Airbnb Hosting 102: Hosting Surprises, Direct Booking, and More

Last week on Instagram, I mined questions for this second installment of my Airbnb Hosting Q&A. I did a first post back in January, a month after we started hosting guests. Now I have almost 9 months of hosting under my belt, and we’ve learned so, SO much. With every guest, I still discover something new or come up with a better process to make the experience smoother. It’s going to be a continuous learning curve and I’m taking you along for the ride.

So here’s what y’all wanted to know…

When do you guys see yourselves making it your forever home?

I’d say it already is a forever home. We don’t ever plan on selling (unless I find my dream 1800s home on the river).  This home has so many of the must-haves for us — an incredible view, rural setting, pool, and it’s 16 feet above sea level (we steered clear of anywhere with a major flood risk!). However, as we spend more time there in the future, we do have renovations we’d like to make. A few items on the wish list: finishing out the attic space that’s facing the river to make another bedroom, adding more windows to the main bedroom, adding dormer windows to the second story on the yard side, and building out french doors and a deck off the sunroom area. We also have a few shorter term reno projects that may happen this year.

If you mean forever home like living there full time…I don’t know think that’ll ever happen. Adam says he’d like to be there full time, but I see us splitting out time between there, DC, and, hopefully someday, another property west of DC (the area where I originally wanted to buy a second home!).

Has business taken off better than, worse than, or as you expected?

I went in extremely optimistic, so I would say as I expected. Adam has a bit more of a pessimistic streak, so he stresses about the off season, and I’d say it’s been better than he expected. If anything, we should have blocked off more time for ourselves! But we’ve been lucky to be able to get down there each time there are orphan days between bookings.

We’ve also been thankful it’s done so well since renovations ran so, so much more than we expected, especially with all the surprises lurking beneath the foundation, the HVAC, issues with the riprap, etc. The hope is we’ll break even-ish at the end of this year on renovations to bookings.

airbnb hosting 102

What have been the nicest/not so nice surprises about hosting?

We’ve had the kindest guests and it’s been so fun to see them enjoy the property and make so many memories with their families. They send the sweetest messages, photos, and even a handful of hostess gifts (!!). It’s so nice to provide a space where friends and family can relax together, enjoy time on the water, and take in those incredible river sunsets.

Also, our guests have also been so, so understanding when issues have come up. I didn’t account for the stress of hosting when inevitable home issues come up. The reality is, any home will have problems and you can’t schedule them to only happen when you’re there. We’ve had the heat go out on a brand new HVAC, the septic system got clogged (my signs not to flush items beyond toilet paper didn’t get through to someone!), the microwave died, and we’ve even had a few wildlife run-ins (nothing bad at all, but one involved an injured osprey and an after hours call to a raptor specialist — he was back in flight in no time!). There was even a day that our cleaners didn’t show up…which we found out when the guests got there. In each case, the guests were super helpful, and made a stressful situation so much easier.

Do you have any weird guest stories? Have guests broken anything?

Haha, thankfully no weird guest stories! It is interesting how much information people will give you. I’ve gotten entire bizarre life stories from people who inquire about booking, only to never book (seriously, the strange over sharers never actually book!). Some guests want to chat and connect, others prefer to book and go about it like a hotel stay, and I’m fine with either. I would say our guests tend to lean more in the chatty direction, which is fun!

A few things have gotten broken but it’s been minimal. I know I’ve shared this before, but we furnished the place with 90% secondhand furniture. If something breaks, it is what it is. Granted there definitely are some pieces I’d be more upset about but, for the most part, it’s the cost of business. We’re more likely to see towels and kitchen supplies go missing which, again, is just the cost of business!

You mentioned direct booking in your latest post. How common is it? General thoughts about it?

I have a lot of thoughts on direct booking. It is more advantageous for the guest because we subtract the Airbnb/VRBO fee that is typically charged (I just did a walk through and, for example, you’d pay a $194 Airbnb fee on a $1,225 booking), and also for us since we pay a host fee on our end that is subtracted out of the net amount.

We do, however, still have to collect tax and lodging tax. Typically, I do offer direct booking when I’m advertising on Instagram, but I prefer to have some connection, even if it’s just been chatting on Instagram, before I do direct booking. We send out a short term rental contract and they’ll send us a check.

There are platforms that make direct booking easier and we’ll probably invest in one of those next year for our website. For now, Airbnb and VRBO have been great for awareness — that’s their main benefit besides a level of protection if you don’t know the person at all and there’s any risk that they might trash the place. However, we’ve had a few people start as Airbnb or VRBO bookings and then book again later directly.

How often do you get to go to the cottage?

We go out there anytime it isn’t booked! This summer, that’s looked like us going out for a night or two every couple of weeks when there’s an orphan day between bookings (orphan day = a day or two that won’t get booked due to our minimum stay). During the off season when we’re booked most weekends and some weekdays, we were down there more often — usually 3-4 days a few times a month.

How do you create all of the templates for reviews and branding?

Using Photoshop! Fun fact, I did grad school briefly for graphic design, so I do have some skills in Adobe. Plus, I work full-time in marketing and work closely with designers/have managed design teams in the past. I have a little bit of an advantage in this area, for sure.

Would you do another Airbnb?

Yes! I believe I’ve shared here before, but we did put an offer on another house in the spring. We later found out that we were beat out by just $2,000 — their escalation clause must have gone higher than ours. If and when we do another, it will be what I’d originally wanted to do. A country home with rolling hill and mountain views. I wouldn’t do another in the same area for a two main reasons. The first being that we have our river home now, we don’t need another. The second being waterfront property is expensive to buy and expensive to maintain. I want something easier.

That’s all I’ve got for today, but I’ll do another one of these in the coming months. Maybe a one year anniversary situation. If you have questions, send them my way!


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