Since I’ve now been hosting at Rosehill Cottage for all of 6 weeks, it’s obviously time for me to do an Airbnb Hosting 101, right? I say that in jest, but, seriously, I’ve gotten so many questions about the process that I thought I’d knock a few of the questions out now.
Our Short Term Rental: Rosehill Cottage
In case you’re new here or missed the news, we bought a river house and we’re renting it out on Airbnb. It’s been an incredible journey renovating and decorating this special place, and I have so many more big plans for the interior (and exterior!). Over the past five months of renovations and six weeks of hosting, we’ve learned a ton, and we’ve gotten to interact with so many wonderful guests. I’ve also fielded a ton of inquiries via Instagram of those curious about what we’re doing.
Before I even address the FAQs, I will say, it’s been so much more work than either of us anticipated. It’s been a lot of fun and I’m particularly enjoying the design, curating the experience, and providing recommendations for the guests, but it’s something I’m working on every single evening.
Now, let’s get into it.
Frequently Asked Questions about Airbnb Hosting 101
This is just our first edition of Airbnb hosting 101. So, if you have other questions you want me to answer, just give me a shout!
Are we making a lot of money on it?
First, I’ll address the question everyone has. No, not at this point. We ended up putting a lot more money into the house than we anticipated due to foundation and other issues. We thought things were bad at our condo but, turns out, a house with a little bit of property can be a whole lot worse. We’re so lucky to have gotten a great response and we’re booked solid all summer long, as well as throughout the winter and spring, so, sure, if we were looking at a purely base level money in-money out calculation on monthly expenses, we’d be making money. But, when you get another unexpected $12,000 bill, that throws things a bit. Homeownership, guys!
Why did we decide on the Rappahannock River?
We’ve always known we wanted a house on the river, so this is a long term home for us, rather than a short term rental investment property only. There aren’t many hotels in the area and, while people coming from Richmond have known about the Middle Peninsula/Northern Neck for years, it’s a bit of an undiscovered gem for DC folks. It felt like a bit of an untapped market for our peers!
How is it managing remotely?
We are very fortunate to have family in the area and have stayed at my parents’ cottage nearby when we’ve needed to be in town, but there are guests at the house. However, managing remotely hasn’t been bad — you just have to be aware that you will have to manage messages, guests having issues with the automated locks, weather troubles, etc. We’ve had wonderful guests so far!
Do we recommend Airbnb or VRBO?
Airbnb, hands down. VRBO is so, so glitchy. We’ve blocked dates, only to have VRBO release them again…and again. Customer service straight up told me their app doesn’t really work on the owner end. We’ve yet to have a VRBO guest stay with us (all have been Airbnb so far), but once we get through the last of the already-booked VRBO guests this summer, we’ll probably remove the cottage from that platform. Absolutely nothing against VRBO guests, I’ve used it in the past and I have friends who swear by it, it’s just the platform that’s a pain!
Direct booking is definitely the way to go and we do have a direct booking agreement to send guests. While the host still pays the same taxes whether it’s through a platform or direct, it saves a significant chunk of change for the guest. We also plan to set up a platform in coming weeks.
Are we using a third party to clean/flip the house between guests?
We are! Since we’re not in the area, we found a local cleaning service who’s fabulous. They’re handling all turnovers between guests. We’ve heard from other Airbnb hosts that this can be the most difficult piece to line up, so we feel fortunate we had quite a few options.
Are most guests coming from Airbnb search or from social?
It’s split! I love seeing guests come from social because it means my marketing background is being put to good use. I spent almost three years working for an agency whose clients included Marriott and Choice Hotels, as well as Yard House restaurants, and I also write about travel here and occasionally for online publications, so it’s been exciting to put that experience to work here. The Instagram account is so much fun to run and I’ve met awesome people in the area through it.
How do we not feel overly possessive or attached to the house? Are we afraid of damage?
Our guests have been so appreciative of the cottage and so happy to be on the water that it’s hard to feel possessive over it — I love sharing in their delight and excitement! As far as fear about damage…it’s just stuff. Not that I want things to get messed up, but I’m not someone who’s overly attached to possessions, and, since I bought most of the items inexpensively off Facebook Marketplace and at secondhand stores, I’m not terrified that they’ll get messed up. Will it be annoying though when we encounter damage? Definitely.
Why did we decide to allow dogs?
For those of you that know me, you know I’m not a dog person. I grew up with hunting dogs and I have an appreciation for them, but I don’t want one. And, at first, we weren’t going to allow dogs. But everyone in the first week or so of listing — literally, almost every single one — asked to bring their dog. It became clear that given our location and the type of traveler booking it (someone looking for a relaxing weekend to unplug), they were going to want to bring their dogs. And, I get it, I’d bring my cat with me everywhere if cats loved car travel as much as some dogs do, ha.
However, we do have rules in place (no dogs on the furniture, and especially not the beds!) because I don’t want allergic guests to encounter issues and I don’t want to feel like it smells like a dog!
How did we figure out what to include to make sure guests are happy?
We travel a lot! We’ve stayed enough places that we had a decent idea of what should be — and doesn’t need to be — in a vacation rental. Also, because we stay here whenever we’re working on the house (and, eventually, more often), we need it to be fully functioning. If there was something that a guest would need for a comfortable stay missing, we’d figure it out quickly.
And One More: Would We Ever Do a Second Rental Property?
This one is so complicated! I love designing and curating an experience. However, if we were to do another, it would need to be on a much, much smaller scale. A waterfront three bedroom-three bathroom house with a pool is simply not cost effective for an Airbnb unless it’s also a home that you also want for yourself — which we did (remember, we live in an 850 square-foot condo in DC, we need an outlet with more space!).
If we were to do another, I’m not scared of renovation, but I would want it to be an inexpensive one-two bedroom property. Something that’s a country getaway for one or two couples. Something with around 1,000 square feet, a bit more property, and (again) stunning views. I’d love to find a historic building that needs to be renovated. But we’ll see. Could be sooner. Could be later. Stay tuned!