Category Archives: PaloAltoBNB

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.

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.

 

 

Pay Mortgage on or after the 1st.

Hey all, Just a short accounting tip for your BNB and to let you know that we are still alive and running our BNB.

In the meantime, here’s an easy accounting tip.

If you are making mortgage payments for your property, it helps cleanup your accounting if you do not make your payments before the 1st of the month that your payment is due for.

In other words, if you need to make a mortgage payment for April, make the payment April 1st or sometime after that and before the date that you will get charged a late payment. If you want to make January’s payment, do it in January.

For example,  even though you might get anxious and send out some kind of bizarre positive thoughts into the netherworld of computerized mortgage transactions, maybe trying to earn some kind of imaginary digital karma, better not to make the payment on March 29 since your accounting software may want to apply all charges to the month you actually make the payment – this  gets more complicated if you have any compounded charges on your mortgage like your landlords or flood insurance… and it looks goofy on your annual summary.

Essentially, this is helpful is when you do your tax accounting for the year everything just makes more sense. Your payments correspond to the appropriate month and if you’re talking about January’s payment, the correct year.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

9 Tips for Facing an Unoccupied Month

Have you ever looked at your BNB schedule and see that after your current guest, you have no one booked for the next 30 days. It does give you a sinking feeling, especially if you’re relying on the income to survive.

 

Does your reservation calendar look like an empty beach? (photo of Drake’s Bay, CA north of San Francisco – by Challen)

 

There’s a number of things you can either try or consider since running a BNB you can’t really go out and start rounding up guests passing by with a lasso.

 

Here’s 9 tips, not in any particular order:

  • (1) Update your website or listing with new photos, better photos, or a catchy write up or title. So many listing around her promote Stanford, and if the listing actually resides in or near Stanford, that’s a good boost.

 

  • (2) Try lowering your prices under the next relevant search level. For example, lower them under the next $50 mark (i.e $250, $300, $350, $400, $450, etc). Searchers may be setting upper price limits to narrow down their choices.

 

  • (3)Take some faith in how guests tend to book your listing. Maybe you’ve had a lot of guests book within a week instead of two months ahead (like we’d all like to see that).

 

  • (4) Try “Instant Booking” (Airbnb). What this allows is for greater exposure to your listing as your will show up for both “Instant” and non-instant, instead of just non-instant listings.

 

  • (5) Try removing the extra guest costs if you are using them just to make the cost calculation easier.

 

  • (6) Update you listing to become more friendly to a guest. For example, use a keypad or other self-service mode of entry. This way a business man or woman doesn’t need to call you at 2 am to get a key or wonder if the key is actually in the hideaway place that you wrote.

 

  • (7) Offer something special (like food or other service), make the stay more attractive.

 

  • (8) Keep the darn place clean inside and in good order outside. It doesn’t matter of the guest is staying at a mansion or Motel 6,they want a clean place to stay. No one likes to stay in a beater. Take very positive steps and make amends in the listing and comments to make your listing a non-beater if yov’ve been reviewed as being on the dirty, trashy, or nasty side.

 

  • (9) Treat each guest and inquiry with respect and respond as soon as possible (if not immediately). Remember, you are in the hospitality business, not just a landlord or property manager. In fact, you may be the only ambassador of your town or neighborhood that the guest from another country may ever know.

 

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 © 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.

Staying Connected with Guests

Once you’ve got your booking, you’ve established communication with either the guest or travel coordinator for your guests.

As a host or as a guest, you will want to know which is the best way to connect in case there are any questions of concerns. In other words, “How will you communicate when your guests arrive?”

With Airbnb, they use a messenger within their APP that allows convenient and exclusive communication channel. This is the preferred method for all Airbnb host/guest communications.

However, this is not always available, or if you are not an Airbnb or the guests are not an airbnb member. In this case, as a secondary means, a local cell phone number is often used for text messaging or, worst comes to worse, or an situation exists that requires immediate and confirmed communication.

Another variation that I’ve used recently is the text option within the Airbnb APP.

This may be needed when the guest is from a foreign country and their web access may cause problems with their Airbnb APP that’s set up for outside the USA.

My experience using the message-their-private- out-of-the-USA-phone number works very well.

It’s still not quite as nice as keeping everything under one roof but it works well indeed.

Another app that guests like to use is WHATSAPP. because they know my cell number and I am a user of WHATSAPP, sometimes I’ll get an unexpected communication through this secure means.

The moral of the story is, before a guest arrives, it’s nice to work out these issues if you suspect there will be any problems. The worse thing is if they cannot enter the house AND they cannot contact you. (knock on wood!).

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

CKY

 

Copyright © 2019 Challen YeeAll Rights Reserved.

 

Learn by jumping into chaos

OR “How I got involved in property management”

My current work involves Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine to being an out to pasture IC Layout Design Engineer, and I definitely did not become a property manager by seeking it out – it unceremoniously yanked me in.

I was  drawn into property management to save my mom from trouble and by extension, our whole family from trouble back in 2007. Sound melodramatic? It may have been dramatic, but definitely not mellow.

When I graduated from the Masters Program in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in the Spring of 2007 from Five Branches Institute (Santa Cruz, CA)  the last thing that was on my mind was becoming a property manager or dealing with problem tenants.

Part of my Chinese and Western Medicine library

The biggest thing on the mind of a TCM graduate is studying to successfully pass the California Licensing exam for Acupuncturist.  I had self-sponsored my way through this multi year process and just had about two months to prepare and with hopes of being able to focus on my studying to take that exam in Sacramento. I was ready to embark in my dream of a new life’s work.

I had left my Silicon Valley engineering career on the last day of 2002 and I had completed my Master’s! It was… awesome! It was a mountaintop experience, just having spent 4 years with some of the most kind and amazing people who were the students and teachers. I thought I could just begin a life of a health hermit helping people with their health problems and put the stress of Silicon Valley life behind me.

But NO, fate had another deal waiting for me.

Little did I know that in the previous couple months before my graduation, my mother who managed her own investment properties, was having problems obtaining back rent payments and then received a letter from the tenant complaining about the condition of the property.

Mom, who was about 83 years old at the time, was a kind landlord, though a bit too trusting in her tenants to help take care of her properties, and things were looking a little too legalistic in this one tenant’s written complaint that was carefully worded with some nefarious implications. In other words, it wasn’t just a simple, “Hey, our hot water’s out , could you send a plumber?”

The week after I graduated from Five Branches, I was set to study for my Licensing exam, so I did not go with my mom to visit the property and the tenant. She asked me if I wanted to go, but I wanted to begin studying. I wanted focus, be at one with my studies 😉

To cut to the point, when I heard how the visit went I was bothered. I knew just enough about how things should go to agitate my concern.

Having spent several years working with my parents, helping them with their businesses, full time in the late 1980’s and on my free time in the 1990’s. Spiritually and emotionally, I hardly had time to breath the fresh air,  it felt like I was being recalled to military service.  (C.K. YEE, we need your ass back out in the front lines, forget your Zen Meditation crap. You better get your seabag loaded on the boat, we’re getting underway) ;(

Considering I was not into property management before this event (though in 1989, I almost went for my real estate license), I am not sure why I was so willing (albeit a bit grudgingly) to take up the burden of dealing with this tenant for my mom but I immediately made clear that I would deal directly with the tenant. I wanted to make sure that my mom (and our family) would take this situation more carefully and so I took the matter into my own hands.

Looking back, I cannot tell you what I saw in myself, to think I was any better qualified to deal with this except, maybe, I would be willing to sit an listen to the tenant like I had practiced so many times with patients…. It’s not that simple though.

Over the next 5 months, I worked with the tenant.  Ultimately, they understood they had to move out because we planned to work on the house, which was in need of repairs and that for their safety, they needed to vacate the property.

In the process, I developed a close relationship with a local realtor, who is the most savvy realtor related to East Palo Alto that I’ve ever known, as well as an eviction attorney’s office whose paralegals were God’s gift to mankind, all of who I received valuable advice on landlord-tenant rights and property management.

It was not an easy process. Somehow, I figured out how to navigate the problem which included a few face to-face meetings, many attempts to communicate and even an offer for them to purchase the house, which they chose bail out of the opportunity.

The repair process took over 6 months to finish.

In June 2007, when I graduated from Five Branches, I weighed 150# and by August 2007 , when I took my Acupuncture licensing exam, I weighted 135#. I lost 15 pounds from anxiety and depression at the same time I was studying and managed to pass my Licensing exam. When I learned I passed the exam, it should have been a big-time celebration for me, but it was overshadowed by the ongoing tenant situation.

I received my Acupuncture License in October 2017 and soon began working out of a clinic in nearby Los Altos.

As I recall, there was talk by the Acupuncture Board that we might have to retake the exam due to some alleged cheating by some fringe group, but fortunately, I was saved  from that insanity.

Not quite the way I would have planned it but I did it. I DID IT.

Ever since that time, I have been involved in property management. However, due to the hard times of 2008 had to (and was able to) reenter the market as a engineer for several years more (while pursuing Chinese medicine part-time), but that’s how I get started as a property manager.

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

CKY

Copyright © 2019 Challen YeeAll Rights Reserved.

When can we take a vacation?

Hard to imagine that my wife and I have joined the ranks of becoming a mom and pop operation. Wasn’t that a thing of the past? Ma and Pa Kettle (for those of you who remember) LOL

In either case, one of a few of the ongoing concerns my wife and I have with running and hosting a BNB is:

When can we take a vacation?

One of the classic tourist spots. Venice 1989 (photo by Challen)

 

I know there’s several hosts or property managers who run several listings as their business model. We can only imagine running one.  I know hosts are encouraged to find partners to co-host, but we haven’t gotten there yet, though we have friends who host their own listings.

While it’s nice to have some of the unique advantages of running BNB that I’ve written about before (8 Reasons), it could get overwhelming multiplying that by 2x or more. Moreover, the inherent uncertainty of keeping the vacancies low can be a burden if you really need the income to pay all the bills. If you do happen to have more than one rental, having one on a lease would certainly help reduce the uncertainty in the traditional way.

Aside from the fact that our listing is bringing in needed income in a place like Silicon Valley, one of the most expensively taxed places in the world, especially in Palo Alto (many people need the extra income just to pay their property taxes, much less the mortgage) the thought actually occurs to us that it is hard to let others run your business for you.

First of all, we’re not aware of too many people who would like to jump in an help us run our business and if they did, we’re wouldn’t be so confident they would take the same level of care an responsibility of the business, for each guest and for the care of the house. We’d have to hand pick some people who are willing to jump in an help on occasion.

I realize there’s a certain amount of ego involved, and I haven’t reached the obligatory point of dire necessity yet, but it’s also really is a nice thing to receive a positive feedback from others on a regular basis and that helps make our listing attractive when new guests can be encouraged by good reviews on our listing.

The Airbnb system that allows for publicly presented positive feedback. It’s one of the attractions I also discovered from my two-month experience being a LYFT driver – if you are good, people let you know, you can feed on that and new customers can make more of an informed choice.

I apologize to all the truly great property managers out there, but when you’ve created a baby, it’s hard to let others take control.

We’ll see, we haven’t figured out how we’re going to afford and take off to see rabbits in Japan, take the kids to D.C., or even visit friends near Seattle or Denver, Italy, or wherever?

When you’re a host, your cell phone is never off. Can you imagine flying across the ocean without being able to field your messages from guests? Yeh, gotta fix this problem….

The first thing to do is start compiling  a list of people you know who may want to learn and who you think would be good at being a co-host.

I’ll let you know how things go…

 

 

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.

 

 

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

CKY

 

 

Copyright © 2019 Challen YeeAll Rights Reserved.