Archives June 2018

Dealing with bad hosts

It’s easy to find horror stories about terrible Airbnb guests. It’s a bit like news articles on plane crashes – although not common, they’re noteworthy, and always get a lot of attention. 

It seems somewhat more difficult to find horror stories about terrible Airbnb hosts. I suppose that could be a good thing – ostensibly it means that not very many bad hosts exist on Airbnb. 

However, even if bad hosts are rare, they do exist. 

I had an experience with a bad host a few months ago. 

The host herself was actually fine. But her husband had issue with anger and alcoholism, and we were awoken early in the morning by the sounds of him drunkenly yelling at her and punching walls.

At first, we were just going to leave and let them deal with their issues on their own. But when she started screaming, our plans quickly changed. Michael rushed in to make sure she was ok, her husband stormed off, and we stayed for several hours to help calm her down. 

Eventually, we even decided to call the police and file a report.

So we ended up having to stay even longer while they took our statements. 

It was, in a way, an illustration of both the worst and best of what can happen in Airbnb. Our experience as travelers was certainly less than ideal. However, for the host, having neutral outsiders around who could interfere and calm the situation down was probably the best thing that could have happened. 

Many people love traveling with Airbnb because of the opportunity it affords them to meet new people from all over the world. I understand that perspective well, as I myself am one of those people. 

But it’s important to remember that it isn’t all sunshine and roses.

Staying in strangers’ homes, especially when they also live there, is by definition inviting yourself into the messiness of their lives. 

I want to be clear: having to call the police on your hosts is an extremely unusual occurrence. Most of the time you will have a great experience with great hosts. But things like this can happen. So if you’re thinking about stepping into the world of Airbnb, make sure that you do so with your eyes open!

Tuesday Tip: Welcome mat

It’s a simple thing, but welcome mats can really make a huge difference. 

For one thing, they make guests feel more….well, welcome. It’s a homey and inviting touch that is rarely noticed when it’s there, but always missed when it isn’t. 

But welcome mats also serve a practical function. 

If a mat is present, guests will almost universally wipe their shoes on the mat without even really thinking about it. No mat = no foot wiping. Thus guests will end up tracking a lot more dirt and mud into your home than they would otherwise. 

Keep your space clean and your guests comfortable by buying a few welcome mats today! Click the links to find a selection of indoor and outdoor mats. 

Keep your keys straight!

A few months ago my husband and I stayed with a lovely older married couple in Pennsylvania. 

We arrived mid-afternoon; they chatted with us for a bit, showed us our room, asked if we needed anything else, and gave us a key to the house, in case we decided to go out later. It was a perfectly normal and pleasant exchange, and I was looking forward to a pleasant stay with them.

We were planning on staying in that first night, but we changed our minds and decided to go out. No problem though, because we had a key to the house, right?

Wrong.

I don’t know what key she had given me, but it wasn’t a key to her house. After trying both the front and back doors several times, testing windows to see if any were open, and uselessly jiggling the door nobs, I had to resign and admit that we were locked out. 

I started trying to get in touch with our host. I called her, texted her, messaged her on Airbnb. Nothing seemed to be getting through to her. (I found out later that she was in a pretty dead spot for cell phone service at the time.) 

Eventually, she got enough signal for one of my texts to be delivered, and she told me where the spare key was hidden. 

It was an inconvenient incident for us, but at the end of the day it wasn’t terrible. We were only locked out for about 30 minutes total. But it could have been hours – they didn’t return until well into the night that evening. 

This is one of the absolute worse things you could do to your guests.

They are paying you to stay in your space; you have to make sure they have access to it!

Of course, I’m a big advocate for smart locks – they remove any possibility of a key mix-up. But I understand that using smart locks isn’t always a feasible option. If you must give your guests physical keys, though, PLEASE make sure to GIVE THEM THE RIGHT KEY!!

Paint it a bright color. Get one of those silicon key markers. Clip it to a lanyard. Put an obnoxiously large keychain dongle on the key ring. Do whatever you have to do to make sure that when you give a guest a key it’s going to actually open the door it’s supposed to open! 

 

Tuesday Tip: Microwave covers

I’ve got to be honest. I don’t particularly like cleaning of any kind. I do it, because I dislike living in squalor more, but it’s definitely not something I relish. 

One of the most irksome cleaning tasks for me is the microwave. 

Microwaves are pretty much universally ignored until they can’t be ignored anymore. There is food baked onto the sides. The glass plate is streaky and splattered, and the front is probably covered in oil from stovetop cooking. 

Cleaning microwaves is just a nasty and unpleasant job. 

One way to make it much easier is to get a microwave cover to put inside. 

I put this in our own home a few years ago. The change was drastic and nearly instantaneous. I had a beautifully clean microwave for months on end, rather than just a couple days at a time, like before.

Plus, whenever the microwave cover gets dirty, I can just stick it in the dishwasher and be done with it. It’s literally changed my cleaning life!

And the best part is that you can buy a microwave cover for less than $10. There’s no excuse for not having one! See   here   for a selection of covers. 

With higher price tags come higher expectations

Up until last year, I had only managed shared spaces on Airbnb. I was eager to get an entire unit up and running. I wanted to see how the different types of spaces responded on the Airbnb market. 

Eventually, I started managing a basement unit for a client. It had its own entrance and a little kitchenette area; I thought it fit the criteria for a private unit, so I listed it as such. I’ve stayed in private basement apartments before and it was fine. I didn’t think anything of it. 

However, not all basement spaces are created equal. 

This particular basement space that I was managing had one fatal flaw. It had a shared washer and dryer in it. As such, it didn’t really fit the bill for being a “private space,” because sometimes there would be other people down there doing their laundry. 

It seems so obvious now, but when I first listed it it never crossed my mind. 

It turns out, though, that people who rent private spaces have a whole different set of expectations than people who rent private rooms in shared spaces. 

With my “private unit” basement apartment, I had an endless stream of unhappy guests from the get-go. But most of the things that they were complaining about were silly and trivial. The walkway stones were too far apart. The space smelled like cleaning solution. The keypad on the door was too far away from the doornob. (Someone seriously said that.)

I couldn’t understand what was going on. I had hosted for years and had never had complaints like these. Why was I getting so many guests with such exacting expectations?

In desperation, I decided to switch the listing from a private unit to a shared space. 

It was like magic. 

Immediately, the complaints stopped.

I started getting guests who came back just because they loved the place so much. Guests who extended their stays and left rave reviews after they left. Even a few who left gifts and thank-you notes for me after their stay had ended!

I was relieved, of course, that they seemed to be happier now than before. But still, it was odd to me. Why would simply changing the listing type make so much of a difference? I literally hadn’t changed anything else. 

Eventually, I decided that people who look for entire private units to rent during their travels simply have higher expectations than those who don’t. Thus, when I switched my unit type, I stopped marketing to exceptionally demanding people, and my guests’ satisfaction rates skyrocketed. 

It was a hard-earned, but needed, learning opportunity for me. Whole units have the potential to make a lot more money than shared spaces. But they don’t automatically make more. With higher price tags come higher expectations. People will never be willing to pay more without also getting more. 

The moral of the story is simple.

Make sure your space is listed correctly, according to the things you have to offer. And if you’re ready to start listing whole spaces, be prepared to deal with much pickier guests! 🙂 

Tuesday Tip: Blanket chests

Last week’s Tuesday Tip was to make sure that you provide your guests with lots of blankets in their space.

However, there’s a slight catch to that.

Having lots of blankets isn’t as nice when they’re scattered all over the place.

It tends to leave things feeling messy and disorganized, rather than homey and comforting.

So consider also investing in a blanket chest, or some other way to neatly store all of your blankets. 

It’s a great way to keep your space tidy and organized, while still being able to provide blankets when needed. 

Find a selection of blanket chests here

 

The biggest bang for your buck

Recently we painted several rooms in our home.

Let me tell you, by the end of it I was so unhappy. Days of painting had rendered me with sore wrists, tight shoulders, and a very cranky outlook on life. 

Several weeks removed from it, though, I’m so pleased that we decided to do it.

The effect that fresh paint has on a room is quite remarkable. It’s one of the cheapest ways to give a space a face-lift. You don’t need remodeling, or contractors, or expensive materials. Just brushes, rollers, paint and time. 

Yet considering how relatively simple and cheap it was, it feels like we have a whole new home. Everything that was repainted feels so clean and bright and new. It just makes me happy walking through the house. 

I know, painting is a pain. Many people avoid painting spaces for years because they just don’t want to be bothered with the hassle of it. 

And yet, painting is one of the biggest “bang for your buck” things that can be done to give a space a facelift.

For a relatively small investment, you get a room that feels completely different and new. It’s really quite remarkable! 

If you’ve been feeling like you want to give one of your hosted spaces a makeover, but don’t want to invest too much money into it, consider repainting it. You’ll probably be miserable while you’re doing, but I promise you, after it’s done you’ll be so glad you did it :). 

Tuesday Tip: Blankets

Do you have that friend who is always cold? When you’re in shorts and a t-shirt, they’re bundled up in pants and a jacket? 

Most people probably know someone like that. The fact is, we all have different internal temperatures. We’re all comfortable at different temperatures. 

And then there are people like myself, who are rarely cold but still love snuggling up under a blanket.

Whatever the reason, it’s good to have a decent supplies of extra blankets for guests in your space. It’s a pretty small investment that can make people so much more comfortable! 

There are plenty of places online to get blankets new – and of course most department stores sell them, as well. If you want to save a few dollars, many thrift stores will also have a decent selection of blankets.