It’s a really bad time to own short term rental properties!
It’s actually a really bad time to own rental properties in general, but it’s a lot easier to work with long term tenants on options for rent deferral and payment plans than it is when short term renters just cancel en masse and our places sit empty.
To be clear, I don’t blame our short term renters for cancelling. When there’s a global pandemic on and 90% of Americans are living under some kind of shelter in place order it’s not unreasonable to think that people’s original travel plans are going to be drastically altered.
Also, while some Airbnb hosts have strict cancellation policies and were out there having a fit that Airbnb overruled their guidelines and thus took money out of their pockets, we have always had a pretty relaxed stance on cancellations, so Airbnb didn’t really overrule anything we had in place, and we’ve had plenty of warning as to what’s coming…or rather, who’s not coming!
In the face of Airbnb’s restrictions and fears over COVID-19, many hosts have just shut their places down entirely, but we’ve decided to stay open. We went this route, in part, because we have some reservations from clinic patients in particular whose treatments and procedures are essential or critical, and we didn’t want to put them out. Also, our Airbnbs when full, bring in a lot of income on the month, and even when partially occupied, some money coming in is better than none.
That said, as Josh and I have otherwise limited our own goings out to the very occasional trip to the grocery store, and back and forth between our current house and our building project, we also recognize that if we’re going to get COVID-19, it’s likely because someone in the rentals will have come in with it, and we’ll be exposed, and/or our future guests will be exposed!
Thus, there are somethings we want our guests to know, and some things we’re doing in between every guest, to make sure both parties are protected! Here are four things anyone travelling now (or in the foreseeable future, probably!) should know!
1. We have plenty of toilet paper! 😅 But you might have to ask for it! – A few weeks ago when the run on toilet paper started, one of the first things Josh and I did was pull all the extra rolls out of our rental properties. Don’t misunderstand, we’re still giving our guests toilet paper, but we didn’t want someone to hear about the run on toilet paper, see eight extra rolls sitting on the shelf, and decided to pack them up for their own personal stock. Now we’ll make sure there’s a roll (or partial roll) on the holder, and leave a spare if the length of stay calls for it, but we’re keeping the rest of the inventory at home!
This sounds ridiculously bizarre…but these are the times we live in! If a guest requests another roll, we’ll drop one off. (A friend suggested we ask to see the empty roll first!🤣 We haven’t gone that far…yet!)
2. We’re cleaning EVERYTHING and protecting you and ourselves while we do it! – Fun fact, we bought Clorox wipes in bulk before it was trendy to do so, because people are filthy and we’ve always wanted to make sure shared surfaces and spaces are clean from guest to guest. And while we’ve always been good about the table tops, counters, nightstands, etc. getting wiped down, we’re pretty OCD now about doing doorknobs, light switches, handles, and buttons. Also, we’re cleaning with gloves, and based on recent recommendations now covering faces to avoid spreading anything we might inadvertently have to you.
And when all that used laundry comes back into our house, which has never bothered me as much before as it does now, we’re hauling it in by black garbage bag and transferring it straight into the washing machine where it gets washed on hot.
3. We know it’s a pandemic, but we expect you’ll still follow the rules! – This is my favorite Airbnb pandemic story from the past few weeks.
The week before the shelter in place order in Minnesota, the guidelines were essentially social distancing of six feet and gatherings less than ten people. One night, we got a late booking at about 9pm for two people. Josh rushed over next store to make sure everything was setup and ready, and while he was there, the group that had booked showed up. It was four people, not two, and they were college aged. Josh immediately got the feeling they were there to have a spring break party, and had no regard for the social guidelines. (One of the guys reached out to shake Josh’s hand when they showed up. No thank you!)
So the night goes on, and it’s pretty quiet nextdoor, but before we go to bed, Josh gets an inclination just to step out and see if everything seems kosher. He opens the front door, and can smell the marijuana from our front steps. So over he goes to tell the guests they have to stop or leave. He knocks on the door, and immediately hears all voices in the house stop and someone say, “Should we all go in the bedroom and close the door.” So he calls through the door that won’t help them now, and eventually someone comes and lets him in.
Here in our tiny, one bedroom rental, are a dozen or more people packed together in a cloud of pot smoke. And Josh’s initial reaction: “Are you guys paying attention at all!? There’s a pandemic and you’re all way closer than six feet apart!”
The moral of the story…we are doing everything we can to keep our places safe and available for those people who absolutely need them. But we still expect you to follow the rules (and the law!) and be respectful of the space. It’s a pandemic, not anarchy!
4. If you cancelled now, consider coming back later – After Airbnb made all reservations cancellable without penalty, there were a bunch of Airbnb hosts that cried foul because their own cancellation policy had been overridden, and they had lost out on a lot of money they had been counting on to pay the bills. I made the mistake of reading the comment section on one of these news articles where a lot of Airbnb guests were going off on hosts that shouldn’t rely on rental income to pay the bills and should have savings for emergencies like this, and fatcat landlord’s that were looking to turn the crisis into profit.
To be sure, we have savings to help us cover expenses when our rentals aren’t full…savings, ironically, that were built up, in part by our rental income. Also, I’m pretty sure that if anyone is going to turn this crisis into a profit…it isn’t going to be short term rental hosts!
If you cancelled a reservation with us, we said nothing of it other than to wish you and your family safety and health. If you cancelled an Airbnb somewhere and got a different tone of response from you host, extend a little grace in remembering that this is an unprecedented time, and for the same reasons you panicked and backed out of travelling, you host may have panicked and lashed out as they saw their monthly income disappearing.
Either way, when this pandemic has passed, and you look to reschedule your vacations, appointments, business trips, etc. I hope you will consider rebooking with the same host you cancelled with. We know many other Airbnb hosts, and we’ve stayed in Airbnbs around the world, and almost everyone is just trying to provide the best service they can, connect people with community, and make a little extra money on the side. We hope if you couldn’t stay with us now, that you’ll come back and stay with us later…we promise, we’ll still have toilet paper!
Stay safe! Wash your hands.