Archives July 2018

Tuesday Tip: No smoking signs

I once stayed at an Airbnb where the host was obsessed with smoking.

Or rather, the absence of it.

Everywhere I turned, there were “no smoking” signs. On the bedroom dresser, TV, and coffee table. Next to the sink, couches, and pool table. Attached to the fridge, wine cooler, and microwave. 

I must admit, it was a bit overkill. But it worked. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that smoking was not allowed!

If your space is a non-smoking area, consider putting up a few signs of your own.

You don’t have to put up quite as many as what I experienced…but a couple of signs can go a long way towards reminding smokers to take it outside. 

And trust me – you don’t want them to forget! I once had to have a whole house deep cleaned because guests had smoked in it; that’s not something you want to deal with.

Find a selection of “no smoking” signs here

Common courtesy – tell guests if other people are going to be there

There are 3 kinds of listings on Airbnb.

The first is a shared room, which honestly I’ve never met anyone who has used. The second is a private room in a shared space, and the third is a full private space. 

A full private unit is pretty self-explanatory.

With a private room in a shared space, however, the specifics can get a little blurry. 

The assumption is that you will be sharing the space with the owners. And that’s what many people (myself included) are hoping for when they book this type of property.

Unfortunately, that’s not always what you end up getting. 

With the explosion of popularity of Airbnb and other sites like it, some people have taken to renting out each room individually of entire houses. So, rather than getting the opportunity to know the owners during your stay, you end up booking a room in a glorified hostel (often without even knowing it). 

This happened to me recently. The thing is, I’ve stayed in hostels before. They don’t bother me at all. But as I’ve often said, expectation management is key in this business. 

I booked a private room in a shared space, looking forward to getting some local tips from the owners while I was there. What I got instead was a stream of strangers coming in and out of the apartment the entire time I was there. 

It wasn’t terrible. But when it’s not what you’re expecting, it’s also not ideal. 

The thing that bugged me was not that the host had rented out all of the rooms in her apartment. It’s that she hadn’t mentioned anything about that on her listing. 

If you know there will be other people on the property while you have guests there (whether they’re other Airbnb guests or friends of yours), PLEASE let your guests know.

You’d want to know if someone else was staying in a hotel room you booked.

This is no different. It’s just common courtesy. 

Tuesday Tip: Hospitality art

Looking to put some personalized pizazz in your space? How about a customized map of your area of the city?

I recently came across a website where you can create your own custom hospitality artwork. 

You simply put in the address of your listing, customize the color and style, add house rules and your favorite places, and voilá, you have your very own custom map for your listing.

How cool is that?

The website, Eliot And Me, was recently bought by Airbnb and no longer does hospitality posters. But I’m including a picture of one of the posters I had made by them to inspire you, in case you want to do something similar in your own property. 

Be careful how you describe your listings

Last month I stayed in a room that was described as such: “the room is quite large by the standards of the city.” 

Well that’s great, but in reality the room was barely big enough to fit a queen-sized bed in it.

I had to shuffle sideways around all 3 sides of the bed that weren’t against the wall. 

I am not saying the host was lying. It’s very likely that the room was large by her city’s standards. But I still felt like I was somewhat misled.

If you’re looking for a short term rental, you’re most likely not familiar with the city you’re going to. So most people are going to assume a room a bit larger than that if they get a description like the one I got. 

Be extremely careful in how you word your listing descriptions.

You may say something that’s completely accurate, but still misleading. If people are expecting something different from what they get, they’re going to be disappointed and it’s going to show up in your ratings.

In my example, just adding a few words would have made a huge difference.

Something like “the room is rather small (although actually quite large by the standards of the city)” would have given me totally different expectations. And at the end of the day, I would have given her a much higher rating than I did. 

You may think that you’ll attract more bookings if you keep negative aspects of your space on the down low. That may be true in the beginning. But you’re also going to start racking up less than stellar reviews from unhappy guests, which is going to hurt you in the long run.

Don’t go there! Be upfront and honest about the limitations of your space. This will bring you happier guests, which in turn will make you a happier host! 🙂

 

Tuesday Tip: Laundry baskets

Tired of guests leaving dirty towels in a messy heap on the floor? They’re probably doing that because they don’t know where else to put them.

An easy solution to that is to put small laundry baskets in the bathroom. 

Most guests will automatically put their dirty towels in a laundry basket without even being told. If you find that some people are still piling them on the ground, just add a line in your check-out instructions asking them to put soiled towels in the basket. 

VoilĂ ! Problem solved. Find a selection of laundry baskets here

Tips for leaving a good review

We know that honest reviews are important. But how exactly do you write a good, effective honest review?

You could just say something like “great stay, would come back.” But is that actually helpful? Similarly, a review along the lines of “terrible, stay away” doesn’t really help very much, either. 

Here are some things to consider to help you write great reviews.

As a host:

  • Was the guest responsive to your questions?
  • Did they tell you as soon as they had a problem, or wait until after they checked out to complain and request a refund?
  • Did the guest leave the space in good condition?
  • Did they respect your house rules?
  • Did they arrive when they said they were going to arrive?

As a guest:

  • Are the amenities acceptable? (internet, towels and linens, soap and shampoo, etc.)
  • Think about any special needs someone might have (even if you personally don’t have special needs). Are there stairs? A long walk or steep driveway? Narrow doors? These are good things to mention for future guests to be aware of. 
  • Was the host responsive to your needs?
  • Did they leave you anything extra, like tourist brochures or a welcome basket?

 

These are the types of things that other hosts and travelers want to know about. So try to comment on things of this nature (obviously you don’t have to touch on all of them :]) as often as you can. You should do this whether your comments are positive or negative – either way, it helps people form a more informed opinion in the future. 

 

Tuesday Tip: Streaming services

A lot of hosts shy away from getting a TV in their space because they assume that they’ll also have to pay for expensive cable. 

This is not true. 

While televisions are more or less expected these days, cable most definitely is not. More and more people are moving away from cable even in their own homes, which means that fewer and fewer people look at it as a required service while traveling.

A great alternative to cable is a monthly streaming subscription, like Netflix or Hulu.

My personal preference is Netflix. With rates starting at less than $8 a month, you can offer thousands of movies and TV shows to your guests at a fraction of the price. Check out all of Netflix’s pricing plans here

The importance of honest reviews

After every check-out on Airbnb, guests and hosts both have the opportunity to leave a review for each other.

This review serves as a way to let future guests or know what to expect with this person. You can leave reviews on level of cleanliness, communication, amenities, etc.

These reviews are hugely important.

They can very much make or break both a guest or a host on the platform. If you have bad reviews as a guest, you may find it harder to book with hosts in the future. And if you have bad reviews as a host, you can almost certainly expect your bookings to decline.

It’s easy to give an honest review when everything going well. Five stars, a sentence or two saying how happy you were with the reservation, and you’re done.

It’s much harder to give honest reviews when things go poorly.

For one, some people have a really hard time deciding what deserves taking off a star (or multiple stars) for. The wifi was slow – but was it slow enough to matter? The location wasn’t great – but is that just because I didn’t have a car? The amenities weren’t awesome – but maybe I’m just being picky? It’s hard to know how to rate things on a platform where every single host makes up their own rules for hospitality.

The other reason leaving bad reviews can be hard is that some people are just nice people. You know a bad review might affect them negatively, and you don’t want to hurt their future chances of success, so you just keep your mouth closed. Or maybe you give a good public review, but express your concerns to the other party privately.

This may make you feel better, but it can create more problems down the road.

It’s critically important to leave an honest, public review when you check out. Last week’s story is an extreme example of why this matters so much.

Of course the vast majority of travel experiences won’t be anywhere near as extreme as that one was. But nevertheless, the principle is the same – people need to know what they’re getting themselves into.

After I checked out, I really agonized over whether to include the fact that we called the police in my review. But eventually, I realized that, although I knew it would probably hurt the host, these were the very kinds of things that the review system is designed to expose.

So I did mention the police report, as well as the drunk and angry husband. Eventually, Airbnb reached out to me directly, and they ended up shutting the host down completely.

I felt so bad. I even argued on her behalf to the Airbnb rep that talked to me on the phone. But at the end of the day, they were right. Having a loose cannon in the house like that is a liability, even if he never acts out again.

Safety is critically important.

In a traditional hotel, this is relatively easy to achieve. Install cameras, hire security guards, and have the same layout in all your rooms.

In a model like Airbnb or VRBO, however, safety is much more challenging. Every space is different. Every host has a different way of hosting. Every guest has different needs and expectations.

That’s why you absolutely MUST be honest in your reviews. I know it will be uncomfortable sometimes. Trust me, I’ve been there. But it’s the only way to keep a platform like this safe for its users.

Tuesday Tip: TVs

I recently had a guest stay more than 6 weeks in a space without a television. I don’t watch TV very often, so for me that has never seemed like a problem. 

When our guest bought his own TV within just a few days of moving in, I realized that not everyone shares that opinion. 

Most people expect a television in space they are renting. It doesn’t have to be big or fancy or high-definition. But if there is nothing, that’s going to deter a lot of people away from wanting to rent your space. 

So if you don’t have a TV in your space for guests to use, set aside some money in your budget to fix that. With all of the independence day sales happening, right now is the perfect time to get a great deal!