Is Airbnb forcing down your prices?

The heatwave that has engulfed London this summer has finally ended (we think). After some of my guests complained the rooms were too hot to sleep in I ordered some fans for the bedrooms, however these did not arrive before the hot weather ended! I suppose they might come in handy next year.

Is Airbnb trying to make me lower my prices?

When I first started being a airbnb host in 2014 I charged a basic £20 per night for a single person. Today I charge about the same. I assumed as time went on my prices would steadily increase. I figured this not only because of inflation but the general improvement of my area and it's transport links into central London would push up prices. So why am I still charging the same?   I was slowing increasing my prices every year by about £1 per night. I thought this was reasonably fair and certainly no more than the natural rate of inflation. However this plan was abruptly ended on January 1st this year 2018. As 2017 came to a close i noticed that my calendar for 2018 was looking suspiciously empty. I certainly wasn't doing anything differently and saw no other reason why this would happen, if anything I was expecting the lower value of sterling GBP to increase bookings. Also the fact that this was suddenly happening on 1st January made me very suspicious that it was Airbnb deliberately not pushing my listings. The reason why was immediately obvious to me - I wasn't using the Airbnb Smart Pricing Tool. The issue of Airbnb forcing down prices appears in the Host Q&A - Airbnb Community 2018 event. Airbnb explained the issue as below: - Our tools help you set a competitive price and get more bookings when demand is low, which can mean suggestions to lower your price. But we’re launching improvements that better consider your market during periods of high demand. Soon we’re going to equip you with more data, not just pricing suggestions, to help you set your price. As for comparisons, we look at successfully booked listings in your area with similar numbers of guests and amenities (listings you won’t see if you’re searching dates they’ve booked). We also look at what guests click before and after visiting your listing.

Should you be using the Airbnb Smart Pricing Tool?

I started using the Airbnb Smart Pricing Tool as soon as i realised what the problem was. As soon as I activated this tool in my living calendars bookings suddenly flooded in. However I was now using lower prices than before. The Airbnb suggested price was lower that I was previously using and almost made me think twice about wether i should stop using Airbnb altogether. I recently received an email from Airbnb with the subject reference "Demand is down by 15% in London." The email was a call-to-action to reduce my minimum prices before its too late. Presumably every host in London has received the same email. What the actual effect on demand would be if we all cut our prices is hard to be sure. The recent decline in the pound sterling has made the UK cheaper to visit compared to other countries so even lower prices might have virtually no impact at all. I would prefer to be fully booked with a lower price than empty as its all a question of cashflow. It's hard to go bankrupt sitting on a pile of cash. But on the other hand growth is a measure of success and when your not getting it you so ask yourself what is going wrong. I can only say what I see and I see Airbnb bringing in the punters for me so that's great. For the guests themselves cheaper prices are obviously a good thing. To be honest some hosts do charge hotel prices for basically nothing special so pushing down their prices might not be a bad thing; before Airbnb gets a reputation for being a general rip-off.

Getting an Airbnb mortgage and What REALLY gets you more bookings on airbnb

It's nearly October in London and it's gotten much busier now that summer is nearly over. Over summer I had plenty of bookings but I was not 100% full. Since the start of September I have been full every day and with higher prices that July or August. I recall this being the same last year also. Most of my airbnb customers stay only one or two nights. This means more bed sheets to clean and more hassle checking in and out guests but I prefer this to having empty listings. In previous years I used to keep my prices very low to ensure I get plenty of guests but now I think I don't need to do this as much as I have over 600 reviews. Having so many reviews gives people confidence they will be getting what they are paying for.

Can you get an Airbnb Mortgage?

As far as i'm aware there is no such thing as an Airbnb mortgage and I think it's highly unlikely there will ever be. Despite what you may have heard from friends or from some get rich seminar you can't walk into a bank and borrow huge amounts of money on the promise you will run a very good airbnb with the money. Now more that ever banks are under very strict rules of what they can lend to who. Unless you have a large provable income you won't be getting a mortgage that would allow you to buy an property for an airbnb business. The vast majority of airbnb hosts who let whole apartments are using the standard buy-to-let mortgage and have not told the bank they are letting on airbnb. Metro bank is offering mortgages that give you permission to let the property on airbnb for up to 90 days a year. This is a case of Merto bank using it's common sense. They already know that many of their customers are listing their mortgaged property on airbnb and are keeping it secret from the bank. Other banks would be wise to follow their lead instead of simply turning a blind eye.

Superhost secrets - what REALLY gets you more bookings on Airbnb

There are lots of blog posts on the internet giving tips on how to be a great airbnb host and how to get more bookings etc. Most have pretty much the same content. A good example is this blog post on the airbnb website (presumably the content is acceptable to airbnb and factually correct so bear that in mind). But a lot of this stuff is not overly useful unless you can actually get someone to book your listing. Your place might be amazing but if nobody books it the world will never know. So here is my advice on how to get more bookings and be full all the time: -
  1. Be good value for money. Or in other words be 'cheap'. Everyone wants a bargain and you can be that the cheapskate in everyone will usually win out. Be at least a pound or two cheaper than your nearest rival.
  2. Have lots of reviews. People want safety of choice. There are no instantly recognisable brand names when it comes to listings. If you have lots of reviews (and I mean hundreds of reviews) you become a 'safe bet'. Get more reviews by getting more guests so be willing to accept a smaller amount of money and more short term guests to get those reviews stacked high.
  3. Be flexible. Accept short term guests. So many of my guests are one nighters. This may seen like so much more trouble (and it is) but since so many people have a 2 night minimum stay you will never have an empty listing.
  4. Have professional looking pictures - both of The Listing and Yourself. Use the airbnb photographer to get professional looking pictures done (also they become airbnb verified). You might seriously want to have a nice clear professional picture of yourself in your profile. Not a picture of you trying to look cool at some party, a proper professional picture like you might see on Linked In. If you look like a joke then you can't expect to be taken seriously.
  5. Don't charge a cleaning fee. This is a turn off.
 

Airbnb Issue Categories and Find an Airbnb Co-Host and save on Tax.

It's March in London and we just put the clocks forward one hour which means only one thing - spring is on the way. We are now out of the worst of the Airbnb low season and things are already picking up. I've had several bookings as far in the future as August but still most of my reservations come in less than a month before the actual booking date.

Airbnb Guest Review 'Issue Categories'

I've noticed that the guests reviews now reveal the actual number of stars you received from that guest (it's between 1 and 5 stars). When I first started hosting this was not actually revealed to you. The only way to know for sure what star rating each guest left you was to keep track of the number of stars you currently had before the guest arrived and check it after they left and then do the math. This new system does make the whole thing easier to follow and can alert you to issues you may have quicker.     If a guest leaves you less than 5 stars for any category (cleanliness, check-in, accuracy etc) then they have the opportunity to be more specific what was not up to standard. My main negative feedback point is LOCATION and SIZE OF HOME. These are not a surprise to me as the area I live in although is relatively close to central London it does look a bit shabby. The other issue is 'size of home' which I can only guess is because the guests are sometimes surprised that I have more than one room in my house on airbnb and either it feels less private or less safe.

Adding a Airbnb Co-Host

For those Airbnb hosts who are just too busy to stay on top of their bookings a co-host could be very helpful. And more importantly can help avoid income tax. If like me you get booking requests and guests questions at the wrong time of day (in my case when in am asleep) then a co-host could be the answer. I currently do not use a co-host but I like the idea and may start using it soon. My wife would be my obvious co-host but it may make sense to have someone else you trust but who has very different financial circumstance.     To all those people out there who think the money you make on airbnb is not liable for income tax you are 100% completely and utterly WRONG. In fact ALL earnings must be taxed - except in certain circumstances. Yes there is the rent-a-room allowance (currently £10,000) which is free of income tax but beyond that your going to have to pay. That is unless you can shift the income to someone else who is already not using their full tax free threshold (currently £11,500 a year). Say some stay at home relative who has no other real income. Someone who you can co-host with and pay them for the excellent service they are doing for you (or pay them anyway even if they do nothing). After your co-host has taken their tax free income they might want to give you an early birthday present in cash?

Should you accept cash payments from Airbnb guests? and How to automate your Airbnb home.

Its January in London and cold and wet. The number of bookings I am getting has reduced and I have the occasional empty day. This is the same as last year i recall so I'm not worried. The low GBP will keep the tourists coming to London and I keep my prices low so I've always got a steady stream of customers. I have many 'regular' customers who found me on airbnb but have kept coming back and now pay me cash.

Should I accept guests who pay cash?

Nobody want to pay the airbnb service fee but that's the price you pay for using their platform. Without the airbnb platform I would find it very difficult to find new customers so it's only fair I pay them for this service. But what if I already found a customer should I accept them? Well yes if your happy with that person. Airbnb does keep a record of who stays at your place and should have copy of their ID etc so there is some safety. If you accept a cash payment then you open the possibility of getting into some unexpected trouble perhaps. Most of my regulars are UK citizens who are working in London a few days a week so I'm happy with them. Guests who pay cash might also be a way of getting round the 90 day rules in London.    

How to automate your Airbnb Home

If you are a live-in airbnb host like me then from time to time you might feel unsure about leaving your guests in the house alone when you go out to the shops or where ever. It's hard to relax when there are strangers in your home even if they seem very nice on first impressions. So there are a few small ways to keep an eye on your home and give you some piece of mind.

Install security cameras

Now don't get me wrong here the idea is not to spy on your guests. I have a camera in my living room, which is off limits to guests. The purpose of this camera is partly to keep an eye on my little dog but also in case any guests decide to break the rules and enter my living area and kitchen. I use this camera from Canary https://canary.is I find it excellent quality and easy to setup. I am also considering putting one facing my front door so I can see who comes in and out of the house.  

Door Sensors and Motion sensors

I once had a guest who sent me a complaint via my mobile phone that the house was too cold. I was not at home at the time so was unable to switch the heating one. Shortly after I installed Hive Active Heating in my home so I can control my heating using the mobile phone application. As part of the pack I was send a door and motion sensor. Both of these I have found very useful in keeping an eye on my home. The door sensor lets me know when someone opens and closes the door. The motion sensor detect movement. I put the motion sensor near the guests door so I know if they are at home or when they come and go. It's non-intrusive and can make you feel more comfortable when away from your listing.

New Airbnb 90 day House Sharing Rules in London. Do they affect me?

It's December in London and Christmas is coming. After a very busy Autumn Airbnb has started to go quiet. I am booked most of the time but some days i have one or two empty listings a week. It has been the same the previous two years and usually pics up towards the end of January. The price I am charging for the each listing has risen slightly this year (after being flat for two years). I believe this is possible because of the lower £ versus the Euro and the Dollar  

New House Sharing Rules in London

New rules from the Greater London Authority (which only affect Airbnb Hosts within Greater London not the rest of the UK) have come into force which will affect some hosts (but not all?). Up until 2015 rules forbid any short term lets without planning permission.   The important part of the new rules say: - the cumulative number of nights of use as temporary sleeping accommodation does not exceed 90 nights in a calendar year   The vast majority of hosts in London will be letting out for more than 90 days a year so this could be a real problem for hosts. It is possible to apply for permission to be exempt from the rules by obtaining planning permission. Obtaining planning permission for temporary sleeping accommodation (effectively a hotel) is not going to be possible for most hosts as the criteria is exhaustive and would be opposed by neighbours.   You can read Airbnb's guide to hosting in London here.  

Airbnb is limiting their platform for hosts from 1st January

In a letter recently sent to hosts Airbnb says it will limit the number of bookings to 90 days (presumably the website will automatically de-list the listing when the 90 day limit is reached). As of 1 January 2017, Airbnb’s systems will automatically limit entire home listings in Greater London to 90 nights a year.......we are introducing a change to our platform that will create new and automated limits to help ensure that entire home listings in London are not shared for more than 90 days a year, unless hosts confirm that they have permission to share their space more frequently.    

Do the new rules only affect entire home listings?

The letter from Airbnb to hosts clearly says that 'entire home' listings are not shared for more than 90 days a year. Presumably we can take from this that those hosts offering private rooms in their house will be exempt from the 90 listing rule. The deregulation act does mention 'This applies even if only part of the premises is used as temporary sleeping accommodation' so those hosts who have only private room listings may also fall foul of the new rules. I think that Airbnb is trying it's best to conform with local rules (the bad press the company has received all over the world is surely on the mind of the directors) but hopefully is doing it in such a way to give hosts a chance to be seen to adhere to local rules and still host without interruption. We will have to wait and see how the new rules will affect bookings on the website. A obvious solution to getting around the rules would be to have the same listing under numerous profiles (presumably 360 days per year/ 90 days = 4 profiles needed).   It's worth noting that up until 2015 short term lets were effectively illegal in London and the vast majority of hosts had no problems. At the very least we are now getting some clarity on what the rules are and will be in the future so hosts can plan properly. To be honest the rules do make some sense and will deter those 'professional' hosts from investing large sums of money buying property purely to let on airbnb. Those hosts who simply let out a spare room and work in regular jobs hopefully will be unaffected.

Getting last minute bookings and will the lower GBP benefit UK hosts

After a very quiet August bookings have picked up in September. I also have removed the minimum two day booking rule on all my listings. I was starting to get empty rooms and I just couldn't see that money go to waste.

Last minute bookings

Last minute bookings can be very rewarding. If I have a gap between bookings I sometimes put the price really high (usually 50% price increase) in the hope of getting a last minute windfall. I have found on many occasions that if you take the risk for last minute bookings you can earn some very good extra money. Some people for whatever reason need a place to sleep when they otherwise thought they would be ok. Sometimes they are last minute holiday makers other times people stuck in London unexpectedly, perhaps a delayed flight. Using Instant book can get you that last minute windfall If you want to make money above and beyond what you would normally expect then putting your price high in the expectation of a last minute booking is a way to do it. To make this happen I recommend using Instant Book because those guests looking for a last minute booking will only want to book instantly and not wait for a reply. Also you will need to set your calendar so guests can book later into the night - say as late as 9pm. screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-15-23-41

Will the lower GBP mean more airbnb bookings?

The GBP dropped by 15-20% against most major currencies after the Brexit vote on 23rd June. This means it will be cheaper for foreigners to visit the UK. This could mean either more tourists will visit the UK (because its cheaper than other destinations) or that anyone visiting the UK will be willing to spend more money when they are here (because it's cheaper). Perhaps both will happen and the UK will have a kind of tourist boom. Airbnb hosts should be benefitting from the lower GBP as more people may choose to visit the UK than previously would have done.

How much should I increase my Airbnb prices during the summer?

Spring is in the air in London and I'm fully booked. I occasionally raise my prices on days where I would prefer to not be full (to give myself a bit of a break) but even these slots were booked up. After 3 months of cold weather and horrible rain it looks like the weather in London is about to improve. Better weather usually mean more guests so it could be very busy over the next six months.

How much should I increase my prices during the summer?

Although I do increase my prices during the summer it's not by much. Only a few extra pounds per night. Part of the reason is that I don't want disappointed customers who rate my listing less than five starts for value. If I put my price high then there is a certain expectation to live up to that price. A lower price has much less expectation - "at least it was cheap."   [caption id="attachment_269" align="aligncenter" width="511"]Make your price correct as guests will rate you on value for money Make your price correct as guests will rate you on value for money[/caption]   I did notice this on my listing for the first time. "This is a rare find - Richard's place is usually booked." Being a 'rare find' must be some sort of special Airbnb host badge. It does at least create this extra impetus to buy for potential guests - If Richard is usually booked then he must be good. I have no idea what it takes to become a rare find but I have had over 300 guests and I'm usually full so maybe thats it.   Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 16.03.01   My strategy is simple - stay booked all the time. If I have to lower my price I will. The way I see it Airbnb wants good hosts who will take bookings at any time. If your a reliable host they will reward you with more business (hopefully). Being too choosey on what price your willing to take and which type of guests your happy to accept will reduce your future bookings.   [caption id="attachment_274" align="aligncenter" width="299"]Guests putting you on your wish list helps your rankings Guests putting you on your wish list helps your rankings[/caption]   The more guests you've had the more guests you will have. It's all about being a safe bet. Most of your guests will be from out of town and will not know your area and will judge on your pictures firstly and secondly on your reviews. A good looking picture helps a lot but it's the reviews that make the sale. A long list of great reviews will put someone at ease and be confident they are getting what they see in the picture. To get those reviews you need lots and lots of bookings which means taking almost anyone who wants to stay and at the times when it doesn't always suit you. Thats business.

How to do your first Airbnb listing and How do you decide if being an Airbnb host is right for you?

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 classic 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. There 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 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.   [caption id="attachment_242" align="aligncenter" width="637"]Your profile picture should be nice and welcoming Your profile picture should be nice and welcoming[/caption]

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:   Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 20.25.12

How far ahead should I take bookings?

Its coming close to winter here in London and although the first snow has not yet fallen bookings have become thinner on the ground. I am lucky that London always has someone arriving from somewhere so bookings do come in no matter what the weather but sometimes it's nice to have firm bookings in advance - or so I used to think? The problem with being an airbnb host is that it becomes your life in many ways. For some this is a good thing and can add meaning and a source of enjoyment. For me this means I am effectively on call 24hours a day. I can't afford to pay anyone else to look after my business and nobody will ever care about it as much as I do. Thankfully there have been few occasions which has meant I have to run away from my real 9-5 job to sort out a problem at my listing. However I am conscious of the fact that one day something may go very wrong. To reduce the chance of future issues I have decided to limit my calendar to only a month in advance. To my knowledge there is no way of doing this other than blocking off the dates. There is a function to limit bookings for only 3 months in advance but this is too long for me. Why do this? Because my life doesn't work on more than a 1 month ahead schedule. If I take a booking 3 months in advance and my life changes to the point where I can't handle the booking then I have to cancel and that means I get a penalty from airbnb and then no more bookings.   [caption id="attachment_220" align="aligncenter" width="347"]You can limit how far in advance you want bookings. You can limit how far in advance you want bookings.[/caption]   I get a lot of last minute guests so I can still turn a profit only allowing bookings in the same month. In fact I have found that last minute bookings can achieve the  highest prices (due to other good listings being already full) and the guests tend to be those who are in the city for a short time and just need somewhere to crash before they leave - this means they tend to arrive in the evening after I get home from work and therefore there is no mad rush to get the room ready. I will have to stop using Instant book also as I need to control what time people will be coming and going to my place. Instant book has been very successful for me. I think all my Instant book guests were very nice people and knew what they wanted. As mush as I like this tool its got to go as one wrong booking could cause a nightmare for me. I already had a problem a few weeks ago with a guest who was coming and I couldn't be there to meet her. I asked a friend to stay at my house and wait for the guest who was supposed to be there about 11am. My friend ended up waiting four hours for the guest (which is not unusual as many people misjudge the amount of time it will take them to clear customs at Heathrow airport and then actually make it all the way to my place) but it was very embarrassing for me and it really put my friend out.

When is the peak season on Airbnb and how to get rich on Airbnb?

I’ve noticed a reduction in the number of bookings coming through. I’ve got quite a few empty slots from the end of August through September and beyond (in my experience people tend to book only a few weeks in advance so it’s no surprise December is still empty for example). A quick look on the Airbnb Groups discussion page for London hosts and many of the comments there are saying the same thing – not enough bookings.

What to do if your not getting bookings?

I price my listings cheap and to have an empty room now and again is disappointing but no big deal for me. Those with expensive big listings (such as whole apartments in the city centre) are missing out on big money if they have any vacancy. The question is what can you do (if anything) to solve the problem? The obvious answer is to cut your price – better less money than no money. But this does eliminate the possibility of getting a last minute booking at a good price.
“it was as if a light switch went off in final part of July. Suddenly enquiries and bookings just stopped across all my listings”- airbnb host in London groups
A similar thing happened in January I recall and this didn’t really pick up until April. I also noticed more listings appearing in my area at a discount to even my low prices so that’s not helping. My only solution is to keep my prices low and ride it out. I often get last minute bookings – the big advantage of operating in a major city like London. I assumed August and September would be the high season when I would clean up but this is clearly not the case.

Getting one star ratings from guests

My star ratings have been getting worse and worse lately. Most guests leave very nice written reviews but when it comes to the stars they often give a 3 or 4 with some even putting a single star. My biggest problem is one I simply cannot change and that’s my location. I live in Newham east London, one of the worst areas for poverty in London but it’s not dangerous (no gangs on street corners etc) and it’s reasonably central (zone 3) and has decent transport connections and plenty of shops/fast food. My biggest draw card is my price – I’m very cheap and my property is fully refurbished and still has the ‘new’ feel. I would have thought someone might say "well the location isn’t perfect but what do you expect at this price." But it doesn’t seem to work that way.
“I would have thought someone might say well the location isn’t perfect but what do you expect at this price”

How to get rich on Airbnb

I’ve just come across a listing where the host has put two double beds in the living room and another double bed in the bedroom and charges £150 a night, sleeps 6. Now that’s a way to make money on Airbnb!

So what’s it really like being an Airbnb host

I've been a Airbnb host now for nearly a year and have had over 150 guests in that time. Most guests stay for only a couple of days which suits me fine as the longer guests stay I find they are more likely to hang around the house and eat smelly takeaways in the bedrooms instead of exploring the city.

Weekly and monthly rates

I choose not to offer a weekly or monthly rate for the reason that I don't like longer term guests. I don't offer use of the kitchen or living areas in my house so guests are limited to their bedroom and a bathroom. My ideal guests is a tourist who has come to visit the city of London for a few days and only uses the house for a sleep and a shower. This means I get the house to myself for the majority of the time and wear and tear is kept to a minimum. The downside is a greater turnover of guests means the sheets and towels need changing more often.

Guest check-in's

Guests will want to arrive in their own time and leave at a time that suits them. I have set my check-out time as 11am and my check-in as 12. I always ask my guests if they can give me a rough idea of what time they will be arriving but I always take their answer with a pinch of salt. Most guests misjudge the amount of time it will take them to arrive at my house especially those coming from the airport. If a guests says they will arrive at 3pm I usually expect them to arrive sometime after 4pm. I'm not out to rubbish my guests but most people don't realise just how big London really is. I work full time in the city so It's usually impossible for me to check my guests in in person. I'm lucky in that my wife stays at home during the day and is there to meet the guests in person and show them their rooms and explain the house rules. If you don't have a family member to check your guests in then you are going to have to hire someone else to do it. This can be expensive as guests tend to arrive late and what seems like an easy task can mean waiting around, possibly for hours.

Price Competition

I would love to charge more for my listings but I really can't or I will price myself out of the market. Several new listings have opened up in my area and most of them at a slightly cheaper price than me (some as low as £17 a night for a double room!). However these listings don't look as professional as mine and my listings have lots of positive reviews so I still get plenty of guests. My experience so far has been that new listings come on at lower prices and some old ones tend to drop off as they no longer feel the hassle is worth it. Airbnb is still new so lots of people would not have tried it yet so the potential for market growth is still huge but we shall see.

Is the money worth it?

Being a host can be a lot of hassle and it's certainly not for everyone. I very rarely have an empty room (the city of London is a popular destination) so I maximise my earnings potential. For analysis I would say the yield on a airbnb listing is about 5% (a normal buy-to-let might be about 4%) so not massive. If your looking to get rich using Airbnb then your probably headed for a huge disappointment. I would say however in a good location the money is very steady and it's a great alternative to renting out a room full time to a local.

When a Airbnb guest cancels a booking

Last week a guest cancelled while actually on the way to my listing. I was expecting him to arrive around 1pm and got a message at 12:30 to say "it is too much trouble to come to your listing so i'm going to stay in a hotel right here." A bad excuse for sure. My mind immediately turned wether or not he is going to get a full refund or will i still get paid by airbnb? Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 12.55.07

What is your cancellation policy?

When a guest cancels a booking it depends on your cancellation policy if they are entitled to a refund or not (Airbnb's booking fee is never refundable). There are three settings :
  • Flexible: Full refund one day prior to arrival
  • Moderate: Full refund five days prior to arrival
  • Strict: 50% refund until one week prior to arrival
My setting is Flexible. I can afford to be flexible because I get a lot of last minute bookings. I have even had cases where a guests cancels and I have resold the room at a higher rate. It it important to note that the one day prior to arrival cuts off at your 'Check-in After' hour. So if your earliest check in is at 12 like mine then the guest will have to cancel prior to 12pm the previous day (a full 24 hours before the earliest check in) to get a full refund. [caption id="attachment_151" align="aligncenter" width="634"]In your listing terms you can alter your cancellation policy In your listing terms you can alter your cancellation policy[/caption]

Try to avoid cancelling bookings at all costs

There is no impact for a guest to cancel prior to arrival except the potential loss of the cost of the booking. However if a host cancels it can have a serious detrimental impact on the future ranking of their listing. Airbnb clearly is not kind to hosts who cancel on guests no matter what their excuse so unless you want to be sent to Airbnb Siberia never cancel on a guest. Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 13.19.45

When a guest fails to show up

I had a guest yesterday who failed to arrive. I had been trying to contact her to determine what time she would arrive on the day but I got no reply. I fell asleep and the next morning sent a chaser message and got a reply saying she is not coming and she sent me a SMS (which i did not receive). I should still be paid for this as no cancellation message was sent. I cancelled on trip myself once when at the last minute the car hire company refused my booking and a guest at one of my listing was being difficult so we cancelled our trip (it was in actual fact my honeymoon). I got a refund for 2/3 of my trip i.e. not the first night but the 2nd and 3rd, less the Airbnb booking fee. I felt a bit guilty since I expected that the host would not be able to fill the listing at the last minute as it's in a remote location.

How to get started as an Airbnb host

So you want to be an Airbnb host and your looking forward to making some money. Well here is what you should do.

1. Register an account with Airbnb. Register here and get £16 free Airbnb credit. 2. Add a new listing under your profile. Write a detailed description of your room/whole place. Try and describe factually and keep in mind what a traveller will be most interested in. [caption id="attachment_133" align="aligncenter" width="781"]Create your Airbnb listing and start making money in the sharing economy Create your Airbnb listing and start making money in the sharing economy[/caption] 3. Your going to need to upload pictures for your room. Get the Airbnb professional photographer to take some pictures of your listing. This is a free service and more importantly having verified pictures on your profile should push you up the search rankings. You can apply for the free photographer here. 4. Make sure the room is ready for your first guest. Obviously the room should be as clean as possible with fresh sheets (think what you would expect from a hotel). But also your going to want to remove as much clutter as possible. A guest is not going to be impressed by your nick-naks and family heirlooms filling up all the draws and wardrobes. Take them out and put them somewhere else. 5. Make sure you are available to greet your guests. Now is a good time to mention any house rules. 6. I try to leave my guests well alone during their stay. If I happen to see them I might say "can i get you anything?" but thats it. I don't provide an 'experience' I leave the great city of London to do that for me. [caption id="attachment_134" align="aligncenter" width="758"]Make sure your listing is has clean sheets, towels, and free wifi Make sure your listing is has clean sheets, towels, and free wifi[/caption] 7. You may want to enquire with your guests at what time they will be checking out on their last day. Some do need to catch a flight home and may need to leave at a very early hour. I do allow guests to leave luggage with me if they are getting a late flight home. 8. Re-set for the next guests. Make sure the room is adequately ventilated and the sheets are fresh. 9. You will need to leave guest feedback. You should do this as soon as Aribnb allows you so your guest feels they should do the same.

Your first Airbnb listing

New listings get a boost in rankings so you may find that you a few enquires on the first day or two. You mat then find that enquires drop off suddenly and then you will need to work on your ranking.

How many of my guests are first time Airbnb users?

Airbnb is still relatively new to most people in the UK and Europe despite being very popular in the USA and some other places for a few years. Consequently many of your customers will be using Airbnb for the first time and will not have any reviews from previous hosts (I estimate that about 50% of my guests are Airbnb Virgins). Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 16.28.05 So you get an enquiry from a potential guest asking to stay a few nights but there is not profile picture and almost no information on their profile. I always ask them to upload a profile picture and to tell me why they are coming to London and if they can tell me a bit about themselves. This puts you in the driving seat and lets the Airbnb newbie know what is expected of them as a bare minimum. Anyone who refuses to answer or upload a picture I decline. You don’t want to be unreasonable as get too intrusive in other people’s business but some basic information like this can reveal a lot about somebody’s intentions and how they might behave in your property.

Declining a guest request to stay

I had a potential guest who actually had a reasonably complete profile and actually had a good review from a previous host. I asked him why he was coming to London and he said to meet up with some friends. The booking was for one night (a Saturday) and his profile said he is a student. I said it was ok to stay but reminded him that check-out is 11am. He wrote back and asked if he could have a late check out and even offered to pay any extra. I got the impression he wanted a late check-out as he planned to stay out late in to the night with his friends and most likely this would mean some medium to heavy drinking. I wrote back to the guests saying that I didn’t think it was appropriate that he should stay with us as other guests might not appreciate him coming home at a late hour and declined his request but wishing him all the best. It’s a shame as he probably is a really nice man but our listing just didn’t suit his purposes and it was unfair on everyone to accept his reservation.

Mention your house rules up front

It’s probably a really good idea to mention certain house rules when guests first enquire about a booking. I always mention that there is no use of the kitchen allowed. This does put off some guests but better that than them get really disappointed when they arrive. It’s worth doing this as many guests don’t completely read the profile before enquiring.
When a guest arrives it is another chance to mention the house rules to them. Be clear that this is their bathroom, this is their bedroom, do not go in this room, etc.