I absolutely adore my husband. He is the kite and I am the string. He gets lifted up into the air by his wild ideas, thirst for adventure, and visions for our life. In return my need to plan and have structure, keeps him from floating away.
So when we were house hunting last year, Josh’s vision for our home was to have a walkout basement so we could use it as a short-term rental (aka Airbnb). Nevermind that neither of us had any experience in the hospitality industry or that we both had other jobs. Oh, and there was also the ever-so-minor detail of being on the verge of bringing another tiny human into the world. Let’s just add one more endeavor to our list, shall we?
But we have been married for almost six years, and occasionally I am actually good at entertaining my hubby’s ideas and letting him fly. So when, to Josh’s delight, the house we did buy had a finished, walkout basement, I let him dream of turning it into a short-term rental.
Flash forward seven months, Josh’s dream became reality as we found ourselves rushing around to get our basement set up for the summer rush of tourists to Colorado Springs. And $2,000 in expenses later (spending money on everything from shampoo to a doorframe to divide the basement from the rest of the house), we were ready to list our “Kid-Friendly, Cozy Basement with Private Entrance” on Airbnb.
A lot went in to getting it set up…that is a whole other story and one saved to maybe tell another day. But for now, it’s been two months of hosting complete strangers in our home and I wanted to record a few thoughts on what it’s been like being a newbie Airbnb host.
ONE: It’s not as weird as you think – I thought having COMPLETE strangers in our home would be just plain weird and awkward. It was in the beginning…we tip-toed around the house trying to avoid making noise, and spent too much time speculating about the personalities of people downstairs. But honestly, after the first few, we got used to it. Now, we usually forget people are even down there. We try to be more aware of the noise we are making, but really, they know they are staying in our basement…not a soundproof shelter. And more often than not, we never even bump in to our guests, unless they actually come to our front door to say hi. So yeah, no longer weird, just the new norm.
TWO: My basement is not an accurate reflection of how the rest of my house looks – I laugh because most of the reviews we have gotten so far mention how clean the space is. Umm, I can honestly say that that basement bathroom has gotten cleaned more in the past two months than three other bathrooms in my house combined in the past six months. Let’s keep it real people. I am a part-time, working mom of two who just so happens to run a small hospitality “business” in our basement. Something has gotta give. In this case, it’s the level of order and cleanliness in the rest of my home. Don’t be fooled.
THREE: Murphy’s Law is all too real – We had zero issues until guest stay number 14. It happened just a few weeks ago, the first time we decided to go out of town (well more like out-of-state…to Florida) while having guests in our Airbnb. While on our trip, our guests messaged us saying there was a plumbing issue…with the toilet…on a Saturday….at 10pm…and they had three small boys! It’s a long story that I am sure we will eventually be able to laugh about in due time…hopefully. However, in the moment, it felt like a nightmare and made for a not-so-relaxing end to our mini-vacation. The issue eventually got resolved and we survived. But the lesson learned from it all was that things are going to happen, and I’m figuring out we just gotta be ok with it. Worse case scenario, we shut down shop and our basement becomes, well, just a basement and not a short-term rental property. Seriously, not the end of the world.
FOUR: Haters gonna hate – Ok, so we really have been lucky and have had pretty good guests. Out of 18 guests stays so far, 15 have reviewed us, all 5 star reviews. But that being said, people are going to have their opinions. My need to people please has been put to the test dealing with all kinds of people. I have learned not everyone is going to love my decorating style, our restaurant recommendations or homemade welcome cookies. People will nit pick and I’m learning to not take it personally. But I am thankful, despite comments here and there, I have found people tend to be more forgiving on Airbnb than they would be with a hotel stay. Casa Morgan is not exactly the Ritz Carlton.
FIVE: Keyless lock system – All I have to say is that it was well worth the $200+ investment.
SIX: Go above and beyond – Remember that family from point three, who had the plumbing issue while we were conveniently out of town? They had one great night stay and one not-so-great night stay sans toilet. So what did we do? We refunded their whole stay. We sucked up the cost and did the right thing even though legally we did not have to. And guess what? They gave us a 5 star review despite the disaster that the trip seemed to be. See, we decided when we launched our Airbnb to make it a place we would want to stay. So with that in mind everyone who stays in our basement can expect the following amenities: coffee/tea/hot chocolate, snacks, water bottles, fresh cut flowers, homemade baked welcome cookies, shampoo/conditioner/soap, other small toiletries, access to our Amazon Prime and Netflix accounts, and anything else that may be specific to their stay (i.e. bathtub for their toddler). Why so much when we are “just” an Airbnb? Because [most] people appreciate the details and remember them. Plus, if something goes wrong, like said plumbing issue, people will still remember all the small things you did to make sure their stay was comfortable. Well worth the extra dollars in our opinion. We have nothing but 5 star reviews so far…just saying…
SEVEN: Set clear expectations and be honest – This I feel is the most important thing I have learned. I was so nervous to post our listing. Me and my comparison idol went on a wild ride looking at other properties in the city seeing ones with amazing views of the mountains or walking distance to cool places in the city or decor that looked like it was hand-picked by Joanna Gaines herself. I was insecure because I felt all we had to offer was a one bedroom walkout basement with minimal decor, zero views of the mountains, and a park next to the local elementary school as the only walking-distance attraction. But guess what? People still have booked our place and have loved it! Why? It’s all about expectations. From the get-go, we have been super honest in our description about what the place is and is not. We don’t embellish to get people in. But we communicate frequently, honestly and openly about the space. It’s a basement…in our home. We have a toddler running around at 7am, we have a baby that cries, we have no A/C or cable or separate thermostat. What we do have is a clean space and comfortable beds for people to recharge and rest after their Colorado Springs adventures…and that has seemed just perfect for our guests.
So yeah, its been two months and who knows how long this journey will last. But I will say we have learned a lot and, bonus, made some money along the way. It’s been a fun adventure to add to the books and I am genuinely thankful for the kite-soaring hubby of mine who dreamed it into existence.