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Listing all but dead since this summer - advice appreciated

Hi everyone,

Sorry, I’m back again, asking for help and advice.

My listing was going ok till around the end of April. After that things started to dry up. And it’s been mostly empty all summer. I did get some inquiries for longer summer stays, but for one reason or another they all fell through. Maybe I was asking too much money.

This is not unusual. I’ve been running this listing since April/May 2016, and the first summer (2016) was quite busy, but the following summers have not been. But up till now the fall and springs have been busy.

It’s now early October, and still not much of anything, except for the occasional flaky inquiry. People who inquire, and then you never hear from them again. I actually got a booking request about 5 days ago, and shortly after I replied to it, the person cancelled, saying he had found a cheaper place elsewhere. I just got another inquiry, but I’m not holding my breath. My only upcoming reservation starts on Wednesday, for 3 days. The odd thing is that, if Airbnb statistics are to be trusted, I’m getting plenty of views.

So, I’m wondering if it is just that the Bombay market has become saturated, and prices have dropped so much that my listing is no longer competitive. Or am I missing something else?

I’ve not changed my price in the last few years. In fact, it’s hardly changed since I started. And the Rupee has certainly experienced inflation in the last few years, and fallen significantly against international currencies. I’m reluctant to reduce my price, because it’s a fair amount of effort, I don’t earn that much, and it’s barely worth my time as it is. It might lead to worse quality guests. (I’ve mostly been pretty happy with the guests I’ve had so far.) And I do have other things to do. Airbnb adds 25% on top (it’s take, around 12% and 12% GST (Indian Tax)). But that’s always been pretty much the same. Though the tax might have increased a bit - I’m not sure.

And my reviews are ok, I think. At the moment, there are 155. I think I make reasonable efforts to keep my guests happy. There is still the odd review saying nasty things, but you can’t keep everyone happy. And anyway, it’s just supposed to be a room in a flat, not a portal to Xanadu.

The photos are now quite old and out of date. They were taken around February 2019, before my listing even went live. I’ve added a few more recent ones, but most of the photos are still from February 2016. While I’ve not done a lot of major work since then, they are increasingly inaccurate. But I don’t think the overall look is spectacularly better or anything. The room itself is little changed. It’s a small room. I do have a flat screen TV in there now. I guess I could put up some pictures on the guest room walls, if that would help.

I was wondering if folks can take a look at my listing and tell me what they think. Would getting new photos done “professionally” help? Is there anything else I might be missing? Are people simply ignoring my listing because they can stay elsewhere for cheaper? Please do also take a look at the prices. As you are doubtless aware, you don’t have to book or even inquire to see the price for a stay. This url: http://towerroom.net redirects to my listing.

ADDENDUM: I just went to my listing, and Airbnb is asking me if I have a patio. Would a balcony garden count as a patio?

Regards, Faheem

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I haven’t looked at your listing (not even sure how to do that), but I have two suggestions:

  1. Update your photos so that they’re all accurate and attractive.
  2. Try raising your prices a bit. It can’t hurt. And you may catch the attention of a different group of guests. It has worked for us in the US.

Hi Faheem, always nice to “see” you. Where do you show up in search?

I’ve said it before, and will say again, the busier you are the busier you will be. After every stay, review right away. Ask nicely for them to review you. Change pictures and listing description periodically. Raise the price, lower the price. Show that the listing is always recently updated. I don’t believe you can set it and forget it. Even with increased competition you’re still 155 reviews ahead of new members. You need to leverage your senority.

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KKC is so right! And even changing one word in the listing description will note the listing as updated - you can refresh the main listing page to make sure it’s showing “last updated: 10 seconds ago or whatever”.

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I’d love to have a look at your listing. I can do that tonight!

Sorry, forgot to add the url. Though it’s in my profile. I’ve added it now.

Ok. But perhaps you could take a look at my photos, in any case?

Interesting approach. That never occurred to me. But are there people who are actually looking for a more expensive play to stay in? In India, that would be borderline illegal. They might take away your citizenship.

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Um. No idea. I haven’t checked recently. You mean checking anonymously, right?

If the market has been saturated as you suspect, then you should lower your rates to remain competitive and update your photos.

I’ve heard that if you update photos and check your calendar often, you will move up in the search. Not sure if it’s true but it won’t hurt to try.

The saturated part is conjectural. Does anyone know a way to get a sense of this? I wonder, are professionally taken photos more effective.?

As already stated, I think my prices are reasonable, and have changed little since I started the listing… Though Airbnb’s 25% on top doesn’t help. Though I’d be happy to get feedback on that.

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Yes. That’s always step one. Then you have to work to try to keep it as high as possible. No one wants to search through 15 pages of results to get to you. In a general search you might not show up at all but once people search for Private bath, or zoom in on your neighborhood map you need to be among those listings on the first couple of pages.

I don’t think they have to be professional and at a low price in a tight market it would take awhile to recoup your investment. There are obvious things like tidying the room in pic 10 of the living space. Is that a printer box on the chair? Is that a table piled with junk prominently pictured in the foreground? Even if the stuff is always there (I know that’s your living space) I’d remove junk, straighten books in bookcases and retake the pic. I’m not going to be able to critique every picture but you get the idea.

No one knows your market better than you do, or can. Search Mumbai. Zoom in on the map to your area. Look at the 50 Airbnbs near you. How is their location compared to yours? Everyone have AC and private bathroom? Look at their pictures? See how tidy they look? Do they have good reviews? Then adjust accordingly. Maybe lead with a picture of the bedroom the guest is staying in rather than the outdoor stairway. I do love the pics of flowers and plants they aren’t sleeping outside.

List on VBRO/Homeaway and you will get to see specific listings of your competitors, their prices and comparisons of amenities, if offered in India. I’ve found this useful.

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Oh, Faheem, I have missed you! I’m late to this thread, so many members here have already added my suggestions, but here goes:

  1. I think many of the photos are great. My only criticism would be that the room in photo number 24 does not look guest ready, exactly. There is a blanket thrown over some belongings on the left that could be a red flag for some. If that is a common room I would straighten it up a bit and offer one ready good photo of it and leave it at that.

  2. Edit the listing every day or use a service like smartbnb that “touches” the listing every day for you to keep it recently updates.

  3. Think about editing down your property description. Is there any information there that can be shared with the guest after they reserve rather than overwhelming them with all that information upfront? The more information you provide upfront, the more it sometimes sends the subtext that “it’s complicated.”

  4. Be sure to include that flatscreen TV in the photos.

  5. Possibly add any photos of additional amenities like the coffee situation and focus on exactly what the guests have access to.

I’m going to think about this one some more, too. You’ve always been a conscientious host and a helpful forum member our Hive Mind will kick this thing into gear for you!

Welcome back!

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Wow, Faheem, you’ve got an amazing listing there. This space is absolutely unique. I would most certainly want to stay if I was visiting Mumbai. Your reviews are also very good so in terms of hosting you must be doing a great job.

HOWEVER, I think that there are quite a few major things which are holding you back. I think they are a) the photos, b) the description and c) the layout and the design of the actual space. Allow me to elaborate:

a) Photos:

By looking at the photos it’s very difficult to get a sense of the space. It’s not until the third photo that you are showing the actual room. Why don’t you start with the room photo and then add photos that are less important (such as of the plants) later. The order of the images doesn’t seem to work and I think that there are potentially too many. I like the photo of you however I wouldn’t include it because it gives the incorrect impression that you are in people’s space (which I am sure is not the case but the photo leads me to that assumption). Since you are naming your listing Tower Room, I think you have to also include a picture of the view from the tower. The pictures from the rooftop are great but this space is crying for an umbrella and some deckchairs. I really think that your space has soooooooo much potential which is the reason why I am compelled to comment on it. Lastly, because the space is potentially confusing, I think you would really benefit from having a floor plan in the photos section. There are some great apps for that which are free to use.

b) Description:

Similar to my comments above, I found the description confusing and disorientating. To give you an example, under the heading “The Space” there are two full paragraphs about what is nearby and that people can do yoga classes but you don’t actually talk about the space. You need to describe the space starting with the magnificent tower room and then work yourself through the space. Please reserve local recommendations for the guide section or the location section. I found the description to be quite wordy at times, whilst key information is also missing. You should go through the entire description with an eagle eye. Perhaps get a friend who is working in publishing or writing to help you. Again, there is soooo much potential to really make your space become alive in the text.

c) Layout and Design

The above two points are, I think, quite easy to fix. It probably wouldn’t take more then a day of work. However the bigger picture is the layout and the design of the space which is confusing. Your space has a lot of charm which is fantastic but the communal hall for instance looks quite cluttered and uninviting. This is a shame because I can totally imagine drinking tea there or hanging out. I really think that if you welcome guests the communal spaces need to look more inviting. This brings me to the actual tower room which is a magnificent space but the blue colour scheme makes it look quite uninviting. Why not try yellow curtains and yellow bedding to reflect the colours of the actual tower. There should also be some artworks, perhaps even a commissioned painting of the actual tower. This is something that guests would remember. Why is there no blanket on the bed? I am sure that there is a blanket but you are now asking me to imagine that there is one because I can’t see it in the image. You should also include bottled water and all these type of things which people expect nowadays while travelling with Airbnb. An umbrella and deck chairs on the roof top would go a long way to make it look more inviting. The least appealing space, to me at least, is the bathroom which appears to be in need of a deep clean and a renovation. I am sorry to say that as much as I would want to stay in the Tower Room, the pictures of the bathroom might actually put me off making that booking. I am not trying to be harsh because I genuinely like the space that you have - it really is unique and with a few small changes i am sure you would get lot’s more guests.

Best of luck!

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I just went on Airbnb and searched, and you come up 25th for me, page 2. Agree consider putting BR first photo. Can you throw a potted plant in there and maybe a brighter bed cover?
I looked at others in your price range, and you’re the only one featuring peeling paint on the walls. Most of the competitors are more modern looking apartments. If you can’t slap some paint, consider re-titling (you’ve got 50 characters). “Domed Tower in Boho Flat on the Bay, Roof Terrace” (If you can – apologies, I don’t know how translation works on Airbnb.) Do put some paint on what looks like rust in the shower stall. Can you put a cheap table and chairs on the terrace? I would tart up the description, and for sure stop apologizing (remove references to no twin beds, you might get wet, etc.):
“Custom king bed in your huge air-conditioned domed tower room, with rooftop terrace access and stunning city views. Direct access from your private staircase through the lush patio garden to the full guest bath featuring greenhouse windows. Work from your room on dedicated internet lines, then hang with the ancestors in the shared, open concept living, dining and kitchen space, traditionally designed with colorful tile floors, high carved wooden ceilings, and family portraits.”

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Hi folks. Thanks for the feedback. It looks very useful. But it’s now the middle of the night here, and I’ll have to go through the suggestions bit by bit. And I’ll have to reply to posts individually, or else I think it would get really confusing.

But as I said those photos date from 2016, and things do look quite a bit different, I think. If those photos are really putting people off, it’s probably worth redoing them. Though they seemed to work well for 3+ years. However, the bathroom does look much the same. It was intended as a temporary structure built for my father’s convenience when he could no longer get to the bathroom he used to use. And as these things go, it’s become permanent.

I’m also tempted to put possible photos here for feedback. Since I don’t really have a good sense of what people would like. And it’s all going to be public viewing, anyway. Assuming that is possible, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t be.

However, nobody yet has commented on whether the price looks reasonable from a Western POV.

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No reply needed or expected. What is your guest demographic? If it’s business travelers, I think you have a tough job competing with the modern apartments. But as a foreign tourist, I would stay with you in a heartbeat – those apartments are anonymous looking and could be in any big city in the world. They don’t have beautiful gardens, or a romantic dome, and for a shared space this is really quite private. Plus you’ve tucked in all the modern amenities, TV, fridge, internet. Best of both worlds! Maybe in the photo of yourself you could be holding a tray with a traditional Indian breakfast, which you say you offer.

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I know too little about your market to comment on the price but your current price tag seems reasonable and it wouldn’t deter me from booking. I think you need to price for your “ideal” guest. Our ideal guests are long-term stays so we apply a substantial monthly and weekly discount. You mentioned that there are two hospitals nearby. Do you ever get visiting doctors staying at your place? If so, then you should probably take that into consideration but the person who would know their target market the best is you so it’s difficult to provide feedback on that.

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Basically, what @Suntory said.

  • Make the bed with a coverlet or blanket

  • All the blue is cold. Add some yellows or pinks or oranges to warm up the space - even add those (dreaded by some on this forum) throw pillows in locally-made fabrics. India has gorgeous colors!

  • The pillows around both side of the bed make it look confusing. Put them at the head of the bed only.

  • Rearrange the photos so guests can get an idea of the flow of the space. All the exterior shots with “bridge to another place” are confusing to me.

  • clean up the clutter - get the mat off the roof, close the wrought iron gate on the roof, put up some chairs for sitting, clean off the tabletops in the shared spaces.

Should I ever go to Mumbai, I’d want to stay at your home!
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I looked at your pictures. I think there are far too many photos. Too many views of each room. I suggest that you emphasize in the captions that the apartment is decorated to represent local traditional culture and personality.

If I remember right, you have posted 40 pictures. I think 10 would do it.

As for other comments, I agree with what several others have said here. There’s far too much clutter, especially in the large shared kitchen/living space area. And I agree that the bathroom looks quite dingy and unappealing. The bedroom does need a second color—orange, yellow—as others have suggested. And if there are interesting views from rooms or the terrace, you should include one or two of those.

Cleaner, less cluttered space, fewer photos, and a clear indication of which room(s) are shared in the captions would undoubtedly help.

As others have also mentioned, your place isn’t comparable to high-rise ultra-modern apartments. So focus on that—the character, the tradition.

Photos don’t need to be professionally done. My husband is a retired commercial photographer, but the photos in our listings were done almost entirely with either his cell phone or mine. Preparing the space to be photographed is more important (in my mind) than having photos professionally taken. And of course the photos should be a good representation of what guests will see.

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