Friends, foes and IPOs dominated Airbnb news this week. The company’s agreement with the city of Barcelona made headlines, as did its response to the New York hotel industry’s vicious attack ad with a powerful commercial of its own. Is Airbnb getting its proverbial ducks in a row in preparation for an IPO?
Hostfully President and Co-Founder David Jacoby joins Jasper to talk through the comprehensive overview of Airbnb that hit the pages of Skift this week, exploring the company’s development and how its preparation to go public is likely affecting leadership’s decisions. They also address the details of the reconciliation with Barcelona and the ongoing rift with the hotel lobby, as well as a recently published Airbnb price comparison map of Europe. Spoiler alert: Macedonia may become a new vacation hotspot for travelers on a budget!
David and Jasper close with the popular Q&A portion of the show, speaking to your concerns about the Airbnb Extenuating Circumstances Policy, a possible glitch in the new tool that links calendars for hosts with multiple listings, and listing on multiple platforms. Listen in for property management software recommendations and advice around contacting Airbnb right away when unusual circumstances arise.
Q1: A guest who had reserved my apartment for a month contacted me to say he wasn’t coming because his wife had passed away; however, he didn’t cancel his reservation. As a result, my calendar was blocked, and I was unable to book any other guests during that time. Now Airbnb has informed me that they are deducting the full amount I received from the guest per the Extenuating Circumstances Policy. I am sympathetic to the guest’s situation, but Airbnb is an important source of income for me. Now I am having trouble contacting Airbnb. What should I do?
Q2: I have three listings on Airbnb, and I make use of the option to link the calendars to avoid double bookings. Somehow a guest was able to override the block, and now I am in the difficult position of having to cancel a booking. Help!
Q3: I am interested in listing on multiple platforms. What other websites can I use to advertise my property? I am based in the UK.
Email: [email protected]
This episode is sponsored by Aviva IQ. Aviva IQ automates messages to your Airbnb guests. It’s also free!
Complete Transcript for Get Paid for Your Pad Episode 178
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.
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Jasper: Welcome everyone to another news episode of Get Paid for Your Pad. Today I’m hosting with the president and co-founder of Hostfully. David how’s it going?
David Jacoby: It’s going great Jasper, how’s it going?
Jasper: I’m doing very well. Are you in New York?
David: I am in New York, The city that never sleeps and I actually have a funny story about where I’m staying.
Jasper: Let’s hear it.
David: I’m staying at a friend’s, who usually does Airbnb when he travels, and while he was traveling, he got an email from the super saying the Airbnb guests had a problem getting in, and they asked to find another accommodation. My buddy responds saying, actually, they’re friends of mine, they’re not using Airbnb. And the super replies, usually people apologize in this situation, they don’t provide an additional lie, I have clear documentation from these guests, you’re going to be fined $1,000 a day and your lease is going to be broken. So, that was a tough situation for my friend, but now his place is available so I’m staying here for the week.
Jasper: We have an expression in Holland that goes “for one person is death another person is life.”
David: I feel bad for my friend, but I hope it works out for him.
Jasper: I don’t know if you remember, I was in New York a couple weeks ago and the host tried to charge a $300 cleaning fee, which was a little outrageous. My friend offered to do $50 just saying that it was very messy, I didn’t figure it was that bad. He didn’t like the offer. He sent some voicemails to my friend telling him that he’s a pig. It’s funny to listen to the voicemail, maybe I’ll play it next time. I’ve never had that experience before, so that was interesting.
David: Was the cleaning fee listed on their site in the first place?
Jasper: No, there was no cleaning fee.
David: Oh, man. That’s not good.
Jasper: Yeah, it’s not particularly cheap. We were paying almost $300 a night, so the total fee was about $4,000. You would expect you wouldn’t have to pay another couple hundred for cleaning.
David: You should not be nickel and diming for a couple hundred bucks more when you just made $4,000
Jasper: yeah, that’s what I thought, too. All right, well let’s dive into the news. There’s not really that much that came out, there are two things that are interesting. The most interesting story I found is actually an article that shows a map of Europe with all the different prices of Airbnbs. You can see which countries are cheap to stay and which are more expensive ones. That’s useful, especially Americans, and they want to see where it’s affordable to stay at an Airbnb. Let’s quickly go through some of these countries. Scandinavia, Iceland actually tops the list, which kind of surprises me since the financial crisis in 2008, the currency in Iceland has gone down a lot. For a while, Iceland was fairly affordable, but I guess that has changed. It tops the list of most expensive Airbnb places at 112 pounds, the prices are listed in pounds. The other expensive countries are the countries in Scandinavia. Denmark.Scotland. Ireland. The more expensive ones. Then there’s a whole long list of in the middle countries, but let’s not forget the most affordable countries: There’s Macedonia, Albania, Moldova, Serbia, Poland, Kazakhstan, Belarus. These countries are all around the $40 – $50 mark. If you want to go to Europe, you want to stay at an Airbnb and not spend too much money. Check out those countries. I think they’re really beautiful countries. If you want something a little more well known, maybe Croatia. It’s pretty affordable, around $60 or so. What are your thoughts, David? Have you been to any of these countries?
David: I have. I’ve been to maybe 10 or so. It’s not surprising. Iceland, I thought to always be on the more expensive side, I’m not surprised by that. What’s also interesting, it shows the average price for 2-6 guests. There are some outliers for 6 guests. There’s some places like Nice for example. That’s the most expensive for a place with 6 guests, but about 4th or 5th for 2 guests. Maybe they don’t have big houses, they’d cost a lot more money. Same with Switzerland, it seems to be a little more of the middle road on price, on the higher end, actually.
Jasper: Absolutely. I noticed that NAME? seems to be very cheap and Lichtenstein as well, these are very small countries, but seem to be cheap for the larger house for six guests.
David: Especially compared to the price for 2 guests.
Jasper: Definitely. It’s an interesting article for sure. If you’re planning to go to Europe, check this out. It’s an article on the Daily Mail. Moving on to other news items, last week we talked about the ad that New York hotel industry has put out saying that Airbnb is dangerous and you don’t know who is staying at your place, so Airbnb responded. They put ½ million dollars to broadcast an ad, they used a stay-at-home dad with three children who uses Airbnb to supplement income. That’s Airbnb’s response to the over-the-top ad. What do you think, David?
David: Yeah, you guys talked about that last week, I definitely think it was over-the-top to relate Airbnb to terrorism because the guy happened to be staying at an Airbnb and not a hotel, that was a little much. They really played up the fear. It’s unfortunate, in political commercials in the United States, so to see Airbnb respond this way. You see a lot of that in San Francisco and in New York where all the political issues are happening in short-term rentals. They need to be able to stay in the cities they love. It was a very well-done commercial.
Jasper: There’s an article in Skiffed, it’s a very long article. It’s cool because both you and me are mentioned in the article.
David: Yes, it was a very impressive article by Deanna Ting who we had on our show earlier in the year. She knows all things about Airbnb. Let’s put it in the show notes. It really is everything you could possibly need to know. It’s not a new piece of news about the latest thing that happened in New York or a regulatory issue, it’s really all issues that Airbnb is facing and dealing with as they’re looking to go public. Talking about Airbnb employees and their expansion into experiences, and wanting to become a super brand. For people who are new to Airbnb and short-term rentals and are looking to get an overview, this is really the best article I’ve seen in years, probably.
Jasper: It’s a very long article. I actually met with Deanna Ting when I was in New York. It was very fun interview with her. It’s definitely a great article. Still unsure on the IPO and when it’s going to come. Let’s go back to Europe. Barcelona is one of those cities where the Airbnb and local authority conflicts have heated up. They have finally reached a deal. Airbnb is now going to remove listings of hosts who don’t have a permit to host tourists. So, a while ago Barcelona decided that Airbnb listings have to have a permit but Airbnb didn’t enforce it. So, it causes a big issue for the local authorities. They send people out to find these places, but that takes a lot of manpower and it’s not efficient. It’s much more efficient when Airbnb cooperates. Now, Airbnb has decided to cooperate. Probably because of the IPO. The investors won’t like it. Resolving the issues city by city, it’s an interesting move. It might reduce Airbnb’s in Barcelona. Barcelona in general banned the opening of new hotels in the city center. The amount of tourists they see in Barcelona, it’s really trying to curb the visitor numbers a little bit as a response to the complaints they’ve been getting from the local residents.
David: There’s a lot there to digest. And Barcelona is not like a bunch of other cities where they want to invite tourists and have a lot of tourism. They’re dealing with affordable housings issues. Barcelona has too many tourists and that’s their biggest issue. Maybe the only city that’s saying they don’t want tourists. What happened in Barcelona is similar to what happened in San Francisco where Airbnb agree to remove all listings that aren’t registered. It’s playing out differently because that’s not the case in New York. People are still listing without being registered and they’re getting fined and getting in trouble but Airbnb itself isn’t getting in trouble. It said like a year ago “we have your back and you should be able to host,” but then they kind of made an agreement with New York and said as long as we’re not in trouble then people can list on our site. Now the individual host is getting in trouble. So, New York is different. I’m curious how Barcelona will crack down on other sites, like Craigslist. We’ll see how that plays out. Another thing that is good for Airbnb is they’re the ones striking the deals with these cities and they kind of include integration between Airbnb and the city to help people register and will send info to the city. That takes time and energy and if they set that up, it’s going to be harder for a competitor to come along and play by those rules. They’re leading the charge against their competitors.
Jasper: It’s a very good point, David. Did you see any news that you wanted to discuss? I think we hit the big ones, we’ve seen some more crack-down in New York, a guy actually lost his lease. The host got in trouble. Nothing too big to report.
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David: Let’s go to some questions.
Jasper: Let’s do questions. Question time. The first question is by Edgar, he’s actually a good friend of mine. He’s hosting in Colombia, not far from where I built my apartment, hopefully I’ll be up and running in a few months. He rents his apartment for a full month in Airbnb and the day the guest was supposed to check-in, he received a message saying the guest’s wife had passed away and he wouldn’t be coming. It was unfortunate for the guest. The guest did not cancel the booking at the time, so Edgar just waited it out, so at the same time, he couldn’t take any new bookings for Airbnb, so the calendar was blocked, and he didn’t want to cancel because he was afraid of getting some penalties. Now, afterward, a month had passed, he received an email from Airbnb saying that he had some extenuating circumstances from Airbnb and they’d be deducting the full amount received from the guest. He tried to call Airbnb and he couldn’t get through to the person managing the case. He sent an email, he said he was very understanding of the guest’s situation, but at the same time, he needed his apartment to support his life. I lost out on an entire month of income, he said. I think the obvious thing to do is you’ve got to contact Airbnb as soon as possible. Don’t wait. Do it immediately. I think Airbnb would either unblock the dates or refund you for the amount. It’s important to contact Airbnb as soon as possible. I sometimes get questions from people looking for the right number to call. Do you sometimes have problems with that?
David: So, two things. You can just google Airbnb customer service and the number will come up. Google at your hand it’s pretty easy. With regards to the situation you mentioned, the best thing to do is call immediately, they’d cancel you and you wouldn’t get in trouble and you could rent it out. In most cases, the reservation was canceled the day before, they were able to usurp the cancellation policy. In this case, they didn’t cancel the reservation and then they said there was an extenuating circumstance. That’s a little tough for the host. Usually you need to cancel beforehand if you want to make an exception to the cancelation policy.
Jasper: I just googled the Airbnb customer service, it’s 855-424-7262 in the US. That number works in the US. If you google Airbnb contact numbers, you’ll find a different article where all the numbers are stated per country. There’s a number of other questions in the Get Paid for Your Pad Facebook group. Lets’ go through them. There’s one that relates to Instant Book. It seems there’s still some confusion around instant book for people with multiple listings. The lady who asked the question, her name is Becky, she has three rooms, she has separate listings. There is an option to link a calendar. Apparently, this didn’t function for her, it allowed the guest to override the block, it made the reservation even though it was blocked out. She’s saying she can’t cancel, she’s a super host. Airbnb is always changing options for functionality and they change everything all the time, it’s not uncommon there’s some glitch in the system. There’s a setting to prevent these problems.
David: If I could add to that, if a person tried jimmy-rigging on their own and they made a mistake, that’s one issue. But if they use this feature from Airbnb, it should work. It is a fairly new feature, so it could be a bug. Where that is specifically, as your editing your listing, it’s under the availability tab. Go there, and scroll down to the bottom and it says Linked Airbnb calendars. Follow the steps there, combine two or more listings.
Jasper: That is very useful. A few other questions. There’s a question about multiple platforms. Mary is asking what other websites she can use. Well, Mary – there are a lot. There’s HomeAway, there’s Nine Flats, there’s Windu, I’m sure there are local websites. My advice is go on the different platforms and see which are the most active in your area. Maybe start with the one that gets the most traffic. If that’s not enough, use some of the others as well. If you’re in a smaller market, then it might be best to start out with multiple platforms.
David: Some of the popular, VRBO and HomeAway. In Europe, Booking.com is popular. They take a pretty big cut. They have a pretty lenient cancellation policy for the guest, where they can cancel up to the last minute with no big penalty. There’s also other websites if you’re looking to list on multiple sites like, a property management software. Companies like Logify and Future stay and Booking Sync. If you’re really looking to be independent and be on many sites, look into those software.
Jasper: Awesome, well that concludes this week’s news episode. It’s been a pleasure as always. Thank you for listening. We’ll be back next week with another news episode.