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3 misconceptions about hosting I learned this summer


#1

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” :slight_smile: . Here are three things that truly surprised me as a newbie host vs what I was thinking about it as a guest.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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” :slight_smile: . 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!


#2

Sounds about right!

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#3

This, I may well adopt


#4

In teaching they say don’t smile before Christmas. That’s about the size of it in hosting too.
If Airbnb is our ‘employer’ it’s definitely a zero hours contract, with us responsible for all collateral.


#5

I completely don’t agree with the not smiling thing. When my guests arrive, if I’m here to check them in (sometimes I’m at work and have left self check in instructions), I open the door, smile warmly and say, “Hello! You must be Susan. Come on in! I’m Barbara.”, as I extend my hand to shake theirs and ask the name of their companion. Once they are inside, it’s “Welcome to our home. Did your traveling go well today?”.

My experience has been that my warm and welcoming deameanor puts guests at ease and makes them feel comfortable. This seems to be reflected in my reviews which often mention words like so kind, friendly and warm, and we felt like we were visiting good friends.

Of course, much of this is nothing more than an act, especially at the end of the season. I’m super nice and friendly to guest’s faces, when in reality I want to put part of the soundtrack of The Amityville Horror on a loop and play it. “GET OUUUTTTTTT! LOL!

IDK, this is just what seems to work for me. I have a few issues with guests, like any host, but if I’ve learned anything, it’s them, not me, and Mother Theresa would have a hard time hosting some folks.


#6

This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.


#7

How sad that you feel like this about hosting @summerfun. Despite your moniker it can’t be much fun for you. Sounds like you might need a break.

  1. If you are a host it is a business. No ifs. No buts. You provide a service. You get paid for it. Airbnb etc does not pay your wages, your holidays, your sick pay, it doesn’t dictate how and when you provide your service.I have a full time job that does that. It’s simply a listing platform.

  2. The small things do go a long way. 95% of my guests leave a review. About 80% mention one or more of the added value items I offer such as retro sweets, drink on arrival, personal local tour. This doesn’t mean I let guests walk all over me or that I don’t have strict boundaries. How awful for you to have to go through every check in, in such a cold and emotionless way

  3. I’ve been taken out to breakfast with guests, shared a bottle of wine, cooked them dinner. been bought lovely gifts, I’ve been invited to go and stay with my guests in their home countries. One of the reasons I love hosting is the opportunity to meet new people and learn about other cultures.

Maybe I have been lucky or maybe it’s because I invest time in vetting guests to ensure there is a good fit, but I have only had one awful guest in three years of hosting (my first). I have had warm, funny, kind, interesting, quirky guests from all backgrounds and ages who have made it a pleasure to host them and enriched my life. Yes sometimes we can all get irritated by sharing our space, but truly if I felt as you do, I wouldn’t host or would take a break.


#8

You are right being friendly is very important. However I have found the clearer I have been with my boundaries over the years the less guests take advantage and the better the relationship.


#9

@KenH no worries you will never book my place. 90% of my guests are 5-star ones. 10% are problematics ones. Of those 10% with issues 100% are over 30. I made a few tweaks in my listing to encourage young folks and discourage 30+ ones. In general, I like all of my guests, even with issue ones. Yet, boundaries saved me from lots of heartaches.

It’s not a business it’s a job. I think many people are delusional on how much control they have. It’s enough to have one major incident and all your control goes … you know where.

Anyhow, happy hosting to all of you!


#10

I have a love/hate relationship with my Airbnb.

  1. I am so grateful that for about 200 hours of work a year, I can have my mortgage, taxes and insurance covered. (I live in the Boston area so this can be very pricey.)

  2. I too am fearful that a few bad guests can effect my rankings and bookings BUT I have become more pro-active in getting these good reviews. I have thought about adding other STR sites but for now I’m nearly 100% booked with Airbnb.

a) I inform guests about Airbnb Review system vs regular reviews. I provide a Welcome letter that tells about this and I provide a checkout message that also reminds guest.

b) I immediately post my review when I get the email reminder the day of checkout. That way the prompt to the guest to write a review to see what I wrote shows up when they get home.

c) Like other hosts on this thread, I agree a quick welcome and smile and maybe a suggestion or two really does help with the reviews. Guests always seem to mention how warm I am, how helpful I am, etc. Honestly, my day job is marketing and sales so this “friendliness” is something I’m used to. I have learned that I keep my distance from the guest and try not to intrude at all. I have also learned to bite my tongue when a guest makes a minor infraction on my house rules.

  1. While I have cut back on my extras I do find having snacks, teas, coffee, hot cocoa really do help and it’s often commented in the reviews. Guests checking in late can find oodles of noodles, granola bars, and oatmeal to hold them over until they can get to a grocery store the next day. (I look for individually wrapped snacks that are not too expensive.)

  2. I sometimes get tired of the cleaning change-overs (I can have 5 or more in one week.) When I get a long-term booking I don’t make as much $$ because I do the cleaning and sometimes I’m ready for them to leave. I can make an extra $500 a month from cleaning fees. To help with the burn-out, I also use a professional cleaner once a month and for a few change-overs during the month.

  3. Finally, when I find that I’m getting burned out, I block a few days.

So there are things to hate with Airbnb (as with anything in life) but the pros for me far outweigh the cons.


#11

IThere is big difference between US and European based hosting. I never ask for review. Most Europeans wouldn’t like this (at least in my experience). I personally would hate it if the host asked me for 5-star review. During my travels it happened only once and I left 5-star review but boy I so hated this request.
Travellers have review fatigue in 2018. It doesn’t work anymore the way it used to. I think by asking review we insult peoples’ goodwill. It’s their decision … not ours. They already paid for their stay. What else do we want from them. They don’t owe us any reviews.

In terms balance between friendliness and being strict in your rules enforcement I think it’s a character thing. People with strong personality like Chloe know how to play their part. More sensitive people like myself are much more vulnerable. For instance, after @KenH comment that I’m a 2-star asshole I may not be sleeping tonight and will crying to my pillow until early morning…

By the way, I provide very high quality accomodation with gourmet coffee, super fast internet, super comfy beds, washing machine , detergent and much much more.


#14

Great post @Lynick4442


#15

I disagree with some of your points, agree with others.
I agree that when you put your heart and soul into making a place as wonderful as possible and you are rewarded with a 3 star review, it’s pretty terrible. Maybe it would be less terrible if we put in less effort.
But the small touches go a LONG way. Breakfast costs next to nothing yet i’d say it’s mentioned in at least 20% of my reviews. We cut flowers from the garden and put them in recycled jars and people love this. We supply fancy soaps which people rave about. I definitely think these things are worth doing.
And running a short term rental IS a business. I take your comparisons on but really, if you don’t want to accept a guest or want to stop renting out for awhile, do it. If you want to raise prices or change out all your furniture, just do it. The onus is on you to make the best decisions possible to ensure you are the most successful. Airbnb is just a platform that allows you to do that.


#16

Following your format let me give you some background. I too started as an airbnb guest. I also started working in the gig economy as a side hustle. I was 55 years old and a thinking-about- retiring-at-60 teacher. I started boarding dogs in my home and the next summer I added my guest room to Airbnb. After 2 years I remodeled to add a separate entrance and ensuite bathroom. This was to keep the human and K9 guests separated and safe and allow me to offer self checkin and availablity 365 days a year. I’m near a major highway and get mostly one night travelers, not tourists. Over the last year I’ve noticed I’m getting longer stays: more people for work or visiting family but still not what I’d call tourists. Now at 4.4 years I have over 400 reviews, 98% 5 star, SH continuously since the first quarter I qualified.

If all I knew about Airbnb was my own experience I wouldn’t recognize your description at all. Your experience would be validated by many here but not by me. My business is the easiest money I have ever made in my life (40+ years of work experience). It’s not super fun all the time because I don’t interact with most of my guests. But I’ve had good times with a number of them, made friends with a couple, had repeat guests.

I think you went from one extreme to the other. I’ve found that hosts that take the reviews and other interactions personally are some of the most frustrated. Everyone has to adjust in their own way, if you feel that being stone faced to protect yourself from being hurt by people you don’t know, then you will have to continue that way. That wouldn’t work for me.

  1. Yes, of course Airbnb hosting is a business.
  2. I’m not giving to get, I’m giving because it’s my “job.” For me It’s working but my listing doesn’t attract the same kind of people your listing does.
  3. Hosting, like any other job, is not always fun but I have more control in this business than any other work I’ve ever done. Some things are always out of your control. Based on my reading of this forum most of the problems occur when the host is not onsite. Flooding a bathroom and causing hundred in damage would be much harder to do here because I’m 50 ft away in the same building.

This is based on your experience, right? People have been posting exactly like this for years and yet Airbnb keeps growing. Don’t confuse anecdotes with data.

Welcome to the forum. This is an interesting post sure to provoke debate.


#17

I think sometimes being overly accommodating or friendly just gives the signal that the host is weak and easy to push around. Being friendly is of course an essential part of the business, but probably not to the point where people feel they can take advantage of you. Its hard to gauge where is the happy medium, but if you can still get five star reviews despite being “colder”, then you probably hit that sweet spot.


#18

Some say that. I didn’t and I absolutely didn’t follow that model at all. The teachers who do follow that model weren’t successful or happy, at least not at my school. At the same time I was friendly and welcoming I told my students not to mistake my good nature for weakness. Like any profession some people have the gift for it, that ability to be warm and welcoming and yet controlling . Like the Kool-Aid mom (do you know that reference) that no kid would dare take advantage of. Good teachers have a gift, maybe good Airbnb hosts do as well.


#19

I have more to say about the OP but I have little time but for the moment, and largely for the sake of new or potential hosts who are reading this, I want to reiterate that STR IS A BUSINESS.

Legally, you are seen as self-employed. You have to pay your taxes and record your deductibles accordingly. Airbnb (VRBO, whoever) is NOT your employer. They do not offer the benefits that employers do. They are an advertising platform.

Let’s say that you have another type of business - a car lot, a shoe shop, a jewellery making business - whatever. Are 99% of your customers walking in through your doors without the need for you to advertise? No. If they did, then there’d be no need for the multi-billion dollar advertising industry.

I strongly suspect that most hosts simply wouldn’t survive if they didn’t use one of the industry leaders to advertise their rentals.


#20

I tend to agree that the STR business doesn’t have a lot going for it. Low barriers to entry means any excess profits are quickly eaten up. As the market gets saturated, everyone has to up their game to get the same number of bookings. Guests in turn come to expect higher and higher levels of service and quality while paying increasingly low prices. The Melbourne market is the perfect example. So much work for just 5-10% more than an average long term let, and the number of Melbourne listings had roughly doubled every year since 2013-2014. The whole scenario is a textbook microeconomic example of market forces, barriers to entry and long run normal (i.e zero profits).


#21

I’d love to see the sources on this when you get time.


#23

No official sources but these were figures quoted by my airbnb management company based on data compiled by corelogic and their own booking statistics. i had of course fired him, as I was initially promised much higher. After setting up my own listing and getting my hands dirty, i started checking out my competition, adjusted prices accordingly and barely managed to break even, mostly by using summer earnings to cover winter losses . Those months where I hired management, I was making steep losses. If I weren’t unemployed and needed every extra dollar, this is certainly far too much trouble for a few extra bucks.


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