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
Submitted by Angela Dorsey-Kockler, H2H Board Member and host in SE Portland
Host2Host was delighted to feature Guest Hook in a sponsored virtual meeting on March 24, 2021. Conrad O’Connell, owner and Director of Guest Hook, really delivered on the myriad of ways for short-term rental hosts to increase bookings and conversion rates for rental properties.
Conrad prefaced that marketing of short-term rentals is a little bit art, little bit science, but the goal is to make your listing unique and to stand-out among the crowd. He emphasized that it’s important to tell a narrative so that your property is not just a commodity, but a true destination.
Conrad touched on best practices for everything. From your thumbnail photo and headline, to your listing description and length as well as writing styles that help attract the guests you really want. He treated our viewers to real listings and highlighted their strengths and weaknesses as a demonstration of the value his team can bring to a listing review.
Guest Hook generously offered Host2Host members and event attendees a 15% discount off services through the end of April by using promo code: HOST2HOST.
Host2Host members can view the event recording here.
Submitted by Alan Colley, Host2Host Past President & Contributing Editor
Hello fellow Host2Host members and short-term rental hosts everywhere!
Safety. Hope. Comfort. Joy.
Isn’t this at the heart of our hospitality?
Much of this past year has stripped us of much that gives us comfort, safety and joy. If you are like me, waiting for yet another shoe to drop, it has put me into a kind of purgatory where any moment of joy can be accompanied by hours of sadness. I’m tired of being sad and worried. Have you found yourself feeling this way?
How do we break through this? How can we begin again and use fresh eyes to find new comfort, safety, hope and even joy again? I don’t have answers, of course, but I am willing to try.
As short-term rental hosts who welcome guests into our homes, it can be challenging to find joy in this pandemic. Yet when we feel safe and comforted ourselves, our guests will feel it, too.
Naturally, our guests may be facing these same challenges. They want to feel safe wherever they travel. Wouldn't you? As short-term rental hosts, one might say helping our guests feel safe, comfortable and yes, even joyful is our signature welcome. Even the best hotelier struggles to replicate what is in our hands to provide.
My advice is this: begin by honestly acknowledging your feelings. Consider these feelings as separate from you. Choose to set the unwelcome ones outside. Then remember the elements of welcome that give you comfort, and even joy. Give those center-stage in your heart and allow them to break through.
Find joy moment by moment, not in haste. Let’s allow ourselves to merge gently into hope. This may be counterintuitive at times like these, but being patient with ourselves, noticing the little things - the brilliance of the roadside daffodils, the way the morning light graces the curtains, the first chirp of a robin - can slowly lift our spirits. It has lifted mine.
This is a gift we can give to ourselves and our guests, one moment at a time.
Host2Host Past President and Contributing Editor
Submitted by Darlene Curtis Host2Host charter member and host in NE Portland.
On March 9th, Host2Host held its monthly meetup on Guest Screening.
This panel presentation was one of the best I have attended.
Three panelists with different types of listings shared their experiences, all three repeated these important points:
Airbnb will allow you to cancel – without penalty – any reservation if you feel uncomfortable with the guest.
Written by Robert Jordan, Member of the Host2Host Board and host in NE Portland.
We have all heard Airbnb horror stories of guests who won’t leave. After 4+ years of problem-free hosting, I finally had that unfortunate experience. Let me tell you about it.
Bookings have been few and far between this past pandemic year, and we had had no guests for several weeks. The room was all prepped and ready to go, so when we got a three-day booking inquiry one Monday night, asking if they could get in early the next day, I didn’t hesitate to say “yes”. First lesson – they had zero reviews, despite the account being 5 years old. A bad sign that I failed to even notice. They were two adults and according to Airbnb were from Eugene, so I assumed they were a couple driving up here for a few days (not true – I later learned they were from Portland). Second lesson – don’t make assumptions.
Did I say that the worst snow and ice storm of the season had just hit Portland and when they arrived the next morning there was ice and snow on the ground? I was outside when they pulled up – in a SafeRide Health van. The young man got out and proceeded to assist the other guest, an older disabled woman in a wheelchair. Our unit is up narrow stairs above our garage, as is clearly stated in our listing. When I pointed this out, the young man said, “She can walk some, she just has a spinal injury. She can get up the stairs.” What could I do? Tell them “no”, and leave them out in the cold? As he unloaded her in the wheelchair and then bag after tote-bag, it dawned on me that these people were homeless… (another assumption, but I never found out if it was really the case).
Our unit has only a microwave and a little fridge - I told him there was a grocery store nearby, but he said they had food. And then for the next three days we didn’t even see a light go on out in the unit, and nobody left it. He was very uncommunicative, not answering his phone or responding to text messages over Airbnb. I finally was able to talk to him by banging on the door and talking through it. All along I was imagining the worst (more assumptions). Being concerned that they were starving, I ended up spending a good $30 on groceries for them, which I left at the door. And three days later the morning of their check-out arrived…
About two hours before they should have left, they requested an extension – which I had no intention of granting, just wanting them out of there. We finally communicated over the phone, and they both got into the back-and-forth with me, not understanding that they couldn’t just extend without our permission. When at 11 AM they were still there, it was time to call Airbnb.
Once I found a phone number to talk to a real person at Airbnb (not easy!), they opened a case and tried to communicate with our overstay guests, but with no success. We were told that until 36 hours had elapsed Airbnb really could take no action, but at that point something called an “extraction team” would take over. That could have added a lot of excitement to this tale, but the next day (at about hour 34) the couple found another place and moved out, having stayed one unauthorized night. Some time later I ascended the stairs, conjuring up a horror story of what sort of a mess they might have left in the room - but in fact it was left perfectly clean (one more worst-case assumption).
We let Airbnb know they could close the case, and directed them that we would forgive the debt for the extra night. My conclusion is that these were not partiers or addicts or anything of the sort, just people in dire straits who needed a place to stay in the storm (rooms in Portland were virtually unobtainable due to the power outages). They probably took our room despite its being totally unsuitable for a person in a wheelchair, because they had to.
I feel a certain amount of guilt for having entertained so many negative thoughts during this episode, and of course, we were out the grocery money and the free night’s lodging. I decided not to write any kind of review – I could hardly recommend them to other hosts, but slamming them under these circumstances didn’t seem right either. Maybe Airbnb will suspend their account due to the overstay. I don’t know, but I’m glad they are out of our place.
Did I learn anything? Sure, I could have seen their lack of reviews and the hurried last-minute request and declined it. Then that might have left them out on the street in the cold. It’s impossible not to make some assumptions about our guests. We only have so much of a guest's story to approve a booking and then to be comfortable during their stay. Blanks get filled in with our own thoughts and feelings. As for my guests, now that the weather is improving, I like to imagine that their luck has improved, too.
Submitted by Jaime Johnston, H2H Member & owner of Goddamn Man Co, premium products for body & beard care.
Travel Portland is a cheerleader for Portland’s tourism industry. Their mission - to generate travel impact that drives economic impact - has put Portland on the map as a travel destination. As a result, increased tourism has expanded the short term rental industry, contributed to job growth, and boosted visitor spending at local businesses and restaurants.
The Travel Improvement District (TID) fund accounts for about half of Travel Portland’s budget. All hotels pay this 2% tax and STR’s were added in 2018. No surprise to anyone, since the beginning of the pandemic, overall hotel and STR bookings have caved, depressing tourism tax revenues by millions of dollars. Hotel bookings are down by roughly 75%, with downtown being hardest hit.
Further, Portland’s reputation has been tarnished by media coverage of federal police presence during Black Lives Matter events. Damage and violence have made Portland feel unsafe making it difficult to continue driving much-needed tourism to Portland.
Clearly, we all benefit from Travel Portland’s efforts. Yet, they have lost significant revenue and had to lay off 80% of their staff during the pandemic.
In response, Travel Portland presented a funding proposal to the City Council during a March 3rd hearing. To address the budget shortfall, their proposal included making permanent the 2% TID, set to expire this year; and increasing the TID from 2% to 3% for five years. As always, this tax is to be paid by hotel and STR guests.
The Council was unanimously supportive of making the 2% TID permanent (watch the hearing beginning at 22 minutes) and is set to vote on the 5 year increase from 2% to 3% next week. UPDATE: On March 10 Portland City Council voted in the additional 1% increase for a 5 year period. The increase takes effect July 2021.
Travel Portland presented its proposal to the Host2Host board on February 16, requesting Host2Host’s support. The H2H board was unanimous in supporting this proposal to ensure that Portland attracts a healthy level of tourism, which benefits our city, the local economy, all who serve the tourist industry and our members.
Submitted by Frances Meyers, Host2Host member and host in SW Portland.
On February 24th, Host2Host held its second sponsored event with Kopa. Jack Forbes, CEO and co-founder, joined us to review Kopa's direct booking website.
If you’re a host wanting to reach a greater number of prospective renters while reducing your costs, you may want to explore what Kopa has to offer. Most hosts can build a website in less than 4 minutes, as about 80% of details and photos can be imported from your listing on Airbnb. Technical support is available for hosts needing assistance getting started. There is no commission on rentals, but Kopa does charge a monthly fee of $15 per listing.
Although the company’s focus has primarily been on long-term rentals, short-term rental hosts can still use Kopa to market their properties, though they will have to make use of the “change pricing” feature to charge guests for taxes. Kopa’s platform is totally customizable, allowing hosts to include photos of themselves (and any co-hosts), photos of all properties available, and even where they are located on a map of the area. House rules can be included.
As is true of other hosting platforms, prospective renters can request to rent and you can exchange messages with them directly. Kopa has prospective renters fill out a questionnaire, supply a photo and give their real name. A criminal background check can be done for an additional fee. Kopa can handle renters’ payments, but you are free to do so yourself if you prefer.
Jack generously offered Host2Host members and event attendees 25% off their first year by using the custom link: directbookingpro.com/host2host. This offer is valid through March 31. After which, Host2Host members can receive 10% of their first year using the same link.
These days don’t we hear a lot about “the new normal” and “ a watershed moment” for our country? Catchy buzzwords. What might these words signal for us as hosts in our communities.
I’m not so sure we are facing “the new normal.” Not just yet. But a “watershed moment”? Very possibly.
As a community I think we are poised on a metaphorical ridge line between one way of seeing the world (an old watershed) and a new one (a new watershed moment) where the way we see the world shifts dramatically - a paradigm shift, if you wish. The great thing about recognizing such a watershed moment is that we can give sober thought to our part in that moment. We might call this time an invitation to enter a vestibule.
Vestibule? I think so.
A traditional vestibule is, of course, a transition space. It’s a space to wait. But mostly to prepare ourselves to shed our outerwear - to discard the coats and boots - and be prepared to move indoors.
Could this time be like that?
This year has jostled us all out of our comfortability, hasn’t it? I really don’t need to tell you how wildfires, ice storms, COVID, homelessness, economic devastation all at the same time have ripped the fabric of our community. What we took for granted as stable has been upended. We have learned how fragile life and harmony is, and needs nurturing, not left to autopilot. It can be a moment in time where we really examine our priorities, our visions, our pursuits - to consider shedding outworn ways and to contemplate how we pursue our futures - a vestibule moment.
What does a vestibule moment ask of us?
I don’t cherish staying in a vestibule very long. It’s not purgatory, but I do recognize how a vestibule offers us time and space to prepare. Time and thought to see how we can harness and help the best possibilities of our new watershed moment. That’s where I think we are.
What do we hosts do with this? Those of us who work on your monthly Host2Host newsletter have been wrestling with that question too. How can we harness our collective minds, hearts and muscles to help our community bind up the wounds, and reweave the fabric of our society to include those who have been harmed, marginalized and left out? Host2Host is committed to do that. Perhaps you have already begun to reconsider how you will move forward. We would love to hear from you about it.
As we make the time and thought in our vestibules to see our role and opportunities ahead, we can walk into this new watershed with confidence and hope.
Submitted by Melissa Moran, Host2Host Member, owner of Forage & Scout Interiors and host in North Portland.
On February 10, we welcomed guest speaker Jeff Iloulian to our February meet-up. Jeff is co-founder and COO of HostGPO, the first Group Purchasing Organization for the short-term rental industry. GPOs leverage the purchasing power of a group of businesses to obtain discounts from vendors based on the collective buying power of the GPO members.
HostGPO partners with many companies you’ll know, such as Pottery Barn, RugsUSA, and Public Goods; as well as some you may not, such as Standard Textiles provider of linens to hotels around the globe. Previously open only to hosts with multiple rental properties, Host2Host members can now take advantage of buying direct from manufacturers at close-to-wholesale prices through HostGPO. Signing up is easy. Go to HostGPO and click Join Us Now.
Host2Host Members are automatically approved when joining HostGPO, with no minimum unit requirement needed. Host2Host members can view the event recording here.
H2H member, Ann Kopal, let us know she was grateful for the HostGPO membership. She ordered some blankets and quilts from Standard Textiles and was very happy with both the quality of the products and the customer service; expressing: "the representative was very generous and the items we ordered are an improvement over what we had been using."
Host2Host® is a registered trademark of Host2Host.org, a member trade association for the short-term rental community.