We’re kicking off 2020 with a host from Australia, Nicole. Her beautiful home is in Blackheath, a picturesque suburb of Blue Mountains. She has been renting out her home for more than a year to mountaineers and adventure travelers 🧗 but has been affected by the bushfires of 2019 and is telling us more about this in her interview below.
How long have you been hosting for? How and why did you start? How many properties do you manage?
We have been hosting our cottage since April 2018 and purchased it as a weekender base for our mountaineering adventures in the Blue Mountains. Given that we wouldn’t use it all the time, it made sense to become a host and share it with others. Although it was already a hosted property when we bought it, and we could have just continued as-is, we took a few months to improve it and make it our own before hosting it.
BTW, renovation expenses can really add up! This is our first time as a host.
Are you an owner or a manager? Is this a part-time or full-time occupation for you?
We are the owners and it is a part-time thing for us. We have a local who cleans and maintains it for us, but we use it when we can and there are always small things to do every time we go up there.
What is the best thing about hosting, and what are the biggest problems you face?
The best thing is the feeling we get knowing others are enjoying our lovely little mountains cottage, it’s quite a rewarding personal experience. One problem we never envisaged is that your bookings can drop to zero due to no fault of your own!
The Australian bush fires in December 2019 that made international news decimated most of the Blue Mountains and came within 400m of our cottage. The village of Blackheath and our cottage is fine, but tourism has dropped to near zero. And understandably we had 100% cancellations of all our bookings over our busiest period of December and January. Even though the Blue mountains is back in business after the fires, tourists are still almost non-existent and local businesses have been hit hard. We still have very few bookings when we ordinarily would be booked solid.
Blackheath was the second-highest trending AirBnB suburb for all of Australia in 2019 (https://www.openagent.com.au/blog/how-to-run-a-successful-airbnb#), now that is completely wiped out, it’s quite sad and the local communities are suffering. But we are far more fortunate than many hosts who lost their homes in the fire. HomeAway was quick to help out here with listing closures and no-penalty cancellations for hosts.
What is one thing you wish you knew when you started hosting?
Small things matter. People not being able to operate fireplaces, TV’s, or key locks etc, you need to make things are as easy and foolproof as possible for people.
What is the most important advise/tip you would give someone interested in becoming a short term rental host?
Photos are everything. If you don’t know how to frame and light photos correctly then get a professional. If you have something unique about your property then be sure to show it in your main photo.
For us it’s our lovely loft main bedroom with a wood cathedral roof, it really stands out in the photos and that’s vital when you have two hundred other rental properties to compete against in your small suburb alone. It’s 100% a marketing game. The short term hosted rental market is saturated, and you really do have to do lots of small things to stand out. Also, it doesn’t have to be a market race to the bottom in price!
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 maintain a spreadsheet that we share with our cleaner that organises bookings, make-up configuration of beds etc. It would be good to fully integrate this with the booking systems, but given the unique requirements, it would have to be custom written for us.
- Avoid electronic key locks. It sounds cool, but ultimately it’s just another thing to go wrong. A key lockbox on the porch is the best foolproof solution.
- We have an extensive guide book with instructions, local attractions, food recommendations, and our own maps and walking track notes, guest really loves it and always comment on it.
Which channels do you list on? How much has your revenue increased since listing on multiple channels?
Airbnb and Stayz/HomeAway. We tried Booking.com but it was a truly horrendous experience in so many ways, we cancelled it. At first, 95%+ of our bookings were through AirBnB, but when there was a bug in the AirBnB system that disabled our listing without us knowing, HomeAway really kicked off and it flipped to 95% from HomeAway. We were lucky we had a backup platform as our AirBnB listing took almost 6 months to recover our search engine ranking. Now it’s about 50/50 between the two sites.
Besides listing on multiple channels, what other things can a host do to increase his/her bookings and revenue?
- Again, make sure your main photo stands out! Most people scroll down a list of results and only click on the photos they like.
- Pretend to be a visitor and do filtered searches for various requirements and see where your listing stands out in the results.
- Offer as much detail in your listing as you can, details sell. A listing with a few paragraphs will not capture and hold people’s attention. The longer people stay on your page reading and looking, the more it will stick in their mind.
- Offer and highlight conveniences like fast solid internet connection and an already setup up Netflix account. These are big selling points and can help tip the balance against your competition
You can book Nicole’s cottage in the links below
Here are a few photos from Nicole’s home