Tips from an Airbnb Host – for hosts

So you want to use Airbnb? Maybe you’re looking for an affordable place to stay, or interested in making a little money as a host.  Here’s a few things we’ve learned over the past 18 months and 100 + guests since we signed up to be hosts.  Today: Tips for the host.  See yesterday’s post for tips for guests.

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8 ways to be a great host

  1. Consider your space.  If you have a guest room that isn’t used very often, Airbnb might be right for you – especially if said guest room has a bathroom.  You can list rooms that have a shared bathroom, but as an occasional-guest myself, I much prefer a private bathroom. Also, some guests are awesome and you’ll totally wish they moved in to your neighborhood, but some you’d maybe rather not share a bathroom with.  Also, bonus points if your guest room/bathroom is in a lower-traffic area of your house. (I’m not even going to get into the futon/airmatress world here.)  Guest room + extra bathroom = best.
  2. Be mindful of the details.  It’s the little things that make a big impact.  Abundant, easy-to-find electrical outlets.  A full length mirror.  Hair dryer in the bathroom.  A book of interesting short stories on the night stand.  Empty hangers in the closet.  A comfortable place to sleep, a very clean bathroom and reliable wifi are expected and should be your bare minimum efforts.  It’s those extras that make guests say “wow!”
  3. Be ready for the laundry.  We don’t have a minimum stay requirement (more on that later) so we get a lot of one-night stays.  The business is nice, but that’s a lot of laundry.  Most guests are remarkably clean and respectful, but it’s still a lot of bathrooms to clean and loads of laundry to do.  And be ready to buy new sheets.  Hotels buy industrial sheets that are made to be washed almost every night.  The sheets I buy at Target? Soft and affordable, but need to be replaced more than you’d expect with that frequency of washing.
  4. Flexibility is key.  Guests show up early. Guests show up late. Guests stay late.  It happens. You have to be ready to roll with it.  Having a keypad lock on the entry helps, but it can still be frustrating.  However, guests appreciate it SO much when they can check out late or store luggage or whatnot, so for me, in the long run, being flexible is worth it.
  5. Manage your calendar.  As a guest, nothing is more frustrating than messaging a host about dates that look available, only to find out that j/k, they’re not.  Block dates that your aunt is coming to town.  Block dates when you’re having surgery.  Block dates when you are hosting your friend’s going away party and not accepting guests.  Set your calendar, set your terms and minimum stay, manage your business.  Please and thank you.  A quick note on that: being able to accept one-night stays helps boost bookings (and therefore your revenue) tremendously.  It is more work, but for us it’s worth it.  Plus, the more you book, the more reviews you’ll get, and the higher you’ll rank in Airbnb’s mystery algorithm, and the more bookings you’ll get.  It’s the circle of life, friends.
  6. Get the right insurance agent.  I know, insurance is boring.  But, it’s important.  Airbnb does NOT provide insurance for hosts, and it’s important that your insurance agent and the underwriter understands that you’re hosting Airbnb guests.  Many agents aren’t familiar with Airbnb, and are hesitant to even approach the subject with their underwriters, much less ensure coverage.  I’m confident the insurance market will change and relevant products will be created soon, but until then, find someone who is comfortable with your set up.  (If you’re in Omaha, we’re happy to pass along contact info for our new agent.)
  7. Minimize personal items.  Sure, you want your house to feel like a home.  But your guests probably don’t want to sleep under a giant photo of you on your wedding day.  And if your guests have kids, chances are they’ll move all your knick knacks juuuuuust a bit – just enough to make you crazy.  Your Nana’s quilt may be beautiful and special, but if it can’t be tossed in the washing machine on a regular basis, find a different comforter. Be prepared for a broken glass here or there, or a washcloth to be bleached out by someone’s face wash.  Remember – things are just things, even if it was a wedding present.  (This is one of the main benefits of hosting for me – keeping things in perspective.)
  8. Be realistic.  Airbnb is great if you want a little extra cash for date night, or to fund a room redecoration.  Airbnb (in Omaha at least) is not so great if you need reliable income to cover a mortgage or major remodel.  We’re some of the busiest hosts in Omaha (based on ongoing number of reviews) and here’s what I’ll say about our monthly Airbnb revenue – throw pillows from Pier 1 and a new restaurant or two, yes.  Mortgage payment, no.
  9. BONUS:  Earn Superhost Status.  Get 10 bookings in a year.  Have 80% 5-Star reviews.  Respond to guests in a timely manner.  Don’t cancel.  It’s that easy! You can do it.

Note: These tips aren’t endorsed by Aibnb – they’re just what we’ve learned.  You be you.
Also:  Airbnb is not legal in all cities/buildings. Follow your local laws and tax policies.  Do the right thing!

Tips from an Airbnb Host – for guests

So you want to use Airbnb? Maybe you’re looking for an affordable place to stay, or interested in making a little money as a host.  Here’s a few things we’ve learned over the past 18 months and 100 + guests since we signed up to be hosts.  Today: Tips for the guest.  Check back tomorrow for tips for new hosts.

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6 easy ways to be a rockstar Airbnb guest

    1. Fill out your Airbnb profile.  Use your real name, include a photo, share a few words about yourself or your family, complete the Airbnb external verifications.  Airbnb is a system built on trust, and knowing more about you helps me be comfortable inviting you into my home.
    2. Use the Contact Host function.  Have questions about a property? Not sure of your trip dates? Want to make sure there’s a private bathroom or no pets or need to check in early? Submit an inquiry through the Contact Host link on the listing page before submitting an actual reservation.  If you submit an actual reservation request but we’re not a good fit for each other, I have to decline your reservation, and that can affect my ranking.  So, do us both a favor and shoot the host a quick message before actually reserving the room.
    3. Keep me updated on your travel plans.  If you say you plan to arrive at 4 PM, please don’t suddenly show up at 2 PM without advance notice.  Conversely, don’t be super duper late without keeping me posted on your travels.  Road construction happens.  Plane delays happen.  Last minute dinner plans happen.  We get it, and it’s totally okay, as long as you let us know.
    4. Don’t be afraid to take a chance on a new host.  Really!  (Except in Omaha, when you should stay with us, obvs). Use the Contact Host link, and ask a few questions.  Does the host communicate well and respond in a timely manner? Do they seem friendly? Look for fully completed profiles with lots of information about the house & hosts, plus plenty of photos. You could even ask for a small first-guest discount, especially if you’re willing to write a review for them afterwards. It’s understandable if you don’t want to be a host’s very first guest, but everyone starts somewhere, and it can be hard to break into a saturated market.  I’d personally rather stay with a new host than a host with reviews worse than 4-stars.
    5. Leave a review. Whether it be a full detailed description of your stay, or a simple summary sentence, please leave a review.  They have a direct correlation to how a host ranks in search listings.  The process takes just a few minutes, and it’s SO appreciated.  Also appreciated?  Private feedback.  Does my bathroom door squeak? Does a clock need a new battery?  Please let your host know.  Since I don’t stay in my own guest rooms, I rely on guest feedback to help me catch those details.
    6. Be respectful guests.  We have had totally awesome guests.  Really.  We’ve had over 100 people stay with us, and they have almost all been great.  What makes them great? They leave their trash in the trash can.  They hang up their towels in the bathroom. They let me know if something spills or breaks. They don’t steal my hangers (actually, many do – I’ve lost a surprising number of hangers). They put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher, or wash & dry them and put them away.  In short, they behave like guests in our home, not like entitled teenagers.
    7. TOTAL BONUS:  Strip your sheets & pillow cases before you leave.  I LOVE it when guests surprise me with this (it’s such a small thing but it makes cleaning go so much quicker), but it’s totally not expected or required.  The same goes for hostess gifts.

Note: These tips aren’t endorsed by Aibnb – they’re just what we’ve learned.  You be you.

Twitterature / October 2014

A Twitter-inspired look at books I’ve been reading recently.  (And here’s what I read last month.)  What’s on your bookshelf these days?

6224935This is Where I Leave You / Jonathan Tropper
A book club pick from before I joined the group. Witty, poignant and raw, it reads like it’ll be made into a movie (which it was). I disliked the narrator quite a bit, but still enjoyed the book.

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Defending Jacob / William Landay
Part legal thriller and part family drama.  Full of secrets, twists, and the unconditional love of a father.  A dark story, but one that captivates.

1736739Olive Kitteridge / Elizabeth Strout
A languidly slow, rich book – Strout wrote stories to savor.  This book is ordinary, and it is precisely that which makes it so beautiful and so exceptional.  Olive Kitteridge was awarded a Pulitzer Prize – a courageous decision.

17262126Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking / Anya von Bremzen
Digging in to Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking is not for the faint of heart – it’s a bit on the long side, rich with Soviet history and  filled with family memories and descriptions of meals that will make you want to go make a snack right now.  With mayonnaise.  I absolutely loved it.

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I’m linking up with Anne Bogel for her Twitterature series. Hop on over to Modern Mrs. Darcy for more.

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What I’m Into / September 2014

What I’m not into? August, evidently, as I completely missed last month’s linkup.  August, you were filled with first trimester nausea and naps and not wanting to do a darn thing other than lay around.  I did go to a conference in Austin with my best friend from high school, and got to meet two internet friends in real life over brunch, which I am definitely into.

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There’s nothing I love more than a big, blue sky.  I’m such a flatlander.  Any more trees than this and I feel claustrophobic.  Give me space, give me room.  There’s enough for all of us.

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My sister and her littles came to visit our hometown, and it was the most delightful time of laughter and memories and eating Mom’s familiar food (three cheers for dinner that someone else made, amiright?!) and sistering.  It was just the best.

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Husker football is in full swing and I rocked Go Big Red lipstick just because.

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Before we announced my pregnancy, Chad and I had family photos taken in our home.  I did contact the photographer about scheduling a shoot before I was even pregnant, but we didn’t actually get it scheduled until I was a few months along.  We have loved this season of life – being a 2-family, living in Omaha, living in our house especially, and I’m so glad we decided to celebrate that.

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We visited our dear Hutterite friends in Manitoba and enjoyed absolutely gorgeous weather.  Canada is not always quite so kind to us, but WOW, I love autumn.

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On the baby front, I’m 16 weeks now and starting to show a bit of a bump. This week I’m wearing all my favorite shirts one last time before they don’t fit anymore.  I reorganized my closet with some new maternity shirts in rainbow fashion of course, and realized I don’t own any yellow.  No Y in my Roy G Biv, sorry.  My 14 week pregnancy update is here, if you’re so inclined.

What I’m reading
I linked up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share books I’m reading in Twitter-inspired fashion.  This month’s reads included Anna and the French Kiss, The Expats and The Accident.  I also managed to read a bazillion books in August, which you can find here.

What I’m watching
Fall TV is back! Fall TV is back!  I’m back with Grey’s and Scandal, plus I’m giving Madame Secretary and How to Get Away with Murder a chance for a few more weeks.  Selfie and A-to-Z will be guilty pleasure laundry-folding accompaniments until they get cancelled, I’m afraid.

Around the web
I’ve been working hard not to get sucked into the inevitable swarm of mommy-guilt-inducing world of blogs and articles about cloth diapering, organic baby food making, no-chemical cleaning, whatevering.

Instead, I’ve been reading recipes for salted-caramel-popcorn-chocolate-chip cookies, because growing a baby is hard work, y’all and mama wants cookies.  Also, soup.  I love autumn.

Little things I’m loving, sans photos
Girls night. Our new neighbor. Saturday wandering the outlet mall with a good friend.  Chili & Cinnamon rolls.  Happy Hour with the bestie. Pants with elastic.  Hallelujah.

Adventures in Piggery
Gro Master moved into its new offices, so it’s been packing and unpacking and reorganizing and ugh I don’t like moving. The end.Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 3.34.11 PM

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I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer for her What I’m Into series. Hop on over to her blog for more.

L1: Week 14 Update

Finding out
I had really wanted the first words out of my mouth when I saw a positive pregnancy test to not be “Oh, sh!it,” but there it was.  I walked out of the bathroom and tossed the stick on the bed in Chad’s direction, then promptly buried my head under a pillow.  Two teeny stripes on the teeny tiny plastic stick, barely bigger than a match.

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I half wanted it to be right and half wanted it to be wrong.  This was SO not planned.  But ugh, even the idea of trying to get pregnant just seemed to suck all the fun out of sex.  We had talked about maybe this fall.  Mid-July wasn’t so far off; it would be okay.  But this was SO not planned.  So I peed on another stick.  That second line was fainter than the first test had been.  But really, those pregnancy tests cost about $.17 each, part of a multi-pack of ovulation strips and preg tests that I bought on Amazon.  So I found another pregnancy test in the linen closet – trusty Walgreens brand – and peed on that one.  The test was quite possibly expired.  But it was definitely positive.  We laughed in disbelief and cried happy tears and stared at each other in stunned, crazy silence and finally fell asleep somehow.  The next morning, I peed on another stick.  Just to be sure.  We’re having L1.  The first Little to join our family.

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My niece Dalya drew a picture and it’s pretty much the best ever

How I’ve been feeling
I never threw up during my first trimester.  I know; I’m lucky for that.  I did, however, feel kind of hungover all day every day for the first 10 weeks.  Dull headaches, that gross sour stomach feeling, craving breakfast burritos, don’t talk to me in the morning, do not touch me, I just want to take a nap, do I really have to get out of bed?  It was exhausting.

And the girls hurt.  That was actually the first symptom I noticed, right away.  My breasts feel A) uncomfortably huge, and B) badly bruised.  Super fun.

I’ve also had some pretty unfortunate lower back and hip pain.  I’m doing pilates and other stretching and going to a chiropractor and not sleeping super well very often, to be honest.  That’s probably my least favorite part about being pregnant so far.

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We found out right at 4 weeks, and I didn’t have my first appointment until almost 9 weeks.  Those 5 weeks were long.  I felt sick, but I didn’t feel pregnant. The sonogram helped make it a little more real.  We heard the heartbeat at my 12.5 week appointment – loud and strong at 167 bpm.  Everything looks good so far and we really love our OB.  We don’t love that she’s at Lakeside.  West Omaha, womp womp.

At the 10 week mark, the nausea went away almost completely.  As long as I don’t let myself get too hungry, my stomach feels pretty pre-pregnancy normal. Now at 14 weeks, I’m still exhausted and touch-sensitive and exhausted and my back and hips still hurt and I’m still exhausted.  I would definitely like to take a nap. But all in all, pretty good.

What I’ve been eating / not eating
During the first few weeks, I was on a pretty steady diet of animal crackers and corn chex.  Then for a while, popsicles and grape kool-aid were the only things that tasted good.  I could (and did) eat other food, it just didn’t taste very good.  I’m still not loving to eat meat that I cook myself.  For the past several weeks, homemade Chex mix is hands down what tastes best.  I really miss hard cider, but Chad found some non-alcoholic cider at Target that hits the spot.  With the exception of one unfortunate incident involving an entire can of Pringles and a lot of regret (omg don’t do that), there haven’t been any ridiculous food issues so far.  I totally reserve the right for that to change in the future.

How I’m really feeling
I continue to be simultaneously super excited about having a Little, and also super overwhelmed by the timing – Chad is applying for business school for Fall 2015, and admissions decisions are announced the week after L1 is due.  We’re slowly marching towards the edge of a Big Life Changes cliff, and we know that we have no idea what waits beyond.  We’re in this together and I can’t say enough about how supportive and patient and gracious Chad has been – SO VERY, but it is a lot right now.

Also? No one told me that I’d feel fat before I felt pregnant.  I gained right at 5 pounds during the first trimester, which is totally okay, but WOW it’s uncomfortable to feel too big for my clothes.  Shirts that fit normally very quickly didn’t. Thanks, girls.  The old hair-tie in the zipper trick saved me from buying new jeans for the first couple of months, but it didn’t feel good or look normal (to me).  I switched to elastic waist jeggings and maternity pants this week and got a new maxi-skirt and I’m never going back.  BLISS.  Buttons and zippers are for the birds.

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No significant bump yet, just big boobs and a few too many snacks.  And my big weird claw hand. Maybe I’ll have Chad start taking these pictures for me.

The best moments
Telling my sister was pretty awesome.  She may have screamed.  Posting it on Facebook & Twitter finally was amazing.  It was like engagement night all over; watching the joy and celebration roll in like ocean waves was tearful and overwhelming in the best way.  Online excitement is real excitement and online friends are real friends, yo.

YOU GUYS.
I took a 5th pregnancy that 3rd morning, just to make sure it stuck.  Yep.  I’m having a baby.  Little #1 is coming – due March 19.  Our 2-family is becoming a 3-family.  We’ll never be the same.

Twitterature / September 2014

A Twitter-inspired look at books I’ve been reading recently.  (And here’s what I read last month.)  What’s on your bookshelf these days?

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Anna and the French Kiss / Stephanie Perkins
I’ve been trying to read more YA, since some people say I shouldn’t.  This book was adorable.  Simply adorable.  I’ve read some valid critiques of the storyline, but I just plain loved it.

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The Expats / Chris Pavone
I picked this up after seeing it on Anne’s can’t-put-down list, and that proved true.  I read this in nearly one sitting.  Not the best book ever, but certainly enjoyable.  I always enjoy espionage and Americans living abroad.

18050094The Accident / Chris Pavone
I rolled right into The Expat’s sequel.  Also enjoyable.  However, I found The Accident to be a bit more predictable, and this one had just a few too many branches of the storyline for my liking.

I also started 4 books that I didn’t finish.  I didn’t dislike any, just couldn’t get into them.  Might give them another try next month.

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I’m linking up with Anne Bogel for her Twitterature series. Hop on over to Modern Mrs. Darcy for more.

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Twitterature / August 2014

A Twitter-inspired look at books I’ve been reading recently.  (And here’s what I read last month.)  What’s on your bookshelf these days?

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My Wish List / Gregoire Delacourt
A quick (short – under 200 pages) read.  Enjoyable and reflective if not a bit stodgy in places.  What would you do with a million dollars?

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Top Down / Jim Lehrer
A character-driven novel based on the events surrounding the Kennedy assassination.  An interesting (but not fascinating) look at What If? questions in life and the big impact that seemingly small decisions may or may not have.
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The Centurian’s Wife / Davis Bunn & Janette Oke
I enjoy Oke’s writing style well enough for what it is, and I’m not ashamed to say that I enjoy her books on occasion.  An interesting look at life in Judea immediately following the death of Christ – it gave me a new perspective on choosing to have faith in Jesus.

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Match Me If You Can / Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Sometimes you just need light and fluffy chick lit.  This was okay, but not great.  I learned later that it’s actually #6 in a series, which made some characters make a little more sense.  A lot of the humor rests on gender stereotypes, which I don’t love.

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Composing Amelia / Alison Strobel
This was not a great book.  The characters make terrible decisions, you guys, and the prose is nothing to write home about.  It highlighted a lot of what I have seen to be true when immature, overly-enthusiastic evangelical Christians marry at a young age.

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The Beginning of Everything / Robyn Schneider
Everyone gets a tragedy, indeed.  I enjoyed Ezra, Schneider’s male lead character – I thought he was well written for a teen boy, which I would imagine to be hard to capture.  Cassidy, his love interest, is written as such an Enneagram 4.  An intelligent read, while still witty and quick YA.

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Solsbury Hill / Susan Wyler
The setting of the moors was stunning and well-written, and became their own character in a way.  The rest of the book, and the characters of the human sort, fell flat for me.  A loose continuation of Wuthering Heights.  Bronte fans might enjoy this more than I did.

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A Homemade Life / Molly Wizenberg
I read (and enjoy) Orangette occasionally, and I think Wizenberg’s writing style works better in blog format.  Great recipes, lovely memories, but overall disappointing as a book for me. #unpopularopinions

7362158Girl in Translation / Jean Kwok
I saved the best for last.  I loved this book.  The true-to-life circumstances of this little immigrant family are disturbing and left me with much on my mind.  Beautifully written, important story.  I want to read more from Jean Kwok.

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17910558 Bread & Butter / Michelle Wildgen
I forgot this in my July edition, so I’ll include it here.  I was excited to read this since I love bread and butter, and restaurants, and brothers, but I found it a little boring.  Filled with sibling rivalry and mouth-watering descriptions of food and daily restaurant life, it should have been better than it was.

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I’m linking up with Anne Bogel for her Twitterature series. Hop on over to Modern Mrs. Darcy for more.

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