Update: You can now find the Top Suggestions post in which we reveal 12 softwares featured in our results as well as some stand-out softwares here.
On April 9th, we privately released (email list only) a new tool from VRMB Labs™ called The Property Management Software (PMS) Selector Tool.
In short, we believe software is crucial to a successful vacation rental business.
And in order to help people better navigate the (confusing) software ecosystem, we identified the 25 most important features of a PMS and then proceeded to do 100+ hours of anonymous demos and rate the top 30 softwares on the market in each feature. We then compiled all of these ratings into a matrix and utilized a platform called Qualtrics to match the right PMS with your priorities. The resulting tool is an industry game-changer: the first free resource to assess and suggest software without any bias or hidden agenda.
Here is the full announcement verbatim from April 9th (the link is not published anywhere online).
April 9th PMS Selector Tool Announcement
I am pleased to announce the private release of our Property Management Software Selector Tool designed to simplify and expedite the process of choosing the right property management software. Please do not share this link on social media.
Summary: Inner Circle pioneer Terry Whyte loves vacation rental software. He loves doing demos, comparing and contrasting features, and watching our tech landscape grow up. For years, Terry has been fielding private consulting requests in order to match people with the right PMS solution. Over this time, he started to notice patterns and trends. So we decided to compile his findings into a tool that can be shared with the masses. We also decided to do it for free so that any manager, no matter the size or strength, has the chance to find the right solution for them.
The Problem: Every owner and manager has different needs. And every property management software offers varying features (in differing strengths and weaknesses). So finding the right match can be a complicated and overwhelming process. Choose the wrong company and you may feel the pain for years. Neglect to learn about a new company and you may be missing out big time. If you are not using some form of property management software to accept payments and streamline your business, know that it is an integral component of Stage 3 of Listing Site Independence. Said another way, if you don't have one now, you will need one soon.
Our Answer: Since new software arrives to the market regularly and existing software companies are improving their features on a monthly basis we created a dynamic matrix ranking the 25 most important features of the top 30 worldwide software solutions. When paired with a simple survey asking you to prioritize a list of needs, we then match (with transparent percentages of certitude) you with the right solution.
Disclaimers: Before you take the assessment or email us with specific questions or comments (which, by the way, we love) please read the following disclaimer items:
- Pilot Program: This tool is not perfect -- but it is our best attempt to solve a critical problem. The tool is a living document and will evolve and improve with each completion. Accordingly, software suggestions should be considered not as de facto answers but as bespoke ideas for further consideration.
- Weighted Questions: Some questions in the survey are weighted more heavily than others. We do this to avoid providing suggestions that conflict with your needs.
- Human Oversight: We built this tool using a powerful platform called Qualtrics. Qualtrics does the hard work but we are not ready to remove ourselves from the process completely. Each assessment will be reviewed by myself and Terry prior to delivery. If we have additional questions or comments, you will find them inside the email.
- No affiliate agreements: we do not receive any compensation from software companies for inclusion. We are making suggestions purely based off objective analysis.
- No Channel Managers: This tool is only for Property Management Softwares (PMS) — it is NOT for Channel Management Softwares
- No Solicitations: If you are a new PMS company, feel free to reach out to verify that you are included in our database. If you are an existing PMS company, please know that we have have included you in our assessments and are not available for discussions with regards to your rankings/placement at this time
The Results Came Pouring In
Almost immediately, people started using the tool.
I remember being in an airport in Spain the day the email went out and literally, from the moment I hit send to the moment my plane took off, the tool had something like 150 completions. Over the course of the following month the tool racked up nearly 700 completions and the testimonials from users was precisely what we wanted to hear.
- "Your tool suggested two softwares we had never heard of before. Off to do some demos!"
- "This exercise was hugely validating: it matched me with the exact software I settled on after hours of demos myself. Thank you!"
- "Talk about coincidence. Your tool could not have come at a better time: just this morning we made the decision to part ways with our long-time PMS and you just made our next steps dramatically easier. You rock."
Terry and I were over the moon about the feedback.
All of this validation was great because the primary goal of the project was to help people find the right software for them. We believe every one of the independent owners or managers that used the tool were in a more optimal decision-making position (after using the tool) than they were before.
This Left Us With Interesting Data
Nearly 700 completions presented us with some interesting observations about how independent owners and managers were prioritizing each of these features. As a way to further assist everyone who participated, we wanted to share some of our high-level takeaways.
High-Level Takeaways About Priorities
Good Trends Regarding Priorities
- Customized Rates were Very Important to 20+ Property Count: We found it reassuring that any property manager with 20+ properties was placing a high importance on customized rates. The more properties you manage, the more important a strong customized rates feature should be.
- A Unified Inbox was Only Important for 20+ Property Count: A unified inbox or the ability to send and receive emails from within a property management software interface was fittingly less important to those with fewer properties. Beyond 20 properties, property managers should be placing high importance on a unified inbox.
- An Owner/Guest Portal was Only Important to 20+ Property Count: The ability for an owner or a guest to log into the property management software was fittingly less important to those with fewer properties. Beyond 20 properties, property managers should be placing high importance on an owner/guest portal.
- Trust Accounting was Very Important to All Owners/Managers regardless of property count: This should tell anyone who is not familiar with Trust Accounting (or who did not rank it as important) to look into it for a whole slew of reasons.
- There was very little difference in the budget question: When we asked whether budget was a limiting factor or whether you’d be willing to spend whatever is necessary to get the job done, the answers didn’t depend on how many properties someone managed. This is cool.
Concerning Trends Regarding Priorities
- We found it very surprising the number of people who said that "Automation” was "Not Important.” We believe this is because they don’t understand the power of automation when done properly and they are probably currently using spreadsheets. No one (with even limited PMS experience) would ever answer "not important."
- We found it surprising how many people answered that "Booking Source” (being able to see where your bookings come from) was “Not Important.” For these people, we are concerned they either don’t understand the importance of knowing where their bookings come or (perhaps worse) they just don't really care.
- We were kind of shocked to see how many people ranked a “Housekeeping” module as “Not Important” in a property management software. Housekeeping may be the biggest challenge all owners/managers face so we are concerned, for these individuals, that technology is not viewed as an important solution.
Gaps Between Priorities and Offerings
Terry also noticed some big gaps (this is great intel for any PMS providers out there) that showed a serious divide between what was important versus what was available. Here are two of them:
- We found it surprising how rare “Text Messaging” was in our property management softwares, especially considering how important it was to property managers.
- We found it surprising how rare a good CRM was within a property management software solution.
As the completions continue to roll in, we will share how these trends accentuate or change. And we will also continue to update our matrix and our algorithm to reflect updates in softwares (and new softwares to the market).
Which Are The Most Suggested Softwares?
After all of these completions, we think it would be helpful to share the softwares with the highest frequency of matches. These are the softwares -- based on a confluence of our ratings and the ranked priorities of our participants -- that got suggested the most amount of times!
To Terry and me, these softwares represent an important piece of the vacation rental management puzzle. They are the connector -- the keystone -- of any great vacation rental business. And with the GSV Rollup as reported by Amy Hinote, the time is right!
We'll be revealing these next week to the VRMB email list. And we will even be giving the top-performing softwares some special recognition...