Your Business

Remote Hosting Tips for your BnB

8 Nov , 2013  

Remote Hosting Tips

Last week, an article on needwant.com about someone who bought an apartment specifically to rent out on Airbnb went viral. It’s very interesting and there are a lot of golden nuggets of knowledge for any bnb host. Basically, the blogger, Jon Wheatley bought an apartment last 2012 and documented how it all went. He was managing the room remotely so he had to find ways to make tasks easier and automated. Think about those possibilities! Whether you are a host who wants to manage your own accommodation hands on or do it remotely as well, here are some great takeaways most hosts should also find useful.

1. Get a reliable cleaner

Jon had to do things remotely and of course, cleaning and managing his place would be impossible if he did not hire a suitable property manager or cleaner. According to him, he found one on Craigslist and the payment per month was $200. It covered “unlimited” cleanings which sounds like a sweet deal. The problem here of course is finding someone on Craigslist that you can trust with your apartment keys. Apparently, this cleaner eventually took over the management of the entire listing and was tasked with communicating with the guests. Sounds too good to be true but it can be possible if you are lucky enough.

2. Buy more sets of linen, towels, etc than you think you would need

This makes the cleaning process less hectic and also the cleaner (or you) can do a large batch of washing at one time without having to worry about the replacements between guest check ins. Pretty simple but not a lot of hosts actually do this. There are some of those I know who only buy two to three sets! That can be quite tricky, especially in case of an accident. You will need to replace linen or towels right away.

3. Buy a Nest and a Lockitron

For those who do not know what a Nest is, it is sort of a programmable learning thermostat that has many features to help save you money from energy bills. You can turn your heating or cooling on and off remotely, but best of all, it has a feature called “auto away” that shuts off the air conditioning or heating if it senses that no one is inside the room for a certain amount of time. It’s brilliant and will save you a lot of money in the long run especially since some guests forget turning off heating and cooling. You can also use it remotely via your smartphone in order to determine whether your guest has already arrived in the house/room or not yet.

Remote hosting tips

A Lockitron on the other hand, is a device that lets you control your home lock remotely. It also has a nifty feature that lets your guests’ smartphone gain the ability to unlock your door for a specified period of time. Meaning you can leave the key inside the house and not have to do a key exchange anymore! Those times when guest flights get delayed will no longer be a logistical bedlam where you end up wasting hours and hours just to wait for the guest.

How to manage your room remotely

Your Business

All About Airbnb Fees For Cleaning

21 Oct , 2013  

All About Airbnb Cleaning Fees

Calculating Airbnb Cleaning Fees

If you are a host in Airbnb, you will want to have full knowledge of all Airbnb fees and also have full control for setting and editing your cleaning fees. This can be done if you go to the pricing settings. Just remember to take account of all the possible extra expenses you may need to pay for getting your space squeaky clean before your new guests arrive.

Set your cleaning fee

Also, be aware that cleaning fees are added automatically. They show right up to reservations. This is sometimes not the case for those other hosts, who want to give out special offers which are supposed to be all-inclusive (this is something you might want to do as well and will be discussed below). Generally speaking, the cleaning fee should be a part of the total for the reservation and will not be returned to the guest at the end of his or her reservation period. In short, you as a host will get it at the payout at the end of the reservation. Another thing you have to remember is that the cleaning fee should not be charged per night, it should be a one-time fee for the entirety of the guest’s stay. Also take note that when guest search through listings, they will see the cleaning fee reflect as inclusive in the entire rate.

Figure out the total price for your guests to see

The price that is visible to your Airbnb guest, how is it calculated? Simple: it is derived by dividing the declared cleaning fee by how many nights they stayed for the duration of their reservation. Then you add that number to your usual or declared nightly rate. To make it simple, here is a sample.

Say that your guest reserved your room for a total of 5 nights and your listing rate is 120 dollars per night. Also, lets assume that your cleaning fee is set at 30 dollars. The resulting equation would look like this:

30/5 + 120

Then multiply that again by the number of nights and you have:

630 dollars (note that this is before your service fee)
Airbnb fees for cleaning

So there you have it. That should give you a very good picture of the total price and how this will turn off or maybe turn on potential guests who search through the listings for cheaper rooms. Before they send in their official reservation for your room, your potential guests will see the cleaning fee listed separately only in the total breakdown.

This is very important and will definitely help you gauge your guest or client behavior. Hosts with brand spanking new listings will find that using this insight will be very important in determining not only how attractive your listing is for its value, but also whether your cleaning fee is worth it, too high, etc.

One last tip, those hosts who do not feel like putting in cleaning fees would do well to head Airbnb’s suggestion for a security deposit. After all, cleaning expenses can be expensive tedious and you never know what kind of mess a guest is capable of doing to your room and linen. Then you should add an explanation in your house rules that guests should keep the cleanliness by themselves.

Now that you know these tips, we hope you have great luck with your Airbnb fees calculating and hosting experience!

Your Business

Similar Websites: Airbnb Alternatives

9 Oct , 2013  

Airbnb Alternatives

Websites Like Airbnb

The success of Airbnb is huge and this is why so many airbnb alternatives popped up out of the blue. It is considerably, a very young internet company and yet it has risen in ranks and is now worth billions. At the same time, it has become an industry disruptor since it has carved out a huge niche which does not seem to show signs of waning as it is estimated that almost a thousand new listings appear in Airbnb daily. And in the internet, we know that every enviable business will be copied. There are so many other websites that have sprung out as clones to Airbnb and many hosts like us would want to take advantage of them. But be warned, these clones might not be as satisfactory as the original. Here are some of these alternative sites like Airbnb.

Top Airbnb Clones

Airbnb Alternative

Wimdu

The thing about talking about Wimdu and many of the other clones of Airbnb is that they are so similar to the original that describing their similarities is almost useless. The website pretty much works the same: host your room or house, stay in private accommodations all over the world, etc. Wimdu is probably the best competitor of Airbnb and it is backed by the same German based businessmen who create clones for various other internet businesses such as Groupon, etc. It has over 235,000 + properties in over 100 countries and 100,000 + registered users. This is of course, still a far second to Airbnb’s numbers.

9flats

9Flats

This is another blatant Airbnb clone, 9Flats was started by another German internet businessman Stephan Uhrenbacher. Even the design, look, and feel, are the same as Airbnb. 9Flats ranks as the third biggest space sharing website, below Airbnb and Wimdu. To date, there are around 50,000 members and 30,000 hosts in 100 countries all over the globe.

 

roomorama-logo

Roomorama

Roomorama has slightly different color themes. It functions the same way and has 70,000 registered properties but no info on the number of active guests around the world. It got its funding from PROFounders, Thrive Capital, Lerer Media, and Jose Marin. They also bought one of their competitors Lofty at the start of their roll.

What most hosts say about these competitors?
It may seem unethical to copy business models, but that issue is moot. We can argue over it endlessly. The fact is that so many businesses are created by way of copying an already proven formula. That does not mean that these other companies are not trustworthy. The truth is that as hosts, we probably want to take advantage of all of these platforms so that our vacation rentals could have the most business possible. But the problem is the amount of effort to be put in setting up and maintaining listings in other sites. Is it worth the time and effort? For example, I know many people who have tried the biggest competitor, Wimdu, and their feedback is that it is way inferior to Airbnb in terms of the number of requests they receive. Also, Wimdu tends to push you to accept all bookings, I’ve heard instances of aggressive email replies and threaten hosts who do not want to accept bookings (even from guests they don’t trust). They’ll imply that not accepting and replying to bookings will mean less visibility and even account deactivation. This is most likely because they need to get their community up and running faster.

There are plenty more clones out there, but the consensus is that the original is the best. However, Wimdu has a more German and Euro centric market which means if those are your locales, they might also be good choices. Getting the most of all these free airbnb alternatives is great, just make sure you are your effort’s worth.

Your Business

Why Are There So Few Airbnb Bad Reviews?

9 Aug , 2013  

Airbnb bad reviews

If you’ve been through dozens of Airbnb profiles, you would notice that there aren’t many Airbnb bad reviews. For host who want to try their hand at using Airbnb, this fact may raise an eyebrow. Airbnb users themselves will not be able to hide, alter, or remove any reviews on their profiles. Are the reviews being hidden? Are Airbnb guests just too timid to leave scathing criticism? Many people have been scratching their heads over this question. Of course it’s likely that there is no one absolute answer. This is why we decided to compile all the most plausible explanations and lay them out to you one by one.

People are Afraid to Leave Bad Reviews

Some guests might just find it awkward, especially since the host has their contact number. So if a guest’s stay was so-so, they wouldn’t really bother dwelling on negatives if there are many positives anyway. Also, some people might find it awkward to mention even just tiny constructive criticisms in their review. This is because, more often than not, they would already have some sort of friendly rapport with the host they stayed with. A lot of foreigners would feel immense gratitude to just have the opportunity to stay in an affordable New York room thinking, “they let me inside their home, I should be grateful”. In short, writing a critical review that contains bad points is a hassle. Also, leaving a bad review could get you a bad review in return. However, if a guest had a truly horrible experience leaving him or her no desire to go back to a particular host in the future, none of these will stop a bad review from popping up.

Some Hosts Delete Their Property Listing

Then they create a new one, just to get rid of the bad review. It’s a technique some people employ so their “new” house will have a fresh and clear slate. But it’s not foolproof. The bad reviews will still be visible as “user” reviews. However, there are some guests who only check the reviews for the property only.

Most Bookings in Airbnb Are Positive

One just can’t discount the fact that maybe, just maybe, almost all Airbnb experiences have been positive. Perhaps their system really works and hosts really do get motivated to provide top quality. Perhaps most people’s lack of faith in humanity needs to be reconsidered. Whatever the case, it is not impossible. Of course if you search online, you will find horror stories. This is because horror stories are much juicier and therefore are more likely to get shared around. Also, if you had a good Airbnb experience, you might not have to rant about it. But if you had a bad one, you will really want to rant about it online. So even if only 10 percent out of a hundred Airbnb experiences are negative, that 10 will be very visible.

Airbnb Hides Negative Reviews (?)

This one is controversial. Does Airbnb delete negative reviews? They do. As stated in Airbnb’s review guidelines:

“Airbnb’s default position is not to delete, censor, or edit reviews. However, there are rare cases in which we may take the extraordinary step of removing a review or disallowing review responses, according to the review guidelines found in our policy center. We reserve the right to remove portions of reviews that violate the guidelines.”

And just what are the “rare cases” when Airbnb will remove bad reviews?

-        The Review Goes Against Airbnb’s Content Guidelines (violations include messages that have: spam, endorsement of illegal or violent acts; personally identify a user’s full name and his contact details; religious, social, political commentary; content used for extortion; and false, deceptive or slanderous content)

-        The Person Leaving the Review Has Been Suspended Due to Violations or Any Safety Reasons

-        A Legal or Law Enforcement Request is Given to Airbnb

So this means that if your review is false, was used for extortion (a guests tells you he will give you a bad review if you don’t give them their money back), or is “deceptive”, then it can be removed. Now, some people disagree or feel that this policy is a loophole for Airbnb to remove negative comments and promote business. However, the fact is that the policy is reasonable and necessary for keeping order and stopping the misuse of reviews.

All in all, there can be many explanations for why there are so few negative reviews. In the end, these explanations are probably all true in their own way.

Your Business

Top Ways To Be More Visible in Airbnb Searches

9 Aug , 2013  

Airbnb Searches

So, you tried Airbnb searches for your new profile and you found that your competitor, who is at the outskirts of the location you searched for, is ranked higher than you. You think “that’s not fair! I’m at the center of the place”. That’s because there are certain factors that affect the algorithm of Airbnb search results (the algorithm is what determines how high or low you listings are ranked). There are a number of factors that gives or takes away points for your profile’s visibility. These include the number of nights you have already booked, the number of ratings and reviews, etc.  Well, if you are just starting out and you want to make your profile more visible, there are still things you can do. Just follow these tops tips.

Accept Short Time Guests

It does not make sense to accept short time guests over long staying guests. Short time stays are much more of a hassle to manage compared to long stays which will give you maximized use for the linen. Long term guests also mean you more money. But for those hosts who are just starting out, it will be get long term stay requests. Guests who are going for a long and expensive stay will want to make reservations in a place with a higher reputation and reliability. So, go for one or two night renters. And this strategy has the added bonus of getting you more reviews, faster. Additionally, this will give you points with Airbnb algorithm since (at the moment of writing) they count the number of guests you have received without giving much weight to the length of stay.

Leave Guest Reviews ASAP

Reviews are the backbone of any best selling profile and you want your guests to leave you good reviews. But many new guests don’t bother to leave reviews. And even if they do, some give you short one liners like: “I had a good stay”. You don’t want that. So how do you get your guests to leave you a full review? Simple, give them one yourself. After they see you giving them a full review, the natural reaction is for ­reciprocity (guilt) to kick in. Giving them a review as soon as you can will also serve as a great reminder for them to give you one back as soon as possible. That is, before they get swept back into their busy lives. Of course if you have just recently created your profile, and you don’t even have a single review yet, you will get a hard time getting guests who could leave reviews in the first place. In that case you should -

Get Your Friends To Review You

Get your friends who have Airbnb accounts or ask them to create one. Ask them to give you a positive review. Getting the first couple of reviews that will attract the rest of the guests can be the hardest part of the game. It’s understandable that hosts starting out will find this first hurdle the hardest. Just a few reviews from friends will work wonders and attract your first real guests who will in turn give you your first real reviews. Just don’t forget to treat your friends to lunch.

Complete Your Airbnb Profile ASAP

Would you rent to a guest who has no reviews, no picture, or little information in their profile? Of course not. Will guests rent your room if you don’t have a completed profile? They won’t either. This common sense rule seems so simple but not everyone follows it to the letter. You have to complete your profile as soon as possible. Not only does this give you points in the algorithm ranking, it will also help guests trust you. Moreover, make your profile information substantial. Write more about yourself and your space and when you do. Revise and review what you wrote; give a great effort. A half-hearted attempt will show everyone a half-hearted rental business.

Use the Airbnb’s Free Professional Photographer

So, you are a professional photographer and you take beautiful pictures? Or maybe you want to do this part yourself because you want to get things right just the way you envision it. Well, even if you do take mind blowing pictures, you should still consider using Airbnb’s professional photographer. Aside from the fact that it is a free service and that the professional photographers generally do a great job, you also get to have the watermark “Airbnb.com Verified Photo” which helps soothe some fears for first time guests. At least they know for sure that your amazing loft is real. After that, you can upload your own mind blowing photos.

Update Your Calendar For No Reason

Here’s a useful thing to do at the start of your Airbnb hosting. Block out any date in the far future even if you don’t really have anything planned on those days. Then, later on, unblock those dates. What this seemingly useless exercise does is that it signals to the Airbnb algorithm that you are managing your calendar and will therefore give you points to help you rank higher in the searches. This is a great trick when starting out and when your calendar isn’t being used much since you don’t have any guests coming in. Afterwards, just make sure that your calendar is up to date and active.

Respond To Everyone

Responding to both reservation requests and messages give you algorithm points. So do not get lazy with those replies. Even if your guest replies to you with “Ok, I got it”, reply just to acknowledge that you have received their message, however short.

List Your Neighborhood

Tag your neighborhood even if you think people won’t be searching for it. You should, no matter how obscure your neighborhood is. Remember, you never know just when a guest will type that in the search bar. And while you are at it, be as detailed as you can be.

So there you have it. Remember that Airbnb looks at your activity during the past 30 days so if you don’t do well in a certain month, don’t worry. You can recover next month. This also means that you have to have regular activity. Just keep at it and be as great a host as you can be.

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Airbnb Guest Refund Policy Made Easy

9 Aug , 2013  

Airbnb Guest Refund Policy

There are times when a host will have to refund a guest, but do you know the Airbnb Guest Refund Policy?. But what exactly are the grounds for a guest to be able to say that he or she should justly be refunded? According to Airbnb, the accommodations “should meet minimum quality standards regarding safety, access, and cleanliness, and they should be consistent with the description provided by the Host.” Airbnb will refund a host who has a “travel issue” involving these factors. This sounds pretty clear at first, but when you have money involved; some gray areas will always come to light. It can be hard to digest the full refund policy of Airbnb so we have outlined here all you need to know as a host.

So what is a “travel issue”? There are 3 types:

  • Host Cancels 24 hours or less before the date the reservation is supposed to start or the host does not provide any reasonable way to access the accommodation.
  • The actual accommodation is not the same or “materially inaccurate” as what was specified in the listing description.
  • The accommodation is not reasonably sanitary as was described or health hazards are present.

Number 1 is clear, but number 2 needs some more clarification. And number 3 is quite broad. When can a guest reasonably say that your space is dirty? Is an indelible wine stain you tried to wash off many times at the edge of your linen grounds for your guest to get a refund? What if they saw a cockroach? Of course things like that can happen even to the best and cleanest hosts, but it might be grounds for a refund could it not? According to Airbnb, the accommodation must meet “minimum quality standards”. What is that? Let’s get into the details:

Travel issue 1

This does not require much clarification. When the host cancels, the guest should get a refund. However, the second part might benefit from clarification. What does it mean for a host to provide reasonable access? For example, the host forgets to give the guest the keys to the house. What about transportation? Does this mean the host has to provide a car? Well of course not. However, many hosts do provide transportation especially in inaccessible places. It makes good business sense. So in the highly unlikely scenario that there are no taxis or car rentals in the area, that might be grounds. Another, uncommon scenario: the house is totally inaccessible because the roads leading to it are blocked for some reason.

Travel issue 2

Basically, if a host lies about his accommodation description, then this might be grounds for a guest refund, especially if the host listed certain amenities that should be part of the “package” which the guest paid for. For example, it is advertised that there is a pool and it turns out that pool is not usable. Or, perhaps it’s listed that there is a pool but instead the guest finds a hole in the ground filled with water. Lying is always bad. But there are also unforeseeable problems that can happen at the last minute (ei. problems with the pool). Things like that can happen so best be as transparent as you can be and tell the guest beforehand. But, probably some of the more common complaints are about bed sizes or lack of clean linen and towels. It would of course be a hassle for two travelling buddies expecting two beds and find that what the accommodation can provide them for now is a queen sized bed. Uncomfortable beds on the other hand, probably won’t be easy for guests to prove as grounds for refund. But it will probably show up in their review.

Travel issue 3

Here is where we get down and dirty on the details. First, let’s talk about what’s obvious. Health hazards and safety risks are easy to determine. For example, if there are loose dogs in the area, or maybe there is no lock at the door, then these may be safety risks. Airbnb will be the judge in the end but just use common sense. What about the existence of vermin? They might not be immediate health risks but they can technically be grounds for a refund. An unsanitary house with unwashed linen, lots of dust and or foul smells could also be grounds.

What does it mean to be unsanitary? What if it is just one roach and it has never happened before? Does the guest have to count a certain number roaches before they can get a refund? Of course nobody wants a roach in their room. Some guests will be reasonable as long as the host can talk to them reasonably. If a place has vermin, it is grounds for a refund, provided that the guest has evidence such as photos. So if by accident, one cockroach finds its way into the accommodation, there’s a good chance the guest will still be ok with the room as long as the host is proactive (kill it yourself if you are there). There’s also a good chance it won’t be photographed. But if you have an infestation, that’s another story. And the guest will have plenty of chances to take a picture too.

Again, the minimum quality standard is something people can agree on. There may exist picky and highly reactive, frantic guests of course. In the end, it will be up to Airbnb to act as judge with any of these situations. Airbnb will also be the one to determine how much is going to be refunded. But always remember, most problems can be smoothed out by reasonable talk. If you have wine stain in your curtain which you meant to replace but have not yet been able to, just explain it kindly to your guest. Most will be graceful and find it ok. But if you don’t tell them that, they might think that red blotch in their room is something much more gross than wine.