I have to get this off my chest. I have seen several posts now which have discussed how an older home might not have updated features and that hosts of these homes need to "warn" guests. As an architecture buff and someone into historic preservation, allow me to impart a little information.
First, there is a "modern" (read: new construction) bias with some guests and even some hosts on Airbnb. Not to paint with a broad brush but many Americans and Asian guests seem to subscribe to the idea that if a place wasn't built in the last 5 years its old and somehow inferior. There are plenty of spots for these guests to book to meet their criteria.
For the guest who may be on the fence, please note that just because a house or guest spot may be older, doesn't mean it is not updated for modern life. Many older homes are fully renovated which involves installing systems to increase personal comfort like central air conditioning and heating, or the stuff of HGTV envy like updated appliances, stone or easy clean counters, deep sinks (the trend toward the farmhouse or Belfast sink is actually based in a very old design), big closets, more than one bathroom, etc. etc. In our listing we even have the coveted "open plan" living/kitchen/dining. A thoughtful renovation of an older space can bring it up to modern living standards. And a host can add things like new furniture, smart TVs, up -to-date bedding, to to further complete the transformation. I have seen some amazing, careful renovations during my Airbnb journeys. There is definitely something to be said for combining the charm of an older space with the touches that make 2019 life easier.
The ONLY thing I would say about a renovated older home that sometimes can be a deal breaker is that they often have stairs. Sometimes these stairs are steep. It can be very difficult to redesign stair cases in an old house just based on the footprint of where those stairs need to go. Moving a staircase can be cost prohibitive. If a guest is stair averse, it may be best to look for a one level accommodation whether it be modern or older.
I love love love old houses. In some cities that is pretty much all there is to chose from!
My listings are all located in a block of older houses. The have been renovated many years ago. Instead of putting in "modern" stuff, a lot of the original design is restored. And all the facilities are basic, but sufficient for the type of guests i try to attract. It is also reflected in the price. I do not "warn" guests, as they can see all the pictures and decide for themself if it meets there needs.
@Emiel1 I think pictures tell the story. I have seen hosts advise others to "warn" guests if their house is not modern and it just seems silly. Many guests can actually be attracted to older homes. Historic spaces can often be incredibly lovely. And many of us seek them out when we stay. To
Imply such a space needs a disclaimer is to say there's something wrong with it
@Laura2592 You must mean me! -I had Iranian guests give me 3*, implying it was because the house was old. I've had other Asian guests say it was old, & not in a good way! My ex mother-in-law, Singapore Chinese, said we should knock it down & build a new house! I've seen reviews of other places where people have complained about creaking floorboards, single glazed sash windows & other old features. (Those of us who 'warn' in our listings probably do it in response to someone who complained, in the hope of only getting happy guests in future who give 5*)
Then again, I once had some young Europeans visit, (forget which country) who went up the stairs & exclaimed "It's like Hogwarts!" - Praise indeed!
@Helen350 you weren't the only one. I have seen this a lot on the boards where hosts imply that a historic home is somehow inferior. I think a filter for the age or style of property would be super helpful for guests to avoid those spaces that make them uncomfortable.
We fully disclose our home's age and have a LOT of photos. Nonetheless we have had guests who comment its not "new." But we have had more guests who love the fact that there is a lot of history (our place is an old school house) and its been carefully updated. So if a guest can't figure out that they are booking a historic place from the listing, I am not sure a further warning will help.
@Laura2592 I personally love older buildings (art deco, graded ones in particular- I have been eyeing one up specifically for ages, it’s been “‘mine” since I was 15) the finer details on the actual construction, around the fire places, the stairs- we always have had exterior stairs and never interior stairs and this is an absolute personal dream of mine. But as mentioned these were made in a different time and maintenance can be expensive- especially with wooden features, I have mainly seen more prominently surrounding the window area of these types of build.
But if money were no objection I would buy an older building, maintain the more traditional features but look into in cooperating the more modern sustainable features available. I don’t know how feasible this would be in London but you never know... technology is forever evolving And sustainability does not need to mean industrial either.
Regarding the guest view:
It’s an Airbnb stay, not a real estate investment and as long as the building has functional features I really do not mind when travelling but that is more because I only plan to sleep there and maybe take a shower.
Some guests i feel over romanticise how their stay will be, including their rental space and this is partly due to lack of managing their expectations combined with airbnb’s marketing story.... come live your holiday like a local, they’re your friend first and host second. Don’t get me wrong when I can be both I will try as I am greatFul they trusted me with part of their holiday, to meet them and for their business but sometimes answering questions like why London is so expensive or how the local transportation system works etc is very tiresome especially after 18 hour days (busy period) when I think my daily food intake has consisted of 1x strawberry. 🙈
But that would be great- to be able to filter out by period of building, Victorian, Art Deco, Georgian, colonial etc, and internal design- modern/minimalist, vintage, boho chic etc
@Yadira22 oh my gosh I LOVE that idea! Filter the age of the building and the architectural period....I would be all over it. And it would help guests who really only want the newest builds to find those as well.
I sometimes feel that our guests have mistaken our place for a property up for sale on an episode of "House Hunters" instead of a short term stay. Its not going to be exactly what they have at home or would do in their dream space. But I draw the line at griping that a place is "old" when its been carefully renovated/restored. Living in an older home doesn't mean you are without hot water or going to the river to wash your clothes. They can be quite comfortable.
@Laura2592 The house I owned in Canada, where I lived for 25 years and raised my daughters, was almost 100 years old. Actually, about 50 years previous, it had been 2 separate houses, and one was moved from elsewhere and attached to the existing house. I bought the place for a steal because it needed such extensive work- it was basically sitting in the dirt on rotted wood foundations- if you put a marble in the center of the floor, it instantly rolled into a corner. The plumbing and electrical were ancient and the heat consisted of one old oil-burning stove and some also ancient propane baseboard heaters. Everything still had 40's paint job- industrial green, putrid peach or sicky beige lead-based paint. The stairs had disgusting old lino runner tacked to it, some embossed pattern, no less, so about 80 years of grime had collected there. Tiny, grotty galley kitchen, no insulation other than old decomposing newspaper.
Luckily, there were a number of govt, grants available at the time- One was called the residential rehabilitation grant and paid for things like having the place jacked up (at one point in that process the original 2 houses started to separate!) and a proper foundation built, putting in new plumbing and wiring. Ther was another insulation grant that enabled me to put real insulation in the walls.
The rest was renoed little by little over the time I lived there. There were some nice surprises- after removing that lino runner on the stairs, and sanding the old paint off, the stairs turned out to made of beautiful yellow cedar. That they were worn down in the center just added to the beauty, for me- it was evidence of several generations of families having lived in the house.
The hardwood floors also sanded down well. The back wall was pushed out so the kitchen could be enlarged, and the wall between the kitchen and living room removed, to create a more open concept. All the 3 bedrooms upstairs and the one downstairs basically remained the same, aside from drywalling over the old shiplap that had sevaral layers of old wallpaper on it, and building in loft beds for the kids, as the bedrooms, apart from mine, were all rather small.
In doing all the renos, we stayed as much as possible to the original design and materials of the house- it never ended up looking "modern", but simply more clean and functional and many of th old stuff that looked terrible when I bought the house, lookd great after a spruce-up. I even re-installed the built-in ironing board cupboard (remember those?) after the walls got dry-walled. And I left 2 of the walls in my bedroom the original shiplap.
What was curious is that after owning the house for several years, a newer friend of mine, after coming to the house for the first time, told me that her aunt used to live there- had lived there for 40 years (I had bought it from a person who had owned it for a few years after her aunt) and my friend had played at the house with her cousins when she was a child. So when one of my daughter's classes was given an assignment to pick something in local history to do a report on, my daughter chose to research our house. There were some photos of it in the local museum (when the original builders and owners, well-known city family, lived there) and my daughter interviewed my friend's aunt, who had lots of stories and info. I had her over for tea one day- she was about 70 years old and she had tears in her eyes when she saw the house- she was so happy to see what I had done with it, while leaving so much of th original features- she kept looking around and said "My husband built that cupboard", "Oh, my husband and boys laid that floor in the living room". And there were tons of trees and plants in the garden that she had planted herself, 40 years previous.
This obsession these days with "modern" is kind of sad to me- things with no history whatsover. I see this attitude with my oldest daughter, who keeps up with the house decor trends and likes modern stuff (although she also likes it to be comfortable and practical). She isn't at all interested in any of the family heirloom stuff- to her, it's just old, and nothing for her has sentimental value.
@Sarah977 what a beautiful tale and thanks so much for sharing it here. It sounds like you did what we try to do...keep the original features (which were often made of materials that are superior/not available today) while improving the functionality for a present day lifestyle.
We have reclaimed hickory cabinets in out Airbnb kitchen. They were built by the first owner of our cottage after it was decommisioned as a one room school house. They are rustic and look great in the space. One early guest commented to me privately that was should " think about a kitchen renovation with modem cabinets" and helpfully suggested Ikea. Now is there's one thing that would look absurd in our space it's an Ikea kitchen! We love the handmade cabinets and they work perfectly. New can be the death of one of a kind.
Here's one photo- that long skinny cupboard was the fold-away ironing board that got sanded down to the original wood. The front door with the stained glass was also original, just had to be stripped down. The wall between the living room and kitchen/dining area was a bearing wall, as was the back wall of the kitchen, but we got beautiful old beams from an old building that was being demolished in town to hold up the ceiling. You can see the new kitchen drawers in the background- definitely not Ikea- built from salvaged red and yellow cedar and built by my ex. And that upright beam had marks with dates and names from my kids and their friends measuring their growth over the years. One of my friend's daughters, who I had known since she was born, came to help me for a couple days when I was fixing the house up to sell- she was about 20 at the time and she was so excited when she realized her height mark from when she was 3 years old was still there.
Huh! I didn't even know this was a 'thing'. Granted, I am brand new at all this (1 month to be exact), so I don't know much. But I have an old Bungalow in a small, Midwest town that I thought I would be doing good if I could keep rented for 3 weekends/month. It has been booked most of the month (hurrah), and all of my guests have approved according to their reviews. The first ones said it made them feel like they had stepped into grandma's house and they felt 'loved'. I say if that is how they felt, I can't get any more perfect then my old Bungalow dressed up like Grandma's.
@Laura2592 Even real estate agents, who should be hip to the fact that not everyone is looking for some modern box to buy, don't get it. When I went to put that Canadian house on the market, the agent told me I should repaint the whole inside white and that there was no way I'd get what I wanted to list it for because it was "an old house". She wanted to list it for $20,000 less than I wanted to. The very first people who came to look at it said they'd been looking for a house like that for 2 years and put an offer in right away. We negotiated, and I got $15, 000 more than what the agent wanted me to list it at. And one of the first things the buyers said was "We love the colors!"
Those buyers have done a bunch more work to the house, things I couldn't afford to do, but they also have preserved the original feel of the place and used salvaged materials as much as possible.
As a guest, the first thing I look for is a place with character and charm. I love quirky old houses with unique features. My last stay was in a house constructed in the late 1800's. The floors were newly refinished but creaked in a few spots. The kitchen had new, stainless steel appliances but original pressed tin tiles on the ceiling. Old houses like this are a treasure to be enjoyed and appreciated.