It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, so I thought it was time to update the folks who still find me on this site via my book and a handy Google search for Airbnb hosting tips. I’m not currently hosting and in February moved into a 1-bedroom place across town.
After years of hosting and meeting hundreds of people from six continents, it was time for a little break. The 199 5-star reviews attest to a packed three years.
Friends and strangers continue to ask me if I miss being a host. Though I miss meeting new people, I don’t miss the everyday demands of keeping the house impeccably clean, the bagels stocked, and the TP rolls filled. I liken my three years hosting on Airbnb to an epoch familiar to any artist or creative person. There’s a season for everything. Picasso had his blue period. Airbnb was my time to open my door, heart, and mind to strangers while gaining my footing in a new career.
If you’re reading this because you’re considering hosting, I urge you to try it. For a month, a year, or until you tire of it. I promise the experience will change you.
Hello, Dear Reader~
It seems like forever since I have written in this space. In reality, I think it’s been six months or so. Apart from the too-easy answer of “I’ve been busy,” is the more honest answer: “I haven’t felt like it.”
I wrote my book to share glimpses of the people who had graced my doorstep while I navigated the scary but life-changing experience of opening my home to strangers via Airbnb. In the wake of my book coming out in July of 2014, several people contacted me inquiring about me helping them set up their own Airbnb businesses. I discovered the desperation that was sometimes motivating them to open their homes also meant their pocketbooks were lacking as well.
Don’t get me wrong, I love to help people and that’s why I price my book affordably and share free tips on here, but I am a busy writer who runs an immensely demanding home business. When someone asks for personalized help to start their own potentially lucrative business, my services are not offered for the sake of charity. My expertise is shared to put food on my table and eventually a successful host’s table if they do it right. But not everyone sees it that way, and I grew wary of the demands generated from this site.
My summer was filled with hundreds of guests in and out of my home. For the first time in two years, I didn’t have interns, so the turnover rate was astounding–and twice as lucrative. I didn’t interact with many of them since I’d entered into a new romantic relationship which took me out of my house and away from the daily demands of conversation and playing tour guide with my guests.
So many of you have wondered and asked me about my romantic relationships and why I didn’t talk about them in the book. Why? Because I didn’t want it to distract from the story. I also didn’t date anyone the first year I was living in my new house and setting up my Airbnb business. This was a conscious decision I made so I could focus on work. I also didn’t want to foist an unsuspecting gentleman into a chaotic home situation that even I had not come to grips with myself. My hope was that whomever I eventually met would be tolerant and appreciative of my living situation and would look forward to meeting people in my home and sharing the experience with me. Sadly, that was not the case…
Yesterday I attended a talk sponsored by Pillow, one of the new San Francisco-based startups seeking to support hosts and guests in the vacation rental economy. In January the company raised $2.65M in seed funding.
Seattle is a new market for Pillow; they currently operate only in select California cities. I attended the event with little knowledge about the company, beyond what I’d gleaned from a few Facebook posts. Charlie Ryan, Head of Sales for Pillow, was the lead speaker for the event. Unfortunately, he did not give us much background about the company, and it wasn’t until I queried him afterward that I learned Pillow has only been around for 18 months.
It appears part of their hiring campaign in new markets involves working with area real estate agents to tap into owners of second homes or help buyers looking to purchase properties expressly to put them into the vacation rental fray.
Pillow: The Pros
I am fortunate to live in a 4-story Seattle townhouse that is entirely supported (and then some) by my Airbnb rental income. Sometimes I look around my house and at the guests in front of me, and I ask myself How did I get so lucky?
Not only do I have the flexibility of a lifestyle on my terms, I am also:
Hello from San Diego! I am here for two weeks, working on some essays submissions to editors as well as exploring topics for my second book. And did I mention the 80-degree weather?
When I am not writing, I’m visiting places like Balboa Park:
The hardest thing for me as an Airbnb host was deciding how to navigate leaving my home to strangers. Should I shut things down while I’m gone? Or, should I hire a property manager/cleaning person to oversee things in my absence? Can I trust someone to do a job that will satisfy my guests at the same level of service they expect from reading my reviews?
When you discover a system that allows you to earn income while you travel, it will often cover or defray the cost of that excursion.
One host I listened to on an Airbnb podcast offers a 50% discount to guests who are willing to check themselves in and wash their own sheets for the next guests, and clean up after themselves when they leave. Budget travelers feel fortunate to lodge at the lower rate and the host is happy their home doesn’t have to sit idle while they’re gone. Everyone wins! Continue reading
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Dan Lane, host of Rental Income Podcast. Dan is a new host on the podcast scene, but he’s already garnering a legion of followers curious to learn more about rental invesments. When Dan asked me to come on episode 15 and talk about my experience as a host on Airbnb, I was a little hesitant about what I could offer. I wasn’t sure how my short-term rental position as a host could tie into a person’s long-term rental investment interests.
Dan was a kind and patient host and it was really easy to explore how listing one’s own home on Airbnb can be a great way to boost (in my case, double) someone’s rental income for a property. As I mention on the show, it’s ideal that if you don’t want to live on site at your rental, you hire a trusted property manager or on-site host to live at the property and correspond with guests, clean rooms, and be available to guests’ needs and wishes.
Full disclosure: I am a little leery of the Superhost status. Airbnb claims that having the status will bump your listing in the search rankings and that guests will be more inclined to stay with you. But frankly, I think most guests have no idea what the status is, and I question the efficacy of the search claims. But I digress. Continue reading
On the final day of the Airbnb Open, hundreds of hosts donned their grubbies and volunteered their morning hours at Bay Area charities. As thanks for hosts’ efforts and to offer a goodbye, Airbnb invited volunteers back to headquarters in the afternoon to enjoy a free lunch and tour their offices. Walking up to the headquarters on Brannan Street, I was impressed by the food trucks lining the building’s front and catering to diverse palates. In the expansive lobby, hundreds of hosts lounged on low-set divans and pillows while a DJ spun electronic dance jams in front of HQ’s iconic plant wall. (Yes, the plants are live.)
When I published my post from yesterday, I was unprepared for the private messages of horror I received from many of you, and I was entertained by your comments on Facebook. As was the case with me and Jeanne, my surprise housemate for the weekend, it was nice to have someone to bounce impressions off of and assure ourselves we were not crazy for thinking we were staying in quite the “unique” listing…to put it mildly.
You see, the reason we know it was a unique listing of the bad variety was because Jeanne was attending the Airbnb Open to claim her Airbnb Host Award for a truly Unique Listing in the positive sense. Jeanne lives on a beautiful piece of land next to Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. From the windows of her round, custom-built house and the hammocks that grace her porch, you gaze out and see three volcanoes that bookend the picturesque waters in front of her home.
I had the fortunate opportunity to attend the Airbnb Open in San Francisco the weekend before Thanksgiving. The event, which ran Friday through Sunday, took place at Fort Mason on the banks of the San Francisco Bay in the city’s Marina District.