FYI, sorry to say, we just concluded our run as Airbnb hosts…
and I have these thoughts that you may benefit from as you might say we closed our listing with a 5.0 average rating for almost 100 guests. Not 4.9 or 4.98 or 4.99. We maintained a 5.0 average rating.
If you intend to stay hosting with Airbnb for the long haul, you need to be very aware of cancellations on your part as a host.
Over a two year period, we hosted over 100 groups of guests. That seems like a lot, it sure seemed like a lot to us.
We never cancelled a booked reservation until a few months ago (about 3 months ago as of this writing) when my wife and I struggled with a booking after I accepted it. Cancelling appears to have preceded what we consider a drop off of bookings.
Why did we cancel? There were a few characteristics of this booking that, while the reasons were not obvious to the casual observer, did not fit our ideal guest profile and when the guest exhibited a sense of anxiousness to book on the same day, instead of the next day, and it appeared to go from anxious to urgent – we got even more nervous.
My wife and I struggled with it, but decided that our peace of mind was more important than money and regretfully had to break our glorious streak of non-cancellations.
Rule One: Your peace of mind may not be more important than the income you are losing from big brother’s perspective. If you accept everyone, everyone must come through with that basic denominator – money.
You could say that our two paths (the guest and us) were not going to harmonize as, unlike most landlords, I actually have experienced a domestic violence case that ended up in a the death of the victim – by kitchen knife wound to an artery. Believe me, my wife and I were starting to get some PTSD vibes on this one.
Peace of mind, or no peace of mind, the bottom line is this. If you cancel over 1% of your booked reservations, you become warning sign to Airbnb. If you cancel 2% your pinky gets slapped with non-savory messages that as a 5.0 host, you never see. If you exceed 3% you may get messages warning you mag be suspended (and goodby revenue stream) and I;m pretty sure it doesn’t matter if you have 6.0 star ratings, if that we even possible.
We had our first cancellation “waived” from the books, but I think it was a little like my first illegal U-Turn ticket when I was a teenager back in 1979, where the judge suspended my punishment. In other words, “we’ll let you go now, but if you do this again, it’ll be like having two strikes against you.”
We never wore the 5.0 rating on the shoulder of our listing’s title, we never changed titles to insert some grotesque word to grab attention (though that may actually work) and were quite proud of our simple, “Sweet, Bright Fresh – Palo Alto home” moniker, but even though we maintained the best reviews and ratings for almost 100 guest reviews (and that’s a lot IMHO) it does not matter as much to the boss. Guests are concerned about ratings, your boss is interested in if you are an open door to the masses because they have the same common denominator.
You can put your heart and soul into your effort to host, but it comes down to money, or the propensity to not host someone, anyone. It’s an easy metric to judge and be subject to consequences. In the end, we actually thought all of our guests no matter who or where they arrived from were pretty cool even the ones that tried to slide by with stretching the rules (just a little) with rare exception.
What we learned is that you have to develop a sense of who will be a high probability good guest of bad guest. The potential problem is this instinct may cause you to want to cancel.
Seems to me that 1% of bookings cancelled, for a privately owned property, even if it is to keep a super-host rating, is a bit harsh. Maybe that’s just me. One can cross the line from being a superhost to a super dud if you suddenly ring up cancellations.
In either case, I understand the value for a big company like Airbnb from a host’s perspective. They do all the leg work to publicize your listing and they handle all the money. It’s a great and convenient set up, and takes certain costs and concerns out of running your own bed and breakfast. However, you are a number and there’s a lot of other hosts and wanna-be hosts who would like to get a piece of the bookings in your area especially Palo Alto.
My simple advice for your long term health as an Airbnb host: Think very carefully before accepting a booking (unless you use Instant Booking then you need to take the risk of having to cancel within 24 hours ‘without penalty’), and if you have to cancel, consider the risk of taking a hit on your revenue stream. Just saying.
Honestly, we had an amazing two year run and have that to be thankful for. It wasn’t a gimme though.
We put in the work and the income really helped our financial above water. Although we were essentially like a freelancer looking at things a week at a time, the almost regular income made it worthwhile.
But with the competition in places like Palo Alto, it helps if you can avoid having to cancel for virtually any reason unless the person is clearly breaking a stated rule, like they reveal they plan to sell tickets nationwide tractor pull at your place or have the biggest damned bachelor party with the most 5 dollar vodka, a vaping competition, and the best multiple cake dancers you’ve ever seen and you do not allow them to rent your home for those purposes.
Regarding our 5 star reviews, we teeter-tottered between 4.8 and 4.9 on Value and that was because eventually we get a guest who wants to show that they can be objective and give us 4 stars on Value. We always take a moment to sigh with those 4 star ratings. Now I know what my last car salesman was pleading with us not to give him anything but 5 stars.
Regarding value in tax-arcana , I’ll say it again, property tax in Palo Alto is a rip-off, but we need to pay a property tax that is larger than most people’s mortgages, hence the higher than average prices which affect the perception of value. I always thought we stayed competitive, not charging more and often charging less than comparable listings of relatively equal quality.
The unsaid negative for long term hosting , for us especially, since we kept very tight control over the condition and cleanliness of our property, is we could never plan to be away for very long, unless it coincided with a long guest stay. If you can get a trusted person to handle the responsibilities of being a co-host, that would also be important to your long term hosting health.
Another unsaid negative is you are at the mercy of the corporate computer that cranks on some algorithm that puts your listing on top or not.
Another unsaid negative is most banks do not consider your BNB income as stable enough to bank their a loan on. Now we know why.
I think if you do this business long enough and if you care a little too much about the safety your own place, it will only take 1 out of 100 to potentially get on a the bad side of the Airbnb programmable intelligence and hurt your superhost rating.
Because our projected revenue stream looked bleak, which helped steer us away from the business, we had to do the unfortunate job of cancelling a couple of future reservations, but because they were still four months out, we hope the guests will find decent stay somewhere else. We made a point of reaching out to them before cancelling. Actually had a nice conversation with one man over the phone.
But having to cancel a total of 3 times….This is how I know about what happens when you have to cancel more than once, but we’re going deep and clearing datum so we don’t expect our rear-ends to be anywhere close to the punitive hand. It no longer matters.
Now pandemics… that’s another topic.
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