Airbnb has the capacity to change lives—for better or worse. This week’s headlines include an inspiring story of how the short-term rental platform has helped a Superhost from Tanzania afford schooling and travel, and even become an advocate for the Maasai culture around the world.
Another story of Airbnb changing a host’s life for the better features Jasper himself. In an interview with the Huffington Post, he explains how he used Airbnb to quit his successful career in finance and travel the world. Today on the podcast, our newsworthy host is joined by David Jacoby, President and Co-Founder of Hostfully, to discuss these stories of Airbnb’s positive influence, as well as a couple of situations where vacation rental sites changed someone’s life for the worse: The Miami homeowner facing $500K in fines because his tenants listed illegally on Airbnb, and travelers who lost a lawsuit against HomeAway over a fraudulent listing.
Jasper and David also answer listener questions about furnishing your Airbnb, offering suggestions regarding where to shop as well as ideas around branding. Listen and learn how to budget for your Airbnb furnishings and what qualifies as a business deduction!
- Godwin Ndosi joined Airbnb in 2015
- Rented rooms in family home for $15/night
- 200 guests in first year
- Met people from all over the world
- Became Superhost, built additional dwellings in backyard
- Able to afford university, travel
- Advocate for Maassai culture
- Miami Beach landlord rented to tenants who listed illegally on Airbnb
- Homeowner fined nearly $500K
- Airbnb slow to respond (until media coverage began)
- Landlord had to find listing himself
- Home also listed on new site, Vacayo
- As cities develop best practices, homeowners should not be held liable for tenants acting illegally
- More and more landlords do allow Airbnb
- Platforms like Pillow facilitate win-win for renters, landlords
- Traveler booked listing on VRBO, sent wire transfer
- Booking fell through, but money not returned
- Judge ruled in favor of HomeAway
- Communications Decency Act Section 230 provides immunity from liability for platforms publishing content provided by others
- Precedent went other way in San Francisco (Airbnb not ‘just a listing platform’)
- Jasper featured as successful online entrepreneur
- Left lucrative career in finance
- Travels the world, financed via Airbnb
- Continued focus on personal growth
- Negative reaction led to next podcast interview with Airbnb opponent
Q: How much should I spend on furnishings for my Airbnb? Where do hosts get their furnishings?
- Discussed in detail on EP175
- Hire local interior designer
- Buy from local artists
- Decorate around theme (branding differentiates your listing)
- $5,000—$7,000 budget (depending upon location, theme)
- Shop at IKEA, secondhand stores
- Deduct purchases as business expense (30% off)
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Complete Transcript for Get Paid for Your Pad Episode 186
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 to get paid for your paid, my name is Jasper and I’m your host. Today I’m co-hosting with David Jacoby. He’s of course the president and co-founder of Hostfully. What up man?
David Jacoby: Hey Jasper, Boy it was brutal here in San Francisco. It was the hottest it’d ever been, over 100 degrees. Usually Labor Day weekend, everyone is outside, but this weekend, everyone kind of stayed indoors or went to the beach.
Jasper: Burning Man. Have you been?
David: Sure have. Have you?
Jasper: I’ve heard some good stories about that.
David: Oh, yes. I could go on and on about that, for another podcast. There’s 70,000 people so It can be whatever you want it to be. You can do yoga and personal growth seminars and go to sleep early and wake up early, or have late night raves. We can’t wait to go with our kids in a couple of years, maybe you’ll join us for that
Jasper: I’d love to join. I’ve heard a lot of stories. I’m never able to do it because I’m always busy during the weeks of course of Burning Man. But I was thinking if I rent an RV and I park it at Burning Man, can I rent it out at Burning Man?
David: I don’t know about that. You can only pay for coffee and ice at Burning Man.
Jasper: We’ll see. Anyway, I just landed in Stockholm last night. In Sweden. It’s lovely here. It’s a nice 70 degrees and the sun shining, it’s a beautiful city. It’s one of my favorite cities in the world and I’m excited to be here for a whole month. I didn’t even have to rent an Airbnb because my good friend was nice enough to share their place with me.
David: Nice, enjoy! I’m jealous.
Jasper: Isn’t that nice. So, what’s going on? Of course, we just had the Labor Day Weekend. We managed to find some interesting stories, I want to start on a positive note. IT’s about a guy in Tanzania in Africa, his name is (inaudible), he signed up for Airbnb in 2015. He was charging $15 a night for tourists all over the world. It turned out to be quite a life-changing experience. He’s a super host and was able to go to University, he’s traveled around and stayed with his former guests, he even educated people about his culture and country. It’s cool and inspiring.
David: Very inspiring. It said in his first year alone, he’d hosting over 200 guests, he took those earnings and he built a few more homes on the edges of his backyard. He was charging $15 per single room a night, with multiple rooms, he really built up the business. The people really embraced all the visitors. He also used his status for good in terms of finding local volunteering opportunities. He also had other recommendations he’d give out for safaris. As you mentioned, he was able to take his earnings and travel to Europe and other parts of the world.
Jasper: What’s also very cool is that his guests who ended up volunteering, they sponsored five children to attend an English boarding school in Tanzania. He was pretty awesome. I’m looking at the pictures of the houses he built in his backyard, and last week I interviewed David from Toronto, and maybe that’s where he got this idea.
David: You see people doing these smart homes, these do-it-yourself kits that aren’t a ton of money, where it becomes a nice, 300 square foot studio that has everything you need, and now it’s in the DIY way so you don’t pay for construction. You’ve got it up and running in your backyard, just like David.
Jasper: I imagine in Tanzania they don’t have too much regulation about building in your backyard. IT seems like he built two of them off each other. I don’t think there’s lots of restrictions on that part of the world in Airbnb.
David: He offers a pretty cool experience for his guests
Jasper: Not only does he recommend things to do, he even leads some of these activities. He’s doing safari trips to Serengeti and Mt. Kilimanjaro. He’s doing a good job. That’s inspiring for all of us. It’s not roses and sunshine in the Airbnb world this week. In Miami, there’s been some issues. In Miami beach, the regulations are strict, but this is a home owner, not even an Airbnb host, that’s kind of crazy, isn’t it.
David: That’s happened in a few different cities. I know San Francisco is that way, too. The landlord rented it out to tenants and those tenants started doing short-term rentals, got caught, they’re not doing the renting, they’re the ones responsible and get fined. In theory, they could recoup that money from the tenant. He tried contacting customer service and it they were slow to respond. It took some pulling teeth to get it down.
Jasper: What’s interesting is the first step in resolving this issue was finding the actual listing. He’s getting fined, but he doesn’t even know the listing. But you have a free bedroom, he was searching on Airbnb for a place for 4-6 adults, it took him a long time to find it because they had it listed at sleeps 12.
David: You think if there’s some suspicion that your home is being rented illegally, you should be able to call and they should look it up and see if it’s on there.
Jasper: Because it took forever for Airbnb to get back. Airbnb is notoriously slow in getting back to you, I’ve heard that many times. I think that’s a main improvement they could be making.
David: Unfortunately, you need to make a big stink about it on social media It seems. To be clear, Airbnb isn’t the only answer. It wasn’t just on Airbnb, it was on Vacayo. There’s tons of listing sites out there. If you own a home and are afraid it’s being rented out, you need to never stop looking.
Jasper: I found my listing, like copies or clones, basically people copying the listing and putting it on the website and telling the people to send the money by wire. What’s interesting about this is that the guy who you mentioned, that was started by the people were renting this guy’s place. Apparently, these guys were involved in it, but they were not available for commenting.
David: As more and more legislation in different cities get passed, they’re looking to other cities. Hopefully it will get more and more clear that the owner of the home is not responsible if the renters are doing it. It’s not the owners fault. They’re not responsible for policing when they have a lease in place. Hopefully, the tenant will be responsible
Jasper: The last thing that was interesting, they’re trying to get the platform off the ground. The people that are behind this tried to screw over this landlord. If you’re going to rent this place, just find a landlord who wants to do this legally. This is shitty. You’re doing it and the owner gets in trouble.
David: It’s not impossible to find Airbnb friendly places to rent. They’re helping that ecosystem, specifically Pillow, so everyone knows what’s going on. It’s getting popular and if it’s something you’re serious about doing you should be able to find a place.
Jasper: If you want to know more about how to set up a business renting places and putting on Airbnb, listen to episode 175 to hear someone who has been successful doing this and is always working with a landlord. It can be a win-win situation for everyone.
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Jasper: What’s the next topic? Home Away just won a big lawsuit, David you know all about that, don’t you?
David: yes. There was a lawsuit where a traveler sued HomeAway for a fraudulent listing. They paid money, it fell through, I don’t think they got their money back. In addition to, instead of suing the owner of the home, they went after HomeAway. There’s a famous internet law called the decency act that basically says that homeaway and ebay are just a platform. So, you can’t go after them, they’re just the classified section where someone put up their ad for their home. There are terms of services that state you’re responsible. It’s interesting they were able to protect themselves. I find most interesting, with all the legislation in San Francisco, they were trying to use Section 230 and it didn’t work. The judge said, sorry Airbnb, you’re not just a platform because you’re taking a piece of the financial action. So, therefore, this doesn’t apply to you, and you are on the hook. So, there’s precedent going both ways now. Are they just listing platform or if they’re more than that and more involved? Do they take more responsibility? As more lawsuits happens we’ll see a precedent.
Jasper: I guess it’s a matter of perspective. It’s not surprising one says yes and one says no. We’ll see if we get any more lawsuits in the future. Let’s go to some questions.
David: Wait, wait wait. You forgot the best news article of the week, Jasper.
Jasper: Tell me, what is it?
David: There’s this article in Huffington Post about a disgruntled ex-stock trader who used Airbnb to create a jet-setting lifestyle. It features the one and only Jasper, so congratulations for this feature in the Huffington Post
Jasper: Well, thank you. It’s funny because I had a long-term friend, and I’ve interviewed him on my podcast. I didn’t even notice but he became a contributor for the huffington post, which is interesting because I don’t know how you do that, but it’s cool. He decided to run this interview series that he called the Changemaker Interview Series, where he interviewed internet entrepreneurs. He asked me to do this interview and it was pretty fun. I spent a lot of time writing it. He sent it back a couple of times and told me it wasn’t good enough. I posted it on my Facebook and I got some negative reactions from someone from Holland. He’s a head editor of a magazine in Holland and a main critic of Airbnb, he wrote an article in 2014. He posted it on Twitter and he was saying it was shameless to do Airbnb, for a while I did it against the rules. I wrote him a message and interviewed him. He’s going to be in the podcast on Monday. I’ve never had someone who is critical, and I have to say he had some decent arguments. That’s a funny detail.
David: I’m looking forward to that. Back to you, I must admit, I was impressed with the writing of the article, so it makes sense it had some edits. Just like we talked about with the guy in Tanzania, you’re another inspirational story, you’re shy and humble, but go read this story. You had an excellent career in finance and not being personally fulfilled – what I liked about it was your focus on personal growth and always trying to be a better you, and just as I’ve gotten to know you, all the seminars you’ve taken and the coaching, you’re on a never-ending journey to be a better person, it’s cool that Airbnb had a piece of that, but it’s mostly you. Congratulation to you for living your dream.
Jasper: I got the opportunity, and you don’t get the opportunity to be in the Huffington Post every day, I wanted to write something that not only tells a story, but hopefully can serve as inspiration and a tiny piece of help. Let’s move on to questions, we’re running out of time. I wanted to answer one question we got from one of the listeners. Can you give me an idea of how much you spend on furnishing Airbnbs and where you get the furniture from? I can’t comment on that. I originally bought the furniture to live there, not to rent it out. But episode 175 has some good recommendations. He said, because he does a lot of these things, hire a local interior designer, and buy artwork form local shops, decorate around a theme, so don’t randomly buy stuff. Really try to theme it. You stand out more. It was $7,000 for the furniture and the painting. But if you buy furniture from Ikea, you can buy from second-hand stores, often there’s furniture that’s decent, if you find some antique stuff, you can furnish the place in a stylish way but not spend too much money.
David: I like what you said about themes and going over the top. I remember seeing a star-wars room and a super marios room. There were star-wars posters and everything. That’s over the top, but it’s a great way to brand themselves from the other listings out there. So, if there’s something quirky like that, a specific city or town, you have different things that make it special. You can really get a nice niche for yourself. That range really varies what kind of place you have. Is it a private home? A room? How upscale is it? As you’re buying everything, it’s around 30 percent off because it’s a business deduction. You can expense. Not just for furniture, but ongoing stuff like paper towels
Jasper: This is the end of the episode, time always flies when I’m talking to you David. Thank you for joining today. I hope it cools down in San Francisco so you don’t get too over heated.
David: Yes, we’ve cooled down now.
Jasper: Thanks for listening everyone. On Monday, I’ll interview a very interesting person. I hope you listen to that one! See you then!