Weighing the Many Benefits of a Pet-Friendly STR (Episode 311)

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[00:00:05] Sarah: Hello. Welcome back for another great episode. My name is Sarah Karakain.

[00:00:08] Annette: I’m Annette Grant, and together we are– 

[00:00:10] Both Annette & Sarah: Thanks for Visiting.

[00:00:11] Sarah: Let’s kick off this episode like we do every week, and that is sharing one of you, our amazing listeners, who’s using our hashtag, #STRShareSunday. Why? Because on Sunday on Instagram, we’ll share your short-term rental. We’ll also share it here on the podcast, to our email list. Annette, who are we sharing this week? 

[00:00:27] Annette: This week we are sharing at Cedar Glen Getaway. Again, that’s @cedarglengetaway and segue already into our episode because you are going to see when you go to this account, they are dog lovers. They are dog parents, and their cabin is baby-friendly, if you will.

[00:00:51] But I really want to call attention to a couple of things that I think every host listening could do on their account ASAP. I always love when hosts do this, just including your guest reviews, but one thing that they have on their account is every few posts, they do something specific about the property. So for instance, like the interior, the exterior, their location, about the host, they take every part of the home and just break it down in bullet points because I know if you’re scrolling through Instagram, sometimes you don’t even read the captions. So sometimes it’s important to put the information in the actual photo itself.

[00:01:31] But the thing I love the most about their account, they do a cabin tour, and the cabin tour was awesome. It’s pinned at the top of their account. I want you to take a look at it. They really did a great job with it. And the best thing is they actually did a giveaway there. And what I want to note here is they asked everyone that watched the tour what their favorite part about the house was, and a large percentage all mentioned how fur baby, dog-friendly it was.

[00:02:00] They have a dog bed. They’re very specific fenced in yard. They have amenities for the dog. So I just want you to see, how powerful it is if you would also allow pets to be guests in your home. Take a look at them. Cedar Glen, thank you for giving us a shout-out. We be reciprocated with this shout-out. And so we can’t wait to share one of you. But Sarah, let’s get on to this episode.

[00:02:29] Sarah: I’ve been so excited to release this episode because we created a checklist with our friends over at Breezeway a while ago, and we took our time with this. We created the most comprehensive pet checklist that we could so that you can download it and use it to set up your rental to be pet-friendly.

[00:02:49] So if you want that free download, head to our show notes, and we’ll give it to you. But in this episode, we’re going to break down why each element of this checklist was so important for us to include, because while being pet friendly, we’ll bring more revenue to you, also there’s some other things you need to do to prepare for it, to keep the spaces looking great over time and just different ways that you can surprise and delight dog moms or dads, or if you like cats. Being pet friendly is your–

[00:03:17] Annette: Your choice.

[00:03:18] Sarah: Your choice

[00:03:18] Annette: Birds. Who knows?

[00:03:20] Sarah: Reptiles, rabbits. How far are we going to go with this?

[00:03:22] Annette: I don’t know. We should ask. If anybody’s had an animal stay, we’ll give an award to the most exotic pet stay. 

[00:03:31] Sarah: Email us hi@thanksforvisiting.me. Let us know. But with that, let’s get to this episode because we want you to make more revenue without having to do much more in your rental moving forward. 

[00:03:42] Let’s get to today’s episode about being pet-friendly. We’ve actually partnered up with our dear friends and partners in the industry, Breezeway. Breezeway, thank you so much for being a podcast sponsor because, listeners, it’d be very hard to be here without our podcast sponsors. But something that Breezeway does so well, and I am in this app every day, is giving me a checklist of things to do, a checklist of things for my team to do.

[00:04:06] If we need to add something that day that is an ad hoc task, we just add it to Breezeway. I can also pull up old things that we’ve done and give them to my owners like, hey, here are the maintenance tasks we’ve done. It’s a great place to store information about all the appliances in your home. Everything can live inside Breezeway.

[00:04:25] It truly is like a living, breathing, almost, document or place to house things. And so we asked them like, what if, Breezeway, we collaborated on the most comprehensive pet-friendly checklist. And so Annette, our team member Colleen, myself, we sat down with Breezeway. They connected with a data team to bring you some data as well about what it means to be pet-friendly in your short-term rental. And we want to go over that with you today.

[00:04:53] Annette: Because it is not simply just checking the box on, let’s say, Airbnb, or Vrbo, or your direct booking site that you are pet-friendly. There are definitely back-end processes and systems that need to be put in place. And most importantly, figuring out what your rate is going to be for your home being pet-friendly and adding that amenity. So let’s start with the numbers, Sarah.

[00:05:15] Sarah: Yeah. So Breezeway connected with Key Data, and this is data from 2023, and overall, in the US, you can increase your occupancy rate by 6% just by being et-friendly. And if you don’t think that 6% is a big number, do the math for your rental, especially any listeners out there who are co-hosts, and what that would do to your entire portfolio. That’s quite a jump. You can add at least 11% to your average daily rate as well.

[00:05:46] And so Annette asked me to go through one of our properties and see how much pet fees we’ve collected. And in one of our properties, we have collected on average an extra four to $500 a month by being pet-friendly. And that’s just the fees we collect. That doesn’t necessarily paint the picture of how– because our occupancy rate in this building is also high 80s, and we’re also pushing the rate as well at this property.

[00:06:17] And also, I want to share with you, if you’re a co-host as well, the great thing about being pet-friendly and the fees that we collect as a co-hosting company, we keep the fees because what we share with our owners is this is a marketing strategy for you, owner.

[00:06:36] When people mark that they want to be pet-friendly, which is a top-requested amenity, you’re going to show up. And we can also increase the rate there as well because you are a more competitive property. And then all the fees that we collect from the guest, we keep those fees. That goes back to the cleaning team.

[00:06:56] It goes to all of our operational efforts because of the checklist that we’re going to talk about today to make sure that that property is still maintained and still looks great guest after guest.

[00:07:07] Annette: Because it is more work. 

[00:07:09] Sarah: It is more work. But I will tell you, pets are less work than the humans themselves at the time.

[00:07:17] Annette: Let’s start with the checklist. 

[00:07:19] Sarah: So there’s three components of this checklist that we’re going to go over today. There are the policies and procedures that we put in place to be pet-friendly. There are the resources for the pets that we include. And then there’s the amenities that we include for our pets. Let me tell you, if you can have an amenity that’s going to wow your guest for their pet, they are going to love you for life, because I’m a pet mom. I’m a dog mom. The way to my heart is through my dog. So let’s start with the policies and procedures. 

[00:07:45] Annette: Dog?

[00:07:46] Sarah: I know.

[00:07:47] Annette: You left one of them out. I’m just saying. Are you really that great of a dog mom if you only said dog, not dogs? I’m just looking out for– 

[00:07:55] Sarah: How dare you pet parent shame me? Or is it mom shame? 

[00:07:57] Annette: Just looking out for the little ones. I got you guys. I got you. I’m auntie. I’m the auntie. I got them. I got the dogs. Plural.

[00:08:06] Sarah: Okay. Here’s the first one, Annette. Agree on a pet cleaning fee with the cleaning team.

[00:08:13] Annette: Mm-hmm. For sure.

[00:08:14] Sarah: Here’s what we mean by this. Not the fee in terms of what you’re going to charge the guest. But, hey, cleaning team, this property is also pet-friendly. You will sometimes find pet hair in the sofa, in the bedding, in the rug.

[00:08:28] What are your policies and procedures for getting the property back to square one, and how does that price differ because we are pet-friendly? So having that conversation with your cleaning team is super important. Another one on here too is the pet fee collection strategy. Annette, do you want to share a little bit about what we do?

[00:08:49] Annette: Yes, so this is going completely against the way that Airbnb would do it. So please take notes right now Airbnb would have you charge just one fee for the entire stay. Does not work like that. Not for us. It does not work like that. We encourage you, just like if they were going to have to go to a boarding facility or go online to rover.com, those services, they are charging per day, per pet. And that is exactly what we encourage you to do. And this would not be just added on to the stay.

[00:09:26] And you’ll be very clear about this in your listing. You’re going to collect it. Obviously, you’re going to confirm, a, that they’re bringing the pet, how many days it’s going to stay. And then you’re going to want to agree on the price for the pet stay and then ask for those fees. So it’s not just going to be a flat rate that they see when they book this day.

[00:09:49] Sarah: Because, honestly, bringing their pet with them is something that I want to do. I look specifically for hotels and/or short-term rentals that allow me to bring my dogs. I don’t want to have to board them. I don’t want to have to send them to grandma and grandpa. So for me to be able to bring my dog is a perk.

[00:10:08] Annette: It’s a luxury. 

[00:10:09] Sarah: It’s a luxury. So you can charge them. Just like boarding houses charge to bring dogs in per night, same thing. And I’ll tell you we’ve had this policy for years, and we’ve maybe gotten a pushback a couple of times, maybe a handful. 

[00:10:24] Annette: Let’s chat, though, Sarah, because this is something you’re going to have to be on top of if you’re not doing it the way that Airbnb wants you to do it. You are going to have to remember to confirm that they’re bringing the pet and to charge them for that. So this is something you are going to have to put into your systems because someone could come and stay and you forget to request the pet fee.

[00:10:45] So this is something you are going to have systems in place. Do you want to talk about Asana and how you have that set up, Sarah? Just so people know that there has to be a checks and balances there. If you are going to do it this way, it’s going to add a little bit extra work, but worth it.

[00:10:56] Sarah: Yeah, you can do this directly in your property management software if you use it. So for example, we use Hostfully, and so we have a note section. We could put it in there. What our team does instead, though, is we use the free version of Asana. It’s a project management software. The moment a guest confirms they’re bringing their pet and that we’ve approved them, we will put it in Asana, date it for the day of their check in, and in our Asana, we have it broken down by property address.

[00:11:22] So every property address has its own little section, and so we put that guest’s name, the date of their stay, and then the due date is the date of their arrival because also they might change their mind and not bring their pet. I don’t want to have to reverse a fee. So we check with them the day of arrival. Okay, you’re still bringing your pet. Great. That fee will be assessed to you today. And it’s a beautiful, beautiful system.

[00:11:44] Annette: Let’s just talk about, though, what if someone does give you some kickback or you put in the request for those fees and they don’t pay it? What’s the follow-up there that’s a kind way and just a way to make sure that it gets paid?

[00:11:57] Sarah: You’re skipping ahead to the other policy and procedure checklist we have here, which is in your rental agreement. They are contractually agreeing to pay your pet fee. And so that goes back to anything else. You could take a deposit. So whether that’s a security deposit or just a pet deposit that you can– people do it a lot of different ways.

[00:12:19] You could have a non-refundable, which is what we’re doing here. We just don’t collect it to the day of. Or you can do a refundable fee that’s automatically collected when they have their booking. If you have a PMS, this is very easy to do. That being said, it’s rare. It doesn’t happen often. 

[00:12:34] Annette: And the funds are always collected through the Resolution Center, correct?

[00:12:38] Sarah: If it’s booked through Airbnb, yes. If the guest comes from somewhere else–

[00:12:42] Annette: And has Airbnb ever said anything about that being done through the Resolution Center at all?

[00:12:46] Sarah: No. That’s what it’s for. They set it up for extra services. And so it’s nice that they’ve built in a pet fee collection in their platform, but it’s not a part of their terms and conditions that you have to do it that way. Okay. Also, we should mention that what we’ve done for you is that you can download this checklist that we’re going over today. So put away your pen and paper. Pay attention. Just get involved in the conversation here, whether you’re in your car or with your hosting team. 

[00:13:15] Annette: And we’ll put in the show notes.

[00:13:16] Sarah: Yeah. It’ll be in the show notes as well. And then you can download your own copy of this checklist, bring it to your next team meeting, what have you, go over it, add things, take things away. And then you can build this within your Breezeway account if you have Breezeway as well, so that when your properties are pet-friendly, you can go through the amenity sections that we’re going to go through here very soon. But other things to consider when you’re pet friendly are things like, how many pets are you going to allow? Are there regulations in your city around this?

[00:13:44] Annette: In your neighborhood.

[00:13:45] Sarah: In your neighborhood. In your building, if you have an HOA. So you need to figure out that. You need to figure out the waste collection. What is your guest going to be responsible for when you take the dog for a walk around your neighborhood? Whether that’s in your own property or around the neighborhood, if you’re in a neighborhood, and making sure that’s part of your contract agreement for their stay. Flea and tick requirements, rules for leaving pets unattended.

[00:14:15] Annette: This gets dicey.

[00:14:16] Sarah: Because everyone thinks they have the perfect and most well-behaved pet.

[00:14:19] Annette: Listen, even if you do, they get anxiety. 

[00:14:21] Sarah: They do.

[00:14:22] Annette: You leave them in a strange place, and they’re not familiar, and even if you do have the very best pet there is, they can still get anxious, and they might hear things that scare them, so yeah. I know there’s some requirements. A lot of hosts will make sure that they’re, I hate to use the word, but crated when they’re left alone, or take Fido with you. Take them along.

[00:14:49] Sarah: Now, my dogs love their crate. That’s a whole other podcast, but it’s their safe space. It’s familiar. It’s dark. It’s cozy. It’s like their cave. And so we love traveling with our crate, and we encourage our guests to do the same because I would say the number one damage we have at our properties from pets is going to be scratch marks at the door or on the trim, and you exactly hit the nail on the head, Annette.

[00:15:11] It’s anxiety. Or barking incessantly because they’re stressed out. And a lot of our properties are in multifamily buildings, and that’s not pleasant for the rest of our guests. So really honing this in and communicating with your guests on how the dog is to be left unattended and what your rules are around that and why.

[00:15:31] A list of veterinary offices and emergency animal hospitals near the property is super smart to let your guests know where those are. So just like in your properties where you leave emergency contacts for the humans that are staying, it’s so nice to let them know what the nearest emergency hospitals are for pets.

[00:15:49] Local dog parks, local pet sitting resources, local leash requirements. Maybe your guest is used to walking their dog off leash, but in your area that’s not okay. And then amenities. Let’s talk about why to leave Fido in the property.

[00:16:06] Annette: Because is going to be an investment in the beginning when you’re bringing on the pops.

[00:16:10] Sarah: And I would say you could do as little or as much as you want. But just like the game is being taken up a notch in general with short-term rentals, so is with being pet-friendly. And if you can really anticipate the needs of your dog moms and dads–

[00:16:26] Annette: Your four-legged friends. 

[00:16:27] Sarah: Your four-legged friends. You are going to win that guest over. Water bowls, a bed for your pet, microfiber pet towel is probably my favorite one. We roll it up, leave it at the door. It helps wipe off their paws, and it also lets the guests know, hey, before you let the dog back in, wipe their paws off. Lint rollers, waste bags. I won’t use the word that you don’t like, Annette.

[00:16:51] Annette: Yeah, you don’t need to use that. Yeah.

[00:16:53] Sarah: We have pet stain remover spray, of course, out of the reach of children on a property for our guests to use, but also, if we need to use it, it’s in the property. And then kindly worded, framed signage, reiterating what these items are for and reminding them to be respectful of the footprint the pet is leaving.

[00:17:13] So just communicating with your guests, whether it’s in a frame sign or it’s in your digital guidebook somewhere to let them know that the pet has to be just as respectful as we require the humans to be.

[00:17:23] Annette: And this isn’t on this checklist, but we always champion leaving cleaning supplies, whether the guest is bringing a four-legged friend or not. If you can leave them a broom, and a vacuum, that way, they can help clean up after themselves also. It’s always helpful if you leave cleaning supplies for every single guest, including the ones with four-legged friends. 

[00:17:47] Sarah: It is on the list. 

[00:17:48] Annette: It is?

[00:17:48] Sarah: I missed it. Which means I may have missed other amazing things on this list, so you just have to go download it yourself. And experiment with being pet-friendly. If you are not pet friendly yet, and you’re intrigued, do yourself a favor. We’re getting towards the end of the year here. Figure out, this year, what was your occupancy rate?

[00:18:08] What was your average daily rate? And then when you change something like becoming pet-friendly, you can then compare the difference. And the real track is pet fees. How much are you collecting in pet fees? What’s harder to track is the occupancy rate. But we can tell you– remember at the beginning of the episode, I told you that Key Data said that being pet-friendly increases your occupancy rate by 6%.

[00:18:28] We increased our occupancy in one building where we went from not pet-friendly to pet-friendly. It was not pet-friendly in 2022. 2022’s market was hot for short-term rental travel. We are in a down market now. And here in Columbus, Ohio, it is statistically down, and we actually increased our occupancy to 7% in a down market. Now, can I directly relate that to being pet-friendly? Not exactly, but that is the one major change we made. And so I would–

[00:18:59] Annette: So you increased it. It’s up 7%.

[00:19:02] Sarah: It’s up 7% in a down market.

[00:19:04] Annette: Let’s do it. And here’s the thing. Test it. Try it. And if you don’t want to try it yet, I encourage you, go online, and in your area, look at your competition, check that box of pet-friendly versus not pet-friendly, and just see what that does to the results of similar properties to you. 

[00:19:26] Put in your bedroom count, put in your bathroom count, similar amenities, and then check pet-friendly, uncheck pet-friendly, and see what that difference is. And that’s exactly what’s happening when the consumer is going online and taking a look. And if they know they’re bringing their pet, they’re not going to not check that box. So you’re going to be left out of that fee.

[00:19:45] Sarah: Hot tip, if you are not pet friendly because you are trying to market your property as maybe allergen-free or pet-free, just remember that– and I’m not an attorney, and I don’t know all the things about everywhere, but if it’s a service animal, guests don’t have to let you know that they’re bringing them.

[00:20:05] And you can’t refuse them just because your marketing standpoint is that you don’t allow pets because they’re not a pet. It’s a service animal. So just take that into consideration. I totally get it. And obviously, it probably happens few and far, in between, and you might want to have some of that in your rental agreement that, while you are not pet-friendly, if a service animal needs to be at a property because they are helping a guest out, that is something that is out of your control. 

[00:20:37] So just know that too. Get this checklist for yourself. Just check out the show notes. Thanks to our friends at Breezeway for collaborating with us on this. I am Sarah Karakaian.

[00:20:51] Annette: I am Annette Grant. And together we are–

[00:20:53] Both Annette & Sarah: Thanks for Visiting. 

[00:20:54] Sarah: Talk to you next time.