I have two more lessons learned, and I’ve saved the biggest ones for last! These are a little bit unexpected, perhaps, and I’m curious to hear your thoughts. If you’re an Airbnb host or a guest, what do you think about these ideas? Have you experienced these issues firsthand?
I was dead-set against this one, but John insisted. And now I have to admit he was right! Probably 80% of our guests brought their dogs. We had a few very minor issues — one dog chewed the armrest on one of our outdoor cedar chairs, and we had to replace the rug under the dining room table a few times — but the vast majority of dogs and their owners caused no problems at all. We provided poop bags, dog shampoo, and a food bowl. We also tucked some older blankets in a closet and asked guests to cover the furniture if their dogs liked to jump on the couch or bed, and in a year and a half of hosting we had no problems with dogs staining the couch or beds.
When we were building the place, my mom had a stroke of genius and encouraged us to set up the outdoor spigot with hot water as well as cold water. I’d never seen that before, but it was relatively cheap (around $200, I think), and it allowed folks to use warm water when bathing their dogs outside. This definitely cut down on dirt and mud inside our place!
When we told our family and friends we were opening an Airbnb, it seemed like everyone had a nightmare story to share: guests who stole from the host, threw huge parties on the property, or brought ill-behaved animals who destroyed the house. One person even told us their guests cooked meth at their Airbnb — what a crazy story! Every time I got worked up about these stories, John reminded me that most guests would be just like us, and that’s what we should expect. We decided to go into hosting with positive expectations and to think of it as hosting our friends. And, lo and behold, it worked! After a year and half of hosting, we don’t have any nightmare stories. A few times some towels went missing, but we figured maybe someone had an accident and the towels got stained, or maybe they packed them in their suitcase by mistake. We had a group of college girls who spilled some drinks in the hot tub and ruined a kettle by leaving it on the stove, but none of that was intentional.
I must confess that this type of thinking doesn’t come naturally to me! This was all John–he’s the one who convinced me to think this way–but it turned out to be a really positive way to approach hosting.
This lesson hit home this past August, when I was an Airbnb guest. I took my two daughters to California, and I splurged on a really nice Airbnb for the last two nights of our trip. After I booked the place, the owners sent a long list of rules and asked me to verify that I’d read them all. It certainly didn’t make me feel welcome! Months later, on the day of our reservation, we arrived at the house after midnight. I’d been driving most of the day (which the hosts knew because they’d called me several times that day), and the kids and I were exhausted. Apparently there were two rental sites in the house, which I hadn’t remembered from the rules, and the doors weren’t labeled. We started trying to open the wrong door, and the owners called my phone yelling, “Didn’t you read the instructions?” (I’d read them when I booked the place months earlier, but I had forgotten that there were two units.) They must have been watching us on a camera because they called back two more times that night. Once they called to accuse us of not removing our shoes at the door. (We did remove our shoes, but we did it inside the house, on the welcome mat, not on the doorstep.) Then they called to tell me that I was supposed to lock the property’s exterior gate every time I exited. (For reference, I’d parked about five feet from the gate–I could almost touch the gate and the car at the same time–and I was taking the kids’ many bags out of the car and stacking them inside the gate so I could later carry them up to the house.) My interactions with the hosts that night really soured the whole experience. Later, I realized that I didn’t know how to work the A/C, but I didn’t want to call them to ask any questions. Every time we went outside for the next two days, I felt like we were being watched. To make matters even worse, on the last day of our stay they asked when we were going to leave because they had other guests checking in that afternoon. I told them we planned to stay until the agreed-upon checkout time, but then their cleaning lady arrived 45 minutes before the checkout time and stood outside the door as we packed up and carried our bags to the car. Sheesh!
Needless to say, that is not the experience we want for our guests. We want them to feel welcomed and appreciated. We want to provide more amenities than they’re expecting so they’re pleasantly surprised. We want them to relax!
We created a welcome package to email to guests a week or so before their stay. We included a few house rules (e.g., no smoking), but for the most part we tried to stick to things they might not know already. For example, the local fire chief didn’t allow outdoor fires until after 7 pm (when the wind usually died down), and we noted that in the guide book. I used a free program called Canva to create a manual with information like the wifi password, directions for some of the complicated appliances, and local hikes/restaurants/activities. A few guests specifically mentioned the guide book in their reviews, which made me very happy.
Now it’s your turn! What lessons have you learned as an Airbnb host or guest? Let’s learn from each other!
And I’d especially love to hear your ideas so I can incorporate them into our next hosting project. More info on that coming very soon!