By The Hospitable Team
Lauren and Aaron Havens are local legends in Utah where they run a short-term rental management business and two motels, and teach others how to set up and manage their own vacation rentals.
Home Havens founders, Lauren and Aaron Havens.
In just three years, with the help of Hospitable.com, Home Havens has scaled its business from 16 to 160 rental units.
As well as enabling growth, Hospitable’s automated messaging has brought huge time savings to Home Havens, cutting 60 hours a week from Lauren and her team’s workload.
In this blog, we put the spotlight on Lauren who tells us how Hospitable helped grow her business. Plus she shares her tips on how to create a personalized experience that guests will love and keep them coming back to your vacation home.
About Home Havens
Home Havens began when Lauren and Aaron bought two tiny investment properties outside a national park in Utah.
Based five hours away, they tried to find a management company to take care of the business. In fact, they tried six different management companies but couldn’t find a good fit.
Lauren says she wasn’t sure they were doing a great job until she spoke to these companies and realized they weren’t offering to do half as many things. So, necessity being the mother of invention, they decided to set up their own management company.
Through local contacts, Lauren and Aaron grew their business between 2018 and 2019 from two to 16 managed properties. And since starting to work with Hospitable.com in 2018, their portfolio has grown to 188 vacation homes.
They also have two motels. One is a remodeled traditional roadhouse, and the other has 11 studios in one building, so it operates in a similar way to a hotel. But rather than setting the motels up with a traditional office and hotel software system, Home Havens manages all the rooms—and the rest of the business—using specialist software for automated guest management.
A personalized guest experience that doesn’t take over your life
Lauren says the biggest challenge they faced as they scaled up the business was making it feel personal, without guest satisfaction “taking over your life.”
The trend in short-term rentals is that “the guest wants to feel like you’re personally hosting them.” But as the business grew, it was a struggle to make the messages feel “uber personal,” and as if just one person was welcoming and responding to guests across all 160 properties at all hours of the day.
Have conversations with your guests even when you sleep.
Lauren fielded the opinions of industry contacts about different software options to help relieve the pressure of sending hundreds of messages each week. After hearing great things about Hospitable.com’s messaging automation, she was convinced to give it a try.
According to Lauren, “What specifically brought me to Hospitable was the messaging. At the time we switched over it was the only reliable messaging platform.”
Home Havens began to use Hospitable.com’s messaging solution in 2019 when they had 16 units. At last count, they had 28 of their own properties, 160 managed vacation rentals, and 2 motels, all using the same automated messaging system from Hospitable.
How Hospitable.com helped Home Havens scale to 160 rentals
Hospitable.com’s tools have allowed Lauren and her team to build scalable systems and quickly add new units to their portfolio.
Hospitable’s automated messaging, she says, has been “the biggest solution we’ve found” to relieve the pressure of hosting, enabling them to create messages that sound personal and keep the same “culture and vibe” across all of their properties.
By establishing messaging rules, they’ve been able to automate the guest experience from the first inquiry to check-out.
As well as messaging automation, Home Havens uses Hospitable.com’s other features for property managers to help them run their vacation rental portfolio:
- The Property iCal feed helps connect with other software and combine all the other calendars.
- The Task assignment tool helps coordinate staff.
- The User management feature gives homeowners a portal so they can log in and see everything happening at their property.
Hospitable.com helps users develop a standard message flow
Through Hospitable’s automated messaging system, Home Havens has designed a message flow of seven automated messages to increase guest satisfaction and relieve staff workload.
Home Haven’s message flow
- ‘Thanks for booking’ sent immediately after a guest makes a reservation, and usually includes a video tour of the property’s interior.
- ‘Pre-check-in’ sent 24 hours before arrival (or earlier for certain business bookings) with all the information a guest needs, for example, the address, how to access the property, and Wifi passwords. Depending on the unit location, this message might also include helpful local information, like which food delivery services deliver in the area, or on a local dry cleaner that picks up.
- ‘At check-in’ sent at 4 pm local time, inviting feedback and answering questions specific to the property, such as how to adjust the air conditioning.
- ‘House-specific reminders’ normally sent on the day of check-in, this is a unit-specific informational message on any special instructions for the property—for example, where to find the towels or how to operate the hot tub.
- ‘First morning’ sent at 10 am local time. All guests receive an identical message saying that Home Havens hopes they’re enjoying their stay and inviting feedback and questions. Lauren says this message has helped get negative reviews removed from Airbnb and Vrbo as they’ve been able to prove they checked in with guests to make sure they were having a good stay.
- ‘Check-out’ sent at 6 pm the day before check-out with a reminder of check-out time instructions. This ensures guests leave on time, and helps Home Havens schedule cleaning.
- ‘Review reminder’ sent after check-out to tell guests how much Home Havens loved hosting them and could they please leave a 5-star review to encourage more great guests like them to visit.
Personalized messages for every guest
Lauren describes how easy it is to tweak messages and make them sound more personal. For example, if it’s Christmas, they’ll change the check-in message to say “Merry Christmas, we’re so happy you made it to snowy Utah.”
And, while many of the messages in the standard message flow are the same across all properties, some are tailored for each vacation home. For example, one property has a hot tub that takes 5 hours to heat up, so they send a message saying, “Hey! We’re just heating up the hot tub, it should be hot in a few hours”.
Lauren says that in the current short-term rental market, there’s a lot of pressure to be perfect. But “if you just let people know what you’re working on, they’re willing to be understanding.”
By sending these personalized messages and encouraging guests to get in touch, Home Havens can help guests understand they’re human and their goal is to have them enjoy their stay, which is great for reviews.
Automated responses to frequently asked questions
Home Havens uses Hospitable.com’s canned responses for frequently asked questions. These are pre-written messages for communicating with guests on a range of issues from cancellation and pet policies, to early check-in requests, and maintenance requests.
They also include troubleshooting steps for WiFi and air conditioning to encourage guests to solve problems themselves, before sending out a staff member to help.
Home Havens staff get the chance to tweak canned responses before pressing send, but having these pre-written replies saves time and enables them to maintain the same personality across all six team members who reply to messages.
Seamless integration with other vacation rental software
Lauren says they use pretty much every integration that Hospitable.com offers.
These integrations include:
- Combined payout reports available through Metrics, which exports data into an Excel file
- Lock integration with Schlage Encode
- Mailchimp integration for setting up email marketing campaigns.
- The PriceLabs integration, which helps them get their Airbnb and Vrbo pricing strategy right
- A special feature for direct bookings, Direct
- A channel manager that integrates with Airbnb and Vrbo
Lauren appreciates that Hospitable.com is constantly on the lookout for new integrations and makes updates all the time, which means users can give feedback on any issues that need fixing as they occur.
Hospitable.com responds quickly to user feedback
While it was the messaging system that brought Home Havens to Hospitable.com, Lauren says the pace of development has kept them there. Hospitable constantly develops new features, updates, and bug fixes, and makes it easy for users to submit their own suggestions.
When Lauren suggested data fixes on the Metrics page, Hospitable conducted research specifically to help Home Havens improve their user experience.
She says, “For me, as a little individual to be listened to and have something change… That’s huge for me.”
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60 hours a week saved on guest messaging
The biggest impact of Hospitable.com on Home Havens has been the time savings.
When Home Havens first added Hospitable and scheduled their seven messages per guest, Lauren says her time commitment “probably dropped by about half.”
Currently, she saves 60 hours a week managing 160 rentals, which she calculates would cost five times more if she paid an employee to do this.
They’ve set up the same systems in their multi-unit motels. According to Lauren, it took just one day to set up a separate listing for all 12 units in a motel and implement the messaging. There was no office to set up, and guests have responded positively to the booking and check-in process that uses smart locks to access each room.
The cost savings of using Hospitable.com instead of expensive hotel software have been huge.
And Lauren says the latest updates Hospitable is now adding to their direct features, like combined calendars and financials exports, means it matches the software typically used by hotels to manage room allocation, check-ins, and billing.
The backbone of Home Havens’ business
Lauren says that “Hospitable is the backbone of our business”.
Hospitable.com’s automated messaging has helped Home Havens create a personalized experience that guests love.
At the same time, Hospitable’s other tools and integrations help Home Havens manage their listings, coordinate staff, and keep their owners updated, giving Lauren and Aaron valuable time to grow their business.
Without Hospitable, Lauren says she’d be spending hundreds of thousands on different types of software.
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So in late 2018, I turned one of my 17 properties into a full-time Airbnb and Booking.com unit, bookable by guests all year round.
But as with any new business, you quickly discover what the repetitive processes are, and you look to streamline and automate as many as you can.
I want to tell you about my experience with short-term rental automation, and give you some insight into my Serviced Accommodation business, as well as my take on using hospitable for the better part of the last year.
“My mom lives in an area of Colombia that I like to call ‘the real Colombia.’ It is stuck in time in a simpler era, with nature at heart, with people who still work the land for a living.”