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EP162: This Week in the World of Airbnb

Welcome! Making people feel comfortable and accepted is a focus of Airbnb, and one of the initiatives aligned with this goal is the Open Homes platform. In an announcement this week, the company revealed its intention to house 100,000 refugees in the next five years – 35,000 in Greece alone.

Jasper welcomes Glenn Carter, Director of Marketing at Hostfully, to discuss the Open Homes announcement as well as Airbnb’s rollout of a new in-app tool for check-in. They also cover several stories of governments welcoming the economic boost Airbnb provides, while setting parameters regarding its use. Recent headlines include the legalization of Airbnb in Japan, very positive data out of Michigan, and new rules around short-term rentals in Toronto.

A new startup called Misterb&b specifically welcomes LBGTQ guests, and our co-hosts debate the pros and cons of niche players fragmenting the market. Jasper and Glenn wrap up with a new Q&A segment that welcomes questions from Airbnb hosts. Listen in to learn how you might convince hesitant family members to list on Airbnb, and how establishing a three-night minimum stay might affect your ranking in search results. Email your questions to jasper@getpaidforyourpad.com!

Topics Covered

Article #1: Introducing a New Way to Check In

  • Airbnb adding check-in instructions tool
  • Hosts opt-in to provide clear, visual, in-app guides re: arrival
  • Provide info once, all guests have access

Article #2: Toronto Proposes New Rules for Short-Term Rentals, Including Airbnb Properties

  • Must rent out primary residence
  • Crack down on commercial operators
  • Good to clarify legal grey area

Article #3: Airbnb Gets the Legal Green Light in Japan

  • Registered hosts allowed to rent up to 180 days/year
  • Most popular market in Asia-Pacific region
  • Boosted economy by $8.3B in 2016
  • Hosting 2019 World Rugby Cup and 2020 Olympics

Article #4: Misterb&b Raises $8.5 Million to Build the Airbnb for the LGBTQ Community

  • French startup with 100,000 hosts in 135 countries
  • Argues that there is room for niche players
  • If market too fragmented, could get messy

Article #5: This is How Airbnb Will House 100,000 Refugees in the Next Five Years

  • Open Homes platform connects volunteers with refugee support organizations
  • Vacation rental hosts specify cause, how often
  • Airbnb in good position to help (3.5 million listings)
  • 6,000 active volunteers so far, half not existing Airbnb listings

Article #6: Airbnb to Help Host 35,000 Refugees in Houses Across Greece

  • Working to find housing for asylum seekers
  • Run in conjunction with Solidarity Now

Article #7: Home-Sharing Stimulates Michigan Economy

  • Earned $25M through Airbnb in 2016
  • Brought 188,000 visitors to state

Q1: How do I overcome family resistance to list on Airbnb?

  • Familiarize family by staying in Airbnb as guests
  • Encourage through podcast episodes of hesitant hosts who’ve had positive experiences
  • Reassure of accountability measures via virtual tour of site (insurance, ratings)
  • Demonstrate income potential with analytics tool like AirDNA

Q2: I want to establish a three-night minimum stay for my listing. Will I be penalized in search results?

  • Airbnb doesn’t directly ‘punish’ hosts who establish such parameters
  • Will result in fewer bookings/reviews, which does impact position in search results
  • Best to start out with no minimum and earn crucial early reviews
  • Once build reputation, then consider establishing two- or three-night minimum

Resources Mentioned

Article #1:press.atairbnb.com/introducing-a-new-way-to-check-in

Article #2: bnn.ca/toronto-proposes-new-rules-for-short-term-rentals-including-airbnb-properties-1.776725

Article #3: fortune.com/2017/06/09/airbnb-legal-in-japan/?xid=gn_editorspicks

Article #4: techcrunch.com/2017/06/07/misterbb-raises-85-million-to-build-the-airbnb-for-the-lgbtq-community/

Article #5: fastcompany.com/40428556/this-is-how-airbnb-will-house-100000-refugees-in-the-next-five-years

Open Homes

Article #6: ekathimerini.com/219132/article/ekathimerini/news/airbnb-to-help-host-35000-refugees-in-houses-across-greece

Article #7: detroitnews.com/story/opinion/2017/06/11/sandefur-home-sharing-michigan/102756528


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Complete Transcript for Get Paid for Your Pad Episode 162

Jasper: 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.

AD: I’ve begun using a really cool service from Aviva IQ and it’s made my life so much easier. My guests love receiving all the important details about their stay exactly when they need it. And I love all the five star reviews I’m getting on communication. Check them out at www.AvivaIQ.com

Jasper: Welcome to another episode of Get Paid for Your Pad. Today I am hosting this episode with my good friend, Glenn Carter, who is the director of marketing of Hostfully. Glenn, how is it going?

Glenn: It’s going great Jasper, how’s it going? Are you still In Taipei?

Jasper: I am still in Taipei. It’s been a fun time, although it’s been raining a lot. But that’s okay. How are you doing?

Glenn: I’m good, I’m good. It’s finally heating up here in Canada, so I’m in my board shorts and t-shirt, so I’m ready for this podcast.

Jasper: Ready for the summer. Awesome. So, before we get started with the news, I have a small announcement. Because I decided to change it up a little bit. I’m getting a lot of questions from Airbnb hosts, every day I get several emails. I thought it would be cool to split up the news podcasts and have two sections. So, the first section is where we discuss the news and the second section will be where me and my co-host will be answering some of the questions I’ve received during the week. I figured it would be fun to do this because sometimes there’s just not that much news to talk about and I thought it would be interesting. So were going or change this and see how it goes. I expect some feedback from listeners as well to see if they like the new format and we’ll take it from there. But first, we’ll start with the news and the questions will come at the end of the episode. Now there’s actually quite al of news this week, I’d say the most important news is that Airbnb is going to implement a new functionality where hosts can use to provide check in instructions to their guests. So, Airbnb came up with this idea because they started to allow to use pictures in the messages and what they noticed is that a lot of people sent pictures of the door, the lockbox, or anything else that helps the guest understand how they can check in and I think this is especially important when you’re a remote host and there’s no one to welcome the guest at the property. I personally experienced this a couple of times where it’s just not completely clear which house it is exactly, which door I should use, sometimes bigger buildings have multiple entrances. OI think it’s a great move. It’s interesting that there’s lots of startups in the Airbnb space, and Hostfully is one of them, and they’re in the business of providing guide books to guests. And I think that Airbnb is starting to implement some of the ideas that these startups have into their own platform, which kind of makes sense, they already implemented Smart Pricing, but before they started doing that, there were already a bunch of pricing apps that were helping Airbnb hosts with that. What are your thoughts?

Glenn: I think a lot of people are wondering why Airbnb didn’t do this sooner. The check in process, as you know, can be sloppy and is totally dependent on the host and what they have going on that day. Airbnb is looking to make the check in process a lot more seamless and accessible and something that Hostfully has been doing with our guidebook for some time now. I think the time is definitely right for Airbnb to do this. Hosts have to opt-in for this new feature and they can put together a step by step guide on what guests need to know about check in. The only challenge I see is that this might not be suited for hosts who either work with a vacation rental company or those who advertise their listing on multiple platforms – like VRBO, HomeAway — Airbnb has an estimated 100 million professionally managed listings out of their total of about 3 million listings, so that’s a 3 to 1 ratio. So, guest experience consistency is hard when you’re check in experience is limited to those booked only through Airbnb. Hosts can certainly try to mimic the user experience with other tools, or a welcome email if they’re using other platforms, but then they need to keep track of 2 or 3 check in processes. So, it’s a headache for hosts or property managers who have to manage the check in process through Airbnb, Airbnb’s app, and a separate one through HomeAway’s app, or VRBO or an email or all that kind of stuff. I think overall, it’s the right move and its certainly going to simplify the check in process.

Jasper: Right, so Airbnb is rolling tout this new check-in instruction tool across the globe this month, so stay on the lookout for this functionality. They’ll probably start in a few markets and then they will slowly roll it out to other markets as they usually do, you never really know where they’re going to start. It’s always a surprise. There’s also some news from Canada, from Toronto, your homeland. Toronto is proposing some new rules for short term rentals – what are your thoughts on that?

Glenn: Yeah, I think it’s good. Any time we can sort of clarify the legal grey area that the sharing economy more generally tends to operate in, I think that’s a good thing. I think this is happening amidst a backdrop of major cities across the globe working with Airbnb or legislators to try to implement common sense sharing economy legislations, particularly now with home sharing. So, Toronto, like you mentioned, the mayor has proposed new rules for short term rentals, this is not just for Airbnb but for short term rentals in general. The city’s municipal licensing and standards division released a bunch of new proposals today, they’ve been consulting with citizens for months on this. The new rules aren’t in place yet. They have to be voted on by city council still. Essentially, it boils down to if you’re not renting out the place you live in, then you won’t be allowed to rent out. It’s really what other municipalities are tackling – you have to be renting out the house that is your primary residence. It’s going to amend zoning bylaws as well – it’s going to create separate categories for these short-term rentals. Which, is probably an initial step to start taxing them, which isn’t a big surprise. I’m not too sure how it’s going to go with people, with other municipalities, they’re cracking down on these commercial operators. Toronto seems to be towing the same lines that they’re trying to discourage. People turning current long-term rental units into Airbnb or buying condos or properties solely for the purpose of Airbnb, which, I don’t necessarily think is a bad thing, but, yeah, that’s where we’re at in Toronto.

Jasper: Awesome. Well, keep an eye on that. That’s going in the near future. Some good news in Japan. They passed a law that legalized Airbnb and other sharing economy rentals. So that’s good news on the recollection front on Airbnb. It allows home owns to let out their properties to paying guests for up to 180 days per year. Which is quite significant, it’s quite high compared to some other places, like Amsterdam, London, Paris, New York, — the rules are much stricter, Amsterdam is 60 days, I believe London is 90. Pretty good rules in place there in Japan. It’s one of Airbnb top ten markets world-wide with about 5 million people using the service in the past twelve months. It’s good little headwind for Airbnb. Another article that came out on TechCrunch, talks about Mr. Bnb. Have you heard of Mr. Bnb, Glenn?

Glenn: No, I haven’t.

Jasper: Okay, Mr. Bnb is Airbnb for the gay and lesbian community. Is been around for a while, and right now it actually has 100,000 hosts in 135 countries. So, it’s not that small anymore. But its recently raised 8.5 million dollars to build out their platform. The article kind of discuses if there’s a place for little niche players, like Mr. Bnb, platforms that focus on a very specific crowd. The writer of the article argues there might be a place for these platforms as the market obviously is quite huge for short term accommodations. The only challenge is that you don’t want the market to get too fragmented because then there’s not going to be enough demand on each single platform and it’s going to be more challenging for hosts to list on all these different platforms. I think in the end I wouldn’t be survived if some of these niche platforms survived, but I don’t think there can be too many.

Glenn: Yeah, I agree with you. I think too much fragmentation, it’s going to get messy. I think with Mr Bnb, the amount of money they raised is quite substantial. It’s definitely good to see other players entering the field, and I think they have quite a bit of users on their platform like you mentioned, so it’s always good when you see that kind of competition in the market. Yes, HomeAway and VRBO, seeing a couple other niche players is always good to see. Just go back on the Japan thing quickly, I didn’t know, Japan is the most popular market in the Asia pacific region, and this is before the legalization today. Airbnb claims its hosts in that country have boosted the economy by 8 million dollars in 2016 – that’s huge, especially, Japan has had huge economic troubles for decades, with stagnant growth and aging population. So, home sharing is the perfect way for people to bring in some much-needed extra income and bring in more tourist dollars than it already is. I think the decision makers in Japan are very forward thinking and are also considering the Rugby Cup there in a couple years. And also hosting the 2020 Olympics. They’re thinking ahead on that one.

Jasper: Absolutely. Another news item that’s in the news quite a bit, is Airbnb is helping a lot of refugees get accommodations across the world. Now they have their Airbnb Open Homes project, this project aims to connect vacation rental owners with organizations that help refuges to find a temporary place to stay. You can find up for the Open Home Project at AirBnb.com/welcome/refugees. What you can do is you can specify how often you can help refugees, how often you’d like to provide housing and you can specify what cause you’re most passionate about, so then Airbnb can match they type of refugee with the cause you’re most passionate about. With Airbnb having about 3 million listings worldwide, they’re in a really good position to provide help, because a lot of time people aren’t renting out full-time, a lot of time they’re not allowed to rent out full time, so I’m sure there’s a lot of empty space that’s not being used. So, I  think this a great way for hosts to say, you know what, every month, I’m going to take like five days and I’m going to sue those days to help refugees.

Glenn: Yeah, this is a fantastic initiative all around. There’s nothing negative to stay about this. It solves so many logistic issues that are inherent and humanitarian effort. The fact that Airbnb already has this established platform, like you mentioned these 3 million listings, surely there are very charitably focused hosts out there who would be happy to provide that kind of service. I think as of now they have something like 6,000 listings on the Open Homes program, but I expect that to skyrocket after some good publicity. What surprised me about this is that the 6,000 current listings, over half of those are offered by individuals who are not existing Airbnb hosts. So, these are just people who want to offer their place as charitable efforts, aren’t actual Airbnb hosts earning an income on the platform.

Jasper: Right, that’s interesting indeed. Right now, there’s a lot of refugees in Greece – a lot of people fleeing from the middle east, especially Syria, and Airbnb is aiming to help 35,000 refugees in Greece to find a place to stay. These are very significant numbers. It’s a great initiative

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Jasper: All right, let’s move in to – what are we going to do – are we going to answer questions, or is there any other news that we should discuss?

Glenn: No, I think we can – the only other thing I saw that was worth mentioning, there was data out recently about home sharing stimulation the Michigan economy. It mentioned that over 25 million dollars was brought in by platforms like Airbnb in 2016, and about 200,000 visitors. This is nothing new to people like you and I, this is just another one in the pro column in home sharing in boosting tourism in local economies. It’s definitely a hard argument to have now with all this data coming in about stimulating state level economies. That’s something else that’s worth noting.

Jasper: Awesome, thank you for that contribution. Now, let’s dive into listeners questions. I get a lot of emails from listeners, and that’s partly because when you sign up for my newsletter, I send you some information about how to host on Airbnb – some tips and tricks. Then I also send an email that basically asks people what they need help with. So, a lot of people respond to that email and in that section of the podcast were going to answer some of those questions. The first questions we’re going to discuss is a question submitted by NAME?? (16:03), he has actually two questions. He’s asking how to overcome family resistance to embrace an Airbnb commitment. So, this situation is that they have a country house, but he’s not the sole owner, he’s sharing it with his mom and his brother, but they’re not exactly enthusiastic about the idea of sharing it with people over the internet. So, the question is, how do you convince your family to feel comfortable with this. So, here’s what I think, here’s my thoughts, then I’ll let you share your thoughts, Glenn. I think the first thing you can do is make them become familiar with Airbnb, all right, because most people are scared of new things, they’re scared of the unknown. So, one way to do that, is take them on a little trip, rent somebody else’s Airbnb, so they get to experience what Airbnb is like, what Airbnb is about, and I think that will definitely make them feel more comfortable. A lot of people start hosting on Airbnb because they use it on their travels first. I think that’s a good idea. Another thing is, anything you can do to make them feel more comfortable – listen to some podcast episodes, listen to some other stories from people around the world who have also maybe been hesitant to give it a try and who have ended up having great experiences. Share a few podcast episodes with them so they can hear ok, other people are doing this, and its generally a very positive experience. Those are the two things that come to my mind. What are your thoughts, Glenn?

Glenn: I hadn’t thought of the first one there, going on an Airbnb trip, that sounds like a fantastic piece of advice, and hey you get a family trip out of it, so I definitely suggest that. Two quick things: I think being very clear about the accountability mechanisms are built into Airbnb, that’s the insurance side of it and the ratings side of it, so maybe taking your family on virtual tour or Airbnb listings and what the ratings actually mean and how that provides a certain level of comfort to hosts, that if someone wants to rent out your place, and they have 60 five star ratings as a guest, you can be pretty darn sure that hosting a stranger, especially if you’re of a particular generation can be disconcerting, but I  think if you’re clear about what goes on on these platforms, this isn’t just the wild west where some random person you don’t know can rent your place. Another thing I found, on the financial side, showing people the income potential, there are some really good tools out there, Air DNA is one that I use for getting pricing data. You can actually input your city and it will give you analytics about the average income of various property types in that city. You can even get an overview of this is the kind of return we can expect on renting out our place on Airbnb. That tends to push people over the edge, if they see, oh wow, there’s all this extra income we can have. Those would be my thoughts. Jasper?

Jasper: Awesome advice, man. Thank you. Let’s go into the second question. He’s mentioning that he’s planning to have a minimum of three-night stay, and the reason he wants to implement that is because it’s a little bit too much hassle to do shorter stays, stays of 1 or 2 nights, it a lot of hassle with the cleaning and check in, etc. I understand that. I used to have a two-night minimum for this reason. Will this mean that the listing will get penalized in the search results. NAME (still can’t decipher) is worried that if he does put the three-night minimum, he’s going to lose out on a lot of booking, because Airbnb is going to punish his listing and put it lower in the search results. I don’t think that Airbnb directly punishes hosts who use a minimum stay. And what I mean by that is, let’s say someone searches for a place on Airbnb for a stay of 3 days or longer, in that case, SOMAL listing would how up. I don’t think that Airbnb would penalize his listing versus other listings that would also host people for 1 or 2 days. However, what I will say is, in the search results, one important factor, is how many bookings do you get and how many reviews do you get. So, if you don’t host people for one or two days, you’re naturally going to have longer stays, which means fewer bookings and fewer reviews, and you’re obviously also directly missing out on some potential bookings, people who want to stay 1 or 2 nights, you’re obviously missing out on those. So, it means fewer bookings and fewer reviews, and that will have an influence on your position in your search results. So, I think it’s a personal choice, I recommend people who are starting out to definitely start with a 1 day minimum so basically no minimum, because when you’re starting out, tis important to get some momentum going. It’s important to get those first couple bookings and those first couple reviews in, because the difference between the listing with zero reviews and the listing with two positive reviews is huge. People are hesitant to book places without any reviews, so getting those first reviews is essential to the long-term success of your Airbnb business. So, my recommendations to NAME  will be to get over the hassle in the short term, bite the bullet and accept the short stays as well. Once you build your reputation on Airbnb and get up to almost full occupancy, then you can say “okay, you know what, now I’m going to only do two days or longer, or three days or longer” and see how that affects your bookings, then you can choose whether the hassle is wort the extra money, the extra bookings you’ll get. Glenn, what are your thoughts?

Glenn: Just to echo what you said, I couldn’t agree more. Don’t set up artificial barriers to yourself when you’re just getting started, those initial reviews are key to your ongoing success. This person’s specific case though, if they’re trying to convince their family and the family are the ones helping clean, maybe that’s a factor in his decision only doing two or three nights, but remember too, though, you’re collecting a cleaning fee on that one night stay, that one night stay is replacing a zero night stay, so you know what, you got to go in and clean, but you’re getting cleaned for it. I don’t think Airbnb penalizes listings, but if someone puts two days in your location, you’re not going to show up. I would always lean toward doing a one day minimum, just because it’s easier, its more money for you, and it’s going to increase your reviews and ratings and all that good stuff, so I think your advice Jasper was spot on.

Jasper: Awesome, so if people have questions and you want us to discuss your questions then feel free to send an email to jasper@getpaidforyourpad.com or you can also just sign up for your newsletter at getpaidforyourpad.com and you’ll automatically get those emails and you can respond to them. I hope this answer your questions name, this brings us to the end of the episode. Glenn, thank you very much for your input, it’s always a pleasure to be talking to you.

Glenn: Yes, thank you Jasper and enjoy the rest of your time in Taipei.

Jasper: I certainly will and good luck with everything that’s happening at Hostfully. Listeners, thank you for listening, I hope you enjoyed the podcast and we’ll see you next time.