by | Mar 28, 2022 | Launching an STR, STR Management | 0 comments

Kim at her beach property

We are addressing the most frustrating mistakes that can be avoided when booking your short term rental. Learn from my mishaps, and I promise you won’t regret it!

Top 10 mistakes new owners make: Reservation edition

1. Accepting Airbnb guests with no reviews

When starting out, choose only guests with at least one 5 star Airbnb or VRBO review. We read reviews on Yelp of restaurants, and reviews of Amazon products. Use guest reviews to your advantage too. Guests vetted and approved by other hosts are less likely to want to damage their reputation.  You will get plenty of potential guests that are new to the platform. They may even seem great. Many ARE great! And others have deleted their last profile because of a poor review, and they are starting over on Airbnb. This is common practice for ne’er-do-wells, so be aware. If you are worried about what kind of guests you are going to get, and you don’t have a lot of experience with guest behavior yet, play it safe. Choose guests with prior good reviews, at least at first. 

2. Accepting guests under age 25

Young people don’t always make the same decisions that older guests do. Young people tend to be risk takers. They do more to game the system than older guests tend to do. These are stereotypes I’m speaking in, and I have allowed guests under 25 on occasion but not often. Rental cars have age minimums of 25 years old and so do my investment properties. One of my lessons learned was after I rented to a young booker. They doubled the stated (and max) occupancy they said they would. Then, they got into the owner’s closet and used all spare towels and blankets. In addition, the group left boatloads of trash behind. The worse part was when they overtook the condo pool all day. The guests were so rowdy, the neighbors called the police. It was a painful lesson, indeed!

If you want help in wording a minimum age requirement in your listing, I am happy to assist. Please reach out!

3. Accepting local guests.

Why does a local want to book your space when they have their own nearby? They may have a valid reason. Often, they don’t. After chatting with the potential guest, you may learn they are having floors redone at their home. But wait. Are they getting their floors redone over a weekend? Red flag. Ask gently and kindly for validation without interrogation if you consider hosting them. A lot of times they are hosting parties: bachelorette, baby-shower, birthday. My business partner, Britt, who owns Blue Jay Cleaning, had a STR clean where a local booked and held a wedding and wedding reception hosted at a max 8 occupancy home. The owner of the STR had no idea this event was taking place. By the looks of how much trash was left behind, (6 large Heafy bags worth), at least 40-50 people had to have been present for the party.

Remember, even good-hearted, local guests are living, cooking, eating and using your space like a home, not a rental. They have jobs, responsibilities and schedules and tend to be more home-centric. The longer they are physically in the space, the better chance of having issues. An out-of-towner is more likely to wake early, go out to explore all day, eating at a restaurant and enjoying and evening about the town to come back only to sleep and repeat tomorrow.

4. Accepting guests for one-night bookings, especially on Friday or Saturday nights.

Do I need to explain that these are prime party nights? Also, weekend guests on holidays like 4th of July, NYE, Superbowl and three-day weekends need to be vetted a bit more carefully than others too (for all the obvious reasons). Three-day bookings and even four-day bookings help deter guests that are here to party because it tends to be cost inefficient. My exceptions to this rule are weeknights in properties that are more business travel suitable that aren’t booked last minute. Many guests will travel to urban markets for a business meeting and fly out the next day. They often mention their business objective in the welcome message and even use their company name (which you can Google to determine its proximity).

5. Accepting guests when you feel desperate for bookings.

The times hosts have the most trouble with guests is when they get nervous about paying the bills and start accepting guests they normally wouldn’t because they NEED the income. The goal is to never be over-leveraged financially. But, if you are in a challenging position, you could start making poor decisions about who can stay in your space. The headache and damage ONE disrespectful group can cause, far outweighs the payout from their stay. Stay selective. 

Reach out to me if you feel weak. I can help you if you aren’t certain.

6. Ignoring your own red flags or doubts about guests.

Think you’re being too picky? Did they say something off putting or maybe you’re just being sensitive? Are they asking an absurd amount of pre-booking questions? But it’s ok, right? Right?

Don’t make excuses for the red flags you may not see but can feel. Follow your intuition always.  Maybe it’s nothing. But in hindsight, the moments I felt the red flags and ignored them, some sort of frustration or pain point developed from that guest. I could THEN see a bad situation coming with poor fit guests for my space. Now, I know to let them pass, even if I can’t pinpoint why.

7. Booking guests who are “extra”,

What is an “extra” guest? If they ask a multitude of questions, want to bend the rules (like pets in a pet-free place), want early check in/out before booking, make absurd requests or cause you difficulty prior to officially booking are definitely extra!

The guests are putting their best foot forward right at the beginning. If something already feels off on “the first date” don’t go on a second one. Politely decline the booking and part ways amicably rather than waiting until the “bitter end.” Don’t create possibilities for a bad break up, simply end it before it begins. Work towards attracting your tribe and repelling the rest. If you use the 80/20 rule, 80% of the guests will take 20% of your energy, and 20% of the guests will take 80% of your energy. Work to eliminate that 20% through content, wording and pictures allowing those guests to disqualify themselves and not book with you.

8. Accommodating more than one or two special requests or allowing guests to walk all over you for reviews.

You’ve heard about people who take a mile. They are out there. They do not need an invitation into your home. Let them book with someone else. One or two requests may be reasonable, more than that and you have a high maintenance guest that you may not be able to make happy. You are potentially on your way to a poor review, and a headache you just don’t need. There are a lot of wonderful low maintenance independent traveling guest fish in the sea. 

9. Not asking critical questions before booking.

  • How many in your party?
  • What brings you to town?
  • Have you read the house rules?
  • Are you familiar with the platform?

Getting answers to these questions or ones important to you can give you a feel for what kind of guest you may be inviting into your investment. You are looking for a good communicator, independent traveler that is excited about your space not a stage 5 clinger and energy vampire. 

10. Expecting all guests to want to talk to you.

Some guests are independent and don’t communicate with hosts at all once they book. If you send a message or two, and they don’t respond please do not panic. They are fine. They are most likely enjoying themselves and aren’t wanting to vacation hand in hand with their host. That’s ok. Let them be. Hounding them or getting upset because they aren’t telling you how fabulous your space is either your ego or your anxiety getting in the way of your investment. Take a breath and enjoy that you invited an independent traveler into your space. If the rental is set up well, and you post clear instructions, they may be good to go for the duration of their stay. Great job!

Bonus mistake. Allowing bargain shoppers

I actually have 11 mistakes but 10 sounds so much better for the title, right?

Allowing discount seekers and giving into a discount request can come with consequences. These guests value the property based on what it cost them in actual dollars, not in the theoretical worth, (which you just discounted). The sob story of how they love your place but just can’t afford the current rates is a common red flag for someone who doesn’t understand the worth and value of your rental. Your right fit guests will see its value at the price you set. They will book based on their love for something you’ve said or done with the property and will know your worth.

As always there are some who defy the norm and rise above expectations. In each of these mistakes, there are plenty of examples of guests that don’t fit the mold. As you are starting out, it is best to aim for the center of the bullseye and not bank on the hope of their potential. Once you gain experience, you can deviate more easily and get a better understanding for when guest communication feels “off” in a typically good situation or totally fine in a typically bad one. Knowing where the landmines are located as you’re beginning to navigate this landscape serves as a tool to help. Take it for what it is, and above all, use YOUR best judgment.