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Personal Effects in house


#1

Hi all. I am a very new host. I am renting out what is, in effect, my personal holiday home. It used to be my mother’s home, where I plan to retire (I currently live in France, house is in Scotland). All the drawers, wardrobe, etc are completely empty, but I have left paintings on the walls and books on the shelves. The pictures of the house show exactly what it is like and I have ticked the ‘have personal effects in the house’ box on Airbnb, rather than the box that indicates the house is set up primarily for guests.
Everything went well all summer, and then in December I had two guests with a sort of ‘complaint’ over this. First (in a public review) said the house needed to be completely updated with new furniture and pictures. The second (just left a day ago) said (in a private messsage) that the personal effects made them a bit uncomfortable. Although he added they would definitely stay again!
Although I am not there, the house is cared for by my wonderful next door neighbour who keeps a close eye on it - and her cleaning/welcoming skills are amazing.
These two negative reviews are a bit painful, since the house is a bit of a precious space for me. I didn’t want to rent it out on a long-term lease, because I wanted it to be as it was and to return twice a year (and the cost of moving everything out when I live in another country will be high). I am trying to cover all the bills on the house, simple as that.
So, I can see a number of options:

  1. I decide that my original plan won’t work, and I have to go for full-time rental, including removing all furniture from Scotland to France. I’m afraid the cheaper option of just taking some stuff out would be almost as expensive as complete removal. And, given how little I earn on the property, I could’t afford local storage.
  2. In the description of the house on Airbnb I put early on that this is my personal holiday home that I share with others, and a warning that it may not be to everyone’s taste.
  3. I turn off instant booking and, when someone tried to book, I make it very clear what the situation is (although the pictures actually tell them everything anyway - the personal effects are not ‘hidden’). This would stop my feelings of guilt that the house made someone feel ‘uncomfortable’!
    Should also note that the property is reasonably priced in an attractive village. Here is the site, if you want to see what I’m on about: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/23316615?location=Comrie%2C%20Scotland%2C%20United%20Kingdom&guests=1&adults=1&s=5VMEjmjr
    I should say that there is even less in the house than there was when I took the pictures during a week’s stay there - probably need to redo them, next time I’m over there.
    I would be most grateful for your experienced advice and feedback!
    Cathy Thompson

#2

Don’t worry about the furniture or the feedback about “needs updating”.

What I would do is to store safely away any pictures/portraits of family. I suspect that the is the “personal effects” that made the guest uncomfortable. Then untick the “personal effects” box. Once those photos/portraits are gone, you do not have any personal effects there.


#3

Many thanks - I suspected it was the two family portraits that were causing the trouble, and you’ve kind of confirmed that! Unfortunately I only have one small lockable cupboard in the house. So it will be a suitcase job to remove the ‘offensive’ items!
Since this topic this relates directly to the bigger issue about what kind of property can be rented through Airbnb, would still love to have other opinions from Airbnb hosts. What do you do if you are renting out your ACTUAL home?


#4

I would change the wording on the description of the space to indicate it has traditional furniture and remove the wall art & books and simply update those items and give the space a fresh coat of paint. That would give it a new look.


#5

We are renting out our second home that we intend to live in after we retire in just a couple of years. It wasn’t “in our family” - we purchased it a few years ago and it was already furnished. It’s a 4000 square foot three-bedroom house in a vacation location (the Caribbean).

I’m using the proceeds from renting it out to update it. Every year, I upgrade a few things. I’ve replaced about 50% of the furniture already. And I’m saving towards a renovation of the kitchen.

If you are renting out a whole house, you might want to consider adding HomeAway/VRBO. We get about 70% of our bookings from them. AirBnB guests seem to be much more price-sensitive than the VRBO/HA guests, too, so we generally get higher prices from the VRBO/HA guests. And we are more in control of our business - no “extenuating circumstances” policy to give the guests refunds.


#6

Thanks all for your comments! Much appreciated. Will mull over.


#7

I rent out two spaces in our home while we live in it, so there’s no way of escaping our personal effects. :smiley:

I guess the balance I’ve found (and I hadn’t thought about it before, so cool question), is that the space the guest sleeps in is free of our personal stuff. In the private room, that means the only interesting thing is a puzzle on the wall we put together years ago.

In the “shared space”, our porch, we store things there (and note that in the listing) but it’s obviously storage (boots, bags, gardening tools, old protest signs) but still keep at least one empty space for the guest to expand into (if not physically, then mentally). And as we go on, i’m trying to visually corral our stuff in the porch better, so that future guests get more visual space. (I’m in NYC, fwiw, so i’m talking about a tiny space to begin with.)

I think the other thing to consider is, besides these 2, how many other people have stayed and loved the space? You aren’t going to please everyone all the time, so making a decision about who you want to host (easy going guests, attracted to charm and a loved-in look) and pitching your place to them might ease your mind a little.

And go ahead and use your pictures to warn off guests you don’t want. Do a close up of a scuff mark or a well-worn path, highlight the adventure of an overgrown back garden. For me, once I included pictures of my neighborhood celebrating its diversity (pictures of beautiful graffiti, women protesting for Black Lives) I got fewer racists.

The more honest I am in my listing, the more confident I am I can do my best for my guests.


#8

Did you get downgraded in Stars? Or was it just the comments that you’re stressed about? Either way, ignore comments from folks who want to re-decorate your house for you.

If it were me, I would definitely stop using Instant Book.

I would also change out the walls full of personal photos for some more cheery generic art that you can pick up at jumble sales; even if it means carrying (or shipping by DHs) a box of artwork across the Channel. Those things mean a lot to you, obviously, and imagine how bad you’d feel if one or more were broken or damaged by a guest who simply doesn’t care…


#9

This is amazingly helpful - thanks so much! I might take the books out of the bedroom, otherwise there’s just innocuous stuff in there. And you highlight a key issue - we have had quite a few people staying over the summer who loved it, because it felt like a home. So grateful for your time in replying!


#10

The guy who wanted to redecorate and refurnish did downgrade us in stars. But I’ve had to stop worrying about that. We are so cheap (and actually really cosy and clean). The hotel in the village is about £200 for a double room and bath for a whole night in Jan/Feb. We are £49 per night for a whole (albeit small) house and private garden.
We don’t have photographs on the walls. Just original paintings, but often by very dear friends from the past. I removed all the really personal stuff before we started (photos), but it never occurred to me that people would criticise the paintings (my cousin was even worried that some might be stolen!!!)
Such good advice from you all - will reconsider the painting issue, as you say - have already removed some, looks like I need to keep going!
It is tricky when you are not really earning enough to justify any immediate expenditure, but trying, sensibly, to save for future work. And I did have about £1900 start-up costs at the beginning of this year.
It’s heart-warming to have advice from other Airbnb hosts!
We really do like and enjoy our guests, and want them to have a good experience! Why I got so worried …


#11

If you aren’t "making enough to justify immediate expenditure of even 50 pounds, you serious need to raise your rate! Think about charging half – not one quarter – of what the village hotel does!


#12

Why aren’t you charging the same rate as the hotel? You offer so much more than just a room in a hotel, even if the house is small- it’s still a house and not a room.


#13

Maybe on the portraits (if that’s the paintings that people think are “personal items”) you could say in your listing that they are works by local artists. Then people won’t think they’re family portraits (even if they are.)

Your listing is lovely in a beautiful area. Hosting is an experience in both the good (kindness) and bad (pettiness) of human nature.


#14

Take away anything precious to you and ignore the redecorating bozos. maybe they were expecting https://www.theverge.com/2016/8/3/12325104/airbnb-aesthetic-global-minimalism-startup-gentrification


#15

If we want to get really geeky about it, here is an article on tourists seeking “authenticity.”
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/312046857_The_Role_of_Authenticity_in_Airbnb_Experiences/download
One interesting thing to me in this research article is a statement that while travelers want “authentic” experiences (variously defined), their frame of reference is still a hotel setting. This may explain why people are motivated to book Airbnbs but then are uncomfortable with personal effects.


#16

*airbnb-aesthetic-global-minimalism-startup-gentrification I just read this and printed it out, sadly its so true. It will go into my house manual. The homogenization of the whole world makes adventure impossible and if modern day travelers cannot bear anything truly different than the sameness of inauthentic crap everywhere and repeated, it is what they seek and get and deserve.

The rest of us, hopefully are old enough to remember entering a village somewhere and encountering a new friend who took them in, and showed them special things and feelings never known or even guessed before.

Tapestries of life are not woven on a machine, inside a smart device of any kind or copied.


#17

We have this as well, and have gotten quite a few comments that our house feels more like a home, less like a rental. It is our 2nd home that we will be retiring to. This is important to me, so I have it in our listing that there is original artwork, etc. We haven’t had complaints (yet) so maybe the people that want a “homtel” are staying away.


#18

If they want what everyone else has they better not rent with me.


#19

Food for thought—do you have a closet or room on which you can install a lock on the door? Place personal & valuable things in there so no storage fees.

Ignore the redecorating reviews. There is good advice on this thread about wording and pictures so people will be sure to know what they are getting. I am always amazed at people who leave reviews making expensive suggestions.

You may wish to consider, if your home is a work in process then place a note in the unit thanking your guest for their stay and explain that you are using part of your Airbnb revenue to do updates and you hope they can return to see the enhancements each year.


#20

If everything has been going well apart from a couple of reviews with a few minor grizzles why would you change your arrangement which works for you? While we might say “thank you for your feedback” to guests it doesn’t mean we have to act on it. I assume by “pictures” you mean photos of your family not paintings because lots of people including me have the latter and wouldn’t consider them personal effects. Can’t you just put them all in a box in the attic? You don’t need to warn people about your personal taste that should be evident from the photos. I think you are perhaps overthinking this.


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