Category Archives: House

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!

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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.

Carpet cleaning

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

5.  Get our carpet cleaned.  A few years of normal wear and tear plus several construction projects have left it in rough shape.

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It’s the most wonderful day of the year!  By “a few years of normal wear and tear” I really meant that the carpets hadn’t been cleaned since Chad bought the house…5 years ago.  And, I’m pretty sure the previous owners had pets.  They were in rough shape.  Sorry, everyone who has ever been at our house.

But, today. Today was carpet cleaning day.  I got a couple of estimates and went with the guy who was cheapest, who also happens to be the closest to our house.  Who also happens to own a paint ball company.  So there’s that.

2 hours later, and you guys.  It’s amazing.  The carpet looks (and smells) fresh and clean and the big weird stains that I pretended to ignore are gone.  Hooray.

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Exhibit A of the nice clean carpet – weird spots in the guest bedroom upstairs.  Gone.

cleaning 2Exhibit B of the nice clean carpet – weird spots (and feathers…don’t keep extra pillows under the bed, I guess).  Gone.

I couldn’t be more pleased.

 

I love books best of all

A good book, resting unopened in its slot on a shelf, full of majestic potentiality, is the most comforting sort of intellectual wallpaper. – David Quaimen

Modern Mrs. Darcy asked “What’s on your bookshelves?”  Well, I’m here to tell you.

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I grew up in a house with a lot of books, and no TV.  I read voraciously as a child and high schooler – Boxcar Children, Calvin & Hobbes, Beverly Cleary, Orphan Train Quartet, Baby Sitters Club, Sweet Valley, Christy Miller, Jeanette Oke, the Left Behind series, Lurlene McDaniel, James Michener, whatever I could get my hands on through the church library or our small town library loan program.

Chad likes books more than he likes reading, I think, and together, we have a decent collection. Our current house has an impressive bookshelf in the living room that holds them all, but truth be told, we need to get rid of a lot of our books – it’s even on my 33 before 33 list.

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The top shelf of books (with 4 empty shelves above it) are Chad’s Economics textbooks from his time at Northwestern University. He likes having them around. His Computer Science books are all in boxes in the basement. I promised him I wouldn’t get rid of them without his approval. Still working on that… The next shelf down is Someday DIY home improvement projects and fantasty novels. Potter, the complete Robert Jordan Wheel of Time series and another series that I’ve never heard of but has pretty jewel tone book covers.

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The next shelf is a dead giveaway that I went to a small Christian college.  Here we keep our Bible study resources, Church history, commentaries, and No Sex Until Marriage books.  On Being Reformed lives next to Basic United Methodist Beliefs there.  We’re equal opportunity book lovers.

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I’m almost embarrassed of this picture.  Dianna Anderson asked on Twitter a while back for some Purity Culture book titles.  Well, here you go.  Looking at this picture, it makes me wonder where my once-well-loved copy of I Kissed Dating Goodbye went.  IMG_9731

Moving down the bookshelf, we have our Leadership/Entrepreneurship Conference section, along with a few books from my Family Studies minor.

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C.S. Lewis and Bonhoffer and Nowen and Tozer live together on the next shelf.  My dad gave me The Divine Conspiracy several years ago, and probably the greatest gift I could give him as a daughter would be to actually read the darn thing.

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This is a quirky collection, but some of my favorites.  If I ever have a coffee table or mantle that I “style,” I’d probably put some of these out there. I love the Schott’s Miscellany books, and The Original Preppy Handbook is just great.  Makes me laugh ever time I look at it, and the plaid cover is fun. Short stories, Mennonites, Laura Ingalls Wilder, TWoP, Poland and The Giver round out this little collection.

Oh!  Can’t forget about The Twisted Window, which I will keep forever, because the girl on the cover LOOKS JUST LIKE ME at age 16, when the book came out.  I will never forget that moment in high school when my friend pulled the book out of her backpack, looked at me, looked back at the book…so crazy.

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We keep our Enneagram books out on a side table since we reference them ALL THE TIME.  Guns, Germs and Steel gets referenced a lot, too, oddly enough.IMG_9720

The side table across the room holds some favorite “oh, have you read that?” books.

IMG_9723I keep a few of my favorite food books in the kitchen.  I still have a load of cookbooks, but I cook mostly from my imagination and/or Pinterest now, so I don’t need to access them as often.  These few I keep out on the counter just ’cause they’re pretty look at.

IMG_9724My night stand holds some animal rights books which I should be reading for work, a fun fluffy novel, some Book Club varities from my mother-in-law, and the books that I wish I was reading right now.  But both Bread & Wine and Jesus Feminist deserve just the right day and a bottle of wine, I think.

My iPad has Rachel Held Evan’s Year of Biblical Womanhood, Addie Ziermann’s When We Were on Fire, Dinner: a Love Story (all yet unread) and some novels I’ve read this month while we traveled:  The Art Forger (Shapiro), The Dinner (Koch), The Winter Palace (Stachniak), The Memory Thief (Colin).

Despite my love for TV and movies, I love books best of all.

Simple Hospitality

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

31.  Practice hospitality.  Invite people over, don’t worry about how clean the house is.

hospitality banner 1I started working in the hospitality industry the summer I turned 15.  Deb & TIm hired me to clean rooms and wash dishes in their Bed & Breakfast south of my small hometown.  I’m sure my impeccable homemaker Mother tried to instill these same values in me, but when I look back, it was Deb that taught me to double-check to make sure the towels were completely dry, lest they get moldy in the closet.  It was Deb that taught me to vacuum my way out of a room so my footprints didn’t show on the carpet.  It was Deb that taught me to artfully arrange crostini on a platter and throw pillows on a king bed.  It was Deb that taught me to eat steak medium, instead of well-done, like I thought I liked it.  I soon graduated to helping with prep cooking in her small catering kitchen, was given the opportunity to plate meals, and served hors d’oeuvres and cocktails at events.

Another fancy restaurant job in high school taught me to make a mean espresso and cappuccino, run an industrial meat slicer and dishwasher, and gave me confidence in waiting tables.  By the time I was 18 years old, I had fallen in love with the industry of hospitality.

I worked for various hotel companies after college and worked my way up the ladder.  I was a Divisional Global Director of Marketing for a Denver-based hospitality management company when my position was eliminated in 2010.  I survived the recession, but my job couldn’t survive poor business management and a portfolio fire sale.  I left the hospitality industry exhausted and a bit jaded.

As the months have passed and the bad taste left after my last job have faded, I realize that I may never be involved in the industry again, but I still love the art of hospitality.  

It’s easy to be distracted by feeling busy, or tired, or like I don’t have time, or by thinking my house is too messy, or I don’t know what to cook, but at the end of the day, “Most of the people we invite into our homes have food in their own refrigerator and are hungry instead for personal connection, words of warmth and love and encouragement.”

This is an ongoing internal work, but I’ve been trying to be more intentional about inviting people over, by enthusiastically saying “yes” to out of town guests, to friends dropping by.  I want our home to be a place where hearts are nourished, bellies are fed, and where grace is experienced by all.

Kelly of The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking, a blogger I follow, penned the quote above, and has been writing a 31 day series on simple hospitality.  I  love her suggestions and ideas – pop on over to read all her wisdom and encouragement.  

Touching up paint

I made a list of 33 things I want to do before I turn 33 in June 2014.  See the full list here.

28.  Touch up paint around house.  A small container of paint and a Q-tip will go a long way around this place.

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There’s a lot of spots around the house that look like this.  A place where the paint or drywall got dinged, plus some odd smudges that just won’t wipe off.  Also note the wood floors that need to be refinished.  That’s on the list, too.

photo 2So this morning, I grabbed a rag (not shown), a mini can of “custom blue” paint and some Q-tips and went to work.  I actually ended up repainting one whole wall in our kitchen because the scuffs were so bad.  I did use a brush for that.

Honestly, the whole house could probably stand to be repainted, but hello, vaulted ceilings.  Not gonna try that.  Touching up paint is one of those unfortunate small changes that doesn’t make you gasp and say wow, but I also don’t have that annoyed/make it go away feeling when I look at our walls anymore.  So it’s definitely better.

Edited: Black trim completed 9/9/2013.