Category Archives: BOOKING

Advice Regarding Cancellations etc.

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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CKY

 

Copyright © 2018-2020 Challen YeeAll Rights Reserved.

 

 

Your listing not showing up?

Is your listing not showing up on your handheld or desktop?

Are you not able to find enough listings in the area you are searching?

Possible Solution: Try updating your service’s app.

 

That’s strange, I was thinking,  why is it that the only listing in our area is a place for $1400 per night? That’s not good.   I was unable to see our listing from my cell phone, until after I updated my APP.

So whichever service your use. You can see if that works for you.

 

Please like, share, comment, follow my blog or contact me if you have any questions, or if you’ve got some nice tips.

CKY

 

Copyright © 2018-2020 Challen YeeAll Rights Reserved.

January 2019 Review

For those who may be considering hosting a BNB, just starting, or thinking about being a guest, here are some insights that you may find helpful. 

A recap of my January 2019 blog posts for PaloAltoBNB. Click on the links to open the article.

Palo Alto: Things to do – Take a Hike

Starting a BNB? 8 Reasons you didn’t think about

How is Instant Booking better?

Sometimes like Grand Central Station

What about shoes and wood floors?

“CORPORATE” COORDINATORS BOOKING FOR OTHERS

Guest Tips: Initial Communication

When can we take a vacation?

Learn by jumping into chaos or “How I got involved in property management”

BNB Value vs Property Tax

Staying Connected with Guests

When Cancellations occur

 

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CKY

 

Copyright © 2019 Challen YeeAll Rights Reserved.

Guest Tips: Initial Communication

When you try booking a BNB, especially for the first time when you have no review history, It’s important to keep an eye on your messenger to make sure the host does not have a question for you.

 

THE REQUEST

I had a recent request from a businessman out of the Midwest (exact city to keep it confidential) for a one-night stay, and in his brief introduction he asked to stay two hours after the standard checkout time.

Well, that was worth a quick response from yours truly as I have to prepare for the worst case.

Now, I don’t have problems with people needing to check out later, though not too late, because we do have a tight cleaning schedule and we take that very seriously.

Especially since we allow same day reservations, I don’t want to push cleaning out too late and then interfere with an oncoming guest. Plus our cleaning crew, we don’t want to have to play with their time either as we all have children to pickup from school, so on and so forth.

Armed with all these concerns, I send a reply to see how we can work out the issue. I send it within 10 minutes and get no response.

I send a follow up message 3 minutes later, no response.

Well, well, well…. That puts the host into a bind.

The request automatically blocks my schedule with a guest who I do not know if they are responsive or flexible enough to coordinate cleaning with his need to stay two extra hours.

If I accept, I may not have enough time to not interfere with the next guest or have enough time or people to hang out at the place to clean it.

If I decline, I could lose out in income and kill someone’s accommodation plans.

I compromised in the end, I waited 18 hours for a response, and on a Sunday morning, I declined it and offered a detailed explanation and an invitation to rebook if they wanted but to acknowledge we need to work out an issue first..

The rational was the guest was not responsive and I’d rather let someone else book who was a more reliable even though the booking was within a week’s time. It was one of those “peace of mind” versus money decisions I wrote about in a previous blog post. I could easily lose a day’s income.

Fortunately, this particular person, given half a chance, jumped gracefully through the hoop. He finally read my messages after the Decline and was apologetic, flexible and understanding, plus good for a few back-and-forth iterations to get a handle on our respective needs.

While it was not my ideal track to a smooth booking, it turns out this person proved himself to be a really good person to work things out with.

 

 

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CKY

 

 

Copyright © 2019 Challen YeeAll Rights Reserved.

 

“CORPORATE” COORDINATORS BOOKING FOR OTHERS

I was a bit surprised when I read the House Rules of another host who wrote that she never accepts reservations unless the person booking also is staying as a guest.

That surprised me because up to this point, I had accepted so many successful “corporate” bookings, usually for three employees, that I guess, I had been either lucky or well placed in terms of price and location to avoid any serious bookings by bad 3rd party apples so far.

I don’t doubt that there are some shenanigans being played by people covering for the actual bad assets staying at ones home, so I absolutely am not judging any host who wants to play it safe to protect their home or other place they are using for a BNB.

REAL-TIME BOOKING

One of these reservations for my consideration came across as I was walking out the door to drop by the house to move garbage bins in the middle of a heavy rain.  It was a 3rdparty booking, but it came late (around 8:00pm) for a SAME-DAY overnight stay, reportedly, for a group of three colleagues or “friends” coming from a local Google site.

When we started the BNB, we imagined this would be a great opportunity to help some last minute travelers and this seems to fit the bill catering to our open 24 hour policy. Rarely this occurs though.

However, historically, if you can say over a year is a decent history, looking at our own worst cleanups (which in general haven’t been toobad except for one unfortunate drunken party of a young adult crowd looking “to crash someplace” after an “event”), there is a tendency for last minute bookings for short stays to yield the most sloppy guests, even ifthe reservations were made by one of the guests themselves.

There are two things that were a little unfortunate to mar an otherwise smooth transaction (so far), was this particular young lady, who, by the way, has years of stellar reviews as a host and as a guest, made the Instant Booking reservation implying that she was one of the 3 guests.

Since the booking was already done, I had access to her phone number. I called her due to the fast moving situation.

I found out pretty quickly, she was making a reservation for her co-workers or friends coming from a nearby Google. It all seems plausible but in my case, she absolutely did not need to feign being one of the guests rather than introducing herself as the coordinator. She did not, however, at glance, appear to use Airbnb as a coordinator before, so maybe she was little gun-shy doing it of the first time under somewhat exigent conditions.

Her inexperience as a corporate coordinator showed up when I asked for the names of the guests and she only offered the first names. I let this slide, but when you ask for names, I recommend (reminder to self) ASK FOR FIRST AND LAST NAMES, NOT JUST “NAMES” so it is clear what your intent is.

So far, I have had great experiences with people coordinating for others, corporate or otherwise, let’s hope that continues.

Certainly, she’s putting her reputation on the line for her friends (or at least her security deposit).

So, we’ll see how this works out. I’ll find out here in about 12 hours when we clean up.

Please like, share and comment or contact me if you have any questions

CKY

 

 

Copyright © 2019 Challen YeeAll Rights Reserved.

 

Sometimes like Grand Central Station

So what is it like coordinating guest stays?

There are periods of time when you get no inquiries and you almost forget that you are running a business and then there are some periods where inquiries begin to pickup and conflict with each other requiring some management skills to make your way through them.

Does the numbers of views on you website tend to correlate with bookings? Yes and no. I’ve found that even when the views are decreasing (and the number of tire kickers on your listing lags the actual activity by a bit), the real trip planners are still looking to book.

The economy is not dead – people still need to travel to conduct business and others still need to take care of their health.

Some days are a little anxious because you can have multiple guest requests overlapping for various reasons.

 

Here’s an example, a real day:

We allow same day check out (11:00) and check in (15:00) and, as can be expected, eventually your current guest will ask to stay longer and your oncoming guest will request to arrive earlier.

I worked out a deal where we could come in to begin cleaning the bedrooms at the normal checkout time and let the departing guest hang out for the extra hour until 12:00. The problem was, the arriving guest wanted to arrive at 12:00 to at least drop off bags and perhaps relax a bit.

In both cases, the guests were very understanding and were ready to accommodate my need to get the house cleaned up ready. Things worked out. It’s good, by the way to make sure one bathroom is totally cleaned for the oncoming guests so they can experience the pristine “clean” right away, and, furthermore, they don’t need to experience the previous guests’ temporary landmarks and dirty towels.

It turns out, in this same circumstance, the same few hour period, the oncoming guest didn’t know whether they needed to book for 4 days or 7, so they first booked for 4 with 7 pending a meeting with doctors at Stanford. THEN, I get another guest request to book over what would be the 7thnight.

This is a case where instant booking needed to be turned off, and I did turn it off.

It gave my guest time to speak to the doctors.

What was necessary on my part as a host was to warn the new inquiry of my situation and I went further advising that in their best interest, they might want to seek another listing because I was giving my new guests a priority if they needed to book.

Well… As it turned out, the new guest booked one day shorter (probably with respect to the new inquiry) and the new inquiry took my advice and booked another listing (but they forgot to cancel their inquiry, which led to another little impromptu problem when I accepted her request to book).

So I lost two days in the aggregate, however, though money is important, it’s always good to try to do the right thing.

 

Please like, share and comment or contact me if you have any questions

CKY

 

 

Copyright © 2019 Challen YeeAll Rights Reserved.

 

How is Instant Booking better?

There are several options for hosts to choose in effort to attract guests to their Airbnb listing. One that is either loved or hated is called “Instant Booking”

Instant Booking (IB) allows a guest to book your listing without having to submit a request. It’s assumed that all the relevant info for a guest to make the commitment to make a reservation is available to be seen in the listing so that the prospective guest can make an educated and confident decision.

HOST ADVANTAGES OF IB?

The advantages of IB allows a host to be able to accept reservations without having to immediately respond to critical questions a guest may have that would delay their decision.

It is assumed that, without having to interact with the host, the guest can review any necessary information, including what the host specifically and generally expects from their guests behavior, known as “House Rules”, while residing in the BNB. For example, not all listings allow the guests to use the property to hold events (attracting large amounts of un-vetted people, particularly for a wild animal house party), smoking or the housing of pets. Hosts often like to know who to expect, so offering the names of your colleagues or family members may be a requirement.

House Rules make things interesting. Some hosts have very few rules (like we did when we started) and some can look like a full legal adoption contract. In general, hosts don’t want any illegal activities, don’t want anyone trashing their house, or any unapproved staying after their reservation time has ended.

The clear advantage for a host to use IB is Airbnb puts the your listing in the face of more potential guests compared to those who do not elect to use IB. In other words, if you adopt the use of IB as an Airbnb host, your listing will show up in both cases, if a guest chooses to see only IB listing or not.

 

GUEST USER CONSIDERATIONS FOR USING IB?

You might desire to seek an IB listing if you are in a hurry to make a booking and don’t want to bother waiting for a host to respond to any inquiry. However, it is customary for a responsive host to reply immediately or within an hour.

You may feel uncomfortable going into a brief “interview” session with the property manager and, instead, seek a similar experience to booking a hotel room. A BNB is not a hotel and usually does not offer the same kind of anonymity of booking a room in a hundred unit Marriot, although IB can make the feel similar to a hotel.

Even if you desire to stay at an IB listing, you can still ask questions of the host without making your booking. You may need to be accommodated for a special situation that is not covered in the listing or you may actually like to know if you can communicate with the host just in case you run into problems with the property.

It’s not impossible that there are both guests from hell and hosts from the same neighborhood. It’s a big world out there and the entire spectrum is in play, but establishing a line of positive reviews is a pretty decent indicator what typ of experience you can expect from either person.

 

WHY DON’T ALL HOSTS USE IB?

There are times when I do not use IB, it is when I need to keep a certain block of time open for a guest I am trying to give to make a decision. One perfect example was when I wanted to work with a family who was waiting to hear from Stanford Hospital when their child’s surgery could be scheduled for.

Aside from that, the general feeling among hosts who do not use IB, is they do not want to take a chance having to accommodate someone they would not feel comfortable with. In general, for a host to have to cancel a reservation is often a negative mark against the host’s rating, although, in the case of IB, if the cancellation is executed within a day of the booking, Airbnb allows for a host to break any booking he or she feels “uncomfortable” with.

Another reason a host may not use IB is they want more control how their schedule fills up. For an extreme example, it may be rather disruptive if a guest decides to book one Tuesday every week for the next 6 months. Something like that could wipe out any chance of a long term booking from 2 days to weeks.

 

In CLOSING

In general, I’ve found that using Instant Booking if a favorable experience, for the additional reason that I can let the guest (assuming they read my listing) self-exclude themselves. If they do not like our house rules or anything else we state as requirements, they are free to look at another listing, no harm done.

The guests that we’ve had are, in general, extraordinary and competent travelers who we’ve had the great privilege of hosting. People from all over the world and all over the United States who we’ve had the honor of showing them some hospitality in our small corner of Silicon Valley.

 

 

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CKY