Alternatives to short term rentals

Have you been hosting short term rentals for a while and are unhappy with your results? Maybe you’re thinking of getting into in, but are worried about getting pigeon-holed into something that doesn’t work out. Well it’s important to know that, either way, there are plenty of alternatives to short term rentals out there. 

For many, short term rentals can far more lucrative than the traditional long-term rental market.

The unusual Airbnb horror story aside, most short term renters also cause far less wear and tear on the house than you would expect to see with a long-term tenant. 

This is not to say anything negative about long-term renters. But someone who lives in the same place for a year is just by default going to use the appliances more, use more water and electricity, etc, than people who are only there on vacation for the weekend. 

In this brave new world of investing in real estate with the express purpose of renting it out as a short term rental, many people think that that’s the only option. They get so focused on that, that they might miss other opportunities out there. 

But what happens if short term rentals simply aren’t panning out?

This can happen for a number of reasons. Undesirable location. Inefficient pricing. Bad cleaners or host/guest interaction. Whatever the reason, it’s important to remember that you have other options. There are plenty of alternatives to short term rentals.

One of the best alternative options is corporate housing. Corporate housing is basically any traveling professional who needs accommodations for their work of at least 30 days or more. It can be traveling nurses, business guys in town for broker a deal, people in the film industry, etc. You’d be surprised how many different fields have employees who regularly move around for work, and many of them are willing to pay far above going long-term rental rates. It might take some legwork to find people to connect you to those types of clients, but once you do it could be well worth it!

Another similar niche you could look into would be student housing. This is especially good if you’re near a college or university. The rates won’t be as high as they would be with corporate housing, but you’ll still get consistently booked. 

You could also look into hosting events or photo shoots, particularly if you have an above-average looking space. Many hosts get several hundred dollars a day for only a few hours’ of use!

Also consider posting your short term rental listing on other sites. This will increase your visibility and make your space more likely to be booked. Just make sure your sync all your calendar so you don’t get double-bookings! 

When it comes to alternatives to short term rentals, the sky really is the limit.

You’re only hampered by your creativity and how much time you want to invest. Think outside the box and get those bookings!

 

Your Porter announces new feature

I continue to be impressed with Your Porter. 

Your Porter is the automated messaging tool that I use to run all of my properties. There are a ton of different similar tools out there – SmartBNB, Guesty, Hostaway, and more. I’ve personally tested nearly all of them. In my opinion, none of them come close to Your Porter, and all of them are significantly more expensive. 

I’ve been a Your Porter fan girl for years. When I started using them, they had a robust auto-messaging feature for Airbnb and Booking.com. They also supported auto-reviewing and auto-responses to inquiries on Airbnb, 2 things that can factor heavily into your search ranking on Airbnb. 

Since then, they’ve constantly been improving.

Their first major improvement was income reports, a must-have for co-hosts managing other people’s properties. These allow you to create a monthly report of income earned from all channels, as well as the amount owed to your property owners. 

Their next major improvement was a direct booking site. With just a few clicks, you can set up your own site where clients can book with you directly, without having to pay service fees to Airbnb, Booking, or any other channel. 

And now, most recently, they’ve added an auto-snooze feature.

They just announced this on their blog a few weeks ago. 

Airbnb will prioritize listings that have been recently updated in the search rankings. By allowing you to automatically snooze your listing(s) for ten minutes at a time and then turning them back on, you’ll force Airbnb to be constantly hard-refreshing your listing’s data, thus keeping you at the top of the searches. It’s a fantastic feature that adds a lot of value to an already amazing product. Now I don’t have to go in manually and tinker with my listings every day! 

Although some channel managers / automated messaging services integrate with Homeaway, and Your Porter currently doesn’t, I’m told that integration is coming this summer. Most channel managers don’t offer income reporting. Almost none of them offer a direct booking site. And all of them cost significantly more than Your Porter (starting a $5 a month per listing). 

This is seriously the best tool out there for hosts just starting out.

Check it out for yourself and see what all the fuss is about. 

How to quickly elevate your space

These days, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when starting a new listing. There are so many suggestions out there for furniture to buy, amenities to offer, and all the other little details that go into a short-term rental. It’s no wonder so many people just throw their hands up in despair and never start at all!

Even on my own site, although I try to keep things simple, I know it can be a lot. I’ve got over a year’s worth of Tuesday Tips alone!

So here’s a super easy suggestion to help you make sure your space has everything it needs.

Stay a few days in it.

Every space is going to be different. Rather than trying to make an exhaustive list of everything your guests might possibly need based on intuition alone, it’s much easier to simply experience your space just the same way your guests would. Do what they would do. Cook dinner. Use the shower. Sleep. Watch TV. 

As you go throughout your normal activities, make a list of things that are missing. Did you get out of the shower and realize the bathroom needs a bath mat? Add that to the list. Trying to make a pizza and realize you don’t have a baking sheet? On the list it goes. Are the bed pillows lumpy? You guessed it…put new pillows on the list. 

It’s sad to me how many hosts never take the time to do something so fundamental (and easy!). How will you know what your space needs without having experienced it?

The short answer is that you won’t. 

You can guess at it. You can add things when guests request them. But by then they’ve already had a less than stellar experience. Just take the time to do your research – real, practical, hands-on research – ahead of time, and you’ll be able to quickly elevate your space from good to amazing!

Christmas gift ideas for guests and clients

Can you believe that Christmas is less than 2 weeks away? Where has 2018 gone??

Many companies give their employees gifts or bonuses around Christmastime. I think that should also happen in the short term rental industry. 

You don’t have to go crazy. But if you have a guest in your space during or near Christmas, consider getting them a little gift just to let them know you’re thinking about them. Same thing goes for if you manage properties for other clients. 

Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Give them something unique to you

    If you’re an artsy type, consider making them something that only you could make. I’ve been quilling for many years as a hobby, so I like to give my guests little quilled creations like this or this (it’s all made of paper!). Another friend of mine is an amateur beekeeper, so she gives little jars of honey from her own bees. Get creative! Nothing says “thank you” like a personalized piece of you :).

  • Something they’ve talked about 

    If your guests have mentioned something they’re interested in, consider getting that for them as a gift. For example, we play a lot of games with our guests. Every now and then, one of them really hits it off with one of the games we’ve played. So I’ll often give it to them as a parting gift. Nothing beats a pleasant surprise! 

  • Gift baskets

    If you have a Costco membership, that’s where I’d start for this. They have a huge selection of gift baskets to suit every budget. If you don’t have a Costco membership, most any superstore will have things like these around the holidays. Or, just click on the link for inspiration and make your own!

  • A handwritten card

    If all else fails (or money is tight), consider simply writing a heartfelt note. Letters are so rare these days, they can really make an impression on someone when they get one. 

Do you have any other good suggestions for guest or client gifts this year? Let me know in the comments!

How to maximize your revenue this holiday season

Well, the holidays are officially upon us. For a lot of people, that means lots of good food and good family time. For others, it’s a stressful time of drama and spending way too much money on Christmas presents. 

For many short term hosts, however, the holidays mean a huge drop in bookings and income. 

Unless you’re in a popular winter destination, you’re likely going to see a drop in bookings in November and December. People simply aren’t traveling as much; or if they are, it’s to stay with friends or family. 

What can you do to maximize your chances of revenue in this slow season?

Here are 5 suggestions to help you get the most out of your space during the holidays. 

  1. Update your listing frequently. 

    Airbnb’s algorithms prioritize listings that have been updated recently, to make sure that guests are seeing spaces that are managed by an active and engaged host. So every other day or so, log onto your Airbnb account and make a couple of small changes – edit the listing title, move around a couple of pictures, change the price by $1, etc. It seems silly, but this really will help your rankings. 

  2. Add a discount in the title

    I recently added *holiday discount* to the front of all of my listings. Although I didn’t actually change the price, I saw a marked increase in inquiries. So much of your listing and description is psychological. People like thinking they’re getting a deal – even if the prices are actually the same as before. So give them what they want and say you’re running a special!

  3. Decorate for the holidays

    If someone is trying to make a decision between two different homes for a Christmas stay, many times decorations will be the deciding factor. When you’re traveling over the holidays, it’s nice to still be able to enjoy a Christmas tree, lights, and the like. So if you’re feeling up to it, consider putting up a few decorations to your listing to add some Christmas cheer. And don’t forget to put a picture of it in your listing so guests know about it!

  4. Offer some extras

    Consider offering some extras that you don’t normally give guests. Some examples are: firewood for the fireplace, breakfast, airport pickup, free public transit passes, etc. These are little extras than can give you an edge over your competition.

  5. Drop your prices

    You’re going to make less money in the slow season. Just accept that. Drop your prices a bit to stay in line with other rentals in your area. It’s better to get a booking at a lower rate than no bookings at all!

What are some suggestions you have to increase bookings over the holidays? Let me know in the comments!

Feature comparison of the top property management services

Many newly expanding hosts have a hard time managing everything that has to go on behind the scenes for a successful stay. I’ve already written about how I think that Your Porter is the best tool to use to help with that.  But I also know that not everyone is going to prefer that tool. So I decided to write a summary of the main features of some of the most popular property management softwares out there. 

All of them integrate natively with Airbnb. Some of them integrate with other channels, as well. AirGMS is the only one that only works with Airbnb.

But be careful when a website tells you that it “integrates” with other booking channels. A lot of apps will say this, when in reality they only provide iCal integration. This is not as robust as a full API integration, and you may have some trouble getting everything to sync across channels with a simple iCal integration. 

A few of them, Hostaway and Lodgify in particular, are also direct booking platforms. So they’re designed to allow you to create your own site and accept bookings directly from there, thus cutting out the middle man of Airbnb, Booking.com, etc. Be aware that, while you will not have to pay the booking fees you normally would on those short-term rental sites, this comes with its own set of challenges. There is no way of vetting guests when they are booking directly with you, so you’ll need to take extra precautions to make sure you protect yourself. 

Several also charge differently depending on how many listings you have. Guesty is the only one in this list that charges a percentage of booking fees instead of a flat monthly rate (they also charge a 1-time set-up fee). I found Uplisting’s price page to be a little confusing; basically, they charge $10 per listing, per month for the first 10 listings; after that, they charge $5 per listing per month. Be sure to read the pricing page for all of these services carefully before signing up!

The feature comparison table of all 6 services is below. Happy hosting!

 

 

 

 

 

How to price what your space is worth?

One of the most daunting challenges that new hosts can face is knowing how to appropriately price their space. 

If you’re new to the world of short-term rentals, pricing out your space can be a completely overwhelming challenge. You might not have any idea of the market trends in your area. Perhaps the only thing you have to go on is your own intuition, which if you’ve not had short-term rental hosting experience is likely going to be way off. 

Airbnb likes to say that they have a solution for you – it’s a feature in the Airbnb platform called Smart Pricing, and it’s supposed to automatically adjust your prices based on supply and demand. Airbnb pushes it really hard when you’r creating a listing.

Let me go ahead and tell you: Smart Pricing doesn’t work. 

It consistently seriously undercuts booking prices. I have a space that regularly rents out for $120+ a night, and Airbnb is constantly trying to tell me to turn on Smart Pricing so that I can get $60 a night! No, thank you. 

According to my research, this is a pretty consistent trend among people experimenting with Smart Pricing. I would just go ahead and say stay away from it, across the board. 

But there are other third-party tools out there that claim to do the same thing (and actually do it quite effectively). 

I’m currently using a tool called Wheelhouse, and I’ve been so happy with it. It recommended a base price to me, according to other similar listings. I set my settings, told it how aggressively I wanted to price my listings, and let it go. Just last week, I received a 7-day booking at $150 per night – where the base price had been set to $90! Guess the market was hopping that week. Wheelhouse gave me a 66% markup without me having to do anything at all. 

The cost for using Wheelhouse is between .75% and 1% of all booking fees, depending on how many listings you have. But shoot, when I’m getting nearly 70% markups, I’ll pay 1% of that any day! Put simply, Wheelhouse is an intuitive, economical, and effective tool to help you maximize your rental income. I’d highly recommend it.

Sign up through my referral link today and get $10 in Wheelhouse credit!

Your Porter

 

 

Let me tell you a secret about me.

I really hate talking to people.

Not all the time, and not with everyone, but on the whole I would rather be alone with a book than talking to someone any day of the week. Ironic, isn’t it, considering that I work in the hospitality industry?

Enter my lifesaver, the absolute best tool I’ve found to run my listings professionally without losing my own personal sanity.

Your Porter

Your Porter is, in my opinion, the best tool on the market for managing multiple listings by far. I love it because it allows me to send hundreds of messages automatically, without ever having to actually write a message or actually talk to someone.

Your Porter is not the only tool that offers automated messaging, of course. These days channel managers and automated messaging tools for short term rentals are almost a dime a dozen. In fact, some of the other tools out there actually have a lot more functionality than Your Porter has…but those products are over-engineered, plain and simple. You’ll end up not using 80% of their product offerings, while still paying for them monthly. Your Porter, in my opinion, has the best combination by far of useful features and reasonable pricing.

Here are a few of the amazing features that Your Porter has that I use every day:

  • Messaging templates 
  • Supports both Airbnb and SMS messaging
  • Check-in form
  • Auto-inquiry responses
  • Automated reviews
  • Income reports with split commission fees (particularly useful if you’re working with client owners!)
  • Mobile-friendly
  • You can turn off scheduled messages if needed
  • Directly integrates with both Airbnb and Booking.com; indirectly integrates with many other services
  • Daily task scheduling and notifications
  • Manage multiple Airbnb accounts in a single inbox
  • Financial reporting
  • Airbnb rankings reports
  • And more!

All of this is available for next to nothing. Actually, for beginning hosts (only 1 listing), it IS nothing – totally free. For those with more than 1 listing, it’ll run you between $5 and $7 per listing, per month. Considering that other tools are charging $30 or more per listing per month – or a percentage of bookings, which can get even pricier – you really can’t find a better tool than this at this price. Check it out today at yourporter.com!

A tool to help you easily manage your finances

It didn’t take very many months of hosting short-term rentals for me to realize that I needed a way to keep finances straight. 

With every listing, you will have receipts to keep track of, clients to pay out, invoices to send and pay. If you really want to go the extra mile, you can track your related miles (pun intended) and deduct them from your taxes at the end of the year. All of these will only increase as you grow your business. 

I quickly realized that putting all of my receipts into a shoebox, tracking all business expenses down at the end of the month, or God forbid, trying to keep everything in my head, was a losing battle. So I started looking for a tool that could help me manage everything without breaking the bank.

Enter Quickbooks self-employed. 

I’ve been using this software for over a year now, and it has been worth every penny I’ve paid for it and more.

Here is a non-comprehensive summary of why I think it’s such a great tool:

  • Allows you to invoice clients and send reminders
  • Syncs with your bank and automatically imports transactions
  • Easy to upload receipts from either your phone or computer
  • You can auto-categorize email receipts simply by forwarding them to a special email address
  • Super mobile friendly – you can categorize and split transactions, record receipts, review taxes, send invoices and more, all from your smart phone
  • Auto-tracks your mileage, so you don’t have to guess 
  • Very reasonably priced – only $4.99 a month

There are so many other reasons to love this software. It has turned what could have been a logistical nightmare and huge source of stress to me into something as simple as making myself a sandwich. Because I can do everything from my phone – aka, while I’m standing in line at the grocery store, getting my prescriptions filled, or any other time I have a few minutes to spare – my finances are always up to date, and I’m one happy camper. 

If you’re looking for an easy way to keep track of finances, look no further!

Have a different tool that you love? Let me know in the comments below!

5 best features of the August smart lock

When it comes to smart locks, the possibilities seem almost endless. Schlage, Kwikset, Yale, Nest, Gate, Friday….how are you to choose when there are so many options to consider?

I am not an authority on smart locks. There are many brands of smart locks I’ve never even heard of, let alone used. But I do have extensive experience with one smart lock in particular, and have found it to be exception for my hosting needs. The lock that I use is the August Smart Lock, and it has proven to be, like Mary Poppins, “practically perfect in every way.” 

Here are, in my opinion, the 5 best features of the August Smart Lock:

  1. Remote management
    August is extremely remote-friendly, with the one caveat that it requires the purchase of an additional piece of hardware. The August connect is roughly the size of a phone charger, and it plugs into a standard wall outlet and allows you to manage your lock from anywhere in the world. It is worth every penny of the extra cost. I have managed my lock from the mountains of Italy, to the beaches of Hawaii, to the subway of New York City, and everything in between. The remote management of the August lock allows for an extraordinary amount of freedom and flexibility! 
  2. App friendly
    Although August does have a website, it is almost purely for e-commerce. Any changes or updates you might want to make to your lock or its settings will be made through their mobile app. This suits me just fine. The nature of hosting means that I’m often far from my computer….but I always have my phone with me! Being able to rely on making changes through the app gives me security in knowing that I’m never more than a few taps of my phone away from fixing the problem.
  3. Personal user codes
    A lot of smart locks allow for multiple entry codes. However, many of them also require that you change the entry codes in person. As someone who like to travel and manages multiple properties all over the state, this simply would not do for me. Plus, if you only have 1 code for your property, that creates a security risk, as previous guests can come back and access the place even after their reservation has ended. With August, I can create unique codes for every guest on my phone whenever I want, and then delete the codes just as easily once the guest has checked out. Easy peasy!
  4. Simple installation
    No complicated instructions or steps for installing the August locks, and certainly no professional needed! All you need is a simple deadbolt lock, drill, and screwdriver. The August app will walk you through the rest. After installing about a dozen locks myself, I’ve averaged about 20 minutes for each installation. 
  5. Multiple owners
    If you are working with another person – either a co-host, owner, or someone else – the ability to add multiple owners is a fantastic feature. It adds an increased level of transparency, without compromising security by requiring everyone involved to log into a single account. Simply add everyone you want to to the lock, give them owner-level access, and voilá. Problem solved. 

If you’re looking into getting a smart lock but overwhelmed by the possibilities, I hope this has helped you narrow your choices down. Let me know what smart locks you use – and if you like them or not – in the comments!

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