Dear hosts, we have arrived. Oh yeah. Airbnb might be a 38 billion dollars valued company, but we’re nothing until we have a TV show. And now we do!
“Stay Here” is the latest on the home improvement shows. It’s on Netflix, and it’s the talk of the town. At least, it’s the talk of the short-term rental town. There are eight “Stay Here” episodes in total, and in this episode of The Hosting Journey podcast Tips and Tricks from Netflix Stay Here: A Superhost Review, I’m reviewing the first three. Do note that I’m trying to get one of the owners to come on The Hosting podcast. Fingers crossed!
Stay Here Hosts Genevieve and Peter:
This new show features designer, Genevieve Gorder, and real estate expert, Peter Lorimer. In true form of the home improvement genre, Genevieve and Peter visit different short-term rentals across the United States and do massive makeovers to show homeowners how they can turn their rentals into even bigger moneymakers.
Oh yeah! They visit all kinds of different Airbnb, from a Brownstone in Brooklyn to a Houseboat in Seattle to a Beach House in Malibu. On Tips and Tricks from Netflix Stay Here: A Superhost Review, we take a closer look at the Seattle Houseboat, Malibu Beach House, and the Austin Pool House.
Just in case you don’t have Netflix, you’re not into home improvements shows, or you just want all the tips provided for you (and wrapped up in one lovely welcome basket), it’s Evelyn to the rescue!
I viewed the show because I was curious to see the different transformations, get tips (who doesn’t like getting tips?), and to see what the experts had to say about the short-term rental industry in this country.
Genevieve and Peter started the first episode of the show on the water with a romantic getaway boathouse in Seattle, Washington.
I looked into the Airbnb site and found that as of the time of the recording of this episode (December 2018), there are now 34 Houseboats. Competition has grown, dear hosts.
Something that is mentioned in every episode is letting your guest know about local experiences. For the Seattle Houseboat, they created a beautiful poster, which became an art piece with the local recommendations. It was something beyond a House Manual, and I loved it. You know I’m all about local recommendations, which is what inspires guests to read your house manual. I talk about the importance of the house manual on “Episode 10: A House Manual Guests Will Read.”
Yes, you want to provide your guests with the practical information on how to turn on the television or that fancy rain shower. There are logistics to include, of course. But the main reason guests open the manual or go to your link is to go to your recommended restaurant, bar or even nail salon. You know your neighborhood and your guest wants to get to know it as well.. You do the math
The owners, Jeff and Jessica, bought the houseboat in 2012. At the time of the show Stay Here, they were renting the place as an Airbnb for $100 a night. Jeff and Jessica’s goal was to cover all of the expenses of the houseboat plus daycare for their youngest daughter, combined expenses that came to $4k. They didn’t know that another houseboat was making about $78k a year. After all the renovation and work that will be done, their goal is doable. Peter mentioned the possibility of getting $250 a night. Will they get that? We shall see.
Renovations But What's the Cost?
Over the course of the show, they completed the following renovations to the Seattle Houseboat:
- Installed a brand new kitchen with appliances
- They Moved walls
- Installed custom-made door
- Installed custom made blinds
- Decorated with brand new furniture
What they didn’t tell us was the total cost of construction, which of course included labor. I know the owners in some of these shows contribute towards the renovation, but they don’t pay for the entire construction. I can’t even imagine how long it will take to recuperate the cost of such of an extensive renovation. In addition, on the show, the renovation takes no time. In real life, a project this big would take months, which also means months of no income (most likely).
It is possible to do small renovations here and there and still host guests, but something of this scale would shut your entire business down for quite a while.
Remember, your listing is out of the water and under construction. You’re spending money and not making money any. Just saying. Those numbers matter. Listen to Episode 52 Numbers that Matter: Is that Welcome Basket Worth It?
Back to the show and tips that we can manage and afford.
Something that is mentioned in every episode is letting your guest know about local experiences. For the Seattle Houseboat, they created a beautiful poster, which became an art piece with the local recommendations. It was something beyond a House Manual, and I loved it. You know I’m all about local recommendations, which is what inspires guests to read your house manual. I talk about the importance of the house manual on Episode 10: A House Manual Guests Will Read.”
Yes, you want to provide your guests with the practical information on how to turn on the television or that fancy rain shower. There are logistics to include, of course. But the main reason guests open the manual or go to your link is to go to your recommended restaurant, bar or even nail salon. You know your neighborhood and your guest wants to get to know it as well… You do the math
Rain jackets and umbrellas are not part of the welcome basket at the Seattle Airbnb, but they include these items since they know their guests might encounter rain during their vacation in Seattle. I do think it’s a good idea to provide umbrellas. Yes, they break and guests lose them, but it’s still an inexpensive item that shows guests you were thinking of them.
Peter mentioned as a rule of thumb to consider spending 10% of your first night rental on the welcome basket for your guest. For example, if your nightly rate is $300 a night, then figure on spending $30 on a good welcome basket.
In this episode, Peter also spoke about search engine optimization and pay per click advertisement. The way he explained it, you have a phrase. In their case, the phrase was, “romantic Seattle Houseboat rental.”They will pay Google for an advertisement that uses this phrase.
Because Seattle only has about 30 other places that are Houseboats, the competition is small and people looking for a houseboat will see their advertisement. Does it mean that they will book their place? Not necessarily. It just means that Google will turn people’s eyes towards their listing. It also means maintaining a budget for advertising.
Niching out: finding your place in the market. Think about it.
Take the label off the water bottle, so it doesn’t feel too commercial or compete with the overall design and ambiance of your space. Ohh, Genevieve. Great tip. I know my friend and designer Wayne would love that. The question is, are you or your cleaner going to be removing labels? And wait do you provide water bottles? Do you feel they’re part of your environmental values? Or do you provide a reusable bottle, it can be branded, and if your tap water is good enough, provide filtered water? Hmmm, food for thought.
They also had candles, which always worries me. Flames, dear hosts. flames. Fire is not your friend.
The “Stay Here” episodes are all about private houses. What about if you’re just renting a bedroom for $60 a night? Are you spending $6 on your welcome basket?
You can always get your guest a nice chocolate bar. If you provide coffee, tea, or breakfast items, that is good enough. And on a side note, this is from my co-editor Marieke: Considering some of the more “special” places we have stayed at here in Europe, I would be thrilled if there were coffee, tea, or chocolate.
In addition, in this Seattle episode, they also had delicious cheeses and local specialties. You might want to think about the climate you are in and what happens to that food if a guest arrives 5 hours late and because it will be out and exposed to the elements. Hmm…you have to be mindful and not wasteful of what you offer.
Just as a side note and reminder, this is all just my opinion and not from the folks at “Stay Here.”
They also had candles, which always worries me. Flames, dear hosts. flames. Fire is not your friend.
One thing they also mentioned was using an electronic lock for easy self-check-in for your guests. This is a fantastic idea because you do not have to be there waiting for guests to arrive. Freedom!
Then came…. the reveal. Ahhh… And Jeff and Jessica loved it. What was there not to love? A beautiful, local, custom-made front door to welcome them. This was the key design element when you walked in. The interior was light, airy, and spacious. I wanted to go and stay there. The owners were envious of their guests. Understandably.
Here is your link to see the Seattle Houseboat, or as it’s called on Airbnb, “Seattle Lakeside Lovenest,” and all of the professional photos from the Stay Here photographer.
Do you want to hear what my folks from the Hosting Journey Facebook Group said? Here it is:
Malibu Beach House:
After Seattle, we moved to California and The Beach House On Malibu Road. In Episode 2, Genevieve and Peter went to Malibu California and the luxury market, where they located the ugly house of the neighborhood…
A 5-star location with a 1-star home. Sharone the owner was widowed almost two years ago and has struggled taking care of the house, so she decided to get into the vacation rental world. The market in Malibu is a 40 million dollar market with 56% booking rate at over $1k average nightly rate and about 274 entire home rentals.
Sharone also doesn’t want to rent the home the entire year, she wants to be able to use the house part of the year. The house lists for $1,500, and it’s a one-bedroom home with two bathrooms right on the water of Malibu Row. Location, location, location, my dear hosts.
However, Sharone tried to get $1,500 a night and didn’t get one rental, maybe because the house had a fantastic view, but:
- Broken gates when you walked in
- Faded Paint
- Broken outdoor furniture
- Only one bedroom
Would you pay $1500 for that? In the vacation rental world, there is what you think your house is worth and there is what the market will pay.
What's Wrong with It?
Genevieve and Peter walked right in and started pointing out everything that was wrong with the house and saying for Sharone to declutter and remove all her personal photos from the property. basically, you don’t want your guests to feel like they’re staying in someone’s private room. Genevieve also suggested that Sharone place her personal stuff in storage while guests were staying at the house and bring it back out when she returned home.
Hmm…but this is Sharone’s home. Should there be a presence of her there? This isn’t a home which is exclusive for the vacation rental world. I don’t know, dear hosts. How do you feel about that?
In the shared space at my Airbnb, my photos are out. Not in every corner and not in the guest’s bedroom, but there are a couple of photos of me with friends in the living room. After watching this show, I’m a bit conflicted about this.
But let’s get back to the show. Of course, the kitchen was full of tchotchke and random stuff, from stuffed animals hanging on the doors to batteries in the refrigerator. Hey, I get it. It’s her home, but since she wasn’t going to be there with guests a lot of stuff had to go. In the hosting world, less tends to be more.
The Luxury Market:
What Peter and Genevieve recommended was water, a bottle of wine, or if it’s the luxury market, a bottle of champagne…a nice one. Dear hosts, if you have been listening to me for a while, you know that I don’t recommend providing alcohol. That’s just my own policy. What can be provided instead that can still give you a luxury feel?
Like Peter said, in the luxury market guests want for nothing… If they do, they’ll stay at a hotel.
Of course, Genevieve and Peter did research the Malibu market and the contrast between the surfing, celebrities, and open water yoga. It’s a lifestyle. And the design of the house and furniture needs to reflect that laid-back lifestyle experience.
Peter and Genevieve talked about the luxury experience and understand your guest wants and needs before they arrive. Maybe a short questionnaire of why they’re coming to stay so you can offer some services like having the house stocked with groceries. Yes, for an extra price, you can provide experiences like exclusive classes like yoga, meditation, surfing.
Peter provided these great words of wisdom… Think about what you would expect when you check-in at a 5-star vacation experience. What will make this trip memorable for your guests? This is what you need to deliver.
Of course, the house looked amazing. But you want to know about the renovations. Dear hosts, it starts from the moment those guests get out of a taxi. Is your entrance lit? Are your plants half dead? Has your welcome mat seen better days? Believe me, I had to go through my home and do some cleaning just a couple of weeks ago.
At Sharone’s Malibu home, there is now a clean and sophisticated entrance. More expensive doesn’t mean more stuff. It means less clutter and fewer items of high quality. One thing that was recommended was white slipcovers and to use bleach. Now remember that bleach eats fabric, so use it carefully. That’s my tip, not theirs.
Social media moment is something Genevieve and Peter kept talking about. Whether or not you have an Instagram account, your guests will be taking photos of your amazing home on their accounts. To demonstrate this theory, Peter and Genevieve made sure there was one particular spot with these chairs to feature the spectacular view.
They also spoke about luxury bedding, high-end bedding that was reasonably priced. And they validated my point of having at least 3 sets of sheets, as you don’t want to be struggling during turnovers.
From the episode credits, it seems like Parachute Home provided the bedding they bought for this Malibu house and even Sharone mentioned, “This is an investment?!” Which for me meant expensive.
Sharone did share some valid comments. “Hey, people are going to be coming and going. This is expensive.” But Genevieve said, “Ohh, it’s going to be fine.”
Until you have the first wine stain you can’t remove and you have to replace those high-end sheets (which, by the way, will set you back over $400 dollars).
If that kind of money isn’t your cup of tea, then Target is your friend. Just go to The Hosting Journey Essentials page where you will the exact Threshold sheets I recommend. Look, you have to think of luxury and cost. I get it you want good quality bedding and towels but you also have to balance your return on investment.
Here are some of the improvements they did:
- The broken gates when you walked in got fixed, mended, and anchored. No more shaky fence that you might be afraid will fall off its hinges and into your hands.
- The faded paint = gone! Sharone, the owner, thought it would be painted white. Instead, Genevieve painted it a beautiful peppercorn color (think dark grey) and explained that this color masks the fence age. Who knew? They also added plants to the front. I wonder who is going to water them.
- The kitchen was redone: the walls were extended. You know that had to cost a pretty penny. They did re-use and repurpose cabinets, but still money.
- The bedroom with views of the ocean was just gorgeous. Space is big enough that they were able to add a sofa bed.
- They added a second bedroom by eliminating the den. Peter’s comment was, “Heads in Bed.” Easier to rent a home for $1,500 per night to 2 couples than just one couple, paying for all of it.
- Broken outdoor furniture = fixed and/or replaced. They added these gorgeous hanging chairs, which Peter and Genevieve loved calling a social media moment.
Remember, people take photos and post them on Instagram. These days, a vacation doesn’t happen unless you make someone jealous of the good time you’re having, right?
Now for the important stuff. Is it getting booked? On the Airbnb platform, it only has 9 reviews, which doesn’t mean much. Guests might not review Sharone, and also she only wanted to rent part-time. Sooo, I wonder… At the time of this recording, her price was set at $1,500 a night.
Of course, if you want to see the fabulous house by going here:
The Beach Malibu House on Airbnb
And a comment from the Facebook Group community:
Austin Pool Pad:
On the third episode of “Stay Here,” they went to Austin, Texas. Austin is a big vacation rental scene with 6,200 rentals and over 200 million dollars in revenue from vacation rentals. Remember Austin is hot and not just in temperature.
The house is one of three vacation rental in the neighborhood with a swimming pool. Hmm… nice marketing. But if the pool area doesn’t look great.
Now the property management company wants to DROP Bret because he isn’t complying with what they want him to do. Oh yeah, dear hosts, don’t think that management companies will keep you as a client if you don’t do what they suggest you do… Continuously.
Bret was losing money every month even though he was renting at $250 a night with 60% occupancy a month. Like I have told you in the past and on episode 52 it’s about those numbers. And you want to make money.
Genevieve’s answer was that the house needed a “look and design hook.”
As they were going through the house, they spoke about depersonalization. Remember Sharone in Malibu having to put a bunch of her stuff in storage while guests were in the house? Well, now it was Bret’s turn. Bret had a collection of Hookah from his travels, but if a family was staying there Genevieve and Peter felt that those would not be the most family-friendly items.
Do you have a space that you’re not using to its full advantage? Check out your home, and see if you have some unused space. You could be missing out on some additional income.
They also went through the living room, which wasn’t laid out for conversation and comfort. The lovely backyard wasn’t inviting either. Furniture had mildew on it, and it was just…well…nasty and yucky.
They then met with the property management company, where the reality of the relationship came into play… and how they felt about each other. ouch.
Of course, they started with redesigning the house, creating a social media moment, and speaking with the management company to make the listing website better.
It is About Your Guest:
It was interesting seeing Bret and Genevieve shopping and how he had to rethink his choices, shifting from the kinds of things he might pick out for himself to what his guests might like. I know first hand how hard it is to take that step away and say, I might love a bed with a wood frame but a metal frame will work better and this is for my guests, not for me. Compromise, dear hosts. It’s all about compromise.
One of Genevieve’s design features was a big mural focal point that she created with the shed, making it the social media marketing moment. This is where guests would love to take a photo. Ahh, Instagram.
Listing Title Tip:
Peter got into the listing title, which is always a hard task. Trust me, I know. Here was his tip: Everything starts with a hook.
Their previous title was: 2-bedroom Victorian with private pool
Bret hadn’t ever even looked at the title before. Talk about detachment from the property. After talking about what was great about the home and the location, Bret, the property management company and Peter came up with:
3-bedroom pool oasis, steps from trendy South Congress in Austin
A New Design:
Now they had a new and improved name and a new design. The big reveal was:
The office became the third bedroom with the metal bed and not too girly, which Bret had been worried about. A big reason to increase the rate is that extra bedroom gives you with, heads on the bed.
The living room became inviting and warm with proper seating for everyone.
Then, of course, a high end and gorgeous backyard. The existing shed was painted with a mural. There was a deck for a bbq pit. The works. The place actually looks like the oasis advertised in the new title.
Now, something interesting (juicy gossip, maybe?) is that I don’t find this property on Airbnb or any other site, so I can’t tell you about money. But you can see an old listing for it on my site. Hmm…I wonder what’s up? Can you imagine all that work and then shutting down… think about it.
From the Facebook Group:
I did a small change once, and it paid off immediately. In my small bedroom, I upgraded from a twin size bed to a full size because I charge per guest I was able to get more “heads on the bed,” and that bed was paid off pretty quickly.
So, when making renovations and new improvements to your home, get your excel sheet out and see if it makes sense to your bottom line. And let me know if you want me to continue digesting the other episodes of Stay Here. It’s interesting for us as hosts to see what they talk about, their tips and trick.
In the meantime, go watch and enjoy them and do a little dreaming.
Your Ratings & Reviewer Host,