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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.

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.”

What??

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.

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.

Try it out today at Turnoverbnb.com.

What tricks do you have to manage your cleanings effectively? Let me know in the comments below!

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.

Sign up here to get $20 on me!

Not sure how it works? Click here to get a totally free mini course on how to set up the main Your Porter features (including a direct booking site!).

Do you have a space on Airbnb or another similar site? If not, are you considering doing so?

It’s a tough market out there. The advent of the sharing economy has made people realize how lucrative hosting on sites like Airbnb can be, and with every year the market becomes more and more flooded.

When Airbnb first started, you could list any old space, with crappy pictures and no thought to interior design or layout, and still do well. Not so anymore.

To succeed, you have to stand out.

When I tell this to my clients, this often induces waves of panic and dread. All sorts of concerns and excuses flood their minds. “I don’t have the money to buy new furniture…I’m too busy to bother…I don’t have an interior designer’s eye.” The list goes on and on.

But you don’t have to be rolling in the dough or have loads of spare time to hunt down bargains to make your space attractive and memorable.

Here’s 10 easy things you can do to make your Airbnb space better:

  • Buy some succulents. It’s amazing what a little greenery can do. And they don’t even have to be real! Buy plastic succulents and stick them on tables or in corners of the house to brighten up any room.
  • Paint an accent wall. Most people hate painting. But a single wall is much less daunting. And it can do wonders for perking up a room. Go from sterile and boring to bold and exciting in just a few hours!
  • Put a bathtub tray over the tub. I’m talking about those little trays (usually wooden) that can be placed on top of a bathtub and allow people to place their phone, book, tablet, etc above the water while they’re enjoying their bath. Simple luxury that’s so easy to achieve. A great addition.
  • Buy a sign or map with your local city name on it. People love feeling like they’ve come to some place special. So make them feel like it’s a special place worth celebrating!
  • Hang a chalkboard and write some great local restaurant recommendations on it. This is another great way to celebrate your city, as well as make guests feel more at home.
  • Put in warm-colored light bulbs. It’s amazing the difference light can make in the feel of a room. Switch out your bright or fluorescent bulbs with warm or LEDs. You’ll be astonished at the result.
  • Leave bottles of water or granola bars for your guests. This is a great way to show your guests that you’ve put thought into their experience.
  • Have an umbrella on a hanger by the door for your guests to use if needed. I’ve only ever stayed at 1 place that did this. And boy was I grateful for it! (And also super impressed. That one gesture was probably the clincher; I’m now a happy repeat customer for life.)
  • Put out makeup removal wipes in the bathroom. This will not only make your guests feel like they’re special and worth investing in; it will also save all your hand towels from the ravages of eyeliner and lipstick.
  • Make sure the kitchen is equipped with the necessary basics. No one wants to wake up on vacation and go to make coffee, only to realize there aren’t coffee mugs in the kitchen!

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!

 

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. 

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!

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!

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!