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EP152: This Week in the World of Airbnb

As Airbnb hosts, we know that a well-written, conversational profile goes a long way in landing guests. But now there is science to back it up, and the research identifies specific language hosts can employ in their listings.

Hostfully Marketing Specialist Glenn Carter joins Jasper to discuss the research out of Cornell and Stanford that examined predictors of host choice. They also cover several other Airbnb headlines, including yet another acquisition, the company’s partnership with Hearst to launch a travel magazine, and an opinion piece arguing that the hotel and home sharing industries actually need each other!

Listen in to learn about proposed legislation in New York that could boost Airbnb rentals as well as the creative accommodations many Airbnb hosts are listing on the platform, among them a charming treehouse in Canada!

Topics Covered

Article #1: Airbnb and Hotels Need Each Other, They Just Don’t Know It Yet

  • Ongoing animosity between home sharing and hotel industries
  • Hotel industry could learn from Airbnb’s focus on uniqueness of experience
  • Airbnb could improve the ‘professionalizing of guest experience’
  • Industries would benefit from partnership
  • Hybrid platforms offer hotel services (i.e.: concierge, cleaning) to home share clients

Article #2: ‘Beaches’ Treehouse a Hit on Airbnb

  • Couple converted kids’ treehouse into small studio
  • 32 positive reviews on Airbnb
  • Doesn’t comply with city’s property standards by-law
  • Other creative spaces (i.e.: boats, vans) listed on Airbnb

Article #3: Battle Over Airbnb Legislation Heats Up in Albany

  • New bill seeks to legalize rentals under 30 days when host is away
  • Could create boost in Airbnb rentals
  • Share Better is opposed
  • Flaws in argument re: affordable housing

Article #4: 3 Science-Backed Ways to Get Airbnb Users to Choose Your Listing

  • Cornell and Stanford researchers studied how Airbnb profiles influence potential guests
  • Perceived trustworthiness determined to be significant predictor of host choice
  • Length, language and personal details influence perceived trustworthiness
  • The concept of ‘know, like and trust’

Article #5: Airbnb Teams with Hearst on Magazine Guided by Travel Site’s Data

  • Airbnb provided access to data
  • Articles based on those stats
  • Travel magazine published twice a year (launch in May)
  • 350,000 copies at $4

Article #6: Airbnb Acquired its React Native Partner Deco Software, Deco IDE Goes Open Source

  • ‘Acquihire’ brings five employees to Airbnb
  • Experience in building native mobile apps
  • Airbnb’s 14th acquisition

Resources Mentioned

Article #1: forbes.com/sites/briansolomon/2017/05/05/airbnb-and-hotels-need-each-other-they-just-dont-know-it-yet/#2b4c49933e46

Article #2: thestar.com/news/city_hall/2017/05/05/beaches-treehouse-a-hit-on-airbnbfor-rent-temporarily-a-charming-treehouse-bunkie.html

Article #3: wsj.com/articles/battle-over-airbnb-legislation-heats-up-in-albany-1493936838?tesla=y&mg=id-wsj

Article #4: observer.com/2017/03/tips-how-to-make-best-airbnb-listing/

Article #5: wsj.com/articles/airbnb-teams-with-hearst-on-magazine-guided-by-travel-sites-data-1493892000

Article #6: techcrunch.com/2017/05/02/airbnb-has-acquired-partner-deco-software-deco-ide-is/

Connect with Jasper

Email: jasper@getpaidforyourpad.com

Twitter: @GetPaidForUrPad

Instagram: @GetPaidForYourPad 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/getpaidforyourpad

This episode is sponsored by Aviva IQ. Aviva IQ automates messages to your Airbnb guests. It's also free!

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Complete Transcript for Get Paid for Your Pad Episode 152

Welcome to Get Paid For Your Pad, the 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.

Jasper: Before learning about Aviva IQ, I used to spend so much time managing my guest communications manually. Now, with Aviva IQ’s easy-to-use automated service, my workload has reduced by 80%. Did I mention it’s free? Automate your Airbnb messages now at www.avivaiq.com.

Welcome, everybody—another episode of Get Paid For Your Pad. Today, I’m here with Glenn Carter at Hostfully. Glenn, how’s it going?

Glenn: It’s going great Jasper. I guess I should say, happy Victory Day to you.

Jasper: Haha, yes, well uh it’s pretty interesting. I took a train last night from Moscow to St. Petersburg and today is May 9th, the day we’re recording this episode and in 1945 on May 9th was when the Russian army kind of defeated the German army, kind of in collaboration, with the Allies of course. But I think May 9th is the official day that the Russians celebrate their victory over Germany. And it’s a very big deal here. It’s a very big deal. So there’s a huge parade going on in the city and I think every major city in Russia where they’re driving all of the different army equipment. They’re driving it through town. I just had a walk through St. Petersburg and there’s thousands and thousands of people in the streets carrying Russian flags. And a lot of people are holding up pictures of their family members, like their grandfathers usually, who actually fought against the Germans in the second World War. It’s very impressive. There’s a ton of army personnel marching through the streets as well. And you can really tell that it’s a big thing here. People really take a lot of pride in the victory even though it’s how long ago—it’s like 70, 75 years ago. It’s still a pretty big event here. So it’s really cool to observe that as an outsider.

Glenn: Yeah, sounds like an amazing experience. I’ve never been to St. Petersburg but we’ll try to keep this short so you can get back to the celebrations.

Jasper: Haha, yeah it’s actually quite interesting. I’ve always been interested in the second World War and, you know, I’ve never seen all this type of army equipment. Some of the stuff that I’ve seen, I have no idea what it is. They’ve also been flying around with helicopters and all sorts of planes, so it’s pretty cool. What about you? How’s life in Canada?

Glenn: It’s good. I was mentioning before we have a bit of flooding here in Canada. It’s pretty bad for some areas, between Ottawa and Montreal. There’s a lot of people losing their homes unfortunately, but they’re saying there’s people working 24/7 to try and stop the flooding from the river. They’re saying today is going to be the highest point of the water so at least there’s a better reprieve for folks who have been suffering.

Jasper: Okay, well I hope everybody will be okay in the end. There’s an interesting article in Forbes. I wasn’t able to open this article. I don’t know if it’s blocked here in Russia or what the problem is, so I haven’t been able to read it, so I’ll leave it up to you to let the listeners know what it’s about.

Glenn: Yeah, sure, no problem. So this is a Forbes article by staff writer, Bryan Solomon, and he cracked an opinion piece about acknowledging the ongoing animosity between, you know, the home-sharing and hotel industry, highlighted by recent news. You know, we spoke about it last time. Hotel lobbyists tend to discredit at times home-sharing. You know, it’s interesting watching this whole thing happen. We’ve talked about it before. It hasn’t gotten quite as bad as sort of the Uber and taxi battle, but it is heating up. But, you know, in a refreshing take on the home-sharing matter, Bryan talks about where the hotel industry relies on consistency of service, rather than uniqueness of experience, which, you know, is Airbnb’s forte and that hotels need to take a page from Airbnb’s playbook in this sense and attempt to diversify and similarly, talks about how Airbnb needs to focus on what he calls the professionalizing of guest experience, which the hotel industry is very good at. You know, he reaches an interesting point that, you know, both industries may need each other and that a lot can be gained from a partnership of sorts.

Jasper: Yeah, I think that’s true. That’s definitely true. I think that, you know, when I started Airbnb, I didn’t realize that I was getting really into the hospitality business and if you think about people who manage hotels, they often have quite an extensive education. I know there’s hotel schools where you can get degrees of like 3 or 4 years so there’s lots to learn about how to do hospitality and I think a lot of people might not realize that when they might start listing a place or a room on Airbnb, that actually, there’s actually a lot to learn and it takes a while to really understand, like how to provide an experience, the best experience for your guest. So I think that makes a little sense. You know, the other way around for sure, as well, right, I think that hotels can definitely learn a lot from Airbnb as well. So I think it makes sense.

Glenn: Yeah, and as an Airbnb host, it’s very difficult to, I mean there’s a lot you can do before you can host your first guest, but it’s really doing it and getting your hands dirty and trial by fire I guess where you really learn your valuable lessons. I totally agree with that jasper. On the hotel side, we’re starting to see a lot of platforms come out that are sort of hybrid models between the hotel and home-sharing, where services will partner with hotels to offer hotel services to sort of Airbnb-type homes where they’ll send cleaners and they’ll have concierge service, all that type of stuff. It’s interesting that Solomon talks about this and we’re already starting to see some movement towards that with these sort of hybrid platforms that are trying to bridge these two industries.

Jasper:  Another interesting article is about a person who put a tree house on an Airbnb and I believe this was in Canada, right?

Glenn: Yeah, it was in Toronto.

Jasper: It’s in Toronto. That’s where you are isn’t it?

Glenn: No, it’s about six hours away?

Jasper: Haha, well, in Canada, six hours, that’s pretty close, right?

Glenn: Yeah, exactly.

Jasper: Haha, but uh, I think it’s, the interesting thing about this is that with all of the regulations that have been popping up everywhere in the big cities, where you’re not allowed to rent out your entire place, often for less than 30 days, you’re allowed to rent out a room, but you’re still allowed to rent out an excluded unit, as long as you live on the property and as long as it’s less than 40% of the entire space. It differs from city to city. Now that there’s all of these regulations, you can imagine that people are starting to get creative and starting to think outside of the box, to find ways that people can take advantage of these hone-sharing platforms without breaching the rules. You know, putting a tree house in your garden could be aw ay to do this.

Glenn: Yeah, I think it’s a bit of a fun article, just by way of background, that this couple put up their kid’s tree house that they converted to this little, very small studio apartment, and they put it up on Airbnb and actually, they’ve have 32 reviews of people using it, very positive reviews. Someone even proposed there when you read the reviews. And it’s got its own outhouse. But the city caught onto it, it’s no longer listed. The hosts are saying they’re trying to work with city officials to make sure it does meet municipal guidelines. But yeah, this gets into the whole larger debate of home-sharing regulations and what technically is a home-sharing unit, what can you rent out, is it a commercial residence, is it a home-sharing residence? Yeah, it’s a pretty fun article about someone converting their kid’s old tree house. The thing I like the most about it is that it doesn’t try to hide the fact that it’s a tree house. It warns against large body types and being able to climb upstairs. It says it’s located on the second floor of a tree. I found it pretty funny.

Jasper: This raises the question, like what are the type of accommodations you can come up with? I see that the article mentions there’s 11 boat rentals in the Toronto harbour, ranging from $125 to about $1000 dollars a night. I know in Amsterdam, in Holland, a lot of people rent out boats, and I interviewed a comedian a while ago who stayed in a van somewhere in a ski resort. You know, you can think of all sorts of different types of accommodation, like in your garden, you can even put up a tent or put up a little house or something.

Glenn: Yeah, exactly. There’s no shortage of creative solutions for people looking to make some supplemental income. I’ve seen Westfalia vans being rented out. There’s actually, I don’t remember the sites name. But there’s specific sites for camping. You can rent out property for camping. This just expands people’s ability to find reliable accommodations and places to stay. I think, yes, there are some maybe regulatory issues, maybe some building code issues with a tree house maybe. I don’t know, I’m not an engineer. But yeah, we can get past those. They seem like distractions. I think people are willing to rent these places out and it’s time to get with the times.

Jasper: Yeah, it’d be interesting to se in the future what people will come up with and also to see if there are actually ways to get around the regulation or if new regulation will start popping up.

Glenn: Yeah, well, I’m hoping up the ladder, that regulatory decision makers start to get on board and we’re seeing that across North America and Europe, that municipalities are starting to partner with Airbnb to discuss the best way forward. You know, San Francisco, you spoke about it in your last podcast with David there. It’s positive to move forward, and your home city of Amsterdam as well. I think, in the long term, it will be regulations getting on board with new forms of economic exchange.

Jasper:  Right, yeah, in Amsterdam, we now have reporting, mandatory reporting starting on October 1st where every Airbnb host has to report to the city what they’re renting out and I think they even have to report how many people they’re hosting and how many days, etc. It’s definitely getting a little stricter there. Talk about regulations, there’s also some positive news from New York City. There’s an article originally from the Wall Street Journal, about new legislation that actually boost the Airbnb rentals in New York potentially.

Glenn: Yeah, I saw this, I think. Was it the 30-day limit that they’re talking about there?

Jasper: Yeah, so the bill could potentially create more Airbnb rentals because the bill seeks to legalize rentals under 30 days when the host is away. So now, I think you’re going to be allowed to do short-term, if you’re hosting, if it’s less than 40% of the unit, I believe. If you have a house that doesn’t have any shared spaces, if you just have a separate house, it’s a bit more flexible still. Now, this bill seeks to legalize rentals under 30 days when the host is away, as long as the host registers with the state, and only rents one apartment as a time. You know, there’s still a lot of people who are opposed to this, and they say it threatens the future of affordable housing in the city. But that doesn’t really make sense to me. Who could be opposed to somebody renting out their house if they’re on holiday for like a week or two? That’s using space in a more efficient way. That’s not really taking houses off the residential market, for example. I can understand that some people are saying, you don’t want landlords to take apartments off the market to rent them out on Airbnb full-time, but someone who is just about for a couple of weeks on holiday. It’s kind of difficult to see how anybody could be against that. But then, obviously, there’s the anti-Airbnb group called, Share Better, that’s, they’re basically against anything that’s Airbnb related.

Glenn: Yeah, well I mean, yeah, it’s obvious where they’re loyalties lie. You know, Jasper, I couldn’t agree more with the whole primary residence and I think Airbnb sees this as well, that these bills are sort of compromises, and basically authorities in New York and Seattle and San Francisco are doing what they’re trying to do everywhere. They’re trying to draw this distinction between Airbnb hosts and commercial operators and landlords and I think that’s a perfectly fair distinction and I think that’s something that the home-sharing nay-sayers tend to forget. They lump everyone into the same category and they forget that the vast majority of people on the Airbnb platform are, it’s their primary residence, and they’re doing it for some supplemental income. These aren’t people who are making millions of dollars. These cities, and I agree with them, they don’t want real estate investors choosing short-term over long-term renters, which in theory would exacerbate housing shortages and I don’t think anyone would disagree with that so the balance with home-sharing legislation everywhere is between people’s ability to earn supplemental income from an asset they already own, peoples’ safety, and housing shortage concerns. And I think this bill in New York and elsewhere is trying to draw the line between those two ends of debate.

Jasper: Hosts, if you’re anything like me, you have multiple standard messages you send to every guest. I used to copy/paste those messages every time I had a new guest, but then I learned about Aviva IQ, and I’m an absolute fan. I copied my repeatable messages into Aviva IQ, and told it when I want each message to be delivered. Now, all my guests get personalized check-in messages and personalized check-out messages at the exact time I want them to, automatically. I also use Aviva IQ to send a message to guests when a vacancy exists after their scheduled check-out day  and invite them to stay longer. It’s amazing how it’s turned into free money for me on multiple occasions already. So, sign up for free at www.avivaiq.com. You’ll be glad you did.

Jasper: Well, let’s leave the regulations for what it is now and focus on something that’s a little bit more inspiring. I found an article on the Observer and it actually didn’t come out this week. It came out a month ago or two months ago and I don’t think we talked about it, so I wanted to mention it now. It talks about a study that was done by researchers from Cornell and Stafford and their goal was to discover how Airbnb profiles influence the decision of the guest to stay with a host or not. And so they’ve analyzed 1200 profiles and they basically, they concluded that trustworthiness is a very significant predictor of host choice and there’s a number of things you can do to communicate or create trust with your potential guest, by making some changes to your profile. And so, the summary of the results of the study is basically three things. First of all, their researchers concluded that the length of your profile is correlated to the trustworthiness. If you have a longer profile, you’re more likely to get booked. And also, they looked at the language. For example, they were saying that providing a greeting and reasons for hosting individually proved to be an important strategy with a strong positive effect on perceptions of trustworthiness. So just a simple, we look forward to hosting you, on your profile, according to these researchers, could actually make a difference. And then the third conclusion was about personal details. They said the more background you give, the better. I quote, “As topic count increases, the trustworthy scores also increased,” the paper reads. And so, listing important personal details about your origin, your residence, school, work, interests—apparently these things also really help to create some trust with your potential guest and therefore increase the chance that you get booked. I found this kind of interesting because I’ve always thought about the profile as not really a very important part of your listing, because I think a lot of guests probably look at the pictures and the reviews, but I’m sure it plays a part in the decision-making process. But it was interesting to see that there’s some science that backs the idea that the profile is important and does help to get you more bookings.

Glenn: Yeah, I hadn’t seen this, but just listening to you speak now, I’m glad there’s some science behind what people who operate in this industry, this service expected. In terms of length, I agree, longer is better. The more you share, the more people feel like they know you. I think the key here too, and I don’t think it was mentioned, you know, it’s got to be well written as well. Just because you have a longer description doesn’t mean it’s better. It’s got to be well written. The language being conversational, you know and making people like you, like you mentioned with those types of comments. It’s the know, like, and trust factor. If they feel like they know and they like you, they know they can trust you. The personal details—the more you share, the more you’ll get in return. So, I think yeah, absolutely, this is great. I wonder if Airbnb is taking note of these kind of studies.

Jasper:  The last thing I wanted to touch on is, originally, I think it’s also an article in the Wall Street Journal. That’s where I saw it anyway, that Airbnb has teamed up with Hearst, I don’t know; am I pronouncing that right?

Glenn: Uh, the magazine?

Jasper:  Yeah.

Glenn: Yeah, I think so.

Jasper:  Yeah, so they’re launching a magazine that’s going to come out two times a year, I believe. What are your thoughts on that?

Glenn: Um, I think it’s interesting. It’s a joint venture between Hearst Magazines and Airbnb. They’re set to launch, I think the end of this month. They’re going to be circulating 350,000 copies. It’s going to cost 4 bucks. And the second issue I think is slated for some time in September. I think this is an experiment and if advertisers like what they see, and the circulation is good, they might come out with a more robust schedule for the following year. But, the interesting thing about this magazine is that the editors have access to all of Airbnb’s data. They gain valuable insight on the hot spots and what people want to read about. They don’t have to guess and go out there and conduct surveys. They have that treasure trove of data right there in front of them. It’ll be interesting to see what happens, given that overall print advertising and newsstand circulation is on the decline. It’ll be really interesting to see how this plays out.

Jasper:  Yeah, I’m definitely going to buy it. It’s being launched on May 23rd and then there’s going to be another issue somewhere in the fall. So this will be interesting. It also mentioned there’s going to be 45 pages of advertising in the magazine. It sounds like quite a lot to me, but yeah, it’ll be interesting to see what they come up with.

Glenn: Well they’ve got to fund the project somehow I guess.

Jasper:  Yeah, exactly, well if you’re paying four bucks for it.

Glenn: Yeah, true.

Jasper:  Is there anything else that you’ve seen that’s worth discussing?

Glenn: No, Jasper, I think we’ve pretty much covered it all for the week. What do you think?

Jasper:  Well, there’s another article that talks about another acquisition that Airbnb did. It acquired a react native partner. I really don’t know what that means, but the company’s called Deco Software, and it’s an equa-hire so they’re basically just hiring the employees and I think the company’s Deco software is actually going to seize operations and their product is going to go open source. I’m not sure exactly what it does but it’s something to do with the design and the native mobile apps for IOS and Android, and sort of, to make it more easy. I don’t know exactly what it does, but I hope it does something good.

Glenn: Well, you’ve got two very non-techy people trying to talk about tech stuff. Yeah, I don’t know exactly what they do, but fro my understanding, they have an integrated development environment where they work closely with Airbnb developers already so I think this is sort of just an extension of that partnership. They didn’t disclose the amount or anything like that but what is interesting is that this is Airbnb’s 14tth acquisition. They’re on the path to bringing on different teams that they feel are going to help boost them pre-IPO.

Jasper:  Absolutely. All right, well Glenn, thanks for joining me today in hosting this podcast. I look forward to speaking to you again in a few weeks.

Glenn: Yeah, sounds good, Jasper, and enjoy the victory celebrations.

Jasper:  Yeah, I’m definitely going to go out and see if I can find some more T-44 tanks or something.

Glenn: Haha, alright.

Jasper:  For everybody listening, thanks for listening. And next week, we’ll be back with another news episode and of course, on Monday, there will be also an episode. Hope to see you then. Bye bye.