This week let’s meet Jeff, a host from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, United States. He is a highly rated host, committed to providing great stays for his guests.
Jeff is renting the ”High Tech Hideaway”, located off of Coastal Highway in an incredibly safe area and it’s the perfect place for nature lovers.
Let’s find out what he has to say about the vacation rental industry. 😎
So, Jeff, tell us, how long have you been hosting for? How and why did you start? How many properties do you manage?
It’s only been since May of 2019, but it seems much longer. We purchased our property in October 2018 and spent six months completely renovating it… new floors, new walls, new countertops… the upgrades have made all the difference, all the way down to new hinges on doors.
We wanted to provide guests a clean, modern, upscale beach experience with as many modern technology amenities as possible. We noticed that in most short-term rental properties in the area, technology is an afterthought – slow or no wi-fi, small and outdated TVs, no home automation, no smart devices, etc. We wanted to bring as much technology and convenience to the beach as possible to allow our guests to truly escape.
We manage only this one property but have plans to expand.
Are you an owner or a manager? Is this a part-time or full-time occupation for you?
We are both owners and managers. This is a part-time occupation. My full-time job is as a Chief Architect at Microsoft.
What is the best thing about hosting, and what are the biggest problems you face?
The best thing is the rewarding comments you receive from guests, and knowing that you were able to be a part of special moments in their lives. We have had guests who had marriage proposals at our place. We have had guests who decided to start families because they wanted to enjoy the area with kids. We have had guests who were able to spend a month at our place to help with their mental health during the pandemic. Knowing we provide our guests a clean, safe, comfortable, modern, and high technology environment to enjoy has ultimately been the best thing about hosting.
Our biggest challenge has to be guests who don’t treat our place like it was their own. We have had holes in walls, knives thrown at doors, shelves ripped out of walls, and other damage. One guest even took all of the batteries out of the remote controls. Most guests are honest and will pay to repair it. Some will deny it. We always just ask our guests to treat our place as if it was their own. The reason we can continue to provide an outstanding experience is that the guests before them have treated it as if it were their own.
What is one thing you wish you knew when you started hosting?
The diversity of humans. Some guests will read our instruction manuals cover to cover, while others will skip them and have questions. Some guests will note that there is too much light coming in the windows, while some have bought and left lights because they wanted more lighting. Some guests are amazed we provide free coffee, while others have asked why we don’t provide an espresso machine and a waffle maker.
We welcome all guests from all backgrounds with any life experiences and try to accommodate as best as possible. But humans are so diverse that you can’t accommodate every need, but you can try as best as possible.
What is the most important advice/tip you would give someone interested in becoming a short-term rental host?
This is a part-time job and a labor of love. If you’re expecting to become rich and that it will be free of trouble, then you should reset your expectations. Plan to spend time sending out communications, addressing maintenance and repairs, and enhancing your space to make sure your listing stands out. Build a brand that supports growth. Leverage great technologies like Syncbnb that help to make your work easier. Know that there will be times when demand is low and other times when you wish you had 10 units to rent out because demand is so high, but think in the longer term.
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?
Because of my technology background, and because most places we have stayed at the beach did not have the technology, we designed our unit to be as technology forward as possible, while also making things simple.
The unit has a Samsung SmartThings hub, a Lutron hub, and high-speed broadband, which can jointly control all devices, and allow us to control devices when a guest has challenges.
Every light switch in the unit has been replaced with Lutron lighting dimmers, and all fan switches now have Lutron switches. All light bulbs have been replaced with dimmable LED bulbs. There are several major benefits: LEDs save on energy costs; Lutron switches can be remotely controlled (for guests who leave all the lights on); Lutron switches can be set on schedules to turn on and off, and all devices may be voice-controlled. We have also labeled all switches so that guests know how to voice control them with Amazon devices.
Every room has an Amazon device so that all devices can be voice-controlled. Our guests also wanted to be able to listen to music on their vacation or watch a YouTube video, turn on sounds of the ocean, play trivia games, and more. We have also programmed common questions into the Amazon devices so that if guests want to know where the garbage bags are, or what’s a restaurant that we recommend for breakfast, the Amazon device can help them right away.
Every room has a 65” 4K Samsung TV with SmartApps for streaming. If you can stream your favorite content at home, you should be able to stream it at the beach. We also have local cable and news stations so that guests may stay up to date on local affairs.
The locks are smart locks that provide us the ability to change codes for each guest, as well as set time limits for when their codes are valid. The locks automatically lock themselves to keep the unit secure and to ensure that our guests’ belongings are kept secure.
To ensure the privacy and security of our guests, we have only a front door Ring peephole camera and doorbell, which allows guests to see who is at the door before admitting them.
We also have Nest thermostats and smart fans that automatically will turn on and off based upon the temperature. We have also installed UV lighting in our HVAC system so that when a guest checks out, the HVAC system and fans turn on and circulate all air through the unit and kill any airborne pathogens.
There are sensors on all of the doors and windows as well. When a guest enters the front door, if it is dark outdoors, the sensor will turn on lights automatically for them as they enter so that they can safely find their way.
When guests arrive, they want simplicity. They don’t want to have to learn new technologies – they want the technologies to work for them and make their stay much easier and convenient. There are many technologies and devices that we have considered adding, but we always ask ourselves, “Will this make for a better, simpler experience for our guests, or will it add complexity?”
Which channels do you list on? How much has your revenue increased since listing on multiple channels?
Currently, we are on Airbnb and VRBO.
We are exploring joining Booking.com and other channels, but we also want to ensure we maintain a consistent experience across channels. Airbnb has some outstanding automated messaging that we leverage, while other platforms don’t. Different channels have different fees as well for both hosts and guests, and some require paying at booking time versus paying at check-in. Before exploring other channels, we want to ensure we are able to support all of these different variations so that the experience is consistently excellent for guests.
Besides listing on multiple channels, what other things can a host do to increase his/her bookings and revenue?
Listen, ask questions, and take all feedback seriously. What would make for a better experience? If one guest has requested it, it’s likely that other guests would have enjoyed it.
Be accountable, and do what you say you will do. Act with integrity, and demonstrate the best character values you can. Lastly, always treat your guests with respect and assume the best intentions.
You can find out more about Jeff’s property here:
Here are some photos to give you a better vision of Jeff’s house (click for larger versions) 🧐