Earlier this year I asked myself the question “should I invest in serviced accommodation?” I’d been aware of the strategy for the last few years and and indeed was involved on a small scale (Airbnb) but I wanted to take things to another level. Here’s a little more of the story.
My final words on my earlier blog post were: “If property investing is a rollercoaster then serviced accommodation is the Big Dipper.” While I haven’t been on every ride at the fairground, I still agree wholeheartedly with this comment. We’ve had highs and lows but ultimately as I look back over an incredible nine months, I want to share what I’ve learned.
As it sits in the review system on booking.com we’re currently running the two serviced accommodation units at 9.3 and 9.4, with a host of 5 star reviews on both at Airbnb and other platforms. As I said, we’d been investing with one unit on Airbnb but wanted to branch out and move onto some other platforms too. Without a doubt the biggest is booking.com, but we also looked at Tripadvisor, Expedia, HolidayLettings & HomeAway.
An early decision to engage with a channel manager was probably the smartest move we made and after considering a couple of options we decided on Tokeet. It’s not expensive (£25 per month) and is very easy to navigate. The hardest thing for me was actually the communication with the company. I’ve always been a fan of calling and talking something through with somebody on the phone but this is virtually impossible with Tokeet. So I had to learn another way – and in hindsight, live chat is perhaps better. There are also webinars and links to clips which walk you through any issues you might have.
The first Tokeet hurdle (which took some time) was syncing up all the platforms to ensure you have no double bookings. Anybody who knows me will tell you I’m not the most tech-friendly so there were some big hurdles (mostly mental) at the start but things quickly fell into place.
Your pictures are your marketing and it’s important to present your product well. Professional photography stands out well on all platforms, but so does bad presentation and photography. Given the accountability of the review system you can live or die on your reviews, so I wanted to present the properties in the best possible light without giving a false interpretation of what I was offering. I was happy to keep working on the pictures and trying to improve them as the months went on, changing the quantity and content. Adding pictures of local landmarks, restaurants, cafes and play parks adds to the overall experience you are offering and are important, but don’t use old stock photos – try to make the pictures current. Another tip is to grade your pictures slightly using an app or a social media plug-in.
The next challenge is to get your pricing right and my only recommendation would be stick with a price point that works for your business more than using other properties’ prices as a gauge. Also be careful about allowing the platforms to set your pricing. If you can, try to work out how far in advance your bookings are coming in and communicate with the platforms as often as you need to. Personally, I found the people at booking.com incredible easy to talk to and they gave me some good advice, for example about shortening my cancellation policy, which open me up to a few cancellations but on the most part they were rebooked quickly.
I’ll share more thoughts in a future bog post, but before I go – a quick reminder. Time really is the world’s most valuable commodity. Hosting serviced accommodation is all-consuming and although the set up may be relatively easy, it’s time and attention that will make your business work (and increase your profits). Stay tuned…