How Much Time Does it Take to Manage a Successful Vacation Rental?

The Evolve Team
The Evolve Team
May 31, 2017

You’re thinking about taking the plunge. You’ve discovered how valuable investing in a vacation rental can be, and you’ve begun seriously contemplating jumping in to run your own.

The problem is, you already have a lot on your plate, and you’re wondering if the potential returns outweigh the time investment.

How much time does it really take to run a successful vacation rental?

Initial Investment

Getting your property up and running is a substantial time investment, and you’ll need to schedule some fairly large projects like decorating and creating your vacation rental listing. To prepare your rental, you’ll need to:

Decorate the rental, which includes purchasing and placing all of the furniture and decor. Your rental may already be furnished currently, but you can still expect to spend time updating furniture to meet rental standards, clearing out your own personal possessions, and performing any necessary maintenance to improve your property’s appearance.
Total Time: 20 – 40 Hours

Photograph the home, utilizing appealing lighting and angles to attract renters. You can do this yourself, which takes less time but may not result in the best photos unless you’re an excellent photographer, or hire a professional to do them for you.
Total Time for Owner Photos: 1 Hour
Total Time for Professional Photos: 1 Hour for Scheduling, 1 Hour for the Shoot

Set up your vacation rental listing, including finding the best websites to list it on, signing up for those channels, and creating and uploading all the necessary information to tell renters about your property.
Total Time: 3 – 4 Hours

Find and vet cleaning and maintenance providers to service your property for vacation rental. This can take more time than you think, as vacation rental cleanings require a different approach than a standard weekly housecleaning service.
Total Time: 2 – 5 Hours

Draft information on your rental and communicate pre-stay instructions to your guest, such as how to gain access and what to expect during their stay.
Total Time: 1 Hour

These tasks are the bare minimum of what it takes to create a successful vacation rental – we haven’t even included time spent marketing or promoting your property! For most owners, a listing site is the easiest and quickest way to market your rental, but if you want to go above and beyond, check out our Marketing 101 post for additional ideas.

Grand Total: 27 – 52 Hours

The Cost of Multitasking

Your initial setup time is pretty substantial, but once those tasks are done, they take little to maintain. You’ll rarely have to replace your furniture or decor, and your listing won’t need many updates if you’ve followed our advice on creating a great listing.

From here on out, however, the tasks involved in managing a vacation rental are ongoing and can be invasive to your day-to-day life. Answering the phone for an inquiry, for example, might only take a few minutes – but if you have to answer that call in the middle of your workday, you should be aware of the time cost of multitasking.

According to recent research, it takes approximately 25 minutes to get back on track after a distraction. Which means your call won’t take 5 minutes out of your day – it’ll take half an hour, because it will take you some time to re-focus on the task you were pulled away from when the phone rang.

Keep the cost of multitasking in mind as we go through the rest of the time obligations for a successful vacation rental. Are you prepared to lose not only the five minutes for the call, but the additional 25 minutes away from your other obligations?

Booking Time

On average, our properties tend to receive around 5 to 10 calls or emails from interested renters per month. Unfortunately, those calls don’t come in regularly spaced intervals – you may have a month or two in low season with only one inquiry, while high season has your phone ringing off the hook.

Owners can expect responding to these inquiries to take between 5 minutes and 1 hour apiece, depending on how in-depth the guest’s questions are.

Since answering your inquiries promptly is one of the primary keys to keeping your property relevant, you’ll need to make yourself consistently available.

This is where that cost of multitasking comes in! Successful vacation rentals answer their inquiries within one hour, which means you may need to interrupt your work day, social obligations, or family time to manage your inquiries.

Some of those inquiries will result in bookings, and finalizing the booking is also a time investment – though it varies depending on the method of booking you’ve chosen.

If you’ve decided to offer online booking through a listing site, your process should be fairly quick: you’ll accept the booking and the guest will agree to the terms of your rental agreement automatically when they make their initial deposit.

If you prefer not to offer online booking, the booking process will take much longer.

You’ll need to send a paper agreement for your guest’s signature and wait for it to be returned to you (though you can speed up this process by sending the agreement via email). If you prefer to receive a paper check for payment, you’ll need to allocate a few days to receive the check by mail and approximately 2 additional days for it to process.

If you’re planning to make running your vacation rental a part-time job, answering the phone on the first ring may not prove a problem for you. If you already have a busy schedule, however, you might want to delegate these tasks to someone with a little more time on their plate.

Grand Total: 1 – 20 Hours Per Month, depending on inquiries and demand

Pre-Stay Time

Before your guests arrive, you’ll need to put some time into preparing your property and communicating with your renters about what to expect during their stay.

A week or two before your guests’ booking date, you’ll want to send pre-stay instructions, which include how to access the property, where essential items are located, the physical address, the WiFi password, local grocery stores and businesses – anything your guests might need to know to enjoy their stay!

Conduct a pre-stay walk-through to make sure your rental is guest-ready, including checking each room’s cleanliness, making sure all appliances and fixtures are in working order, and checking that your access method is working properly. Be sure you allow travel time to and from your rental!
Total Time: 30 Minutes Per Stay

Coordinate with your service providers to schedule cleaning. If you prefer to provide your own services, your time investment will be substantially larger.
Total Time for Outsourced Cleaning: 10 Minutes Per Stay
Total Time for Owner Cleaning: 1.5 Hours Per Stay

If any maintenance issues come to light during your pre-stay walk-through, you’ll also need to arrange for a service provider to come out and fix the problem, and you may need additional time to confirm the problem has been fixed correctly before your guests arrive.
Total Time for Maintenance (as necessary): 2 hours on average

Many of the aforementioned tasks can take longer if there are any coordination problems or you run into a maintenance issue in the house, so be sure to allocate an additional hour for every booking to handle any last-minute issues.

You may be able to get your pre-stay time down to just a few minutes if you find a good service provider who is willing to perform the pre-stay walk-through on your behalf. The cost of services may well be worth the time you’ll win back, particularly if you’re not located near your rental property.

Grand Total: Between 40 Minutes and 2 Hours Per Stay, an additional 2 hours if there are maintenance issues

Stay Time

Depending on your renters and how smoothly their time in your home goes, managing your guests’ stay can be either the most or least time-consuming part of managing your rental.

For some stays, you won’t be fielding any inquiries or complaints. For others, you’ll be peppered with questions throughout your guest’s stay.

These may not be actual problems per se – your guest may simply be someone who doesn’t look very hard for a wooden spoon in your kitchen before calling you to ask where to find it.

Prompt responses to guest’s questions and complaints are essential to a successful vacation rental, and once again, the cost of multitasking is in play. You’ll need to be prepared to drop what you’re doing at any time to answer a quick question from a guest, or call up your service provider to help handle a major issue such as the plumbing getting backed up.

You can avoid most in-stay issues by leaving detailed instructions and information at the rental and by performing a thorough walk-through, but you’ll need to factor time for the garrulous guest or the unforeseeable emergency into your schedule.

Grand Total: 0 – 5 Hours Per Stay

Post Stay Time

Your guests are gone, there weren’t any issues during their stay, and you don’t have another booking until next week. Time to relax, right?

Afraid not. You’ll need to allocate some time communicating with your last guest and readying your rental for the next ones well before your next booking. Your post-stay time obligations are:

Communicate with your guest to thank them for booking with you and ask them to leave you a positive review about their stay. Reviews mean more bookings, so this is an important step you shouldn’t neglect!
Total Time: 30 Minutes Per Stay

Schedule a post-stay cleaning with your on-the-ground provider.
Total Time: 10 Minutes Per Stay

Perform an assessment of the property, checking for any damage the guests may have caused, making sure all the appliances and electronics work properly, and restocking any usable items that need to be replenished. You can sometimes delegate this task to your cleaning service for an additional fee.
Total Time: 1 Hour Per Stay

Fixing any damages and communicating with the guest about their obligations if they’ve damaged the property
Total Time: 0 – 8 Hours Per Stay

Addressing damage will likely be the most time consuming part of this process. Huge amounts of damage aren’t common for any rental, but you can expect that every few bookings a guest will have caused some minor damage to the property, usually by accident.

Small damages might include a broken dish or a torn lampshade. More rarely, a guest may have spilled wine on your couch or carpet, or ruined your bath towels by taking them to the beach.

If you have damage protection coverage, you will need to submit a claim for large damages. If you’ve chosen to ask for a deposit instead, you’ll need to tell your guest that you’ll be keeping a portion of their deposit to cover the damage.

The insurance route will take a few hours, as you’ll have to file a claim, collect photos of the damage, submit the photos, and follow up with the insurance company. Keeping a deposit may seem easier in light of all of this, but you’ll usually need to dispute with the guest about the damage in order to reach resolution.

In either event, you’ll need to invest the time to replace or repair the damaged items in the property. It’s no picnic! That’s one of the reasons our damage protection service includes Evolve submitting the claim and handling the insurance follow-up for reimbursement – it’s one of the biggest headaches for owners, and it can eat up a lot of your time.

Grand Total: 1.5 – 10 Hours Per Stay

All told, you can expect to spend anywhere from as few as 3 to as many as 20 hours per booking ensuring your rental is successful, after the initial time investment.

Around 5 hours’ investment per booking is pretty typical. That number presumes your guest had an average length inquiry and booked online, that you’ve delegated your cleaning and pre- and post-stay walk-throughs to an outside service, and that any problems during your guests’ stay were easy to resolve.

Most bookings are of the 5-hour variety, but you can expect an issue that requires a major time investment at least twice a year. Maintenance issues and careless renters will cause the occasional issue that makes your time investment skyrocket.

What do you think? Are you ready to make the major time investment required by a vacation rental? Or do you need a little help with the most time-consuming tasks so you’re free to keep putting your time and energy into your work, your family, and your life?

Of course, you don’t have to handle all of this yourself – a great partner can save you almost all of these hours. Evolve owners have nearly all of the above managed for them, from professional listing creation and traveler communication to damage claims and on-the-ground services. To learn how we help owners get more bookings with far less time investment, click here.

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