178. The Top 3 Things That Impact Your STR’s Neighborhood

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[00:00:00] Sarah: Hello. Welcome back for another great AMA, Ask Me Anything episode. My name is Sarah Karakaian.

[00:00:07] Annette: I’m Annette Grant, and together we are–

[00:00:10] Both: Thanks for Visiting.

[00:00:12] Sarah: Let’s get right to it. Today, we’re going to answer three questions. And the first one is from Susie.

[00:00:18] Question: Hello, this is Susie Perk. I’m from Welldress home in Toronto, Canada. And I did miss your session at RESA con. There were so many to choose from, so sorry. But I really was interested in this. And anyway, I came looking to see where I could purchase the course that you do, but I can’t seem to find it on your website. I can only see the free one and I’m not available for that, but I know that you do have a full thing. Anyway, if you can give me a quick call.

[00:00:51] Sarah: Susie, thank you for your question. And first of all, Annette’s going to share the answer to Susie’s question. But first of all, I want to share with all of you listeners, what the heck RESA con is because there are so many Thanks for Visiting listeners that we attract that are interested in staging and designing short-term rentals.

And I’m here to tell you that the opportunities to do that are enormous. 

This is our third year partnering with RESA, which is the Real Estate Staging Association. And every year they have a conference and we’ve been speaking at them since 2019. We are an educational partner with RESA. And the problem is though, is these stagers, these designers, they’re doing a great job with creating beautiful spaces, but they’re leaving money on the table by not taking the property owner or the property manager all the way up until opening date.

These stagers could really do a lot more, offer more services if they just knew a few more things about short-term rentals, boutique, hotels, that sort of thing. Susie, thank you so much for reaching out. Neti, do you want to answer her question?

[00:01:47] Annette: Yes, because staging to sell is very different than staging to rent. And Sarah and I have an academy. It’s called Stage to Rent Academy. We will put the link to this in the show notes. And the reason Susie was saying that she couldn’t find it on our website is we focus solely on our hosting business mastery method right now where we work one on one with our students inside there. 

But we do have this course that’s continuing education and open for anybody that listens to take that specific course. The thing is it’s all pre-recorded and you don’t have access to Sarah and I, and in hosting business mastery method, you do. So I will link to both of those in the show notes. And that is what you’re looking for, Susie. It’s our Stage to Rent Academy. Feel free to join that and learn how to stage to rent versus stage to sell. And hopefully, we’ll see you next year at RESA con.

[00:02:35] Sarah: Yes. All right, moving on. We are going to listen to a question from Jessica.

[00:02:42] Question: Hey, my name is Jessica. My husband and I recently bought one acre of mountain view property in east Tennessee that we plan to build three separate, tiny Airbnb cabins on. Given we are only on one acre, the amenities such as the fire pit grill and hot tub will have to be a shared space among guests. Our plan is to rent these cabins out separately, but let guests know the amenities are community-style.

Would you suggest renting the cabins out separately with shared amenities or renting all three cabins out to larger groups only? We’re hesitant to say groups only as we felt this could maybe impact our profit since the rate per night would be a lot higher and could deter guests from booking. Thanks.

[00:03:23] Sarah: All right, Jessica. Great question. And Annette and I had some friendly banter before we pressed record. So we want to bring that banter to the episode because we think hearing multiple perspectives is going to be helpful for not only Jessica, but for you. But the first thing I want to say, Annette, is Jessica, they are not Airbnb cabins. These are your short-term rental cabins. These are your vacation rentals. This is your hospitality company. So Airbnb is a tool in our tool belt, but these are not Airbnbs. They are your short-term rental. But beyond that, Neti, what were your initial thoughts for Jessica?

[00:03:57] Annette: Our initial thoughts, because we agree on this, we love when there’s ever a property that could be with multi doors. We do the further the schedule is out, trying to book the whole property. Most likely it can be more lucrative to you financially, less communication, less potential issues arising over those shared spaces. 

Jessica, so the further your calendar is out, we would like you to try to book that as a group setting. But yes, you are most likely going to have to divide those up, like you said, to be most profitable. So here’s where we want to be. Number one, you have got to be as clear as possible in your messaging about how shared these amenities are because one of the sayings that Sarah and I have just repeating over and over it’s not if, it’s when. 

So it’s not if someone’s going to be maybe partying in your hot tub or doing something around the campfire or everyone wants to grill at the same time, so it’s not if these things are going to happen, it’s when they’re going to happen. So you need to make sure that you’re communicating this clearly to all potential guests. And then, Sarah, do you want to talk about the liability aspect also?

[00:05:11] Sarah: Yes, so I also want to– Annette, maybe we should have looked this up before we hit Record, but there is an episode that we just did about having two listing share calendars, Jessica. And so we’ll put that episode in the show notes. So look at there because there’s some things that you can do like Annette said to make sure that the three properties you’ll make that one listing and you’ll have that more available further out. And then as you get close to the dates, you can then open up the other listing of the three separate cabins to then be available.

So for example, we’ll call it listing one with all three cabins, that availability will be eligible for six months out, nine months out, 12 months out. The individual cabins will only be available for three months or sooner, three months or closer to today’s date.

[00:05:55] Annette: Because people that are smaller groups don’t have to plan or need to plan as far in advance. People with a larger group are normally planning further ahead because there’s a lot of schedules that they have to get together.

[00:06:06] Sarah: Yeah, and then you will connect those calendars so that you could still sell it as the three cabins as one product closer to your date. But if someone were to book it that way, it would cancel out the other three listings at the three separate cabins.

So I hope that makes sense. Again, we did a whole episode on this. We’ll link to that in the show notes. 

But yeah, liability. So there’s two other parties you’re going to want to get involved here, and that is your attorney, and there is also your insurance company. And you want to let them know that this is going to be a shared community because there’ll be special things that you need to take in consideration like Annette said.

And I know since you said your Airbnb cabin, so it sounds like Airbnb is going to be your main lead generator, like most of us, but here’s the thing. Remember Airbnb, there’s this false notion that there’s this extra layer of protection for us as hosts and they really aren’t.

They are a marketing platform that we tap into as hosts. So while there is quote-unquote “air cover,” you need to have Jessica cover. 

So it’s a great practice to, if you get your lead from Airbnb, let them know in your house rules, your listing description, of course, your booking confirmation message that you are going to send them another link that will have them agree to an additional waiver, an additional rental agreement where they understand and they’re saying again, they understand this is shared amenity and that you expect X, Y, Z out of your guests who are sharing that amenity. And of course, you may want to have a different agreement, whether or not it’s going to be the property with the three cabins as one product or the three cabins as separate products.

And then for your lawyer, they’re going to help you draft that contract and help you make sure that it’s airtight. And then your insurance company, you’re going to make sure that the one that you’re working with covers it as a community amenity and making sure that no matter what were to happen, if guest A upset guest C, that you’re thinking ahead that you have things in place and that your insurer is going to be there for you should you ever need to call on them.

And lastly, you want to make sure that you understand, if you do have a claim, say that someone– Annette was like, what if they damaged the hot tub? How do you point fingers? And number one, if there’s a hot tub issue and it’s over a certain amount, that’s when your homeowner’s insurance would kick in. If it’s under a certain amount, you might want to look into having an in-house damage waiver program or something where you’re putting money aside for these ancillary incidents where you can’t really point fingers. You don’t want to put your guests in that situation.

You don’t want to create even more animosity or heat between you and your guests, especially since they are on vacation. So if it’s under 1,000 bucks, you just take care of it and you just chalk it up to doing business. So those are my thoughts. Anything else? 

[00:08:42] Annette: That’s it. Let’s move on. 

[00:09:43] Sarah: All right, Jessica, let us know how that goes. We’re very excited for you. Our last question is from Maryanne.

[00:08:51] Question: Hey, I’m getting started out on my second Airbnb property and would love to hear what your tips are on how to vet guests and prevent large parties and major damages to a property. So far we’ve been pretty lucky, but I want to make sure that going into this next property, we are set up for success.

[00:09:15] Sarah: I love that Maryanne is asking before she opens. I know it’s her second Airbnb property or her second short-term rental property. So thanks for asking that question, Maryanne. That’s great. There are so many things that you can do to quote-unquote “vet” a guest. And let’s be clear that we are vetting a guest and really matching them with an ideal property.

[00:09:32] Annette: Yeah, I want to change that word vetting because–

[00:09:35] Sarah: That even sounds like qualifying is the word that gets used and make no mistake. We’re not talking about any sort of discrimination. It’s just making sure that your property expectations meet that of your potential guest. That is what we’re talking about here. So what are some thoughts behind, Annette?

[00:09:50] Annette: I wish you were here, Maryanne, because I’m wondering why you have a little bit more– seems you’re questioning parties at this particular location. And I’m wondering if maybe this location is larger and maybe sleeps more people. So here is the deal, Sarah and I just had just recorded a podcast yesterday. It’s not going to come out for a while, but these are the top three things.

It’s noise, trash, and parking that are going to impact your property in your neighborhood. Please ahead of time, before anything happens, before night number one, we are going to give a plug right here to noise aware. We’ll put a link in the show notes, we are affiliates for them, but please get the device, install it in your home.

It is a noise detector and it is going to alert you. It’s going to alert the guest. And it’s data over drama. If they’re getting loud, you are going to know. And just being able to tell the guest that is installed in there, I think that will help deter it. Again, be very clear on the home, how many can they sleep? Don’t go overboard here. Think about the space, how much it can house, and don’t put too much pressure on the property or the community or the neighborhood there. Airbnb is making it pretty clear now that there is now a no-party rule, please put this in your house rules. If that happens, you can say that they are violating your house rules immediately. I would definitely do those two things right off the bat.

[00:11:21] Sarah: Some of the strategies that we like to implement in our own hosting company, Maryanne, is in our house rules we state that we do not allow guests from the same city to stay. And if they are a guest trying to book within their same city to message us. And the reason we put that in there is because if we do engage with the potential guest who is booking in their same city and we still don’t feel great about the reason for their stay, we can let them know that that decision is based on a house rule so that they don’t feel are being discriminated against because that is happening for real where hosts are engaging with potential guests and then not allowing them to stay because they’ve learned something about that potential guest that they don’t like, that has nothing to do with the home being a good match for them.

But sometimes you can just tell if they’ve got like– a lot of times great guests who want to book a stay for their family, or there’s something going on in their home, they have a dissertation as to why they need to stay with you, what neighborhood they’re in, yada.

So just put your host spy senses on when it comes to that. But limiting same city stays is a great way to deter parties. 

Also looking at past reviews and not just seeing, they’ve been five-star reviewed by previous hosts, but clicking on that link on the OTAs, whether it’s Airbnb or whatnot and seeing what hosts left those reviews, because we, unfortunately, have some hosts who have automated reviews set up and they don’t pause those automated reviews to leave an honest review of someone who left a heavy footprint or an undesirable aftermath from their stay.

[00:12:48] Annette: And I am just going to follow this up for all the hosts listening. We have had two people reach out in the last three days. Someone brought 30 people to a property, someone brought 12 people to a property and they both slept like six. And the host have not notified Airbnb about it. If we’re not helping each other, if we’re not reviewing these guests, honestly, both of them were nervous to review these guests.

You guys, that is 42 people into two separate homes. That is why cities and municipalities are getting angry and we have to review these guests. We have to let air Airbnb know that they have broken our house rules because it’s going to happen to another host. And so please, all of these platforms, vacation rentals, short-term rentals, Airbnb, Vrbo, direct booking, it is all built on trust and honesty that when someone is booking your place and you tell them what the rules are and they sign off on it, that they’re going to obey those rules. And so I really just encourage you, if someone’s breaking your house rules, we have got to have those conversations with them, have the conversations with the platform that they booked on and help other hosts out in that.

[00:14:02] Sarah: So, Maryanne, to recap, you can get a noise-aware device. They have them for both interior and exterior and they are privacy protected. So we’re not recording what our guests are saying, but just the noise level at which they’re saying it and for how long they’re seeing it. And these devices can differentiate the sound of a human voice versus like a loud TV, or like something that would like, the guest says, it’s not me. These devices are pretty smart.

[00:14:22] Annette: I think the device now can even occupancy. So they can tell if 15 phones are logged on to the wifi, which now we know that’s a huge thing, so they can see how many devices are actually in the home. And obviously, if your home sleeps a lot and people have iPads and phones and things like that, but use this technology, again, spiny senses, you know if there’s that many devices logged on what’s going on.

[00:14:46] Sarah: So you have a noise wear device, you have just engaging with the guest and talking with them a little about their stay, looking at their past reviews. If they’ve been past reviewed, if they’ve not been past reviewed, that does not mean they’re not a great guest. Because of COVID, we have a lot of people new to our platform and we want to show them how awesome short-term rentals are. So that just then goes back to number two, which is engaging with the guest.

And then actually, we can give you the same advice that we gave Jessica, which is have another rental agreement that they have to do outside of the OTA. And you can give them a Hello Sign link, or a DocuSign link or something like that. And having them do an extra step will often out weed out the bad apples because a great guest isn’t going to have any issues with putting their signature on another document that is between you and them, not having the OTA being that middle person. So, Maryanne, we hope that’s some great feedback for you. 

Listeners, if you have any other suggestions on how to deter parties in short-term rentals, always feel free to DM us on Instagram. We will re-share your answer with our followers there. And we are loving these Ask Me Anything episodes. So all you have to do to participate is go to thanksforvisiting.me and in the upper right-hand corner, there’s a big red button that says, Ask TFV, you press record, you ask your question and we will hopefully answer it here on the AMA episodes that’ll come out every Monday.

[00:16:01] Annette: And I know people are going to say this, I’m just going to piggyback that we didn’t answer. We didn’t mention cameras, but we want to tread really lightly on security cameras. So we are going to let that one lie right now because we know people putting them in places that shouldn’t be. So I know a lot of listeners are asking why we didn’t bring that up. We did just bring it up, but again, you need to talk to your insurance company about placement of those and–

[00:16:22] Sarah: Make sure you’re compliant.

[00:16:23] Annette: Yes, make sure you’re compliant there.

[00:16:25] Sarah: I am Sarah Karakaian.

[00:16:27] Annette: I am Annette Grant and together we are–

[00:16:28] Both: Thanks for Visiting.

[00:16:29] Sarah: We’ll talk to you next time.