This week let’s meet Bertrand 😊
Bertrand and his girlfriend manage an apartment in Belgium. It is located 50m from Blankenberge Beach and 90m from the Casino Blankenberge. The “Summer Paradise” offers its guests an amazing view of the beach from the private balcony. Moreover, guests can enjoy hiking in the area and are close to the city’s finest shopping street, which has a wide range of shops and restaurants.
Bertrand has been hosting since 2015.
Let’s hear his story! 🔊
So, Bernard, tell us, how long have you been hosting for? How and why did you start? How many properties do you manage?
My girlfriend and I started hosting this beach-side vacation rental about a year ago. It’s the first time I manage a property and it’s my only one. The rental is owned by my mother. It’s my hope that, by the time she gets old and wants to retire by the beach, this rental property is in full swing and can sustain her and give her something to be busy with. Right now it’s still my girlfriend and me who do all the work.
Are you an owner or a manager? Is this a part-time or full-time occupation for you?
This is something my girlfriend and I work on part-time. I work as a freelancer and my girlfriend is still looking for work. Up until now, we have been able to fit it in our schedule just fine. It’s possible that when my girlfriend becomes fully employed it will become too time-consuming and we either pass the rental on to someone else in my family or to an agency.
What is the best thing about hosting, and what are the biggest problems you face?
It’s basically ‘playing hotel’ and we have had a lot of fun setting up the property, pictures, and online listings. With the reactions of guests and ratings, you have a direct feedback loop concerning the work you do and the effort you put in. You can truly be your own boss in this endeavor.
The biggest issue I have right now is that by far the most time-consuming aspect is the cleaning (and driving to and from the property). As far as I know here in Belgium there is just no cost-effective way to outsource this. So either you do everything yourself or either you all but give up your profit margins. I’m not interested to get
What is one thing you wish you knew when you started hosting?
Really how you can’t underestimate the cleaning. It’s just not what you’re used to comparing to cleaning your own house. You can get your own house reasonably clean and feel comfortable. But when a guest enters a room they, righteously so, expect a 100% shiny look around with absolutely no spots or dust particles anywhere. Frankly, you spend two hours extra to get the property in a state of cleanliness that you won’t see anymore upon entering it as a guest after 20 minutes.
What is the most important advice/tip you would give someone interested in becoming a short-term rental host?
It’s my mind quite easy to get going, even in a competitive market. You start off WAY too cheap. People will book you over other listings with more/better ratings. Yet offer an experience well above what the guest expects (think free snacks, drinks, or gifts upon entering the property). Then they give you excellent 5-star ratings. You continue to play the game of getting excellent ratings while you steadily up the price of your listing until you are one of those premium listings that are pretty expensive yet still are quite popular with guests.
It is my experience that high-paying customers are very demanding but also very respectful of your property. I think the horror stories of guests destroying properties are usually in the dirt-cheap range of properties. That’s why you want to start off affordable but steadily climb up in price as soon as you can.
Besides Syncbnb, are there any tools, devices, or software (eg. Remote keylocks, cameras, local guide apps, power meters, etc) you use? What is your experience with them?
We have an automatic NUKI lock and keypad so people can enter the property door with just a code. I wish I could recommend it but I made some mistakes entering PIN numbers and the system is now locked shut and out of order for weeks already. I think people should definitely NOT skimp on a key box for the home. It should be very high quality. I actually bought one from a locksmith who recommended it as “the key box that gave him the most headaches when people forgot the code.” Then, obviously don’t forget the code. 😅
Which channels do you list on? How much has your revenue increased since listing on multiple channels?
Booking, Airbnb, VRBO, direct website. 90% of our bookings come through Booking, yet we started on Airbnb. So if we had stuck with one channel, it’s clear we would have had far fewer bookings. To me, it’s clearly essential just to find your prime booking website alone. Our own website is cheaper and we recommend that one for repeat customers we already know and trust. It’s a mixed bag because while our own booking website is cheaper for us, I would hate having to file damage claims without a site like Booking. Never had to do this yet, though.
Besides listing on multiple channels, what other things can a host do to increase his/her bookings and revenue?
You should get serious trying to get every customer to 5-star as mentioned earlier. This would be by frequent and fast message reply to bookers, general politeness, gifts/snacks/drinks upon entering. You can maybe find a source of cheap quality sparkling wine and have every booker find a bottle upon entering. I know people who had great success in giving every booker a pair of those cheap disposable spa bath slippers. They cost nothing yet tourists go crazy over stuff like that.
You can find out more about Bertrand’s property here:
Direct Booking Website
Here are some photos to give you a better vision of Bertrand’s apartment (click for larger versions) 🧐