Opening an Airbnb during COVID-19

Dear hosts, you have a dream of building your brand new Airbnb. Maybe you have an extra bedroom, or you decide to rent or buy because you know you’re going to make it. This is the year. But life has other plans. Because before you can open the doors, the world closes them with COVID. Oh yeah. In today’s episode, I’m talking with Nathalie Cacao and we discuss La Casita Cacao- A Brand New Airbnb Opens During COVID-19.

In this episode, Nathalie discusses her hosting journey from renting a room in her house when she had a baby to building La Casita Cacao, which used to be a shed. We talk about who is booking her place, the surprises, the reviews, and much more.

Natalie & Husband Brand New Airbnb during Covid
Natalie & Husband Brand New Airbnb during Covid
Natalie & Husband Brand New Airbnb during Covid
Natalie & Husband Brand New Airbnb during Covid

Evelyn: 03:04 Dear host today, we have Natalia Cacao who currently lives in California High Desert with her husband. They spend the days raising their little finally because they turn their five acre property into a self sustaining homestead, and they have the Casita Cacao. It was an old shed and they turn it into an off grid, tiny house, please say hi to Natalia Cacao. Natalia, thank you for being at the house.

Natalie: 03:34 Thank you Evelyn, for having me here, what an honor and privilege to be speaking to you. I feel like you and I have been best friends for a long time, because I've been listening to your podcast for over a year and you have literally been in my head since then.
Evelyn: 03:49 Awwe…Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for being here. Well, we're going to be starting with your story. What made you want to start an Airbnb?
Natalie: 03:57 We started Airbnb in 2016 in the main house. We had three extra bedrooms that were not being used and I was a stay at home mom. I had a lot of time in my hands and I wanted to make some extra money on my own without having to use our business. And, um, I presented the idea to my husband that we should open up a bedroom in our house for Airbnb. And I would love to set up the room and host, I thought he was going to say, no, he's very protective of the property and inviting strangers inside the house felt like he was just going to shoot me down. But surprisingly he didn't. He was totally okay with it. Even helped me set up, you know, a little TV in the room. And um, I think he just knew that those first years of motherhood you're so lonely also. And he was okay with the idea of having guests come over. It'll keep me entertained, give me something to do. And uh, so we set up a bedroom. I made it all nice and pretty. And I started listening to different podcasts and ideas and I thought, for sure nobody would want to stay there at our place. One, because it is in the desert. And I didn't think anybody it's not a destination city. Oak Hills is a little town in between LA and Las Vegas and people just drive by it. But to my surprise, the day that we went live, we got our first booking, Selena and I looked at each other and we were shocked because it was a seven day booking.

Evelyn: 05:41 Wow!!

Natalie: 05:41 And yes, and it didn't stop. It kept coming and coming. And we found ourselves the first month having to block out dates so that I could rest. From the cleaning and also from the hosting. And…
Evelyn: 05:56 And also, because you were hosting at home.
Natalie: 05:59 Exactly.

Evelyn: 06:02 I host at home in New York. That's an undertaking. You are on your own 24/7. You're like look, living with strangers is no joke.

Natalie: 06:13 No. And on top of that, we had a baby! Camille, my daughter was a year old and I had to find really creative ways to keep her entertained on our side of the house. Keep her quiet. Luckily she was a very good baby. She slept through the night. And also I got really smart about confirming right away with people I knew would be out of the house most of the day and just in to sleep. So, besides people who just wanted a quick place to stay during the night during their travels. I also booked with contracted nurses. We only have about two hospitals here in our area and a lot of nurses are out from the city and they need a place to stay for a week or two. But, they're out pretty much all day. They just come in to sleep. So I was very smart about who I was confirming with. It became very easy. But, in 2018, our second child was born and he was not an easy baby at all. He was up every two hours. And, I remember telling my husband, we're going to have to close our Airbnb because he's not going to let anybody sleep. And they're going to be so upset at us for having them inside our home with a crying baby. And we had to shut down Airbnb. I went off a year without hosting, but every time I would wash dishes, I can see out through our window and I would see this ugly blue shed in the back. Right? And I would look at it and think it looks big enough from out here. If I turn it into a bedroom, I would love to still host people where they're in the property, but not inside my home. And so I told my husband one day and I said, “Hey, what do you think about turning the shed into an Airbnb place?” And so we started playing with the idea and I told him, we can have people come in, but not have them inside the house. So the kids won't bother them. And also we will be free to, you know, have their privacy inside my house while hosting. And again, luckily he was on board with this, even with the ideas of turning it off grid where it would be solar powered, we can have composting toilet or have the water that the La Casita produces go out into the garden. Those were all his ideas, which I was totally okay with because I was just excited that he was on board also with doing this. So in 2019, we decided to allocate some money towards it. And we started our construction project.
Evelyn: 08:51 And I've seen your construction. It was a big undertaking, huge.
Natalie: 08:56 It was a huge risk.
Evelyn: 08:59 It was huge job. You did a lot of work.
Natalie: 09:03 We did.
Evelyn: 09:03 I mean like people do not realize that people are like, Oh, I'm going to just go and do an Airbnb. And they start thinking like, I'm just going to turn a place into an Airbnb. And they don't realize sometimes like how much money we invest into our places.
Natalie: 09:19 Yes. I would say to anybody, if you have a budget and if you have a deadline double it just already double it because I was naive to think, “Oh, it'll be done in three months over the summer by fall, for sure. By fall, we can start hosting” And by fall we were barely getting to the details of the La Casita and then the year started and then COVID happened. And here we are a year later, literally a year later from our first construction date. And we have just started hosting and getting it running. But it has taken a year since we began that first renovation date.
Evelyn: 10:02 It's funny because I've been hosting for 10 years in New York and we started hosting in Puerto Rico this last year. It took us a while to get our place ready and there was earthquakes and there was no electricity or water. Well, we had, we ended up having water in our place, but there was no electricity, but it was Island wide. Like there was no electricity in the entire Island. So it was okay. It was like, the guests were like, Oh, okay. You know, they were like, you know. I mean, like life happens, right? Like here you are like thinking over this, gotta be okay. And then COVID happens.
Natalie: 10:44 Exactly!There was nothing that could prepare us for this. In fact, we just joked around about how we decided, you know, to invest and turn this shed into an Airbnb stay. And then that market just crashes for a while. And so we were thinking in March. Like, “Is this even going to happen? Is this just maybe this Casita's just going to be for us, for our friends and family, when they come over and stay”. I was almost dead to the idea that it was going to be Airbnb. And for some reason we were okay with that too.
Evelyn: 11:21 And let's talk a little bit about that cause you, one of the first guests that are coming onto the podcast after all of this has happened and I've been just talking all about COVID. And the last episode was all about like the license information about Airbnb and the regulations and everything else. And the updates. What are you doing, how has it changed for you? I mean, because I could tell you what I'm doing right now, because I went into the travel nurses market in New York. I still have one nurse, but I also just open up to guests. And I'm still in New York. I haven't seen that are out there, but New York is selling. Not because of COVID, but because of what's happening in New York, between Airbnb in New York and in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico never shut down the vacation rental market. We shut down our own market for ourselves. Like we closed down the house because we didn't want guest. Because, it's like above us. It's sort of like you, like you have shed on your property. For us, it's above the house where we live. We don't have to like be with the guest or interact with the guest, the self chicken, but for us it was too close for comfort. And, so we opened that up again, back in May and we just starting back with guests and Puerto Rico has massive restrictions. Like we have to be close for 48 hours and we have like a lot of different things that we have to do to be able to host. But we okay with that. I'm okay with restrictions. Like, you know what I mean? I'm like, it's okay. You could regulate me. You could, you could tax me. You could regulate me. Just allow me to be okay with it. Do you guys have regulations over there?
Nathalie: 13:10 So, Summer Dino County where we're at. They, it was more like a suggestion at the beginning and also, you know, listening to the news, we just postponed our opening. For a later date and we kept pushing that date back and pushing it back. But, what I did in the meantime is I started to fire up the social media engines. Um, and while we were waiting, I was working on the social media, introducing the Caseta, letting people know that it's there. And then finally about a month and a half ago, we opened it to guests. And what we have seen is that people are desperate to be out of their homes in a environment where they're not around a lot of people. And the desert does that. The desert provides that isolation and it helps that the shed is separate from the main house. They have everything they need there. There is a little kitchen, there is a bathroom, there is a garden. They can even entertain themselves by going out and seeing the animals on the homestead. And people are looking for that. They're craving a place where they can take their children to, and they're not in front of the TV, you know, for another two or three months. And so that's what, that's what we noticed. There's a lot of families that are looking for places where they feel like they're still safe away from the city and their kids are entertained. So it's been good for us. We obviously, I don't have anything to compare it to. I don't know what the Casita would look like. We were hosting at a normal time in history, if it would be busier or if we would have different kinds of guests. But right now, reality for us is that people are looking for places to be away from the city. We've had a lot of producers from LA reach out to us. They need a place where they can come and sit down where there is not a strong wifi signal. They just want to concentrate on writing their book or writing their script. And those are the kinds of guests that we are hosting.
Evelyn: 15:23 Beautiful. So you're booked.
Natalie: 15:25 Right now. Yes, we are booked. What's interesting is that we've also had a lot of product photoshoot bookings, which I did think would, you know, photographers would be interested, but that's a whole other market. I didn't even know about. We have a lot of people who want to do photo shoots in the Casita, whether it's maternity or a product that they want to shoot. And so I have bookings for that as well. And those are my favorite because they're in and out in the day and there's no cleaning required right after strenuous cleaning, like washing sheets or anything like that, obviously will disinfect the surfaces and handles and all that. But it's not like I have to go in there and wash sheets or fold towels or anything like that.
Evelyn: 16:12 Natalia, that has to do because of the design of your home, right? Your home is beautifully designed.
Natalie: 16:19 Thank you. That is something that I, I wanted to make sure that the La Casita, which just be a clean space where I can do what I like. So everything that is in the Caseta that you will find, I have curated into things that I believe are beautiful. So when you walk in, it really is an expression of my creativity. I want it to go with what made me happy, what made me smile. So, I thought if we're going to invest so much time and so much money, I want it to be clean. I want it to be fresh and I want it to be neutral. I wanted it to be a place where both men and women would enjoy being in the first Airbnb listing that I had. I had flowers, sheets, and I had flower, you know, the pinks and the blues and my husband would joke about, I bet, you know, that guest feels weird in there with those fluffy furry pillows. And he suggested, you know, why don't you try something neutral where both men and women can enjoy. And so I feel like I did that middle design, that middle line design, and it works well for both. And I, we really enjoy it. We both really,
Evelyn: 17:39 It is beautiful!And we are going to have links to it on this episode, in the show notes. Because it is beautiful! It is a beautiful design. It's very minimalistic, It's very simple and clean. And I think what happens also because it's in the desert– it's unexpected — the design.
Natalie: 17:59 Right!
Evelyn: 18:00 So, that's what you have. You know what I mean? Like normally people, what they do is you have a different kind of design for the desert. Right?
Natalie: 18:10 Right! I feel like all the reactions that I've gotten when guests first walk in is, “Whoa, I can't believe this is here!” And it's because we kept the shed the way that it looks, the layout is still the same. Obviously, it's a different color. My husband built a deck for it. So it looks a little different on the front, but it's something that you just don't expect. And I think that's the difference., you're right! I tried keeping it very minimal and very modern desert twist to it. I think what you were trying to say is a lot of people that decorate in the desert bring in like those Indian design, you know, that Navajo Indian and that kind of style. But to me, what is more beautiful from the desert, it's it's nature. And we see those rolling bushes all the time and those dried things and leaves. And so honestly, when I go out into the desert and I see a dried flower or a Bush, I bring it into the casita. And that's what makes the casino what it is. It has elements of the desert, Inside.

Evelyn: 19:20 Ohh, that's beautiful. Did you study design?

Natalie:  19:23 I didn't! No, I have zero experience with design. I have zero experience with even, putting the layout of the Casita together. My husband said, “Okay, so we're going to do this project. Then grab yourself a piece of paper and start designing the layout”. And I grabbed a napkin, In fact! I still have it. A piece of a pen, and I just started going to town trying to figure out “Where do I want this kitchen? Where do I want this living room and this bedroom?”. And one of the things that I decided is that we were going to keep the beans inside the shed. Those beans are original to the shed. And somehow I want it to keep them in there and I wanted them raw. I wanted the nails to show and I wanted the numbers and the letters that are printed on the beams on there. I want it to be very rustic because at the end of the day, it is still a shed.
Evelyn: 20:23 Yeah. I love that! I love that! And believe me, I don't have a design bone in my body. I have a designer who I am very blessed. He's one of my best friends and he has designed my homes.
Natalie: 20:38 That's awesome!
Evelyn: 20:38 Yeah, because I can, I don't like thinking about paint. I don't like thinking about. I mean, I can appreciate the design. Like I see it., and I'm like, “Oh, this is beautiful!” And I could see what works and what doesn't work, but I don't, I don't, don't make me!
Natalie: 20:57 Well, that, that was actually the fun part for me. I loved getting in there and trying to compare pink colors. And I didn't know, there was a thousand shades of white. It's insane! I just have, finally I asked my contractor, you just pick white, I just want white. You pick which one. That was the only thing that I let him pick. But everything else I did! 2019 was the summer of thrifting. The summer of just looking and scavenging and everything that I found was on a budget. And it was also either used or I got from apps, like Offer Up from other people that just didn't want it anymore. And so I would get it discounted and nothing in there except for the appliances and the actual cabinets and all that was bought brand new, which is another one of my favorite parts. We built this La Caseta to have the less impact on the, you know, our carbon print on the world. And so we designed it to marry just comfort. And also self-sustainability. So all of the water that runs to it also goes into the garden. The guest can come out and when there's vegetables available, there's a cook in the garden. They can go and pick out their eggs and their veggies and come back in and have their breakfast. And we wanted it to be powered by solar and have the Sun take care of it. There's a lot of little things that, for example, the actual Casita's elevated. So it's not on the floor. And, that allowed us to also cut cost on, you know, having to pay for permits and all that. If we wanted to, we can lift the Caseta and move it it's mobile. So it's great in that sense, everything in it is electrical. So it doesn't use any gas. The way that it heats itself. Celine's father had an old stove, wood burner, and we had it sitting in the garage for years. And when it came to time of how are we going to heat this place up? We have winters here with snow. We made a corner for it. And it's, it's perfect where it's at. And it's an heirloom. So everything in there was thoughtfully created and curated so that it works at its finest and has the less impact also on the world, basically. So it is considered off grid.
Evelyn: 23:27 No, don't, I'm going to be creating some new places as well. And I'm sort of already thinking about what do I want to do because our place here in Puerto Rico, we have some solar panels. We still on the grid, but I do wish we were a little bit more Off it right. And I want to get a farm!
Natalie: 23:48 Oh yes! The farm and a farm is another thing that it's just very strange for people to think desert, farm, you know, and then Casita — modern Casita, those three things. People don't really put those together, but I feel like we married all those three things and they just work. So yeah, Casita Cacao is actually on a farm stead. We do have Alpacas roaming. They are free to roam wherever they wish we have sheep roaming. We have seven of them come up to the Caseta and they love to be on the porch, especially when it's hot. They lift to sit out there. We have chickens and turkeys and roosters. And one thing that I'm very purposeful on our listing is to be honest about her listing. If you think you're going to come in and sleep in with no noise, you are absolutely wrong. There is roasters and turkeys that are gobbling throughout the day. But our guests have really appreciated that. It gives them that country experience of waking up to an actual rooster and waking up to the sun in your window. And, and to me, that's the lifestyle that we have worked so hard to create. And it's exciting to share it with others.
Evelyn: 25:08 Now, let me ask you a question, because one of the reasons I tapped you to be on the podcast was because we were talking, you posted about the story when you went into the house and, and the guests were making suggestions.
Natalie: 25:20 Right!
Evelyn: 25:23 And we were talking about this, right? Because we try so hard. We're hosts.
Natalie: 25:32 Yeah.
Evelyn: 25:32 Our values are to, to make people happy. Right? We try and… But, also we also understand, we cannot make everyone happy.
Natalie: 25:42 Right.
Evelyn: 25:43 There's a balance between people pleasing and also saying, “Okay, I cannot make you happy. Thank you for this suggestion. No, I'm not going to bought a brand new bathroom”. I had someone telling me there was a guest., “Ohh. I think you need a new bathroom” and I was like, “Okay, thank you, I am not doing that but, thank you.”
Natalie: 26:04 Oh, no! I feel sometimes that the Airbnb Hosts community goes just overboard. We just overextend ourselves and trying to make guests happy. And I think about it, for example, the hotel business, where you won't see a kitchen in a hotel room. You're lucky if you get a microwave and a little mini fridge. And I think it really has to do with the Airbnb review system, right? Where we want to get this five stars. We want to get that high score, which is very helpful when you are accepting guests and also for guests to see and read what can I expect? But honestly, Evelyn, one of the things that has helped me the most, and I have learned this from listening to even your podcast and other podcasts and blogs is, to be honest. To be honest with your place and your listing. So you set the person's expectations.
Evelyn: 26:59 Yes.
Natalie: 27:00 I never want to say this is the cleanest most silent place that you will find because the truth is that we live on a dirt road. It is the desert. There is animals everywhere. You're going to see poop on our property and it is a farm stead. And so I put that out there. The reason why I'm intentional of showing the animals on the Instagram feed is because I want people to know that when you walk outside and you walk back in Casita, you're going to bring dust and you're going to bring dirt in. So I try to set those expectations. And when guests come in, they know they already know! And it's comforting that they already know, right. Suggestions that have to do with designed. For example, part of the review was that the curtains were too long and they're kind of, they are part of the design. I love long curtains. I loved the look. It makes the place look bigger and grand. I did agree that the second set of windows, the curtains were maybe a little too long. I can cut those a little shorter. So it's not a tripping hazard so that I appreciate. There are comments that I truly appreciate and things that I didn't think about. And I don't know why they're very obvious. For example, there were no tissues in the bedroom. And I believe everybody knows that there needs to be tissues. It is a staple in the bedroom and it slipped my mind to put tissues in there.
Evelyn: 19:40 Right now I just had a guest leave the house and I don't let my cleaner go in for 24 hours period. Thus our standard procedure right now, we've also, and this is an episode that I just uploaded today, we pulled out all the curtains out of the house. Anything that's like throws and like decorative pillows, anything that is sort of like not needed, you know, we had a conversation about it and was sort of like, is this really needed? It's just things to make the place pretty two days to clean it. It's nodding off. I think between a travel nurse I will probably take down the place for like a week and really like steam everything and you know, just because they'd been there for so long.
Evelyn: 28:38 It happens… It happens… I actually have a list and people can get it at the Where I go room by room. When you set up a house and you could just say, “Oh, I have the hangers. Oh, I have the Iron. Oh, I have the tissues. Oh, I have the waste basket.” Because we forget those things, right? And especially when you're setting up a house, there's so many things that we're shopping for.
Natalie: 29:04 Oh, I had to buy everything.
Evelyn: 29:07 Exactly!

Natalie: 29:08 I had to think of every single detail in the house. And that was our biggest investment was starting all over again with towels, sheets with the bed. We have to order side tables. We had to order the lighting.

Evelyn: 29:21 The lamps, everything!
Natalie: 29:22 Everything! And the thing that's slipped my mind was a kitchen sponge, you know. And they did bring that up to my attention as sponge. And I thought, “Oh my goodness, I got everything covered except for the smaller details”. And you know what, it's easy to forget that other people don't live the way that you do. For example, in our house, we try not to use tissues or paper towels, or we try to use rags. And we wash those constantly one because it's, it's good. It's good for earth. And so we also scrub our dishes with just what in brushes versus going through sponges. And, and so, it's easy to forget that other people don't leave the way that we do. They're not so conscious of how, you know, this plastic waste is going to affect in the future. And so, I have to get out of also the way that we live and put myself in their place and think, “Okay, I guess I would be kind of annoyed that there was only wooden dish brush and not a sponge.
Evelyn: 30:22 Well, what you could do with also this… You could have a sponge wrapped up. You know, as like, if you want to use this, nonetheless, this is what my preference is as my values and the reason why.
Natalie: 30:39 Right.
Evelyn: 30:39 So what you do in your communication before arrival, we provide nonetheless, if you still want to use the other things that are not good for the environment, thank you very much without saying it like that. Or we will provide it to you. If you just let us know, we have it, we just don't have it available. Or, you know, we have it underneath the sink. So it's not as accessible, so it's still there if they want it. Because, I'm the same way as you like in New York, I still have paper towels, but I have napkins because that's what I use, cloth napkins. That's what I like to use. because then I dumped them in the wash, you know? But that's what I like to use. And I like to provide that, you know, my guests are using them because they're in my home,. They're using my home, but I get it. And I compost. And so I have to give them compost bags and tell them, “Hey, put it in the freezer and put it in aside”. Like, but you have to let them know because not everybody's coming in with the same consciousness.
Natalie: 31:42 Right. So I have tried to put it out there as much as I can. It's on our Airbnb listing. It's on our Instagram account. It's every story that I share. It's also to show the guest how.
Evelyn: 31:55 They might not see it.
Natalie: 31:57 Right. The kitchen sink doesn't have a food grinder, food processor. So every leftover, we actually have a composting bin that we keep on this side and we've any leftover. We feed back to the animals. So, there's zero waste on food.
Evelyn: 32:12 I remember you said something about the banking.
Natalie: 32:15 Yes. Yes. Oh, and this is another thing that I'm learning. Right? I have to make notes for people to read and add this to my actual booklet because we provided them with our home raised bacon and they enjoyed it and left it. But throw the leftovers at the composting bin and we fed it to the piglet.
Evelyn: 32:33 I know. So…
Natalie: 32:35 I was like, “this is so sad”, but they don't know that the piglets didn't mind either. But everything needs to be said and written. And I forget that this might be a culture shock for them. Not everybody lives the way that we have in the last four years. You know? And it's kind of hard for us to also think back because it seems like such a long time ago when we leave a different lifestyle and it's still taken as a while. I mean, we put a composting toilet in the Caseta and it's so funny to us that the bathroom is so fancy and we put beautiful tiles and the shower and there's a composting toilet. And so that's something that we need to train our guests on how to use, because some of them don't even know what that is. They've never heard of that. And when they open the lid and there's no water, they're like, what is this? How do we use it? And I usually get the text and the call, like, how do you do this? So I have to remind them, like, there is a printed booklet and information, or I send them a link.
Evelyn: 33:42 What I have done is I have a little frame in the bathroom with instructions. So any instructions that are particular, especially to the bathrooms, just put like a pretty picture, because I know you don't want to make your design, like, because you don't want to make frames everywhere. Right?
Natalie: 34:01 Right.
Evelyn: 34:03 Yeah! But because they're in the toilet, they want to use bathroom, they don't want to be looking for the house manual.
Natalie: 34:11 I was actually thinking of putting in a letter board and putting it eye level in front of them. When they're on the toilet, it requires three simple instructions. And, so that's what I'm working on actually. And also my husband and I are creating how to videos and we will be putting those on the highlights of. For example, Instagram. And for those that don't have Instagram, then it'll be written on the guest book. And it'll also be in that letter board at eye level when they're sitting on the toilet. So they know how to, how to use it. But it was very important for us and our values to have a composting toilet so that there is less impact. And also to make the shed truly off grid. I mean. If our house, if we ever get our power, shut off. If we run out of gas, the Caseta can sustain me and my family if it ever happened. So it was important for us to have something permanent that will work for us as well.
Evelyn: 35:09 Girl, you're working for it.
Natalie: 35:14 Oh, we are ready! We are so ready.
Evelyn: 35:18 You're ready. I know. I get it. Believe me. Oh, believe me. Look for us here in Puerto Rico, We're already working for hurricanes season. You know, My boyfriend, like he did already solar panels. So we're solar power for downstairs. Not completely, but we could be okay whenever the electricity goes off. Right?
Natalie: 35:37 Right!
Evelyn: 35:39 We're thinking like for the Airbnb guest, so what can we do? And you know, batteries and things like that, but we're not off grid. We're like, we're in a neighborhood. And also it gets super hot. So, but I get it. I get it. But you have to teach guest. Right?
Natalie: 35:53 Right!
Evelyn: 35:55 You have to teach them.
Natalie: 35:55 Yeah. It's definitely training. Yes!
Evelyn: 35:59 And that's one of the things, look, I'm creating a book at a course about values. Like whenever you're creating your Airbnb and whenever you creating your listing, what are the values that you want your home to be? And whatever values you are, let that value be inside your home, your Airbnb, because this is what's important to you and your market will find you.
Natalie: 36:28 Right.
Evelyn: 36:28 Because you don't want someone who's wasteful. You want someone who's aligned with the same values as you are. Even if they might not know what a compost toilet is, but they will learn. Right? And you might need to do a couple of videos teaching them. Right?
Natalie: 36:46 Right!
Evelyn: 36:47 And one of my recommendations will be this three days before rival, you send them instructions and say, “Hey, just wanted to give you a heads up of some things about the house — bathroom, and here's a video, blah, blah. And here's a video and blah, blah,” just a few days before rival just a heads up.
Natalie: 37:07 That's such a good idea. And going back to what you just said, I love that expression. You just said the market will find you.
Evelyn: 37:14 Oh, totally. Totally.
Natalie: 37:17 Yes! We are just making friends out of our guests because the people that are coming and are attracted to those place are those that are nature lovers, adventure seekers, they love camping. This is like a form of glamping for them. Right? Where they're out in the desert and they're experiencing what it would be like to not be connected to the system of city. To not be connected to the water of the city or the electricity. If they are on their own. And so these people…
Evelyn: 37:52 And that's your social media, that's your marketing.
Natalie: 37:54 Yes, they are!
Evelyn: 37:55 That's your marketing. That's who you are. That's going to be your website. Right?
Natalie: 37:59 Right!
Evelyn: 37:59 So your website, because you going to be off Airbnb in a minute…
Natalie:  38:02 Right!
Evelyn: 38:02 I'm telling you that right now, you're going to create your own website and your value also. So, what you do is you create your value system and who you are and who you want to attract. I belong to different Facebook groups and I belong to different things because I like to listen. And I like to also learn about the psychology of people. And the whole thing is this. You do not want to have someone there that's not aligned to your values. It's as simple as that, they will not have a good experience and you will not have a good experience hosting them.
Natalie: 38:34 Right! I believed that, your place will not always be perfect. You might not always have the perfect guest. Yeah!
Evelyn: 38:42 You don't want someone who wants to party and be in the city.
Natalie: 38:46 This is not the place for that. I do say on the listing, you know, if you don't like dirt roads, if you have back issues, like they're not bad, but I would rather over-exaggerate on things that people might not like. So that when they come, they're like, “Oh, this wasn't as bad as, as she said”, I would prefer that. Versus, “This is what, no, this is terrible, she didn't mention this”. So I love what you're saying. The market will find you. And we do! We have people who are so interested in the animals. In fact, most of our bookings is because they want to meet the animals. And that's great. I think the Casita's just like an add on really they're there for the alpacas. They are there for the cows and the sheep and to experience that slow living lifestyle. And we've always said, you know, back to basics, it's so difficult to find nowadays. But, you can create that. Not everybody does, but you can, you can still experience it by coming to a farmstead and staying there for a day or two.
Evelyn: 39:50 Yeah! And I mean, and I know you have created this world and what you just want is alignment . It's intention and alignment and you have it. And those guests they're like, you're like, it's okay. I'm not for everybody. That's okay. I'm not meant to be for everybody the same way that I don't like everything. Right?
Natalie: 40:17 Right. Yes, absolutely. Right. So I have come to terms with that. And whenever we have someone who is excited to come, it makes me excited also because I know they will love it. They will enjoy it. And I was honest and the expectations were set where they need it too. And now all I have to do is just host and do what I love doing, which is really hosting having people over it and sharing our space with them.
Evelyn: 40:47 I am so glad Natalie. This is so great. I know that they can find you at
Natalie: 40:54 Yes! We have our website or they can find us on Airbnb, Instagram at Lacasita Cacao.That's how you will find us. We're on Facebook too. I'm not too big on Facebook, but Instagram is where all the fun happens.
Evelyn: 41:10 Yeah. Yeah! Instagram is a game. Best of luck. I'm loving the old that you're doing on Instagram. I'm seeing your Instagram all the time. I don't have my Instagram game on yet. I'm in it, but I don't have my game there yet, but, but you're doing an amazing job.
Natalie: 41:25 Thank you. I've been listening to the hosting journey for over a year now. Since, you know, I remember helping out with building of the Casita while I had my headphones on and listening to you. And!you have such an enthusiasm and it made me so excited about the future with this Airbnb project. And I love all the information that you put out there. So thank you. What an honor that you invited me to be on here.
Evelyn: 41:50 You know, I tried to bring in guests that I want for my audience to find value. And for me it was like, your Airbnb was sort of like, Oh my God! What you're doing is amazing. You're doing a great job. I love your Casita is so beautiful. It's just so beautiful. It's just an alignment on what you're creating.
Natalie: 42:08 Well, thank you!
Evelyn: 42:09 So for me, it's like, yes. And I want my people to find inspiration and to know like, look, I know we're going through challenging times because, Oh man, this is a ride!
Natalie: 42:22 Oh yeah.
Evelyn: 42:24 And we just have to buckle up and say, “OKAY!”, But it's going to be okay! Whatever it is going to be on the other side, it's going to be okay. Right. Whatever it is, whatever it is, we don't know.
Natalie: 42:38 Right.
Evelyn: 42:39 We don't know.
Natalie: 42:39 Right. And we don't know what could happen in the next month or two even. So for now, I'm just enjoying hosting. And I honestly feel like we can also flip the coin where people have been in their homes for three months and they're looking for another safe place to be. So why not? Why not? Airbnb specially during this time.
Evelyn: 43:02 Exactly! I was surprised in the Puerto Rico home. We've having guests coming in. Our July's booked our Puerto Rico home hasn't been open for a year yet. So we know what to expect because this is the slow season for Puerto Rico because it's so hot. So we didn't know what to expect. Also we need to recuperate our investment.
Natalie: 43:26 Right!
Evelyn: 43:26 Because it's, you're like “I spent so much money.”
Natalie: 43:30 We did!it was such a risk. It was such a gamble. But ultimately what made us decide is that this was going to be permanent and it was going to stay in the family. So whether we had guests or not, and that's why we went for it too. We invested 30,000 into renovating the Caseta. And I mean, everything from the foundation to all the items that are in there. And then not only that, but also the amenities that we are still building, like the carton and our next project is a Pizza, Adobe Oven. We want people to be able to make their pizzas and sit down and just watch nature.
Evelyn: 44:13 Well, let me ask you a question, creating something like that will return on investment.
Natalie: 44:18 I don't think we need it. I don't think it would be something that guests would say that's a deciding factor. Like we're going there because they have a pizza oven. No, I don't believe that. I think it's mostly for us.
Evelyn: 44:31 Okay. Okay. So, you're making it for you.
Natalie: 44:33 Yes! Everything that we make it's first for us and then to share. For example, the garden, you know, if you want to eat off of our land, we already eat the meat that we raise. We, we raise our own beef, our own pork, and we're starting to sell that. And we're starting to share that. We sell our eggs and we get about a dozen a day that we can eat all of it ourselves. So we, we share it! And also the garden, we're thinking community. We have a lot of neighbors who come over and if they need any food, especially during this scary pandemic time where there was nothing in the grocery stores. We want to be that home. And so, Yes! so we built things. For example, we're thinking of this oven, this Adobe oven. What if we run out of gas one day, because here in the desert, everything, you have to go out and buy our gas. We need to get that filled in. We're not hooked up. Like you would be in a city. And so we need to think…
Evelyn: 45:34 No, now either we get propane.
Natalie: 45:36 There you go program. So we were thinking, well with this oven, it's not just for pizza. We call it a pizza oven. But we're thinking just like our grandparents cooked, they used Adobe ovens to cook, to bake. And so yes, I think ultimately it is Armageddon that we're preparing for my husband. It's all him! He's a total prepper and all of this stuff. I mean, if I want to know what he's up to, I tell him all the time, all I have to do is go on his YouTube account and it's all prepper stuff. It's all, you know how to cook this. It's just salt. How to do that with just that. And, but I love it. It's the lifestyle that we're building and we're growing as humans together. Learning how to be self sustainable and not panic. When something like what happened, you know, we stayed at home for those three months. We didn't have to go to the grocery store. We had meat from our animals. We had vegetables from our garden and that feels good.
Evelyn: 46:38 Yeah, I know, I know. It's kind of funny because Javier has been blessed that he's been able to be at home and we're like, “Well, we don't need to leave the house. We don't have animals. So we have go outside and sharpen, but we're very like, do we have to go out? “No” “Okay” “Stop”
Natalie: 46:54 Just Stay in!
Evelyn: 46:56 Yeah.
Natalie: 46:57 It was really nice. And you know, what's funny is that the kids, they didn't even notice that they didn't leave the perimeters of our home for two months.
Evelyn: 47:06 Wow.
Natalie: 47:06 Because they're so entertained, their lives are busy running around after the animals, their lives are busy playing with dirt, getting dirty and it's fun for them. So they have five acres to roam and believe me, they do. And it's nice. And I think that's what people are craving. They're craving for a place they can come and just free and not cornered.
Evelyn: 47:31 Now, any piece of advice for anybody doing it a new.
Natalie: 47:35 A new Airbnb?
Evelyn: 47:36 Yeah.
Natalie: 47:37 Oh, wow.
Evelyn: 47:40 A new host
Natalie: 47:40 Well for a new host, I would say prepare your place the way that you love, that inspires you when you walk in. And remember that if it's perfect for you, it's not going to be perfect for everyone else. And you're going to have to grow some thick skin when you get those negative reviews, because they will come. You won't always have the perfect guests. But embrace them, learn from them. If they're not something that you want to do or change, especially if it's something that has to do with your tastes like decor or be gracious, thank them for their feedback and discard, whatever, you know, you don't want to change and then change the things that you can agree with and be okay with that. You know? And you just move on to the next one. Don't let that one person just rain on your parade and stop because it's so easy to give into those feelings of negativity. When I got that feedback, I felt like this is not good enough. This is not beautiful enough. What am I doing? Why, why did we turn this, this shed into a place where I feel people would enjoy? Yes, there's bugs. You know, there's poop, there's animals. It's going to stink a little bit. It's not inside Casita, but around, and you start drowning in those negative thoughts and it takes a long time to flip out of them. So before you go down that spiral, just be honest with yourself, choose what you're going to change and move on to the next one.
Evelyn: 49:14 Yeah. And the reality is there's, you know, we remember the negative reviews and we tend to forget the positive ones
Natalie: 49:20 Oh yes, I embrase those good ones. If you can print them out and put them in your mirror. But it's so true! I've had a few negative reviews from 2016 and I just about died. And don't try defending yourself either because it'll start a conversation thread on your Airbnb and people want to look for those negative reviews. When a guest is looking for a place to stay, they don't look for positive reviews. They look for negative ones. They want to know, well, what's wrong with this place? What should I know? And if you engage in a defending mode, they're going to get a bad impression. I had the lady once complaint that they heard a train in the middle of the night. I live in the middle of the desert. There are no trains around where I live. But I just thanked her for her feedback, and I let it go because I didn't want to engage. I didn't want to engage in defending because she heard a train. I don't know where, but she heard a train. And so I would just say, let it go and move on. And don't engage in negativity either in your own headspace or on your Airbnb listing.
Evelyn: 50:30 So true! So true! Natalia, thank you so much for being here.
Natalie: 50:37 You're very welcome. Thank you!
Evelyn: 50:38 Oh, and you know, my dear host — you know where to find her at
Natalie: 50:47 This was awesome. Evelyn! What an honor and privilege to speak with you. You're amazing.


Dear hosts, I hope this episode gives you some hope to follow your dream, and that your people— that ideal guest— will find you.

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