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EP184: This Week in the World of Airbnb

Airbnb has gone Hollywood on us this week, enlisting the help of A-list celebrity Danny Glover to combat racism on the platform as well as marketing several insider Hollywood Airbnb experiences with costume designers and choreographers, among others.

Jasper is joined by Hostfully CEO and Co-Founder Margot Lee Schmorak to discuss these high-profile stories from La La Land and other Airbnb headlines, including the activation of the Disaster Response Program for evacuees of Hurricane Harvey and how competitors HomeAway and TripAdvisor are differentiating themselves from Airbnb—and enjoying continued growth.

Jasper and Margot also cover an article explaining how to handle guests who break the rules, offering their own tips and tricks born from experience. Finally, they address listener confusion around cancelling reservations and declining booking requests. Listen and learn how to set filters for Instant Book and what to do if you don’t feel comfortable with a guest who booked your Airbnb.

Topics Covered

Article #1: How to Handle Airbnb Guests Who Break the Rules

  • Publish house rules (booking indicates acceptance)
  • Provide guests with printed copy, mention as well
  • Request a security deposit (must still file claim with Airbnb)
  • Some hosts ask guests to sign separate agreement
  • Ignore minor infractions
  • Discuss issues with guests first in effort to resolve
  • Use Airbnb resolution tool as last resort
  • Must have evidence (e.g.: photos, admission from guest)
  • Include charge for cleaning fee
  • Safeguard private documents, valuables in safe or locked closet

Article #2: Airbnb Hires Danny Glover to Address Racism Allegations

  • High-profile actor, social justice advocate
  • Will serve as advisor to Airbnb
  • Aim to get more communities of color to list on platform
  • Glover impressed by Airbnb’s commitment (Blog post on Medium)
  • Partnership with NAACP

Article #3: Airbnb Launches Insider Hollywood Experiences with Choreographers, Costume Designers and More

  • Highlights Airbnb Experiences available in Hollywood
  • Shopping tour with Mad Men, Deadwood costume designer
  • Dance instruction with Michael Jackson’s choreographer, Kenny Ortega

Article #4: Airbnb is Helping Hurricane Harvey Evacuees Find Shelter

  • Airbnb is waiving service fees for evacuees
  • Check-ins between 8/23 and 9/1
  • Encouraging homeowners to list for free
  • Approximately 168 free listings in Dallas, Austin and San Antonio

Article #5: How Two Old School Travel Platforms are Beating Airbnb

  • HomeAway reported 50% quarter-over-quarter revenue growth
  • Positioning selves as platform for higher-end vacation rentals, popular tourist destinations
  • TripAdvisor has seen listing numbers increase from 50,000 to 830,000
  • Growth may be attributed to acquisitions
  • All players growing
  • Short-term rental market at $100B currently
  • Projected to reach $285B by 2025

Q: I have concerns about being penalized for canceling reservations. Under what circumstances am I allowed to decline an inquiry? How about an instant booking?

  • No penalties associated with declining an inquiry/booking request
  • Only consequence is fewer reviews, bookings (affects position in search results)
  • Can set filters for Instant Book so only guests who meet requirements can book instantly
  • Standard—profile picture, confirmed email address, phone number and payment info
  • Additional options—government issued ID, host recommendation, all positive reviews
  • Allowed to cancel instant booking three times per year without penalty if uncomfortable with guest
  • To cancel fourth time, must contact Airbnb in advance of cancellation

Resources Mentioned

Article #1: entrepreneur.com/article/290255?lipi=urn%3Ali%3Apage%3Ad_flagship3_company_admin%3BXOhqwSxcRmSLCquDZROeNQ%3D%3D

Article #2: ft.com/content/6aed6948-8811-11e7-bf50-e1c239b45787

Danny Glover’s Blog Post

Innclusive

GPFYP EP101: Racial Discrimination on Airbnb Led Rohan Gilkes to Create Alternative Platform Innclusive

Article #3: hollywoodreporter.com/news/airbnb-launching-hollywood-experiences-michael-jacksons-choreographer-others-1032293

Airbnb Experiences

Article #4: time.com/4915539/airbnb-hurricane-harvey-evacuees-find-shelter

Hurricane Harvey Evacuees

Article #5: www.entrepreneur.com/article/299208

HomeAway

TripAdvisor

Instant Book

Airbnb News Facebook Group

Connect with Jasper

Email: jasper@getpaidforyourpad.com

Twitter: @GetPaidForUrPad

Instagram: @GetPaidForYourPad 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/getpaidforyourpad

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Complete Transcript for Get Paid for Your Pad Episode 184

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 everybody, another episode of Get Paid for Your Pad. Today, I’m co-hosting this episode with Margot Schmorak – did I pronounce it right?

Margot Lee Schmorak: yes, good job!

Jasper: Awesome! And Margot of course is the co-founder and CEO of Hostfully. Margot, how’s it going?

Margot: Great, great. Things are great here in San Francisco. It’s freezing and its summer, but everyone is enjoying the sun.

Jasper: San Francisco must have the weirdest climate in the world.

Margot: It is so strange. Basically, it has the same climate all year, and then the part where it’s really hot in the rest of the country, and the northern hemisphere, it’s freezing here. It’s a strange thing for people who come in the summer. Still pretty, though

Jasper: That’s very different from what I’ve been experiencing here in Las Vegas, it’s been over 100 degrees and so, I’ve been spending most of the time inside the air conditioning in the hotels. It’s crazy to go outside. It’s so hot here.

Margot: It’s like a tidal wave of heat, right? I remember that when I was there.

Jasper: I’m flying to Amsterdam tomorrow, so I’ll be back in more normal weather.

Margot: Cool, nice.

Jasper: Let’s start with an article in Etnrepreneur.com and it’s titled How to Handle Airbnb Guests Who Break the Rules. It’s a pretty good article, it basically has a lot of tips on what to do when the Airbnb guests break the rules and how to prevent it. It mentions it’s important to publish your house rules because before Airbnb guests can make a booking, they have to accept the house rules first. I think before Airbnb implemented this, it was the case that people wouldn’t read the house rules, then they’d do something and the host would say “hey, you’re not allowed to do that” and they’d not know. That’s definitely a good improvement. It’s been on the platform for a while. The article mentions that even though the guests have to confirm they read the house rules, provide them with a printed house manual when they arrive and verbally mention the rules. To make sure the guests are fully aware of what they’re allowed to do. They also mention a security deposit. One thing that’s good to mention is, you can charge a security deposit, but it doesn’t work like some people think it works. It’s not like if there’s damages you already have the money and you can take it, you still need Airbnb to approve the request. It is a security deposit but it’s not guaranteed.

Margot: Hmm, interesting. So, it’s kind of like a claim you have to file later on.

Jasper: Exactly.

Margot: It’s so interesting you’re bringing this up, in one of our first Airbnb conversations, we had a host with very specific requirements about her place – she only wanted them to wear soft-soled shoes and if they wanted to smoke a cigarette they had to go a certain number of feet away from the doorway. One of the things she wanted was almost like the feature that Airbnb has, with a Docu-sign built into it, where people would check off and initial sections of the house rules. She wanted like a legal contract down to a lot of detail. It will be interesting to see how it works out, I think it’ll satisfy most hosts, but I gained a level of appreciation for the detail people have for their homes.

Jasper: I also know people who make their guests sign a separate agreement upon arrival. I’ve not done that, it doesn’t feel very nice to welcome people that way. The first thing you do is sign a contract. Some hosts do that. The article has some advice for what to do if there’s actually a problem. They say, the first thing you can do, if it’s minor, ignore it. Then just consider it part of the business expense – like if someone breaks a glass or something. I’ve never had to file a claim for Airbnb after hosting 350 groups. Any damage was always minor. I never made a big deal. IF there is something that should be mentioned, having a discussion with your guests first is the best way to go. The article mentioned that as well. If you can come to an arrangement with your guests, you have to get Airbnb involved. You want to report violations to Airbnb. Then, you can use the Airbnb resolution tool to get compensated for damages that have been incurred. The article doesn’t mention, which I think is crucial, is that you always want to have evidence. So, as soon as you’re aware of certain damages, or the guests breaking the house rules, if you can take a picture or even have the guest confirm it, or somehow record a conversation, whatever it is. You need evidence, because when you get Airbnb involved, that’s what they look at. If you can’t provide evidence, it becomes a matter of “who do we believe?” Airbnb is never going to provide you with a refund for damages if there’s no proof and just based on what you’re telling them. I’ve experienced the first ever case I’ve been involved in personally through the Airbnb resolution tool was a few weeks ago in New York. The host sent me a $300 request because the apartment, he thought it wasn’t clean. Which, was true. I thought that was included in the price, which it normally is. So… this person didn’t provide any evidence. The whole story was based on him saying the apartment was dirty and he had to pay for it to be cleaned. But he didn’t supply pictures, so it was pretty much resolved within a day where I got an email from Airbnb saying the case was closed and I didn’t have to pay anything.

Margot: Oh, really? That was fast. It’s kind of impressive, really.

Jasper: Well, in my opinion, the claim was kind of ridiculous. So, I’m not surprised. If you want to charge a cleaning fee, you have to do it upfront. Or, it’s assumed it’s included in the price. Anyway, so I think that’s the most important thing. Get evidence. Another thing I think is worth mentioning is that sometimes, there’s been rare issues when it’s been reported that guests will invade their private areas and steal things or make copies of personal documents. They mention that it’s wise to either have a safe or have a closed storage space in your house where you keep your personal stuff. I think that’s good advice. Just in case. You know, honestly, I’ve hosted over 350 groups, I’ve never had problems, I think it is very rare. But, better safe than sorry.

Margot: Yeah, like a closet or a safe, something like that.

Jasper: yeah, something you can lock.

Margot: Yeah, although sometimes I feel like if you do that and someone’s really looking for something, they’re going to find it. In some ways, it’s just better to put your stuff in different places, like, I don’t know, I’m with you, if you’re going to…I bet a locked closet would deter most people, but if someone really wants to steal your stuff they’ll figure a way to get into it.

Jasper: It does spike the interest, right? If you arrive at a home and the host shows you around and there’s one room and it’s the secret forbidden room, you’re not allowed in there. The first thing you want to do is break into the room and see what’s in there.

Margot: Exactly, that’s right.

Jasper: Let’s see… Airbnb has hired Danny Glover, is that how you pronounce it? To address racism allegations.

Margot: Yes

Jasper: What are your thoughts? I’ve been talking a lot.

Margot: Danny Glover is an American icon, especially for his movies Lethal Weapon where he plays a likable character, but this is, apparently, he’s an activist for social justice and alleviating poverty. He’s going to serve as an advisor for Airbnb to get more people of color to serve on the platform. This is Airbnb’s focus on trying to make their platform more diverse and less associated with upper-class white people, which, it has a pretty strong association with that now. I think we’ve mentioned this in the past but there are other platforms that have popped up that respond to some of the racism allegations against Airbnb, not to say I agree with them, but this company called Inclusive is all about people of color renting to people of color. I’m sure that Airbnb is trying to shore up its bench of people within the company that can help them expand their network to not be just one class of people. Very high-profile hire, everyone loves Danny Glover. It’s a good place to start.

Jasper: Right, you mention the Inclusive. I mentioned the founder of Inclusive in one of the podcast episodes, I can’t remember which one it was. But, I’ll put it in the show notes. So, he actually posted on Medium, an article in the financial times that talks about that Airbnb has hired Danny Glover. There’s an article in Medium, that’s actually Danny’s personal medium page where he talks about why he decided to work with Airbnb. He’s saying that Airbnb is very committed to getting it right. He’s been incredibly heartened to see the resources they’re directing towards seeing fairly and inclusively. I don’t know if this is his personal pain or Airbnb encouraged him to put some words out there, but in any case, it seems that he’s involved in other types of activities as well. A political activist, like you said. So, he seems very committed to this cause.

Margot: Also in that blogpost, he mentions the NAACP, which is a long-standing very well-respected organization in the United States promoting Civil Rights and equality. I think it’s a good move for them, along with that NAACP partnership they announced about 4 months ago.

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Jasper: There’s an article in the Hollywood Reporter that says that Airbnb launched a travel experience with costume designers and more. I saw the headline and thought this was something new, but it’s basically just a bunch of Airbnb experiences that were launched.

Margot: I thought it was like a package deal, like a different thing than the experiences – I don’t think so. I think they also had something else, uh, a partnership with Vice, too. Right?

Jasper: Yeah, we talked about that a couple of weeks ago. In any case, there’s some cool experiences you can book in Hollywood. A shopping tour with Mad Men custom designer Janey Bryant, Mad Men is a popular TV series, I believe (I haven’t watched it).

Margot: You haven’t watched it? It’s great. My favorite one is Dead Wood, which is sort of a sleeper hit. It’s like Shakespeare set in the pioneer days of cowboys and westerns. The writing is really good. It didn’t go on for many seasons, but if you’re into well-written shows. It’s called Dead Wood.

Jasper: I’ve watched it. It’s interesting. Paints an interesting picture of those days when people were looking for gold – the Gold Rush. You can also get dance instruction with Michael Jackson’s choreographer Kenny Ortega. I guess, I don’t know, a bunch of experiences that are featured. I’d be interested to check it out. There was a hurricane last week as well in Texas. Hurricane Harvey. Of course, whenever there’s a disaster someone in the world, Airbnb helps people find free housing. They waved fees on all bookings between August 23- Sept 1, about a week or so. People were encouraged to offer up their homes for free an I checked it out, there’s a section of the site, AirBnb.com/disaster/the name of whatever the disaster. If you look at that page, you can either select “I need a place to stay” or “I can offer my place for free.” I thought it would be good to see how many providing their homes for free. There’s 14 pages and each page has about 12 homes, so 14×12, if I calculate quickly, that’s 168 homes are being offered for free. There could have been more, because obviously when people book these places, they don’t show up anymore. At the time that I looked, there was 168 rooms or houses completely bookable for free in the Texas area. Most of the listings are in Dallas, Austin and San Antonio, the biggest cities in Texas, I guess. Surprisingly Houston wasn’t on there. I don’t know why, maybe Houston wasn’t affected as much. It’s cool to see Airbnb is quick to jump on these things and help people to provide free housing.

Margot: Mhm.

Jasper: Another article in the Entrepreneur: How Two Old School Platforms are Beating Airbnb. It seems like a bit of a marketing post for Trip Advisor and Home Away. But there’s a couple things that are interesting. First of all, basically what the article is saying, although Airbnb is very successful, Home Away and Trip Advisor are doing well at the same time. Like, VRBO, which is a Home Away brand, reported 50 percent quarter over quarter revenue growth. Trip Advisor has seen listing numbers explode from 50,000 to 830,000. That surprised me. That’s a lot. I don’t know how many bookings they get. I know a lot of hosts who list on Airbnb and other platforms, and I’ve yet to meet a host that says they get most of their bookings from Trip Advisor. It’s one thing to get a lot of listings, but if you don’t get bookings, it doesn’t really matter. Basically, the articles interview executives at the companies. There’s one other thing that I want to mention – It seems that Home Away is trying to position themselves as the platform for higher-end places, for entire homes, for vacation rentals. They’re focusing on the popular tourist destinations, versus Airbnb focusing on urban rentals. What are your thoughts?

Margot: I completely agree with you. I think the listings growth that’s reported by Trip Advisor is a lot about their acquisitions, and I was just looking, they acquired House Trip this year, which offers around 300,000 properties across Europe. So, they’re buying up other bookings platforms, that’s how they’re getting their growth. I think it’s a good question, like what are the bookings? If they’re not mentioning it in the article, they’re probably trying to not mention it. I read this is as a clear, differentiation from the other platforms. I think the take-away is that they’re trying to entrench themselves in a luxury market and align their brands with that. If you have a high-end vacation home and you live in a beach town or a ski town, they don’t mention Airbnb. It’s all about getting supply. Also, truthfully, they are growing quite well. Probably the same as Airbnb in some of those segments. It’ll be really interesting to see what happens over the next seven-ten years when the market is supposed to continue to grow a lot. It’s a $100 billion market right now and it’s going to grow $285 billion, this is reported by Piper Jaffrey, by 2025. We can expect to see a lot of growth from lots of different players. It’ll be interesting to see who ends up on top, I don’t have a prediction about it yet.

Jasper: Absolutely. Yeah. I received a question, actually I received a number of questions about whether you get penalized as an Airbnb host for declining reservations and also what the difference is between declining a reservation and cancelling a reservation you receive through instant book. It seems like there’s a lot of confusion on the topic of Instant Book. How many times can you cancel? Can you cancel penalty free? What if you decline a lot that aren’t instant books? I wanted to summarize how this works again. First of all, we’ve got to make a distinction between bookings you receive and inquiries you receive. When you receive an inquiry, you have 24-hours to accept or decline an inquiry. Declining an inquiry will never hurt you. You won’t get penalized for declining a reservation inquiry because as a host, you’re always allowed to decide who stays in your place. Obviously, if you decline a booking request and you don’t find an alternative guest, then you’re missing out on a booking and that will have negative consequences for future bookings. The more bookings you get, the more reviews, there’s word of mouth, every booking that you receive will have an effect on the amount of future bookings you get. It will affect the position in your listing in the search results. Obviously, Airbnb wants to show the listings that get booked the most. So, even though Airbnb doesn’t directly penalize you for declining a booking, it is very favorable for you as an Airbnb host to get as many bookings as possible. Now, if you’re using Instant Book, you can set, first of all, you can set a filter. You can determine who gets to use Instant Book and who doesn’t get to use it. First of all, when you turn on instant book, you can choose. All guests must send a reservation request or guests who meet all your requirements can book instantly. So, if you choose guests who meet requirements can instantly book, they can use that to book your listing instantly without you having to accept or decline it. So, you can set some requirements. Right? Airbnb has standard requirements for instant book, which include profile pictures, confirmed email, phone number and payment information. You can also set the requirement that the guest has to upload government issued ID and the guest needs recommendations, at least one positive recommendation from other hosts. That guests don’t have negative reviews. These are the extra requirements you can set. People who qualify, they can book listings instantly. But you can still cancel those bookings. Not the bookings you decline or accept. Only the ones that come through instant book, you can cancel them penalty-free, three times, if you feel uncomfortable with the guest. Airbnb will ask you why you’re canceling, and you have to explain to them, hey I feel uncomfortable. Airbnb doesn’t mention on their website —

Margot: so, Oh, I have a question. This is just based on their profile and any communication they have with you?

Jasper: So, if you go to the Airbnb website, they actually mention that you can cancel penalty-free, it literally says, we have your back, guests who don’t meet your requirements will send a reservation request, if you’re ever uncomfortable, you can cancel penalty-free. They say that, but I’ve had this discussion for the Get Paid for Your Pad Facebook Group, and someone mentioned it’s only three times you can do this. And I contacted Airbnb and it turned out to be true. You can cancel three times, but if you want to cancel more per year, you have to contact Airbnb first. You have to talk to them and explain to them that you want to cancel the fourth time because of xyz. I don’t know if you’re guaranteed to be able to cancel penalty free, but it’s a topic that Airbnb could be a little clearer about. Because what they mention on their website, that you can cancel penalty-free is that that’s actually not the case. So, I can understand why a lot for people are confused about this declining request and cancellations and I hope this clarifies things a bit.

Margot: yeah, definitely. I think making that distinction between inquiry and booking is important

Jasper: Sweet, we’re already at the end of the episode. It always flies by so fast. So, Margot, thanks for joining. I’ll speak to you again in a couple of weeks, and all the listeners, thanks so much for listening. Next week we’ll be back with another news episode and of course on Monday we’ll be back with another episode as well, so I hope to see you then!

Margot: Okay, sounds great!

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