We recently spoke with Theoharris – owner of 75+ properties in Greece. Read this excerpt from our call to know more about how PriceLabs helped him save time while maximizing his revenue!
Richie Khandelwal: Thank you so much for being here today with PriceLabs! Harris, you run villa rentals in Greece, and you’ve been a customer of PriceLabs for about a year and a half. Can you tell us about villa rentals in Greece and give us a background about you and your company?
Theoharris: I started getting involved in vacation rentals when I was building my own summer house. My idea was to make four villas, sell three of them and keep one as a summer house for myself. Soon, I realized that I’m not going to be able to sell them, and that is when I switched to rentals in 2009. I worked full-time as an IT project manager, and I was doing this part-time. In 2016, I accidentally accepted a double-booking on booking.com, and I was trying to find another villa for the second booking. I spoke to a neighbor of mine who had five villas and asked him if I could rent one on his behalf. He gave me all the five villas and asked me to rent them and make him money, and that is how I entered into the agent model! I continued with this model for a few years, started to see growth, and finally, in 2017, I dropped my office job!
I started working full-time with vacation and short term rentals. Currently, we have around 80 properties all over Greece. And to tell you the truth, all of them approached me! You should hear the story of how I acquired two of my best properties — I was in a café in downtown Athens pitching to a friend of mine. After our conversation, the adjacent table guy asked me if we do properties in Athens. He asked me for my card, called me a few weeks later, and gave me two fantastic apartments. That was truly amazing!
So, we don’t have a direct sales process where we chase owners! How it works here is – they send us a message, post which they have to go through a defined onboarding process.
The goal was to grow the business – to be the best in quality and not quantity, and that was our focus. We invested a lot of time and effort into gaining expertise on the best revenue management practices, the best way to set up the profile, keeping in mind the algorithms that booking.com, Airbnb, and the other OTA’s use. We formulated strategies based on our research and became one of the most prominent players in the market in March (pre-Covid).
Richie Khandelwal: I’ve spoken to three customers in the recent past, and all of them were IT project managers! Maybe IT project managers make good property managers?
Theoharris: I think that is because technology has a massive role to play here. When I started following the property managers community, I realized that most of them were British pensioners over their sixties, who owned multiple properties across Europe. They had exceptional customer handling skills but lacked the knowledge required to use various technical tools available in the market. I was well aware of this, which is why I made sure I had my hands on the latest technology and tools out there. I had a PMS in place from the very first day. I made sure I was using all the tools to help me save time and money, for example, PriceLabs. I believe that if you have a good grip on the vacation rental technology, you’re one step ahead of the rest!
Richie Khandelwal: Can you give me a brief idea about the kind of properties you have? Are all of the villas, or do you have any other type as well?
Theoharris: Except for the 27 properties in Athens, all the others are villas. Most of them are in coastal areas, next to the beach. One of them is a three-storeyed townhouse in a medieval city to the south of Greece.
Richie Khandelwal: Do you focus on the luxury side or medium-scale properties?
Theoharris: I think it’s a mix of medium and high-end properties. And that’s why I have also started looking into luxury websites, and I am trying to pitch them there.
Richie Khandelwal: Talk to me a little bit about how you are marketing these villas? What OTA’s are you listed on? What are the best practices, as per you?
Theoharris: If you have a PMS and a channel manager, you are practically present on all the OTA’s. Initially, I tried to be selective, but I realized there is no point in being selective as it’s free to be there. You never know what might work and what might not!
Richie Khandelwal: Because of the great domain name, do you get a lot of direct bookings?
Theoharris: We have a mailing list of a few thousand people that I update every year, and the list is growing. That is where we get most of our bookings. I also get a lot of direct bookings on our website.
Richie Khandelwal: What brought you to PriceLabs? What were you doing before you started using PriceLabs?
Theoharris: I was doing it manually!
Richie Khandelwal: When you say manually, what process did you follow? Are you still doing it for Villas?
Theoharris: It’s simple, because for Villas we have a five-month season. We have an Excel spreadsheet where we put down all the prices after discussing it with the owners. We feed this sheet to the PMS. Then we program some discounts in the PMS itself based on market trends.
However, we use dynamic pricing for our apartments in Athens because most of our bookings come in from Airbnb. Before we started using PriceLabs, we had to monitor the market trends and change prices continuously accordingly. Airbnb’s algorithm improves the ranks of the listings which have rigorous pricing changes, and since we were mainly getting books from Airbnb, we had an employee manually change the prices for all the available dates every day. Honestly, I really can’t believe we did that!.
But now that we have started using PriceLabs, I am sure we are getting more than we used to before. There is this one instance that I explicitly remember when we had a Heart Surgeons’ Conference here. We are close to a conference center, PriceLabs pushed out higher prices for that period, and we got some fantastic bookings. We had a base price of 80 Euros, and we got bookings up to 220 Euros.
Richie Khandelwal: Awesome! Do you remember what the trigger was to say yes to using PriceLabs?
Theoharris: One of the reasons is that it is easy to integrate with Vreasy. The integration of Vreasy with PriceLabs was seamless, with no complications. The one-month free trial that you offered helped a lot. Because there are so many options out there, I wanted to be sure that I could make money out of it.
Richie Khandelwal: What are your favorite features?
Theoharris: The neighborhood data is super handy. The color-coding helps a lot as well. You get an idea of the market trends by looking at the calendar colors from green to blue. For instance, currently, I can see that most of my properties have higher prices in the first week of November. That makes perfect sense because it’s the Athens Spiral. This is one of the events for which we manually changed prices in the past. We faced issues where bookings came in even before we could change prices! But now that we are using PriceLabs, I can see that my properties with a base price of 60 Euros are priced at 120 Euros for that weekend. That is amazing!
Richie Khandelwal: You’ve been with PriceLabs for a little over a year. How has your experience been in terms of product as well as support?
Theoharris: It’s been good! Whenever I needed help, I got a response from your team. I have attended some of your webinars, which spoke about Covid strategies. All the new features that you guys release are useful, specifically the Market Dashboards. They are really helpful.
Richie Khandelwal: Can you give us an idea of how PriceLabs has impacted your business?
Theoharris: It’s helping in many different ways, mainly because changing prices every day makes the listing more attractive to the platforms and the audience. So along with increased bookings and occupancy, we don’t leave any money on the table.
Richie Khandelwal: Also, you mentioned that you’d have someone in your team go and update prices every day. Now that it’s automated, it saves a lot of manual effort too!
Theoharris: Absolutely! We’re running a tight ship here, and it saves a lot of time.
Richie Khandelwal: We hear from a lot of owners who are on the fence about using a pricing solution. What would be your advice for them?
Theoharris: I’ll tell them the same thing that got me on board, the one-month free trial. They can use the pricing solution on one property, continue with the manual control on another property and draw a comparison.
Richie Khandelwal: What can we do better to help you?
Theoharris: What is exciting and missing is that I can see the recommended prices on your calendar, but I cannot see the booked prices. That information could be beneficial.
Richie Khandelwal: That’s something on the roadmap, Harris. We are planning on releasing that feature soon.
Harris, let’s do a 30-45 minutes of one-on-one PriceLabs training call, if you’d like. We can walk you through various features in PriceLabs. Would that help?
Theoharris: That would be extremely helpful.
Richie Khandelwal: Thank you for your time!
Theoharris: Thank you. Nice talking to you!