It's official folks! After a little over a month, we finally posted our first AirBnb listing in Portsmouth, VA using one of the units in our quadplex. We are open for business starting tomorrow. My wife and I are experimenting with using the AirBnb on all the units but are waiting to see how this first unit pans out. The Hampton Roads area is a pretty big tourist area in the summertime, particularly VA Beach so I expect a big bump around then.
Any advice or tips for running the Airbnb would be greatly appreciated! Thanks BP family
Replace the flappers in the toilets. They are cheap. Wasted water is not cheap. Replace your central air filters. Buy a carpet shampooer and use it. Don't skimp on bedding, towels and toilet paper. Skimp on light bulbs, laundry detergent and paper towels. Don't skimp on internet and things to watch on HDTV. Skimp on extravagant gift baskets, bubble bath and cosmetic soap. Don't skimp on cookware and kitchen appliances. Skimp on buying new appliances and new furniture. Don't skimp if something breaks and you have to pay a little extra to get it fixed pronto. Skimp on paying a professional for something that you can do yourself.
There is plenyt of info posted here on BP.
Congratulations- that’s awesome, and good timing too!
Type up and print out a page of tips, your policies for trash, checkout procedures for bedding, towels, dishes, Fire exits, local favorites, restaurants, coffee houses, etc. Edit it as you go. Put it in a visible place, maybe in a binder if you have tourist brochures. Don’t start automating your messages or tasks until you’ve been around the block a few months.
Use white everything as easier
to clean. Go with a thin comforter because easier to wash. Use VRBO and Booking.command sync the calendars. Don't
oversell your property so people
are disappointed. Have Internet and a coffee maker stocked.
@Paul Sandhu Thanks for the tips. We did most of those including completely redoing the bathroom. But we will have to reevaluate our cookware I think. Luckily we live in the same building so if anything breaks or needs to be urgently fixed, I can immediately respond. Especially while we shake out all the kinks of the place.
@Nancy Bachety Thanks for the advice. We were toying with what to include in the welcome page and you gave us some extra great ideas!
@Charles Kao Thanks for the comments! I've never heard of VRBO, what is that? We were planning on sticking to the Airbnb calendar and transferring the dates to our personal calendars. But if there are programs that automatically do that, then that sounds like a better option.
@Anthony Pinto reviews are really helpful. if you have some friends/family you can rent to that can write a favorable review that will go a long way in helping you get top paying customers.
Congrats! Best of luck!
VRBO and Home Away are on same platform but just google it. It varies on properties but quite a few bookings for us and sometimes
more than AirBNB depending on how nice your place .You can import your calendars from all the platforms so they sync with each other but be careful as they may allow inquiries for booked dates on another platform so if you accept without checking then you could double book.
We've used AirBnb to house hack for the past two years and we're proud to say we're finally getting out of that business. We've met some great people, made lots of money, but it's so time intensive and as Brandon Turner put it in one of the podcasts, guests have considerable power with their reviews which are everything. We've started the transition to host travel nurses exclusively. Same resources to setup and operate the property, but they three to six month contracts at a time. And as we now realize, it cashflows the same after taking into account the off season with AirBnb. And it's less bandwidth to mange which enables us to focus more resources to the rest of our REI business. Just food for thought...
@Charles Kao I'll look into all those options. Do you self-manage or use a short term property manager? I am leaving the area within the next year and want to work out some of the logistics of remote Airbnb.
@Richard Santi We are right in the middle between a large shipyard and a hospital so we were toying with the idea of doing exclusively traveling nurses or traveling shipyard workers. We just wanted to get our feet wet with this first listing and see how much time and effort it will cost us. Like I said above, with us moving, we'll need to find a short term rental manager that can take over a majority of the control of the Air Bnb.
I self manage with a cleaner which is all you need but hard to get because you need someone to be available 11-2 and scheduling. Vacation rentals do not make alot of money with property management in my opinion relative to your long term rental because PM normally costs 25-40 percent so while you make 2-3 times the gross, your net is still about the same. With that being said I know a few
vacation rental hosts that do all the cleaning themself and only manage 2-3 rentals themself
and do very well. I am not in a vacation rental friendly area and it's difficult to comply with the guidelines and even when you do, all it takes is one mad neighbor to complain to city and they send a cease operations letter. We had a vacation rental that met county guidelines but city said no because it is considered commercial use when you market your property as short term stay. So in their eyes it was legal to have short term stays but not to market it as a short term stay. Not trying to scare you but be careful about scaling your model and have a good backup plan if legislation changes later. Some of my best vacation rentals have been shutdown. Drives me nuts the gurus don't talk about pitfalls enough.
@Charles Kao We are doing the cleaning and scheduling ourselves right now but we are going to do a trial run on a couple cleaners in the area while we are still local. If the scheduling is automatic, I see no need to pay a company to manage that for us. We are having our city inspection within the next month to register our place but there are maybe 15 other AirBnbs in my immediate area, so I'm not too concerned with having an issue with the city. Worst comes to worst, we can long term rent out that unit like the rest of the units in the quad.
Your location sounds awesome and I think you'll crush it out there and you have an escape plan. Now that we're coming to the end of our first round of travel nurses, we're using Airbnb to fill the gap between contracts to cut down on vacancy expenses. I can't express how important it is to find the right management. We're still working through it ourselves. We self manage and only need one when we travel. Last manager did not inform us that guests had thrown a party and damaged the house - tried to hide it. Unreal stuff. And the search continues...
I selfmanage, consult and manage for others but not an area of my business we are trying to grow as I do the vacation rentals because I like meeting people and we also have converted AirBNB guests into homebuyers as my wife is a realtor. Our top AirBNB rental generated 14k in business from real estate commissions because the guests were visiting area to plan for move. Not to knock others that are doing househacks but it is not time intensive at all. Like any business if you know what you are doing then it's a efficient business, but we spend a few hours a month including cleaning for each of the properties but its not easy to ge there if you aren't willing to put the time and effort in. If you are stressed by reviews then simply don't oversell the property. On our househack, my mortgage is completely paid, plus utilities, and I after all that I am still making two hundred a month even during the slow months minimum. The key to five star reviews is make your place sound average but niche so people book it based off the niche you serve. We tell guests we have a Keurig but they are pleasantly surprised we stock it with tons of teas, coffees and bottled water. We also tell the guests the downsides of the listing up front e.g. stairs to entrance, low ceilings, dog onsite so if you get a complaint you can petition AirBNB to remove it but it gives them nothing to complain about because they have already been forewarned. People don't complain when they have low expectations. If a new complaint arrives we address it in our welcome
pack as well as in the "disclosures" to guests when they book. We had a single guest complain that the rental was horribly cold so we put a note that the temperature of the unit is 68 degrees. Never had a complaint since. Complaints are serious so don't take them
personal, but use it to perfect the expectations for your rental.
@Richard Santi Our fear is that will have little physical oversight of a management company from across the world. But we have sometime to trial run some companies now. Do you have any recommendations for property management companies?
Congrats. You have a ton of apps out there now that help you streamline the rental process and make STR a more passive income vehicle. I would suggest looking into Lodgify and Smartbnb, the first one will allow you to make your own website and sync it to airbnb and vrbo but also allows you to take bookings on your own, smartbnb helps with replying to messages and you can set up automated responses, revue requests and check-ins. I also have in all the properties that we manage asked owner to upgrade to smart locks as well as Ring for the front door so we can check when guest arrive (how many people they actually have) and when our cleaning crews go in etc. Regardless if this is going to be your only unit or the first of many I would encourage you to set up all the systems you can and automate as much as possible, if not STR can tend to become a job real quick. Hope that helps, feel free to reach out if you have any questions.
@Charles Kao I never thought about using Airbnb as a stepping stone to find homebuyers. That's a great deal! We've had a number of our guests so far PCSing to the area or moving here for temporary orders. How do you broach that subject with your Airbnb guests? Since we have a separate apartment for our Airbnb, we never have to interact with the guests and introducing ourselves seems a little strange, in my opinion.
We have tried to make our place as homey as possible but I'm sure there is always something that can be improved, which should come with time and feedback from guests. That's a good way to look ay complaints though: as opportunities to improve and be better hosts.
For cleaning fees, we have a pretty small fee right now ($10) and my concern is that $10 is not going to cover cleaning the apartment after a 2-3 week stay. Do you have any suggestions on cleaning fees? My gut tells me we should have it variable based on a longer stay but $10 just doesn't seem like a lot in general.
@Anthony Pinto $10 is not a small fee for cleaning. $10 for cleaning might as well be $0 for cleaning. I can't imagine someone would clean a bathroom, do laundry, clean a kitchen, make beds, vacuum and mop all for $10. That doesn't even include cleaning supplies or replenishing the consumables. $50 seems about right for a 1-2 BR apt.
Most of the time the guests tell us why they are coming to area and we tell the guests that the interaction can be as much or as little
as they want so we can but may not interact. Again some people don't like this but we genuinely like meeting new people. Once they bring it up they are moving to area we let them know we can help them with finding long term arrangements as well. If they rent from us at a long term rental we have an early escape clause they can cancel their lease at anytime without notice if they use our services as a realtor to buy. Because they almost always buy with a mortgage we really are getting 30 day notice anyways. We look at it that if we are going to make a 6-9k commission on average its worth possibly losing one month rent and we get a ton of referrals from qualified home buyers which are also qualified renters. They save money not having to do a locked in lease and also they normally go with us unless their work requires a relocation specialist because we are likely one of the few people they know in the area or they would have stayed with them already. We learn alot about our city from our guests as well by interacting with them too. For example I found out Grand Rapids, MI is one of only 4 cities in the US that has a free K-12 Charter Aviation academy. One of our guests literally moved to area because their child dreamed of being a pilot and this was only way to afford the lessons. My niece and nephew actually went to the school and got their pilot's license before going to college. Lastly, interacting with guests also seems to make sure they take care of the place better. Some of our nicer rentals where we don't interact with guests at all the guests would steal shampoo, paper towels, bottled water and treat the place like a hotel but that does not happen when they think you are mom and pop and we don't get referrals from those properties as much, so its a tradeoff. Biggest takeaway relationships make/save money for everyone.
@Anthony Pinto if you don’t own a label maker (Brother P-touch has been solid) you should get one immediately. Label all of the things that you can imagine might even remotely be ambiguous. Ask your friends to come and maybe stay a night and critique the experience (assuming you’ve stayed in it after build out too - right?)
Making things as EASY as possible will pay off in spades (why do so many people buy things on Amazon when it’s available locally or even for less on other online stores- they make it TOO easy to buy!!!)
Congratulations on our new journey!
My first piece of advice is to never put all of your eggs in one basket (with Airbnb) and I think they would tell you that too!
Secondly, make sure you have a robust workflow (this is NOT a passive business) and remember you are now in the hospitality business. Make sure you get every guest to sign a booking form.
Third, you will make mistakes and that's okay!
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