Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite!
As Airbnb hosts, we share concerns around uninvited guests. If those uninvited guests are of the bed bug variety, a whole host of additional problems arise. Today’s guest dealt with a bed bug infestation in his Airbnb and lived to tell the tale!
Hostfully Featured Host Mike Clairmont is a professional musician who loves to surf. Two years ago, he got the idea to rent a place on Venice Beach and list the property on Airbnb when he was touring. Within two weeks of posting his listing, Mike had more than half of the summer booked.
Mike discovered the Get Paid for Your Pad book and podcast a few months ago, and has since used those resources to take his Airbnb to the next level. Today he shares his journey as an Airbnb host, including the harrowing chapter in which a bed bug infestation temporarily sidelined his business. Listen and learn how to prevent those pesky creatures from infiltrating your Airbnb, and get tips on choosing prime locations for Airbnb property investment.
Why Mike has had success with Airbnb
Mike’s bed bug ordeal
How Mike is working to prevent further bed bug infestations
Mike’s advice for hosts who encounter bed bugs in their Airbnb
Jasper’s advice around investing in property for Airbnb
Jasper’s take on regulations enforcement
Get Paid for Your Pad: How to Maximize Profit From Your Airbnb Listing by Jasper Ribbers and Huzefa Kapadia
This episode is sponsored by Hostfully.com where you can create a custom digital guidebook for your guests!
Complete Transcript for Get Paid for Your Pad Episode 163
Welcome to Get Paid for Your Pad, a definitive show on Airbnb hosting featuring the best advice on how to maximize profits from your Airbnb listing, as well as real life experiences from Airbnb hosts all over the world. Welcome. (music)
Jasper: This episode is brought to you by Hostfully, a company that helps you make beautiful guidebooks for your listing. Make your own at Hostfully.com/pad. As special for Get Paid for Your Pad listeners, you get a free guidebook consultation after you make your guidebook.
Welcome to another episode of Get Paid for Your Pad. Today, I have a really cool guest. His name is Mike Claremont. He is a Hostfully host. I'll talk a little bit more about what that means. First, Mike, welcome to the show.
Mike: Thanks, Jasper. I appreciate it. It's a pleasure, man.
Jasper: How's it going? You are in Los Angeles, I believe?
Mike: Yes, I am. I'm in LA, good old sunny California.
Jasper: Awesome. I miss that place. Always have a great time there. Mike has been a listener to the podcast for a while, I believe. Right?
Mike: Yeah. I found you. I stumbled across it not too long, actually. It's been a few months. I got the book, and I've been loving it and just really given me a lot of great tips to take my place and my Airbnb business to the next level. It's been awesome.
Jasper: Awesome. As I mentioned, you are a Hostfully host. Let me talk a little bit about what that means, because it's kind of cool. Hostfully, they started a program, which is called the Hostfully Host program. What it means is that if you are using the Hostfully guidebook that you can get for free that you can use to send to your guests, if you are using it, then you can apply at Hostfully.com. You can apply to be a Hostfully host. If you are one of the lucky ones who will get chosen, you get a free organic bed sheets from the Clean Bedroom, and you'll be featured on their travel blog, Medium, which is apparently it's one of the biggest travel blogs. Medium has 48,000 followers. It could be quite beneficial for your Airbnb listing.
Also, occasionally I will interview one of the Hostfully hosts. I think the way they select them is they kind of look at your guidebook, and they select the most beautiful ones and the people that are doing well in the Airbnb that are being really good hosts, having really good reviews. If you want to apply, just go to Hostfully.com. Mike, that's what Mike did. He is now on the podcast. I'm excited to talk to him about his Airbnb listing, and we'll also talk about the small problem that he ran into with bedbugs that was slightly challenging. Then we'll finish up with a few questions that he had for me. I thought it'd be cool to discuss those on the podcast. With that, Mike, let's dive into it. Let's hear it, man. What's your Airbnb experience been like? How did you get started? Let's hear the story.
Mike: All right. It started a couple years ago, two years ago, I guess. I'm in Venice Beach, my place. It's a small studio ideally located a block from the beach. I just started. I've only been in LA for a few years. I was in New York before that. I'm a total beach person. I'm also a professional musician. I do a lot of touring and just traveling for pleasure as well. It's all fun, but anyway, LA is so big. I lived kind of more on the east side of town where the music stuff's happening. I missed the beach, and I was just like, “Well …” I'd known about Airbnb, but I hadn't really used it too much. I was like, “Well …” Just kind of the idea popped into my head. “What if I just rented a place right by the beach, and then hosted on Airbnb that way I could just have a place to go stay at in between bookings and stuff and just go hang at the beach and stuff?”
I really didn't do any research, to be honest with you, into how well it would work or not. I just kind of took a leap of faith, and it just paid out really well. It's been going great. Without knowing anything, right off the bat I listed it on Airbnb. Within a week or two, half the summer was booked out. This was in May. I was very pleasantly surprised, and just kind of figured it out as I went for the first season. Then last year, being the second year, just kind of figured a few things out, always improving it. It was just steadily kind of growing, still just really steady bookings.
Then thankfully this year I found Jasper's awesome book, which I highly encourage everyone to get, because this being my third year, it was very timely discovery, and it's allowed me to really sort of say, “Okay, I want to take this thing seriously. I need to start getting 5 star reviews, the whole thing.” It's just been great, just a great resource to really help me making it really official and optimizing my Airbnb.
Jasper: What are some of the changes that you've since made since you started sort of taking it a bit more serious?
Mike: I love taking photos, so that's always been … I think right off the bat I had great photos. I think that was the one thing that just sort of really helped. I think I have a decent eye for what … I'm a traveler, and that's something, too, that I think really helped me that was one of my strong suits. I know what I like when I travel, so I think I know what other people might be looking for.
Anyway, as I went, I really did listen to the reviews. Like you say, it's just such an important thing. People gave me feedback as I went. Some things just really needed to change. They were like, “Okay, you need to do this.” I was like, “All right. Done. Going to do it.” I'm just trying to think. Just painting, new carpet. My landlord really … I took over a lease. My landlord really did zero when I moved in. I think the place … I probably shouldn't say this on the air, but I think the place had fleas the day I moved in. I was just like, “Oh my God.” I had to take care of that. I had to get new carpet, paint it myself.
I basically had to do everything, and kind of just fixing it up, making it look nice, and just making it a place that I want to go hang out at, because that was the whole idea is rent it out, and then I go stay there in between and making it really comfortable. It's kind of got high surf, too, so it's got a sort of Southern California beach vibe, surfer kind of thing. As I went, I just sort of gradually improved.
Jasper: Right, and you mentioned you have a landlord, so you're renting this place.
Mike: Yeah. I am renting.
Jasper: Awesome. I'm curious to know, does your landlord know you're putting it on Airbnb? Did you make an arrangement with him? How does that work?
Mike: Yes. They initially did not, in all honesty. When they found out, they were cool. We just worked out an arrangement so it's mutually beneficial. Everything is copasetic.
Jasper: Awesome. That's great. That's great.
Mike: Yeah, yeah.
Jasper: It's always good to be in agreement. That prevents trouble in the future. Talking about trouble, you did run into a challenge when you had bedbugs at some point. I'm sure it is something that other people might be worried about or other people have problems with as well, because those little buggers, they do show up sometimes, don't they?
Mike: Oh yeah.
Jasper: We'd love to hear how did you deal with that? Did it cause a lot of damage? Also, what are things that you can do to prevent it?
Mike: That's a great question, because I think it's really important for people to put into place some really important preventative measures right off the bat. This is something that completely took me by surprise. Thankfully, it wasn't right in the middle of high season. It was at the beginning of the season. I did have a week of canceled reservations. It was a very costly fix, but thankfully they're gone. What I did was I got it sprayed. I got the place sprayed. I canceled the week of reservations. I found a really good company, had the place sprayed completely, left the apartment as is for all the bed bugs to die, and then I had to just make sure I searched everything to make sure they were gone. I had to get rid of some furniture. The bed frame is where they generally hide. I got a new bed frame, and then put this special encasement around the mattress so they cannot get into that.
Then going forward, what I do, I just complied a short list, like bullet points, of just facts about bedbugs. They're exert hitchhikers. Then I send this to my guests about a week before they arrive in case they're traveling just to let them know, “Look, this is an uncomfortable topic, but unfortunately they are on the rise big time in the US and maybe throughout the world. I'm not sure. Look,” just say, “as you're traveling, if you're checking into hostels, motels, don't ever put your luggage onto beds.” Just some really good advice for them to follow. A lot of them are very appreciative. Most of them are very appreciative, because they didn't know the extent to which bed bugs are out there.
I got some luggage racks. Always try to keep the luggage away from the bed. Guests should not ever, even hygienically, they shouldn't put their luggage on the bed. Always vacuum thoroughly, empty your vacuum bag, and then also, this is crucial, in between every guest, check underneath and all around the bed frame, underneath the mattress. You should just have a really good vacuum anyway, but with the hose, and then really just run it all on the bed frame. Just really keep an eye on it. It's really being aware, making sure. That's what I do every time. If you're doing it every time, it's not going to … It becomes habit, so it's not a huge deal.
Jasper: Right. When you had to cancel some of your reservations, did you get penalized by Airbnb for that? Did you have to pay a fine? Did you get the penalty where you're illegible for Super Host status for a year?
Mike: No, I did not. None of the above happened. They were actually the ones who canceled the reservation, the week of reservation. To be honest, I thought I was going to be able to handle it, because I had a couple days off, or two or three days off in between the next guest. I really just hopped on the situation, got a great pest control person to come out there and treat it, and got their consultation and said, “Look, you should be fine for your next guest.” I wanted to make sure that it was going to be fine before the next guest arrived. I didn't want to chance it.
Unfortunately, Airbnb, when they got wind of it, they are the ones who canceled a week of reservation. Yeah. It wasn't any kind of fine. It wasn't any kind of negative thing. They were very appreciative that I was very quick to jump on the situation and thorough with everything. I was keeping them abreast of what I was doing and all the measures I was taking. Yeah, it was a positive thing all around. Yeah, it cost me a lot of money, but yeah. After that, it was cool. It wasn't any kind of knock against my Airbnb reputation or anything like that.
Jasper: Okay. That's good to know. How did Airbnb find out? Did you contact them?
Mike: One of the guests, they wrote a message saying that they got bitten.
Jasper: Oh, okay. Interesting. Looking back, would you agree that it might just be a good idea, just for the listeners if they ever run into this problem, you think it would be a good idea to just proactively contact Airbnb and say, “Hey, listen. I have this problem. I have a bunch of reservations coming up. I need to take care of this. Can you guys help me and cancel these reservations?” Instead of just canceling them yourself, because then you might get penalized?
Mike: Absolutely, 100%. Let them do it. Like I said, they will cancel them, no questions asked. Any bedbugs, just a week is canceled just like that. Yeah, absolutely let them do it, because I don't know, I'm sure there's a lot of penalties if you do it.
Jasper: Yeah, definitely. If you out of the blue just cancel a week of reservations, it's definitely not going to do well for your Airbnb listing, your business, your ranking. There's a lot of negative stuff that comes with that. That's definitely good to know, and this probably applies to some other type of issues that people can run into with other type of insects. I had the pleasure of waking up in my Airbnb in Tai Pei on the first night, and I opened my eyes, and there was a giant cockroach sitting on the wall, literally 10 inches from my face, which was not the most pleasant way to wake up. I managed to catch it and get rid of it.
One little trick, by the way, if you don't want cockroaches, like in some tropical countries, like in Taiwan, there's quite a lot of them, they tend to creep up through the little drainage in the bathroom. That's one way that they can get into your house. Now what I do now is I put a big shampoo bottle on the drainage in the bathroom so that they can't come up through there. That kind of keeps them out. Anyway, that's just a little side note.
Mike: That reminds me of one time I was traveling in New Zealand. I was at Raglan, and I was sleeping in these … They had all these cabooses in a field. You could rent out a caboose, and you could sleep in it. It was amazing. I woke up one morning, and the ceiling was not far above my face, because I was on the top bunk. The biggest spider I've ever seen was about, I don't know, 5 inches from my face. We learn to coexist.
Jasper: Yeah, that's pretty scary. You run into some interesting animals when you travel a lot. I've definitely had my fair amount of spiders in my room, quite big ones as well, especially in Brazil, Indonesia. I have yet to wake up with a snake in my bed. Fortunately, I haven't had the experience yet, although I did run into quite a few snakes who would lie down in front of my room or in front of my house. Fortunately, I've always survived.
On another note, I mentioned on this podcast before that I actually caused some damage in my Airbnb here in Tai Pei.
Mike: I was that.
Jasper: Yeah, I just wanted to let people know how it is, what the resolution was. I contacted the host, and I let her know that I wanted to pay for the damage, etc. She was super cool about it. She was like, “Hey, don't worry. I will fix it once you leave the apartment. I will have somebody fix it.” I was thinking, “There's scratches on the door. The closet's kind of broken.” I was thinking I need to go to Ikea, buy her a new closet, and maybe even replace the door. I was envisioning quite a substantial amount of damage, even thinking maybe I can get it back from my liability insurance.
Anyway, she kept insisting that I didn't need to pay anything and that she would fix it. I kept telling her, “Listen, I caused this damage. I want to pay for it.” Eventually, she agreed. She sent me through the Airbnb resolution tools, she requested the total amount of $50. I paid it. I guess she probably got some kind of person to make repairs, and I guess it wasn't that expensive. It turned out to be all pleasantly resolved. She definitely handled it really nicely. I was very happy about that.
Hosts, I can't emphasize how important it is to share recommendations of things to do or eat near your listing beforehand. Your guests won't have to go through TripAdvisor, FourSquare, or Yelp. They won't have to scratch their head and think about possible places right in the moment. I've been using Hostfully to create an online and printable guidebook to show my guests my favorite coffee places in Amsterdam. They use my recommendations, and I'm getting fewer questions from my guests as a result. I've also included screenshots of my guidebook on my Airbnb listing as a way to differentiate my listing from others. Make your own guidebook at Hostfully.com/pad.
Mike, you mentioned that you had a question for me. Before we started the podcast, we were chatting a little bit. I figured it would be fun to just have you ask your question on the podcast so other people can learn from it as well. What's on your mind?
Mike: Yeah. I guess my main question I'm really curious about here is the results, I should say, maybe of your investment research. I know you've bought at least one property internationally. I'm always on the lookout for another property as well, maybe to buy this time. It sounds like internationally might be a big hurdle, as you have to pretty much have cash domestically in my case. Any thoughts you might have on that would be great.
Jasper: Yeah, so you're right. If you want to invest internationally, you kind of have to have cash, because it's very hard to get a mortgage in one country to use the money to buy somewhere else. Also, getting a mortgage in a foreign country is not always that easy, too. The rates tend to be really high as well. I'd say yeah, definitely foreign abroad, definitely easiest with cash. Domestically it's different. I've known a lot of people in the US actually who have gotten mortgages. As you know, right now the mortgage rates are pretty low. I'd say it's definitely a good time to get a mortgage and buy a place and put it on Airbnb. I know a lot of people who are making really good returns.
The struggles, the challenges that those people run into are typically regulation related. My advice would be before you buy a place, I would really do research and make sure that you're going to be able to legally rent it out, especially if you're buying in one of the bigger cities, like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, etc. Even if there's no regulations right now, you might also want to think about what potential regulations could come up in the future. You could look at cities like San Francisco, Paris, London, and Amsterdam where Airbnb has gone ahead and really cooperated with the local authorities to create a situation where the cities and Airbnb are both reached an agreement to have certain regulations in place. I think you can use those cities as an example of what might happen in some other cities.
That's definitely one thing that you want to think about, because buying a property, it's for the long term. You don't want to run into some issues a couple years later. I had to sell my house in Amsterdam, for example, because it's just practically not possible anymore to do Airbnb in Amsterdam if you want to do it the entire year. That's one thing. The other thing is you might want to consider some locations where housing shortage is not really an issue, and locations that are used to receiving a lot of tourists, and where people are used to renting out properties.
One place that comes to mind is a place that I've actually visited myself. It's called [Joshetrie 00:19:50], which is not too far from Los Angeles. There it's in the middle of the desert. It's hard to imagine there will ever be a housing shortage there. It's also hard to imagine that there will ever be regulation against Airbnb or short-term renting. Those type of places I figure would be pretty sort of safe investments.
Another thing you can do is there's some tools out there that you can use to sort of predict how much money you'll be able to make from Airbnb. One of those tools is called AirDNA. There's another one called [Matchviser 00:20:21]. I know Everbooked has a functionality as well where you can look at different places and see how well they are doing on Airbnb. From a research perspective, if you've gotten the location down, you might want to just buy a report off AirDNA to get some more information, or you could even look at some of the most profitable places in the US. I know from the latest reports that Nashville always shows up really high on those lists. Yeah, that's kind of how I would go about it.
Mike: That's great advice. Yeah. That's very relevant, obviously, to me being here in Los Angeles, even just from my rental and the fate of that, because Airbnb has been keeping me abreast. They call me periodically with … They really need people to be out there. We've been having hearings here for city council. Apparently certain city council members have been spearheading initiatives to limit home sharing here with obvious other factors behind that, like the hotels and such, and the shortage of housing and stuff. Apparently this was the last one yesterday, the hearing, they were going to hear both sides. They'll be coming to a vote within the next few months, I believe, if not sooner. It's going to be interesting to see. I've read a couple articles recently, just how much money is coming in for the city. It's hard to see that being limited, the Airbnb, but you never know. Definitely I'll be waiting to hear about that. That's great advice.
Jasper: Yeah, hopefully it won't be too strict, the regulations.
Mike: Yeah. That would be a bummer to see them put a cap on the amount of nights or something like that. There definitely are a lot of Airbnb rentals out there, especially in Venice Beach where I am. Definitely been looking at some places there. Santa Monica apparently has clamped down on it, but whether it's being enforced, because in New York, there's some pretty strict regulations. They're not quite enforced. That's another thing. I think they're mainly targeting people who are posing as just one-time renters, but in reality they have multiple listings, and they're kind of going at it commercially. That's kind of, I think, who they're targeting. You want to keep it legit and within the law. That's [inaudible 00:22:43].
Jasper: Yeah. The thing is I remember when I started in Amsterdam, it wasn't technically legal either. There was no enforcement, but as time passed, the regulations, they were being enforced more and more and more until it reached the point where Airbnb actually started blocking their calendars. Again, I really recommend that don't just look at the current situation, but also sort of look ahead and look at other cities for clues as to what might happen in the future.
Mike: Absolutely. Yeah. It'll be interesting for sure. With companies like Airbnb and Uber and Lift and stuff, they're cutting-edge, and it's hard to say what's going to happen with any of these types of businesses.
Jasper: Absolutely. Mike, I thank you very much for being on the show today. It was awesome chatting to you.
Mike: Absolutely, man. Oh, I should probably give a shout-out to Hostfully, and thank you for showing me that awesome service. It's been amazing having that resource as well. I want to thank them for featuring me soon on their Medium blog, which I'm very honored to be a part of that as well, and to be on your podcast. Thank you so much, Jasper.
Jasper: Yeah, you're very welcome. It was a pleasure to talk to you. For all the listeners, thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed this podcast. Of course, we'll be back in a few days. Hopefully I'll see you then.
Mike: Awesome. (music)