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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Xtreme Holiday Xtravaganza Rocked!

Experiencing the Boise music scene at the Xtreme Holiday Xtravaganza hosted by Curtis Stigers at the Egyptian Theater was an eye opener.  Who knew there was so much local talent in little old Boise??  Now in it’s 11th year, this musical holiday journey featured Curtis, who is an amazing talent I was unaware of until lately, and loads of other Boise solo artists and groups. Not a bad note in the bunch and lots of moments that just made you smile.   It was sold out both nights and now I can see why.  WOW.stigers-2

This fundraiser benefits Interfaith Sanctuary Housing Services that supports the homeless in Boise.  I got to meet Dan Ault, Shelter Director, in the lobby while on a break and promised my future support.  How can you not?  We volunteer every Sunday in Seattle when we are home to feed 300+ homeless at Shared Breakfast.  For those of us blessed with so much, helping others with life’s basics of food and shelter seems to be the least we can do.  Stigers’ rendition of “Burden” by Foy Vance was so relevant and gave me goose bumps.  Foy is one of my favorite artists that we just got to see in Seattle at the Columbia City Theater, a small venue that won’t hold the crowd for Foy’s next concert swing as he gains in popularity.  Go see Foy if you get a chance.  Oh, and Curtis, please come to Seattle soon and allow us to enjoy a full evening of your music.  The Moore or The Paramount would be ideal venues for your big voice.  Please.

 

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Curtis sings Burden with back-up from many talent Boise artists

 

From an Irish band that I will have to check out soon at the local downtown Ha’ Penny Bridge Pub to Pengilly’s Saloon which seems like “the” place for local artists, we need to challenge ourselves to explore all this great Boise talent.  Trooping up to the stage, The Divas of Boise, a group of talented female singers/musicians started by Rocci Johnson in the mid-90s to showcase their skills and lend a helping hand in the Boise Community, brought it with big voices and loads of talent.

Silly us.  We have never fully explored the Boise music scene when visiting our home here because we are usually so busy with babysitting the lovely Miss Mia or doing home renovations.  Busy, busy but finding time to listen to great music is essential to a happy life, at least for me.

Lucky for us, Eilen Jewell who lives in our North End neighborhood was on the stage with her husband rocking out with some other local musicians.  I would love to see Eilen give a concert in this spacious theater.  The last time we saw her we were packed into the Tractor Tavern in Seattle.  Her heartfelt tunes and excellent band make for a fun evening but I would prefer not to stand the whole time.  Yes, I’m getting a tad older and like simple creature comforts like a  comfy padded seat.

 

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Eilen Jewell and friends rocking it out.  She’s AWESOME!

 

Curtis and his cohorts did a great job balancing the request for support with music and frivolity.  Even in bleeding red Idaho, the liberal taunts of Trump were woven into the evening and it felt good to be among fellow people with brains who could laugh and cry together at the state of our country.  The 3+ hour show went by quickly and raised a lot of money for those in need.  On a cold and wintery evening, we felt the holiday spirit loud and clear.  Happy holidays to all and to all a good night!

 

An Afternoon with Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem showed up in Boise, Idaho on Monday afternoon.  Amazing.  Sadly, there aren’t a lot of Dems who are courageous enough to live a Blue life in a Red state so the crowd to see her was small.  It’s hard and it’s discouraging to fight the tidal wave of Red.  We did it for 14 years in Coeur d’Alene and while there are more Dems in Boise, especially in the North End where we have a house, Dems are still a major minority.   For the few who showed up yesterday, they were treated to an intimate hour with an awesome woman who has and always will make a difference.wp_20161017_15_49_19_rich-2

As Mayor Dave Bieter, a Dem, announced to the audience when introducing Gloria, we were all in a “safe place” for the next hour spent together surrounded by Hillary election signs.  Let’s enjoy it.  “How many of you have been in a room where you were the only Democrat?”  Hands up EVERYWHERE.  Just as I have often been the only women in meetings at work, you learn how to snap to the norm of being the outsider and understanding no one will listen to your ideas.  Just the way it is.  You never give up and you keep working hard.  That’s what Hillary does and I respect her for it.

Gloria spoke of the election and how Hillary is the most qualified candidate there ever was or probably will be but, since she is a woman, she has always had to justify her desire to do good work and aspire to be a First Lady, Senator, Secretary of State and now President.  A man with ambition like that would be regaled as a strong leader, the woman a pushy bitch.  Not fair but true.  As far as her views on Trump, he is “a con man and not a successful business man” as he would like to boast and have everyone believe.  Gloria comes from NYC and has seen his shenanigans up close and personal.  She knows.wp_20161017_15_54_45_rich

When I asked her how we would need to heal as a country after Trump has brought out the violent, racist rhetoric that has frightened us all, she gave an interesting reply.  The people supporting Trump are revealing their truth about themselves so we can have the opportunity to address the real underlying problems–their feeling of white entitlement and living in the past waiting for jobs vs. proactively preparing for the jobs of the future.   Gloria quoted Gandhi, “The truth is revealing itself.”  Those well-paying but hazardous coal mining and logging jobs aren’t coming back to Ohio and Pennsylvania and Idaho.  We need to train those workers to take on new roles and spur the economy.  Let’s not lie to them that once Trump makes America great again that he can restore those jobs.  He can’t and he won’t.  Period.

Gloria reminded us that Trump doesn’t represent the majority of the people and has always had a hard time polling above 40%.  We can’t give him power to speak for the people of this country.  We can’t let hate trump love and kindness and real conversation about what we need to do to further our America that is already pretty damn awesome.  Thom and I often reflect that if more people had passports and travelled widely that there would be a deeper appreciation for how great America already is.  Once you have seen the pollution in China or seen how hard the citizens of Hanoi work to just eat and have a roof over their heads, you can thank God that we have laws and regulations here that keeps Americans safe to breathe the air, eat the food and work in a healthy environment.  We are blessed and our government system, while not perfect, protects it’s citizens.

When asked by a former Bernie supporter how to vote in this election, she encouraged him, as a lifelong socialist herself, to follow Bernie’s lead and support Clinton.  Bernie did what he felt he had to do and was successful in raising important issues like college debt. Together, he and Hillary have found a compromise with a real chance of working to reduce debt for those in need.  That’s Hillary’s strength and why she will be a good President.  She understands mediation and finding a middle ground to get shit done.  God love her and let’s get out the vote to make sure that a President Trump never happens in his or our lifetime.  I’m.  With.  Her.  wp_20161017_15_27_22_rich

Moving to the music with Foy Vance

Even with terrible jet lag and packed in like sardines with a standing room only sold out audience, I still managed to thoroughly enjoy Foy Vance’s performance  on his Wild Swan Tour at Columbia City Theater this week.  WOW.  What a talent to play in this small venue.  Foy pours his heart into his music, lifting your spirits so high you can’t help but smile and move to the beat.  Whether banging it out on the piano or jamming on his guitar, Foy has passion and energy to spare.  With a careful branding of his Irish roots, he has great style, sporting a handlebar mustache, traditional tweed cap and a cheeky glint in his eyes.

After just coming back from our Ireland vacation, it was a joy to hear that lilting Irish accent again.  As the Irish would say, Feck it sure it’s grand.  Yes, that’s what they say.  He and his band decided that, like most musicians, Seattle is a grand fecking place to play.  Of course it is.

Foy opened for Elton John’s tour in Europe and was the first artist to sign on with Ed Sheeran for his new label.  When I heard he was going to play at Columbia City, I was thrilled.  Boise friends, he is there this week so go see him!  He is that good. wp_20160928_21_39_51_pro-2

With a full band and a large voice, Foy would have been better suited at The Moore or Paramount theaters so hopefully next time he makes the long trip from Ireland, he will move up to a much larger hall so we can enjoy his soaring vocals and excellent band with room to breathe.  To say it was aromatic with all the sweating bodies after a long day would be putting it mildly.  Ewwww….

After standing for over an hour in my heels, my feet were numb but I just couldn’t leave quite yet.  I love all the songs on his new album and enjoyed seeing them performed live. 

Foy’s opening act was a shrill Bob Dylan wannabe who I could have lived without seeing.  Usually the opening acts I have seen in the last year or so have been truly excellent but that was definitely NOT the case here.  Only a lovely whiskey and ginger cocktail got me through that crap that he was throwing all over the stage trying to be artistically crazy.

Finally, the jet lag won out though and, knowing I had to work the next day, we left Foy singing his heart out on the stage.  Come back to Seattle soon, Mr. Vance.  You are a true talent.

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