Things I didn’t know about being an Airbnb host

I’ve touted my love for Airbnb all over the place, even if it’s a hot point of contention for hotels and B&Bs in Newfoundland. But I’ve had so many good experiences with my hosts (including that time Maria in Greece guided me all over the island of Chios), where I saw things I would have NEVER seen otherwise.

In my mind, the Airbnb vs hotel/B&B experience is incomparable. They’re two entirely different things.

But ANYWAY I could rant on about that forever — the point of this blog post is to actually talk about being a host.

That’s right. Where once I offered my questionably stained futon up for Couchsurfers for free stays, now I live in an apartment with a comfy spare room suitable for folks visiting St. John’s on a budget. My roommate Melissa (who runs her very own blog) is the owner of house, and we both agreed to splitting the responsibilities of Airbnb hosting.

It was hell of a busy summer.

Being on the other end of Airbnb world was an enlightening experience for me, and it also made me realize how very little I understood about the actual hosting side of things.

Most importantly, Airbnb hosts are real people. They don’t tend to devote their lives to running a spare room in their house — which I’ve DEFINITELY taken for granted as a guest, in the past.

Of course you’ll expect a certain level of service. That’s fair. But here’s what I’ve learned about hosting (and, in turn, you should learn about your host).

Check-in and check-out times are rarely all that flexible

Because both Melissa and I work full-time jobs, it was pretty well impossible to lower the check-in time below 5PM. Surprisingly, most of our guests were one-nighters, and so Melissa often came home on her lunch breaks to change sheets, tidy up, and prepare for the next guests (or we had some time in the evenings).

But a lot of people didn’t understand that we couldn’t accommodate them at 10AM when their flight arrived at YYT.

I remember when I booked my Airbnb room in Munich for Oktoberfest, I must have changed the check-in time a half dozen times. At some point, the host expressed (with some exasperation) that he could only make himself available for a brief amount of time, since he was working. Having only ever stayed in hotels or hostels, this was a weird concept for me.

We don’t have a service desk or a 24-hour person on standby. Very, very rarely did any of our guests show up when they said they would. And sure, lots of times there are valid excuses — but if you can, please be respectful of your hosts’ time.

You’ll never please everybody

Our room is an incredibly affordable $50/night in downtown St. John’s, with free parking. For two people, that’s $25/night each–less than a bed in a hostel dorm. And while MOST people were incredibly wonderful and happy with their accommodations, we did have some nit-picky comments that left us scratching our heads.

We live in an older townhouse with only one bathroom. One of our more absurd critiques was someone suggesting we should “move the bedroom closer to the bathroom.” That’s not really how houses work, unfortunately.

Good ratings make all the difference

I think that sometimes people feel they have to leave a 3-star review instead of a 5-star review just because it’s not some luxurious penthouse at the top of a condo. As a guest, it’s important to weigh your satisfaction with the type of accommodations and what you’re paying for.

One guy left us a 3-star review because the cat had scratched up some of the doorframe in the porch — it doesn’t affect the house’s functionality at all, it’s just kinda there. Everything else he left us was a glowing review. There were no complaints about the room or amenities, just that one little bit of obscure information.

That 3 star sets a host back quite a bit. Consider your ratings carefully.

We love when you leave us private comments about how to improve things

A few times, people left us private comments noting something that could be improved in the room (a broken towel hook, for example). I LOVED that people took the time to do that, because those things are easy to fix, and there’s a good chance we simply didn’t even notice it to begin with.

It’s reasonable for your host to not be completely aware of how your experience is. Rather than air out small grievances in the rating section, a private message is a fantastic way to improve things for other guests.

We like getting to know our guests

Our summer was an endless parade of Airbnb guests, but out of all those people, only a handful of guests spent time chatting with us. We had two lovely girls from western Newfoundland who flaked out on the couch with us for some TV time, and a guy from Ontario who shared beers with us. My first two guests that I ever checked in came to the Pride Parade with me, and we all had a blast.

Obviously you’re there to explore the city on limited time. But don’t be shy! We’re just normal people too.

Plus we sincerely love St. John’s, and are happy to help you figure out things to do and where to eat. Don’t be afraid to ask!

Stress the most important instructions

I was pretty flippant about instructions from Airbnb hosts in the past, but NO MORE! Melissa has a rather flighty cat, Milo, who will take any opportunity to slip out the door and run into the street.

(Once, on the morning of a raging blizzard, I woke up and opened my front door to assess the damage — never thinking that Milo would make his mad dash for freedom in the middle of ridiculous storm. He did. Screaming, I slipped on my boots and ran out into the storm, wearing only shorts and a tank-top. I found the adorable idiot licking snow off a car’s bumper, scooped him into my arms, and dashed back through knee-high snow. He yowled and spat the whole way. I really hope the neighbours saw.)

So if we tell you that the cat likes to run away, please take note that the cat likes to run away! Several guests let him run loose. It was fine in the end, but still. Nobody wants a dead cat on their conscience. (And I’m rather fond of Milo.)

I love hosting and hope to continue with in 2018. If you haven’t tried Airbnb yet, you can use my code for a hefty discount

  • November 08 2017

    “That’s not really how houses work, unfortunately.” <– lol! This was super helpful to read. I use Airbnb all the time, and love it! I always rate my hosts fairly, and have done exactly what you noted you love – sending private notes with suggestions makes way more sense than complaining publicly about a scratched up post in the front yard! So bizarre. Some people are just SO hard to please, though. My fiance and I have considered being hosts, so these are great tips to keep in mind!
    Amanda recently posted…Seattle Corgi Parade 2017

    • November 12 2017

      Thanks Amanda! Yes, I don’t think I fully understood what it meant to be an Airbnb host until I started doing it myself. Good to see the other side of the coin!

  • November 09 2017

    We started hosting in our London flat when we travel. Which is a lot. London s expensive and rent is dead money so we tried to make it semi cost -netural. I have to say, despite scrutinizing potential guests like crazy (say no wayyyyy more than we say yes) we’ve still had some iffy guests. Dirty sanitary items, wine spilt everywhere as if Dexter had murdered someone (seriously how does ONE woman get wine everywhere) so we’re considering closing our acct. Bit sad really, I want to have faith in the sharing economy but it’s quickly fading.
    Roma recently posted…November 2017 Events In London: What’s On & Where

    • November 12 2017

      Oh, BLECH! That sounds AWFUL. I guess perhaps your clientele for London would be quite different than here in St. John’s too. We haven’t had to deal with any shady guests at all yet! Thank goodness.

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