Three and half years ago I opened for business. My space, a three-room suite of rooms on my third floor, had been renovated to accomodate my daughter while she pursued her studies. By the time she left, she had a doctorate, husband and was eight months pregnant.
Did I mention that my daughter was 8 months pregnant when they left? That was my catalyst for opening my AirBNB. I wanted to spend meaningful time with this child which required that I reduce the number of hours I devoted to my IT company. The income from an AirBNB would make this possible.
At first, my prices were too low no doubt. The guests booked and booked and booked. And they were lovely. As I review their names, I remember something special about each one of them. Most of them were from other countries and they brought gifts. They left thank you notes. We enjoyed each other's company. There was guest no 4, Thomas from Germany who dreamt of opening his own brewery, so I took him to a fabulous craft beer store. Oh, and Ramiro who lives in Costa Rica but was originally from Venezuela. He missed his homeland and a special breakfast bread. A little research was needed but I was able to bake him some Golfeados. [Nasty things everyone else thought, but he ate the entire batch before the week was out.] There was the group of friends from China, all studying in the States, who gathered at my house over winter break and made a feast each night, insisting that I join them. Teaching them how to use my stove and to season their food was a challenge. They were not good listeners.
For the first six months, I had butterflies as I answered the door. I was anxious about their arrival details. I was unsure I could manage hosting people who didn't speak a word of English. As I went to answer the door, my brain would sing "It's Show Time!" in a very Bob Fosse voice.
I slowly found my groove. The butterflies calmed down. I had a "schtick" for introducing the house. I carefully touched on any details we had discussed via AirBNB messaging. But, I also reduced my emotional attachment. As I review the list of names after that first year, I draw a blank for many of them. They made no particular impression, either good or bad. There were just SO MANY PEOPLE every single month.
I haven't made anyone Venezuelan Golfeados recently, though if I make cookies, guests are offered one or two. (Oh, there was that lovely Australian couple last month who brought me apples from a local orchard and so of course I made a pie.) I continue to help guests navigate the Boston tourist market, suggesting transportation methods, current events, and eating spots; but I don't always know what would interest them anymore.
After 293 groups of people, I am confident that I provide exactly what has been offered. I raised my rates. I increased the minimum number of nights. I have learned how to be attentive without being close. I am still sincere. I am helpful and kind without commitment. I no longer sweat the slow communicators and just assume that it will all work out. Occasionally, I get a guest that I just don't like and know that they will be gone soon enough. The two bad guests are a distant memory, may they never return. Most often, I get guests that I like and those I celebrate!
I have also learned how to remove almost any kind of stain. Tanner and ProActive are still my weaknesses, but blood, chocolate, drool, they don't stand a chance against my arsenal of cleansers. The laundry machines and I are BFF's.
This balance is working for me. Now that I charge a market rate, I rarely receive gifts or thank you notes. Guests feel that they have paid a fair price for a service which changes their relationship to me as well. This is a trade off that I can live with.
I think we each have to find our own rhythm; one that suits our spaces, personalities, and stage of life. Being an AirBNB host does mean that life is never boring. There are always new people meandering through our lives; and sometimes they are special and get Golfeados or a pie.
How has your hosting style changed over the course of your AirBNB lifespan?
@Susan151 , you have written a delightful and thoughtful post about hosting, with your authenticity shining through! The extra mile you obviously go to, is what makes you stand out in the crowd. So glad you have found your groove. It is a comforting spot to be and doesn’t mean you do less, you just breathe better! 😊
Your daughter left when 8 months pregnant.. so I hope you get to delight in your grandchild, often.
My eldest daughter returned with her partner and we built in a living area underneath our space, as we already had a bedroom and bathroom underneath. As mature age apprentices don’t receive big salaries whilst they learn the new trade, we were happy to be their place of abode. They then had my first grandchild. Then under two years, the second scan showed twins... so we added more rooms to the existing space, under our elevated house. Then there was five! XxxxX
When they left and moved to their own premises, the space was so quiet, so empty.. but we didn’t want full time tenants. So Airbnb fits into our life as well. 💝🥂
Susan, that is such a wonderful story of your hosting and I have many similar experiences though I don't think I was quite as accommodating as you were!
I love your paragraph about meeting the guests
"For the first six months, I had butterflies as I answered the door. I was anxious about their arrival details. I was unsure I could manage hosting people who didn't speak a word of English. As I went to answer the door, my brain would sing "It's Show Time!" in a very Bob Fosse voice."
I found the booking part to be the most challenging the first year. As soon as my calendar was opened my messages were going off at all hours of day and night. I also priced quite low in the beginning and place was booked before I even had a chance to block off some time to clean between guests.
I was very stressed at first trying to accommodate luggage drop offs and early check ins and also get the place cleaned in 4 hours! But now I immediately block off a day after each guest and feel it has really helped my hosting to have the day to clean and to be able to be flexible with check in and check out.
I feel fortunate that I haven't lost too many sheets or towels or furniture to makeup and other products but that still is a challenge as I am chemically sensitive and there are some products that are used by occasional guests that I cannot tolerate and have a difficult time getting cleaned to my satisfaction. It would be fabulous to know more about your laundry expertise and how other deal with these issues.
I am now thinking about how to list my space so that I can have a different price for my one floor space depending on how many guests and bedrooms and beds are needed and am not sure if it is best to have two listings of the same space with two joined calendars so I can offer entire space with one bedroom, or two bedrooms or three bedrooms so that when there are fewer people the price can be lower than when there are more people. I have the "professional Airbnb tools" and that is a start but I still have not figured out how to best accomplish this or if it is even advisable. This is one of my first posts to this forum as I was searching for this information in the community center, so I hope this post works ok. 😉
Thanks again for posting that personal experience and your place sounds like a fabulous place to stay!
Evelyn, I would recommend a separate listing for each hosting option. If you only wanna change the price based on the number of guests you can do that in the listing. It will add the price of additional guests based on what you set. For example a booking for 1 is $75 plus $25 for each additional guest or whatever you wanna charge. Please note Airbnb does not charge an additional fee for infants. Good luck!
@Evelyn115 You don't need to manually block a day after a guest checks out to have time for cleaning. Just use the availability settings and set "prep time" to "Block one day before and after a reservation". It sounds like this would end up blocking 2 nights between reservations, but it doesn't- the one day after doubles up as the one day before for the next reservation.
You don't need a second listing. You can set your rate for one or two guests in your space and then add a charge for each additional person after that...there is a place for that in your pricing area...check it out. I use this for one of my listings and it works...just pay attention to the number of guests requesting to book...to be sure you have enough beds. And be sure that the guest has seen this aspect of your pricing structure.
I hope this helps.
What a wonderfull table you have @Susan151. If I would stay with you, I would be delighted with your reception.
I'm only 6 months in Airbnb, so sometimes I still feel those butterflies, and I still jump when I hear a message from a new reservation 🙂
Our hosting lifespan so far has been short, this our first year. But yes, we have changed style. We've become much more laid back about reviews and feedback. Actually to the point where I'd happily take more mark-downs on value now. Under 4 Stars on value and I'm feeling like we are leaving money on the table.
Also we take feedback less personally, and don't expect people to appreciate extra touches.
One thing we do appreciate is the extra money which helps make ends meet.
And the priceless moments which make us appreciate where we live. For example a recent Japanese guest stayed with us to walk the coastal path, I walked him down to the path through the village and when he saw the sea he just went "wow".
The reason I walked him down there was because the language problems hindered giving directions very well.
"wow" he says, striding off grinning. There is a massive blue sea in front of him, a couple of ships on the horizon, and the sun is breaking through the December clouds.
I just stood there looking at the atlantic ocean till he was out of sight, and though "yeah. wow".
@Susan151 I love this so much! What fun it was to read!
In the year and a half since I've been hosting I'd say the biggest change is that I've learned to become much more laid back about things. The first time a hand towel was ruined I flipped out as if the world were ending. A year later, a troublesome guest ran into my garage door and it needed to be completely replaced in order to function properly. I just shrugged it off. (But I did submit a claim on that one!)
My hosting style has also changed in the sense that I'm firmer with boundaries and have learned how to gracefully and tactfully say "no" when it needs to be said.
@Susan151 Nice post. Always enjoy reading your writings.
I don't think my hosting style has really changed much over the 3 years I've been doing this. I was never nervous about having guests- I just had a guest room that sat empty most of the year and thought I'd try it. I am self-employed and wasn't trying to have the Airbnb be a major source of income, so life wasn't all hanging on the success of hosting. I also didn't know about these forums until after I'd been hosting for over a year, so I was utterly unaware that I could get fussy, complaining guests who might leave me a bad review or make huge mess. If I'd known about such things, I would likely have been way more nervous. Ignorance is bliss.
Luckily almost all my guests have been delightful and I've really enjoyed them. None have been fusspots and all clean up after themselves in the kitchen they share with me. My most recent guest loves to cook, and aside from wishing I had better kitchen knives, she was happy with the kitchen, and fed me! She said she always cooks way more than she can eat- she enjoys the cooking more than the eating and it would just end up getting composted if I didn't partake.
I've been hosting for 4 1/2 years now, and yes, things have changed a bit, similarly to some of those comments above, eg. I too, block out a day after guests depart my larger unit as it takes me 5 hours to give it a routine clean (particularly when dogs have been part of the group), and it helps to have the luxury of breathing space to do things at my own pace and get a few extra things done that end to end bookings don't allow for.. there's ALWAYS something else that could be improved upon! We bought a small 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom cottage on 2 acres, specifically because it really leant itself beautifully to becoming a B and B, and we always knew we would be adding our own residence onto it somehow or other.
It only required some minor structural alternations (a dividing door added in the hallway to block off the end which we initially designated as our private guest suite, but which later became our 2nd, smaller unit, or an extension to the main unit for larger groups), removing a built in robe and moving a door in one bedroom so it was on the right side of that dividing door, changing the old fashioned multi-panelled wire-reinforced sliding shower screen with modern semi frameless glass surround... made it look so much bigger, and so much easier to clean.... and because I knew it was going to be pet-friendly, I had the screen doors modified so that we have PVC on the lower section, and the wire mesh higher up. A few scratches on a PVC panel are nowhere near as ugly or unkempt looking as frayed and torn screen mesh where dogs have torn through in their anxiety to be on the other side of this unfamiliar doorway!
I know we are encouraged when we start out, to offer lower rates to start getting some bookings and feedback/reviews to lure more guests, but as I do all the cleaning myself I was not going to be cleaning for so many hours for the love of it, I had to be making enough to show some financial reward along with the pleasure of all these new acquaintances. I used to bake home made biscuits from an old family recipe, but I just don't have the time any more, but still do offer a lot of goodies in the pantry, on top of the guests' preferred types of bread, milk, fruit juice and cereals and whether butter or margarine, and in the case of the larger (2 bedroom) unit, bacon eggs mushrooms and tomatoes as well, for the first day, if desired, all included in the price...And if I know my guests are staying for a special reason like an anniversary, I will include a small bottle of bubbly and strawberries/chocolates at no extra cost, taking my profit level down even further! So, I would be paying guests to stay with me if I let the price drop from what I was told was a very reasonable opening price range, and I have hardly raised them since, certainly very little compared to my local contemporaries! I have a long time regular guest who is the wife of an Anglican minister up north of Sydney. They come down periodicallly to visit family, and always bring a gift of some kind. This year, I ordered some of her very yummy mini Christmas puddings, enough to share with guests staying over Christmas, and a couple for us to enjoy as well. She makes them to sell at their Christmas fetes of course, so my order is added to the 'mix'... it's always a nice touch to be able to add home made goodies, and I provide some of my own home made cumquat jam. It is the little extra touches that are often appreciated, but I often give my guests my own private rating out of 10, and it's great to go back some time later when those guests book again, and see that after their first visit, I had rated them 12/10! A very good sign indeed! Happily, I do have several of these!
I´m starting, I still sweat if I have a review 4 stars i take it way too personal.
I almost cry when (by mistake) one of my guests left my a one star in cleaning, I did raise my prices a little bit, i think i´m getting better at reading my guests.
i´m looking forward to see how i find my bounderies.