Top 10 Tips for Airbnb Hosts

Does the lure of extra money tempt you to rent out an extra bedroom or your vacation home?  Sounds good but if you decide to profit by sharing your personal space with complete strangers, use these tips from my experience as an Airbnb host to make it a successful experience.

The last three years we have rented out our second home, a cute 1912 cottage in Boise, Idaho when we aren’t using it.  As an Airbnb host, there are definitely great moments when that rent money is deposited into your account or guests rave about your property but temper those delightful moments with the calls at midnight when the renter is drunk and lost their key or when the lovely 2 person renter in reality turns out to be a raucous house party that trashes your home.  With this reality firmly in mind, here are my top 10 tips for Airbnb hosts.

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Our adorable Hyde Park Cottage in Boise, Idaho
  1. Do your research before you commit to being an Airbnb host.  Stay at several Airbnb‘s yourself and see what you like/dislike.  Go through the booking process, examine how other hosts present their properties, look at reviews of properties where you stay and properties that are located near your property.
  2. Have an emergency plan.  We have a family member who lives locally and oversees our property for us.  If you aren’t lucky enough to have a friendly family member to assist you, then you will need to hire a property manager.  In addition to handling emergencies, this person/company can check people in and walk guests through your property so they have a great experience.  We also keep a lockbox on property in case of emergencies.  A guest WILL lose a key so, to prevent midnight calls, get a lockbox that goes on a door knob with a code you change after every guest.  Stuff happens.  Be ready.
  3. Cleanliness is key to bookings. Guests will let you know in their reviews if there are housekeeping issues and then you will miss out on future income.  Face it, no one wants to stay in a dirty place.  We deep clean every time we visit and our property manager handles the cleaning after each guest leaves.  Have cleaning supplies handy for guests to use as needed, especially if you have long-term clients staying longer than a few days.  Same goes for toilet paper, paper towel, garbage bags, etc.  Extra is better.  If a guest runs out of toilet paper, you are guaranteed a less than stellar review.
  4. Little touches make a difference.  We provide complimentary bottles of shampoo and body wash, coffee/tea/sweeteners, umbrellas, strong Wi-Fi, board games, cards, a Frisbee and a couple of bikes.  Guests love the bikes at our cottage as we are close to downtown Boise and parks and tend to attract an outdoorsy clientele.  We are kid-friendly with a port-a-crib available as well as kids books/,movies, and games.  After a client leaves, Airbnb will send an email to guests so they can leave a review.  When we check in a guest, we encourage them to complete the reviews.  Great recommendations will get you listings. The more, the better!
  5. Comfy bed, linens and towels are essential.  We learned the hard way that cheap towels don’t last.  Buy everything in white so you can bleach out the crazy stains you will find and spring for nice quality, not WalMart specials, so they last longer with frequent use.  Same with your mattress.  When we rent an Airbnb for vacations, I always read the reviews specifically looking for a great bed that won’t torture our backs.
  6. Tourist information is up-to-date and plentiful.  We gather the latest tourist brochures and magazines from downtown hotels and restaurants when we stay at our cottage and leave the information for our guests so they know awesome places to eat and visit in Boise.
  7. “Above and beyond” perks are appreciated by all.  We have stayed at Airbnbs all over the world and the best perks were: Bluetooth Bose speaker at our Waiheke Island, New Zealand Airbnb so we could listen to our playlists while lounging in the giant beanbag chairs on the patio and fresh soda bread upon arrival at our thatched roof cottage in Galway, Ireland. That’s great service!
  8. Fully loaded kitchen with everything needed to cook.  I know many people go on vacation to eat out at restaurants but I like to explore the local groceries and cook to save $$ that we use on other travel splurges like zip-lining, shopping, and concerts.  Upon arriving late in Portugal, we found out that coffee was not a big deal there so thus no coffeemaker just instant coffee and a hot water pot.  Bummer.  I will be first to admit I am a coffee snob who grinds beans fresh every morning.  We immediately went out and bought a coffee press for the apartment which we left for the next guest. Also, we supply salt and pepper as well as  plastic wrap, Ziploc bags, tin foil and every kitchen utensil, pot and pan that you need to make a meal at our cottage.  Guests love it!
  9. Safety first.  Provide a fire extinguisher just in case. Hopefully no one will  need it.  Of course, you should have working fire detectors and carbon monoxide alarms too.  We don’t provide candles or a grill due to fire safety concerns with our wood cottage.  Be prepared for the worst and provide a first aid kit.  I was injured on the ferry ride to our Airbnb cottage in New Zealand and the host promptly provided a cold pack for my injured hand.
  10. Finally, expect to make money but understand the expenses you will incur.  First, price your property within similar market offerings but not at the low-end.  Airbnb might encourage you to drop your price but we did our research and kept our pricing firm.  Guests may try to do side agreements to sidestep Airbnb but we politely refuse.   You run risks if you don’t have backing of Airbnb in case of damage and there will be damage.  We’ve been lucky with only one issue and the guest paid for the damage quickly so we didn’t even have to get Airbnb involved.  We allow only dogs due to my husband’s allergies to cats, which helps bookings because not very many properties allow dogs.  In our three years as hosts, we have only had people “acting like animals” damage and no true animal damage.  Go figure!  To save on energy costs, we installed a programmable thermostat that we can monitor via an app on our phones to make sure that in between guests, the temperature is appropriate.  You will need to have a landscaper, pest control, HVAC person, handyman and plumber identified and use as required.  The costs do add up–a broken water line here and an ant invasion there will reduce your profit.  Save some of that rent $$ for regular needed maintenance and emergency repairs or you will be sorry.  If you plan to occupy the property like we do on a regular basis, it will be convenient for you to have one closet locked and for your use only for your personal toiletries and extra clothes. We just bought a mini fridge for the basement so we don’t have to keep throwing out condiments after each of our personal visits between guests. Buying ketchup, mayonnaise, and butter every visit can add up and you can’t really leave food stuff for guests to use.

Hopefully these tips will help you if you decide to become an Airbnb host.  Overall, it’s been a good experience for us and a great assistance financially to help us pay for our second home to spend time near our family.  Good luck and happy hosting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pride Takes Over Seattle

“Happy Pride!”  Greeting the crowd as they veered off at the end of the Seattle Pride parade route and toward the celebration at the Seattle Center,  I got lots of love from the fun crowd as we handed out refreshments courtesy of First United Methodist Church.

“Are these plain or “special” cookies?”  Wink.  Wink.  I replied that these were the plain variety but I was sure he would have no problem finding those “special” cookies elsewhere in Seattle.  Surprisingly, this was not the only time I was asked if the free cookies were “special”.  I guess after you walk 4 miles in extreme heat, hot at least by Seattle standards, you’re not only thirsty but hoping for some medicinal aka cannabis cookies.   We had water but no weed.  Still, they were very good cookies and enjoyed by all!  Among the many booths at the Seattle Center was a very popular one where cannabis lotions were being applied and enjoyed by many tired parade goers.  Got to love our hot new industry helping customers to relax and enjoy life in Seattle.

A rainbow of groups from various companies, including a huge force of Amazonians, swarmed the streets as well as many politicians, families and dancers galore rocking out to the steady beat of tunes blaring away.  Super fun.  The parade on Sunday is just one part of the celebration that takes place all over the city all weekend.  We went to the Seattle Storm WNBA game on Friday night and the whole arena was decked out to support the team AND Pride.  All the Seattle sports teams had games in town this weekend and all had special events that tied in with the celebration.  Got to love the support of Seattle sports!

At our outpost, we not only had our free “plain” cookies, cold water, frozen juice slushies and use of the church bathrooms (very popular!) but also our very own music experience.  The friendly Seattle pop cover drag band, The Pop Drops, rocked out and entertained the crowds.  Props to wearing those boots in this heat but they look marvelous, don’t they?

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Pride is part of our Seattle life.  In the past, we have walked in the parade as part of my company’s unit and also one year with the Seattle Storm.  Pride celebrations will remind you that love is love is love and we should appreciate each other and embrace our diverse country.  If you have not been one of the 200,000+ to experience Pride Weekend in Seattle, you need to jump on your Harley, grab a rainbow flag and make this a priority from now on. Go Pride!

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Hamlet amidst the foothills of Boise

“To be, or not to be..”  That IS the question but if you want TO BE entertained and see some damn fine theater, get thee to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival in Boise. Pronto.  Wow!  The level of artistry was top-notch and having seen my fair share of NYC and London theater, I can tell you I am usually a tough critic but I was duly impressed.  In fact, the last Shakespeare play I attended was at The Globe in London for a Goth version of Romeo and Juliet this spring that I loved.  Hamlet, while sticking true to the story, did have an interesting casting twist.  Hamlet might be female or male, depending on the night you attend.  Hmmmm…..

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The night we attended we were treated to Laura Welsh Berg in the lead role, the only female in the US to be professionally acting the part of Hamlet right now.  How cool is that?  She alternates with Jonathan Dyrud and when they are not playing Hamlet, they are part of the supporting company.  Those actors work hard for their money.  And how on earth do they remember all those complex dialogues for multiple characters??  Throw in needing to know how to throw down some serious sword play and you have quite the acting challenge before they all die. Oops…spoiler alert.

The Elizabethan setting amongst the beautiful Boise foothills features a variety of seating arrangements including a new seating section on the stage so you can be part of the action as well as the standard options of tables, chairs or the hillside.  All good views.  We chose the blanket experience with lots of snacks, booze and fun.  They even provide little red carts to drag in all your picnic stuff from the parking lot.  Convenient.  You can also rent low chairs with backs for only $2 a piece for the hillside area.  After drinking a nice Merlot, it might be a challenge getting out of these low chairs but would provide additional entertainment for nearby patrons.  Beware.

Having been to lots of great outdoor venues and suffering through tough traffic and long lines to get into and out of concerts, we left for the performance fearful of the wait to get in and laughed our asses off when there was no traffic AT ALL and we easily parked in the main lot.  I love Boise!  This is a beautiful facility, moderately priced for such quality entertainment and definitely worth the road trip from Seattle to enjoy Shakespeare.  I can’t wait to go back and see A Midsummer Night’s Dream in August.  Having seen this play staged while we lived in Shanghai when Tim Robbins staged an updated version that I thoroughly enjoyed, I am looking forward to the Boise version.  From Shanghai to Boise, when Shakespeare’s words come to life, it’s a treat!  “Listen to many, speak to a few”  So wise and always relevant.

Ode to Bacon in Boise

Bacon. In Boise on Father’s Day, there was no better place to be for brunch.  Bacon is not only a unique concept in that the menu is all about the pig but the whole structure of the serving experience is very different.  Shots of bacon anyone?  Everyone?

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As you enter Bacon in downtown Boise, you can pick from outdoor patio seating or indoor tables with massive wood chairs or a leather seating area by the bar.  What’s so interesting is that while it looks like a sit down restaurant experience, you actually line up in the back by the kitchen and select your food, pay for it and then take a # to your table to wait for it to be served.  Want water?  Help yourself from the water jugs.  Need more coffee?  Yep, serve yourself.  This service style frees up the friendly and plentiful wait staff to concentrate on customer service, checking in on each table several times, delivering food and turning those tables over quickly for more bacon lovers.  It works.  Really well.

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Want a mimosa to wash down all that bacon?  Belly up to the bar and order/pay yourself.  Of course, I decided on a screwdriver and was shot down by the bartender because it was before 10 a.m. on a Sunday and Idaho has a draconian liquor law prohibiting hard alcohol sales that early.  What???  Is that a sign that I shouldn’t be drinking that early perhaps?  While I laughed with the other bar patrons as they waited for their Bloody Mary’s to be available (served with bacon garnish), finally the locked panels covering the alcohol got ripped off and the booze was flowing once more.  Cheers!

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But back to the bacon selections, we started with the shooter selection featuring these options to taste:  Berryhill, Spicy Hot, Kurobuta, Maple Rosemary and Candied.  Of course, I liked the Candied because I have a sweet tooth but, just as there is no bad wine or bad pie, there is no bad bacon so we all happily munched away trying all the varieties.

Of course, then more bacon came with my grit bowl.  I enjoyed a huge sea of creamy grits with poached eggs floating amongst the green onion bits with a side of bacon and a fluffy hot biscuit.  Heaven!  Bacon is only open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.  In the evenings, they flip the Bacon sign to become Berryhill & Co., a different restaurant owned by same folks but with different food offerings.  Next time in Boise, we’ll have to check it out!

Freak Alley is place to be in Boise

If you are lucky enough to explore Boise, you have to check out Freak Alley.  What surely used to be an ugly alley in downtown Boise has been creatively reimagined into an outside gallery that will stun you with the level of street art on display.freak alley

Billed as the “largest outdoor gallery in the Northwest”, Freak Alley began in 2002 as an artistic expression and grew into a multi-faceted lane showcasing superior talent that will blow you away.

I love Boise and the diversity found here whether in the art, the food (check out the Basque paella on Wednesday and Fridays at noon), and the spirits of all kinds from wine to craft beer to tasty cocktails.  We love our second home here and look forward to spending more time in Boise this summer.

 

Seattle Neighborhood: Fremont

Freaky Fremont was looking a whole lot more mainstream on a recent visit.  While it was once THE place to live if you favored tie-dye, nude bike riding during the Solstice and feasting on organic granola, you now had better make some major bucks to call this your home and enjoy the trendy cafes, boutiques and bars.  Fremont is still a cool place no doubt but definitely more trendy and sophisticated than in the past.

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After a quick Metro ride from our Lower Queen Anne hood, I wandered Fremont to check out all it has to offer in an urban community.  We don’t get up here often but did recently enjoy The Barrel Thief with friends for an Ardbeg whiskey tasting.  Right up the street, our friends told us there was a great place to satisfy our foot massage yearnings.  Two Smiling Feet does a 60 minute foot massage for $35 which we plan to check out soon.  One of the experiences I miss most from living in China is our weekly foot massage date.  Damn that was habit-forming!  I look forward to seeing if Two Smiling Feet delivers a true Chinese foot massage that makes me cry with pain but leaves me smiling with happy feet.

Fremont does has a movie theater, Century at Pacific Commons, as well as Ophelia’s Books where you can get a .50 book bargain from the outside rack or wander the many titles inside while the shop cat prowls the book stacks.  I never leave there without at least a bag full of “must read” used books.  Next door to Ophelia’s is Jive Time Used Record Store where Thom likes to browse to feed his vinyl habit.

Of course, there are bakeries, cool cafes, gelato places and more to feed your appetite for anything you could want to eat plus a downtown PCC Market for a wide selection of groceries.  The shopping is good too with an always packed Warby Parker store (trendy and inexpensive glasses) and boutiques selling $200+ upscale clothes as well as some vintage bargain places.  A great walking neighborhood with a concentrated few blocks of everything you could want and need, you can also take advantage of a gorgeous river trail that is shaded and lovely to stroll on a sunny Seattle day.

Fremont is also known for their Solstice Parade in June where a Mardi-Gras style parade proceeds with Solstice Cyclists stripping down and painting their bodies to lead the merriment.  I’ve never been to the parade but look forward to experiencing it soon.  Their Sunday Farmer’s Market is also top notch and showcases lots of vintage clothing, accessories and kitschy stuff along with food trucks/stalls galore.  Not a “farmer’s” market with produce but more a place to shop and eat that is very dog friendly.  All in all, Fremont would be a good place to call home if you want to be outside the Seattle downtown core but close enough for a quick commute.

Seattle Neighborhoods-Lower Queen Anne

I have lived in many places from Seattle to Shanghai.  I’ve loved them all but if I’m living in Seattle, I will always choose to live in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood.  I love everything about this place.  It has beautiful views of the water as you walk the streets and from our home.  The Seattle Center is our backyard where we walk our dogs daily under the Space Needle.  I love the Space Needle silhouetted in the sky, both day and night.  While Seattle has many great neighborhoods, this one is mine.

This is a diverse neighborhood with all levels of income and many homeless.  It can be dangerous here no doubt and you don’t see many families living here.  Awakened at 4 a.m. on a Sunday morning recently, a squad of police cars and ambulance were taking care of a belligerent homeless guy fighting arrest.  It was loud. That’s life in the city and it’s heartbreaking at times. Our fellow volunteers and guests at Shared Breakfast, where we volunteer every Sunday morning feeding 300+ homeless, are part of our family now and very dear to us.

I will never, ever take this view for granted or leave if I can help it.  I told Thom the other day that I would even get a second job if I had to in order to afford to continue living here as the rent just keeps going up every year and this view is costly but totally worth it.  Life is short and I want to enjoy what’s left with a view that makes me appreciate life.

One has to eat and there are enough restaurants in Lower Queen Anne that we are still trying out new ones although we have lived here for years-in fact, longer than anywhere else in our life journey.  We tried a new one the other night and it was fantastic-Crow.  Eat the chicken.  Toulouse Petit is always a favorite with long lines on the weekend for brunch-hint: go for happy hour with lots of small bites that are delish and cheap.  Whatever cuisine you want-you can find it in our hood.  We like Agave  for Mexican and Athina Grill  for Greek.  For a colorful experience, try Mecca Café-a dim diner with good food, especially breakfast.  Of course, the most popular place is one block north of our home-as we like to say, nothing beats a big bag of Dick’s!  Line up and get a burger, fries and a shake-now finally accepting c. cards.

Do you know how hard it is to find a good mani/pedi shop AND a place to cut my hair?  While I do have to travel up the hill to Upper Queen Anne to The Shop for my hair, it affords me the opportunity to shop at Trader Joe’s which is right across the street.  Not that we don’t also have a Safeway and Metro Market in Lower Queen Anne but Trader Joe’s just has stuff I crave.  We visit Upper Queen Anne frequently,  which is lovely for families but we prefer our more urbane environment at the bottom of the hill.

Every good neighborhood MUST have a bookstore and a movie theater.  Check and check.  We have the cutest Mercer St. Bookstore with their .50 cent cart out front with used books to browse and my go-to for travel books for our next adventure.  The Uptown is one of the finest small theaters in the city and hosts the SIFF, which we have yet to take advantage of but do love going to those quirky indie films typically shown here.  All in all, Lower Queen Anne is our home and what a lovely place it is.