A little over half way into the 2018 Airbnb experiment, a few things are becoming clear: 1.) Guests, by and large, are pretty damn decent people. 2.) Regardless of item 1., the folks who live at the condo units full-time simply don’t like the steady stream of new people coming and going. What’s an Airbnb host to do?
I got wind of this after the recent board meeting of our condo association. I’m out-of-state, so I rely on my parents to be my proxy for these things, since they live at the same complex during the summer months. Apparently the board is considering new bylaws requiring vacation rental guests stay a minimum of one week. Sigh…
Here’s the irony. The one time I got complaints from a neighbor was about the noise from slamming cupboard doors, earlier this spring. Guess what. Those were month-long guests. And this neighbor is a really good chap. He offered to install slow closing hinges on the cupboards and drawers. I paid for the hardware, he put ’em in. Problem solved. Funny to recall that back when my step-dad and I put the floors in this past fall, we were serenaded by this same neighbor’s loud-ass stereo.
Not in my backyard!
When you think about it, having guests coming and going is sort of unsettling for neighbors. Even in an apartment or condominium setting, one typically prefers the stability of knowing who’s sleeping next door. I imagine here, in my neighborhood, what it would be like if my next door neighbor all the sudden turned his house into an Airbnb. I would not like it.
So I get it. The only saving grace is that these condos are, by and large, summer havens for snowbirds. There are already a few other units that are rented via VRBO each summer, and require a minimum 1 week stay.
The thing is, when you’re getting established, you can’t right off the bat dictate minimum stays and hope to make a return on your investment. I pumped a shitload of money into this thing, and year one is crucial to break-even on that invested cash.
My story isn’t unique. This “not in my backyard!” phenomenon is gripping much of well-traveled Europe these past few years. Europeans want to make money just like everyone else, and Airbnb has proven to be a boon for them. Trouble is, their neighbors are like, “What the fuck, Gunther?!? Another bus load of American tourists?”
A blogger friend in Holland was good enough to share this with me in Twitter a few weeks back. Cheesy is a smart cookie (umm, biscuit?) and rents out their home while off traveling.
Reading that sort of thing makes you wonder whether we can have any side hustles that don’t tear apart the remnants of our societal fabric. But let’s not go there today. Instead, appreciate the fine prose of this Venetian and contemplate whether we are all missing the boat just to make a quick buck…
A friend of mine who happens to have brown skin recently traveled to Switzerland with a couple of his buds. He observed this animus first-hand. When the three mild-mannered, middle-aged technology professionals went to check into their Airbnb in Zürich, they got to witness the neighbor confronting the host. The neighbor accused the host of trashing the complex by allowing “foreigners” to shack up there for a night or two. Whoah.
Now if my friend knew a little more German, he might have gotten a taste of how this neighbor really felt. Make Europe great again? Oh boy…
What’s a host to do?
The only thing I can think of is to host a barbecue for the association. Maybe invite the board out to a steak dinner? Shit I don’t know. Maybe there’s some token of gratitude I can come up with to appease the barons of Del Boca Vista. For now, I’ll continue to be as good of a host as possible, and remind guests of following the house rules as closely as possible.
There’s really not much else I can do. I could’ve had Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama staying over (separately, of course) and the neighbors would probably still throw a shit fit. Next season, I do hope to implement minimum week-long stays over the summer months. But the fall, winter, and spring demand some flexibility, and I really have no choice but to allow two-night minimum stays during those seasons.
If all else fails, and the association votes to curtail vacation rental options, I might have to sell this place and call it a day. The numbers just don’t work for making this a viable long-term rental, and I wouldn’t be able to use it for my family in that scenario anyhow. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. Too much hard work and ongoing effort has been put in. But sometimes things don’t work in the long-term.
Happier News: Superhost!
Looking on the bright side, I’ve only received one four star review out of 17 total so far. The rest are five star. To get my Superhost designation on 7/14/18, I simply need to have a 4.8 rating (mine is a 4.9), 10 total trips (I have 20, not including VRBO), and zero cancellations initiated by me (check!).
I have to laugh at the 4-star review I got recently. It reminds me to be humble in the enterprise of offering services to our fickle public:
Crazy that first point. I can’t help that the bike route goes through downtown, and the drive to the trailhead outside of downtown probably took them all of five minutes. Yeesh.
As for running out of toilet paper? Jesus. When you’re staying for only four nights and four rolls ain’t enough, I have to wonder how much Mexican food you’re consuming during your visit. Next time, simply reach out (like I asked at check in) if you need anything. Anything at all.
The location comment was helpful, but again, folks know when they book this place that it’s not on the waterfront. If you want that, you roll the dice, get lucky, and pay $300 to $500 per night for that luxury. Otherwise, you enjoy being within a couple blocks of the lake, feel good about the money you saved, and quit yer bitchin’!
In other heartburn news, we’ve had a few tough stains on sheets and towels that my amazing mom has been able to remove. We had a late check-out last week, and it was when the cleaning lady showed up that we learned a guest had booked the place under false pretenses. This guest had put her three adult kids up at my place, while she and her hubby rented a different Airbnb down the road. Not. Kosher.
I’ve got little to complain about and nothing remotely approaching a “nightmare” (unlike other airbnbs). I’m just venting a little, and giving you a taste of what’s in store, if you choose to try a vacation rental side gig. It keeps you on your toes, but the returns are forecast to be very solid.