August has possibly been my worst month for new bookings. My calendar for the month of August was actually quite full but September onwards was looking pretty empty. I find that guests tend to book about 4-6 weeks in advance so to have so many blank spaces at this stage is not good. Some guests do book much further in advance of course but the main bulk tend to come in only about a month ahead. I do get a lot of last minute bookings due to my location in central London but I would prefer to have bookings all my bookings in advance given the choice even if it meant losing a few quid.
Why have my bookings dropped off?
Well A quick search of my local area in Newham, East London, has revealed that there are many new listings in my area. Most of which are priced lower than me. I recall only about a year ago there were less than 5 similar listings in my area which consisted mostly of old ladies and couples with a spare room. Now there are multiple listings of small rooms in former HMO’s all over the area. Clearly those former slumlord landlords who formerly let single rooms to asylum seekers and desperate immigrants have now switched to becoming Airbnb hosts.
Why is there more competition in my area?
One of the reasons why I think these slumlords have switched from the desperate poor to Airbnb holidaymakers is the recent tightening up of Newham council’s HMO license and additional licensing scheme. HMO licenses’ are mandatory across the UK for properties which fit House of Multiple Occupation criteria. But the additional licensing is a newer scheme and has made it less desirable and more expensive for landlords in the area.
So what can I do about my empty calendar for September?
Well this first thing I did was drop my prices. I now have the lowest prices since I started hosting. I was expecting that as my hosting experience grew and my good reviews piled up I could start charging more and more for each listing. Sadly not! I also removed my deposit requirements for each listing. A risky move to be sure but it seemed worth a try even if it just got the ball rolling. For a few more days it was deathly quiet but then the bookings started to flood back in. It’s hard to be sure if this was just a quiet patch that we just came out of or if my pricing strategy did the trick but I’m sure happy to be getting bookings again.
Should I change my cancellation policy?
I’ve had a fair few cancellations recently. Almost always I have been able to get another booking at the last minute but I am starting to think it’s not a good idea to be so flexible with the cancellation policy. I currently have my cancellation policy set to Flexible which means a full refund if cancelled 24 hours prior to check-in. I am going to change this to Moderate – Full refund 5 days prior to arrival, except fees. I think this shouldn’t turn off too many people who are serious about their bookings.