As you know from the last few episodes, I have been remote hosting from Puerto Rico. I’m about to head back home to New York City for a bit, and before I get on a plane I wanted to share some of the lessons I have learned from this experience with this episode: “Lessons Learned as a Remote Airbnb Host” This remote hosting gig is a new game, and the stakes are high.
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A Rare Breed of a Host
At my Airbnb in NYC, I live with my guests. Yes, I’m a rare breed of the host. I am a Superhost and educator. I share my life with my guests and what I learn with you, my dear hosts. It’s one thing to give a set of keys to a guest who has a private apartment, and it’s another waking up with a stranger in your home. A stranger who is not sharing your bed…Ok, that’s another podcast, another show.
It will be 9 years this May since my first Airbnb guest Ed walked into my home. That’s a long time living with strangers. Yes, there are times when I take a break. I go on vacations or close down my listing so I can come up for air and restore my sanity before diving back down into the hosting deep.
I always felt that my home is too big for just one person, but I never wanted a full-time roommate. Airbnb was the perfect solution. Years later, however, I was ready to escape the winter. So, I decided to become a remote host and spend some quality time with my Mom in Puerto Rico.
Going Back Home
As you know from Episode 33: How to Build and Keep a Team for your Airbnb, I’m a firm believer in having a team I can count on. Even if you clean your home after every guest, you need a team of people to have your back, people who will help you out when you’re sick or when you need that break.
Wanting to spend winters in a warmer climate has been a dream of mine for many years. Yes, I’m turning into a snowbird. Sometimes, all it takes is one person taking a leap to convince you that you can do it, too. In my case, it was my friend Michelle. She spent 3 months in Berlin. I was all, “if she can do it, so can I!” Without much thinking, I was off to the races.
I figured, let me go back home to Puerto Rico. My mom is there. I know the language, and I have been wanting to check out the Airbnb market. A win-win-win if you ask me. There have been times when I came close to taking this leap in the past, but I always backed out. This time, I bought a ticket and booked an Airbnb for one month. Yes, the place I spoke about on Episode 64 Your Airbnb: From Blah to a 5-Star Experience.
But before I could get on a plane, I had to leave my home and my listing, Eveland, in order since it was going to continue being in operation in my absence. I decided not to hire a management company. I figured I could manage it from afar. How hard could it be? Tons of people do it. Right. Well, I can now say in all honesty that it is a lot harder than it looks. But let’s start at the beginning.
Getting Eveland in Order
Clean, clean, and more cleaning.
I decided to include my own bedroom in a new listing. This meant I needed to get all of my belongings out of it. I don’t have that much stuff; living with guests has had me living the Marie Kondo life for a long time. But it’s easy to forget how much you have until you need to empty it out. Ahhh.
On top of it all, I also needed to finalize some construction. Remember the bathroom floor construction project that I mentioned in Episode 59: Renovating Your Airbnb Space: Money, Design, and Guests? Well, that project was completed days before I was scheduled to leave. Stress!
Let me tell you, at one point I had three of the best cleaning people in my home. It was MADNESS. Pure madness because construction dust is no joke. I also had to get the house in order and pack all of my stuff, and all the while guests were coming and going. I got it all done, and I had the cleaning team ready…or so I thought.
My cleaning ladies have been with me for over 2 years. They are trained the Eveland way, so they know how everything gets folded, where everything belongs, and why I get 5-star reviews in cleaning. I set up a laundry facility because now I wasn’t going to be home to do the laundry. This was going to be an added expense.
In addition, I arranged for someone to take out the trash. You forget how much stuff you do in your home until you leave. And you have to start saying, “oh yeah, what about the trash, what about the snow, what about cleaning the front of the house?” Yeah, all of that.
This is the reason why I keep telling you to get a team, my dear hosts. Have your team ready before you need them. No joke, hosts. You know that saying, “It pays to be prepared?” Well, trust me when I say that it is YOU who will pay if you are not prepared.
I was packing thinking I was leaving for a month. You should have seen me the night before. Thankfully, my friend Michelle from Cityami was there to help me with what to take and not to take.
The next day, my trip started with me going to the wrong airport. Was that an omen? I had a 50/50 chance of getting that right, and I missed the mark. What else might I have missed in my planning? I was about to find out. In the end, I paid extra to not miss my connecting flight, and I was off to Puerto Rico.
The first week, things went smoothly… Then out of nowhere, my cleaning crew started having availability problems. Yeah, they had other commitments.
Because up until this remote hosting experiment I have done most of my own cleaning, I’m not their main client, so I wasn’t their first priority. My main cleaner has another more important client, and she just wasn’t available. I get it, but it was still super stressful.
My second cleaner created her own cleaning company and increased her prices by 50%, and she wasn’t available that often either. It also started snowing. All. The. Time. Non-stop snowing. Thankfully, I had a couple of people helping me with the snow.
But the lack of cleaning crew had me stressed out. You probably heard that podcast episode, where I talked about paying one person $150 to do one cleaning. I usually pay about $60 to $80, so this was almost double. She was good, but at $150 I was like, “yeah, no.” And that didn’t even include laundry.
Also, these cleaners were recommendations, either from different apps or a friend of a friend. These were not people I had trained to clean my way. We had never even met. Hands down, the cleaning crew has been the most stressful part of remote hosting.
Well, that and the unauthorized party from the local guests I allowed to make a reservation. That was stressful because I knew it was happening while it was happening, but there was nothing I could do about it from a distance. You can listen to that fiasco on episode 69: An Unauthorized Party In My Home.
I have also had a few issues with the heat at my house. Guests have changed the thermostat or turned it off. I’m going to say by mistake, but… Ahh, guests.
I have a completely brand new crew of cleaning people I haven’t even met in person. They’re following my system, faithfully (well, almost, but they are getting the hang of it). I also have my friends Marie and Richard checking in for quality control and, when available, my friend Wayne as well. This means they go to my house to make sure the cleaning crew is working to my specifications. Eveland is very demanding…
I’ll be training them when I get back, and I plan to hire a few other folks because one of my new cleaning people is pregnant and will be giving birth soon. She says that she will return to work soon after giving birth, but in the hosting world, as in life, things change quickly, as you can see.
What I'm Doing Now
I’m looking at using a smart thermostat like Nest or Ecobee, but what you have to understand is that those systems can be wifi dependent and if the wifi fails (or guests disconnect the router so they can have a party without the video doorbell giving them away)…you get the idea.
Well, I’m looking at options because I don’t want a smart house to become a dumb house because of no wifi. Even though I live in NYC, the wifi goes down OFTEN; too often. It’s always good to have options and fail-safes, dear hosts. Trust me!
I’m also getting a NoiseAware, which will alert me if there is a party at the house or if my guests are being a bit too loud. I’m going to do an episode with NoiseAware soon since I will be receiving their equipment when I get to NY next week.
Another change I am making is adding smart locks. This way, I will know when the guests actually arrive at the house. Yes, I have a Ring Video doorbell, which I love and adore. But I have a lot of traffic and too many videos to review them all. With a smart lock, I receive an alert every time it is opened. Plus, I can set up specific codes for my guests.
There is so much information about locks. For the love of all hospitality, you have no idea all of the research I have done about locks. There is the August lock, Schlage, Zwave, Edge State Systems. Too much to talk about it all here, but I will be dedicating an entire episode so we can discuss locks.
Now finally, here is something that has worked smoothly…
Automating my communication with guests. This year, I integrated my Airbnb guest communication with Airgms, and it is working perfectly. My guests book a reservation, and they immediately get MY pre-written message with all of the important information. Days before arrival, they receive the arrival message I set up with all of the check-in information. Perfection. I don’t have to think about it, which is great because I have enough to worry about with everything else.
And 24 hours after check-in, my guests get another message that I created, saying, “Everything ok?” And much more. Other great news is that if you have 4 listings or less, Airgms is free. Yes! You, dear hosts, don’t have to pay a dime. In this day and age, that is amazing.
Of course, you can use Airgms for more than guest communication. You can communicate with your cleaning team. Yes, I have been using it with my cleaning crew, including the new folks who I haven’t yet met.
Try it out. You have nothing to lose, and you might get love notes from your guests like this one:
And of course, I have my House Manual. This way my guests have access to all of the house information. All of their questions are answered. I’m in the process of changing a few things about my House Manual, which is one of the reasons for the relaunch this summer.
I’m about to go back to New York, and as soon as I land I’m getting some much-needed construction done: backyard work, reglaze a bathtub, kitchen upgrades. It’s a long to-do list. You’ll hear all about it since you’ll be along for the ride.
My NoiseAware package will be there, waiting for me to set it up, and I will have decided on a smart door lock.
Why? Because I’ll be remote hosting again. That’s right! I’m going back to Puerto Rico. Yes. my adventure will continue. Life is change, and I’ll tell you more in future episodes.
The Hosting Journey Facebook Group
Airgms: for automating your communication
The Essentials for Your Airbnb