Archives October 2018

Tuesday Tip: Get creative

As a host, there are a few things that you should always provide for your guests, such as towels and soap. That is the bare minimum. 

If you want to do a little more, you can provide personalized sizes of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, lotion, bar soap, and more. Many hosts have started doing that, in some form or fashion. 

But if you really want to make your space stand out, you need to get creative with your giveaways. Think about the space you’re offering, and then give your guests things that compliment your unique space.

Here are a couple of ideas:

  • A bottle of wine at a romantic getaway
  • A s’mores kit at a cabin that gives guests access to a firepit
  • Loaned beach umbrella and towels for a beachside listing
  • Public transit passes for listings near public transit or in the heart of the city
  • A guest book with local food and activity recommendations 
  • Granola bars and oatmeal at a place that caters to business travelers
  • A map of local bike trails and / or walking paths
  • A small sampling of local food, if there’s something your area is famous for

As you can see, the possibilities are nearly endless. Get your creativity going and come up with something to surprise your guests with that complements you and your space perfectly!

 

Build in time for the boring stuff

Once you start managing multiple properties (or even before that point), it will become critically important to have a dependable schedule set up that you and all of your teammates can refer to and work off of. 

A few weeks ago, I was made acutely aware of just how important such a schedule was. 

Everything was humming along swimmingly, no problems whatsoever…until every single property I manage had a problem within the span of just a couple of days. Multiple smart locks stopped working because they needed new batteries. All the Ring doorbells had to be charged, which takes several hours. Dumpsters were overflowing, AC filters needed to be changed, supplies needed to be restocked…it was definitely not how I would have chose to spend my week, let’s put it that way!

The regular things, the things that need to happen every time a guest checks out – cleaning, laundry, etc – are easy to keep track of. It’s the things that happen on a less common cadence that you need to watch out for.

But if you’re proactive in building those things into your monthly schedule, they don’t have to be a big stressor.

After my week from hell, that’s exactly what I started doing. 

The cleaner knows to charge the doorbells once a month while she’s cleaning. Every week, I check the batteries of the smart locks through the app on my phone, and if they need to be replaced she does that, too. I’ve got other similarly regularly scheduled tasks to check the filter, supplies, etc. 

A lot of people only think of the exciting parts of hosting on Airbnb – meeting cool people, making expendable income, having your mortgage paid for by someone else, etc. But there are plenty of less sexy, less exciting things that are just as important to be taken care of. Don’t ignore them just because they’re boring. Do the legwork in advance to build these sort of maintenance things into your schedule, so you never have a week like I did!

Tuesday Tip: Join a support group

We live in an era of unprecedented connectedness. Email, telephone, social media, the internet…there are so many ways to stay in touch with people. 

We are also living in a time when services like Airbnb are exploding in popularity.

People who wouldn’t have even dreamed of considering hosting on Airbnb 5 years ago are now eagerly signing up, or are at least interested in the idea and asking lots of questions!

These two things combined means that there is absolutely no scarcity of resources out there to help you navigate your short-term rental questions. If anything, the problem is that there might be too much information, not too little!

There is no need or reason for you to try to navigate these unknown waters alone.

Plug into some of the online groups and get your questions answered quickly, without having to reinvent the wheel! I’ve had so many complicated questions answered within minutes by simply posting to these groups – questions that would have taken hours or even days of research, or weeks of trial and error to answer.

It’s the best resource I could ever have hoped for, and best of all, it’s free!

I would recommend Facebook, as it is still the most robust social media site by far. Search for groups in your area – terms like “airbnb,” “short-term rental,” “host,” and “your city” are good places to start. If you’re still having trouble finding good suggestions, send me a message and I’ll give you some more ideas.

Caring for vs. caring about

When it comes to furnishing spaces, many hosts believe that simpler is better. Fewer decorations, Ikea-style furniture, and the like.

There are certainly advantages to this approach.

Fewer things to dust, no sentimental items in danger of being broken or stolen. But not everyone shares this perspective.

One of the bookings we made on our recent trip to Italy was in the spare room of a woman in Parma. Her house was crammed full of nick-nacks. Ornately gilded mirrors and picture frames, religious relics, lace doilies and silk flowers… Much of it may have had sentimental value to her, but to me it just looked like a bunch of junk. I find it tawdry and overwhelming.

And yet, that was one of our best stays of the entire trip.

Federica was such a kind, thoughtful host. She met us upon arrival with some prosciutto, parmesan cheese, and wine – three things that area is famous for. There was also a large bottle of water and 2 crystal glasses. The next morning, she gave us breakfast – all sorts of pastries and, of course, cappuccino coffee. The bathroom, too, was filled with thoughtful touches. Scented candles. Bath bubbles. Toiletry necessities. It was as if I was staying with a dear friend… And indeed, it felt like that.

This was a good reminder to me of what really makes an impression to a guest. It’s not the decorations, or lack thereof. It’s a simple thing, although not necessarily easy.

At the end of the day, guests want to feel not just that they’re cared for, but that they’re cared about. That is what really makes all the difference.

Tuesday Tip: washcloths

I just got back from an amazing few weeks in Italy. We hiked the picturesque towns of Cinque Terre, took a boat ride around Venice, had a wine tasting in the Tuscan valley, and more.

It was a wonderful, memorable trip. And of course, we stayed in Airbnbs the entire time.

Those were memorable too, although honestly some of them not for the best reasons. A consistent issue that kept popping up with our hosts was that they were not supplying washcloths.

They all gave us towels – that’s an Airbnb requirement – and most of them gave us face towels.

But not a single one gave us washcloths.

It seems so obvious to me. A guest may or may not use a face towel. But nearly everyone is going to need something to wash themselves in the shower with, right?

Apparently, it’s not as obvious as I thought.

So today’s Tuesday tip is one that I never thought I’d have to say. Provide your guests with washcloths. For goodness’ sake, you can get a pack of 12 for like $5. It’s neither expensive nor difficult to buy, and will really make a difference on the quality of your guests’ stay.

If you choose not to provide washcloths, you may very well have guests who mention their absence in their review and use face towels in their place (both of which I did!).

Keep an eye on your guests!

The era of unlocked front doors and implicit trust in strangers is long past us.

These days, you have to play it smart.

I’m not trying to instill panic or fear in your. There are still plenty of good, honest people out there. But you can’t really assume that all of your guests are going to be like that. And if you wait to make precautions until you know you’ve got a bad apple, it’ll be too late.

That’s why this week’s Tuesday tip was to get a video doorbell or some other type of camera installed on your property.

Video recording devices will go a long way in helping you protect your property, especially if you live off-site.

I’ve used my outside doorbells to prove everything from drug use to extra guests to unauthorized parties. I’ve also used them to stop potentially damaging situations before they got out of hand. They give me a peace of mind that I wouldn’t be able to get otherwise. Except, I guess, if I just camped out in front of the houses that I manage…but seriously, who’s got time for that? Also, that’s creepy…

I recently had an unexpected issue in which the guest decided to cover up the camera with duck tape so I couldn’t see what was coming in and out of the house. I asked her to remove it or I would have to charge her the maximum extra guest fee. She complied, and after that I put a separate fee in my listing for tampering with the camera – haven’t had an issue since.

A lot of beginning hosts don’t want to invest in a camera. Video doorbells (or other types of security cameras) can be pricey – they often cost at least several hundred dollars. “What’s the worst that could happen?”, the new host rationalizes to themselves.

Let me be clear: the worst that could happen is thousands of dollars in damage with every single booking.

That is not likely to happen, of course – the vast majority of short-term rental reservations conclude without a hitch. But I am trying to emphasize to you that you are making an investment as a host, and it’s worth taking the precautions to protect your investment. Bite the bullet and buy a camera now, before you end up regretting not having one after the terrible guest has checked out!

Tuesday Tip: Video doorbell

If you’re hosting a space where you don’t live, it’s crucial to have some sort of video surveillance on your property.

This is important even if you do live there, but it’s non-negotiable if you don’t.

You need to be able to look at a glance and see if the guests have brought in more people than they booked for, if they’re having a party, or any other number of shady behavior is going on.

The Ring video doorbells I have installed on my properties have provided easy evidence when I’ve had to file claims for additional guests. They’ve also enabled me to nip the beginnings of parties in the bud, and thus save myself a lot of time and potential damages in the aftermath of said party.

Check out Ring doorbells on Amazon here.

They’re super easy to install and very dependable. Would definitely recommend!

My favorite mobile payment tool

As you start to have more guest bookings, you may start to find a need to pay other people more often. Cleaners, handymen, photographers, stagers…these are all people you may or may not choose to employ to grow your listing attractiveness. 

What’s the best way to pay them? In our digital age, people rarely cut checks anymore. But still, the plethora of options can often leave people paralyzed with indecision. How do you choose what’s best when there are so many choices to consider?

Well, let me make your decision a little bit easier. I want to share with you my preferred app to pay independent vendors and contractors – Venmo. 

Venmo is a peer-to-peer payment app that has been around for close to 10 years now, although it’s only in the last 4 or 5 years that it has really skyrocketed in popularity. It’s now become one of the de-facto methods of payment between friends, family, and co-workers.

Why do so many people use it?

venmo2

Venmo has a lot of compelling pros to it.

  • Free to install and use with your bank account
  • It’s already quite popular, so your chances that someone will already have a Venmo account set up and ready to go is high
  • Simple and easy to use
  • Convenient
  • Available for both iOS and Android
  • You can both send a payment you owe or request money you’re due

But surely Venmo isn’t all good, right?

Of course, like anything, there are some cons to using Venmo, as well. 

  • Payments are ONLY processed through the mobile app, so if you don’t have a smart phone you won’t be able to use Venmo
  • Although it’s free to send payments through your bank account, there is a charge for using credit cards
  • Payments aren’t paid out until the next day, so there is a potential for fraud
  • Doesn’t work outside of the USA
  • By default your transactions are shared in your news feed with your network. This can be turned off, but I find this feature to be rather unprofessional. 

Despite its drawbacks, I’ve still found Venmo to be one of the easiest and best mobile funds transfer apps around. Give it a go and let me know what you think.

Or are there other apps you use to pay people as needed?

Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Tuesday Tip: Lockboxes

Smart locks are great for giving guests access to your space without having to bother with physical keys. But you absolutely must have a spare key somewhere guests can access it. 

For whatever the reason – the smart lock isn’t working, guests can’t figure out how to operate it, guests locked themselves out somehow (yes, all of those have happened to me!) – you need to have a backup way for guests to get inside. 

The easiest, simplest way to do this is simply have a lockbox with a spare key inside. 

This is also great because it’s much more secure than some other methods, such as hiding the key in the flowerpot on the front porch :). 

Check out one of my favorite combination lockboxes here

Almost done!Just tell me where to send all your goodies 🙂