Just to give you some background to my story. For the last 5 years I traveled and stayed in Airbnb in 40+ countries and consider myself an experienced traveler / Airbnb guest. Yet, I’m very new to hosting. I always liked the concept of hosting: living in a nice location by the beach, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, having lots of free time on my hands while having some kind of income from passing travelers. My dream came true when I was fired from my job in Canada and I decided to move to Europe and start “my own thing” . Here are three things that truly surprised me as a newbie host vs what I was thinking about it as a guest.
- Vacation rental is a business
I really don’t know why people call short-term (STR) vacation a business. To me it’s just like any other job. Our employers are Airbnb, Booking, VRBO, etc. Our performance reviews are done on almost daily basis by our mini bosses called guests. Like in any other job they can screw us, just like that, for no particular reason. Yes, you can go to HR (Airbnb…) but there is very little HR can do for the host in seemingly innocent situations like giving you 3-star overall experience because they their rental car was scratched at the beach parking spot or they were served poor quality food in a tourist trap restaurant. Stress level is the same as on the job, especially if you are superhost. Checking these progress review stars is nightmare, at least for me. In what business just one carefully written negative review can put you out of business? Can you imagine Delonghi goes out of business because people refuse to read the instructions and can’t make any coffee from the machine? I think the only way you can call it a business if 90% of your reservations are direct bookings. In other words, you don’t need any platforms to market your place. Just your own website and travel blog do everything for you. In all other cases, STR is a job.
- The more you give the more you get
In my experience, small things don’t go a long way in short-term vacation rental business. In fact, in 80% of cases kindness is regarded as weakness. When I started hosting I was giving free rides from bus / train station, water, wine, beer, cookies, late check-outs, short tours of local beaches, etc. What I noticed immediately that most people saw it as a part of the package. I’m not taking about 5-star reviews. Many people didn’t leave any. I’m talking about sms with “thank you” or any other small gestures. After a month of doing this I stopped it.
I cut all non-essential (above and beyond) stuff, implemented strict check-in, check-out policy, and have 2 min conversation with guests during check-in process (poker/cold face – no smiles, no jokes, no emotions, no nothing). I started getting more 5-star reviews and I’m still superhost. This really made a big difference for me in terms of not getting hurt by 4-star review or messy room after the check-out. I soooo get it now… those non-smiley cold (almost nazi) hosts I met a few times during my travels.
- Hosting is fun
This is what I thought when I was traveling. I found that most of the guests (90% of them are under 25) don’t need me. All they need is my property and …me “to get lost asap” . May be because I traveled quite a bit myself or the age difference I’m also not interested in talking to them anymore. The only things that is super important to me is their feedback about the property amenities, nothing more. Hosting becomes even less fun once you learn how open the system to scam and fraud. Host has absolutely zero protection from Airbnb in case something serious happens. Here’s an example of what happened to the host (we’ll call her Mia) in my area this summer. The guest (let’s call him Mike) made the reservation in March for mid-August. Mike is also a host himself. Mia lives 300 km from the property and has self check-in box with the keys. Apparently, at some point in time between March and August Mike changed his plans and decided to stay in another place. Mike checked in, arranged mini-flood, called Airbnb that the property was not safe to stay, called Mia in the morning and moved out to another place. Finally, he requested all his money back from Mia and in addition left a crappy 2-star (!) review. Mia’s brother (plumber) confirmed that the flooding was staged. Airbnb made Mia to provide full refund to Mike. So poor Mia 1. Lost her 100% sure income for 2 weeks in August. 2. Lost her future income (not all of course but a lot) due to crappy review from Mike. 3. Her property required 500€ repairs…
All in all, in my opinion the future of short-term rental hosting is not very bright. Guests’s expectations going up, yet, host satisfaction and protection from uncontrollables is going down. Stellar Airbnb business can be killed by one review and at the same time 1-star guest can go from place to place to do reputation and property damage with absolutely zero consequences.
I’m curious about your experience in these 3 aspects of hosting and any advice and idea sharing on how to increase host’s level of happiness would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you all!