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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

India First Impressions

India.  Never really thought I would travel here but, as with China, life takes you to unexpected places if you open yourself up to the possibilities.  Of course, with these adventures come the acrid stench of pollution so prevalent where the government doesn’t regulate air quality.  Waking up in Delhi, my eyes and throat are already burning at the 200+ AQI “haze” outside which hangs over the bleak landscape of the local neighborhood outside my hotel room.

On the trip leg from Amsterdam to Delhi, the India culture was evident immediately.  Snacks on the plane were nothing I had ever heard of vs. the usual pretzel/peanut offerings.  I’m still not sure what it was as I am following a strict “never eat on plane” routine to protect my weak stomach.  I looked on as people enjoyed their snacks and dinners and I ate my protein bar.  Boring but necessary.

As I travel, the hot beverages I enjoy tend to move to tea vs. coffee with the electric tea kettle always available.  French press for coffee was the option in New Zealand and also offered in India.  I use  only bottled water, of course, for all beverages so that my Imodium stash is not needed.  Milk is not readily available everywhere so powdered cream is the alternative.  I’ve already gone through my supply of bottled water and had to ask for more.  Even when brushing your teeth, you MUST use bottled water or die.  Seriously.

Enjoying a very Western waffle/juice/coffee room service breakfast on Sunday morning, I am watching The Voice.  Seems that India, like China, is in love with music reality shows.  I remember watching endless reruns of the The Voice in Shanghai and Delhi is no different.  Back-to-back episodes are running while I rest up from the long journey to get here.

Entering the hotel compound around 1:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning, the streets were still busy with many enjoying food carts on the side of the road, which would kill me but Thom would have enjoyed.  Rat or cat, Thom can and did eat everything in China and never got sick.  Never questioning the “mystery meat on a stick”, he will miss out on the India delicacies offered.  So sad because I always lived vicariously through his cast iron stomach.

Staying at The Westin Gurgaon, we had to pass through a guarded gate where our car was searched. Upon pulling up to the hotel, we had to have our bags scanned outside just like at the airport and walk through a metal detector and be hand scanned by a security guard.  WOW.  I would imagine a Western hotel like this could be a target for terrorism so high security is appreciated.  I will not be wandering out of the hotel tomorrow as I normally would when I hit a new country.  While I do look forward to seeing more of India, there is some unrest with election results coming out this weekend and other issues so I’m just going to play it safe this time.

Tomorrow, our first day to work in Delhi, should be interesting.  I just received this SOS travel warning:  “Members in the capital Delhi and the adjoining National Capital Region (NCR) on 20 March should expect significant travel disruption during planned protests by the ethnic-Jat ABJASS group. ABJASS, which has been campaigning for quotas for Jats in state government jobs and educational institutions, has threatened to block the prime minister’s residence, the parliament building, and all highways and roads in Delhi on the day if its demands are not metTens of thousands of protesters are expected to attend the 20 March rally with tractors. ABJASS has threatened to block all lanes and transit points into Delhi if the security forces prevent them from entering the city. A heightened security force presence should be expected around the prime minister’s residence and the parliament building, as well as on all roads into Delhi and near the Jantar Mantar monument.” 

Though I miss him so much already, it‘s probably best that Thom is not on this trip as I can just see him now taking photos of the protests and joining in to get in all kinds of trouble.Good times in India!  Stay tuned.

 

Making New Friends in Ireland

We were fortunate to have friendly drivers for all our HailO/Uber rides in Ireland and NYC.  From all walks of life and ethnicities, it’s always eye-opening and interesting to meet new people in our travels.  On the taxi ride home (using HailO as our Irish go-to app for taxi service) we were greeted with a hearty smile and lots of good conversation with Mark Rooney, our driver.

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Asking Mark what rush hour looked like in Dublin, as we were leaving around 8 a.m. when the roads would be choked with traffic in Seattle or NYC, he said that he has seen the rush hour creeping earlier and earlier there but certainly not this early.  When we were in Amsterdam last year, we were surprised that the streets were deserted until around 10 a.m.  The work day starts later in Europe as it did in China when we lived there.  I remember going into the office at 9 a.m. and being the only one there.

As we cruised along with far less bus (double-decker of course) traffic than I had seen mid-day, we started discussing the Irish economy as compared to the US and then we finished the trip discussing Trump and politics.  Of course.  The Irish are having a good laugh at our messy election process.  Their election cycle is 6 weeks from start to finish.  None of this year-long reality show that we have gotten ourselves into, especially with the latest drama.

Mark was saddened by the state of the Irish economy.  He told us that his teen-age sons had asked him how much a house would cost to buy in Dublin.  In an average neighborhood, it would be $300,000-$400,000.  Not cheap.  Home buyers can get mortgages (30-year) and have to put at least 20% down but, as Mark bemoaned, how can most people save money to the tune of $60,000 or more on average wages.  He felt that the government should require companies to take their profits and pay their employees more money.  Though colleges cost far less in Ireland with government assistance, there is still student debt looming over the youth as they start careers, adding to the concern that buying a house will be out of the question for his sons even if they go to college and graduate.

Complaining about the “rich” corporations again, Mark had asked Google to sponsor his son’s sports team and never got very far.  He wrote them a letter, trying the old-fashioned approach to communications.  He wondered why tech companies don’t give more back to the communities.  I told him all about my company and how much they donate through free software, matching funds for employee donations, etc.  He was surprised and said that the company should make people aware of these efforts.  He had no idea.  I related that the company is proud of its giving back but doesn’t want to capitalize on it through advertisements.  They are very humble in this regard.  I am proud of them.

The conversation inevitably turned to “WTF-how can the US have Trump as a candidate for President?”  Well, how do you answer that?  I am ashamed that he is one of the two possible leaders.  He is neither qualified nor quite frankly sane.  He does understand how to tap into the uninformed voter, the frustrated out-of-work voter looking for any type of assistance including the empty promises that Trump is making and the racist who wants to build walls and close borders.  Mark assured me that the people of the US would not let this world catastrophe happen and that Hillary would win.  I hope to God he is right.    If not, we may be using Thom’s Irish citizenship to immigrate to Ireland to escape the madness.  Feck it!  Cheers to HRC for taking on the bully and dedicating her life to public service.  Well done.

The shopping is good in Galway

Today we ventured down the cow path and into town.  As we started to exit the hobbit hole, we paused as two very large black cows stormed down the “road” with their humans herding them into the adjacent field.  So, exactly what do we do if we encounter this type of situation again but we are driving?  Scream and brace for impact probably.  Luckily, we swerved around any oncoming traffic and made it safely into the town of Galway, very photogenic and historic. 

After maneuvering into the always tiny parking spaces in the garage (our Audi is larger than most cars here), we wandered the streets where pubs and shops welcomed us.   First stop was for an Americano as there is only a hot water pot for tea in our cottage and no coffee except instant Nescafe available.  Caffeine headache averted, we found the shops to be charming and loaded with nice things for presents to others and ourselves. 

The best by far was the “My Shop…granny likes it” (www.myshopgranny.com) that had a curated assortment of all things Irish and cool, not touristy crap.  I immediately was drawn to an amazing chunky necklace made with blue and yellow stones.  Had. To. Have. It.  After chatting with the shop owner and her adorable schnauzer, Purdy, the shop dog, we also got a great pillow cover, which I collect from our travels and tea towels featuring an abstract print of the charming Galway row houses and another boldly proclaims an old Irish saying,  “FECK IT…sure IT’S GRAND”   Okay. 

Always ask the locals where they eat to get the best places.  Rona O’Reilly recommended a funky place just down the lane called Bite Club which had free WiFi, played disco tunes and had great food.  Ryan and Paddy took care of us and we chatted.  Ryan was mad at Paddy because he had saved his money and was off to America to visit any and all relatives he could find from coast to coast.  Paddy mixed me up a mean craft cocktail, Elderberry Bourbon Fizz, served in a crystal punch cup.  Delightful!  After singing along with Donna Summers and posting some blogs on the internet (the hobbit hole is without tv/internet), we were off for more browsing and shopping before braving the drive home via cow path.  If the driving over here wasn’t so nuts, we’d be back at the Bite Club in the evening when it turns into a 1980’s discotheque.  Groovy.

Seattle Speakeasies-Cheers!

“Go to the far side of the room.  Pick up the phone and identify yourself.  We will come and get you at the metal door.” Thus, our speakeasy adventure in Seattle began on a hot Friday night.

Interesting that speakeasies are, by nature, supposed to be secret and exclusive but they are trending all over social media these days.  Our first stop, Needle and Thread, was recommended by several people at work, so off we went for a taste test.  Reading up on the speakeasy protocol, I learned that you can call in advance to secure a RSVP in this very small (probably 20 people max) prohibition-style experience.  Just calling to get the RSVP was fun-you leave a message (no more than 7 days in advance) after hearing the strict rules–if you are lucky enough to get a call back, you better actually PICK UP THE CALL to talk to the host or you won’t get in.  Done.

Promptly at 5 p.m. when the parent bar, Tavern Hall, opened, we were at the phone calling upstairs to gain entrance to the speakeasy, Needle and Thread.  Dress code:  “Keep it classy”.  Not sure what their definition of “classy” is but Thom was rocking his porkpie hat and looking very hipster.  When our friends arrived after fighting the horrible Friday Seattle gridlock, our drink master interviewed us on our cocktail/alcohol preferences as there is no menu and they warn you in advance not to expect an appletini to be made in their establishment.  There ARE speakeasy standards after all and only custom cocktails served, thank you very much.  Prepping for our trip to Ireland in the fall, I’m leaning into whiskey to be better equipped to take on the true Irish experience.  Our host got it right, creating for me an iced cocktail created with Irish Bushmills whiskey, orange liqueur, cherry herring and lime juice.  Tart and sweet and very refreshing on a hot day in a bar where ceiling fans provided the only air conditioning.  We drank up, chatted politics and then headed down Pike St. to our next speakeasy experience.

After wandering the block looking for Foreign National, I spied an unique door tucked away between other restaurants-found it!  Through the layers of beads and velvet curtains, we quickly hopped into a communal booth with strangers as the space is limited and in high demand.  While we sat and enjoyed our cocktail creations, other bar patrons streamed in looking in vain for seats in this trendy bar.  I went for the Foreign National house cocktail made up of pisco, Amaro Montenegro, honey, sour orange served with an egg white frost on top.  Petite and delicious.  Our friends had the complex cocktail named Osaka #1 consisting of Suntory Toki whiskey, vermouth blanc, lemon, yuxu, orgeat, ardbert spritz and anise smoke.  WOW-I have not a clue what most of that stuff is but I got a taste of it and it was interesting to say the least.

I loved the speakeasy ambience with the small interesting spaces filled with people who value quality booze concoctions over quantity.  I can’t wait to check out other speakeasies in Seattle (list below) and in NYC when we visit our favorite city in the fall.  Cheers!

Foreign National, 300 E. Pike St., Story in Seattle Times:  http://www.seattletimes.com/life/food-drink/foreign-national-is-this-the-best-new-bar-in-seattle/http://www.foreignnationalbar.com/http://www.yelp.com/biz/foreign-national-seattle-2

 Needle and Thread at Tavern Law, 1406 12th Ave., RSVP 206-325-0133, http://www.mccrackentough.com/tavernlaw/http://www.yelp.com/biz/needle-and-thread-seattle?osq=speakeasy

 Bath Tub and Gin, 2205 2nd Ave.  http://bathtubginseattle.com/;  http://www.yelp.com/biz/bathtub-gin-and-co-seattle?osq=speakeasy

 Knee High Stocking, 1356 E. Olive Way,  http://www.kneehighstocking.com/;http://www.yelp.com/biz/knee-high-stocking-co-seattle?osq=speakeasy

Many thanks to Karmann K. for sharing her photos of the evening’s adventure!

 

 

Welcome to My Midlife Crisis

Oh hello Sexy Beast  Yes, that is the name I’m giving my Midlife Crisis and it materialized in the form of a sleek black BMW Z4 Roadster.   I haven’t even LIKED driving since the Subaru was totaled a few years ago.  And spending my hard-earned money impulsively when my motto is: Save ’till It Hurts?  No. Way.  Then my totally impractical and beautiful Sexy Beast appeared on the Sell/Buy company internal site and I was a goner.  SOLD!

And for those smart asses that might be thinking “She’s a little past the midlife stage” may I remind you that the women in my family live a very, very long life.  Grandma Hannah was 99 and still living on her own and my mom is kicking it strong at soon-to-be 91 so, yes, I’m still somewhat midlife right now.  In my mind.  Shut up.

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Why a midlife crisis now?  Over the long winter months, I started a new job, which I love but, let’s face it, all new jobs are stressful.  Health issues challenged me from a freaky frozen shoulder that has lasted now almost a year and shingles on my head which, believe me, was just as awful as you would think that would be.  Getting old SUCKS.  Totally.  After years of not even knowing what my natural hair color was other than I knew I had skunk-like streaks of white (thanks Mom!) and dark (thanks Dad!), I ripped off the band aid so to speak after a strong Old Fashioned cocktail and took my still recovering head to the barber and told him to shave (#4) it off.  Every follicle on my head hurt from the shingles and there was absolutely no way I was going to layer toxic chemicals on top of it so off it went onto the floor and I’ll be going au natural from now on.   Ahhhh….relief.  After the initial shock, I’m now liking it.  I’ve been told it looks badass, sassy and fierce.  Yep, that’s me.  And-bonus-it only costs $10 for a buzz cut.  Now I can afford gas, a parking space and insurance.  Winning!Melinda [77532]

Now, let the fun begin.  The shoulder is slowly but surely unfreezing and the shingles, after two rounds of meds, have healed.  Time to hit the road and see the Pacific Northwest in our Sexy Beast!

In the three days we have owned SB, the weather has been amazing and we have visited new pockets of Seattle including the largest beach we have ever seen in Seattle just north of Ballard, Golden Gardens.  There were THOUSANDS of people there on a abnormally warm and sunny Monday evening.  Who knew?  I can’t wait to take Mia there and let her run in the sand.  Next night we roared around the curves in Magnolia admiring the fancy view homes and then swung downtown to walk Pier 66 where we happened upon the Clipper Round The World racing yachts.  The Danang Vietnam boat had just docked after 35 days at sea where they suffered severe damage.  We welcomed the crew gathered on the dock to Seattle and can’t wait to tour their boat when it opens to the public on Saturday.  WP_20160420_19_48_50_Pro 1

Next, it was off to Madison Park to watch the moon rise over the Eastside and chill with the geese on the beach.  Mia will enjoy the park there that is just made for 2-year olds with slides and swings galore.  Such great restaurants and bars there with lots of outdoor seating just made for warm summer nights.  The ride over Capital Hill to get there was fast and furious with Thom at the wheel.  I’m betting a speeding ticket is in his future.  He is loving this car and is so supportive of my midlife crisis, which is much easier to support when it includes a sporty two-seater.  YOLO!

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Theater, Scotch and Sailboats…Oh My!

 

Who on Earth would predict that a musical about 9/11 and how the town of Gander, Newfoundland welcomed 7,000 passengers on 38 planes diverted there that day would be so inspirational and wonderful?  NOT ME!  Boy, was I shocked.  We laughed and cried and didn’t want it to end.  I have to tell you, when Thom told me where we would be going this past Thursday night, I was wanting to do almost anything else!!  His dear childhood friend that has worked for 30+ years at American Airlines guiding flights around the world, Billy, and his wife were scheduled to come visit us for the opening of the play as he was personally involved with the main character in the story, Beverly the pilot of one of the flights diverted.  Billy guided Beverly and her flight to safety that horrific day and they have stayed in touch ever since, bonded for life by tragic circumstances beyond their control.

Unfortunately Billy recently had surgery and couldn’t travel but we went in his place.  Seated next to us were a nice couple who immediately told us that they were retired pilots who had been at the play for opening night and found it so amazing that they bought the extra tickets that Billy had purchased.  Also friends with Beverly, who was at the theater that night, they had a personal connection to this particular story, having flown during that crazy time.  Flying a few days after 9/11 for work, I remember thinking that air travel will never be the same and it certainly isn’t.  No more greeting family at the gate and please take off your shoes, no liquids over a certain size, etc.WP_20151119_21_21_19_Pro

But back to the play that brings it all to life.  With clever use of the actors playing several roles, the story is told of one particular flight flown by Beverly and diverted to Gander.  The citizens take in this mass influx of people with some trepidation but end up feeding and housing them all over town for a week or so.  Authors David Hein and Irene Sankoff nailed the snappy dialogue, plot line and wonderful songs.  I have seen many a Broadway play and this would win a Tony for sure.  Let’s hope they get publicity and make a run for Broadway.  I only hope that they keep the same cast and band because they were top-notch and I can’t imagine anyone else in those roles.  If you live in Seattle, GO SEE IT!  It’s playing at the Seattle Repertory Theatre until December 13th.  Seattle Times Review of “Come From Away”

Friday night, bearing beer and wine as boat-warming gifts, we visited our friend Brad’s newly acquired sailboat just north of Ballard.  Draped in festive holiday lights, the 3 br/2 head money pit (all boats are!) was warm and cozy below and brisk up top as the 20+ people drank and socialized.  Seeing the crowd drink scotch to warm up, I figured, “What the Hell!” and decided to join them and have my first taste of scotch.  Hmmm…it sure does warm up your whole throat for an extended period of time.  These scotch drinkers could be on to something.  My friend Kurt has offered to “school me” on the varieties of scotch as he has drank his way across Europe tasting and sipping.  Bring on Booze 101 classes!  Now, I’m not a boat person, having owned a lake cottage and boat at one point and didn’t really enjoy them, but these sailors seem to be very dedicated and borderline obsessed with this lifestyle.  Expensive, yes, but a social way to embrace the beauty of the water.  As long as it stays at the dock and the wine/scotch is flowing, count me in.  Ahoy mate!