Airbnb Lessons

I’ve been renting out my bedroom on Airbnb for a while now. It’s been interesting and profitable. On the whole, not an unhappy endeavor, but it’s not making me rich by any means. Based on the money I’ve put into it and the money I’ve made and the extra bills I’ve had to pay and the time I’ve spent on it, I’ve come out barely ahead. Still it’s worth it to not be a slave to an hourly job for next-to-nothing. Once classes start again, this will be even more helpful for my life.

There are some things I learned “the hard way” though and there are some things I wish travelers would understanding about staying in “an Airbnb” (Yay for new nouns!) These apply mostly for those of us who also live in the space you are renting.  I can’t speak for commercial hosts.

  1. Stop asking for discounts before booking.  Running an Airbnb is not free nor is it cheap. Hosts pay for many things – some of which you see (like toilet paper) and some of which you don’t (like electricity) so don’t think we don’t  notice when you decide to treat us like a laundromat.  More importantly, we pay mortgage/rent to actually have this space to rent to you, so asking for a discount is entitled. Our bank doesn’t give US a discount. Your being in our space literally costs us money. Airbnb also does everything to make your stay cheaper – the push hosts HARD to give discounts (weekly, first-timers, off-season, et cet) and they push HARD for us to have low prices (smart pricing fluctuates with use). Asking for a discount is annoying. Airbnb doesn’t offer US a discount – we pay them! One time I had a family of 6 staying with me for $17/day. I lost money on that booking but I did learn about proper pricing. Now, once you’ve stayed with us we might be amenable to giving you an extra-special deal, but that runs into the next problem…
  2. Don’t wait to book more time.  Airbnb does everything they can to keep our space booked at all possible times. When in doubt, overbook your rental. If you think there’s a possibility of needing an extra day, BOOK IT. Not because it makes us more money but because you asking us if you can stay an extra day or two the day before you’re scheduled to check-out puts us in an uncomfortable position of having to say “no” to a guest. We’d actually rather have you stay an extra day than have to switch guests more. We’d love to have you stay extra time but it can’t happen when you wait too long to book – we’ve usually already got someone else coming. If you get to the space and it seems decent then as soon as you know you’ll need extra time ASK. I’ve had almost every guest ask if they can stay extra time and every one of them I’ve had to turn down because they waited until the day before check-out to ask.  When someone’s already booked the space, I can’t let you stay extra no matter how much I like you. If you book an extra day and then don’t end up needing it, tell the host and ask them if you can get part of your money back. Some hosts have buffer days between guests and might not have a problem. Even if they say no, you’ve only paid one day. It’s not that bad. Most of all, if you realize you need extra time, do not wait to ask for it. If you do get to do an new booking, you might ask the host to waive the cleaning fee since you’re not leaving in between because…
  3. This is not a hotel. When your garbage is full, please bring us the bag. If you’re really lazy, ask for the trash to be taken out but do NOT let it overflow. Right now, if I had a dollar for every empty water bottle I had to retrieve from behind the bed I’d be able to take my kid to Disneyland. If you share a kitchen, wash your dishes before you leave. If you’re eating/drinking in your room, ask for the protocol. I put coasters in the bedroom and I have yet to see anyone use them (yes,  I can tell). If I supply you towels, please wash them yourself rather than dumping them in my hamper and asking me for another towel. Basically act like an adult. You are renting a space MUCH cheaper than a hotel so appreciate that fact and pick up after yourself. If you are more aware of your surroundings, perhaps you’ll be better at keeping track of your own stuff which leads us to ask…
  4. Please check your stuff before you leave. I’ve “lost” things like towels and cleaning supplies to guests. I am sure they didn’t mean to take those things but it can easily happen if you’re packing to leave and you don’t double-check your stuff. At the same time, I’ve found things guests left behind. So please, check your stuff before you you leave. It may not seem like  a big deal but having to replace stuff other guests will need while having a pile of stuff nobody needs is a mild pain, and it can get expensive. Towels are a minimum of $7 at Target. if you take two that’s $15. If you take a couple of washcloths as well? I’ve basically lost a day’s worth of earnings. How would you like to have a day of work cut out of your check because your boss just couldn’t be bothered to give it to you? That’s kind of how I felt about it. Having stuff disappear is especially aggravating because…
  5. I live here too.  Please never forget that I (and my family) live here too. There is a “house rules” section on the listing but there are some “rules” we don’t don’t think to put on there, so when in doubt, ASK. I allow pets in my space and I’ve already had a guest who thought it was perfectly okay to let their dogs go in my backyard to do their business. This was not okay with me. I had assumed they would take their dogs for a walk to do their business. Having three dogs poop every day for a week meant my son could not mow the lawn. Which meant the grass grew. Which meant I couldn’t spray the yard for mosquitoes. Which meant we were all getting bitten like crazy every time we went outside. My “house rules” section is already long. Now I’ve got to put another rule about where your dogs can poop? I’ve had guests move the furniture, leave doors open, wake me up at ungodly hours, block my car et cet. I can’t possibly write a rule for everything we do here in the house. But I should not have to write rules like “please don’t slam the door at OhGawd o’clock” or “please don’t leave toenail clippings all over the bathroom”  – some things should be common courtesy. That said..
  6. I like having you.  I do Airbnb because I need the money. I also really enjoy the company. I have baked treats for my guests, spent an evening watching TV with my guests, explained how my video game works, offered them alcohol, told them where to get dinner and how to shop for groceries. I like having people over. I hope this enjoyment is not ruined by some bad experiences in the future. When you stay with a host, do not be afraid to be friendly. We mostly like having people over and welcome a chance to get to know you. If you want to be totally private, that’s fine too, but there’s no reason you can’t smile occasionally and say hello as you pass by us.
  7. Please leave a personal message. So much of our success as a host depends on the star review. But the star review doesn’t tell us anything. You have the chance to give us a personal note as well so consider doing that instead of leaving a low star review on any of the categories. I’ve learned a LOT from the personal notes and it’s helped me improve my host game, but people who leave a 4 star didn’t help me at all. I need to know WHY you weren’t completely satisfied. Finding out that someone thought I needed to change out the trash can to one that has a lid? Totally helpful. 4 stars for “cleanliness”? Not helpful.
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