Quick Note from the Author (Dave) - Hi Everyone, thanks for taking a moment to read this. We know the performance of your home is absolutely vital to most. Whether it's an investment property or a 2nd home to your family, you're looking to us and trusting us to earn the most we possibly can on your home. For many, last year was tough. Overall earnings may have not been as high in 2022 as 2021 and we wanted to take some time to dig into the numbers, share them with you, let you know what we saw in 2022 and what we're planning on doing in 2023. I invite and and all questions and we look forward to a strong 2023!
Over the last few years the Poconos has experienced a lot of change, and probably no year more so than 2022. Some of these big events included...
So I want to take a moment to dive into the numbers, explain the changes we saw and then provide a roadmap for 2023. The agenda will be...
Increase in STR's:
They saw an image is worth 1,000 words, right?
The above example are data from Albrightsville, but we're seeing parallel lines across all Poconos markets. The numbers show...
These two notes are important to keep in mind when assessing performance. So we know that there are more homes, and the majority of those more homes are 3 bedroom homes, and this is where we (as well as homeowners) are feeling the squeeze. Furthermore, 3-bedroom homes are also increasing due to changes in local ordinances in many townships...
In 2022 we saw changes too many local ordinances, but the biggest two impacts were in Penn Forrest Township (Albrightsville) and Tobyhanna Township (parts of Pocono Summit, Pocono Lake, Long Pond, and Blakeslee).
So what we're seeing is many 4-bedroom homes are being pushed into being advertised as 3 bedroom homes because their septic tanks are not large enough to qualify for a 4-bedroom home.
We also had a few HOA's change their rental registration policy, increase rates, which included...
2021 vs 2022
Having said that, we wanted to look at year over year performance of our 3 bedroom homes compared to our 4 bedroom homes to see how much the impact was felt.
With the overall increase in STR options, the impact was "felt" universally (from 3, 4 and 5 bedroom homes) but it was most felt in the 3 bedroom space where we saw a -34% change in rental revenue. Interestingly enough, we did not see an overall decrease in booking activity, but the amount each home rented for was about $100 less on a nightly rate than it was in 2022.
The reason this ocurred is we had to be more competitive with our pricing. With so many homes being available (supply) and the relative same level of demand, we had to exercise more pricing flexibility to 'win' bookings. We know you feel this as a homeowner, and we feel in this in turn as a management company, as our revenue is directly tied to performance. So I wanted to take a moment to take a look ahead at 2023 to explain what we're planning on doing to turn the tide.
It's one thing to identify a problem and it's another to try to solve it, and that's what we intend to do.
Goal: More Revenue. This is the name of the game. More bookings isn't necessarily the goal, because we'd rather have 1 reservation for $1,000 than two reservations for $300.
How: This is where we intend to take a multi-pronged approach to help increase the desirability of our homes.
Company Rebranding and Direct Reservations:
We started teasing this out a bit, but we are transition from Pocono Rental Management to...
Pocono Rentals & Management
Super subtle change, I know, but the intention is to speak more to the renter side of the business. We're in the process of purchasing a new url to help us rank better in organic search results as well as increase the overall brand equity (more details to come on this later!)
We're also speaking to our website designer to perform a website redevelopment. We want it to be clear/obvious to potential renters to easily search for their preferred accommodation and book with limited roadblocks and inconveniences.
Having said that, with our new branding and redeveloped website we want to drive potential bookers to our site. We will begin testing advertising campaigns to help increase our direct booking share. This will include improved ranking in Google but also testing other channels such as Facebook, Instagram and more.
*This is a PRM expense and will not be passed back to the Owners
We also plan on amping up our social media presence, posting more regularly, in an effort to attract more guests as they may be in the consideration phase of a trip to the mountains!
While this impact may not be felt immediately or directly, we are having office space put in at...
248 PA-940. Blakeslee, PA
This is in Blakeslee Plaza (right next to where the Aharts is). This office space helps us in a few different capacities, but we're hoping that by increasing out overall brand equity and awareness that guests will be quicker to choose us for their next stay.
Retention and Repeat Renters
Once we host these guests we want to "keep" these guests, so we are aiming to roll out a few new strategies and programs to help bring guests back more repetitiously.
CRM Campaign - after a guest stays and had a plesant experience, we ask them if they would like to be a part of our email list for further discounts in the future. This year, we'll be tapping into this a bit more regularly, helping to entice guests to come back and stay again (and dangle the carrot of a repeat guest discount). We'll also have the campaigns broken into home and season so we can be a bit more specific in our messaging ("you saw it in the winter, you'll love it in the summer!")
Texting - this is something we're going to tread lightly with, but test out. Enso allows us to collect phone numbers for guests to re-engage them in a marketing capacity. In truthfulness, I don't think guests are AS receptive to being marketed to via text but its something we want to test out and track for.
We've been creating marketing videos to feature on VRBO and our Direct Booking site to help guests experience a bit more of the home before booking. For VRBO, it renders automatically as the 3rd image when they're scrolling through your home.
Google Vacation Rentals
This will become an integration (ideally) in Q1. Google is set to be the next biggest OTA (online travel agency) and they have begin natively hosting listings when you search for certain key phrases (see below). Hostaway is in the final steps of integrating with them natively so our listings will begin rendering when guests decide to search for homes through Google.
Increased Ranking and Optimization
This is a bit of a continued strategy, but an important one. We want to have your home rank as highly as we can in the search results, and the best way to do that is...
If our prices are too high and our policies are too strict, OTA's like Airbnb and VRBO will actually penalize your listing and show you lower in the search results. They want to show the best homes first, because they know if guests have good experiences they'll come back to their platform. For that reason we need to be accessible and provide A+ hospitality. If price floors are too high or we have too many restrictions, guests won't book and it will not only hurt you in the short-term by missing the reservation but also in the long-term by hurting your ranking.
We ask that you give us autonomy around pricing so we can develop a better long-term strategy that preserves both of our shared interests!
Home Improvements and Upgrades
This is where you come in. Likely for the same reason you bought a 2nd home/investment property, many others did as well. And for that reason it's important to stick out from the crowd. How can you make your home more desirable? What upgrades can you make so a guest has to stay at your home?
We are happy to workshop this with you, and not every "upgrade" needs to entail a hot tub, in many cases just decorating your home the right way or theme-ing out rooms/your home can really have a large impact on a potential guests preference.
I've probably sound like a broken record at this point, but there's no indication that 2023 will provide any reprieve on the rental front. I would say this is closer to a new market norm than a bubble that's going to burst. We're going to have to work harder for booking and don't want to find ourselves in a "race to the bottom" where we're desperately lowering our nightly rates to win bookings. Guests will pay more for better stays, we know this, and while we'll work hard to help increase the overall visibility of your home, we'll need your assistance in making sure it's a must stay for guests!
If you read this far, thank you, and we look forward to a much improved 2023!