Friday, 4 March 2016

5 Things We Learned Becoming Airbnb Hosts

One month ago we started hosting guests in our upstairs apartment on Airbnb.

We already had an extra bed and TV, so all we’d need would be a couch and maybe a table.  We thought it would be an easy way to bring in some income while we finished renovations.  

For anyone thinking of renting out a space, here’s what we wished we’d known before we started:


5.  People Will Want to Stay with You.  Without Much Notice.

We had thought that things would start off slow and we would have plenty of opportunities for wrapping up the finishing touches in the apartment.  But once the reservations started, they didn’t stop.  We actually started booking off nights just to get a break!  

In all, we hosted 17 sets of guests in our first month!

Yes, we were doing everything we could to encourage bookings.  

We started with low prices, took the best photos in the best lighting that we could, and filled out every information box on our listing with the most accurate information we could.  

Yes, we thought we had a great space to offer.  But we weren’t expecting to be so busy.  

We posted our listing a few weeks before we thought we’d be ready to host.  We watched and sweated while our listing got zero interest.  Then around our opening date, that week started filling up.  The next week, that week started filling up.  

We’re not sure if it’s because we haven’t developed our base of regulars yet or if that’s just how people book spaces in Ottawa, but most bookings are for pretty close dates.


4.  You will hate cleaning.

I already knew I hated cleaning.  That was why I was so excited about moving into our main floor apartment with just a living room, dining room, kitchen, two bedrooms and a bathroom.  That’s right, only one toilet to clean!

I’ve sold three homes, so I know how tough it can be to keep a place “showing ready”.

But “hosting ready” clean is a whole different ball game I wasn’t prepared to play.

Hairs will become your enemy.  

You will vacuum your bathtub and cackle as the little hairs get sucked up.  

You will keep a lint roller in your back pocket and run it over and under and around each sheet as it’s laid perfectly on the bed.  

You will curse almost strangers for the nerve they have of having bodies that grow hair.  

Or for blowdrying their hair.  

Or for shaving their hair.  

Or for rubbing their hair on pillows.  

Basically you will think a lot more about hair than you ever thought possible.

After your first possible germaphobe guest, you will buy a bottle of bleach and start spraying doorknobs and switch plates and generally come to terms with the possibility that your house is starting to smell like a public pool.  

You will take your iron out of storage and use it.  All.  The. Time.  Your “me” time will become late night movies and ironing.  You will also find out that if you put tap water in your iron, it will shoot brown rust all over your white sheets you’ve been ironing for the past two hours.  You will feel like crying.  You will buy more sheets.  Then learn to not put water in your iron and just use a spray bottle.  You will still cringe when you pick up the iron for fear of ruining more sheets.

You will watch Youtube videos about how to be a hotel maid.  Words like “triple sheeting” will enter your vocabulary.  You will create an elaborate laundry basket system for toting around stain removers and bed lifters and microfiber cleaning cloths.  

You will give up being dryer free after installing a clothes line across the master bedroom and having to walk through damp sheets to get to bed every night in an attempt to keep up with the never ending supply of linens.

Basically, cleaning will consume your soul.


3. It’s the Little Stuff that Costs the Most.

When we were getting the apartment ready, our Little Miss and I spent a couple hours being lost in Gatineau Quebec looking for a furniture store because I thought we could save $100 on a sofa bed.  

Turns out when we found it that wasn’t comfortable and we ended up buying our original choice.

Now, I wish we had even spent $100 more and bought a more comfortable and durable sofa bed.

Why?  Because the cost of all the little things have more than eclipsed the cost of the couch.  The value propositions are all mixed up in my head.

Yes, the big stuff will add up.  The new kitchen and appliances were a big cost.  The increase in our insurance was way more than I expected.  But these costs were expected before we started.

When we started thinking about amenities for the room, I was very concerned about the cost of shampoo and conditioner.  I stayed up late comparing different sites, minimum purchases and cost per units.  

Once we started hosting, we realized that the cost to host each guest went well beyond the amenities that the guest will appreciate.  A garbage bag in the kitchen + one in the bathroom + a roll of paper towel + a couple rolls of toilet paper + the pillow cases their makeup will stain even though you provide makeup wipes + the tea towels that will get ruined with wine when they spill and choose not to reach for the paper towels + a couple boxes of facial tissue + sugar packets for the coffee and tea you will provide + those tiny creamers in the fridge + half a lint roller + all the cleaning supplies = a bunch of little things that really add up!


2.  Reviews will chew you up.

Being an Airbnb host, you get to review your guests after each stay.  They get to leave you a review too.

No matter how happy your guests looked, when you get a notification that you have a new review, you’ll feel sick to your stomach.  

You’ll learn that you need 5 stars at least 80% of the time to be a SuperHost.  You’ll want to become a SuperHost.  You will become hyper vigilant about reviews.

You won’t get 5 stars every time.  Sometimes it will be your fault, sometimes it won’t be.  

After the hours spent cleaning, the hours spent ironing, and all the messaging with the guests, getting even a 4 star rating on one criteria will make you question whether or not this experiment should come to an end.

You’ll find out that if you get 4 stars twice in a row that Airbnb will give you a little warning on your reviews, like it’s wondering if this is a good experiment for you too.

Then you’ll get a great review that basically says the exact opposite of the other reviews and restore your faith in your space and your ability to keep going.


1. People are Strange.

Yes, you may have an engagement cat instead of an engagement ring.  Yes, you may cut your husband’s hair… and your own…. But you’re not the only strange one out there.  

We’ve been pretty lucky with our guests so far.  No major mishaps, but almost every guest leaves us with a story.

We’ve had retirees who have stayed out until 5:30 am partying, crashed, then left the place spotless.

We’ve had guests carpet our bathroom floor with towels.

We had a guest who responded to our voicemail with the text “Hey babe, can you text instead?” which I assume was some sort of phone sex auto reply.  Incidentally, she was our only no show.

Meeting our guests has been a highlight of this experiment.  We’ve already hosted international guests and that’s something we wouldn’t have had the chance to do if we had just rented out the apartment.  It’s been great meeting a stream of people trusting enough and cheap enough to agree to sleep in someone else’s space.  These are my kind of people.


What We’re Hoping to Learn

This experiment has always been seen as something that might be more fun than a standard rental and might make us more money than a standard rental. Right now, with the amount of cleaning and the upfront costs, we’re not sure if this experiment will be a success or not.

We’re hoping to learn that as our reputation grows we can raise our prices and our minimum stays to increase revenues and decrease scrubbing.

We’re hoping that there are sheets that will fit our bed that are wrinkle free and comfy so I don’t need to iron anymore.

We’re hoping to learn that as we buy more supplies and get better routines in place that cleaning will take less than an hour instead of 2-3.

That our sound proofing is better than we think and we don’t need to constantly remind each other to use our inside voices when guests are upstairs.

We’re hoping we learn that we love hosting on Airbnb.

If not, at least we’ll have given it an honest chance and will happily rent out our tested until perfect furnished apartment.



What About You?

Have you ever stayed with Airbnb?  Why didn’t you book a regular hotel?


Do you have a space listed on Airbnb?

Have any speedy cleaning tips for me?




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