It’s June in London. For the last month it’s been rain and more rain. My airbnb has been busy as usually but this is mostly due to my low prices. I can say that my success is due to keeping a low price and being flexible with my guests (letting them arrive early etc). Also the fact that I accept single night bookings means that I have a constant turnover of guests. This constant turnover is more demanding on me with so many sheets to clean and check-ins/outs but this sends all the right signals to airbnb. Bookings lead to bookings and a high number of reviews keeps my space high in the rankings.
Airbnb trust and safety team
I received an email from the Airbnb ‘trust and safety’ team telling me that they have received a report telling them that I have a surveillance device in my listing. I was frankly told that if they find that I have broken airbnb’s hosting policy my account will be suspended or deactivated (there is little difference, in practice both mean curtains). I was shocked and started to get very worried. Breaking a small rule here and there might mean a slap on the wrist but being accused of spying on a guest like this could be very serious. I had 24 hours to contact airbnb and explain myself or face a certain end to my airbnb hosting career.
hosts are required to provide notice to their guests of any surveillance device(s) present in a listing prior to booking, regardless of whether they’re in-use or operational during the reservation, the guest’s consent is required before the reservation and payment are confirmed – airbnb hosting rules
This issue with my security cameras came from a guest review. A guest checked out and immediately left a review saying he spotted two security cameras when he was checking out of my listing. He does mention that they were both facing the doorway of my house (and therefore not in the bedroom for example) but this seems to be enough for a report to be sent to airbnb. I suspect the report is auto triggered from keywords or actions from the review and not a separate report sent to airbnb. So the guest might have been unaware of the hot water he had now landed me in.
Do you have security cameras in your Airbnb?
I do have two security cameras in my airbnb listing. Both face the main entrance way to my house. The first is outside and is a ring video doorbell. This is primarily a doorbell but it also records video when it detects movement and you can speak to whoever rings the bell from your phone. I find this very useful for when say I have a Amazon delivery and I’m not at home (I can tell the delivery person to leave my parcels next door). The second is a Canary security camera. This is inside the house and faces to door. This is more a full time surveillance device. In some ways this is doubling up on watching my front door but both are necessary i find to get a full picture of whats happening in your listing.
I wrote to airbnb and explained that I did have security cameras in my house. But they only face the front door and are NOT in any private space for the guests (not in the bedrooms for example). It’s best to write a detailed description of the issue so anyone reading it will be in no doubt that your intentions are honest. Any hint of deception will not play well. I made it clear the cameras are for security purposes since I live in the house with my wife and may occasionally need to check who has come into my house; especially at night. I also explained the camera on the outside of my house (the ring video doorbell) for when I have have parcel deliveries or when a airbnb guest arrives unexpectedly (or possibly has trouble entering the house). I was quite willing to provide some sort of evidence to airbnb (pictures maybe) that what I was telling them is correct. Thankfully Airbnb did not ask any further questions and reinstated my account.
I had actually told Airbnb in the past that I have cameras in my listing. I have had several instances where guests broke my house rules by bringing extra guests into the listing. After raising a dispute with a guest I once sent video evidence of them bringing another person into my house in the middle of the night to airbnb. At that time Airbnb did not check that I had disclosed the presences of cameras to my guests (or quite possibly there rules did not exist at that time as this was several years ago). I have now mentioned in all of my listings that security cameras are in operation.
It’s February in London and apart from a small dash of snow it’s been a rather mild winter. Unlike last winter I have not been forced by Airbnb to refund my guests because their train or plane was cancelled due to the snow ‘force majeur’. This may seem fair to the guests but for me it was a real loss.
Should you be accepting one night bookings?
One of the reasons for my success (if I may say so) at airbnb is that I am willing to take 1 night only guests. It’s very tempting not to take single night guests because of the trouble re-setting the room and checking in and out new guests. But if so many other people are not taking one night guests you may find a more steady stream of guests if you do. Plus you won’t have single night gaps in your calendar.
It’s my current strategy to make sure i’m full – ALL THE TIME. If that means taking single night guests then I will. If it means I have to drop my price to super low then I will. I’m currently charging the lowest price I have ever charged in 5 years of airbnb. I have to do this to stick with my ‘be full’ strategy.
Why do I think the ‘be full’ strategy is a good idea? First I believe it’s better to have some money than no money. Cash flow is important. Second even a booking which may have little or no profit can get you yet another review to add to your numbers. Third I believe Airbnb giving a search ranking boost to those listing which are getting bookings. So to keep your listing in Airbnb’s good books then your listing needs to be getting booked (if that makes sense).
How much should you discount to get a booking?
To be honest with you in my opinion I am willing to accept 50% off my asking price if it means I don’t have an empty listing. But usually I drop my price by about 10% if I see an empty listing less than 7 days away. But it does also depend on which day of the week we are talking about. Sundays and Mondays tend to be my least popular days (especially Sunday) so I will reduce my price more aggressively on these days.
I do use the airbnb smart pricing tool on all my listings. I have had concerns about using the smart pricing tool in the past because it seemed to only ever offer my set minimum price, no matter what the day of the week etc. More recently I have noticed that the prices do seem to be higher but only about 3 months away. It’s as if the airbnb smart pricing system assumes that if your not booked out 3 months ahead then you need to discount immediately.
I find that most of my guests book about 2 weeks in advance. Most of my guests are here to see a little bit of London or see friends. It’s even not unusual to get bookings same day. When I stay in another airbnb it’s often part of my annual family holiday planned 6 months previously. This is very different to the type of trips most of my single night guests are making. The smart pricing tool does not seem to suit my type of guest’s booking pattern.
It’s August in London and it has been a hot summer. My guests have been complaining about the rooms being too hot to sleep in at night. I have no air-conditioning in the house; the UK is not famous for it’s warm weather so most houses do not have it. The Airbnb smart pricing system is keeping my prices low. It seems demand does not increase on any day as the smart pricing always seems to be the lowest possible price. The suggested price for some of my listings is ridiculously low. I honestly feel the smart pricing system is not working, but I have no choice, if I stop using it airbnb will stop sending me bookings.
Earn extra money from your guests with SIM cards
When someone arrives from overseas they sometimes find it beneficial to get a local SIM card. Unless they are from the European Union area chances are they will either not have access to the UK phone and mobile data network or its simply very expensive to use it. Since getting a local SIM is easy this is a ideal way to get around the problem. Unlike in some countries, for example Australia where you need a registered Identification card such as a drivers licence, SIM cards can be easily obtained in the UK.
I usually provide a few simple items for the guests. Next to the bed in my airbnb listings you will usually find a bottle of water, a couple of chocolate bars, eye mask, ear plugs, and a free SIM card. Providing a SIM card for my guests can be handy for them but also can be financially rewarding for me.
I recently became a GIFF GAFF super recruiter. This means for every person who signs up using a Gift Gaff SIM card I get up to £20 in cash. As far as i’m concerned this is common sense easy money. Not only am I providing a extra service to my guests I’m making a little extra also.
Sign up your friends to Airbnb and get free credit
Spreading the word of the benefits of using Airbnb can get you from free airbnb credit. If you know someone who is thinking of using Airbnb for the first time then make them sign up using your referral link.
In fact not just your friends. Tell everyone you meet that they must sign up to Airbnb using your referral link. If there is free credit going then you want it baby. The trouble is that unless your a close friend or family they probably will either forget to use your link or even deliberately not use your link, there is something about not letting other people freeload off the back of you that causes this behaviour. Even if it means they will miss out on a little free credit themselves in the process they just won’t do it out of spite.
Even if you can get them to sign up you still might not get the credit unless their first booking is for £55 or more. I have signed up dozens of people but have only seen a trickle of free credit come my way. But still I keep trying.
It’s the end of the year and New Years Eve is only days away. I had a last minute guest cancellation for NYE. I took this as an opportunity to increase my price for the night. It was booked again within an hour for a 50% higher price. Clearly there is a last minute rush to find a room and that is when you can really get that extra profit.
Reducing your prices can start a cascade of bookings
December I find is a quiet time of year and usually so is early January. At one point during the month I reduced my prices by 20% to avoid being empty, the first time I have done such a thing in as long as i can remember. Reducing prices instead of being empty is sometimes the best thing to do. I am very much of the opinion that bookings usually follow other bookings. By this I mean that if you reduce your prices to get a booking the airbnb algorithm will see you got a booking and therefore promote you further as usually this means more bookings will flow. Its a virtuous circle.
Warn your guests from overseas about Christmas
It seems every year I have a guest who seems to not know the consequences of being in London on Christmas day. A guest from South Korea arrived at my house on boxing day. I had already warned him when he booked that the 25th of December is a public holiday and there will be no public transport and that most of London will be closed. When I spoke to him he started asking me about how he can get to the British library. I explained to him that there is no public transport and even if there was public transport the British Library would be closed! He seemed extremely surprised. I guess some countries so not understand the enormity of Christmas day in the west.
A friend of mine has just become an Airbnb host for the first time. His first guest had just finished her stay with him and had left a nice review. The listing is a private room in his London flat near Shoreditch High Street and he charges £35 a night. Being an experienced Airbnb host myself my first question was “did you use the airbnb photographer for your listing?” He said “No need, I did the photo’s myself.” This is a big mistake.
You need to make your Airbnb listing as professional as possible
I did a search for my friends Airbnb listing and it was full of classic mistakes. He was not using the free airbnb photographer and consequently his photos were a disaster. The bedroom looked like a hostel room. The bed was badly made and looked like someone had just slept in it (the dull grey sheets didn’t help), no other furniture was visible expect for a mirror (not hung on the wall just left on the floor). No flowers or any pleasant decor. The bathroom continued the hostel vibe being clean but otherwise uninviting and the toilet being centre of the picture – with the seat up!
Using the Airbnb phtographer is important for two reasons: 1 – the pictures will look better and 2 – the photos will be verified which means your listing will get a boost in the airbnb search rankings. I read through the description of my friends first Airbnb listing carefully and it had several grammatical errors and used some texting type like PPL instead of people, which to me looked unprofessional. The profile picture for himself also looked dark and with a serious face instead of a big smile.
How to decide if you should be an Airbnb Host?
Being an airbnb host is not for everyone. Its much more demanding that being a traditional landlord and guests can be difficult and unpredictable. Although the amount you can charge is greater than with traditional lodgers and renters there are additional cleaning costs and more importantly the personal time it can take off your hands is high. A handy guide to help you decide if being a host is right for you has been written by learnairbnb.com website and can be found here: