At PointCentral, we provide technologies that make running your vacation rental business easier, keep homeowners happy, and enhance your guests’ experiences. We’re lucky to have some outstanding property managers on board.
We recently caught up with Tyler at Benchmark to find out more about the business of luxury vacation rentals and how they’re using smart property technology tools to deliver a first-class experience for both guests and homeowners.
Could you tell us a bit about Benchmark and how the business came to be?
Benchmark is family owned and local to scenic highway 30A in the Florida panhandle. Our family participates in all phases of management, and we’re immensely proud of the team we’ve built to serve both our homeowners and guests. Back in 2016 we began as a small startup with only a handful of properties. Through hard work and commitment, we’re honored to now manage 400 properties along 30A.
Where are you located, what type of properties do you manage, and what type of guest do you typically attract?
We’re located between Destin and Panama City Beach on Northwest Florida’s Scenic Highway 30A. Most of the families that stay with us are all within that typical road trip distance from cities like Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville, and Houston. However, since the pandemic we’ve seen this reach grow as more and more families are looking to escape for a beach vacation.
What’s your own background in the vacation rental industry?
My wife and I were living in Houston and vacationed here for the first time in July of 2016. Four months later, we decided to move to the beach and began working for Benchmark when it was just a startup. Since then, I’ve done a little bit of everything – starting out as a Property Manager before moving into trust accounting, IT, business development, project implementation, and just about anything else you can think of in between. I’m now Senior Director of Owner Relations.
What led you to adopt smart property technology into your property management business and how long have you been using PointCentral’s smart home solution?
We’ve been partnered with PointCentral since 2017. Initially, we started exploring the solution due to the sheer growth Benchmark was experiencing. It was getting harder and harder to keep track of the keys – leading to frustration among owners, guests and employees. Lockboxes were making guest check-in difficult, and adequately communicating this process was becoming tedious. On top of that, once we realized the extra level of security that PointCentral would provide to our homeowners and their properties, the decision to partner with them was simple.
Benchmark specializes in luxury vacation rentals, and excellent personal service and attention is of utmost importance. Can you explain how using smart home technology has helped your business in terms of both operational efficiency (owner satisfaction) and guest satisfaction?
Being able to remotely open locks, audit locks, and check on the lock status quickly has been a huge help. Not only to us as the management company, but for the owners, guests, and all of our outside vendors. There are so many things to have to worry about as a property manager, thankfully keys are no longer one of those “things”.
As a family-owned business, you’re extremely proud (rightly so) of your local heritage and your personal relationships. How do you maintain the personal touch while adopting tech solutions to streamline operations?
Our Guest Relations staff are local and really care about helping our guests have an amazing 30A vacation. All of our technology advancements only serve to help us provide a better experience for our guests. When something makes any aspect of our job easier, it allows us to dedicate more time where it is needed.
Your testimonials speak volumes about the outstanding service you deliver. Any feedback from your owners and guests you’re able to share with us here?
We recently heard some amazing praise from a property that just signed with us (they were previously with a different rental company). These owners had a lot of concerns based on their past management experience. Once we finalized the home’s onboard, the owner told us that we were “200% better” than their last company and that they were beyond excited to be working with us.
Rarely a day goes by when we don’t get amazing feedback from our guests. We never tire of hearing about their vacation experience – whether it was their 10th Thanksgiving on 30A or their kid’s first time experiencing the beach. These are the things that keep us going!
Do you have any top tips for property managers and homeowners out there who are considering taking the next step in adopting smart home technology in their short-term rental property?
For property managers, just take a few minutes to plan out the full implementation to make sure you have the timeline down – from ordering locks, scheduling installation, and communicating to owners. Spending this time up front can really save you time and headaches in the long run. For homeowners, the process couldn’t be simpler – just take the leap!
The past 2 years have brought huge challenges for the vacation rental industry. How have you navigated these challenges? And what have you learned along the way?
We consider ourselves very lucky. While there was a short time when the rentals were shut down for us, we rebounded quickly once everything opened back up. And the demand for our area has only increased as people are driving more and flying less. A beach vacation in a home rental is the perfect way to social distance.
On top of that, since we already had our contactless check-in in place, it became even easier to welcome our guests to 30A.
The biggest thing we’ve learned is patience and grace. We’re all just here trying to make it to the other side of this challenging time.
What’s in store for Benchmark in 2022?
Any way we can streamline aspects of our day-to-day is a big plus. We’re always researching and looking into more technologies and software that we can implement. And how we can leverage these improved systems and processes to grow our portfolio. We’re looking forward to a busy 2022, with hopefully a few beach days thrown in!