Problem Solving Hacks for Beginner Short-Term Rental Hosts & Co-Hosts (Episode 341)

Download the full transcript PDF.

[00:00:05] Sarah: Hello, welcome back for another great episode. My name is Sarah Karakaian.

[00:00:09] Annette: I am Annette Grant, and together we’re–

[00:00:11] Both Annette & Sarah: Thanks for Visiting.

[00:00:12] Sarah: Let’s kick off this episode like we do every week, that’s featuring one of you, our amazing listeners, who is using our hashtag #STRShareSunday on Instagram. We’ll share you on our Instagram channel on Sundays, also here on the podcast. We’ll share you to our entire email list. Annette, who are we sharing this week?

[00:00:29] Annette: This week we are sharing @thatlittlelodge. Again @thatlittlelodge. And it is just the cutest little lodge in Lake Tahoe. I’ve never been to Tahoe. I need to get–

[00:00:39] Sarah: I’ve never been either.

[00:00:40] Annette: All right, That Little Lodge.

[00:00:43] Sarah: Watch out. We’re coming for you.

[00:00:44] Annette: Just want to talk about two things specifically. One is I love, in their link in bio, they actually give you options. And one of them is their Facebook page, their Airbnb link, and then also specials in availability, sign up here. So I just really like how they’re using that real estate. They’re that digital real estate. I think that’s brilliant.

[00:01:05] And then last but not least, I just love that their feed, they just got started, but super simple and just showing little moments in the home. So going room by room, but then showing, exactly some of the amenities in the bathroom. And listen, I know the bathroom and kitchen are super important features for so many people, and showing some little details like shampoo and conditioner, coffee, those little things.

[00:01:29] Don’t underestimate showing every single amenity feature of your home. People need to see it over and over and over again. So just consistency is what we need in all things in life, and especially on your social channels. So I just want to say kudos to you for, That Little Lodge, doing indoor photos, outdoor photos, some reels, some video, some just special moments in the house.

[00:01:55] Well done. Everybody listening, go out, make a post on the gram today, or wherever you show up on social. And if you haven’t done it yet, make this your first day to post. And this is a special episode for us. It’s one of our stars inside our membership. We have a special place in our heart for go-getters and action takers. And Lynn is definitely one of them. And we’re also here to learn from other hosts. I think we talk about this all the time, being friends and community with other hosts and how that lends to your hosting business and just overall fun of life. Fun of life. Is that a phrase? I just made it a phrase.

[00:02:36] Sarah: You got real live. Oh my gosh. Here’s what I loved about Lynn’s episode, listeners. And I’m raising my hand right now because I am one of these hosts sometimes where you get so frustrated you think the problem is everyone else’s problem and there’s no ownership with you. This software’s not working. It stinks.

[00:02:54] Annette: The guest.

[00:02:55] Sarah: The guest is unruly and unhinged, and it’s all their fault. Lynn has done a really nice job of remembering, hey, this is my business. I am in charge. I can control how I react to these situations. And it’s just a really lovely mindset shift of she’d rather get what she wants than get mad.

[00:03:19] And she’s going to go over in today’s episode the solutions she’s found to issues that come up within her hosting business and how she has flipped them on their head, solved them. And she quite literally says whole hosting business life has changed for it. So lot of tips in this episode. Let’s get to it. Lynn, welcome to the show.

[00:03:37] Lynn: Hi. Thanks for having me.

[00:03:39] Sarah: We are beyond excited to have you here. A quick backstory, Lynn is a part of our membership, the Hosting Business Mastery Membership, and has been for quite some time. Lynn, can you share with everyone listening a little bit about what you were doing before you were hosting, and then how you got into hosting and what your business looks like?

[00:03:59] Lynn: Yeah. So before hosting, I was just living my life with my W-2 job with my husband and dog, and when we decided to move forward with short-term rentals, I was pretty nervous actually. I didn’t know what was going to happen. This was during COVID, and so I’m a very resourceful person. I love to connect the dots, people to resources.

[00:04:25] And I started searching for good resources, because there’s a lot out there that is not very good or in alignment with my family and our values. Thanks for Visiting is one of the podcasts I came across and was really just hooked from the beginning. So listening to every episode and then deciding to join the membership was a game changer for us.

[00:04:53] Sarah: Thank you for saying those words. Talk to us about the decision to get into short-term rentals. Is for your family? Is it wealth building? Is it cash flow. And is it what you do full-time?

[00:05:04] Lynn: Well, it’s not what I do full-time yet. I’m going to manifest that into the world. And we started with short-term rentals with the house next door to us. Our neighbor had grown up in this building, or this home, and moved away, and then as an adult was able to buy her family home, and it just wasn’t working out.

[00:05:24] And so my husband and I purchased it from her as part of our retirement, our wealth building strategy. We were new to real estate, literally having no idea what we were doing. But it needed a full gut, so it was fun for my husband to do all the manual labor.

[00:05:46] And it was fun for me to dream big and take my past travels and insert them into the design. I’m not a designer, but it’s really come a long way. It’s constantly being improved, and we are just trying to do our best for guests and welcome them to our town.

[00:06:08] Annette: When you purchased that home– and this is in Oklahoma City, correct?

[00:06:12] Lynn: Yeah, in Oklahoma City.

[00:06:13] Annette: When you purchased the neighbor’s house, was the intention to do short-term rentals, like that was the plan out of the gate?

[00:06:20] Lynn: Oh yeah. It was my husband’s idea. I’ve heard so many people come on, say, my husband said we should do this. I’m like, that’s me. He was like, we should just buy this house. I’m like, what are you talking about? We don’t own real estate.

[00:06:33] Annette: Was it off market, or did it go on the market?

[00:06:35] Lynn: No, it never went on the market.

[00:06:37] Annette: Awesome.

[00:06:38] Lynn: So we got a stellar deal.

[00:06:40] Annette: And I love you knew the neighborhood, obviously. You know your neighbors really well. How did your neighbors feel about you, full intentionality, this is going to be a short-term rental? Some of those neighbors, are they still your friends? Did they have some questions about it? How have you treated your neighborhood and including them in this endeavor?

[00:07:01] Lynn: Yeah. So it was pretty obvious once the transition of the ownership happened. And so we were working on the house constantly, and I made it a point to reach out to everyone in the near vicinity to let them know what our plans were about hosting it as a short-term rental. Plus, the added benefit is our city requires notifying neighbors about the short-term rental coming up in the neighborhood, so we were way ahead of that.

[00:07:34] Annette: Wait. I want to stop right there. What do you mean require? Do you have to do the outreach? Do they do it for you? I’m just going to say, our neighborhoods, the only thing is, I hate to say this, but if there’s a pedophile, they send out something, but how do you alert as a short-term rental? What’s that process?

[00:07:50] Lynn: So I went door to door. I’m a little extra sometimes.

[00:07:55] Annette: Okay.

[00:07:57] Lynn: And met everyone within the required, I think it’s 300 feet from the property, so people in front, people in the back, people in the sides. But the city, how most people do it, is they just send out a letter to everyone notifying them of a new applicant for a short-term rental, or a home share license is what they call it here. No one’s come to my door when they’ve started a new rental in my neighborhood, but–

[00:08:23] Annette: Did you bake cookies, or did you just knock on the door with your smile?

[00:08:27] Lynn: No, I didn’t bake cookies

[00:08:29] Annette: Come on, Lynn. You said you were extra.

[00:08:31] Lynn: I know. I don’t know that our cottage law was actually in place at that time, so I’m just going to take one step into ordinances at time.

[00:08:39] Annette: Well, we want to tell everyone that Lynn is a star inside our membership, but she gets the super guest award for coming onto our show. She filled out our onboarding form like no one has ever filled it out before.

[00:08:56] Sarah: So good.

[00:08:56] Annette: And there was so much gold in there.

[00:08:58] Sarah: Well, we know Lynn super well. Can you share with our listeners how many properties you manage? How many do you own? And are you a co-host? Just to give us them a little insight there.

[00:09:06] Lynn: Yeah, so we own one short-term rental right now, and we co-host for four other properties, which are listed in multiple ways. So we have eight or nine listings.

[00:09:20] Sarah: Love that.

[00:09:23] Sarah: Yeah. So when we started, husband and I both have W2 jobs, and so our time is already limited. And so the plan was, from the beginning, to be a co-host. I don’t know where people were going to come from, like how are they going to find me? But it really just does happen. And so working to just get with technology from the get go has been such a game changer because I’d rather work smarter, not harder, and be able to sleep at night, which sometimes I’ve had issues with not being able to do that, so I want to avoid that.

[00:10:02] Sarah: Lynn, when Annette and I met, I was in a phase of growth, and I was also not sleeping at night. And for me, that was the biggest linchpin in terms of me really scaling this thing and sticking with short-term rentals, or giving it all up. And at the time, I was flipping houses, and staging, and interior design stuff because it was such a painful thing to feel like I can’t sleep because I wanted to make sure my guests were taken care of.

[00:10:28] Can we start with that story? And there’s so much to unpack in this episode, but I think this might be a good introduction into the theme of what Lynn is really good at. But talk to us about the problem that happened, and then maybe your decision process, whether it’s just live in this state of feeling helpless versus you taking action and solving the issue.

[00:10:52] Lynn: So two things come to mind, but the one that really changed our business is when we decided to try and test a new booking strategy. So from the beginning, we require 16 hours lead time, which is helpful because our team can do what they need to do. I know that the property’s ready, and I just be more prepared.

[00:11:20] So testing this new booking strategy where we would allow same day bookings was crazy. I wasn’t prepared for people to just want to book the same day and arrive in a few hours. It was so weird to me. But this family booked, and they were traveling in to Oklahoma City, and we were chatting, and I thought everything was going great.

[00:11:47] We had the rental agreement signed, and I was smooth sailing. So I went to bed, and when I woke up in the morning, I had missed calls from the guest, missed calls from Airbnb, these messages, and Airbnb said that they canceled the reservation because the guest didn’t have the check-in instructions.

[00:12:09] And so what happened was my trigger the template to send the information wasn’t set up correctly. And I don’t cry very often, but I totally bawled. I felt so sad that I had let someone down, and that was the day where, a, I did not keep the setting for the same day bookings because I realized maybe I bit off more than I can chew. So let’s just take a step back. That’s when I signed up for Breezeway Assist, which we can talk about later if you’d like.

[00:12:48] Annette: Was the trigger not set up specifically for that window that you had started to allow? Where was the breakdown? Or did you ever figure out where the breakdown was?

[00:12:57] Lynn: Yeah, the trigger, I didn’t have the right conditions set up to allow for stays that would be booked after check-in. So that was a whole thing I wasn’t used to. And three-ish years into this process, sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know, and then you have to– that’s what I’m learning now. I have to have a better system to troubleshoot and test things before I go live. And that’s a work in progress.

[00:13:29] Annette: Did you have a chance to talk with this guest at all after this happened?

[00:13:34] Lynn: Oh yeah. Yeah, for sure.

[00:13:37] Annette: How’s that conversation go? Because, again, help all of us because that guest had this experience with you now, so it’s like they’re probably second guessing Airbnb as a whole. What did you say? Did you compose yourself after your cry session? Were you texting first? Did you call their phone? I want to know exactly how this conversation went down.

[00:14:02] Lynn: Oh no, I called her first. I wake up early, and so I waited until 8:00, and then I was on the phone immediately to say how sorry I was that I made this mistake and let their family down. Since I collect personal email addresses during the booking process, through my pre-arrival form, I sent her a Starbucks gift card. They had been up late, and they could have free breakfast on us.

[00:14:30] But part of what I learned having that conversation with her is how upset she was with Airbnb because she was not getting timely responses from them, which just compounded her frustration. And just a side note, at this point in our lives, we didn’t live next door to the house, to our rental anymore. Not that that would’ve changed anything, but we were a few miles away.

[00:14:55] Sarah: We’re going to share some solutions with everyone, but before we do that, Lynn, your phone, was your ringer off? Is that why you didn’t hear it?

[00:15:02] Lynn: Yeah, because I turned it on silent.

[00:15:07] Sarah: Yeah, because you deserve to sleep. You do.

[00:15:09] Lynn: Yeah.

[00:15:10] Sarah: I’ll commiserate just really quick with you. So my story is I actually had an inspector, and her job at night was to make sure that the guests were getting in okay. I was like, that’ll be my solution so that I can sleep and I can turn my phone off, because I don’t like to keep my ringer on, and I want to feel like I can shut off from work like everyone else in the world can do. And she forgot to put her ringer on.

[00:15:38] How about this? It was Christmas Eve. Not only did the guests unload their entire car with all the gifts and leave them on the porch, it was snowing. Yeah, could not get a hold of us. Airbnb also did not answer. They had to finally make the call to load their car all the way back up, find a hotel. You know what I mean?

[00:15:56] And then do that whole on thing, and then have Christmas day the next day. When I went to call them the next morning, I had to have my husband hold my hand because I was very nervous. I was going to make him do it, but I was like, I need to woman up and make this call. And at first, thy were really frustrated.

[00:16:12] There were some choice words said my way. And I just listened. I acknowledge, I listened, I repeated how– anything he said, I repeated it back to him so he understood that I was listening and taking it in. I’ll share how I solved the issue for us and our team, but share with everyone because I know inside of our Facebook group, we have a private Facebook group for all of our members, Lynn, you champion this all the time. And I have never tried it, so I don’t know how this product works, but share with our listeners what you’ve done to solve this for you and your family.

[00:16:42] Lynn: Oh yeah, man. My new favorite thing is Breezeway Assist. It is amazing. So I’m essentially a one person team, handling the technology and communications with guests. And after this incident, I signed up for Breezeway Assist. I had heard about it, but I was like, I got this. I don’t need more help.

[00:17:07] I don’t need to pay for something else to help me with my business. But that changed my mind. And so just a little bit about it. It requires you to have Breezeway, as I would imagine, which we already use for our operations. And so you basically put all the most commonly asked questions or the answers to them inside of your Breezeway property profile.

[00:17:35] And then there is a dedicated phone number with your area code that is monitored 24/7/365. Guests can call or text the number if they have any questions. A real person answers the phone. I think a real person is responding via text, though I imagine there are some like AI support in that, but you would never know because it sounds just like a normal conversation with the tone that we use for our business, which is friendly, professional. So it has saved my life. I don’t know where I was heading before, but this new trajectory is so great. I don’t know why everyone doesn’t use it.

[00:18:21] Annette: Has it excited you to grow? Is it giving you a little bit of, wait a second. The runway is different now because you have this accordion that can continue to expand with your portfolio with the assist.

[00:18:39] Lynn: Oh yeah, it’s amazing. How we use it is once a guest has made the booking, we immediately point them toward our phone number for calls or texts. And so within Breezeway, we also use their text message service. And so that has a cadence that begins before the guest check-in. So everything just works in tandem.

[00:19:02] And if there are questions or booking requests that a guest might have that Breezeway can’t answer, then they create a maintenance issue for me that is escalated. Then I get to handle it and jump in. So for a small company, it really is game changing.

[00:19:23] Sarah: Is it expensive, Lynn, though? Because a lot of the TFV community have one property and money is tight. You don’t have to give us the exact amount if you don’t know, but talk to us about your decision when it came to pricing and then, for you, your version of peace of mind, which is sleeping at night.

[00:19:45] Lynn: Yeah. I would say it’s maybe the cost of one night reservation.

[00:19:48] Annette: Per month, you mean? Per month?

[00:19:50] Lynn: Per month.

[00:19:51] Annette: ] Right. No, that’s great.

[00:19:52] Lynn: I couldn’t hire a VA or a real person for that.

[00:19:56] Annette: Are you using Breezeway Assist around the clock or just after hours?

[00:20:00] Lynn: Around the clock.

[00:20:03] Sarah: She’s like, you all can have this. Bye.

[00:20:06] Annette: And have you tested it yourself as a consumer, as if you were staying, or have you had a truth telling friend use it at all?

[00:20:14] Lynn: No, but that is a really great idea. I do monitor.

[00:20:19] Annette: Secret shop the Assist.

[00:20:20] Lynn: Yeah, I do monitor the conversations, and the response time is really pretty quickly. Response time is quick.

[00:20:29] Annette: Okay.

[00:20:30] Lynn: So it has given me so much opportunity to grow because I’m not just bogged down by these common questions, which, for my personality, annoy me because I know them, the answers, and then I think, well, these people, my new guests have no idea, so of course they would ask. So that opens up opportunities for other improvements too. But it’s great.

[00:20:56] Annette: And going back to you just really taking technology and understanding and learning it, was there a learning curve for you with Breezeway overall? Because I want to talk about some of the other tech that you use, but what has been some of the roadblocks for getting that Assist up and running, and has there been a learning curve in teaching them how you want that, what’d you call it? Business-friendly tone. What’s the back and forth been like?

[00:21:21] Lynn: Yeah. I would say with Breezeway and with all of the technology, there is a pretty steep learning curve if you’re not in that software world. But for me, two things happen. I often try to resource myself with the help articles. When I can’t find what I need, that’s when I reach out to the support team and say, I read this article, but it’s not answering my question.

[00:21:49] Because I want to be able to be of value to them as a company that there’s room for improvement here, and be seen as a partner with what they have to offer me and so many other people. So that, and it just takes time. You really have to get into it to figure it all out. And I’ve been using Breezeway maybe for two years, and I finally feel like I’m in a good spot where I’m not a master, but I feel like I comprehend it so much better than in the beginning.

[00:22:25] Annette: What else is in your tech stack?

[00:22:27] Lynn: Yeah. So we used Hostfully for our property management system, which was the first thing that I invested in. And then dynamic pricing, with most of our properties being in the Oklahoma City metro, Wheelhouse has been really great for us here. But just added, Price Labs to our properties that are out in the more rural areas. And then remote lock for door codes. Game changer.

[00:23:00] Sarah: Right?

[00:23:01] Annette: Yeah.

[00:23:02] Sarah: That was my favorite changes in my life, not having to program codes anymore.

[00:23:07] Lynn: Yeah. And it’s funny you say that because I don’t think that being a host is a new or novel adventure, let’s call it, because so many people have done it before. And so listening to your podcast and other people who are in the industry, learning about their problems and their solutions, I feel like I just skipped over all of those things by just investing in technology from the beginning. So I’ve never programmed codes. I’ve just always used the tech.

[00:23:43] Sarah: You didn’t miss anything, girl. It’s not fun to do that. Lynn, I want to point out this because, again, we know you from our calls and from our private Facebook group. It is a common theme for hosts to get frustrated when they do invest in software. I would say mostly PMS systems. And it’s not just one PMS system that gets berated. It’s honestly all of them.

[00:24:07] It’s like for a couple of days, I feel like I see whether it’s these free Facebook groups or ours, someone championing a certain brand, and then the next day, it feels like everyone is now shooting it down. But you have this really interesting outlook on getting your questions answered. Can you share a little bit about your process when it comes to– when you’re frustrated with a software, why aren’t you just canceling it and trying something else?

[00:24:34] Lynn: Money is probably the first reason because I’ve invested. I think there’s some financial fallacy out there about investing in something and then not using it to its full capacity. And I catch myself doing that, but really, I think all of, let’s say PMSs have pros and cons, just like everything in life.

[00:25:01] And so, for me, it’s helpful to commit to something and just really use it to the best of its ability. Spoiler, I learned that there was a feature I could have accessed with my Hostfully platform that technically wasn’t supposed to be available to me, but I learned about this trick, and it worked.

[00:25:27] And so I like being able to just use the tech, which they’re always improving and making changes, the best way that I can. And it’s not perfect. I just learned recently of an issue with a Stripe integration, and there’s a workaround for that because I reached out and asked about it. I would rather get my way and get the answers I need than be mad about it.

[00:25:57] Annette: I’m going to quote you because this is in her onboarding firm. I can get sassy sometimes, but I like getting what I want more than I like being mad. I think that that’s your superpower right there, is how can I get my issue solved instead of just– you can be upset for a minute and want to be combative, but at the end of the day, you’ve solved the problem.

[00:26:23] You’re a problem solver at the root of it, for sure. With Hostfully, let’s talk about these workarounds and the Stripe integration. That’s frustrating. That’s money that is directly impacting that, sounds like, the bottom line. Maybe that was a direct booking. When you’re getting potentially mad and then you have to flip on the like, I’m going to be solution-based, what are you doing? Are you taking a deep breath and then getting on chat and getting it solved? What’s the mindset shift for you to help us?

[00:26:50] Lynn: Yeah. So I’d like to evaluate did I do something wrong, or did the technologies do something wrong? Which it’s usually always me, but there are times when it’s not.

[00:27:02] I think that there is room for learning because I don’t know what I’m doing. And what I normally do is just ask for support. Search through the help articles that they have to offer, and when I can’t find the answer, asking them for support. And it’s proven to be have great results, I should say.

[00:27:26] Sarah: You are not only patient with technology, you’re also patient or have grown to be patient when it comes to your guests and those expectations. You shared some stories with us regarding– just to jog your memory, Lynn, because I want to dig in here into the, you call them, unique guests that you had at your property, and you found out a way to make them more accountable, guests who bring their pets, and how to get to be more in line with them so it can be a successful stay.

[00:27:57] And then of course, you as a host, not needing to be so watchful of your property at all times and still feel at peace and ease. So can you unpack some of those and what you’ve learned over the years, and how you’ve been able to, again, be patient, and make improvements, and be solution-based?

[00:28:17] Lynn: Yeah, so like I mentioned, early on, we lived next door to our short-term rental. And that’s fun and unique in its own sense, being able to see people as they come and go. And beginning host, I think there are guests out there that might think you’re asleep at the wheel or do things that, would be uncouth.

[00:28:47] And so we had some of those experiences. And my natural inclination is to just make more rules. I feel like my house rules are pretty intense, but they do set up a good expectation of what we want from our guests. So one of the things with Hostfully is using the pre-arrival form, which asks the person making the booking to list the name and age of everyone that’ll be staying at the property.

[00:29:22] So that’s been really helpful. Very rarely has anyone ever pushed back and asked, why do we need this? Or part of the form is providing a copy of a government issued ID. So when we let them know, hey, if you were checking in at a hotel, they would ask for your ID and we ask for the name and ages of the guests so that we can keep them and the property safe, then it’s a non-issue.

[00:29:52] So that’s been really helpful. And only once did someone book a non-refundable stay, I should add, and refused to sign the pre-arrival form. It’s disclosed, and that was a win for us because we clearly did not align. And having that be part of the process helps filter out guests who wouldn’t be a good fit for the property.

[00:30:26] So that’s been super helpful. The other issue about pets, when we started hosting at our short-term rental, we were not pet-friendly for all the reasons that everyone says, like, they’re going to destroy my house. They’re going to pee on everything. And we never had those issues with pets. We haven’t yet.

[00:30:49] But we’ve transitioned with our pet rules, our pet allowance, we should say, from all pets to now just dogs because we are dog people, and we’ve had just the craziest cat stories with our guests. So that’s another episode, but the issue we are running into is people were leaving their dogs at our property without them being in a crate or kennel.

[00:31:20] And that is problematic. We’ve invested a lot into the property, and we want it to be in good shape for the next guest. And when dogs are left alone, they can be the best boy and still act out.

[00:31:35] Sarah: They get stressed.

[00:31:36] Annette: Mm-hmm. They’re in a new environment. Yeah. Or they’ve been traveling too.

[00:31:40] Lynn: Yeah.

[00:31:40] Annette: So you have a solution, which is amazing.

[00:31:43] Lynn: Yeah, we just started this. So now we offer crate rentals. So when we see that a guest is bringing their dog, part of that conversation is, hey, did you check out the pet section of the house rules?

[00:31:59] Just a reminder, please take your dog with you. But if you have to leave them at the home, they need to be in a kennel. By the way, you’d rather not bring your own crate, you can rent one from us, and it’ll be ready for you when you get there. And so we’ve had good success with that.

[00:32:18] Sarah: I love that. Do people have no problem paying a little extra for the crate that way they don’t have to bring their own, and as pet parents, they understand?

[00:32:26] Lynn: Yeah, so far so good.

[00:32:28] Annette: And do you have one for each property, or are you having someone drop it off if someone rents it?

[00:32:34] Lynn: So this is a new thing right now. It’s just at our own short-term rental that we have. We have a medium size and a large size. The conversation is so great too because then we can ask extra questions like, how big is your dog? What breed of dog do you have? And get even pet names, which I have a guest coming soon, and to digress about our pre-arrival form, we asked what could make your stay more special? And she said, a dog treat. And so now I can leave them a custom dog treat for their dog.

[00:33:13] Sarah: I love that.

[00:33:14] Lynn: It just helps bring everything full circle and makes me, and hopefully the guests feel like we’re not being punitive, but offering solutions to help everyone have a really great stay.

[00:33:27] Sarah: Let’s talk about this. I want to unpack a couple more things, Lynn. I want to talk about your ring camera epiphany, and then let’s talk about your team and how you’ve had to make some tough realizations when it came to your support staff.

[00:33:43] Lynn: I listen to a lot of podcasts. I have a 45-minute commute to work each day, so I’ve really just absorbed so much information. And I heard on one of the podcasts that, as a host, again, not legal advice that I’m giving, just my opinion recollection, owners should not be given access to their ring camera for privacy issues, which I understand.

[00:34:12] And so we have access to all the rings at our properties. And in the beginning, there’s just such a temptation to want to check it and see what’s happening, who’s coming, and that whole drill. So we’ve gotten away from that with our other processes in place, like the pre-arrival form, having a rental agreement.

[00:34:37] We try not to look at the rings unless there’s an issue. So one of the tech devices, I didn’t mention earlier, is we use Minut for noise monitoring. So if we get an alert about noise, oh, you better believe we are checking that ring camera to see what’s happening, or after the fact when the cleaning team arrives and there’s something wrong with the property, things are disheveled, let’s say. We go back and look at it, but it’s best to not look at it unless you have to.

[00:35:17] Sarah: It can become obsessive too. I’ve worked with property owners who, like you, I had to learn years ago that you don’t get access to this anymore because it is an invasion of privacy. Unless there’s been a reason given to peek in on what’s going on. And honestly, first of all, for the owners, it’s like, hey, you’re paying me to worry about this for you.

[00:35:39] My team and I are going to worry about this for you. We’ve got systems in place. And yeah, why waste your time, whether you’re an owner of a property with a property management company or co-host, or you yourself just feel that need to check the camera. And it’s just not a great way to spend your time.

[00:35:57] Especially because, I will say, I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I would say, knock on wood, it’s less than 1% of the guests that require you to tune in there. All right, Lynn, you had a look in the mirror, recently, I think, regarding your team and how you wanted to make a change or to address an issue. Can you dig into that for us a little bit?

[00:36:22] Lynn: Yeah. So we use independent contractors for our turnover team, and being mostly centralized in Oklahoma City with a new property in a more rural area, that can be a challenge to find people that would maintain our cleaning standards and not price us out. Because there’s a real market for that.

[00:36:48] So many little things have happened over the years, where we realized after a pivotal situation that something with our turnover team, we were misaligned. For example, most of our turnovers at our property here in Oklahoma City are so easy. We hardly have any issues, but we did have a family staying one time that left some issues, let’s say.

[00:37:19] There were some problems, and it was a lot dirtier than normal. And our cleaning contractor at the time just wasn’t having it. You interview for turn turnover professionals, and you think you have a good match, and sometimes you realize it wasn’t so good after all.

[00:37:40] It’s easy to excuse less than desirable outcomes because you have no other choice. And so that’s a real challenge. Either I get a less than quality turnover, or I have to do it, which I don’t have time. So another example was on pricing.

[00:38:07] I felt like, with a contractor in that more rural area, I was being price gouged for things that I didn’t feel was a fair compensation. And we pay, just to put it out there, a living wage, about 20 to $25 an hour. But for things that were taking 15 minutes, we were still paying, we were having to pay $50.

[00:38:37] So it things were not aligned. And all of these little things have led us to the moment a few weeks ago where I decided to like draw the line, and I finally started using, through HBMM, the new contractor agreement, which has been very helpful. And in that, it outlines the expectations of the contractor, plus there’s an area for pricing, what a task is. and what it will pay per unit.

[00:39:14] I know some people pay per hour, but we do per turn or per inspection. And that has really been amazing because now there’s no questions about how much we should pay for this issue or for that. And we’ve even expanded on that to include what I’m calling cleaning adjacent type tasks, things that come up outside of your normal rotation with turnovers and inspections.

[00:39:44] Replacing batteries on a thermostat. Who knows when that’s going to go out? Or changing light bulbs. Just different things that are not challenging, but when you’re not around, you need someone to do that. And so it helps to have it all laid out.

[00:40:00] Annette: Are the cleaning adjacent tasks compensated for? Is that what that addendum is for, is what that compensation looks like for cleaning adjacent?

[00:40:10] Lynn: Yes.

[00:40:11] Annette: Perfect. And I just want to clarify for the listeners, HBMM is our membership, and Lynn is referring to an independent contractor agreement inside our membership, just to give some clarity there. When you rolled that out, though, how were your cleaners, your turnover team with that? Was there any pushback there? Because it is an agreement. They have to sign it.

[00:40:33] Did you take them out for coffee and talk through it, or did you email it to them? How do you roll something– especially, did you just bring it out with newer when you’re bringing new teams on, or did you roll this out mid relationship with someone? Because I know new relationship might be easier than a current relationship.

[00:40:48] Lynn: Yeah, so we started with new relationships.

[00:40:53] Annette: Perfect. Okay.

[00:40:55] Lynn: Man, looking back, I wish I would’ve done that from the beginning. And then I have brought it up with our current team, but I have not gotten there yet, but it’s on my list with a million other things. But this is really important for us.

[00:41:10] Sarah: Yeah. And I can offer this to anyone listening. It is very common to have an agreement with an independent contractor. Just think of it. When you hire a general contractor for a job at your house, or really anything, if they’re not your staff, it is incredibly common to do this. And if your cleaning contractor isn’t familiar, you can share with them like, hey, this protects you too, so that I can’t go off the wall and ask something of you.

[00:41:38] You can bring us back to the agreement and make sure that we’re both in this relationship that is black and white, and it is geared towards success. And then I tell them, every year, we’re going to resign this. We’re going to make sure that you are happy. We’re going to make sure that I’m happy. Do we need to add anything so we can both stay happy?

[00:41:54] And this way, same with the owners of the property that I manage, every year we resign these agreements, and it is just to keep the relationships really healthy and outlined, and it’s good for everyone. Yeah. And so, Lynn, I applaud you because it’s also really good for when things don’t go well.

[00:42:16] It’s already written out in there. Hey, if we have to have you come back to reclean something, here’s what happens. Maybe it’s first offense, second offense, third offense, or maybe it’s just– here’s what happens. Either it’s a dock in pay, or who knows. It’s up to you, the owner, and to the cleaning team to agree to it.

[00:42:35] Lynn: Yeah, that’s such a great point. And I was just thinking about what’s in the contract now about a dock in pay. There’s a certain percentage. And I was mulling us over, like how do I determine what that percentage is of a clean, of a turnover? But what I’ve landed on, and this could change, is because we use Breezeway, turnovers are timestamped.

[00:43:02] And so after a turnover, then the next thing that usually happens is an inspector would come. And that could be the same day, that could be a few days from now. But if the inspector is having to do that percentage worth of work based on the turnover time, let’s say the turnover was three hours– this is not what the percentage is.

[00:43:23] Let’s say the percentage was 50%. If the inspector had to do an hour and a half worth of work just to get the home ready, then I would consider that meeting that threshold. So I’m really trying to quantify so it’s not so gray. And that’s the other piece about the agreement that I really like, is, of course I love the operations piece, and I get jazzed about that, and I like the hospitality piece too.

[00:43:53] But I’ve realized partnerships with independent contractors is not so touchy feely. It’s very transactional, or can be, I should say. And so that’s another reason why the agreement is helpful, even for me to remember, not to be blunt, but we’re not necessarily friends.

[00:44:17] And I would treat this relationship differently if this was my friend, and I always have to come back to, well, this is a business relationship. And changing how I interact with our team, that helps me too.

[00:44:33] Sarah: And that’s not a bad thing. I feel maybe as a host and as someone who loves to host people and being female, that sense of wanting to help. I’ve gotten to this, Lynn. I had a cleaner who– ask Annette. There were hours tears were spent because I didn’t want to take money away from her family.

[00:44:51] I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. I didn’t want to overburden her. And then eventually, it started to suffer not only our relationship, but also our guest experience and the experience with my other team members. And so therefore the whole thing of it, them not friends and their business, that’s not a cold thing to come to.

[00:45:09] I think it’s actually really healthy for everyone involved. If there can be a friendship outside of it, great. But first and foremost, we all are showing up to do a job and making sure that the relationship can continue so that you have the bandwidth and the resources to continue to pay each other and serve each other. And that’s really what is beautiful about those relationships.

[00:45:32] So I’m really glad that it’s been a positive change in your business. Lynn, what’s next? I want to point out that in our Facebook group, you’ve really become this lovely voice of reason. I’ll sometimes see these conversations start, and we’re just being emotional about it, and we’re not looking at the data.

[00:45:54] And you come in and you, first of all, are very thorough in your responses, and you give back a ton to new hosts. And so I want to know, what’s next for you, Lynn, and what are your hopes and dreams for the next couple of years?

[00:46:10] Lynn: Yeah, thank you for that. So for our family, we are looking to remodel our detached garage and create a standalone, like an ADU.

[00:46:27] Annette: Let’s go. I’m here for that. Let’s do it. Back in your area. You can see those guests coming and going.

[00:46:34] Sarah: No, no.

[00:46:36] Lynn: Yeah. I’m going to be watching them at night. Just kidding. I’m not going to go off the deep end with ADA, but I do want it to be with universal design. My dream, really what started it is I bought the chandelier off Facebook marketplace. I’m going to put it in the wet room.

[00:46:56] It’s going to be awesome. So that’s one thing we have on our plates. And then the other is I’m looking forward to honing in on my consultation services and reaching out with other property owners, like the hosting contract or the independent contractor agreement. 

[00:47:18] Really putting more boundaries into what that looks like so that I am using my time wisely and not giving away the goods for free because all of this is an investment of time and money, and I feel like that’s worth something. And if people want it, I’m happy to share with them, but I need better boundaries that says what that will cost them.

[00:47:47] Annette: Lynn, last takeaway for everyone because you said it just happened. But people really are hungry to co-host. You are doing exactly what people want to do. How did you find the clients that you’re co-hosting for? What would you offer our listeners so they could get a co-hosting client in the next 30, 60, 90 days?

[00:48:05] Lynn: Well, I’m not sure you all know this, but my very first co-hosting client came through a referral from Ms. Tanya Rooney.

[00:48:14] Annette: Oh, okay.

[00:48:15] Lynn: She was in a different mastermind and reached out to me with people she knew there. So thanks so much, Tanya, for the networking.

[00:48:26] Annette: All right. Well, we got to explain that too. Tanya is also a member in our membership, and we tell everybody that is the thing inside our community, is we’re not just helping each other with our properties. We’re helping them with their businesses too. I did not know that story, so well done.

[00:48:42] People are hiring each other inside our group, and it sounds like you’re getting referrals inside our group. So did you get all of those clients through that referral, or did one just lead to the next, to the next, to the next?

[00:48:53] Lynn: So just that one, but it has led to a couple of properties with that family. And then the others are really just word of mouth, talking about short-term rentals to basically everyone we know. And then they have a friend that’s wanting to get into it. But like everyone, they don’t have enough time, and so then they refer them to us. So that’s been great. And then the third way is with our technology, I created our own website. So, we get referrals from the website. Some good, some not so good.

[00:49:31] Annette: What’s this website so we can share, and we’ll make sure to put it in the show notes?

[00:49:34] Lynn: Our website is, and Pro Familia is for the family in Latin, supposedly, if Google Translate is right. But that’s our family motto. Honey, take out the trash for our family.

[00:49:52] Annette: Ooh, I like that you put the why. You put the why right behind it. Oh, I love that. The qualifier. That’s great. So it sounds like you are just taking everything to the next level. You’ve invested in yourself. You’ve invested in the technology. You’ve now invested time here with us. We are so thankful for that.

[00:50:11] We can’t wait to see you and your posts inside the Facebook group. And listeners, please check out Lynn, her website, see how she’s doing things. Connect with her, on Instagram. If you are in the Oklahoma City area and you are looking for co-host, she’s your gal. And Lynn, we are just so thankful for what you brought our audience today. We can’t wait to see you on our calls and inside the group, and we can’t wait to stay with you sometime soon.

[00:50:38] Sarah: With that, I am Sarah Karakaian.

[00:50:40] Annette: I am Annette Grant. And together we are–

[00:50:42] Both Annette & Sarah: Thanks for Visiting.

[00:50:43] Sarah: Talk to you next time.