I’ve been in the world of short-term rentals for about 5 years now. Considering that Airbnb has only been around 11 years, and really didn’t take off for several years after it’s conception, 5 years is a pretty long time in the world of short-term rentals.
Needless to say, I’ve learned a thing or two. Or a few hundred or thousand things ;).
Running STRs can be hugely rewarding, but it can also be enormously challenging. It is not at all like running traditional long-term rentals; nor is it much like running a hotel, either. It’s this weird in-between niche that’s a world all to its own.
Have you ever wished someone would just walk you through all the quirks so you don’t have to figure them out yourself?
Your wish is my command!
Over the past few months, I’ve been hard at work disseminating all of my hard-earned knowledge into easy-to-digest videos and downloads. I want to teach you all of my tricks, all the pitfalls to watch out for, so that you can avoid making all of the mistakes I did.
Sound too good to be true? I promise you it isn’t.
In fact, next Wednesday September 4th I’ll be doing a totally free live webinar to tell you about some of my favorite tools of the trade, as well as debunk some commonly held STR myths.
It’s called “How I gained 9 Airbnb properties in 1 year…without spending a dime on real estate or marketing,” and I promise you you don’t want to miss it.
But if you do have to miss it live, be sure to sign up anyway, as there will be a free replay sent out afterwards that you can watch at your leisure.
Click the button below to sign up. Can’t wait to see you there!
Short-term rentals are all the rage right now. They’ve taken the world by storm, and many people find themselves being seduced by the allure of “easy” money – and a whole lot more of it than you’d find in traditional renting.
But it’s important to remember that there is another side to the coin.
There are some big advantages to longer-term renting that many people seem to gloss over. One of the biggest is that long-term renting is virtually guaranteed. You sign a contract with someone for a year or two and, providing you’ve vetted them properly, you get the same amount of money every month for the next year or two. Easy as that.
Short-term rentals are not so simple. Depending on where you are, the supply of short-term rental (and thus competition you have to beat out) might be incredibly high.
You’ll have to compete with low prices and work a lot harder to keep bad guests out.
You might have more pushback from the neighbors, too, who are often much more uncomfortable with having a constant stream of strangers coming through than they would be with a traditional renter.
Yes, short-term rentals offer the potential to make several times more than you would with a traditional long-term rental.
But there is something to be said for guaranteed income, a known market, and placating the neighbors.
With short-term stays, you are never guaranteed to get the next booking. You’re never guaranteed to have a good guest – even if they have good previous reviews. You’re never guaranteed to have understanding neighbors – even if the HOA allows short-term rentals, the neighbors can still make your life miserable.
It’s true that there’s often less wear and tear on your house with a short-term rental….but that’s only assuming you don’t get a bad guest who ends up trashing your house.
This is not to say you shouldn’t do it. Many people have done it and have been very successful at it.
But if you’re considering starting a short-term rental – either a brand-new listing or converting an existing long-term unit to short-term stays – make sure you do your research before jumping in all the way. Because at the end of the day it’s not as simple a calculation as many people make it out to be.
And if you make the calculation wrong you could be out thousands of dollars and a whole lot of headaches.
As a short-term rental host, you’ve got a fine line to walk.
On the one hand, you want to do your best to give your guests a good experience – which may sometimes include compensating them when you or your cleaner legitimately messes up.
On the other hand, you are running a business and can’t be expected to give away all of your profits.
As Airbnb and other sites like it have gotten more legitimate and established, so have the scammers. People who aren’t looking to pay honestly for a stay, but want to get a free ride any way they can.
So how can you tell the difference?
Here are 3 common scams I’ve seen – and what to do about them.
This is one of the most common short-term rental scams going around right now. If you see someone ask to pay with a cashier’s check instead of through the booking site, for any reason, IT’S A SCAM. Do NOT accept them. Period, full stop.
It’s very easy to forge a cashier’s check, but it often takes weeks to bounce back from the bank, which means by the time you realize it was a fake and the banks takes that money back, your scamming guests will be long gone with a free stay under their belt.
These short-term rental scams can take a myriad of forms. A guest might say they saw a roach, mold, unwashed towels, socks in the bedding, etc. Sometimes they’re telling the truth. But often they are not, or they’re nit-picking and looking for tiny little issues in order to get a free night.
If this happens, simply ask as professionally as you can for a picture of their claim. You can blame it on your cleaner if you want – “I just need to have a picture to show my cleaner when I talk to her to address the issues you brought up with this cleaning.”
If they can’t produce a picture, it’s a scam. If they wait until the last day of their stay to complain, it’s probably also a scam. You might want to include a caveat in your listing that refunds due to cleanliness issues are only given if reported within 24 hours of checking in.
People come up with all sorts of reasons they might need to cancel. They booked the wrong location by mistake. Their flight was delayed. Death in the family. Someone else in their party had already booked a space for them. The list is seemingly endless.
You’ll get asked all the time to be flexible on your cancellation policy because of these extenuating or unforeseen circumstances. The most pragmatic thing to do would be to take the stance that lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part. This means that you stick to your cancellation policy – always. If they cancel 12 hours before check-in they won’t get a full refund, regardless of their story.
However, I also know that some people are very uncomfortable taking this hard line, especially when the guests are claiming something like a death in the family happened. If you’re open to giving a partial refund because of something like that, definitely ask for some sort of proof before you hand over the money! Scammers know that pulling on people’s heartstrings is the easiest way to get what they want.
Although those are some of the most common scams you’ll see, it is by no means an exhaustive list. Be sure to approach all guest requests for refunds with a fair amount of skepticism. Sometimes a refund is totally warranted – I myself just refunded a guest nearly $200 only a couple days ago. But often it’s just someone trying to pull one over on you. Make sure to ask lots of questions and require evidence of some sort to back up their claims before you go along with their request.
What are some other scams you’ve seen? Let me know in the comments!
I’m a member of a lot of groups for hosts on Facebook. Many of them are very helpful, offering lots of great tips and strategies for more successful hosting. However, there’s also a common thread among them that is not as helpful: complaining.
Oh my word. Some of these hosts complain like you wouldn’t believe.
Their guests had the nerve to use the provided kitchen. Guests didn’t strip the beds. Brought a friend over without telling them. Had kids who scribbled in the guest book.
Seriously, some of these complaints are so trivial.
When I see hosts talking like this I want to shake them and ask them why they got into this business in the first place.
This is first a foremost a hospitality industry. Your job is to make your guests happy.
This means that your job is also to be understanding of guests’ needs and mentality while on vacation.
People on vacation aren’t going to want to strip the beds. That’s why they pay a cleaning fee. Many people book short-term rentals instead of hotels specifically for the express purpose of having a kitchen available to save on food costs…how can you expect them to not use it? And anyone who’s ever been around kids knows that even the best-behaved of them will get into the crayon box and write on something they shouldn’t at some point in their lives.
Webster’s defines hospitality as “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.”
Working in the hospitality industry, while perhaps slightly different because there is still an end goal of profit, should have more or less the same vision.
That means no charging people for extra electricity usage or other stupid charges like that.
It means graciously providing if someone wants extra towels.
Writing off small damages such as stained face towels as a cost of doing business.
Being proactive about inquiring towards and providing for the guests’ needs.
Tools like TurnoverBNB, Your Porter, August Locks, Wheelhouse, and more are all geared towards making managing short-term rentals easier and more streamlined. These sorts of apps have made a business out of making hosts’ lives easier.
But have we as hosts forgotten that our jobs are essentially to make our guests’ lives easier?
Don’t forget that. It’s the heart of this business. And without it, you’re going to get frustrated and burned out in a hurry.
Is your STR cleaning closet giving you headaches? Maybe you’re doing it wrong.
I had a meeting with a potential new client the other day. It was a very eye-opening conversation.
He was an experienced host himself, having managed his own home for years; but a change in life circumstances had made him unable to continue managing the space, and he’d decided to look for a manager.
We were sitting there at the cleaning closet, discussing restocking needs and such, when he made a comment that took me by surprise.
“The closet needs to be locked,” he said, “so you’ll have to come by for every turnover to let the cleaner in.”
No wonder he had started to get fed up with hosting.
Right now I’ve got a dozen listings, some of them over an hour from my home. There’s no way in hell I’d even consider going to every property after a guest checks out just to let the cleaner into the cleaning closet.
I just don’t understand why some hosts do that to themselves.
If you’re going to hire someone to clean your property, you need to have enough faith in them to trust that they’ll do right by you. And I understand that this is going to rule some potential cleaners out; but that’s ok.
Do the work on the front end to vett your cleaners so that you can relax and trust them to do their job after you’ve hired them.
And you should never ever have the only key to a cleaning closet. I just don’t understand why anyone would ever think that is a good idea.
Put a lockbox with a key in it on the property and give your cleaner the code. If you’re worried about her losing the key, get a hasp lock with a combination padlock. If you don’t want guests to see it, hide it somewhere they wouldn’t look.
Remember, if you’re trusting your cleaner enough to be alone in your home, you should trust them enough to have access to the keys.
There certainly are tedious parts to this business. But coming over in between every cleaning shouldn’t be one of them. Do yourself a favor and make your STR cleaning closet a simple solution.
The World Domination Summit was started 9 years ago by a man named Chris Guillebeau, author of the book “The Art of Nonconformity.” The purpose of WDS is to “help people live remarkable lives in a conventional world.”
As you might expect, this was not a normal conference. There were explosions, magicians, breakdancers, an “Alice in Wonderland” themed picnic, and even a guy in a ridiculous dinosaur suit. I went into WDS not having any clue of what to expect, and that’s probably a good thing. Any expectations I had would not have lived up to reality.
But aside from the fun atmosphere and literal smoke and mirrors, WDS also had a lot of real meaty wisdom and lessons to impart. Some of them were very specific; some more general life lessons. I won’t bore you with the specifics, but I think the more general wisdom might be very helpful.
So here are 3 life lessons I learned this year from the World Domination Summit:
1. Fear can be very useful.
One of the most consistent character traits across all of humanity is a desire to avoid fear. Sometimes we go so very far out of our way, just to avoid any sort of situation that makes us afraid. This is why people don’t travel, don’t learn new hobbies, don’t take risks at work. We’re afraid of failing, afraid of looking stupid, afraid of people thinking we don’t belong there.
But we forget how very closely linked fear and excitement are. A goal that doesn’t scare you also won’t excite you. And if you’re not excited about a goal, how will you get others excited about it?
Instead of running away from scary things, run towards them. Fear usually means you’re on the right track.
2. Our problems aren’t our fault, but they are our responsibility.
This one hit me right between the eyes.
I’ve been hit with more crap over the last 5 years than you could ever imagine. Seriously, my life would make a really good soap opera. I can’t make this stuff up!
And if I’m honest, some of it has really gotten to me. I’ve had whole days – sometimes whole weeks or even months – when I’ve wanted to wallow in my self-pity. When I’ve been angry at the world because of what was happening to me and refused to go out into it because I felt too sorry for myself.
And it’s true that most of my current problems are definitely not my fault. But that doesn’t mean I can’t do something about it. All of us have the responsibility to make the most of the cards we’ve been given.
Or, to put it more succinctly: Shit happens. Suffering is a choice.
3. When we embrace our flaws, scars, and awkwardness, they become our superpowers.
The things that made you weird in high school make you awesome now.
Isn’t this so true?!? When I was in high school I was a shy bookworm who loved reading and learning. These things were the cause of a lot of teasing back then. As an adult, however, it’s those very same traits that have helped me build a successful business and a life that I love.
Don’t avoid your weirdness. Don’t try to hide your flaws. Embrace them. Relish them. They make you who you are. And who you are is pretty awesome.
Airbnb Adventures basically will incorporate the idea of travel guides and travel agents into the Airbnb experience. According to the article, it “is a new collection of bucket list worthy multi-day experiences hosted by local experts that take intimate groups to epic, off-the-beaten-path locations and immerses them in unique cultures and communities.” It will allow travelers to have unique travel experiences without having to do all of the planning legwork themselves.
I’m really excited about it. Although I doubt I will ever personally use it – I prefer to forge my own path when I travel – but I can see how it could be really valuable for some guests. So many people want to enjoy the thrill of travel, without slogging through all the work. I think Airbnb Adventures will fill that gap in a way that Airbnb Experiences never could.
But as I was reading more about the program and how it will work, it got me thinking.
Of course I don’t expect all Airbnb hosts to instantly become travel agents for their guests. For the vast majority of hosts, either not a goal or simply not feasible for whatever reason.
And yet, there are things we can learn from this new program about how to be a better host.
The heart of Adventures, as I see it, is giving guests something unique that they want, but can’t get for themselves.
Isn’t that the heart of hosting, too?
So many people are just in the business these days for the money. And money is great, but at the end of the day this is a hospitality business. If you don’t care about your guests, if you’re not doing your best to think deeply about their needs and how you can meet them, then really, what’s the point? Why are you even doing this?
In my experience hosting is the best experience by far for all parties involved when the host tries to anticipate their guests’ needs before they come up. You end up with happy guests who leave glowing reviews and don’t bother their host with lots of requests during their stay. It’s really the best of both worlds.
The heart of hospitality really is service, plain and simple. Do that, and you’re well on your way to roaring success.
So let me ask you. What are you doing to serve your guests these days?
Ah, cleanings. The bane of most short-term rental managers’ existence.
Managers deal with a lot of things – from nightmare guests, to demanding clients, to unhelpful bookings channels, and everything in between. But I have found that one of the most consistency frustrating and difficult problems is cleaning.
How do you make sure that your property is getting cleaned to the same standard of cleanliness every time – no matter who is doing the cleaning? How do you communicate all those new cleanings with your cleaners without pulling your hair out, or wracking your brains to remember if you’ve already scheduled tomorrow’s cleaning or not?
One word. TurnoverBNB.
(I know you could probably argue that that’s not actually 1 word…but whatever, that’s beside the point.)
TurnoverBNB is a great little app that I used to manage all of my cleanings. There are other apps out there that are slicker and prettier (Properly is the main one that comes to mind). But Turnover gets the job done…and it’s free. Why pay extra money when you don’t have to?
TurnoverBNB lets you smoothly and seamlessly manage multiple cleaners, properties, and bookings. You simply sync up your calendar into their system, and they will automatically create cleaning jobs whenever a new booking is made. You can even restrict certain properties to certain cleaners.
It’s a game-changer! Once it’s set up, you’ll never have to worry about scheduling a cleaner again.
If you’ve been hosting for any amount of time, you’ve probably experienced a period when you wanted to quit.
Whether it’s a nightmare party, needy guest, or just a day you don’t want to clean, it’s impossible to work in this industry without getting tired and worn out sometimes.
Personally, I love hosting. I host parties in my home 2 or 3 times a month, and I have Airbnb guests staying with me probably at least half of the year, every year. But even I have days when I want to throw in the towel.
I’ve found a simple trick to help keep me going.
I put a guestbook in the rooms for people to sign.
It’s not compulsory, and many people don’t write anything in it. But the ones who do…those messages warm my heart every time I read them. They’re full of heartfelt thank-yous, reminiscences of great memories, and exclamation points. So many exclamation points.
This guest book has become a great solace to me on those days when I want to dive into a hole and just give up.
I’ll curl up on my couch with a big fuzzy blanket and just read the thank yous from all the wonderful people who have stayed in our home. And it refreshes and encourages me like you wouldn’t believe.
If you don’t already have a guestbook in your Airbnb spaces, I encourage you to get one today. A simple lined travel journal will suffice.
What tips do you have to help you stay motivated when you want to quit? Let me know in the comments!
In the years I’ve been hosting Airbnbs and other short-term rentals, I’ve come across various perspectives on the use of and need for a direct booking site. Many people don’t think it’s necessary, insisting that they can get plenty of business just by listing on Airbnb alone.
I’m sure they’re right – for now.
Remember when Facebook first started? When they were in their infancy, you could market to an enormous audience of people without paying anything at all – or at least very little.
Then Facebook pulled off the biggest bait-and-switch in the history of the world, and now people have to spend big bucks for the privilege of marketing to their audiences on Facebook.
Airbnb is the same thing.
If you’re putting all of your eggs in 1 basket by assuming you’ll be able to continue getting consistent bookings from Airbnb alone, you’re being naive and setting yourself up for failure.
Perhaps you’re right, and nothing will change for many years.
But perhaps you’re wrong.
Maybe so many people will start hosting that the market will be flooded. Maybe Airbnb will only accept Plus hosts. Perhaps they won’t accept any new hosts at all. Maybe they’ll start charging a huge fee to list with them. Maybe they’ll get regulated out of existence.
My point here is not to scare you with the unknowns. It’s to emphasize that you don’t know what the future holds, and you need to be prepared for whatever it brings.
That’s why I’m adamant that every host who’s serious about making money through short-term rentals should have their own direct booking website.
What is that exactly?
Put simply, it’s a website where guests can book with you directly, without having to find you through a 3rd party website like Airbnb.
Many people find themselves intimidated by a direct booking site. They think that they either need to spend lots of time building a site from scratch, or spend lots of money every month for a plug-and-play service to host their site for them.
Neither of those is true.
I use a service that will allow me to set up a fully functioning, professional looking direct booking site in less than 5 minutes.
It also happens to be the tool I’m already paying for to send automated messages and a host of other things, so it doesn’t cost me anything extra.
(And if you wanted to use it just for the direct booking site, it’s cheap enough that it would still be totally worth it!)
It’s called Your Porter, and in my opinion it’s the best thing on the short-term rental market since sliced bread.