Airbnb Single Night Bookings

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.

Should you accept one night bookings?

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.

Should you cut your prices to get bookings?

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.

You can read my previous post on earning extra money for last minute airbnb bookings here!

Airbnb Profile Pictures and Private Room Listings

It’s January in London and like last year things have gone very quiet. The Christmas and New Year period were ok but not as busy as some previous years. This time last year I had a significant drop in bookings. I blamed the airbnb smart pricing system (or to be more specific the fact I was not using it and I believed I was being penalised by airbnb for not doing do). I can’t say the same thing again this year as I am already using the smart pricing system. I have dropped my prices 10% to see if this helps get me more bookings. Still the airbnb smart pricing system recommends £12 a night a massive 40% drop on my previous prices. I have now the lowest prices in 5 years of being an airbnb host.

Should you require guests to have a profile picture?

In my opinion airbnb profile pictures should show a picture of the person who is making the booking. This seems obvious but some people use other images such as Pokemon characters and the like. So sometimes I have no idea what to expect. You might say this shouldn’t matter but it does cause problems when I have to guests who can’t find my house and I have to go out looking for them for example. Sometimes profile pictures have more than one person in the picture and I am not sure who is who. Some guests have no photo at all and also provide no details on their profile. I find this both las and unhelpful. In my opinion the airbnb system is built on trust and this does not help.

There is now a option to require guests to have a photo when they make a booking. I am not certain this will work as I’ve already explained some photos are not of the person but something else. Airbnb says the feedback from some guests has been that they are not comfortable providing photos. I can understand this in some ways as I have occasionally made unfair judgements about someone by the way they look. I don’t insist my guests have a profile picture but I always ask them to complete their profile. Most usually understand what I mean.

As a reminder, Airbnb’s nondiscrimination policy prohibits hosts from making booking decisions or canceling reservations based on race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.

How to deal with guests who book a private room

In my house I have 4 airbnb listings as private rooms. I live in the house with my wife and little dog. So I have to know how to treat my guests who may be uncomfortable staying in the same house as me and vice versa.

There are some very good tips from airbnb here about listing a private room.

It seems I have had over 400 guests in my private room listings in the last year. I honestly couldn’t remember about 300 of them. The simple reason is after they have checked in I rarely seem them again. Sometimes they even self check in using the key safe and some instructions so I don’t seem them at all. This shows a lot about my hosting style. I generally leave my guests well alone. I provide them with everything they need and leave them to it.

I do get a lot of feedback from guests that they enjoyed the privacy of my private room listing. I rarely see my guests after check-in. Occasionally we will pass each other in the hallway or similar and I say hello and ask if everything is ok. But that is usually all. Even the checkout I tell the guests to just leave the key in the room and don’t worry about saying goodbye. I understand this make the experience a lot less personal but it also makes guests feel less like they are under any obligation to act as a houseguest. The more business like this transaction is the less uncomfortable they will feel being in my house.

How you setup your airbnb business goes a long way to make dealing with private room guests easy or hard. I don’t allow my guests to use my kitchen, living room, or really any other parts of the house; other than their bedroom and allocated bathroom. In some ways it’s the same as a hotel. The guests have a nice clean comfy bedroom but not much else. This means I don’t have to worry about guests using my kitchen when I want to cook, or sitting on my sofa, or touching anything else. It also encourages them to leave the house as soon as possible. They usually get-up, wash, and go out. Most spend less than 8 hours a day in the house.

Most of the guests who stay with me are passing through London usually by themselves. They are using my private room listing as a safe place to sleep and use the bathroom. This suits me fine as I don’t have time to entertain them and it keeps my house mostly for me. Some guests check in as late as midnight and check out very early in the morning. I charge a low price for this service and I get mostly very good feedback. If I charged a higher price I think guests would expect more and I would have less favourable reviews. One of my most common review comments is “you get what you pay for” which in my option is exactly right.

What to do if you get a very bad Airbnb guest review?

It’s now November in London and the long warm summer we had is over. For anyone visiting London this summer was ideal with long hours of daylight and such warm weather. Bookings were generally good and steady all summer but I was unable to increase my prices because of the Airbnb Smart Pricing system keeping my prices down.

What to do if you get a really bad review from a Airbnb Guest?

A guest booked a one night stay with us and wanted to arrive early in the morning. She sent me a message to that effect and selected as her check in time when booking ‘8am – 10am’. She can do this because my calendar settings are set to FLEXIBLE for check-in time. My check-out time is set to 11AM.

Airbnb now allows you to set a Check-in Window

The reason my calendar is set to FLEXIBLE check-in is because many of my guests automatically assume that check-in is only possible later in the afternoon like so many hotels. I always try and get my listings ready as soon as possible. Often a room is set and ready to go no less than 30min after a previous guest has left. My check-out time is by 11AM but many guests leave much earlier, some leave very early in the morning to catch an early flight etc.

The guest who gave me the bad review had seen my calendar setting as FLEXIBLE check-in and assumed that the room would be ready any time she wanted and therefore turned up at 8am. This might be understandable if it wasn’t that I specifically told her when she booked ‘the room might not be ready until 12 but she was welcome to come early and leave her bags’. Had she mentioned at this point that this would not have been acceptable since I had a FLEXIBLE check-in time then I would have asked her to cancel the booking and I would have made sure she got a full refund.

The guest arrived at my house at 8am and was then surprised to hear her room was not ready for her. She mentioned she had been on a long flight and needed to rest. Unfortunately there was nothing I could do for her. The previous guest was in no hurry to leave. She called Airbnb to complain and they cancelled her booking with full refund. I understood some of her complaints about the problem. I do understand that from her point of view it was somewhat misleading to have a FLEXIBLE check-in setting and the room not be ready. However I did make it clear to her at the time of booking that the room might not be ready but got no reply.

When a Airbnb booking is cancelled it’s still possible to leave a review. This is apparently so a Airbnb listing that is deemed unacceptable can get the bad review it deserves. Previously it was not possible to do this so bad listings didn’t get the bad reviews. But in my case this meant that this unhappy guest could now write almost anything she liked about my listing without even having set foot inside. I subsequntly got a 1 out of 5 star review across the board. So for example I got 1 out of 5 starts for cleanliness without the guest even having seen the listing. This strikes me as unfair.

If you get a bad review it’s a good idea to leave a reply on the review. The important point here is how you deal with the complaint. This is not a good time for revenge no matter how tempting it might be. You need to be professionally and explain any misunderstanding or mitigating factor in a way that sounds reasonable. The more reasonable you sound the more crazy the person making the complaint might appear. Someone reading the review might assume they were overreacting.

Can Airbnb protect hosts from one-off bad reviews?

This question was put to Airbnb at one of the host Q&A sessions – Can Airbnb protect hosts from one-off bad reviews?

At the last Host Q&A, in June, 2018, we said, specifically, that we’d look into outlier reviews. To be clear, one-off low reviews can be considered outliers when a host has otherwise great review scores, but a single guest leaves a bad rating that seems out of place. Here’s a solution we’ve come up with: We’re working on building new tools that will automatically detect when outlier reviews like this occur— and give us an opportunity to correct them. So let’s say a guest gives you five stars for cleanliness, accuracy, check in, and so on— for each of the sub categories— but then a two-star rating overall. The new tool will flag this and prompt the guest to correct the overall rating. We’re developing this new tool now, and you can expect to see it soon.

The answer was that one off bad reviews should not effect a hosts profile overall in the search rankings etc. This is good for me as I already have hundreds of reviews and one bad review should not hurt me overall. However a listing with only a handful of reviews could suffer considerably.