no additional charge. We also provide all assistance to guests for common issues they experience while staying in your property. All of our maintenance services are provided 24/7/365. For more details about our comprehensive maintenance options please follow this link.
Owner Finance and Fees
How is sales tax handled?
Every guest is charged all appropriate sales taxes. SCMR properly accounts for all sales tax and pays each owner’s sales tax every month. All internal processes are handled professionally via CPA and professional bookkeeping services. All accounting needs are handled by our company and there is no additional charge for these services.
How do you account for owner’s income?
- All reservations are viewable in real time on our secure owners portal and the income from those reservations can be provided by request.
- Around the 15th of each month owners receive a detailed monthly statement that is clear and easy to read. We do not use any indecipherable codes or jargon.
- Between the 20th and 25th of each month owners receive a direct deposit with all income from the previous month.
- Every January each owner will receive an IRS 1099 with all the required information for you to report on your federal income tax.
How does SCMR determine the pricing for each vacation rental?
We believe in a market driven pricing structure. We do our best to understand the rental market and the market for each individual vacation rental. We employ dynamic pricing, which simply means that we increase and decrease prices regularly based on several factors. We believe that it would be better if everyone used a market driven approach. Unfortunately, most of our competitors make utterly futile attempts to control the market by setting prices according to what they want, rather than what the market is willing to pay. This method is inefficient and results in lower total revenue.
Here are some specifics that affect our pricing:
- Economy: Good economy equals higher prices while a recession equals lower prices.
- Dates of rental: High demand times equal higher prices while low demand times equal lower prices.
- Gaps Between Reservations: Weekend gaps equal higher prices while weekday gaps equal lower prices.
- Advanced Reservations: Reservations made far in advance equal higher prices while last minute reservations equal lower prices.
- Quality of a Property: Renovated vacation rentals equal higher prices while non-renovated vacation rentals equal lower prices.
- Special Features: Ski slope views, walk to the lifts, ski-in/ski-out all equal higher prices while parking lot views, bus to the lifts, queen beds all equal lower prices.
- Using “The Force.” No really we mean it. Pricing is part science and part feeling. Anyone who claims to have a perfect mathematical formula is just wrong.
I don’t like the way SCMR sets prices. Can I set my own pricing?
We offer different levels of service that you can choose from. If you are interested in setting your rental rates, you may be interested in our Gold or Silver programs. Our Platinum Management Program, which is our most popular program, is designed for SCMR to professionally manage all rental rates, marketing, maintenance, management and guest experiences. Our Platinum Management Program is similar to selecting a full service investment advisor. The advisor will use his/her expertise to make decisions to manage your investment portfolio. Similarly, we use our expertise to optimize your rental rates in order to maximize annual revenue.
Shouldn’t you strive to get the highest price?
We always want the highest price possible. However, we must temper this desire with a healthy dose of reality. There is no sense in offering a vacation rental in October for the same rate as we get during peak ski season. Doing this always has the same results: zero revenue.
Instead of generating nothing during the off season, we offer enticingly low season pricing and have maintained approximately a 20% occupancy rate during these times. Compare this to our competitors who maintain a 5% or less occupancy rate.
We are not saying that you will get rich from rentals during the off season. However, if we can generate an extra 10% or 15% in total revenue during these off months, then that is all marginal profit. That means these dollars go straight to your bottom line because you already incur the costs of owning and maintaining your home, regardless of whether it is rented or not.
How much will my home generate in revenue?
We wish this was an easy question to answer. It is not. The factors that determine revenue range from things that are within the owners control, within our control and factors that are external to anyone’s control. Having said that, we can give you some guidance. Here are some reasonable expectations.
Condos in River Run should generate something like the following:
- 1 bedroom condos approximately $31K-$35K
- 2-bedroom condos approximately $40K-$50K
- 3-bedroom condos approximately $70K-$90K
- 4-bedroom condos approximately $90K-$110K
Ski-in/ski-out condos in Keystone generate something like the following:
- 1 bedroom condos approximately $55K-$65K
- 2-bedroom condos approximately $65K-$85K
- 3-bedroom condos approximately $100K-$130K
- 4-bedroom condos approximately $130K-$170K
- 5-bedroom condos approximately $220K-$275K
Generally generate 20% more than Keystone condos
Generally generate 20% to 25% less than Keystone Condos
Single family homes:
These properties can vary widely. Very large homes that are in prime locations can generate several hundred thousand dollars in rental revenue per year.
Do homeowners get paid for early check-ins and late check-out fees that are generated from guests?
No. The reason is simple: This fee is not a rental fee. It is a fee for SCMR to rearrange and redeploy housekeepers in real time. In the past we offered this service at no charge. It created major problems because guests would call 5 minutes before check-out and ask to stay longer. The fact that it was free created an expectation of entitlement and caused dissatisfaction when the request could not be met. With our current system, we allow early check-ins and late check-outs based on our ability to fulfill the request and a fee being paid. This has greatly reduced the amount of guest dissatisfaction and reduced demand to a level in which we can often accommodate the requests when they are made.
Do homeowners get paid if a reservation is canceled?
If we were able to collect money from the rental guest, then yes you do get paid for cancellations. Under most circumstances guests pay a 50% deposit at the time of booking and the final payment is due 30 days prior to arrival. This policy is strictly enforced and it protects owners from costly last minute cancellations.
As our industry has evolved, some vacation rental platforms such as Airbnb have made it difficult for SCMR to enforce some of the terms of our rental agreement. In rare cases, a vacation rental platform may step in and give a refund to a guest, even though our rental agreement states otherwise.
Why do you charge a marketing fee? What does it get me?
Your marketing fee pays for the subscriptions to the various vacation rental websites that we use and for things like Google Ad Words and Facebook advertising. It also pays for the ongoing upkeep that we perform in terms of optimizing ads with new photos, write-ups and geeky things that most folks don’t care about, but are very important. The fee that we charge for marketing is a subsidy and does not cover all the costs of marketing. We invest additional resources beyond the amount of the marketing fee because we want to stay ahead of the curve and not be held back by an arbitrary cap on spending. Thus, if we believe something will generate a good return on investment for both you and us, we often use resources from other areas to make this happen.
What is the monthly maintenance fee all about?
This fee allows us to streamline our relationship with homeowners. One of the major complaints from homeowners we surveyed is this: “We get charged every time a service person steps into our home.” In many cases owners pay thousands of extra dollars per year for maintenance items that require very little skill to fix. One of the major property management companies charges $150 to $250 from an outside plumber to clear a clogged drain. It is grossly inefficient to call a plumber out for a minor issue like this. Most maintenance needs are included in our maintenance program.
Read more about our maintenance program and how it’s different here.
What is the Resort Recovery & Assistance Fee?
This fee is charged to guests and includes property amenities, government sales tax compliance and submittal, business license, keycard acquisition fee, short-term rental permit compliance, and cost of living adjustments for staff. This fee is charged to guests in the same way that taxes are charged. All management companies charge some version of this fee and call it something like a Resort Fee. Our fee is the lowest of any competitor that we are aware of, and some competitors charge more than double the fee we charge.
If I find my own renter, do I get a discount off the management fee?
No, we charge the same fee for all paying guests. There is a great deal of work that goes into marketing and managing a vacation rental. We are happy to accept and handle any guests that you send our way. Our base management fee is still lower than any other competitors.
Do higher rental rates encourage a higher caliber of rental guests?
We wish things were this easy. They simply are not. Think of it like this; is there anything fundamentally better about a person who pays $1000 per night versus a person who pays $100 per night? Are they more responsible, more ethical, more moral? We have found the answer to this question to be a resounding NO. We have hosted hundreds of thousands of guests throughout the years. We have found absolutely no relationship between the amount someone pays for a property and the amount of care they give the property.
I don’t want my property undervalued. Can you assure us that our rental rates will not be too low?
Yes! SCMR offers two options for our clients. Our traditional option is chosen by more than 95% of our clients. In this case, you are trusting SCMR to use its professional judgment to optimize your rental rates year round. Our other option involves you and SCMR agreeing on base rates for various times of the year and a minimum stay length. Once we have established the rates you are comfortable with, we will make minimal adjustments based on market demand. We will not adjust your rates up or down by more than 25% from the base rates that you established. We offer this option because we are here to serve our clients the way they wish to be served. However, we do not recommend this option for the vast majority of clients.
How will I know if my home is available for my use?
You have a few options:
- You may log in to the Owner’s Portal and see all your property information including existing reservations, monthly statements and make your own reservations.
- You may call our office and speak to a staff member.
- You may send us an email and we will be happy to respond to all questions within 24 hours.
Are there restrictions on when and how I can use my home?
It is your home. We respect that. We do not pretend like you have to ask our permission to use your home. If you want to use your home every weekend during ski season, then we will be happy to rent it as much as possible during the week. Due to the fact that we are a business and intend to make a profit, we will not allow homeowners to use our services free of charge while they are actively renting their home out for profit. All revenue generating stays are subject to our low 19.95% management fee.
Does your system make it difficult for homeowners to use their home when they want to?
Not at all. We work with you as partners to rent your home, but our first duty is to serve you. We uphold this principle in the following ways: a) We ask you to make reservations for yourselves as far in advance as possible, b) If a guest has already made a reservation for the time that you wish to use your home, then, at your request, we will give the guest a choice of moving to a different vacation rental or canceling their reservation with a full refund. 99% of the time this system works great. Homeowners can use their home whenever they want and guests are minimally inconvenienced.
I like my home to have special touches for guests and myself. Can SCMR make my vacation rental exactly the way I want it all the time?
Unfortunately, this is very hard to do. In order to have an efficiently run operation that has reasonable costs we must standardize most of our processes and procedures. Most things like towels, linens and consumables are not something that we can customize for each owner. We do try to make accommodations for owner requests and to the degree that we can do this efficiently, we are always happy to honor special requests.
Can I provide my own sheets and towels?
You may store your own personal sheets and towels in your owners storage. However, our system is not capable of sorting linens on a per unit basis. We use very good quality microfiber sheets and upscale towels. We also offer an Ultra-Premium linen package and Ivory White Bedding program that rivals the most elite resorts and hotels worldwide.
Can I leave special items for guests such as welcome baskets, baking supplies or special bathroom items?
Unfortunately no. Our processes are designed to be efficient and repeatable across all properties. In order to provide something as simple as a welcome basket, we would have to store dozens of specialized welcome baskets for each property that we manage and then we would have to create a system to track, maintain and deliver these baskets to some properties and not others. All of this complexity would add a great deal of cost that we would ultimately have to pass on to you. We believe the negatives outweigh the positives.
Who provides the sheets and towels for my property?
SCMR provides, at no additional cost, all standard sheets and towels. We replace these items as they wear out at our cost. We also offer a luxury version of sheets and towels for a cost neutral fee.
Is cleaning required after an owner stay?
No – however, it is highly recommended. Our guests expect a high level of cleanliness. Unless you clean as thoroughly and professionally as do our housekeepers, we suggest that you let us handle this task and charge the service to your account.
What happens when a renter is locked out of their vacation rental?
Occasionally guests accidentally lock themselves out of a vacation rental. Since we know this happens on occasion we have implemented several backup procedures to minimize the impact of these incidents. An emergency lockbox with keycards is located at the entrance of each building that guests can access in case of emergency. Additionally, the guest can call our office or our maintenance number and have keys delivered to them. These procedures are clearly explained to each guest in the rental agreement. This system works quite well and is preferable to requiring guests to walk to a central location in the resort to get additional keycards.
What is your procedure if something is damaged in a vacation rental?
One of the most basic principles we want to embody in our company culture is fairness. We believe if a guest damages something due to their misuse or negligence, then it is their responsibility to pay for the repair or replacement. If something wears out due to normal use, then this is normally the financial cost of the homeowner. Sometimes there are gray areas, or perhaps something involving our negligence. In these cases, we absorb the expense as a cost of doing business. Furthermore, because we implement a comprehensive maintenance program with all the properties we manage, many of the costs that would normally belong to the homeowners are covered by us.
How do you deal with guests who smoke inside vacation rentals?
Smoking of all kinds is strictly prohibited. If we find evidence of smoking there is a $300 fine and there may be additional fees charged by the resort and/or for smoke mitigation. Furthermore, our rental agreement provides us authority to evict guests who violate the rules of the vacation rental and the HOA. Unfortunately, this problem has grown since the legalization of marijuana in Colorado. To the degree that we can reasonably collect these fees and enforce the smoking policies we do so with extreme vigilance.
How do you handle the inevitable problem guest?
This is a multistage process. There is not just one silver bullet. We start out by attempting to ward off the problem guests with advertisements that clearly tell them that we only want responsible guests and we will only rent to individuals 24 years and older (sometimes 30 or older). We then present our owner centric rental agreement. This rental agreement has several sections that explain our procedures and our rights to collect for damages. After each stay, housekeepers and inspectors are armed with wireless devices and they document any observed problems. In extreme cases, SCMR will charge the credit card on file of a guest or make significant attempts to hold a guest accountable. SCMR has an attorney on retainer who will write demand letters and give legal advice. If for some reason it is not possible to collect from a previous guest, then the homeowner may pursue any legal remedies through the courts. SCMR will provide all documents and evidence as it pertains to the issue. SCMR will fully participate in any legal action the owner wishes to bring. SCMR is not a collection agency and thus its collection practices do stop after reasonable efforts.
How do you handle theft and disappearances?
Generally, we recommend that owners do not put anything in their property that they consider highly valuable. It is common for small items to disappear from properties. This is particularly true of kitchen items. Though we realize that owners would prefer that items never disappear, the unfortunate reality of renting a property is that there will be attrition. The good news is that this attrition is typically minimal. The cost or replacing missing, damaged and broken items per year typically amounts to less than one percent of the gross rental revenue for a property.
Who is responsible for the cost of replacing items that are broken, worn out, damaged or missing?
We will always be honest with you and tell the hard truths. We have various techniques we use to hold guests accountable, including requiring them to pay for significant and obvious damage. However, if we are unable to obtain payment for a broken, damaged or missing item, then the cost of repair or replacement is the owners to absorb. Renting a property has risks and rewards. Unless we have specifically agreed to be responsible for a particular type of damage, then the risk is yours to bear. That does not mean we will leave you hanging! We will absolutely work diligently to help mitigate risks and repair damage, if it occurs. It is important to note that many things that are broken or damaged in a property can be repaired by our maintenance staff at no additional charge to the owner.
How can I best protect my property from damage?
The reality of renting a property to the public is that some wear and tear and damage will happen. The absolute best way to reduce damage and wear and tear to a property is as follows a) reduce the number of guests your property allows; b) increase the minimum rental age of guests; c) do not allow 1 night stays. All of these techniques are effective, but they do also slightly reduce the revenue potential of a property.
If I provide specialty items like high end kitchen items, electronics, furniture, board games, books and DVD’s, can I expect SCMR to ensure these items will not disappear?
No, we cannot ensure that items like these will not disappear. In fact, specialty items are MORE likely to disappear than standard grade items. For example, regular knives will disappear at a predictably slow rate. However, very nice knives will disappear very quickly. We recommend the following rule of thumb: If it would bother you to arrive to your property and find a particular item missing, then you should consider storing that item in a secure part of your property that guests cannot access.
Do you inventory my property after each guest stay?
No. This is highly impractical and cost prohibitive. A typical property would take up to an hour to inventory after a guest stay. The labor to do this work would necessarily have to be charged to someone, most likely the owner. Over the course of the year all this labor would easily add up to $1500 to $2000. This cost would at most save the typical property $100 to $200 in recovered cost due to damage. This is not economical for anyone. Therefore, we embrace the same rationale that hotels use, which is to recognize that the cost of doing business is to accept some level of wear and tear, breakage and disappearance of items.
How can I get a better quality guest who is more likely to be respectful of my property?
The older guests are, the more likely they are to respect your property. Our clients may choose a minimum age of 24, 26 or 30 for their guests. The second truism that we have observed is this: Less guests equals less wear and tear. All SCMR clients have the choice of limiting the maximum number of guests in their property. If you want better guests and less wear and tear, these are the things that make a difference. Additionally, SCMR also employs an “owner centric” rental agreement that all guests are required to sign. In this agreement, they state the names and ages of all guests in their party and they agree to be held financially responsible for damage that is beyond normal wear and tear.
Does SCMR assure its clients that their property will not be damaged by rental guests?
You will always get honest answers from us. The answer is no, we cannot promise that rental guests will not damage a property. We try very hard to mitigate this risk, but it is impossible to insulate a property from this risk entirely. Wear and tear will occur and sometimes damage beyond typical wear and tear will occur. We have multiple processes in place to mitigate a lot of these issues, but we cannot fully protect any property from all risks. In addition to our processes, it is important for you to discuss with an insurance professional what sort of coverage is right for you.
What sort of damage is common and not typically caught by SCMR?
Honesty first! These things do happen. Kitchen items disappear. So does pretty much anything smaller than a football. We recommend to all clients that anything in a property be considered nonessential and if the item disappears it is simply a part of the cost of doing business. SCMR replaces most common items for the benefit of guests and owners. In most cases, the replacement cost falls onto the property owner.
What will SCMR replace at its own expense?
If an item is clearly missing or broken that SCMR should have observed during the housekeeping and inspection process, then SCMR will replace the item at the company’s expense. This does not include normal wear and tear and does not include hidden damage. SCMR does offer a Damage Protection Program as an option for those clients who want more security from damage to their property.
Why can’t SCMR assure me that my property will not be damaged?
Here is a thought experiment: if the average number of guests for a 2 bedroom property is 4 guests and a property is rented 60 times per year, that equals 240 people staying in your property per year. There is no practical or economic way to screen 240 people. Sure we could implement “Big Brother” style processes, such as daily checks of properties while they are occupied and background checks of all guests. However, things like this would truly be an example of the cure being worse than the disease.
Reviews & The Internet
Are online reviews important for renting out my home?
The vacation rental/hotel industry has experienced a massive shift. More and more travelers use vacation rental websites, travel websites and hotel websites to book their accommodations. As this change in consumer behavior took place, the insurgence of social media was also in full swing. Social media has become a vital part of the decision-making process of consumers today. Previous guest reviews are the type of social media used in our industry. Thus, the quality, quantity, relevance and reliability of online reviews is critical to successfully marketing and renting a property.
Do negative reviews hurt my rentals?
It depends! Let’s consider an example of a vacation rental that has 20 reviews. 15 of the reviews are excellent, three are average, one is below average and one is a poor review. Consumers will discount the one bad review and pay attention to the overwhelmingly high number of excellent reviews. However, if a vacation rental consistently has negative reviews, then of course these reviews will hurt the its rentability.
Why do you allow negative reviews?
It is important to recognize that a “bad” vacation rental should get bad reviews. This fact is what gives reviews their power. If a review system is credible and honest, then the reviews will be relied on by the consumer. We think reviews are only helpful if they are honest. In the rare case that a vacation rental receives frequent negative reviews, we work with the homeowner to improve the home and then post information about the improvements within the its listing and responses to reviews.
How do you handle negative reviews?
Our review system allows us to easily evaluate all reviews. We can quickly determine patterns of problems that need to be resolved. When a guest leaves a negative review, we respond to the review within the review system. Our response is posted right next to the review itself. This helps future guests see that we pay attention to reviews and are interested in addressing issues.
How do you limit the number of negative reviews?
We believe communication is the first line of defense to avoid negative reviews. We have staff available 7 days a week to answer phone calls, emails and handle on-site issues. Additionally, we have a Guest Information Portal that gives guests the solutions to most of their common issues. Finally, we make it clear in our rental agreement that we can only help guests if they inform us of a problem. The rental agreement requires guests to give us a chance to address their concerns prior to leaving a negative review.
Why do some of your review responses seem to lack the typical fake apology that most large companies use?
We are real people and we post real responses. If a guest posted a false, unfair, uncharitable review that inappropriately stigmatizes a vacation rental that we manage because the guest is just a mean person, then we are going to call it like we see it. In most cases, if our response challenges the reviewer or the content of the review, that is because there is a back story documented in our system with the guest or we know that the content of the review was false.
Do you solicit guest reviews that are posted on vacation rental websites and social media?
Yes, detailed surveys are sent out to guests after their stay. These reviews are automatically posted to our website and to major vacation rental websites.
Where is the best place to find online reviews about Summit County Mountain Retreats and the vacation rental it manages?
We receive about 1,500 reviews per year. Reviews are posted on our website and are connected to the particular vacation rental the guest reserved. These same reviews are also populated on online travel agency websites like VRBO, Homeaway and others. Additionally, Airbnb has its own independent review system that has hundreds of reviews about our company and the vacation rentals we manage.
I noticed that some vacation rental websites have a service fee. What is this?
Over the last few years, most online travel agencies have started to charge an additional fee to guests who use their sites. Our company has no control over this fee and we find this fee to have little merit or benefit to our guests. If guests do not want to pay this fee, we recommend they book directly on our website. Guests will always pay the lowest total cost by booking directly with us on our website.
How do you rank in Google?
Our marketing strategy is not centered on Google. Virtually all of our competitors spend their marketing capital on building their brand. They do this by fighting for top placement in Google. That is fine. It’s just not what we focus a lot of resources on. We market each vacation rental individually and we are focused on each performing at the highest level possible. Implicit in this philosophy is that some vacation rentals will perform better than others. We think this mirrors the way the world actually works and we are okay with that.
Time and time again, we have heard the same complaint from incoming clients. These clients say that their previous management company doubled in size and then the rental volume for their property went in the toilet. We believe this is primarily a result of a company that focuses on building its brand instead of individual marketing. Once top placement of the brand is achieved in Google, roughly the same number of potential renters are going to visit that company’s website, no matter if that company has 50 properties or 300 properties. Branding a company website does not allow rental inquires and rental guests to scale up according to the number of vacation rentals on the website. In fact, the same quantity of potential guests are divided by a larger and larger number of vacation rentals. Our system scales exactly according the number of vacation rentals that we manage because we market them individually.
Do you work with discounters like Groupon and Living Social?
We have in the past, and may do so again. When we do work with them, we put conditions in place that benefit our clients. These discounters can only offer our vacation rentals during low volume times like May and October. All owners are given the choice to opt-out of these promotions.
SCMR & Covid-19
How were SCMR’s rental revenue and occupancy rates affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
It’s easy to find many authentic news reports in which our competitors state that they experienced declines of 25% to 50% in rental volume over more than a year. We can state categorically as well as provide proof that this did not happen to clients of SCMR. We worked diligently to protect our clients’ revenue through various methods. The end result of our strategies and practices was very stable revenue within 10% of pre-pandemic levels during 2020. In 2021 and 2022, most of our clients experienced 30% plus increases in revenue as compared to pre-pandemic times. Part of this was a result of pent up demand and we simply benefited from this phenomena, but we were able to fully capitalize on the pent up demand because we maintained full staffing throughout all stages of the pandemic. This meant that when the demand came back, we had all the resources in place to rent, clean and maintain all of our properties at all times. Many of our competitors struggled to restart operations at full capacity because they laid off massive portions of their workforce.
How did SCMR handle the issues associated with COVID-19?
Quality first, then employees, then Clients, then Guests, then success. This is the philosophical framework SCMR uses in making its decisions and we applied this to COVID-19. We started with the quality of cleanings within our properties. Multiple new sanitation and inspection standards were added to our process. We then ensured that all employees were safe and we made a commitment guaranteeing that their jobs and regular salaries were safe, throughout the entirety of the pandemic. We also balanced our clients’ needs, which include generating rental revenue for their properties so that they were able to pay their mortgages and other expenses. Finally, we created flexible policies for guests that went beyond the confines of our rental agreement. In most cases, guests were offered to move their stay dates or they were offered partial refunds, even if they were not technically entitled to them. In all cases we sought to be both judicious and generous in all reasonable ways.
Did SCMR provide full refunds to all guests whenever they claimed COVID-19 as a factor for their cancellation?
No! Even though this would have been the easy option for our staff and would also have avoided many difficult conversations, we recognized that simply saying “COVID” is not enough to break an agreement. Justice required each situation to be evaluated. First we started with clearly stating our special “COVID” policies. Guests agreed to these terms and we generally followed those guidelines. Occasionally if there was a special circumstance we would work with a guest to help them, but generally speaking we sought to balance the risks evenly with our guests and with our clients. In all things we sought to be completely transparent with everyone.
How did the SCMR COVID cancellation policy play out?
Overall it was a success. We handled over 4000 COVID related cancellations. We provided over 1.5 million in refunds to guests. At the same time, most clients saw a minimal decline in overall revenue. These two things may seem contradictory at first. The way we achieved both of these things was by offering partial refunds to guests for minor or moderate COVID issues and then rebooking the property at a discounted rate to another guest. The end result was roughly the same amount of revenue for the property owner as if the original rental was not canceled. This policy balanced the risk for our guests and encouraged them to stay in our vacation rental properties and at the same time protected our clients interests.
How was the SCMR COVID cancellation policy different from most competitors?
Some competitors offered full refunds for over a year to anyone who uttered the word “COVID.” Other competitors maintained strict, no refund policies. We think both of these policies are sub-optimal. Full refunds make guests really happy, but does not honor the duty a property manager has to its clients. No refunds made renting so risky for guests that many of them were not willing to gamble their vacation money on something so uncertain. In hindsight, we believe our COVID cancellation policy was one of best the decisions we made during the pandemic.
Some rental companies saw 50% declines in rental volume throughout 2020 and 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic. What was SCMR’s performance like?
In the first 2 months of the pandemic we were all in the same boat. The state government forced all vacation rentals to completely shut down. However as of June 2020, vacation rentals were allowed to reopen. At this point many companies diverged in their policies and responses. Being that SCMR still had its full staff on the payroll, ready to get back to work, because their pay was uninterrupted throughout the shutdown, we were able to restart operations without skipping a beat. Competitors struggled to rent properties due to the fact that they decided to layoff most of their staff. When it came time to reopen, they found themselves with minimal staff available to do even the basics like clean properties. SCMR did not have this problem and charged onward. We experienced a record breaking summer, fall and winter during 2020/21. These record breaking months largely mitigated the effects of the 2.5 month shutdown in early 2020.