A few weeks back, I attended a long overdue local Airbnb meetup here in Canada.
About 40 people showed up and you can only imagine the types of businesses people had. Some were simply side hustling their way to some extra income, while others had massive portfolios juggling this as their full-time gig.
Here's a quick video of those 7 lessons but if you want more details, the post below has plenty!
Every single time I attend these Airbnb meetups, I'm astounded to see the different people that Airbnb has helped out.
Usually, I sit back and just listen in on the stories. There's always so many wild and interesting ones. But in general, I'm there to soak up extra info on the local market.
Just like any other Meetup, always strive to go in with a specific purpose. Don't waste your time. Be very intentional about what you want out of these meetings. That's the key!
Here's what I wanted find out with this particular meeting:
1. What's the overall local booking trend right now?
My city and province is in a particular economic slump, so I can only imagine how many people are transitioning their homes into Airbnb to make ends meet. Which is great of course and it's things platforms like this and Uber which have really helped thousands of people.
2. What are hosts doing to stand out?
A somewhat open ended question. Not necessarily to do with their listing but a question of their service too.
As competition grows and more people start to become hosts, what are the best ones doing to capture the attention of potential guests, better their service, and increase the revenue of their overall business. I really wanted to hear some unique ways people were standing out.
That was it. Just two questions. I figured those two would open up a can of worms and start driving up some discussions.
However, things didn't really go like that:
Not at all.
I spent most of the time just listening in and after 3 hours, I had my notepad filled! Multiple pages of tips were chicken scratched on every corner.
With all that insight, I thought I would filter out the noise and provide some of the most impactful insights of the night for you.
Here are my top 7 lessons from that meeting:
1. Stay In Your Own Place At Least Once A Quarter
I believe Diane was the name of the fellow host who shared this tip. She ended up sharing a story of how she overbooked her multiple units. She had about 10 and accidentally booked 11 people during that time period.
After a lengthy discussion with her partner, they decided to let the overbooked guest stay in their own home. Giving up their own beds.
You gotta do, what you gotta do - right?
Fortunately, one of their places was open the next day and they decided to stay in one of the Airbnb rentals for the night.
I don't think this was intentional, but it ended up being a transformational experience.
Donna went in expecting to just spend the night out of an emergency situation, but it ended up giving her the perspective needed to shift certain parts of their Airbnb process.
So many different things were missing, dirty, and screaming for improvement.
Unfortunately, this isn't everyone's cup of tea but if you can, give it a try. I think it'll be a surprising and interesting perspective shift.
The other day, I went over to my microwave and opened it only to see how gross it was. This is one of many honest oversights that hosts aren't really thinking about. Now it's on the checklist to stay in the place every quarter and review. Just the like reviewing your listing.
So here's your action steps:
Book an empty night and stay in your place. Sleep in the bed. Use the bathroom. Eat there. Cook there. Watch TV there. Sit on your couch. Do everything a guest would.
While you're doing this, keep a notepad handy and start writing down a list of things you need to do in order to provide a better experience for your guests.
One thing that guests get to do is give private feedback only to Airbnb. Who knows what your guests are saying to them and not you. This might be the extra push necessary to improve your overall guest satisfaction rating and therefore search visibility.
2. Optimize For Longer Stays During Slow Seasons
Depending on where your listings are, you might get hit with a slow season at some point in the year.
For us here in Canada, unless you're in one of the bigger cities like Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver - your slow season is likely the winter months. If you're a ski-town, then your slow season could be the reverse.
Here's a sweet tip:
If you're in the slow season, try and lower your weekly or monthly rates. This way you'll have higher occupancy rates, less turnover, and not be as worried about getting your place booked during those slower months.
I like this tip a lot since it's really what I'm looking for, I prefer longer stays. But I know, there are people out there that would rather have higher turnover so they can earn more revenue. However, sometimes you don't have a choice. So I think it's worth trying.
3. Report Accidents As Fast As Possible To Airbnb
This one is super important and applies to everyone. The story behind this tip is that another host had their door broken down by the police after a guest had a medical emergency.
The police shouted "Sir, may we come in? Are you the owner of the residence?"
The guest responded, "Yes!" and the police broke the door violently down.
It's not like we, as hosts, have any control over these situations and quite honestly, should be happy that the police came so quickly...
But in reality, we still have a knocked out door. And guests coming the next day.
Or possibly, in a few hours!
This isn't an ideal situation for anyone. This host's experience lead to him pleading to everyone in the room.
"Get your ducks in order and report the accident to Airbnb in less than 48 hours."
According to this host, Airbnb is less likely to accept anything after that time frame because they do not know if it was an Airbnb guest that specifically caused the destruction.
Airbnb never verified that specific timeline when I contacted them, however, it's still a good rule of thumb to follow if you don't have guests showing up again for a few days.
Here's exactly what Airbnb said to me:
Fortunately, for this host, the estimates were taken care of quickly because the police had a person on-hand that could provide a quote quickly. As this happens often for them.
Do whatever it takes to get all your quotes in order so you can forward them to Airbnb ASAP.
Every situation is different, of course, but this host said it took Airbnb about a week and a half everything paid back.
4. Returning Guests Should Still Book With Airbnb
If you've got your own short-term rental insurance, that's great. But, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that you probably don't. Are you relying solely on Airbnb's Host Guarantee and Host Protection insurance?
The story behind this one is that a returning guest contacted the host through text and ended up privately booking with them, off the Airbnb platform.
That didn't pan out quite right:
The guest ended up causing some damage and unfortunately, the hosts had booked the guest outside of the Airbnb platform. Airbnb's insurance coverage wasn't applicable and therefore these hosts had to cover damages out of pocket.
Luckily, it wasn't too much damage but it's enough to make you think about how insignificant those Airbnb fees are in comparison to the coverage you're provided. You don't even pay a yearly premium! It's taken on a per-booking basis so you don't pay unless you've got incoming earnings.
5. Leverage Meetings For Local Bylaw Information
I won't dive too deep into my own city's bylaws but I thought this was ultra important and a highlight of the meeting.
Some people came with extraordinary insight into the laws and goings-on with the local government.
One example from my own area is that the condominium act for my city is very difficult to change and would need a 70% majority vote to enact any major changes.
Which is certainly a weight off my head and to be honest, it was great having someone tell me that - rather than me finding out through my own research.
I think it's also important to note that regulation is not entirely a negative thing. It eliminates uncertainty and can also be a barrier to entry for others to come into your specific market. We just need to be mindful that when regulation does arrive, it will come with waves of assessment to follow.
Let others come to the table in these meetings with their insight and just listen.
This is a short takeaway since you're all from different places, but it's worth investigating when the next meetup's are so you can attend let your neighbours provide the relevant details of the quickly shifting short term rental market.
6. Add Your Listing To Multiple Channels
Beyond Airbnb, you've got Booking.com, VRBO, and a few other sites I'm sure.
Those are the biggest ones here in North America, but over in the UK or Europe, I'm sure there are more.
Another host had mentioned that one of the best parts about adding his site to Booking(.)com was that your listing was exposed to a very international business audience. Even though there were very few bookings came in.
He said that the international business guests were open to providing extra information quickly. Many of them were open to sending over passport and flight information in order to expedite the process.
I have a relative who is only on VRBO, which is quite strange to me, but he's doing quite well so it proves that Airbnb isn't the only source of finding vacation renters.
I am on VRBO myself and if you're used to Airbnb, you'll notice how clunky of a user experience it is. Airbnb has a lot smoother processes and the platform is a lot more intuitive.
The point here is to not add all your eggs to one basket and maximize your earnings with very little work. A lot of these other channels are a set it and forget it. You may need to spruce it up once every quarter but it's just a short amount of time for a chance to fill up your calendar more.
7. Add Extra Protection with Short Term Rental Insurance
The accident I talked about in point 4, with the host accepting payment outside of Airbnb, is one place where additional coverage is instrumental.
Several times while writing this, it's come up as a continuous solution. Airbnb's coverage seems to be great but they're a big company and you're just a tiny host. With extra short-term rental (STR) insurance, you take away more risk from yourself and place it on the shoulders of another.
One thing to keep in mind is that it's not cheap. In Canada, my home insurance is around $150 and for renters insurance (not STR insurance), it's about $400.
Insurance companies view short term rentals as a riskier business on their part. Which I do agree with, but in a way - you, as the host, are taking on the most risk so it's a good idea to figure out a way to spread that out.
If you're going to take on hosting duties then ease yourself into this business the right way, go get extra insurance for your short-term rental.
There are companies specializing in this sort of thing and they're right in the mix of the booming Airbnb economy. The difficult thing would be to a provider that's available in your area, for the right price as well.
I'm not particularly a fan of insurance companies (and I can't imagine you are either), but in these circumstances, I understand their position in the market and can relate to why they exist. It's important to take your business seriously and that means not relying on Airbnb's insurance coverage solely.
We've all heard the horror stories about Airbnb not covering you, but there are a whole "host" of reasons behind those unique situations. Perhaps they didn't report the accident until 3 days later, maybe they booked an old guest outside of the platform...
Either way, Airbnb decided they weren't responsible as the primary insurance holder for those bookings. This is simply where extra short-term coverage is ideal.
Talk To More Hosts 1 on 1
Let's move onto some happier times! I didn't put this summary together to bitch about Airbnb and show you only negative aspects of being a host.
This post is about showing you the benefits of talking to other hosts. Not only can you protect yourself in the future, but you could also pick up some tips on making the most out your vacation rental business.
That's it for me now folks. If this article helped you and you have any other tips or questions, please leave them below in the comments.