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How to stay competitive

Hi Everyone-

I have a question that maybe veteran hosts would be able to answer. As a new host getting into the business, it seems like major cities are getting more and more competitive. New listings are being added every day and I am wondering what tactics current hosts use to stay relevant. What do you do to make your listing stand out and gain consistent positive reviews? Are there tools you use or things you do when preparing your rental for the next guest (that doesn’t take up a lot of time)? What about remote hosts? How do you make sure your guests are always satisfied after their stay?

Would love any input, thank you!

@liveincourage - where do you host? Which country/area? Please let us know a little more about you so that we can respond accordingly.

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This is my second year hosting and luckily I have had success. Every market is different but I think what has helped me get nice reviews is cleaning the house myself. I block two days between check ins which gives me two days to clean, prepare the house and repair or replace anything that may be broken. I also provide coffee and tea plus I fill the cookie jar with an assortment of individually wrapped cookies. I leave them a thank you card and a list of things to do in the area along with lots of take out menus.

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Not sure this applies to my Airbnb. I offer a place to s**t, shower and sleep. I’m not a gender studies program or a film.

I provide the cleanest, most comfortable Airbnb I possibly can. Not every host here is interested in doing that. You’ll read comments about not cleaning certain things or making certain concessions in lifestyle because, among other things, “it’s not a hotel” or “it’s my home and I live here.” Some things I do provoke exaggerated eye rolls from others. In some markets the potential payoff isn’t worth the effort invested. But it’s working for me and I’m going to continue.

Always? Well that’s impossible people being as they are. But in addition to a great experience, it’s a mind game. I have an advantage a new host starting out will never have: 500+ 5 star reviews. So when a guest books they know exactly what I provide and have provided year in and year out. They know I won’t be posting any snarky replies to their review. Even if they are difficult I try to keep a smile on my face and my plentiful sarcasm out of my voice. And when they go to review if there was something they didn’t like it’s really going to look odd compared to the other reviews. So I suspect they skip mentioning it.

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Hosting remotely in Miami Beach.

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Do you find these little touches such as cookies and thank you cards make an impact on your listing? Is the time and money to do these things worth the investment? I’m considering leaving out a few local goodies for the guests upon arrival.

What type of things do you do besides the obvious cleaning when turning over your rental that you feel are worth the time and investment? Or is it just obvious cleaning tasks?

Here are some of the things I do that have been the subject of mockery here on the forum:

I wear a headlamp and my reading glasses to make sure my 61 year old eyes aren’t going to miss something my mostly younger guests might see. I look UNDER the furniture and I vac/swiffer and periodically mop under it as well. I do allow pets and so the chance of stray tufts of hair drifting here or there make extra vigilance essential. I do charge a pet fee and I think allowing pets gives me a competitive advantage.

I use a lint roller on the linens before and after laundering. More than half the time I pick up hair that is still sticking to something after being laundered.

I periodically use a black light to look for things I’ve missed, especially after pets and male humans have stayed.

I put a new roll of toilet paper in for almost every guest. I take the partial rolls and use them in my part of the house.

Lots of people here do the following and it’s well advised that you do the same:
On a rotating basis I clean all the vent covers, wash the windows, wash the light fixtures, make sure no bugs are in the fixtures inside and out that they can get into, check the insides of drawers of dirt or hair and vacuum, take the cover off the shower drain and clean the hair out, clean the inside of any cabinet and dust off tops of shelves. Clean the baseboards, touch up paint. Dust the walls especially where it might stick near windows or vents. Dust and vac windowsills. There is always dust that seeps in and in summer usually a bug.

Once you get the routine down it doesn’t take much extra time to make sure it’s perfect. Your problem is going to be remote hosting. Good luck finding a cleaner that’s remotely (see what I did there?) close to performing at this level. To be frank I think it’s difficult to be a remote host and enter this competitive environment. Also be aware of new laws governing rentals in Miami Beach.

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I buy the thank you cards at the Dollar Store. One pack has 10 cards so it’s only 10 cents per card. I buy the individually wrapped cookies also at the Dollar Store. So it’s not costly and many reviews mention “personal touches.”

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Since I have the two days blocked, I clean everything! In addition, I dust the fans blades, blinds, top of kitchen cabinets and top of fridge. Wash pillow protectors, mattress covers, bed skirts, etc.

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What do you provide to your guests when turning over? Just the basic necessities… toilet paper, shampoo, etc. , any extras?

Why don’t you tell us about what you do when turning over, in terms of extra touches, cleaning routines, amenities that make you stand out from the crowd @liveincourage?

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I provide body wash, shampoo and conditioner in a dispenser that’s attached to the wall. A bottle of liquid hand soap on the bathroom sink. I buy the big refill bottles and just top everything off before the next check in. I also have wall mounted hair dryers. Toilet paper and extra rolls. In the kitchen I provide paper towels, dish washing liquid, Cascade for dish washer, Brillo pads, garbage bags, aluminum foil, wax paper and plastic wrap. Most of it I buy at the Dollar Store. I save all my receipts and write it off.

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I think @Helsi has the right idea. Tell us what you do @liveincourage as that makes it a lot easier to advise you. Now that we know that you’re in Miami Beach, what do you supply that’s specific to beach areas? (I’m in South Florida too and we provide a lot). What are your prices? In other words, what is your amenities budget per guest? What staff are you using for cleaning and for co-hosting? Do you have all your tradespeople in place? Do you provide a luxury experience or a budget rental? Do you have a pool and a hot tub and all the paraphenalia that goes with them? Or a grill/outdoor kitchen?

Let us know more about your place :slight_smile:

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Don’t feel like you have to get everything at once. I slowly added stuff through out the months like additional patio furniture, beach towels, etc. Just make a wish list and after each payout use a bit of the income to slowly purchase items on your list. Start checking out garage sales and fleamarkets.

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Attracting guests, I think it comes down to REVIEWS and PICTURES. There are so many options including many resort hotels, so I put myself in the the mindset of someone looking. If it’s something I’d be interested by the description and pictures and its validated by good reviews then that’s a good indication that you stand above.

Once you’ve got the booking, one needs to ensure you meet or exceed expectations. That comes from:

  1. Customer Service:
  • Be responsive before and during a guest’s stay
  • Inquire as to what guests might want or need
  • go a step above
  1. Provide a CLEAN, aesthetically pleasing environment that reflects what the pictures, description, and reviews conveyed.
  2. Continue to update and replace items that are worn or tired (sheets, towels, etc). Listen to guests suggestions; I’ve added things like a full length mirror, hairdryer (w diffuser), blender after guests suggested them.

There’s no tool that can do 1,2,3 but by putting yourself in the eyes of potential guests, you’ll gain the insight that will keep you competitive. Also what is your competition offering that you aren’t? How do you differ from them?

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I have read about your CSI gear for cleaning and no mockery from me at all. It is a running joke among our family that none of our houses will ever be as clean as the vacation rental. Cleanliness is next to godliness and all… I am fortunate I have a trusted highly experienced person in charge of cleaning and preparation. I don’t think I could trust anyone else to keep it spotless the way we want it for our guests.

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Would you believe we only got the dresser drawers in the bedrooms two weeks ago? I couldn’t find anything I liked in my budget. I provided hangers and places to set suitcases, plus closets have built in shelving. I quit stressing it and opened for business. I knew the right set would come along and it did. Found a killer deal on a very gently used set and negotiated delivery and setup in asking price.

I never unpack and use the drawers on vacation anyway. I suspect most people don’t.

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I host in my home. It’s an old house, lived-in and it’s never going to be perfect. But it’s clean - I wouldn’t recommend doing surgery on my floors but for 99.9% of people it’s clean enough.

The one thing I do that perhaps gives me an edge is - hospitality.
I greet all guests personally (obviously in my home but also at the entire property I manage). I know many guests and hosts prefer an anonymous check-in but I don’t cater to those people.
I’ve found that people like it. They often have questions and I can answer them directly and it’s appreciated. It doesn’t take long and I can sense when guests just want me to piss off. But putting a face to a rental, I’ve found, can reduce the chances of bad behaviour.

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Oh man, it’s night and day over here. One side with 2-10 dogs almost non stop. One side with a shower that I can’t recall the most recent year it was scrubbed. One side with enough dog hair on the bed to knit a sweater with. The other side… well , you know.

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