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LESSON LEARNED: "Can I come see it before I book?"

I’m a new host and had a booking inquiry for a 25-day stay next spring. Checked out the guest: Middle-aged couple, tons of positive reviews of them, and they’ve left consistently great reviews for their hosts.

They live in Missouri but are actually visiting the PNW this week, in the small town where we’re renovating our backyard cottage. It’s pre-booking for October, but we’re still a mess – subcontractors in and out, dusty, stacks of appliances in the living room, etc. They ask if they can come check it out, and we make an appointment for them to come by – sure, I say, with the caveat that it’s very much still under construction.

The night before, I tidy up what can be tidied and then … am up all night with our dog, who has to go to the emergency animal hospital (he’s fine, but extremely expensive, it turns out). The next morning, my husband, sweetly but unaware of my tour appointment, turns off my alarm. So I wake up 40 minutes after our appointed time in a total panic, message them about what’s happened. They’re nice about it – they came by, the plumber let them in, they looked around, thanks. I cover myself in apologies. Don’t worry, they write. It’s going to be amazing when it’s finished. (I am mortified about the mistake, but they seem fine about it.)

Then I talk to my plumber.

It turns out that these people are not, in fact, strangers to the house. They used to hang out with the previous homeowners here and, in fact, are the source of two charming, carved doors that are one of my favorite pieces of architectural salvage in the space. While they were there, they told my plumber about the doors, mentioned that they used to hang out with the former owners (who moved overseas, and were … well, one of them literally screamed at me during the closing process when I had to come on site for the home inspection, so we haven’t kept in touch, although all of their former neighbors loved them, so I assume they were just massively stressed out when the guy yelled at me).

“Did they take pictures?” I asked the plumber. Oh, yes. Lots.

So I sent a quick follow-up message:

Hi, [name], Ron (our plumber) caught me up on your family history with those gorgeous doors and mentioned that you know [former owner and former owner’s spouse]! If you’re in touch with them, I hope you’ll let them know how much we are treasuring the house and garden (and how often we think of the work they clearly poured into the whole space).

Let me know if you’re still wanting to book if the offer expires — I’ve set up an automated pricing system that adjusts prices automatically but would, of course, happily honor the original rate for folks from the neighborhood. :slight_smile:

Zero reply, of course.

I am, honestly, a little … unsettled. I don’t think there’s anything terrible in the offing, but it feels like they lied by omission in an oddly personal way, but I might just be ridiculous.

And the worst part is, of course, that I screwed up with the tour, so now I don’t know whether they were REALLY going to book, but didn’t because I seemed flaky, or if they were just gathering stuff to send along to the former owners (who were REALLY attached to the house).

That said? NEVER going to let anyone pre-tour EVER again.

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“We cannot show the space at this time. I’m happy to give you a virtual tour when all the work is completed.”

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Seems like they wanted pictures of the carved doors for a potential customer.

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@GuideCottage They just wanted to snoop - them not booking and not even answering your message makes that pretty clear.

Do not allow people to preview the space.

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People are strange. If they had told you their history, said they were in the neighborhood & would love to see your renovations, I’m guessing you would have allowed it.

Now there is a huge lie & ghosting. Trust is broken. If they do want to rent, just say no. Anyone who will lie to that extent will steal and/or hurt you in someway.

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I have previewed my rental many times for guests considering longer rentals. They’ve all gone well.

Even the sneaky snake preview went ok. He asked to preview because considering 60 night rental. Conversation quickly took a turn. He was mining me for information because he was considering STR purchase in the neighborhood.

I called it out, there was no need to create a big, ole story. We had a rental conversation. He left quickly and I never heard from him again. Truth is, after I thought about it, I decided if he called there would be no further information and absolutely no rental-sneaky snake.

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Seems dishonest for the potential guests not to mention to you, the owner, about knowing the previous owners and already being familiar with the property especially once you told them the address! I’d move on. I wouldn’t want folks who aren’t upfront with their intentions to book anyways. No need for subterfuge.

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I have given people a tour before and didn’t think much about it.
This, however, was someone totally disingenuous wanting to have a little spy on the project. Bad manners for sure.

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@GuideCottage Your plumber should never have let them in without your permission. There’s so much wrong with this whole scenario.

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I have had potential guests come and have a look.
Usually brides wanting to see how it will photograph and the now regular booking with a local church for when they do ordinations.
The other was a grandmother checking for suitability for grandchildren.
All have converted to bookings:

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That is a really strange thing that happened to you. And it’s a whole new low for looky-loos. :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

I have a theory. They saw or heard about you doing renovations. They immediately thought that you were going to destroy/renovate/paint/toss/use for firewood/decoupage the doors their doors. They are attached to them and they freaked out. It was easy for them to go this direction because they heard the story about the previous owner screaming at you at the closing, but… they heard it from the previous owner. And I am gonna go out on a limb and bet that you’re a generation younger than the previous owners and the door people. (so you might not value the right things ,)

It doesn’t matter if it was deserved or not, the previous owner clearly had some emotions going on if they screamed at you (it was probably hard to let the house go). So now you’re the ne’er-do-well that bought their friend’s house and are certainly going to ruin it somehow. Because this is who they think you are, though it is unfair, they didn’t even think of just politely asking you if they could come by and see the renovations. Nope, they got all nutty and decided they would sneak a look. But then you were really nice to them and they found out that you are actually taking exceptional care of the doors, so they feel really stupid now and you probably won’t ever hear from them again.

There’s a guy around the corner, whose backyard butts up to ours, we share a fence on that line that’s covered in vines and bushes so you can’t see through. That back fence was the only fence we had when we bought the house. This guy was really good friends with the previous owner of the house we bought. The previous owner spent nearly a year carving a statue out of a dead tree in our backyard (and yes, it is awesome).

Our realtor told us that the guy picked our offer even though it wasn’t the highest because we had liked the statue when we toured the house. He told the realtors that we could buy the house because he knew that we wouldn’t cut down the statue. Which is true! We won’t. But his old buddy who lives around the corner doesn’t really believe it. We used to find him in our yard all of the time (and he is not nice at all) so we finally fenced in the whole yard, locked gates and all. Now he just walks his dog in front of our house and stares at us and our property, we call him Looky-Loo. And sometimes it is Looky-Loo’s-Wife who comes by. :joy:

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But, clearly, you can be trusted with carved doors.

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EXACTLY this. Of all the weird things I’ve anticipated … well, this wasn’t on the menu

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Ha! This, exactly. (Although it’s more like they’re older Gen X and I’m about 10 years younger, on the X/Millennial intersection. But … yes.)

Also, I’m glad you’re keeping the statue! That kind of thing just adds to the history of any home.

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Checks out. Would totally trust @Debthecat with carved doors.

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The oldest X is 56, if you’re 10 years younger, then you’re X too. Maybe they were older?

I have a standard reply for when guests want to see the place before:

Hi XXX,

Airbnb doesn’t allow any exchange of identifying information (phone numbers, email addresses, property addresses) until you have paid - so it’s not possible for you to visit the home beforehand. Their liability insurance only covers guests during their booked stay in our suite.

However there are plenty of photos so you can see where you are staying so there won’t be any surprises. Also I am a Superhost which means I have been rated consistently high and continually exceeded expectations.

I am also a guest and when I want to book a place I always read the reviews first and look at the photos next, and the villa has many positive reviews.

Please let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.

Kind regards,

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So weird. Maybe they were thinking the doors would be removed and they were hoping to retrieve them. Did they have a truck?

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Why punish other potential guests for the actions of a couple of weirdos? I’ve read here about hosts who add another ‘house rule’ every time a guest does something that’s not to their liking. The experience doesn’t mean that everyone is like that though.

Many readers here are new hosts or planning to host in the future and so I just wanted to point out that many hosts do let potential guests view the rental first and as @Annet3176 says, it has always gone well for me. (Although usually, they can’t view inside, of course).

I believe this is yet another instance of there being no hard and fast rule and each host can decide for themselves.

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It’s a shame they wasted your time but no harm done. They are probably just in that class of people who think lying is the best way to deal with an awkward or unpleasant circumstance.

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