Hosting an Airbnb, especially right now, is harder than you might think

Last August, Ben and Elana Vorspan bought a cabin in Big Bear City, Calif., A two-hour drive from their home near Los Angeles, thinking it would be a great family getaway and a place they could as well. to rent out.

As it turned out, the cabin was in such high demand, with so many looking for a socially remote getaway during the pandemic, that they could barely keep up.

Bookings poured in as soon as they listed the three-bedroom property, with weekend guests paying $ 500 a night, double the typical high season rate. On holidays, some paid as much as $ 1,000 a night, “which is insane that anyone would pay that much to leave,” said Ben Vorspan, the creative director of a synagogue. “It was really the COVID price. “

Money was nice, of course, but the market fever posed issues the couple hadn’t anticipated, such as having the cabin cleaned and returned properly when each new customer arrived.

As the country opens up after nearly a year and a half of pandemic closures and restrictions, many travelers are choosing to stay in rented homes instead of hotels to maintain a safer bubble, turning summer 2021 into a boon to owners in resort areas. The rentals were snatched up early. In Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and the Jersey Shore, 90% of VRBO listings were gone by the end of March. Holiday weekends are particularly busy.

All of this demand comes at a time when there are fewer rentals to go. As of May 2021, around 52,000 units had been added to Airbnb and VRBO, about 10% less than a typical year during the same period, according to AirDNA, a data analytics company. In April, Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, told CNBC the company needed millions of new hosts to keep up with demand.

But the local housing market in Big Bear City, where the Vorspans were located, was exploding, with new owners and, as a result, new vacation rentals flooding the area. Many of these new hosts needed property managers and housekeepers, as did the Vorspans, who found these service providers struggled to stay ahead of the curve.

The first management company they hired couldn’t handle same-day customer turnover and once left wet sheets in the washing machine. Another company left a vape pen on the coat and some trash in the trash. The company, which cut the list price by 30%, provided linens, “and the quality wasn’t even what you’d get at Motel 6,” Vorspan said. “It was the lowest and cheapest quality.”

In the spring, the Vorspans saw cause for concern. The city was considering changing its rental rules for the short term, and with so many new rentals saturating the market, prices could plunge into a post-pandemic ski season.

“There are so many potential risks,” Vorspan said.

In June, they signed a one-year contract with a company specializing in short-term rentals. Like a typical tenant, the company pays the Vorspans a fixed monthly rent and is responsible for the maintenance of the property, snow removal in the winter and landscaping in the summer. The company then rents the cabin to short-term guests at the rate it sets, pocketing the profit. The Vorspans no longer benefit from market booms, but they also don’t have to worry about whether the place has been rented or if the sheets have been washed. They can use the cabin four weeks a year – two in high season and two in the off season.

“We just didn’t want to deal with all of this,” Vorspan said, referring to the instability and uncertainty.

Even experienced hosts rushed to deal with the frenzy.

In Kauai, Jed Stevens, general manager of Koloa Kai, which manages 15 properties on the Hawaiian island, said demand for rentals had returned to pre-pandemic levels in three weeks after the state relaxed its policies. quarantine restrictions in April.

“Now instead of running zero property, we’re trying to drink from a fire hose,” he said, speaking from Southern California, where he works remotely.

And because guests, many of whom haven’t been out of their homes for over a year, pay higher prices, they expect the vacation of their dreams.

“You sign up for a full job of managing someone else’s vacation,” Stevens said. “People think, ‘I’m going to run it on Airbnb or on VRBO and I’m going to make a lot of money and it’s going to be fine. “”

Sometimes this is not the case.

Facebook groups for vacation rental owners are teeming with questions from owners trying to crack encrypted guest messages, or responding to wild parties or sudden cancellations.

On TikTok, Christina Zima, who runs 13 vacation rentals in Silicon Valley, talks about unruly guests. There was the one whose emotional support bunny demolished the baseboards. Another tried to hide a plush blanket covered in foxtail seeds ruined by an impromptu picnic.

Prior to the pandemic, Zima primarily catered to business travelers. But with business travel on the decline, anything goes. In a shared seven-bedroom house she manages, a guest, a middle-aged man, decided to parade in a Speedo, then tried to get into the house after her stay was over.

“Seriously, almost anything can happen,” she said.

Zima added that many guests expect white glove service. If someone finds stray hair in a bathroom, be prepared.

“People can’t bear to find a hair,” she said. “You would think hair is super toxic or contagious. Hair is a problem that no one really thinks about.

Customers also arrive looking for an experience. Think of tree houses, yurts, barges. New hosts should be ready to take it to the next level.

“You have Instagram. You have HGTV shows. People want this dream, ”said Evelyn Badia, who has been an Airbnb host since 2010 and now also runs The Hosting Journey, a website, YouTube channel and podcast to educate hosts. “They don’t have it in their homes, do they?” But they want to come into a house and be impressed.

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