Category Archives: PALO ALTO

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.

 

 

To Party or not to Party

Have you ever wondered if it was worth lending your house to someone who wanted to have a one-day  “celebration”?

Especially if you do not have built in book-end days before your next potential booking, meaning that you only have a few hours to clean between different bookings, here are 8 reasons why you should NOT book to guests wanting to use your house for their party space:

  1. People just do not care as much about being clean when they don’t have to live there. Especially all the extra guests who don’t plan on staying over night who are not signing an agreement to any house rules. I’m not saying that people are necessarily bad, they just do not have as much at stake to keep things clean.
  2. A party will fill your garbage cans quickly with smelly rotting food mixed with alcohol to smell just like a back alley sewer in San Francisco.
  3. Large amounts of alcohol result in inebriated people who spill liquids, make floors sticky and harder to clean, along with your arm chair, sofa and tables.
  4. Inebriated adults cannot supervise young children.
  5. The responsible adults are policing the inebriated adults, and are not watching their children, or they are watching their children and are not watching the inebriate adults. Hell, they could be inebriated, cause, hosts just want to have fun.
  6. You can attract unwanted attention by creating a parking lot in front of your place.
  7. Especially if you have a no-shoes-in-the-house rule, which one-day guest/host is going to police their one day visitors to take their shoes off as they go in and out of your house wth a tray of food and drinks?
  8. Remember, outdoor shoes carry floor destroying micro and macro matter and have stepped through many public bathrooms. Enough said.

The end result is, even if you charge extra for cleaning, you will have to spend more time cleaning and risk damages that you have to go through the process of proving, not to mention the anxiety wondering if any of this is true.

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 © 2018-2019 Challen YeeAll Rights Reserved.

Towels

OUR LOVELY TOWELS

We provide these wonderful towels bought from Macy’s. We carefully selected them from scores of choices from a variety of retail outlets and the colors and quality match our interior decor. We check, wash, and dry each towel before carefully folding them to store for our next guests.

One of our rules is we ask our guests not to use them to clean the floors with or leave them on the ground.

This leads me to ask my audience, how do you treat your towels at home compared to how you treat the average  hotel towel?

How much would you use your towels at home to soak up liquids, fluids or matter that is anything other than wiping your cleaned-rinsed-off-body dry?

For the most part, I believe our guests are very good at handling our towels. We provide a special towel just for the floor for wet feet. We provide a common hanging hand towel for our guests who have some guests over. We provide a hand towel and as you can see, a face towel, personal hand towel and body towel.

On top of that we provide a clothes basket to put stuff for wash and a washer dryer with hypoallergenic detergent powder.

 

Come on. Let’s see…

Let me know what you would use a hotel towel for that you would never use your wedding gift towels or your last bargain from COSTCO or BED, BATH and BEYOND? You know what I’m talking about… those white towels ones that can be bleached with chlorine to kingdom come after they are used for janitorial work or the latest physiology experiment.

Now that you’ve got that out of your system, please don’t stay at a BNB and exercise any of those little bad habits. We are like a hotel in good ways, but you’re still guest in someone’s home.

 

 

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 © 2018-2019 Challen YeeAll Rights Reserved.

CHECKOUT CHECKLISTS

Hey Friends of BNB!

Here’s something that I’ve been oddly resistant to but it seems more frequent our guests are requesting that I provide them a check list of things to do before checking out.

I guess after about 18 months, I have to wonder how all our guests survived without a checkout list and so I have to wonder.

I would imagine it can be pretty stressful if you don’t know to what standard the host will hold the guests to in terms of the condition of the house. And if you don’t, in some cases, though rarely, people will feel like it’s permissible to leave some greater mess that what we  would expect.

I believe we start each new booking with such a clean house, people naturally (most of the time) obligated to do a decent job of keeping things in order.

So, okay, here’s a draft of some of the things I thought of for our place, maybe it’s help both hosts and guests alike. Your place may be different and may have more or less expectations.

 

GENERAL GUIDE FOR PREPARING THE HOUSE BEFORE CHECKOUT

  • Put garbage in a trash can, but not necessarily in the bins outside (we often use used trash liners in the process of our cleanup). If it’s full, you can take it outside to the bins.
  • Wash Dishes, or rinse off chunks (and empty out into compost bin under sink) and wash in dishwasher using the supplied soap tablet.
  • Cleanup any spills anywhere at anytime.
  • Do not leave towels on floor, leave on the towel racks or the supplied dirty close baskets okay.
  • Do not need to take sheets/linen off beds.
  • Leave any used blankets on the beds (normally stowed in a package in the closets), do not put back in their plastic storage cases.
  • Not necessary to restock food you have eaten.
  • Turn off and unplug coffee makers and hot water pot, blender, and other countertop applicance.
  • Clean top of stove (mainly wipe up spills) but not with anything abrasive.
  • Do not flush garbage down any sink or toilet (toilet is used for only what is normally expected).
  • Do not leave unwrapped food out, especially candy, best to dump out garbage in compost bin outside and best wrapped in a compost bag to reduce chance of attracting pests. Similarly, Seal up used diapers, especially the #2 kind, and put into garbage bin outside.
  • Turn off water faucets, shower, bath
  • Shut garage door, make sure garage door opener is in its wall-mounted location.
  • Turn off heater, air conditioner, microwave, stove top, oven.
  • Turn off lights and shut windows.
  • Shut and lock doors on the way out

 

THANK YOU FOR STAYING AT SWEET, BRIGHT, FRESH

 

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 © 2018-2019 Challen YeeAll Rights Reserved.

 

Need for two new Fruit Trees

The tree on the left and the third tree had to come down, they stopped moving water. This photo was from the fall of 2017.

Apparently, apricot trees are pretty sensitive. 

After landscaping the back yard in the summer of 2017, the two apricot trees in the backyard died.

The one large tree actually blossoms in the spring of 2018 but then suddenly went dry.

We tried to do some deep watering but that didn’t matter.

I had to chop down one the larger of the two trees last summer and just recently had to chop down the smaller of the two, realizing that it was not responding to the season and had in fact followed suit with the other, just decided to stop moving water from its roots.

With two spots open for fruit trees, what kind of fruit trees do you like?

We definitely would like to get at least one more apricot.

 

(No promises just yet, as to how consistently I can blog here, but giving it a shot when I have time and ideas).

 

 

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 © 2018-2019 Challen YeeAll Rights Reserved.

 

 

Is your BNB like another child?

Writer’s note: I wrote this article several weeks ago but it seems like a good time to post it. I may not post another article for a while as events can blur life at times. We thank our guests for bringing their bright light to shine.

Talk to anyone who is starting their own business and they will likely, albeit sometimes grudgingly, admit their business is like adopting another baby because its survival depends on you. Now you realize you have something you need to protect that no one else cares about, except for your booked guests who are counting on you to guarantee their plans for accommodations. Oh, and your mother most likely, because mothers almost always like to se their child be successful at something.

There is certainly a wide gamut of attitudes towards people who are running an BNB, everything from being non-aware, don’t give a hoot, to those neighbors who are afraid of their street becoming the next “DELTA HOUSE” (e.g. the fraternity in the movie comedy classic Animal House).

BNB? What are you talking about? Aren’t you just renting out some rooms, and money just starts falling off the trees … It seems so easy, right?

Every neighbors worst nightmare, a BNB taking the form of Animal House with toga parties every night. (Image credit: Coral Gables Art Cinema).Image may be subject to copyright.

No, my friends, unlike our corporate jobs, if you don’t do anything and you decide to not attend to run things, your little baby will die. That’s the responsibility a host takes when they set out on the adventure of renting out their place to guests.

AirBNB, like other companies like LYFT and many other service oriented companies that help serve as the interface between consumers and proprietors, greatly eases the difficulties related to money handling and advertising while making it easier to take the first steps of running your own business, including paying taxes.

Unlike LYFT, however, taking reservations, if you’re doing it right, is a 24/7 deal. I remember running my parent’s family business of parts sales and repair of electric cars and you, yep, you can get customer calls on Sunday complaining about their broken down electric truck, especially from one of our many family-owned flower nurseries back in the day when Silicon Valley was more agricultural than technical, but you usually do not get messages and inquiries at 4 am (Pacific Standard Time), like you might get from a guest sending an inquiry from Germany or Israel like you would running a BNB.

Despite the high tech assistance, however, it does not relieve the providers of the need to perform with as much excellence as possible, no matter which business model you choose, whether it’s accommodations, driving, or any other service and this new wave of internet-based businesses seem to be highly linked to customer reviews. Every job is subject to scrutiny and a broadcast to the public.

When was the last time your corporate job was reviewed and posted on the internet for everyone to see?

So if you have critics in your life, let them critics criticize, that’s what they do, it’s in their DNA.

Whether you are running a hot dog stand or a hard driving CEO of a tech start up, just do what you are willing to put forth the energy and resources to do and stick to it if that’s what you are willing to put up with to achieve your goals. No one is going to take responsibility for your child other than you.

Please like, share, comment, follow my blog or contact me if you have any questions

CKY

 

Copyright © 2019 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

 

Please like, share, comment, follow my blog or contact me if you have any questions

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.

 

What about shoes and wood floors?

We absolutely love the look, feel, and maintainability of wood floors, but do you take a chance in a BNB using them with so many different people coming and going?

We request our guests to not use their outdoor shoes in the house.

We offer them indoor slippers or let them know it’s okay to walk around in their socks, but slippers are best.

Vintage 1950’s era oak plank, refinished. Photo by Challen

SHOES ON?

When I grew up in Palo Alto, we did in an Americanized way especially since I worked out of the house for several years with my father’s roofing and industrial electric vehicle companies. Coming in and out of the house was done with shoes on.

As a result, we usually had pretty worn carpets and a floor that would probably make the traditional Chinese housewife go into mental convulsions.

 

CHANGING HABITS

It wasn’t until after I married my wife, who grew up in China, that she helped me realize how atrocious it is to wear outdoor shoes in the house (assuming you keep a clean floor). Well, you think about it, the germs and grime caught on your shoes from every public bathroom you’ve walked through is not something you really want transferred to your home floors. Moreover, the amount of dirt that is tracked into the house is quite significant, greatly increasing the wear and tear on flooring whether carpets, hardwood or even ceramic tile.

 

KEEPING THE FLOORS CLEAN

When we clean up our BNB we always vacuum and do a light mop (well rung) with a bit of mild soap to refresh the floors. It’s nice to keep any allergens down too which having carpets would just make too difficult and takes longer to clean.

I don’t meet every guest, but sometimes I get an opportunity. It’s always an exercise in ambassadorship and tact when you meet a guest who didn’t quite get that “no shoes” House Rule but the people we’ve met realize their error quickly enough with usually a slight blush. Usually you just do it (take your shoes off) and the guest gets it. By accommodating our rule, they participate in the enjoyment of a cleaner environment.

2017 Natural Oak, 3/4 x 3.5 inch planks – photo by Challen

TYPE OF WOOD FLOOR

As for the hardwood its self, since the house is not on a slab foundation, we used finished ¾” solid wood* (oak) throughout except for in the bathrooms where we used porcelain tile.   We used finished planks for the convenience of not spending a week to finish, but still have the option in the future for custom professional refinishing.

It was a big decision not to use tile in the kitchen where the chance of water damage is higher, but since our floorplan is relatively small, keeping consistent flooring across the common area makes the living space feel larger, cleaner, brighter, and better designed. Additionally, because of our smaller space, we used a “natural” white Oak instead of something lighter or darker. Too Dark colors make your space look smaller and less energetic, while too Bright colors, or something with less wood grain like Ash or Maple, are less forgiving and harder to keep looking clean as a result of any possible scratches or dings.

We almost went with a really bright Ash plank to make a modern look statement but chose not to, as Ash wood is also a bit softer than Oak and therefore more apt to damage. Although natural Oak and natural Ash or Maple, could be a similar in color, it’s the grain of the wood that can help hide imperfections while still offering a brighter result.

*Before installing wood planks, the product needs to adjust to your house’s environment by airing out for several days before installation. Ask your dealer for details.

 

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CKY

 

 

Copyright © 2019 Challen YeeAll Rights Reserved.