A Tell-All Blog Post About Hosting, Fun Visitors And Unruly Guests
Being an Airbnb host provided many rewards but also several challenges. I will detail them here in this post.
We rented out one room in a three bedroom house in a very desirable location on the West Coast. There are three of us in the house and I gave up my room and slept on the couch. We did this to make up for a sudden and unexpected $900/month increase in our rent.
We rented the room for $125 a night, made it clear it was a shared unit and we accepted couples but no children. The house, we pointed out in our profile, is not child-proofed and there’s access to open bottles of liquor, yet you would be amazed at how many people tried to still bring in kids. More on one who did and what happened later in this post!
The Challenges Of Being An Airbnb Host
When we first started, one of my roommates (who actually “runs” the house) and I decided that I would be in charge of Airbnb rentals. (The third roommate was a non-factor and we just hoped that person would stay out of the way of guests.)
That means I would do the listing, respond to guests, book the room, get the room ready and be the one to greet and take care of guests during their stay. For this, and of course for giving up my room and sleeping on the couch in the living room, I would receive half of the nightly fee.
Let me just say that I had no idea how much time it would take to do all of these things. We began to get inquiries almost immediately after posting the room and I quickly learned that I was a one-person hotel staff.
I was first the reservation agent, then the sales person (some people book right way while others ask detailed questions down to having a coffee maker that requires a lot of back-and-forth messaging), then the check-in clerk, the concierge to point out places to eat and drink in the area and things to do and also the maid. And always the hotel manager, there to answer any questions (of which sometimes they never seemed to end), to inform our visitors of the house rules and even to scold them if they were potentially disturbing the neighbors.
Fortunately, I have spent a lot of time and had a lot of clients in Public Relations, and those skills came in very handy. I would quickly respond to every inquiry about booking the room as if a media outlet had contacted me to do a story, to being the friendly guy who is always there to help them guests to, as you will soon see in this post, crisis management.
If you’re wanting to be an Airbnb host and are wondering what it’s like, you had better know these things in advance.
The Rewards Of Being An Airbnb Host
The best thing about being an Airbnb host – and by far the most rewarding part of it – is the people you meet while hosting. They are literally from all over the world and in our case, about 90% of them were excellent, conversational, friendly and polite and went overboard to follow the house rules.
Our first guest was a guy from Britain who was traveling the West Coast on a bicycle. He showed up on his bike and was taking a six-month break from crewing on a private luxury yacht.
One of our favorite guests was a fun-loving guy from Japan and his girlfriend. Myself and the “house mother” roommate wound up drinking several bottles of wine by the fireplace and laughing together deep into the night with them.
All in all, I felt Airbnb’ers, well, we’re all a tight-knit community. We’re all travelers, we all want to see the world and we all want to meet people in those places. Airbnb is a great way to meet fellow travelers, to share tips about places where you both live, about places you’ve been and even to sit around and laugh while having cocktails together.
Guest Stories Of Being An Airbnb Host
Interestingly enough, one of our worst guests was an Airbnb host.
• It was a guy and his girlfriend from Berkeley, CA (land of the beatniks!) and he loved going on the deck to play his guitar and sing. Except he was terrible, played and sang very loudly and would stomp his bare feet on the deck like a hillbilly. I had to continually tell him to “respect the neighbors.” Yet he kept this up for the length of his stay. He also went in the kitchen cabinets and grabbed dishes and cups without asking, as if he lived in the place. He complained about everything, saying “well when WE host we do it this way…” And, just so we would remember him forever, he pilfered one of my favorite travel books.
• Then there was the single mother with the baby. It was a late Friday nite and she had booked two nights. She showed up at about 10 with a young daughter, maybe a year old. Hey, we don’t take kids! I had several parents try and “sneak” in children and so I put in very clear wording on our listing we do no accept kids. Yet she showed up with a child. Well, I wasn’t going to throw them on the streets at 10 o’clock on a Friday nite, or course, so I allowed her to stay that evening.
She was showing a lot of stress so after she put her child to bed, I invited her into the living room for a little chat. I handed her a glass of wine, explained the situation and told her she would have to find another place the next day. Very calmly, she agreed. Yet in the morning, she prayed upon the motherly sympathies of my female roommate and tried to work HER into overturning my decision.
So I had to go into crisis management mode all over again. “This is no place for a child and we’re having adults come over later to drink alcoholic beverages,” I sternly told her. This did nor phase her in the least – some responsible parent, right!? – until I demanded she leave. (I had recommended other places for her to stay, by the way.) In the review she trashed me for not having any chocolate milk for her kid in the morning. I had no chocolate milk for a kid that wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place!
• Yet the worst guest experience ever involved a beautiful girl.
If you had been passing by the house and seen this picture, you would have thought I was in heaven. It was a Saturday evening, the fireplace was crackling, a good bottle of wine was open and I was sitting next to a beautiful girl whose face and long blonde hair glistened in the pale light of the flames.
Yet I could not wait for my friend to show up so I could get the hell out of there and go out for the night.
The previous evening, she showed up with one girlfriend to share the room. There were two guys with them – one a tall, loud and obnoxious fellow who I just knew could be trouble if he got wound up – and the girl said they were going out to dinner and the guys would leave.
At about 1 a.m., with me on the couch, the door burst open and all four of them came into the living room (the couch where I slept is at the back of the room and kind of hidden by a bar in the room). They opened up a six-pack, went out on the deck, were loud to the point of screaming and acted as if they were in a hotel room in Daytona Beach on Spring Break.
One of the guys came in and laid down on the other couch and one of the girls joined him. She then proceeded to put her head in his groin area. Well I was NOT going to allow them to have oral sex right there, and as laid there trying to figure what to do – after all, if there even was an Airbnb manual for hosting this would not be in it – the loud and obnoxious guy announced his intention for all the neighborhood to hear that he was going to “strip off all my clothes and run out to the ocean!”
That’s it!!! I raised up my head, told them all to shut up, that they needed to be quiet immediately and clear out of the living room.
They all retreated to the room (don’t ask me what went on in there) and in the morning I told the girl who booked the place we needed to chat. She went out to breakfast with her group, then was out all afternoon. So that scene at the fireplace was me lecturing her, like a boss lecturing an employee who nearly cost the company an important client.
What You Should Know About The Reviews
Everyone wants a good review – both the hosts and the guests – and in this way, Airbnb kind of polices itself. But you can’t always believe what you read. (This is why I never go to Yelp, by way; you don’t know the people, the situation or anything else so how can you judge if a person’s review is accurate?)
In cases of our worst guests – not all of them who were mentioned here – they lied on their reviews of us. Flat-out lied. Fortunately, I in Airbnb you can post a rebuttal to a review and, being a journalist, I was very detailed in my responses.
A good 95% of our reviews were positive, of course, but when reading reviews keep in mind some people like to get away with things and some people just like to complain. Often that’s the same person.
Conclusions On Being An Airbnb Host
So there you go, the good, the bad and the ugly. If you’re considering being a host, you have to know what all it involves to be a good host and about all what you are likely to encounter.
But overall, it was a very positive experience and if our heartless city (which has very few accommodations for travelers to begin with) would allow these short-term rentals, then I might just be having a laughs and drinks by the fireplace with guests from some far-off land right now.