If you run a short-term rental business then the chances are that it creates a certain amount of stress. Or it may be that you’re thinking of starting listing on Airbnb or a similar site and you’re wondering how you can minimise the stress of running your own business.
I’ve written a lot about hosting because I’ve been doing it, in one form one another, since the 1980s. That’s a long time. And I truly believe that I’m a relaxed host who doesn’t get stressed. So I’m writing this, not to say ‘do it my way’ but simply to show you what works for me. Take it with a pinch of salt or take it to heart, it’s up to you.
These ideas will make you a more relaxed host, however.
SET A REALISTIC PRICE
If you don’t set a realistic price for your rental, I can guarantee you’re going to be stressed. For a start, you’ll be penny-pinching. If you set a low basic price and then have add-ons (fees for extra people, fees for pets, etc.) then many guests will see this as being unethical. Showing a low price then have it stacked up with extras isn’t viewed well by potential guests, similar to the way that most people feel cheated by hotel resort fees. You’re going to be stressed chasing those extra fees. Read more.
Be sure to add up every single cost of hosting. You can’t set an accurate price that will make you money without this information. There are plenty of costs that you might not immediately think of so work hard to make sure your sums are correct and that you’re not losing money. A surprising number of hosts are.
Be sure to realise that many items will need to be bought and replaced on a regular basis. Take into account decorating costs, repairs and add in a good amount for contingencies. A serious problem with equipment in your rental can wipe out a large chunk of your annual profit if you’re not prepared.
HAVE STR INSURANCE
Ads for any type of insurance tend to use the phrase ‘peace of mind’ and it’s amazingly true. When you have unknown people coming into your own property, you’re going to worry if you don’t have proper insurance. Regular household insurance won’t do. It’s going to cost you more than that. After all, this is business insurance. Don’t skimp. You’ll be able to sleep at night.
When your policy is in place, be sure that you understand it thoroughly. Know exactly what it covers and what it doesn’t. Read the paperwork and the company’s website so you know exactly what the claims procedure is. Be prepared so that you won’t be caught off guard.
BELIEVE THAT PEOPLE ARE GOOD UNTIL PROVED OTHERWISE
Almost every guest is a good guest. I’m not going to pretend that there aren’t a few bad apples out there but 99.9% of the people who come to stay in your rental intend to have a good time and enjoy your place. Establish a personal connection with them. Remember too that there is no such thing as a ‘superguest‘ – your guests are just people.
If your guests are causing problems often, and this is such an unpopular suggestion whenever I air it, look at the way you are running things. You’re in charge, make sure that your clients have all the tools they need to be great guests.
ALLOW FOR YOUR TIME
Right from the very beginning, it’s a good idea to determine how much time you are prepared to devote to your business. Quite often, new hosts think that they can run their business on autopilot without it needing a great deal of input from them. Believe me, if your business is going to be successful, that’s just not the case.
Yes, it’s possible to run a business if you have a full-time job but you’ll definitely need a co-host to deal with the day-to-day aspects of running your business. But once you have determined how much time to allow every week to run your business, bear in mind that the truth might be double that amount.
Ask yourself how much your time is worth and be sure to allow for that time when making your costings and pricing your rental.
DON’T WORRY ABOUT ‘THE COMPETITION’
I have had a situation where the apartment right next door to one of our rentals was also advertising as an STR by its owner. At the same time, the apartment directly below our rental was also advertised by its owner. We were surrounded by ‘the competition’
It would have been easy to lie awake at night worrying about these. But why? On our very short street, there were, at one time, over thirty STR rentals. I can’t change that. I can’t change what ‘the competition’ charges. What I can do though is change my own attitude and make sure that my offering is the best.
It’s not the cheapest, by far, but it’s great value for money and (blowing my own trumpet here) run by a host who really cares about her guests having the very best time. Here’s an article about adding value to your rental.
FIND YOUR OWN CLIENTS
Hosts often worry that the listings websites they use aren’t sending them enough clients. They become disillusioned quickly because they’re just not getting the number of bookings they expected. This isn’t a plug and play business. I know that we more or less live our lives online but it’s simply not possible to bung a listing on a site such as Airbnb then sit back and watch the money flow in.
If you’re serious about your rental business you need to be prepared to promote it. It’s not difficult. You need to allow for your time, that’s all. And you’re far less likely to be a stressed host if you’re booked back-to-back with great guests.
There are many things you can do online to promote your business – social media is the obvious way. But think about offline ways to promote your rental too. (What a novel idea! Offline!) Mostly these involve some form of networking. In other words, simply talking to people.
UNDERSTAND THE SYSTEMS YOU USE
Whatever site or service you use to advertise your services, be sure that you understand them thoroughly. Airbnb, BookingdotCom, VRBO, etc. all have differences in their ways of operating. Understand them and be sure not to confuse them if you’re using more than one advertiser.
Read all their help files. Read their guidelines for hosts. If there’s an official or off-site forum for hosts, immerse yourself in it. If a forum seems to be a useful place, join and ask questions about anything you’re unsure of.
Do they have penalties for various host infringements? Do they take a security deposit? What is their system in the unlikely event of a dispute between host and guest? There are thousands of questions. It may seem that you’re embarking on a difficult course of study but most demanding jobs need an amount of studying and training.
DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME PRE-APPROVING
I admitted above that I have been hosting guests for many, many years. And yet despite this, I have not developed clairvoyance. Most online booking services today give the chance of a direct instant booking or allow the guest to request to book. Basically this is allowing the host to say ‘now do I want to host this person or not?’
If you have a hotel, a restaurant, a shoe shop, a nail salon, a car dealership, whatever, you don’t get to pick and choose who comes into your business, after all. Hosts these days exclaim ‘but I am hosting these people in my own home! I want to approve them first’. Remember though that in the days before Airbnb – even before the internet – many of us who ran B & B operations were hosting in our homes. And often all we knew about a guest before they landed on the doorstep was their name. And that might have been fake.
Hosts who cherry-pick their guests have just as many gripes about their guests than hosts who don’t.
BE ON THE SPOT
There’s no better way to keep an eye on what’s going on in your property than simply being there. When you meet & greet a guest a personal relationship is formed. If you can’t be there for whatever reason, be sure to have a co-host who will be able to deal with guests in your stead.
Hosts today have a great deal of technology at their fingertips and one of the best examples of this is the security camera. But a security camera is not even remotely the same as having someone right there on the premises – or in a neighbouring home in the case of the rental being an entire place.
Most people wouldn’t lend their car to a stranger but seem to be okay with letting strangers live in their most valuable possession, their property, without having someone close at hand. And believe me, those ‘horror stories’ you read on the internet about guests who have been just awful are usually from hosts who don’t keep a close eye on what’s going on.
USE WHATEVER TECHNOLOGY WORKS FOR YOU
We’re all different. These days I can’t imagine running a hospitality business without a cellphone. It can be used for so much, especially in the STR business and yet I rarely use it to actually talk to people. There are many more details here.
GUESTPROOF YOUR RENTAL
We all want our places to be as comfortable and appealing to our guests. But sometimes, it’s easy to forget that we have to think about our own peace of mind and comfort levels too.
DON’T FEAR PEOPLE
JJ is originally from the UK and has lived in South Florida since 1994. She is the founder and editor of JAQUO Magazine. You can connect with her using the social media icons below.