It’s September in London and Summer is drawing to a close. Like every year so far the July and August period has been slow. It’s unusual for me to have empty listings so I really notice the difference. I believe things are now picking up as i’m full for the next few weeks. The prices I have been charging for my airbnb listings are higher this year than in previous years but only by a small amount. So far no great wealth has flowed from airbnb for me but it has paid my mortgage and then some.
Should you pay for the official Airbnb Photographer?
When I started doing Airbnb nearly 3 years ago the airbnb photography was free. You simply used the online link and then a photographer was sent to your listing and usually did a very good job of the photography and a week later your listing looked beautiful on the website and more bookings flowed from it.
I have 4 listings and three of them had the free airbnb photographer. When it came time for the forth listing to have its photo’s taken all of a sudden I started receiving the message “no photographers are currently available in your area” from airbnb. I kept trying and got the same message until eventually I forgot about it. I recently tried again and was told that I needed to pay £77 to have the photo’s taken. So is it worth paying for the official airbnb photograher?
The advantages of the official photography are twofold. First you get excellent professional photos of your space usually much better than you might ever take yourself. Second your photos become ‘verified’ which means your listing should rank higher in the search results. If your expecting to be a airbnb host in the long run it must be worth having the official airbnb photos.
Why you must use Instant book!
It seems now that airbnb will automatically apply the Instant book filter whenever someone is searching for a listing in the immediate future. So if someone is looking for somewhere to stay tonight or maybe tomorrow then when that person searches in airbnb it will show only those listings which are ‘Instant book’ ready.
So if your listing is not instant book and your hoping to fill a last minute vacancy then your chances of getting a booking just dropped through the floor. Anyone who is searching for a last minute airbnb deal is going to go for those places which are instant book ready; as time is short. So you could be losing your best deals by not being instant book ready. I find I can charge much higher prices on last minute bookings (sometimes 50% higher).
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. This means more single night bookings and therefore more sheets to clean and checking guests in and out but this is the price to pay for keeping a full calendar.
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. Often they are last minute holiday makers or people stuck in London unexpectedly, perhaps a delayed flight.
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.
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.
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 is 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 24 hours 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 where I have had 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.
Airbnb Calendar Settings
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.
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.
Airbnb Instant Book
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.
This week I turned on Instant book for three of my listings. I was always hesitant to use instant book because I liked the added sense of security of getting the chance to refuse undesirable guests at the request to book stage. When a guest wants to stay in your listing on airbnb they have to request to book by sending you a message introducing themselves. Only if the host is satisfied with the information the guest has provided do they release pre-approval and the prospective guest can book. If you turn on Instant book a guest can book without going through this request to book stage and book immediately.
Why I was hesitant to use Instant Book
I always use the request to book stage of the airbnb booking process to ask the prospective guest “why are you coming to London?” and give them a chance to tell me a bit about themselves. This is usually enough to help me decide if this person will be ok to stay in my house. Ideally a guest will reply back something like “I have come to visit London to do some sightseeing and visit the many galleries and museums.” For me this type of guest is the best, they wake up in the mooring, get dressed, go out, and don’t come back until late. Guests like this I hardly see during their stay. They don’t hang around the house watching TV and snacking.
Two reasons to use Instant Book
I was willing to give instant book a try for two reasons. The first being that you can choose to only allow guests who have a positive rating to use Instant Book. For new users of airbnb and those guests who have a less than positive rating they will still need to get pre-approval from the request to book stage (guests are also required to have a profile picture to use Instant Book). Guests who have a probative rating presumably know how the airbnb model works and know how to behave in someone else’s house. The second reason I was happy to give Instant Book a try is when a guest tries to book you can write a welcome message. I use the welcome message to say hello of course but also mention in a clear way: “No use of the kitchen with this booking. Bedroom and bathroom only.” Getting my house rules clear at this stage is crucial to me as so many guests don’t read the listing description.
Why did I decide to give Instant Book a try?
I recently spoke to a friend who was planning his overseas trip and asked him if he was using airbnb for his accommodation. He said ‘no because you have to send a message to the host and you have no idea how long it will take them to reply.’ To him the whole request to book stage of the process was a potential big waste of time and he preferred to just book his accommodation without this extra hassle even if it cost him a more money. I realised that perhaps I was missing out on perfectly good guests who just wanted to book their accommodation and not waste time sending messages back and forth.
A few hours after I turned on Instant Book I had my first airbnb instant booking. The guest has a positive review from one previous trip. I quickly sent him a message saying we are looking forward to having him stay at our place and if he needs any help finding the house to let me know. He sent a nice reply saying he was also looking forward to his stay. I guess Instant Book is easy if you try…