The safe approach to designing your space for Airbnb involves a very clean, sterile look complete with your basic IKEA furniture. But today’s guest prefers to offer his guests a more unique experience, and he personalizes his space with art, board games and a garden. His guide books include stories about how some of the artwork was acquired, and he is currently developing playbooks filled with activities and information catered to a specific type of guest. His ‘outdo yourself’ philosophy allows him to make the most of his Airbnb listings and help his guests feel at home.
Joe is an entrepreneur and Airbnb host out of Denver. He grew up in New York City, where he was inspired by the arts and design. Joe has owned several businesses, including a skate shop and a pizza cooking school, and his diverse resume includes stints as a beekeeper and fourth grade teacher. He is world traveler and a real estate guru as well, and today he’s prepared to share how business practices translate to the world of Airbnb.
Joe also explains his Airbnb hosting philosophy, how he approaches guest communication, and his tips for providing a custom Airbnb experience. Listen and learn how to personalize the information you provide your guests, becoming a virtual tour guide who helps travelers get the most out of their trip!
Joe’s Airbnb hosting philosophy
The two main approaches to Airbnb
How Joe provides guests with important information
Joe’s advice around personalizing the information you provide guests
Joe’s Airbnb hosting mantra
The business practices Joe applies to his Airbnb
Joe’s tips for providing a custom Airbnb experience
Joe’s take on greeting guests
How Joe approaches communication with guests
Joe’s most memorable hosting experiences
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 169
Jasper: Welcome to Get Paid for Your Pad, a definitive show on Air Bnb hosting, featuring the best advice on how to maximize profits from your Air Bnb listing as well as real life experiences from Air Bnb hosts all over the world. Welcome.
AD: This episode is brought to you by Hostfully, the company that helps you make beautiful guide books for your listing. Specially for Get Paid for Your Pad listeners, get two free months of their premium version. For more details, visit hostfully.com/pad
Jasper: Welcome everyone, episode 169 of Get Paid for Your Pad. Today I’m very excited to have a very good friend of mine on the show, I’ve actually stayed in his Air Bnb in Denver, Colorado, he’s quite an inspiring figure. I’m really excited to be picking his brain today. Joe, welcome to the show.
Joe: Hey, thanks Jasper. Nice to be here.
Jasper: how’s it going, buddy?
Joe: It’s good man, it’s good. Enjoying the sunshine in beautiful Colorado.
Jasper: Awesome, dude. I think your story is quite interesting. Your background of being an entrepreneur from a young age – why don’t you share some of your background with the young listeners.
Joe: Sure, so, I was never a good student in school. I was primarily interested in the arts and design, I grew up in New York city, actually. There was lots of inspiration. Through a turn of events, the skate shop I was working at the time was for sale, and I ended up buying the skate shop, so I had my first business when I was 21 years old. A couple of years later I sold that and I started to travel the world for a while and went back to school for a bit. I tried a couple of different careers – I was a beekeeper, I was a 4th grade teacher for a while. Then, ten years ago I started my last business and I had that for about 8 years and then I sold that company about three years ago. Since then, I’ve been traveling and remodeling some real estate and downshifted for a little while. Trying to discern what the next step is going to be for me and my career.
Jasper: Awesome. So, I know you as someone who always puts a lot of thought into the things you do, you pay a lot of attention to detail. You’re very organized, which comes in handy. This is reflected in the way you run your Air Bnb and the design that goes into your properties. I remember staying at one of your places in Denver and you were remodeling it at the time. I Remember it was a very well decorated place, it really had everything you could possibly think of and extra. This episode, we’re going to talk about how you can make the most of your listing – how do you run your business most efficiently, how you can get the best results. How do you create a unique experience for your Air Bnb guests – I’m sure you have a lot to say on this topic.
Joe: Yeah, I have this theory about my guests, and I call it closing the gap. The gap is in my mind, how quickly can I get them to feel at home, and get them to be making them feel like, oh gosh, I don’t want to leave. I run this through my mind constantly from the immediate initial contact to the time they step foot in the house, I want them to feel like they’re enjoying the space, the experience. So, I have this thing in my mind, I think, the Air Bnb I’ve stayed in throughout the world and what I see online, I think there are 2 or 3 different types of Air Bnb. There’s the sterile Air Bnb that looks like every other Air Bnb, the stuff that’s bought from Ikea where everything is really clean and neat. Those are great. I think that’s a very safe execution. It’s a safe approach. That’s not my approach. I want to bring character to my guests, I want them to feel like they’re actually in someone’s home, not in sort of a pseudo hotel. I try and keep just, whatever it is around the house, maybe some personal items. Some art. Maybe it’s just a spice rack, lots of different jars around. I want people in “closing the gap,” I want them to have a home experience. I want them to have — probably experience in the most important word.
Jasper: Do you have any concrete details on how you close that gap?
Joe: Yeah. So, information is power. My intro email is pretty extensive. I go through all the things in my mind that would help me eliminate any concerns about how to start my trip. In other words, I run through things about transportation, I give them the door code, I give them the WIFI password. The WIFI password is one of those things your guest should never ask you for. I put it everywhere. WIFI is one of those things that helps people feel connected right away. I give them information about places to eat right away, breakfast if I know they’re coming in the morning or dinner if it’s in the evening. I make it clear that communication is important and always let us know if you have questions. I also give them a link to a google drive folder. Inside that is the house manual. It’s close to 20 pages and I walk people through pretty much every room in the house and if there’s an interesting story about a piece of art in the house, I’ll take a picture. If there’s an interesting story of how I got that piece of art. If there’s something unique about – may patio, you’ve seen that, it’s made out of pool table slate – I’ll make sure people know that in the house manual. A think I’ve done too, I know Hostfully has a new user interface now, I made a google map, and inside that has about three dozen different points of interesting in my neighborhood. I’ve thought about everything, like Walgreens or banks or quick, easy ways to get out of the city via the expressway. I’m also doing one other thing I’m excited about, maybe someone else is doing it already, maybe they’re not. I’m coming up with about five different playbooks, where I give people step by step of things to do – you have two days in Denver, or if they really want to see street art, or if you want to go to the mountains to go skiing or snowboarding. Each of these activities will have sort of an outline of exactly what they can do. I want to take the guesswork out of them trying to figure out all the details of how to plan micro vacations. I’m going to put it all individually out where they can say “joe already gave us an itinerary of going skiing, where to get lift tickets, the best place to park.” I can go on and on and on, I’m all about creating new experiences for people.
Jasper: Awesome, that reminds me of another quote that you provided me with, and I really like it: “always improve because it’s too easy to get lazy.”
Joe: Jasper, it’s really a tenant and going back to what I was saying about my first business and first landlord. He sat me down and he said, he put down a napkin, he said, don’t just crumple it up and clean the counter, fold it in fours and use each side. You can’t be wasteful, you can’t just maintain. If you’re maintaining you’re losing. And I’ve found that to be so true. About two months ago, I thought “wow, this is easy money.” Then I thought, “shit, I’m going to get lazy.” I need to start putting more effort into making this a better experience. I spent some money on gardening and landscaping and new art and new sheets and stuff like that, just looking for ways on how to outdo what I’ve already done for myself. Otherwise it becomes too easy, and if it is, that’s an indicator that I need to go back and look at it again.
Jasper: It’s easy to get complacent. You also have certain business practices that you apply to your Air Bnb listing to keep things organized and to know what’s going on. Can you touch on that?
Joe: So, Wednesdays are my Air Bnb days, one of my first and foremost things, I have scheduled time that I sit down and look at a fixed list of things I have to do. I look at month’s numbers, I look at expenses I’d incurred over last week, I look at repairs and supplies. Wednesday mornings I have a fixed agenda. I do this thing now with my listing where I have title slides. The Air Bnb website limits the amount of creativity that the homeowners, the property owners, can do with it. On my listing, I now have these slides so people know exactly what room they’re looking at. I go through all these things in about two hours and I’ll also get the google drive folder for my guests and everything I use I do in spreadsheets. I have a specific folder on my computer for all my Air Bnb business. I’ll track according to the Air DNA data, I’ll look at where I’m supposed to be, what I’m doing right, what I can do better, how other listings are doing. Real key to the success is just having a set day and time and then throughout the course of the week I’ll add things to the to-do list.
Jasper: For those who don’t know what Air DNA is an app you can use to see how the competition is, etc. Very useful tool created by my good friend Scott Shatford – a little shout out to him.
AD: You’ve heard me talk about Hostfully a lot over the past few months. I love sending my beautiful Hostfully guidebooks to my guests as it makes me look very professional. I put a lot of these screenshots from my guidebook in my actual Air Bnb listing, it really helps it stand out from the crowd. Well, I’m thrilled to announce I’m a sponsor of the Hostfully Host program. Twice a month, Hostfully selects a host and features them on their blog. This is great for your listing and a cool way to share your favorite local spots with a large audience. What’s even cooler is that each Hostfully host gets a free set of organic sheets from the Clean Bedroom. Now that I’m a sponsor, you’ll be featured in my newsletter, my social media feed and you get free access to my video course on how to be a great host. For more details and how to apply, visit hostfully.com/hostfullyhost.
Jasper: What else do you do to optimize the experience?
Joe: So, I try and think about the different types of travelers that I have coming through my house and I’ll have people who are on family vacations, and I’ll have games throughout the house and let them know. There’s a clear section in my house for Jenga, cards, a ring toss, bocchi in the backyard. So, for my families that are traveling, I’ll try to give them things to do in the house, and make things very easy for them if they want to go out and venture and explore Colorado. For the business travelers, when I know someone is coming in for business, I’ll be sure to let them know, I have a standardized email for them, I’ll point out where the coffee is, I’ll tell them how to get on the expressway and where the convention centers are. Depending on who the guest is, I just try to put myself in their shoes. I say, what are they going to need to get the most out of the experience. I want them to have a great time, I’m a host. I’m a virtual tour guide. I want to be the guy that comes in and saves the day for them. Or the person that really put them in a position to get the most out of their trip. The last thing I want them to be worrying about are simple amenities that somebody who is trying to get comfortable in a new place. I don’t want them to worry about any of that. Whatever it is, all the little things, those should all be, they shouldn’t be things you should be worrying about. You should be focusing on who are they and what do they need and what do they need before they know they need it, does that make sense?
Jasper: It makes sense to me. One thing I always advise people before they start is to literally go out on the street and pretend you’ve just arrived and you’re about to walk in as a guest. Visualize and experience it. That’s the only way to figure out the actual needs and imagine the type of traveler they are. I like how you worded it, provide people with something before they figure out they need it
Joe: It’s funny – I do it all the time when I travel. I open up the front door and I put myself in the shoes of my guests, you know. I do this little mind trick on myself. Okay, I want to feel comfortable, what am I looking for? Where’s the couch? Or I’m just starting to think about the grocery store because I’m getting hungry, or I need coffee. I make all these mental notes to myself whenever I’m traveling about what I need to feel like that this is home and then I go back home and I say, OK, now I’m that guest. I’m opening up the front door, what are they going to want? What’s that primal impulse of making them feel like home? It’s all about making people feel like they can relax. The house is supporting their trip. It’s not getting in the way or them exploring the city, the town, or doing what it is they came there to do. That’s another reason the sterile environments, I almost want people to almost engage in their inner voyeur – I want them to feel like it’s okay to peek into my life, I invite them. Pull things out – the books on the shelves or the snowboards on the walls. I want them to feel like they’re in someone else’s life and still inviting. There’s a time and place for the sterile Air Bnbs, but I’m not afraid to put glassware that I know may break or pieces of framed art that just may inspire a certain kind of reaction. I want people to feel like engaged, or inquisitive or curious versus the house kind of feeling like the equivalent of a hospital room.
Jasper: So, I know you have two listings. One listing you rent out permanently, the other is where you live, so you only rent out when you’re on holiday. When you’re traveling. My question is, right now you’re in Denver. Do you personally greet your guests when you’re in Denver?
Joe: I try to. When I don’t I have a co-host that helps me, and he’ll greet them. It’s always a treat for me when I get to meet the guests. I definitely feel like that is something that if at all possible, somebody should greet the guests. Somebody should find out when they’re arriving and be there to shake hands, open up the door, point out one or two things, that is the white glove service. That adds to the human connection, that adds to closing the gap. It’s what a hotel can’t provide – that personal touch when you’re opening the door to the house. If I can’t greet them, my co-host will greet them. Then there’s been times where guests have shown up late and we can’t get there and we just check-in to make sure and we send them a quick message – speaking of communication. I think if you want a high performing Air Bnb, your communication needs to be within minutes, not within hours. You need to be within ten minutes, five minutes, reaching out, even if you don’t have the answer. They need to know they’re not lost at sea waiting to hear back from you. That should be the standard for anyone who wants a high performing Air Bnb who wants to command a few extra dollars. If I got a message right now during this interview, I’d send them a message now saying, “I can’t get back to you right now, but give me five minutes.” I’m going to do that.
Jasper: Awesome, yeah, I agree. Communication is key. It’s half the battle. Response times are very important. Just quickly before we finalize this episode, what are some of the most memorable experiences you’ve had?
Joe: Being a host?
Jasper: Yeah, did you have some weird guests? Some guests that caused you trouble? Maybe some guests that you really connected with or ended up being friends with?
Joe: I’ve had all the above. There’s been great people that have come into the house. I hear this from the co-host, they’ll see all the character in the home and they’ll say, “who is this guy?” That seems to be a pretty common question, that feels good. People appreciate the house. I had this one particular person, I think they were from Germany. They asked so many questions. They wanted information on how to get grocery food delivered to the house and we outlined so much information for them. They were traveling and they wanted to know clothing attire and then they get to the house and they break something in the shower and they break something in the shower and then they tell us that the upstairs bathroom is leaking and then they leave like a two-word review. So, sometimes the people that require the most amount of attention, or breaking things, or make you feel like the least appreciated, it just comes with the territory. It’s a little bit of a pattern we’ve seen. But we’re doing a lot of events, we’ve done a photoshoot for underwear companies, we’re hosting a large event in the backyard where there’s going to be a band and catering. Those are fun when we get to interact. Those are profitable as well.
Jasper: Awesome. Well, Joe, Thanks so much for sharing your experience with Get Paid for Your Pad hangout, looking forward to hanging out with you in Las Vegas pretty soon.
Joe: See you in a couple of weeks
Jasper: Thanks for listening everybody, we’ll be back with another episode on Friday. Hope to see you then!