Why airbnb can kiss my butt

72 Replies

We just became a superhost in less than 2 and a half months. I think location and neighborhood has a lot to do with it. ours is 5 minutes drive to space needle. it's one of the best neighborhood in Seattle. I also have properties in the "C" neighborhood, I would never ever to do airbnb on those I know it will fail from the get go, unless you are in a really pricey place then ghetto might work, because people are priced out of other neighborhoods.

In sorry to hear about this. I've had an Airbnb guest every night in one of my units since march and it's been great with only a few weird (but not bad) situations.

We rent out three different rooms and make good money off of it but it's definitely more work than a normal rental and you need to be in a good location. Safe, accessible, clean and easy to check in. I rent my place out when I'm not even in town with a lockbox.

You must be very careful to screen people as best you can. I generally don't let in people without reviews that don't have a really good story and don't like to host locals either. Generally I've had bad experiences with locals.

@Michaela G. I think you have your prices too low for an entire place. I charge $30 - $35 for bedrooms in my house. You could create another account, change your prices, and tweak your booking settings and you would get better guests. Check out the podcast get paid for my pad. There's all types of lucrative ways to attract the type of guests you are looking for. By the way the bare minimum you should charge for an entire place is $60. Think of it like this. Motel 6 charges $60/night with no kitchen. Sorry to hear about your bad experiences.

Originally posted by @Michaela G. :

Ok, so I understand that everyone's situation, property, location is different and thus I'm stressing that this was just my own personal experience and I'm over it - after only 2 weeks ;-)

Beginning of the year I decided that I wanted to do airbnb on some properties that I was renovating. I was so excited and read every discussion thread on various websites and joined local airbnb meetup etc. I had so much fun coming up with themes and decorating and finding all of the item to fit the themes etc. and was looking forward to interacting with travelers from all over the world. 

Now, my 3 properties are in a transitional neighborhood, but within a fenced block that is an artist community. We are incredibly central (2 miles from downtown) to everything in Atlanta, that's intown. I have explained that all in my listings, as well as in the welcome email with details of codes etc. 

First I did everything you were supposed to do to get as much exposure as possible: Instant booking , smart pricing . I had a professional photographer. Smart pricing was very low and I think that attracted the people that soured this for me. 1 bedroom apartment for $ 35 and 3 bedroom for $ 65. Well, I went with it, because I knew that I needed good reviews. 

First booking was for 1 week. Person had no prior reviews, told me that he was in between apartments and has several service animals (sorry, but nobody has more than 1 service dog, because it costs about 10K to train one0. I actually allow dogs, so this obvious lie set up a huge red flag for me. I Did some research and found a bunch of evictions for him. His profile says that he's in Missouri, but he's been living in Atlanta for years, so obviously not a traveler. I got really worried, as I didn't want someone that would turn into a squatter and called airbnb and they agreed to cancel the reservation. The guy then threatened to have me thrown off airbnb. 

Had my first guests arrive Friday, 2 weeks ago. It was raining and she texted 'we're here'. I looked out the window and didn't see anyone. Went outside of our compound and see their car further down the road, facing me. I'm standing in the middle of the street, in the pouring rain, waving my arms. There's no way they didn't see me. They turned right, away from me and towards the main street again. I'm running after them, yelling, waving my arms, but they don't stop. They get stuck at the main road, because there are cars and they can't turn. I finally catch up with them and they agree to turn around (only hit me later that they really were leaving and were not lost) . Anyway, I walked them through and then they said that they'd go to dinner. 30 minutes later they called and said that they wouldn't be back. I told them that I'll get them a refund. Was my first guest and I didn't want to start off as a bad host. They cancelled and I made the mistake of after canceling them on my end, thinking that that was the process for them to get their money back. Turns out that I was then being penalized, because this cancellation on my end would have made it impossible for me to become super host for at least a year. I called airbnb and they said 'don't worry, everything's fine'. But I could see on my stats that because of this cancellation I was at 75%, when I would have required 100%. 

2nd guests were awesome. They loved it so much that they came back the 2nd week and rented my other unit. And they just came back for the 3rd time. 

3rd guests was a young couple, that seemed to fit right in. He's a musician, she had dreadlocks and they both worked as bartenders. Both told everyone there how much they loved it. They actually contacted me at 2pm and asked, if they could check in at 3pm. I told them that I didn't expect anyone and would have to clean first and that the unit wouldn't be ready until 5 or 6 earliest. Would that still work for them? They said that that was fine, but would there be any way for them to just stop by at 3 and drop off their stuff and come back at 6? I agreed. So, the boyfriend came with his things and then went into the bedroom and closed the door and stayed. Ok, no big deal, we cleaned the rest of the apartment, as we had had a plumber there earlier. And since these were the first guests in this unit, the sheets were new. 

Being bartenders, they worked nights, so, we didn't see them much. Check out was 10am on July 5th. Sent a message, asking if they had checked out at 10.10. No answer....Tried calling at 10.45...phone turned off. Tried several more times to call..off.  At 11.30 I finally knocked on the door. They had still been sleeping and were clearly upset. I told them that check out was at 10, they insisted that it was 11. I pointed out that it was 11.30 now and that they had still been sleeping and that I had another guest coming at 3pm and needed to clean. I was still on the property when they left around noon. I waved good bye and they didn't acknowledge me.  Got a scathing review how terrible it was and how there was noise all night long and they couldn't sleep and that this was a dangerous neighborhood (I did describe that this is not a neighborhood for walking around in and they didn't have a car and walked around in the middle of the night, coming from their bartending jobs), that I was late and wouldn't let them check in until 6pm, instead of 3pm, that I loudly woke them up at 10am, when check out was at 11 and so on and that they wouldn't recommend anyone to stay here. I had given them a 5* review, because it wasn't such a big deal with the check out - even though in retrospect I Wished I hadn't. Guests in the neighboring unit told me that they didn't come home until 5am, when their dogs loudly welcomed them, so, they hadn't even been there when there was supposedly all of this noise. Besides, even if they had, it was 4th of July and I'm sure there were fireworks and parties all over the U.S. 

I contacted airbnb in tears, told them that I have other airbnb guests that are willing to vouch that these people hadn't been there at the time they claimed and that my email trail through airbnb shows that I told her ahead of time that she couldn't check in at 3pm...they opened a case, but never did anything. 

Then I had this couple with 4 children that booked for 4 days over July 4th. I tried to explain to her that our artist community property is for common use for everyone, but that it's somewhat raw, with walls and places where children could get hurt, if not supervised etc. She said that was fine. Again, the neighborhood was explained in text and email. No problem. 2 days before she writes that they had a death in the family and whether they could cancel. I told her to just go ahead and cancel through airbnb (I had the easiest cancellation policy). Next day the reservation was still there. I asked her to please go ahead and cancel, as I was now in limbo land. She then changed her trip to 2 days. Came on the 3rd. She and her husband walked through the main area of the house and walked back out. She came back and said that her husband didn't like it and they were going to leave. That she had no problem with anything, but that she had only shown him the pictures and he didn't like the area. She wanted a full refund. I said that that really wasn't fair to me, but that she needed to contact airbnb. She never cancelled, so I could never open it up again to anyone else. 

A few days ago she asked for the refund and gave me a scathing review: the pictures must have been 10 years old (were taken 1 week before by a professional photographer, no editing and nothing was changed since) and all of the walls and floors were dirty. That there was a man on the front porch (this is a duplex and I have a painter living in the other unit) that must have been the community bum. That I didn't look like my picture (sorry, but I was cleaning the unit all day and didn't wear make-up and had my hair in a ponytail). 

Then I had some great guests, who didn't write a review, so, I couldn't balance it out. Got a few good or great reviews. 

Yesterday morning I got a letter that said that I was suspended, but that I still needed to host the current reservations and if I got my average back up above 4 stars they would reconsider. I was going to hang in there, but then I got a call from a guest, that had come the night before, who told me that she couldn't stay there, because the lighting wasn't bright enough for her to put on her make-up and that she found a piece of trash under the sofa and why I wouldn't check the place before I let guests in. 

That was it. I sort of had a break-down and called airbnb and told me that I was done. Those past 2 weeks were so stressful. Every guest I was worried that they'd find something wrong. I felt I was being held hostage by potential good or bad reviews. You're not allowed to turn down too many inquires or you get penalized. Almost everyone I booked had no reviews. You can only put a contingency of having had good reviews, if you do instant booking. 

I met every guest myself, even those arriving at midnight. I had water and snacks in the fridge. I walked them through everything and told me to call me if there's anything wrong, missing, even if it's 2am, since I just live 2 blocks away. 

Basically, I feel really relieved today. I'm a great landlord, but I don't want to feel that I'm held hostage by guests like this. This was not for me. But at least I don't have to look back some day and wished that I had.....

 I haven't read through the novel yet :) , but I am just guessing someone is upset.... its like everywhere I turn, airBNB drama....

Just curious by the way... were you in compliance with these with the City of Atlanta? Especially with the hotel and business license & tax?

Land Development Code.

Atlanta’s Land Development Code, Part III of the Code of Ordinances, governs most land use in Atlanta. You should consult Part 16 of the Land Development Code in particular to see if your listing is consistent with any zoning requirements or use definitions. Important terms include “apartment,” “bed and breakfast inn,” dwelling unit,” “family,” “guest house,” “hotel,” “lodging unit,” “roominghouse,” “tourist home.”

Building and Housing Standards. 

Atlanta has rules and regulations specifying minimum construction, design, and maintenance standards for buildings, including regulations on habitability, health, and safety. Certain regulations applicable to residential and non-residential uses may be relevant to your listing, including Appendices A to F of the Land Development Code. You can review these here. For more information, contact the Atlanta Office of Code Compliance.

Hotel License. 

Atlanta requires owners and operators of hotels and similar businesses to apply for and receive a license to operate. The license is issued through the Atlanta Police Department’s License and Permit Unit. Please review Chapter 30, Article XI of the Code of Ordinances, or contact the Police Department or Office of Revenue for more information.

Business License.

Atlanta also generally requires anyone owning or operating a new business to submit an application and pay an annual tax. For new business owners, the City’s Zoning Enforcement Division will verify if the business can exist in its location. You can review rules in Chapter 30, Article III of the Code of Ordinances. A step-by-step summary of the process is available on the Department of Finance’s website.


Atlanta assesses hotel or motel occupancy taxes on any structure or building that is occupied by guests. Guests qualifying as a “permanent resident,” or guest stays of 30 days or more, are exempt from the tax. More information about the transient occupancy tax is available at the City's municipal code, Chapter 146. Fulton County and the State of Georgia also imposes a hotel or motel also assess a hotel or motel occupancy tax on guest stays of more than 30 days. More information can be found in the County's Tax Code and the State's Tax Code.

Other Rules. 

It's also important to understand and follow other contracts or rules, such as leases, timeshare ownership rules, condo board or co-op rules, HOA rules, or rules established by tenant organizations. Please read your lease agreement and check with your landlord if applicable.

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Originally posted by @Michaela G. :

@mike fletcher...I haven't read all of your posts..

 aww... the plan wasn't to get you more worked up... I can trust airBNB to do that for ya :), they're just built that way... it was however a serious question though... I hear of illegal postings on airBNB exceeding the 80% range in most cases. Typically if I ask an airBNB host if they had just the basic hotel license which is mandatory in many areas, the answer usually is no... I suspect that may also be the case here not just with you but probably just about every other host who responded to your post. Try not to take things too personal on here...tenants, as you may have already experienced, can be a headache :)

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Originally posted by @Michaela G. :

Mike, your condescending attitude that you regularily display, is duly noted.

 I would suggest these as opposed to venting or name calling... negativity tends to attract company but thats probably the left side of my brain talking...

Let's get this thread back on track. Character assassinations and name calling are not needed on these forums.

I see these types of rentals like cabin rentals and it is a job someone is buying for income. These are not what I consider to be passive types of investments.

The belt line for developers stalled last time from TAD funding falling through. Developers are not going to pay premiums for land in suspect areas without subsidies to minimize project risk. They could get half way through a larger project and the real estate cycle changes. Right now larger lenders for development projects are shying away from new multifamily development or wanting to do much lower LTV's to curb risk at this point in the cycle for that project type.

For the medical tenants and professional rentals they tend to like nicer and safer areas and would not do short term rental in those areas.

I have clients for commercial real estate in the medical field and with the money they make they would never stay in such a place. Maybe there are people that do but I have not heard of them. Developers want to see an area mature and (turn) to a certain level before they feel confident stepping in with a project. Down town Atlanta is so fickle and can change block by block.  

It takes a certain type of investor to want to help gentrify an area and you have to enjoy it. That and short term rentals are not for everyone and certainly not for me. I love real estate in that there are hundreds of ways to invest your time and money. Find one you enjoy and feel good about and that generally helps your chances of success. If the asset type you are in drains you dry mentally and financially then it might not be the optimal path on RE for you.     

Hey @Michaela G. -- you either win or you learn, right?  Sounds like this adventure has been a learn.  It seems airbnb is like a get-rich-quick plan that really does work for lots of people, but I guess not yet in Pittsburgh.  My son & I stayed in a very basic place in Columbus that was about $25/night, and it was fine for me.  An awesome historic Victorian in a run down neighborhood, a shelter around the corner, Pittsburgh-esque a couple of streets over (swept dirt yards, a 'gathering of old men' around a bbq").  I thought it was cool, but I'm the mom who took my middle-school kids to stay in a travellers' hostel in Mexico and ate from the food trucks . . .  I gave the Columbus guy a 5* review -- it was as I expected -- except for the location, which nothing could make any different and prospective guests need to know. 

I'm glad you've got more stable folks lined up for all the places, and I bet you'll enjoy them more anyway (as will the firethrowers, guitar players and other folks in the community).  It's not always all about the money.  FYI - I'm still up for that drink sometime. Sounds like you're in ATL for a long while. :-)

@Michaela G.

Musicians (actually, artists as a whole) can be pretty flighty in the head.  There is a reason the artist stereotypes are so prominent... there is enough truth in them to keep them alive, and sadly, a lot of artists perpetuate the stereotypes they despise!  

Is there another, perhaps better niche you can seek out?  Pilots and aircrew members, traveling nurses, business people that are in town seeing clients in your local area; people attending various conventions, concerts, and or sports events?

@Michaela G. I think your properties are not meant for AirBnB. When people are booking vacations they want the cheapest price, but when they arrive they want a 5 star place.   Buyer's (renters) remorse kicks in especially if your professional photos make the place look better than it is.  

Good afternoon all, hope this finds you well. I have been trying to get into airbnb business as well but I have bad credit and no money or property. I read somewhere that I can put a lease on llc I was wondering how to go bout the process

@Anna Watkins , sure, let's meet for a drink sometime.

@Eric Anderson , why would I change from creatives? It works beautifully and I'm now looking for another MF where I can do that again. 

It's all not that devestating or anything. It's disappointing that this didn't work for me, but I'll just fill up the rest of the furnished units with creatives and move on.

@Michaela G.  I read your original post when it first came up and see it got side tracked at some point.  Just wanted to say thank you for posting.  That took guts, and I enjoyed reading the story when you posted it.  Good lessons there for many of us.  

SORRY to hear about your negative experience with AirB... but I'm also NOT the least bit, surprised... I studied Air Bed & Breakfast in some detail, several years ago... have stayed in about ten abodes thereon, and spent over $10k., as a guest. It seems to me that since the CEO (Brian) & co. began 'mentoring' with the likes of eBay's CEO (John) and AirB is expected to 'go public' either later this year, or in 2018, that in all likelihood this will only continue to get even more lop- sided as time goes on, as par? And there it is in a nutshell, if you understand what that really MEANS?? 

Prior to hearing about the 'pitch' to the (Rockefeller) Aspen Institute, and Chesky 'consulting' with (former BAIN Capital CEO) Wall Streeter, Donahoo, I was an advocate... and will likely continue to use AirB, as I like the 'experience,' and abhor HOTELS and their inconsiderate guests! However they are NOT in the business of being FAIR to hosts, any more than eBay is fair to their REAL customers, the SELLERS! Bottom line; they are FIRSTLY 'cash cows' to the so- called ELITES and all public companies are beholden to them, as are the 'founders.' PERIOD!

@Scott T. , you're right in that they've been changing things to help the future IPO. So, they're trying to be more like hotels and are weeding out 'quirky' in favor of predictability. Funny, since the whole concept started with Brian having an air mattress in his living room in San Francisco, that visitors could book. 

They are forcing hosts more into 'Instant booking' and take away control by punishing hosts for rejecting people without positive reviews. 

They get rid of listings that are below 4* and new guests don't realize that anything but a 5*review can be detrimental to hosts. We're all so used to maybe take off a little, if something's not perfect, and don't think much about it, because 4 stars of 5 is still very good - not for airbnb hosts.

@Michaela G. have you thought about trying to rent to all the movie studio people that seem to be on every corner of Atlanta these days? I turned down one for a regular renter a couple of years ago because I didn't realize that even though on paper their income may look inconsistent it is actually quite high, just comes in chucks at a time. They come from California and get tired of per diem in a hotel for 3 months to 1 year while filming.

@Michaela G. thanks for sharing your experience. I think you are spot on: low prices attracted wrong people. We all know that reducing the price increases the occupancy rate, and your experience shows the limit to that rule. I learned it while screening the inquiries when I started listing my properties. That's why I immediately decided to have a minimum under which I'll never go, preferring leaving the places vacant in low season.

But I think there is more to it. Those guests (I think #2) who turned away from the neighborhood: That tells you a gap between the listing and the reality. I am sure you can find the right words to inform the guests what they should expect. Or a few pictures of the streets including one not so nice.

One thing I don't know: are there any successful hosts in that neighborhood? (successful means active since a couple years with a lot of reviews). If not, then it was predictable: the other lesson learned is the "market research" for ANY BUSINESS is essential.

But if there are working units in the immediate the neighborhood, then  I won't give up. Restart with a new account and leverage the lessons learned and you'll make it. 

Best of luck.

That's a job for sure! I'm not knocking it but seems like too much work for what it's worth. Perhaps try renting out units to rehabbers or contractors in the area on a month to month basis. You seem like a great person to rent from... now find an equally great person to rent. It's a business transaction nothing more nothing less. 

@ Polite , actually, my airbnb guests who kept coming back - the guy is catering for movie sets and they were between apartments and now that they're back to working, he works 80 hours a day and they immediately signed up to monthly for one of the furnished apartments, that they had rented through airbnb first. 


@Kevin Lefeuvre , actually, I'm happy that I"m off it now. There are other houses in the neighborhood, much worse location than mine . Mine is on the edge and nobody has to drive past boarded up houses. This is actually a nice part of the neighborhood. I would have never thought of doing airbnb here, if I hadn't met this woman who had just moved from the westcoast and was looking to buy a house here with the intent of airbnbing her bedrooms. She bought a house on the worst street. vacant lots and boarded up houses all around her. To get to her, people would have to drive through 6-7 really bad blocks and she's making it work. We're in the first block of that street and our whole block is fenced, so, I thought it would work. 

But seeing how much work it is to meet everyone and any time night or day, with 3 units and another one being renovated now, and then having a few people really mess it up - not for me. 

Yes, I would have made more money, but it's a job and I don't want to have a job. I have enough rentals that the extra income is not required.

The length and the level of detail to your story shows the level of passion you had to making this work.....I'm sorry that it didn't. I have been considering Airbnb options for several of my units but after hearing your story I don't even need to sleep on it, my dream just died. There is no way the guests can have that much power over the host. If you had a go-fund-me page to compensate for your troubles I'd probably donate because it has, and will probably help so many people who are considering the same thing. Remember every bad has a good and if the only good was a learning experience for you then it wasn't a failure. Keep your head up and be the best landlord you can be. Based on this story, I'd venture to guess that you are a excellent landlord. Godspeed my friend.

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