Archives February 2020

A direct booking site with no fees, gimmicks, or surprises

I talk a lot in my paid courses about how important it is to have a direct booking site that you can send to people. Something that cuts out the middle-man of Airbnb, Booking.com, VRBO, or any other channel that you choose to list with. 

If you’re using Your Porter, they already have a built-in direct booking site. It’s clean, looks good, and is VERY easy to set up and use. So if you’re already a Your Porter customer, their direct booking site is definitely the way to go. 

But what if you stop using Your Porter? Or never use them in the first place? That’s where Houfy comes in. 

Houfy is a platform that allows you to directly list your space to customers without paying any third-party commission fees. Best of all, the platform itself is absolutely free! So both you and the guest literally pay nothing more than the price that’s listed (plus credit card processing fees). 

That’s it. No hidden fees, gimmicks, or surprises. 

I’ve been using Houfy for a little while now and I have to say I’m very pleased so far. 

It’s super easy to import your existing listings from other major channels, so you don’t have to go through the headache of re-creating all of your listings from scratch. You can create guidebooks that can be easily shared with other people. It’s a clean and easy user interface. And of course, it’s free – always a plus :). 

Houfy isn’t perfect and doesn’t pretend to be.

It looks like it’s mostly run at this point by a single person, who is honest about the presence of bugs and other issues on the platform. However, as it reaches critical mass (it recently hit over 50,000 listings), I suspect that it will rapidly improve to meet the demand. And frankly, it’s already pretty good as is. 

So I encourage you to hop on the Houfy bandwagon today – or at least give it a try. You can always back out later if you decide it’s not for you. 

But the market is changing. Laws are getting tighter around Airbnb, restrictions are getting tougher, and there is a lot of uncertainty in the air. Hopefully I don’t need to remind you that if you’re relying solely on third-party booking sites, you’re in a precarious position. A single change could really devastate your business. Don’t be caught unaware. Prepare now before it becomes a crisis.

Where has the compassion gone?

The coronavirus scare has swept across Asia and indeed, the entire globe. As of the date of writing, there have been tens of thousands of reported cases with hundreds upon hundreds deaths.

It’s also been affecting a lot of hosts in my industry.

With the epicenter of the coronavirus being in China, and causing all sorts of travel bans and advisories, you can imagine that quite a few travelers from that part of the world have been forced to change or cancel their plans. These unexpected and last-minute cancellations have inevitably cut into many hosts’ bottom lines.

This is understandably frustrating. But many of the comments I’ve seen from hosts online have infuriated me.

“Strict cancellation policy means no refund – ever!”

“Oh come on, the coronavirus? They’re just looking for an excuse to get out of paying.”

“Airbnb is saying I have to refund because this falls under their ‘extenuating circumstances’ policy…do I have to comply??”

And my personal favorite, “guests these days are all so whiny and demanding.”

People. Come on.

Where is our humanity?

The coronavirus is rapidly becoming a worldwide epidemic. This is not something any of these Chinese guests could have predicted when they booked their travel plans. In fact, many of them still want to travel but aren’t being allowed to leave the country.

And even if they could, would you really want them to? That’s the equivalent of bringing your kid with the flu to their regular nursery to infect all the other kids….except a thousand times worse.

Many hosts complain these days that they don’t love hosting like they used to. They say that bad guests have sucked all of the joy out of it. Well, I often feel the same way…except my problem is with the hosts, not the guests. Bad hosts can suck the joy out of this industry faster than I’d ever dreamed possible.

Many Airbnb hosts have developed this really weird perspective.

They want to treat hosting like a business, making as much money as possible from their guests. But they also don’t want to accept that their business, like every other business in the world, has a cost of doing business.

Stained towels are a cost of doing business. So are last-minute cancellations because of unforeseen circumstances.

So the next time you want to complain about lost income because of a situation like a coronavirus outbreak, I challenge you to do 2 things.

First, remember your humanity. Of course, don’t be hoodwinked by every sob story that comes your way. But compassion is an important part of this business. Don’t forget that.

And second, remember that your business has costs. This is one of them. Plan for these kinds of costs and make sure you build in reserves to your budget so you can deal with bumps in the road. And remember,there will be other bookings. At least you don’t have someone with a potentially life-threatening virus coming to sleep in your house.

Supply and demand is great…until it makes you greedy

A year ago, Atlanta was in the throes of Super Bowl madness. They hosted the Superbowl in 2019, and no one could have predicted what that would do to the short-term rental market.

All the experts said that the influx of people coming into the city was supposed to be enormous, on a scale rarely if ever seen in recent memory. In anticipation of this, thousands of new hosts put their space up on Airbnb, hoping to get a piece of the pie. Existing hosts jacked their prices up to exorbitant levels. They created all sorts of special packages and deals to entice fans to pay thousands of dollars to stay with them. It was going to be the biggest moneymaking weekend of the year for every host in the city. 

But then the wrong teams made it to the Super Bowl.

Rather than the teams with the rabid fan base and relatively close home town, the actual teams that made it to the Superbowl were either coming from very far away, or they had made it to the Superbowl so many times that it wasn’t that exciting for the fans anymore. 

As a result, the number of people who converged on the city was wayyyyy less than expected. 

Between the glut of new listings and the huge hike in many people’s rates, many, many homes were vacant that weekend. Hosts lost out on thousands of dollars of potential revenue that weekend. And in fact, the damage continued well past that weekend, as the market took many months to recover from the onslaught of new listings in such a short amount of time. 

So what’s my point?

My point is to not be greedy when it comes to making extra money on popular weekends. 

Yes, you should increase your prices according to demand. That’s one of the reasons I recommend using a dynamic pricing tool like Wheelhouse – it adjusts everything for you so that you don’t have to.

But if you’re greedy, there’s a high probability that you’re going to miss out. 

These days there is too much supply, too many other alternatives. People simply aren’t going to book with you if you increase your rates 10x what they normally are, no matter how many people are expected to come into the city that weekend. 

Plus it’s just plain unethical.

Would you rather make a lot more money than you normally would, or try to scalp some poor guest by charging exorbitant rates that no one should ever have to pay? Even if someone does book, there’s just something unethical about that to me. 

Plus I’m very risk-averse, and I’d much rather a guaranteed payout that’s larger than normal, than the possibility of an even bigger one that also has a chance of no payout at all. 

For most people hosting on Airbnb these days, it is a business for them (or at the very least a lucrative side hustle).

I’m not suggesting that you ignore that and just give your space away for pennies on the dollar of what it’s worth. 

But I am asking you to be reasonable. Charge what you would reasonably expect to pay if the tables were turned. Don’t charge an arm and a leg for someone to have the privilege of not sleeping in their car for the weekend. In the end, it’s better for both of you – they’re charged reasonable fees, and you actually get booked!