9 things you most likely didn’t know about Airbnb Management companies

Transform your Airbnb with an Airbnb Management Service Operator

By Yap Vin Li, Co-Founder of Plush Services (contact us here for more information)

With the overall property market in Malaysia expected to remain soft in the foreseeable future, Malaysian property owners are left with few choices: waiting for a long-term tenant, trying to sell the property or turning to short-term rentals. Short-term or Airbnb rentals are becoming an increasingly popular option as owners struggle to meet loan repayments.

Airbnb, probably the largest platform, has seen a 99% growth over the past year, with over 44,000 listings – with good reason. The flexibility of staying in the apartment at certain times combined with customised insurance makes hosting an easy choice. However, as most people who have tried it can attest, it isn’t the easiest path – cleaning and key exchanges can be a large issue if you’re holding a full-time job, or if you’re just not feeling any joy in hosting.  This is where an Airbnb management service provider comes in!

How we started

This short-term or Airbnb management service idea started back in 2016 when Ken and I decided to rent out our own apartment on Airbnb. Eager to earn extra cash, we took the first booking we got, and accepted cash upon arrival, which led to the very costly result – our guest smoked in our apartment and left us with major cleaning work to be done. Back then, guidelines, tips and tricks, blogs and how-to’s were very vague, thus forcing us to learn on our own. We realized that perhaps an Airbnb management service company would have helped us avoid costly mistakes.

With no idea if there was even a demand for a service we provided, we struck out on our own. We were going to be the Airbnb management service that we needed. We proceeded to convince a friend to let us run a unit at Binjai Residency. We decorated the place, hired our first part-time cleaner and threw 150% of our effort into learning everything we could about Airbnb and short-term rentals.

Airbnb Property Management Services Malaysia - Binjai - Plush Services
Binjai Residency – one of our first few apartments that we transformed into a top 10 Airbnb apartment in 2018 in Kuala Lumpur (information from 3rd party source: AirDNA)

Realizing that we could help other homeowners and investors, we started Plush Services. We were one of the first few service operators in Malaysia, but we wanted to be different. There wasn’t a player that was providing quality services and leveraging the multitude of procedures that we must get the best returns for each unit. With no guidelines or comparisons, we outlined our core principles that we wanted the foundation of our company to be built upon:

  • To provide high quality short-term homestays
  • To always be honest and transparent with our clients
  • To strive to provide the best service we could for our clients and our guests

Although we have grown to a much larger company, we still stick to these core principles to date.

What makes us different from any other Airbnb management service provider

1. Dynamic Pricing

We have experimented with so many strategies – pricing makes or breaks the listing. We invest heavily in our technology to ensure our clients achieve significantly higher returns compared to a DIY solution. We are extremely proud of our proprietary dynamic pricing system which updates our pricing daily.

We send ‘heartbeats’ to our Airbnb listings, letting it know that each listing is an active, which helps us secure more bookings and avoid empty and inactive properties. We are also able to set minimum night stays (which helps us weed out ‘parties’) and adjust our price based on demand to maximize returns to our homeowners. Various strategies are also implemented – we don’t open bookings for 1 night unless it makes economical sense (only 4 nights before the date + if we have 2 bookings with 1 night in between).

Our in-house pricing strategists will also tweak all our prices daily to ensure maximum yield. This helps us with delivering exceptionally higher returns than most other property managers out there. New Year’s Eve, for example, is a night where demand far outstrips demand. Holding on to some supply allowed us to achieve some exceptional returns for our clients last year. Our record: RM7,630 for a 5 night booking for a 3 bedroom apartment in The Mews.

Our 3BR Mews unit achieved a record-breaking RM2,500 on New Years Eve last year (price for 1 night)

2. Our fabulous interior design team

Its vital for all guests walking into our homes to feel the warm Malaysian hospitality. Each property must feel homey, comfortable and clean. It must have all the basic amenities like bath soap and shampoos, towels, blankets, tables and chairs, and on and on the list goes. However, its the extra touches that make a huge difference. We would highly recommend:

  1. 2 pillows per person
  2. Shampoo and soap
  3. Free mineral water for guests when they arrive
  4. Hand soap, dish towels, coffee, tea etc
  5. Many other items which we ensure are in the unit for our clients – do contact us here for further details

All these basics are necessary, but what makes your unit successful vs any other listing? The interior design. Subtle touches of an interior designer converts an ordinary Airbnb listing to an extremely profitable one. At Plush Services, we have a team of interior designers that would work hand-in-hand with homeowners to maximise each home’s potential. This includes a guidebook for guests, small welcome notes and labels for every appliance in the apartment. We keep personal items to a minimum but decorate with easy-to-clean, inexpensive decor to minimize risk and maximise profitability.

We encourage all our clients to take advantage of our team as the benefits they generate far outstrips the costs. We’ve included some sample work of what we have accomplished below – we’ll also separately post more details on each property in other posts. No matter what your budget is, subtle design improvements and changes can radically improve booking rates. We provide valuable (some times free!) advice to our clients as homestay operators to ensure that their units achieve maximum returns.

1 bedroom at the Mews, Jalan Yap Kwan Seng

Our owner opted for higher end furnishing to achieve maximum yields. We spent approximately RM30,000 – this even included a coffee machine, a high end foldable queen sized couch, high end lighting works and custom bedding.

A bare unit (the ‘before shot’)
Before and After Interior Design for Airbnb
The bare unit prior to our ID going in
The final outcome – click here for more pictures
Best Airbnb KLCC, Bukit Bintang
A 1 bedroom Mews unit along Jalan Yap Kwan Seng – fully fitted out with a foldable couch

Studio at Mercu Summer Suites

This client opted for the most economical path forward – the cost of the renovation works was about RM13k for the entire studio, including linen.

A bare unit (the ‘before shot’)
Before: A studio unit at Mercu Summer Suites
Before: A studio unit at Mercu Summer Suites
The final outcome – click here for more pictures
Before and after interior design in Malaysia
Studio at Mercu Summer Suites – interior design on a budget!

3. Insurance and peace of mind

We subscribe to a group policy covering third party liability, fire and theft which our owners can opt into.  Using a large, reputable Airbnb management service provider gives property owners access to specific short-term insurance without having to buy a standalone policy which would cost much more. Peace of mind is critical for short-term rentals: although we spend a great deal of time weeding out bad guests, it helps to have a safety net in case of any damage.

4. Administrative tasks / Accounting / Financials

Being a relatively new concept, there aren’t any clear guidelines on tax for short-term rentals. We can’t do your actual tax filing for you, but we keep clean records of every bill paid on your property for tax filing purposes, making your life a lot easier come April. We also pay all electricity, water and gas bills on time to ensure utilities aren’t cut off – the last thing you want is a 12 am call in the middle of the night from a guest due to a power outage. Not only do you have to compensate your guest, it is highly likely that you’ll be up all night trying to get TNB to get the power back on.

Aside from that, we also produce a statement each month detailing revenues received, all expenses related to the property and any other miscellaneous costs associated with your property. If you need extra help, we are happy to pay extra bills such as building’s maintenance fees if you’re not from Malaysia. Each month, after receiving the statement, you should also receive a bank transfer of rent each month without fail, taking the burden of collecting rent off your shoulders. The advantage of hiring an Airbnb management service provider, is after all, to manage your property without lifting a finger.

5. 24/7 reservations staff, awesome cleaning and a 24/7 maintenance crew for emergencies 

St. Mary Residences - Airbnb vacation rental management
Keeping your home well maintained and clean always is a must, with or without guests.

Hosting a short-term rental is no easy feat. Opting for a DIY solution means answering late night calls and replying to messages during dinner – and reviews depend on your speed. One of the reasons we exist is that a good Airbnb service provider would have a 24/7 call center dealing with issues round-the-clock. We handle all sorts of problems – water outage when Syabas has a pipe leak, emergency power outages, a leaky faucet that causes flooding. You name it, we’ve handled it. Although some of these issues can wait till morning due to security at apartments, having a 24/7 team means that we are able to respond to any emergencies immediately, usually stopping a bad review. As reviews matter enormously in our line of business, it could mean the difference between a profitable unit and a loss-making one.

It is definitely possible to outsource cleaning and maintenance to different individuals – hire a part-time cleaner or go on service platforms to get maintenance help, but the coordination work is where an Airbnb management service team comes in handy. The hands-off approach is what keeps a roof over our heads, and what makes us better than any other normal host. We ourselves have tried outsourcing cleaning and maintenance to others, but nothing beats doing it ourselves in terms of quality. After a few unhappy guests, we built our own team of dedicated maintenance professionals that are available on call for immediate action, keeping guests happy and ratings as high as it possibly can be.

We have trained our staff extensively and are quite proud of our level of service:

  • Reservations team: Our aim is to reduce the amount of calls to a minimum and to ensure our guests are always happy. This means giving guests the necessary information upfront. We also aim to respond to a message within 15 minutes, even though our current response rate on Airbnb is ‘within an hour’
  • Cleaning crew: Our cleaning crew is trained to spot missing items from theft. Hairdryers, hangers, plates, forks and spoons tend to go missing with guests knicking these items. It also isn’t unusual to find towels missing. By operating a strict checklist, our cleaners are our first line of defence against theft. They are also in charge of reporting any maintenance issues to our team so that we can get to it before the guest finds it! And of course, the cleaning needs to be in tip-top shape
  • Maintenance crew: We have round the clock maintenance in case of emergencies where our guys are always on call. We do routine servicing of aircons, paint jobs and routine health checks on all our properties to ensure it is always in its best shape

Plush Services also has dedicated operation managers for each property, ensuring that our clients’ homes are professionally serviced. They also inspect their assigned properties after guests check out and before new guests check in, ensuring each home is in tip top condition. Both our reservations and maintenance teams are on-call 24/7, ensuring that any issue that may arise will be handled quickly and efficiently to keep our guests comfortable and happy.

6. Ratings

In this modern era of free information, all potential guests or customers will most likely do as much research as possible before committing to a product or service. Expect your home to be judged by potential guests based on the star ratings based on reviews from your previous guests. All your hard work, financial investments and patience can and will be wasted if you receive an unsatisfactory rating. As an Airbnb host, you must do everything in your power to make your guests feel as welcome as possible. Going the extra mile to ensure that guests are personally welcomed to the home, oriented to its amenities and rooms along with answering questions about where to go during their stay will offer you the best chances of getting great reviews.

At Plush Services, we aim to offer the best guest experience on all properties we manage. This is where all the work listed above shine their brightest. Your home will be spotlessly clean and comfortable thanks to our housekeeping and maintenance team. Your guests will be met personally by our concierge team for a property tour and briefing during the key handover. Our interior design team will ensure that your property is beautiful, cozy and Instagram worthy, resulting in happier guests.

7. Flexibility for Owners

We believe that our owners are not just clients, but our partners in business. We strive to achieve the best result for our clients, even if it is financially less rewarding to us. All our clients have our personal numbers so that we are always contactable – many of our clients can attest to having late night whatsapp chats with us on how we can increase returns or how we can potentially deal with various issues. With this level of communication, home owners can easily block off dates to use for personal use with no cost to them, giving flexibility in case they want to sell their unit or if family members come to stay.

8. Ability to service any building within our coverage area

Airbnb Property Management Services Malaysia - MEWS - Plush Services
The Mews: Strategically located in the hub of Kuala Lumpur, Plush Services can get staff onto your property fast.

Unlike other Airbnb management service providers, we have perfected our cleaning and management services to be able to cater smaller units usually not covered by our competitors. We are present in over 30 apartment blocks across Kuala Lumpur and are expanding rapidly to increase our coverage area. Our list of apartments include:

  1. Suasana Bukit Ceylon
  2. The Robertson Residences
  3. The Establishment
  4. Nadi Bangsar
  5. Soho Suites KLCC
  6. Binjai Residency
  7. Troika
  8. Binjai 8 Premium Soho
  9. Menara Bukit Ceylon
  10. Crest Residences
  11. Mercu Summer Suites
  12. Berjaya Times Square
  13. Wisma Goldhill
  14. 231TR
  15. UBN Apartments
  16. Sunway Velocity
  17. Swiss Garden Residences
  18. And more!

9. Full Transparency

Here at Plush Services, we hope to build a strong sense of trust with our property owners. We have an internal system for clients to login and view live bookings from our internal system. Each month, our clients also obtain a detailed report on who has stayed at their unit as well as any minor maintenance that has been done. Further details such as actual invoices can also be requested to ensure our clients feel as comfortable as they can with us. Larger changes, such as a makeover or major maintenance works will never be done without our client’s approval – the property is ultimately theirs, and good communication and responsiveness is crucial to the listing’s success. For more information, do check out our Facebook page or drop us a note here. Our reservations team can also be contacted at +603 2181 9399 for bookings.

About the author

Vin is the co-founder of Plush Services. Prior to that, she worked for 8 years as an investment banker in some of the largest banks globally including Barclays, Rothschild and Macquarie in Singapore and Malaysia. She previously advised on mergers and acquisitions focusing on consumer services, plantations, education, utilities and various other sectors. At Plush Services, she heads the reservation and administrative teams. She has extensive experience in maximizing yields of properties to ensure Plush Services’ clients are happy.

The co-founding team

The founding team.

A founders perspective.

We began our journey back in mid 2016, when short-term rentals were a relatively new concept and still untested. Our first unit was a spare dual key unit at Kuchai Lama, which could be considered a little out of the way with no particular tourist interest. It isn’t connected to any public transport, but the condo was extremely suitable for staycations and for local business travellers. We had only had this simple concept in mind : Beautifully designed space with a brilliant host. A space our guests would be more than happy to stay at and come back again and again.

So we whipped out our ancient DSLR, went out to furnish the room, studied up on Youtube videos on how to better showcase a bedroom and after about a week of prep listed our property! Within the first few hours, we got a booking for that night itself. Imagine how ecstatic we were. Maybe this concept of Airbnb wasn’t so difficult after all! (I look back and think, silly boy, silly silly boy, you have no idea how difficult its going to become).

Our own little curated library

Setting up took us most of the day

Our first unit

After testing out the concept for about a month with back-to-back bookings and rave reviews, we decided to take the plunge and we both left our jobs – I left my job as a Product Manager at Novo Nordisk (It was a pretty sweet gig, high pay, lots of flights and superb benefits) while Vin left her job as a Vice President at Barclays to trying to start our own business. I have to admit I was pretty naive. I never took into consideration all the responsibilities involved. We never really considered getting funding at the start, so our plan was to grow it organically and then push, push, push. Which also meant that we pretty much had to do everything ourselves. Just in case you’re wondering what that looks like, here’s our org structure/ titles back then:

Sales, Marketing, Driver, Operations, Maintenance, Painter, Plumber, Electrician, Emergency Cleaner, Reservations Exec : Ken – Co founder

Admin & Accounting, CTO, CFO, HR, Sales and Marketing, Operations, Reservations, Pricing, Emergency Cleaner, Driver : Vin – Co founder

I love how co-founder pretty much sums it all up. It makes it so much easier to put on a name card. Things look a little different now – we have been extremely lucky with many talented individuals joining us.

We ended up starting our venture in KLCC after surveying and identifying the best units to use. 6 months down the line, we hit about 12 units. Looking back, I’m pretty happy with what we’ve built so far and also extremely happy that we managed to fulfill our promises to clients. It’s true that we have taken a more conservative approach, but we’ve also built it right the first time round. Sure, we made mistakes and looking back, we could have done it a lot better, but moving forward, I think that’s what we will work on. We’re still growing at an impressive pace and I believe we’ve built a great team to take on that challenge.

Happy Chinese New Year all!

5 Ways to Achieve Airbnb Superhost Status

You’ve seen those listings – beautiful homes with rave reviews…and that shiny Superhost badge annexed to the (smugly) smiling profile of your competitor…

It’s no secret that achieving Superhost status could potentially do wonders for you on the Airbnb platform. Apart from snagging you some handy perks from Airbnb (such as travel coupons and priority support), there is also the tempting possibility of this VIP acknowledgement helping to generate increased bookings and revenue from future guests.

In order to qualify as a Superhost, a host needs to ensure that these following four criteria are met within the year:

  • Achieve a 4.8+ overall rating,
  • Ensure good communication with guests at a 90% response rate (or higher) within a 24 hour period,
  • Host a minimum of 10 stays; and
  • Refrain from cancellations.

If this sounds daunting to you, don’t worry – here are 5 simple tips (tried and tested personally by Plush Services) to help you along your path to attaining Superhost status:

1. Enhance the guest experience

Nothing says “5-star host” more than one who makes it a point to meet their guests in person with a friendly welcome. Building a relationship with your guests is key to helping them settle in with ease – and hopefully leave a glowing review at the end of their stay!

Here at Plush Services, we find that providing our guests with a little welcome pack containing some basic amenities (such as bottled water and local snacks), together with a personal note to say hi, often leaves a great impression.

2. Be unique

People often gravitate towards Airbnb listings (rather than conventional hotels) because of the allure of a home-away-from-home environment with personal touches.

Capitalise on this interest by adding some unique highlights to your home (such as decorative items sourced locally, or a printed guidebook with personalised recommendations (as we offer at Plush Services)) that can serve as valuable selling points in your listing.

3. Pay attention to the nitty gritty

Before offering your home to guests, make sure to personally stay at least a night in your property to iron out every kink. Guests are entitled to expect that reality will live up to your listing, so make sure that everything is properly in order before their stay.

As far as possible, try to preempt potential queries by providing guidelines to your guests relating to issues such as check-in and internet connectivity, to name a few. At all Plush Services properties, we take the time to label the available amenities and provide clear instructions as to their use, for ease of convenience to our guests.

4. Maintain prompt communication

Ensure a speedy response rate to the queries raised by your guests. The Plush Services team, with our 24/7 on-call assistance, adopts an “answer within the hour” policy, which helps to instil trust as to our reliability as hosts.

Even if no queries are raised, a short note just to check in with your guests during their stay would also be a thoughtful touch.

5. Honour your bookings

Once a booking has been made and confirmed, don’t cancel out! This will only serve to disappoint your would-be visitors – and leave an unsightly blemish on your reputation as a host.

If the unavoidable does occur however (such as a family emergency), contact Airbnb directly to inform them of your intended cancellation. Exceptions to the penalties incurred may be waived under extenuating circumstances.

If the thought of managing your Airbnb property leaves you feeling overwhelmed, rest assured- our experienced team at Plush Services are happy to help with the heavy lifting on your behalf. Feel free to drop us a line at +603-2181 9399, or email us at [email protected] for further information about our services.