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Vacation Rental Software | The Complete Buyers Guide

Vacation Rental Software | The Complete Buyers Guide

What is Vacation Rental Software?

Call it short-term rental software, vacation rental software or Airbnb management software — it all boils down to the same thing: these digital tools are all about boosting your rental business's cash flow.

But if you dig a bit deeper, you'll find a bunch of different options out there. One key thing to consider is choosing between "point solutions" for specific tasks and "all-in-one" solutions designed to fulfill all your needs in one singular platform.

Key Considerations When Picking A Property Management System (PMS)

What are your rental business’s needs?

It is important to not only think of your business as it is now but also what your plans for it are in the future 1 to 2 years and beyond.


No matter the size of your short-term rental business, a PMS (Property Management System) can definitely help.

But, choosing a PMS isn’t just about what you need right now it’s also about what you’ll need down the road. If you're not planning to grow, software with all the cool fixings might seem like too much.

Yet, if you’re looking to expand, you’ve got to think about what you’ll need in a couple of years, not just today.

Business needs vs. budget:

Your property management software needs to be on point all the time. Keeping a PMS running smoothly isn't easy—it requires a lot of tech and teamwork, which is why it might cost more than you expected.

The key to not overdoing it on the spending is to really focus on what you need rather than what you want. Think about what essentials you need from a PMS to handle 90% of your main tasks.

Getting clear on that can help you avoid tempting, pricey extras that look cool but aren't necessary for your business to succeed.

Business Model:

Every short-term rental operation stands to gain from using vacation rental software, yet no two businesses are exactly alike.

If you're managing just a few properties yourself, your needs will look quite different from someone running a large-scale operation with 100 properties.

It's crucial to get a solid grip on your business model, ponder how it might change over time, and then zero in on a PMS that aligns perfectly with those evolving needs.

Features and functions to look for in a PMS

If you're aiming to streamline operations and expand your business, these core features are what you should look for in a PMS.

Channel manager:

By sticking to just one online travel agency (OTA), you're leaving money on the table. A channel manager helps spread your listings across various booking platforms easily.

A reliable channel manager updates availability and rates in real time, preventing overbookings and pricing errors.

It eliminates manual updates for each site, centralizing booking management. This boosts visibility, reduces errors and increases revenue.

Preferred partnerships:

Preferred, Elite, Premier — big-name OTAs have all sorts of labels for their highest partnership levels.

Yet, they share one key trait - getting to this elite status is tough. Only PMSs that hit or surpass the OTAs’ strict performance and tech standards get there.

They need seamless API integration and have to tick off a list of criteria, making sure they offer top-notch quality for clients using their systems.

Pro-tip: Aim for a PMS that holds this elite status across multiple OTAs, not just one.

Reservations and booking manager:

To boost bookings across multiple channels effectively, a robust PMS is non-negotiable. It should seamlessly blend reservation management and task automation in one platform, preventing potential headaches.

Key features include calendar synchronization for optimal occupancy visibility, automated booking confirmations for a seamless guest experience and streamlined task management to reduce manual efforts and improve operational efficiency.

These elements are foundational for maintaining a smooth and successful short-term rental business.

Unified inbox:

Listing your properties on multiple OTAs doesn't mean juggling countless platforms, not if you have a PMS equipped with a unified inbox. This essentially means you can catch and reply to all guest messages in one spot, no matter which OTA they used to book.

Your aim should be to cover as many OTAs as possible while providing a seamless experience that doesn't vary by booking source.

The top-tier PMSs go even further, offering time-savers like automated response templates and ChatGPT-powered suggestion tools.

Analytics & reporting

Sharp analytics and reporting tools arm you with critical insights to streamline your business. They offer everything from detailed occupancy reports for strategic pricing adjustments to dynamic pricing algorithms that adapt to market demand.

They also facilitate transparency with real-time, self-service owner statements and provide comprehensive financial reporting, giving you a clear view of your earnings, expenses, and overall financial health—all essential for optimizing your operation's profitability and efficiency.

Integrations & Marketplace:

Your PMS's main job is to make property management a breeze, with plug-and-play integrations for everything else. A solid Public API isn't just a boon for tech-savvy developers— it's also a sign that your PMS prioritizes transparency and embraces advanced technology.

Plus, a wide-ranging partner marketplace means your PMS trusts these solutions to work well with your system, simplifying your search for any additional tools you need. This setup ensures these integrations will mesh smoothly with your PMS, further streamlining your operations.

Direct booking website builder

With OTAs such as Airbnb and Vrbo reporting record quarterly profits, it's crucial to ensure your listings are present on these platforms. However, don't overlook the benefits of having a direct booking website too.

This approach can reduce commission costs and provide you with a competitive advantage. Look for a PMS that offers an easy-to-use direct booking website builder, enabling you to set up your own site and attract direct bookings quickly.

Scalability & customization:

Ensure your PMS can grow with your business, handling more bookings and properties smoothly.

Scalability and customization are key, ensuring the software adapts to your expanding needs and changing operations, keeping it useful no matter how big or diverse your business gets.

AI capabilities:

Generative AI isn’t just an idea anymore—it’s real and it’s here. That's a big deal for anyone in the short-term rental game. It streamlines tasks like guest communication, slashing the time needed for manual writing.

As AI evolves, ensure your PMS evolves too, incorporating AI advancements for listing descriptions, SEO and image generation. Look for a PMS that stays on the cutting edge of AI integration.

Implementation considerations

Picking new software is a big deal and change always comes with its share of pushback. But some PMSs make it easier than others to make the switch.

Training and onboarding:

See your PMS as more than just a tool—it's a business ally, complete with a supportive team. This partnership kicks off during the sales phase but really shapes up as you onboard.

Dive into the onboarding process: How does it work? Is it praised by users? Does it suit your needs? Your familiarity with PMS software and the complexity of your business might mean simple tutorials are enough.

But if you’re after more in-depth training, ensure the PMS offers an onboarding experience that matches your requirements.

Technical & customer support:

Steady software and solid customer support matter a lot—they should be there from day one and stick with you all the way. Go for a PMS with the best OTA partnerships (a good sign of strong technical support).

Also, pay attention to uptime. If a PMS is known for being buggy or losing connection too often, you might want to look elsewhere.

Time to value:

Halting your business to slot in new software isn’t an option. The ideal PMS should start delivering value ASAP. How quickly can you get your listings up—minutes, hours or are we talking weeks?

This gap from software purchase to profitability is your time-to-value, so you'll want to keep it as brief as possible.

How Can Hostaway Help Your Property Management Business?

Hostaway is a top property management system that boosts your Airbnb and vacation rental business all year. It scales with your business, helping you grow from a few to hundreds of properties through efficient automations and remote hosting capabilities.

Our exclusive channel manager lets your listings stay updated across major platforms like Airbnb, Vrbo and Booking.com.

Hostaway also offers a vast marketplace with over 100 integrations and 3,000 more via Zapier, making tool expansion easy. Build your direct booking site, manage communications in one place and enjoy top-rated customer support as proven by over 500 reviews across platforms like Capterra and Trustpilot.

Say goodbye to repetitive tasks and hello to scalable growth with Hostaway, your partner in navigating the complexities of property management.

Ready to find out how Hostaway can transform your business?

Hostaway is proud to support thousands of Property Managers and Airbnb Hosts Around the world. We take pride in being Top Ranked in Vacation Rental Software Review Sites: Capterra, G2, Software Advice, Trust Pilot, to name just a few! Check out our reviews and read the Hostaway Case Studies from real successful and growing Short-Term Rental Managers!