Submitted by Rob Hertert, Host2Host President, co-creator of Hosting Your Home podcast and host in SW Portland and the Oregon Coast.
Our June, 2021 meetup was hosted by the Host2Host Advocacy committee. Committee speakers were Robert Jordan, chair/MC, and Melissa Wright, committee member and owner of STR Permit. City speakers included Scott Karter and Craig Doherty from Revenue Division and Mike Johnson from the Portland Housing Bureau.
Thank you Airbnb for helping to promote this event.
The purpose for the meetup was to hear more about where our guests’ STR taxes and fees are used, learn about the Housing Bureau and what impact our funding stream has, and get an update on Airbnb’s Pass Through Registration.
Robert Jordan gave an overview of the Advocacy committee’s audiences: Government officials, STR platforms, and neighbors and our greater communities. He touched on some major work including providing organized testimony at City Council, assisting Revenue with a review of their draft Pass Through Registration ordinance, sponsoring a City Council candidate forum, and inviting city officials to speak at events such as this one.
Taxes: Scott Karter of Portland’s Revenue Division gave us a chronological tax review:
2015: Scott told us that in 2015, not that long after STRs were legalized, City Council directed that most of the STR taxes should go to the Housing Investment Fund (HIF). At that time, STR guests were paying 6% to Portland (including 1% that passes through to Travel Portland), 5.5% to Multnomah County, and 1.5% to Travel Oregon. Council redirected 5% of STR’s “TLT”, or Transient Lodging Taxes to the HIF. Total STR taxes: 13%.
2018: Many Host2Host members will recall the Council Hearing in which STRs and small hotels would now pay an additional 2% Tourism Improvement District “TID” tax to Travel Portland, matching the large hotel taxes. In addition, a $4/night fee per booking would be assessed on only STRs. The $4/night fee would again be directed to the Housing Investment Fund. ( ed. note: an important consolation was made, giving Host2Host a seat on Travel Portland’s board of directors). Total STR taxes and fees: 15% + $4/night.
2021: To climb out of the tourism collapse and to help fund reputation recovery, an additional 1% TID tax was levied on all hotels and STRs. Total STR taxes and fees: 16% + $4/night.
These taxes and fees are summarized here.
Housing Investment Fund: Mike Johnson told us that the Portland Housing Bureau provides pass-through funding for all types of affordable housing in the City. The Bureau has a wide range of funding beyond the STR taxes and fees including $500 million in bonds and grants being targeted for 2,000 units between two bonds. But the STR revenue stream supplements the bonds and grants. Mike said that pre-Covid the $4/night fees alone were over $2 million per year.
An example of a Housing Fund action is the recent acquisition of 263 units of affordable housing. Some associated expenses aren’t allowed to be paid for with bonds, making the STR tax and fee revenue especially valuable. TLT will be used for affordable housing targeting residents who have an income of less than 60% of Portland’s median income of $80,000. The $4/night revenue provided over $2 million for rent assistance to the Joint Office of Homeless Services.
In 2022, the $4/night fees will help BIPOC commitments for down payment assistance, allowing first time homeowners to buy. The fees replaced the prior source of funding of this important program. View Mike’s slides here.
Pass-Through Registration: Melissa Wright told us that prior to January, 2020 the City knew those hosts who were permitted but couldn’t identify those who were not. It wasn’t possible to enforce the permitting program.
Through a legal settlement between the City and the platforms the Short Term Rental Registry was formed. No platform may advertise (post a listing) for any host who’s name and address don’t show up in this Registry.
Airbnb’s solution to getting a host in the Registry was their Pass Through Registration program (PTR). The computer interface between the City and Airbnb is not yet functional but the process is in place, whether it’s by paper or electronic. Melissa shared the details of that process with meetup participants through this set of slides. Contact Melissa at STR Permit for more information.
Q&A included dealing with the bad reputation of the city, allowable use of STR funds, whether there is an ongoing building maintenance fund for affordable housing projects, criticism about building too nice of buildings, and more.
Robert Jordan wrapped up with a note about the regressive nature of the $4/night fee. We’re seeing the effects of the fee as being positive for the affordable housing, but regressive for the host with low rental rates. A conversion to an equivalent percentage would be better for hosts.
Host2Host dues-paying members can view the meetup recording here.
Submitted by Alan Colley, Host2Host Past President & Contributing Editor
Our society loves glamour. It seems that everything we read aims to glorify the dramatic and extraordinary. I admit it makes great copy. We are always reading about the most popular destinations, the number one places we must add to our already overfilled bucket lists. I get it. Our own place has been featured in many media outlets. But like fame in any arena, it’s fleeting, and actually to my mind, misses the point.
When I think about what it means to be a host, though perhaps not popular and glamorous, it’s really about whether we enable our guests to feel genuinely welcome. In our harried and often existentially worried and anxious society, finding a place that offers rest, welcome and comfort is a real gift.
While the media pours its attention on the extraordinary locations to book a stay, let’s hit the pause button for a minute and focus on what we might describe as the “ordinary”, the bread and butter locations where “ordinary” hosts are offering the extraordinary gem of a warm, comfortable welcome.
These hosts may be tucked into quiet neighborhoods rich with comfortable yet unheralded jewels. These hosts and their places offer a sense of home and belonging. No fanfare. Just the kind of “comfort food” to soothe your mind, heart and body.
People who provide welcome to guests do so because they love it. Yes, it provides income, but doing so also enriches them in many other ways, too. Potential new friends. Shared experiences. Introducing the specialness of their own neighborhoods. And, yes, even the genuine hospitality that “coming home” can give.
Take a moment to reflect on just how these “ordinary places” and the quiet hosts who open them are truly extraordinary. You are the vital backbone of the short-term rental segment of our travel industry.
Host2Host members, if this speaks to your hosting style, share your listing to this blog post via a comment.
Anurag Verma, founder of PriceLabs, and Andrew Kitchell, founder of Wheelhouse gave great presentations at our Host2Host May meetup. If you couldn’t attend, you will want to watch the video (available to Host2Host dues-paying members).
Our moderator Ryan Tigner noted that dynamic pricing is critical to hosts being able to maximize their revenue. He is certain that hosts will see a positive return on investment in either of these software products.
Both companies provide multiple products and no long term contracts. You can pay for what works best: a percentage commission on bookings or a flat rate per month. Both vendors can do pricing for home-sharing and listings for more than one space. And both have access to very large data sets.
We learned in the presentations that setting your STR price is just one factor. Just as important are the availability settings which allow you control how far in advance your space should be made visible to rent.
Both companies are offering Host2Host members a 50% discount for the first two months after any free trial period. See the link at the bottom of this article.
Anurag began as a graduate student renting out a spare bedroom. PriceLabs now has a presence all over the world. Their dynamic pricing product allows a host or VR manager to adjust rates and availability easily and frequently based on various factors including events in the area, lead time, seasonal factors, and other pricing in the area.
Just select the platform your listing is on, click to connect and you can see proposed pricing, very dependent on the base price that you will select. PriceLabs allows you to adjust all kinds of other settings like what discount to give for a last minute booking, how high to charge for a one night booking in case you don’t want them but would accept one for a high enough rate. You also set availability choices such as one day gap between bookings etc.
We saw Portland’s “market summary” which is the PriceLabs market dashboard. The graph showed the distribution of booking windows, with 1-2 months ahead being the current highest window. The main length of STR stays currently is 3-4 days. There is a lot of valuable data here.
Anurag emphasized that nimble pricing adjustments require both human input and automation. In other words, you can “set it and forget it” but you won’t see the best return unless you spend some time learning the product and interacting with it.
Wheelhouse founder Andrew Kitchell actually started as the co-founder of Beyond Pricing before starting Wheelhouse. They are now in 50 countries, 600 markets and over 2,000 cities.
Their brand new product “Wheelhouse Pro” contains dynamic pricing, market reports, and “comp sets”. Their dynamic pricing product allows a great number of settings but Andrew says they are known for being easy to set up. And just as Anurag stated, Andrew agrees that effective dynamic pricing depends on human involvement as much as automation.
The Wheelhouse pricing engine is built on 6 years of data and continuous A/B testing. Andrew says that 90% of their methodology is available from their website blog. All their data points allow them to discover the true value of your listing.
They have a new partner in Key Data Systems which brings a vast amount of new data to the software. Andrew stated that the average listing earns 20% more through using their dynamic pricing product and some have earned 100% more. They rely more on booking patterns versus being too heavy on historical data.
Market Reports are Wheelhouse’s 2nd product, giving users a comprehensive view of pricing, booking, availability and other data in the geography of interest.
Their 3rd product is the “Comp set”, allowing you to select nearby listings that you want to continually watch, up to 100 listings. All the info is exportable with a click. They have lots of online courses to help you along.
Q&A: Watch the video to get the full presentations and to hear answers to having multiple listings (like Airbnb and VRBO), how to set up those listings, customer service, training videos, on-boarding, webinars, setup time, and other questions. Also see the special H2H member pricing listed below the video recording.
Submitted by Nancy Stevens, Host2Host Charter Member, Meetup Team Chair and host in NW Portland.
The first business affiliate meet-up was such a fun event. Thank you to all our Business Affiliates who joined us to showcase their services as well as their special offers to members:
Breezeway ~ Carlos Rafael Photography ~ Descansa Property Management ~ DueNorth Pdx ~ Fix Linens ~ Golightly ~ Guest Hook ~ Health Markets ~ HostGPO ~ Hosting Your Home Podcast ~ Houfy ~ InnStyle ~ iTrip Vacations Portland ~ Kim Gordon Cumbo ~ PriceLabs ~ Proper Insurance® ~ Radious ~ Rose City Interiors ~ Short Term Rental Permits ~ Sweet Haven ~ The Distinguished Guest ~ TouchStay ~ Travel Portland
It was wonderful to get to know each one of our businesses. We learned a little about them personally, what their business is about, how they service the host community and many shared a special offer just for Host2Host members.
If you weren't able to join us on May 11th, take the time to review the recording - you will be amazed at the variety of business leaders we have among our members! Not only are there some amazing deals available to you for just being a member of Host2Host, but you will be supporting our local, small businesses - contact information is available on the Host2Host Business Directory. Check it out!
Host2Host members can view the event recording here.
Submitted by Shannon Hiller-Webb, Host2Host representative on the Travel Portland Board, owner of Prosparus, and host in SW Portland.
Travel Portland is a pre-eminent marketing DMMO (Destination Marketing Management Organization) that is nationally and internationally recognized for the impact of their innovative marketing.
This marketing is what brings "heads to beds" in Portland which is their sole mission. They do this by highlighting what makes us unique and doing so in targeted markets with informed metrics.
They book venue space to conferences near and far to drive bookings which STR's benefit an average of 20%. Beyond conferences, they are innovative in their approach to reaching targeted audiences that benefit hotels and STR's.
Travel Portland recently invested $10k in an Airbnb promotion and by doing so Airbnb increased their contribution to the promotion of Portland for a total investment of $25k.
Airbnb ran a Portland targeted campaign to sell neighborhoods to travelers and book the STR's in each neighborhood through their site. Airbnb has run these promotions in other cities throughout the world however, this was the first time a DMMO had ever invested in an Airbnb campaign EVER in the WORLD. See the Airbnb Press Release.
So, an initial $10k Airbnb promotion became a $25k promotion due to Travel Portland. Travel Portland would have invested more if Airbnb could have shared metrics due to requirements on how TP monies are spent.
In addition, there are dedicated links to STR sites on the new Travel Portland website and further promotions by neighborhood on their site such as Alberta Street District.
Finally, I want to recognize that while our industry has been hit hard by COVID, Travel Portland was truly hit hard as their primary source of income is taxation. I believe revenue was down 85%.
That said, I want to praise the leadership of Travel Portland who have saved for a rainy day, took early and aggressive measures to reduce staff significantly, preserve resources, changed tactics, pivoted and canceled promotions to run lean so that when Travelers are ready so are they to invite them back to Portland.
TP will initially be doing a "Reputation Recovery" campaign to locals and travelers to invite people to re-engage with our city; bruises and all because we remain unique. They are storytellers and they do their jobs well. Most important, we are lucky to have them and I whole heartedly support the temporary City of Portland tax increase to see us all through the tricky bits. https://www.hereforportland.com
Submitted by Robert Jordan, Host2Host Board member, Advocacy Chair and host in NE Portland.
Two City of Portland managers, Scott Karter of the Revenue Division and Mike Liefeld of the Bureau of Development Services (BDS), met in April with the Host2Host (H2H) Advocacy Committee.
They provided an update about two old subjects: The Accessory Short-Term Rental (ASTR) Registry and the Pass-Through Registration (PTR) system (which is used exclusively with the Airbnb platform).
The Registry is a collection of all STR addresses the City considers valid. It lives in BDS but has proven very useful to the Revenue Division, particularly to vet non-Airbnb listings. Most, if not all, new and renewal applications in 2020 and 2021 have been in “pending” status due to the pandemic, but once that backlog has been cleared, the Registry will be instrumental in assisting in enforcement actions.
Mr. Karter emphasized that the Registry was already proving to be very useful in helping the non-Airbnb platforms remove non-permitted listings from their websites. H2H would like to use the Registry for recruitment efforts. Mr. Liefeld said the physical inspection process of every 10th STR application is in place, and BDS still do inspections in response to complaints.
Progress on the Airbnb - Portland PTR system has likewise been greatly slowed down by the pandemic, needing the technical computer interface to handle the transactions. Mr. Liefeld explained that BDS is close to testing an app for their internal use, designed to enhance the communication between the City and Airbnb, thus speeding up and smoothing out the application process for hosts. H2H provided feedback on some adjustments to the current forms that would assist applicants.
Current plans for a H2H Meet-Up in June about our advocacy efforts include city staff participation, at which time we hope to hear about progress toward the implementation of the BDS app. The June meetup will also include a presentation of STR taxes and fees and where they are directed.
You can read the details of how the PTR interface is supposed to work. First, the legal memorandum of understanding between the platforms and the City. Second, a press release that summarizes the process. These documents are from 2019, but are still the basis for the interface.
Just scheduled: City of Portland meet-up on June 10. Register @ City of Portland STR Tax Use & PTR Meet-up
Submitted by Debi Hertert, Host2Host Founder, Board member, co-creator of Hosting Your Home podcast and host in SW Portland and the Oregon Coast.
The H2H April business event was sponsored and presented by Ryan Tigner of iTrip Vacations. Ryan discussed short term rental property management issues using his company as an example, but noted that Host2Host members are generally not his target market.
Ryan’s goal for the meeting was to acquaint members with property management. The typical client would have a space that is not shared, has a separate entrance, and the client does not want to provide significant hosting service themselves.
We learned about questions to ask and things to be aware of when selecting a management company. There is a wide variation in management fees from company to company; some companies charge for light maintenance problems and many other extras, on top of the contractual percentage fee.
Fast access to management employees and owners to trouble-shoot problem issues is true for some companies but not all. Full and competent property management offers the host/owner peace-of-mind when engaging a property management company. Making a decision on who will take over one's property needs to be a well-researched decision.
iTrip Vacations Northwest has received many awards in the property management space and we are very pleased to have Ryan bring his many skills to us as a board member of Host2Host.
Thank you Ryan for teaching us more about short term rental property management!
Ryan also had a very special offer for attendees:
Sign up with Ryan at iTrip Vacations and receive all new photography, a 3D Matterport virtual tour and floor plans of your STR - all free through May 31.
Host2Host members can view the video recording here.
Ryan has offered to answer any questions any H2H member might have about property management and encourages us to email our questions to him at Ryan@itrip.net.
Submitted by Bill Bache, Host2Host member and host in North Portland.
On April 13th Host2Host reached a milestone of sorts. The meetup that day was the 88th one since Host2Host was founded.
This meetup gave members the opportunity to meet the founders or representatives of five niche listing sites; each one catering to specific types of short-term rental guests.
At Ease provides active-duty members and their families, Department of Defense employees, military contractors, and federal employees with short-term rentals pre-approved to meet Federal Travel Regulations. “When you book lodgings with us for official, reimbursable stays, we guarantee your travel voucher will be approved or will provide you with a refund for the total cost of your rental.”
Website: pcsatease.com Contact: Anthony Gantt, email@example.com
Fabstayz provides a platform of truly inclusive and welcoming super host allies to the LGBTQ+ traveler. “Our goal is to ensure that every letter of the LGBTQ+ acronym is represented, included and welcomed.”
Website: fabstayz.com Contact: Robert Geller, firstname.lastname@example.org
Golightly is an invite-only home-sharing and vacation rental club for women. “We want women to travel often, stay safely and go lightly.”
Website: wegolightly.com Contact: Victoria O'Connell, email@example.com
Hipcamp is a growing community of good-natured people and the most comprehensive resource for unique outdoor stays. “By connecting people with the land and each other, Hipcamp works to support those who care for the land and get more people out under the stars.”
Website: hipcamp.com Contact: Taylor Fink, firstname.lastname@example.org
Radious is kind of like Airbnb, but for office space. Radious lets workers find a private office that’s associated with someone’s private property. “Your home office, away from home.”
Website: radious.pro Contact: Amina Moreau, email@example.com
As with all Host2Host meetups, the video is available for Host2Host members to view anytime and can be found here on the Host2Host website.
For the sake of brevity, here is a summary of the topics that were discussed. View the video for the details.
This was a very productive meetup, with active participation by both the presenters and attendees. Thanks so much to our presenters for an informative and fun event.
Submitted by Rob Hertert, Host2Host President
Greetings Host2Host members!
As your H2H president this year, I have the privilege of seeing the extraordinary variety of activity that goes on behind the scenes at Host2Host. I won’t try to name individuals who contribute to this work (they know who they are). And it’s not possible to include every activity. There’s just too much going on!
But I'll try to hit the highlights:
- We attend the Travel Portland Board of Directors meetings, ensuring that STRs don’t get left out of the conversations. - We brainstorm, develop and produce educational meetups every month. - We survey the STR industry and interview companies to select those that would be valuable for our Sponsored meetups.
- We reach out to our business affiliate members to connect them with each other and with you. - We meet with City of Portland staff to find out about STR revenue and how it’s used. - We monitor the status of permitting and regulations. - We interview member focus groups to learn the areas of improvement needed to provide the highest value to members. - We record all our events and organize them on the website for you to view at your leisure.
- We hold monthly H2H Board meetings. - We have quarterly calls with other host groups like ours in other areas of the country. - We manage the H2H finances and budget. - We evaluate different membership models & pricing, and add member benefits to help hosts and H2H thrive.
- We get our name out there through social media. - We recruit new members. - We sponsor weekly host coffees that provide a welcome opportunity for hosts to meet and chat. - We improve the website and monitor the Facebook groups. - We answer email inquiries and troubleshoot membership problems.
And every month, we publish an excellent newsletter to keep you informed. My sincere hope is that all this work is helping you be a better host, connected with our host community.
Written by Anthony Rallo, Member of the H2H Meet-up Team, Host2Host member and host of vacation properties on Fire Island NY, Poconos Pa, Gatlinburg TN, Outerbanks NC and more - A+W Projects
In the world of real estate, there are many use variations that have continued to evolve over the last 100+ years. A traditional owner that offered their dwelling for rent would typically provide a lease for the tenant and become a landlord. This has been the common, known terminology that long-term rental owners have become accustomed to. It remains common practice for long-term rental owners to work with a realtor or real-estate leasing agent to help assist with the process of marketing the owner’s home as well as the paperwork associated with creating a lease for the tenant. A fee ranging from 10-15% of the annual lease is industry standard for the professional help associated with these duties.
When Airbnb came onto the scene, circa 2008, the traditional model for owners offering their dwelling had already begun to evolve and has since been adopted by many more people as the barrier to entry has been lowered and dramatically changed. Owners who never wished to be “landlords” discovered they could be “hosts” part or full-time, and people who wanted to visit (but not live) in a town/city discovered they could be “guests” in a home (versus a hotel). Realtors, previously shepherds of the long-term leasing of a property, were soon subjugated by faceless platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo when owners decided they wished to host on a short-term perspective. Along the way, owners that chose to offer their homes on a short-term basis discovered that the revenue they could collect was exponentially above what they’d receive renting long-term and the conditions of offering their home was infinitely elastic.
While this hands-on approach combined with technology was an evolution of sorts, short-term rentals have been around for a long time too. The vacation rental industry had existed for a long time. Typically they were operated by “mom & pop” types that would offer their home for rent or sometimes by professional property management companies. Property management companies grew as managers realized Jane Homeowner had a home in a great destination which she didn’t live full-time in and was okay letting others rent it to help cover costs of owning and maintaining the home. Paying a moderate fee of 15-30% while collecting sizable short-term rental payments still seemed like a win for owners.
Today, the choice to be a Host or a Landlord isn’t one to be taken lightly and has varying benefits and compromises. While there isn’t an official definition yet, it has become more adopted in the industry to refer to STR owners that provide their home, or room to people on a less than 28 day basis as “hosts” and those that pay to stay in these homes, or rooms as “guests.” As a result, hosts wouldn’t create leases, though they MAY have rental agreements. Hosts wouldn’t run credit checks or take payment in person; they would use platforms known as an Online Travel Agency (OTAs) and processors (Stripe/Square). Guests wouldn’t pay for utilities or “move in” they’d pay a nightly rate, a cleaning fee and appropriate occupancy taxes and “check-in” - similar to the way they would at a hotel. This time-based definition of less than 28 days, accompanied by the lack of transferring any ancillary utility charges also seemingly offers an STR host some protection from getting stuck with issues surrounding squatters and evictions.
On the converse side, STR hosts often must charge/collect/remit Sales, Use and Occupancy Hotel taxes that would be eliminated should they be renting their home on a long-term basis. STR hosts must furnish and decorate the home they are hosting in versus offering a property completely vacant. Hosts must provide cleaning of the home after a guest departs and often provides linens for bedrooms and bathrooms. Additionally, without realtors or leasing agents, hosts also pay to list and market their homes on the OTAs with nominal fees of 3-8% of the total. Even with all of these incremental costs and responsibilities short-term rentals still have proven to be lucrative choices. It appeared that a short-term rental revolution had begun giving power back to the homeowner and providing tools that made offering one’s home easier, with less operational overhead, higher profitability and greater flexibility.
Making the decision to be a host can be rewarding in many ways beyond just fiscally. As travel rebounds from lows we’ve seen at the start of the pandemic, many more homeowners are likely to be drawn in, creating an even larger ecosystem of hosts and guests enjoying short-term rentals.
It's hard to quantify just how gratifying it is when a guest loves a host's space. But current hosts know this may be the most important measurement of all to their success and happiness in the STR business.
Managing Partner | A+W Projects
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