When swarms of tourists hit South Africa for the 2010 World Cup, Charles Bloem recognized a demand for alternatives to existing accommodation options. There were hotel rooms and there were traditional vacation rentals, both offering travelers distinct perks. Why not fuse the two and provide guests with the best of both worlds?
It was this line of thinking that led to the founding of Home From Home, a serviced apartments property management company with rentals in Cape Town and several other locations across South Africa. Within just a few years, Home From Home’s listings grew from 20 to a whopping 450.
With as many as 100 listings in one building, Home From Home was similar enough to hotels that they turned to a hotel management software to help them facilitate their operations and process the reservations they were getting from major channels like Booking.com, Agoda and Expedia.
Though their model was working and they were growing, they didn’t want to be excluded from the Airbnb market, which was gaining incredible momentum. So they went ahead and listed their properties on the site, hoping to get a small piece of some of that Airbnb success.
Since their hotel management software could not support a channel that caters exclusively to short-term rentals, Home From Home had to manually update both their Airbnb calendar and the calendar on their management software each and every time a reservation came in, in order to keep them aligned and avoid double bookings. With an annual occupancy rate of 80% and more than 90,000 reservations a year, this was no small feat.
Not only did it cost them four to five hours DAILY, it also wasn’t a fool-proof system and still allowed multiple double bookings to slip through, leading to more time lost to crisis management.
It was clear – they needed to find a system that would allow them to continue selling through the big channels, but could also provide them with a platform to manage a large number of property management listings on Airbnb.
Charles and his team were looking for a property management software that could automatically sync their bookings across all their channels, including Airbnb, but they ended up finding so much more.
Interacting with guests on a personal level was virtually impossible, given the volume of reservations Home From Home was getting. They are thrilled with the capability to answer all of their guest inquiries from a single platform with Guesty’s Unified Inbox as well as automate communication with Guesty’s auto-messaging tools. Both have significantly improved their guests’ experience and boosted their engagement with guests.
Speaking of communication, whereas Charles and his team formerly sent reservations and updates to their homeowners in weekly excels – a very time-consuming endeavor – they are now rolling out access to the Owners Portal, where their clients can find all relevant information about their properties and even make reservations for themselves.
As they previously had to list similar units in the same building as individual properties, they are also grateful for the ability to group listings and market them collectively as a “room type” rather than unique listings. They’ve already transferred 300 of their listings to Guesty and once they’ve migrated the remaining 150, they look forward to utilizing Guesty’s multi-listing functionality to make this process even smoother.
Home From Home is also more than pleased with Guesty’s customer service:
“Even though Guesty is a big company, they make it feel like a small company because of the way they interact with you – you don’t have to wait hours for responses. They’re there to help.”
Of course, another big draw for them was the multi-calendar, and the ability to automatically sync all of their reservations – including those made on Airbnb – saving them hours per day and the high price of accidental double bookings.
When Home From Home first created an Airbnb account, the goal was to lightly cushion their existing revenue. Little did they know, after just 12 months of gradually migrating their listing to Airbnb, their earnings from the site would comprise between 20-25% of their entire income. And it’s only been getting better since they joined Guesty.
In fact, with Guesty’s help, they earned more on Airbnb in January, February and March of 2019 than they did in the entire preceding year.
So what does Home From Home have to say to any other property management companies in need of some assistance?
“So highly recommended. If you’re a big company with a lot of units and want to target ALL markets, it’s a no brainer. Guesty is the answer.”
If you’re interested in learning more about property management and discovering the many ways Guesty's platform can help your business, we invite you to a free one-on-one session with one of our experts.