Tag Archives: BNB

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.

 

BNB Value vs Property Tax

Here’s a Palo Alto near-specific problem. 

Please see the appropriate professionally certified advisor before making decisions based on what you find in the article’s content.

AND See legal Disclaimer at bottom.

Ok, let’s get on with the article…

Everyone complains about the prices in Silicon Valley, but Palo Alto takes the cake.

In a recent news article, the Palo Alto Zip Code 94301 is the record holder for highest average priced real estate in the nation, which generally translates to, expensive to own real estate, not just expensive to buy.

PROPERTY TAXES

California’s property tax  which amount to about 1.1% of your market value. That is, unless you fall under Prop 13/58 protections. There are usually other additional costs attached to your property tax, like county services or other smaller taxes, but 1.1% is the California State chunk the would be often  more than most people’s salaries. Let’s call the full market value times 1.1% “RULE #1”.

So you City Planners, before  you let a company like Google or Facebook start a big office in your little town, make sure your residents will likely be hammered with ever increasing home property values and therefore RULE #1. (unless you are in a State that does not tax property).

It may be  possible you might qualify to be waived from the market rate-based property taxes on inherited property. That’s assuming the aggregate base factor for your parents property tax is under 1M.

 

SOME RELIEF IF YOU

QUALIFY AND APPLY

BASE FACTOR IS, for those of you who do not know, the value the property tax is based on when your parent died, NOT the market value. Please consult with a Tax Advisor, but you need to APPLY for the Prop 58 Exemption (for investment properties). IF YOU DO  NOT APPLY you will suffer the consequences and your children will hate you for life for being such a ignorant poofball. Be alert, this application is time dependent after the death of your parent.

There’s good news: if the house was your parent’s primary residence, you have a 100% exemption to reassessment to market, unless you have to buy portions of it from your siblings then RULE #1 applies. Once again, please consult with a Tax Advisor who is educated in estate law and property tax laws if there is a chance you can avoid RULE #1.

And as you know, finding a single property under $1M in this area is virtually impossible in Palo Alto (unless you’re talking about EAST Palo Alto). However, if your aggregate investment properties’ BASE FACTOR all amount to less than $1M, you will have a complete Prop 58 exemption (please see disclaimer at bottom of article). If the aggregate Base Value exceeds $1M, then you will need to select which $1M of value will receive the exemption. The others will be reassessed at current market value.

The other good news is, if you have to speak to the Santa Clara County Tax Assessor’s Office, you will find some professional and helpful clerks to make sure you are pointed to the right info related to some tax exemption possibilities. Please seek their guidance and CHECK IF THESE RULES APPLY TO YOU.

 

My little RULE #1 RANT

The sad fact is, in order for a lot of residents of this area to survive, they need to rent out a room or a “granny unit” to someone to have the extra income to pay for the drudgery of RULE #1. Keep in mind what I said, many rent out just to pay the property tax, not to have extra money to send the kids to college or pay for a vacation – just to pay the damned tax.

SO the injustice is, the only people who can afford to pay the higher taxes are even more wealthy people while the less wealthy people get screwed because all of a sudden their taxes are unreal.  SO…., just some dynamics to think about in regards to taxing people to kingdom come linked to their private property or even their primary residence values… values that they have little or no control over. Sounds like slick way to rip off private property.

So which State doesn’t charge property tax?

So what does this have to do with a BNB?

Some link VALUE to NIGHTLY RATES

While it is true that there is supply and demand for accommodation services, and that raises the average price of lodging in Palo Alto and the surrounding areas, the tax responsibility is probably not on the radar of the average guest who decides to report to the world that, “there wasn’t enough value for the price at your place” (when in actuality it’s the whole expensive area, not just your place). Well…. one 4 out of 5 rating isn’t bad, but maybe we’re getting too technical.

I remember the first time we received a “4” for “Value” instead of a “5” from one of our great guests (I’m not being sarcastic, he was an excellent guest), and I actually messaged him privately wondering what his rational was. He was nice enough to give us his point of view citing the area is expensive.  Yeh, so even though we should not take it personally, it shows up on the review of our place, not Palo Alto, the City with the most expensive real estate and therefore some of the highest taxes in the United States.

OK, i’m cool now. I promise not to explode.

BTW, I don’t ask guests ever again since the first guy, why they decide on “4” instead of a “5” (LOL).

In actuality, I take a survey of area listings and have to determine what I believe is a “fair” price for what we have to offer. We’re doing alright so far.

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

CKY

 

Legal Disclaimer: please note, I am not a tax advisor, or claim to have an certification to offer legal advice in the matters mentioned in this article or any post in my blogs, websites or other social media. You MUST consult with the appropriate certified legal representative to determine the facts of any matter related to or mentioned in this article or any article under my domains that may have any legal consequences before making any decisions.

 

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.

 

“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.

 

Please like, share, comment, follow my blog 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.