“I am a Bad Toilet Person.” – Q&A: Hosting on AirBnB – Part 2

My AirBnB Hosting Story 2Annnnnnnnnd we’re back! Hi! The home sharing online revolutionary AirBnB has transformed our lives. The entire AirBnB sham-bang has been a wild ride. I’ll continue with the things that should be addressed, but that’s not in-depth enough to deserve its own post.

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Hosting on AirBnB

[[ This is another installment of my AirBnB series. Check out the AirBnB glossary or read up on part one. ]]

Tips ON Writing A Good AirBnB Listing

The best tip for filling out your AirBnB profile is to be honest and transparent about everything. The photos should be taken in good lighting and if you do not have a professional DSLR camera, a regular smart phone camera will do just fine. None of my photos are professionally taken so I don’t think it’s a deal breaker. There are editing apps (LINE camera was what I used) that can brighten up the photos.

There should be around 400-500 words to describe your AirBnB in the description boxes. This does not include the house rule or the house manual. I have about 400-something words for my house rules and my house manuals each. I have more rules and restrictions than your typical host so you don’t have to stretch it to 400+ words. It just makes me more comfortable when I’m thorough with my home. In a way, if it’s too long, guests won’t read it. But any less you should add in more detail to show that you are a serious and responsible host. Any more than 800 words I don’t think guests will be too keen on reading it while they’re traveling on the road.

The most important thing is just to disclose everything. It really pays to be transparent. You want to garner better reviews. Better reviews generally leads to more bookings.

  • Use line breaks on your profile so it’s easier to read
  • Use bullets and numbers so it’s easy to skim
  • List the entire content of the room & amenities (because guests will ask about work desks or if they have to bring their own towels etc.)
  • Nothing personal (age, marital status etc) that will not impact the actual stay. Guests want to know about the room. Hosts have their own profile to fill out so only do it there.
  • Fill out both the house manual and house rules because guests tend to read just one.
  • Address all house quirks and pet peeves. If the fridge door requires two hands to open or there’s a back up key for the front door, address it under “things to note.”

 

I don’t live near _____, should I still try out AirBnB?

The lovely Danielle asked this question. I do get this one a lot from people (even my own guests too.)

Everyone’s location is different and travel trends change all the time but I’m still going to give a conclusive YES you can! Most people overlook the other possibilities of an AirBnB. It’s not just a rest stop for guests. It can be a solitude mountain cabin or old country getaway.

It’s important to have a niche. You are competing with Travelodge and Midwestern that are, well, they’re boring. They are rest stops. You want to offer an experience. If you want to have fun with AirBnB then you should have a niche and a theme. Don’t underestimate how adventurous AirBnB guests can be. My AirBnB is very tamed but if I could to do it all over again, I would have shot for more interesting decor. Maybe old Hollywood glam? 🙂

airbnb-flower
Read about our Christmas AirBnB adventure coming up 🙂

If you think your location isn’t good enough just because it’s not in the center of the action – nope! It just means less competition and higher potential profit to mortgage ratio. We are at the edge of Seattle so when I started AirBnB I thought I was going to be lucky if I had 50% occupancy. I can snooze the year away and still set myself on a 90% occupancy.

It’s good to be near a busy roadway. You have to remember: cars are still a huge player in the way people travel. Often we would get travelers who fly in and rent a car then drive up north on I-5 to Vancouver and then back down to Seattle again, so they stay with us twice!

There’s also the occasional guests who are staying with us because they have family nearby without a room for them to crash. We also get guests who are attending weddings nearby too. People are always moving around and there’s always something going on.

 

What Should a New AirBnB Host Expect?

When we first opened our AirBnB I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t have any family or friends who were hosting. I checked out the other listings in Seattle and checked out some superhosts nearby for examples on what to write (you should do this too). Expect some trial and error for the first 6 months, at least.

When I started, I forgot to give instructions for our heating system and guests complained thinking there was no heat. Ugh, that was so dumb. You never stop learning really. There are always new situations that come up. We had a guest who needed emergency check-in because they had their car broken into on the drive up to Seattle. We had to help check their luggage and clothes for broken shards of glass before we could put it into the washing machine.

Another embarrassing thing was….so I’m a girl, and it has never occurred to me to clean the underside of the toilet seat. I mean, why would I? I’m a chick.  I forgot the toilet seat even goes up. So it was really gross under the seat (vomit, urine…mystery stuff…) from months of neglect before a guest finally came up and informed me about it. I make my poor husband do the toilets now, I am a bad toilet person.

 

Can you have pets and still be a host?

Yes! But it might lessen your range because some guests are allergic to fur (more cats than dogs from my experience). Although most of the time it’s not a deal breaker. I believe finding a pet free AirBnB is quite difficult up here. Seattleites loves dogs and cats. We still have bookings from guests who are semi-allergic to dogs. They take a Benadryl and deal with it. Different strokes for different folks!

thefrugalgene-grace
Private pupper security 1st class…refusing to let go of hubby’s winter sock.

But a bouncy pounce-y dog is probably a no-no for guests. Grace our dog is not the “OH HOOMAN I LOVE YOU” type. She has been abused as a pup before we rescued her so she is afraid of humans. Grace is a natural guard dog. If an axe murderer came in to the house, Grace can hear and sound the alarm the moment they cross the proverbial comfort zone. She has amazing hearing (look at ’em ears!) and she hears when a guest nears our driveway long before we do. She’s just too chicken to actually go up to them. She hides at the top of the stairs and observes from afar. She will bark once and then run away. It’s hilarious.

I tell all of my guest that Grace is the breed that sheds a lot. Sometimes her fur gets into the laundry and sticks onto the fresh linens, most guests understand. Be transparent about all the pets you have. It doesn’t matter if it’s a hamster or a turtle you should let your guests know! Disclaimer everything! 

 

What is the difference between a shared home and an entire rental?

The biggest difference is going to be taxes. Otherwise renting out an entire home is like renting out a single room but with less supervision. Guests expect a higher standard of cleanliness for an entire rental.

In a shared home, guests are pretty understanding that there will be normal clutter. I have a roll of tape on the table too fat to fit into our utilities drawer. There are Chinese candy wrappers out too that I want to save since I don’t know the candy and I want to keep a copy to find it again. We have two weeks worth of recycling that needs to go out (ordering too much stuff from Amazon…again!)

AirBnB guests in our shared residence has never deducted points on clutter. Never ever at all. Surprises me every time, ha! Our guest rooms are always pristine but if someone’s living room was as cluttered as mine, I would probably think to take off points… I would be like “uh, lady, the rooms are awesome but there’s more candy wrappers here than a preschool.

Our vacation rental have little to no clutter. My theme was minimalism (you can guess why $$). I clean up pretty thoroughly but guest who rent an entire rental are pickier. You will hear complaints about regular dust on the TV and drinking glasses being mismatched.

 

What are the biggest seasonal differences on AirBnB?

Summertime is amazing if you want to see the money flow in. I don’t have to answer any half-assed inquires or worry about last-minute cancellations. I don’t have to worry about occupancy – there’s always somebody looking in July.  But from my experience, winter guests are a lot more easy-going. They’re just very casual about everything and it’s more fun as a host when guests put their trust in you to do your thing. Maybe it’s the weather, who knows. Winter guests take instructions better for the most part.

I have a monthly rating scale from 1 to 5 with 1 being the slowest and 5 being the busiest:

January: 2
February: 2.5
March: 5
April: 6
May: 8
June: 10
July: 10
August: 10
September: 5
October: 2
November: 1.5
December: 3

Summertime guests tends to be more impatient. After guests confirm a booking, I reach out and tell each guest that I will be sending out the check-in information in the early mornings on the date of their arrival (unless they specifically answer me otherwise.) No one says boo about otherwise!!! But for some reason, summertime guests will message me 2-3 days before in a panic wondering how they’re going to check in, when they can check in and if they need to buy towels or detergent etc. Reading and traveling is not a popular pairing.

 

Why not just do a traditional long-term rental?

To me, a house can become an asset when the rent can cover the mortgage. Our first house (because we killed off 60% of it in a year) can return a profit as a long-term rental. AirBnB for our entire rental breaks even still after the mortgage and the utilities. There’s also a rental glut in Seattle so we’re trying to bypass that by offering short-term solutions instead.

A traditional rental will bring in less than an AirBnB but it is an idea I’ve entertained. Renting out our entire rental long-term will bring in $500-$800 less a month. According to our excel sheet, a traditional rental will break even only after 12 years at this current rate (assuming 98% occupancy). There was some data we found that stated most landlords do not break even with their mortgage until about 15 years in with a traditional rental.

If someday, we ever decide to breed or travel ourselves, then yes, definitely!

Are you An airbnb co-host?

AirBnB recently launched a co-host program in some cities (like Seattle) for people who want to be a host but don’t have the time for it. I signed up to be a co-host but I haven’t had any bites yet (not that I was expecting any, it’s quite new.) AirBnB lets you set a certain # mile radius where you’re available to co-host. You will also have to decide on what percentage of the total reservation and/or any cleaning fees you want to take. The percentage is a minimum of 10% to a maximum of 20% of the total reservation cost. You can also set a fixed fee for each AirBnB listing that you prepare.

 

How is AirBnB’s support line?

Being a superhost means the call representatives are much more likely to take your side on an issue compare to a guest with less to no credibility. You hold some trust and value in their eyes so they treat you better than a regular host. The wait time is supposedly shorter for a superhost but I have not found that to be true at all. I think someone said, “they don’t talk to superhosts like a dead eyed idiot. They talk to superhosts like a living dead eyed idiot!”

Hahaha 🙂 all kidding aside, I actually really like AirBnB’s support. Although the on-hold time has gotten longer, the service is always top-notch. Great phone manners, no one transfers me and I never had to escalate pass a phone call. AirBnB’s phone service is much more responsive than what I’ve experienced with Comcast or AT&T.

Have your proof of identity ready; know your email address on the account and know the last 4 digits of your bank account on the account as well.

After every call, they will send you a customized email with follow-up instructions and/or a complete summary of the resolution. Great touch!

 

How do you coordinate with guests?

There was once 4 options to message your guests but now after the latest AirBnB update there is only 3. They took away the texting/SMS option which was my second favorite. The 3 options now are direct messages via AirBnB, e-mail, and calling. Calling each guest is beyond awkward, I’ve only done it in emergencies. I have no idea who they are or what they’re doing. Roughly 15% of my guests don’t speak very good English either. AirBnB messenger is the best way to communicate – it’s a good record keeper if you do open up a case.

The official check in message should be no more than 300 words. I would pick out the most important house rules and bring it up again before I hand over the door code and WiFi information. Leave the important things near the top of the message but leave necessary things (door code and WiFi passwords) in the middle or towards the end of the message. Template all common messages to save time. End all templates with a polite thank you followed by your name, phone number, and e-mail.

free airbnb responses template

 

How long do you spend managing your properties, tenants, screening, etc.?

Mr. SMM asked this question and it’s definitely less than when I first started. AirBnB has continued to update their mobile app and they added features like easy-view calendars and templates. You can also take and send photos directly from the app itself now. For a slowpoke like me, it’s about 1-2 hours to clean a dirty room (including laundry time) and 20 minutes a day of socializing and answering guest inquiries on my phone.

 

Security & Safety Tips

  • Not many gusts (and hosts too) know this but a host is not allowed to send their address inside the AirBnB messenger. AirBnB will auto-censor sensitive information if it’s detected to protect you. All confirmed guests will have your address automatically loaded onto their itinerary (in the ‘reservations’ tab) the moment the booking is confirmed. Do not give out your home address to any guest who has not confirmed booking!
  • Buy an electronic door lock with a keypad to simplify the check-in process if you don’t want to always greet guests. I do not meet or greet 90%+ of my incoming guests. The electronic lock must have an auto-lock function – don’t count on guests to remember to lock up! Have a back up manual combination lock box to store the physical key for when the electronic keypad batteries dies.
  • Stock a full first-aid kit in each bathroom and a sewing kit too. Inform all guests where the fire extinguishers are in case of fire emergencies. We have a closet with our earthquake kit that includes a hand cranked radio, flashlight, dehydrated rations, water, purification tablets etc. If our guests are stuck with us during a bad earthquake I want to be able to cover everyone’s safety (because, man, think of how the bad the reviews would be if we didn’t! 😜)

Snacks

  • Provide breakfast (we have muffins) and some basic form of cereal. Do not provide milk. It will just go bad.
  • Make sure in the house rules you address that there will be no special dietary restrictions in the snacks. There are guests who ask if we have gluten free, sugar-less, free range kale whatevers. If I have a pet peeve, it’s this one. We’re not a restaurant. There are 100 guests before and 100 guests after who doesn’t have any dietary restrictions.
  • Always buy in bulk (wholesale clubs & using Amazon’s camelcamelcamel tracking with S&S.)

 

Wow, still here?!?!?! I think I’m done with the mock Q&A now 🙂 questions? Hosting on AirBnB can be a very profitable path if a host does it right. Remember you can’t please every guest hosting on AirBnB. A 80% positive feedback score is more than suffice for a good host. Keep price in line with value and seasonality as well. We will discuss more of this in the next post. Stay tuned.

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23 Replies to ““I am a Bad Toilet Person.” – Q&A: Hosting on AirBnB – Part 2

  1. Thank you for sharing all the details about your Airbnb hosting! I have been curious about how it all works… your articles are great intros!

    And I think you and I are the same… “bad toilet people”. Mr. Adventure Rich works in maintenance and is very attentive to detail. I’ll clean our bathroom and completely fail to see half the things he thinks should be cleaned 😉
    Mrs. Adventure Rich recently posted…What’s in Our Wallet: Investing Edition My Profile

  2. Wow, really great information and I’m jealous of your rental income!

    I’ve used AirBnB, but I’ve always wondered how things work from the host side. 90% plus occupancy is awesome.

    “But for some reason, summertime guests will message me 2-3 days before in a panic wondering how they’re going to check in…” Yep, that was me in my first couple of AirBnB rentals. I don’t do it anymore. Maybe these people are mostly newbies?
    Mr. Freaky Frugal recently posted…Freaky Frugal or Stupid Frugal?My Profile

  3. Yay to another amazing Airbnb post! You know what, Lilly? You’re awesome! I’m a total Airbnb newbie. Your post helped me learn so many things about this business and answered many questions I’ve had in my mind but never asked anyone.

    You seem so experienced and good at it that I have no doubt it’s just going to get even better! Have you guys thought about scaling the Airbnb business?
    Ms. Frugal Asian Finance recently posted…How We Saved $1,753 on Engagement and Wedding RingsMy Profile

    1. Hiiii ✌🏻 we thought of adding a finished basement but construction costs are super high in Seattle right now (everybody is building) so we’re waiting for a dip 🙂

    1. For most hosts it’s probably less 🙂 but we have 3 listings and we get a lot of turnovers. It’s like running a mini hotel and you’re maid, re-stocker, receptionist and manager.

  4. Just read the two part series and it was very informative. I love Seattle btw as I have a lot of family there. When I visit, it’s usually the summer so I miss the rainy season! Anyways, I’ve been really intrigued by AirBnb but can’t do it since we have a 850 sq ft co-op apartment in NYC with 2 kids. We barely have room for the 4 of us (and toys!). Real estate in NYC is also very expensive so I’ve considered buying somewhere else and having someone manage it for me. I need to do more research as I’ve always heard that you’d be lucky to have a vacation home break even. Does your condo have restrictions with short term rentals?

    1. Oh Andrew I’m sorry! I totally missed your comment!

      Having a vacation home break even is rare (and we’re thankful for it! It’s actually bringing in profit right now.) AirBnB is a good bit of work though and there are a lot of opportunities for critics (criticizing your home basically).

      We don’t own a condo, our properties are single family (and we chose that for a local reason) so there are no restrictions, it’s all ours.

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