• Fri, February 05, 2021 4:01 PM | Jill Palamountain (Administrator)


    Submitted by Debi Hertert, Host2Host Founder and member of the Business Outreach Committee.

    We held our first sponsored event with Breezeway on Tuesday night, with Justin Ford presenting via Zoom.  Our Business Outreach Committee Chair, Ryan Tigner, introduced Justin to our group of hosts.  

    Justin is the driving force behind Breezeway’s Safety Program.  Safety is a huge issue for our short-term rentals.  Justin pointed out a number of ways that hosts fail to protect themselves and their guests from accidents and possible litigation.  Some of his examples were of BBQs catching houses on fire, homes lacking proper railings on stairs, and a lack of mounted or expired fire extinguishers.

    Breezeway offers a safety program which involves a host using an app that walks them through specific safety questions about their property.  Based on the answers, if the property is already at passing level, a certificate will be issued.  If repairs are made and the host goes through the process again, they will still receive the certificate.  Justin pointed out that not only will your property be safer for your guests, but you would also be more protected legally in that you had proactively gone through the certification process. In addition, Proper Insurance offers a 5% discount for hosts with the Breezeway certification.

    Justin offered Breezeway’s two certification programs free of charge to our event attendees. 

    1. Self-Safety Certification Report, valued at $69, is currently a free-to-download app. 
    2. Short-Term Rental Safety Inspector Course (STRSI), valued at $500, was offered free to the first 15 hosts to sign-up. This program is for people who want to become inspectors and earn money doing it. If you missed the free offer, Host2Host members can take the course for $100. Use the promo code found on Breezeway's member profile.

    Host2Host members can find similar offers by looking up Breezeway up on our H2H member’s site.  And can view the event recording here

  • Fri, February 05, 2021 3:09 PM | Jill Palamountain (Administrator)

    Submitted by Nancy Stevens, Pamela Jeanne and David Boe. All are members of the Host2Host Meet-up Team and H2H Charter Members.

    Host2Host kicked off the New Year with a meetup entitled: Hopes and Plans for 2021. Debi Hertert, Host2Host Founder, shared some of the “forecasts” for travel in the future. Among them:

    • Pent-up demand will result in far more travel beginning in the second quarter of 2021. 
    • Trends blurring between short-term rentals, vacation rentals and long-term rentals. 
    • Business nomads will continue to be common. 

    Debi also suggested that we reflect on five questions in order to keep hosting in perspective: 

    1. What’s more important to me, results or relationships? 
    2. How does hosting reflect who I am? Or does it?
    3. What impact does hosting have on the world around me? 
    4. What is something that makes me feel proud about hosting?
    5. What does my work-life balance look like?

    Based on the forecast that we can anticipate more travelers this year, the members chatted with each other in small breakout groups on four popular topics on how best to prepare for a return to hosting. They included:

    Technical upgrades: locks, pricing systems, etc

    Airbnb platform changes

    Property upgrades: interior design, kitchenware, etc

    Building your own website

    The evening was enjoyed by all – especially the break-out rooms where hosts could talk to and learn from each other. While the meet-up was recorded, the break-out rooms were not. This made for a less interesting viewing of the event and we will not be sharing or posting the recording on the Host2Host website.

  • Thu, February 04, 2021 5:41 PM | Jill Palamountain (Administrator)

    Submitted by David Boe. David hosts in his SW Portland home and has remained open through the pandemic. 

    Before Covid-19 appeared on the horizon, a popular YouTube channel called Vsauce published the latest episode of its Mind Field series. Released a week before Halloween of 2019, the episode was entitled “What is the scariest thing?

    Mind Field’s creator Michael Stevens has a knack for mixing comedy with serious scientific content, and it’s made him one of YouTube’s most bankable stars. His resources allowed him to assemble a unique and diverse panel of world-class experts on fear; a curious mix of authors, researchers and scientists that also included the producer/director of one of the world’s most well known horror films. 

    Serious science involves years of tedious research. It’s not usually the stuff of Hollywood movies. Yet it’s Mr. Stevens’ gift to make such things both accessible and entertaining, and he succeeds beautifully here, with one small but significant exception: 

    Over the course of the program, the search for the scariest thing is the constant focus, and the question itself is repeated and restated throughout the episode, building up to a big reveal. But the answer he provides in the last half-minute of the video is so dryly clinical as to be almost meaningless. Are you ready? After a 40 minute build-up, here it is: The scariest thing, the single thing that universally provokes terror in all human beings is:

    “Elevation of Carbon Dioxide in the Blood Caused by an Uncontrollable External Threat.” 

    What? 

    It was an anti-climax after such a long build up. As if Dorothy’s house had just landed in Oz, but instead of opening the door to reveal a technicolor world, she just wakes up in a hospital bed, skipping the whole story.

    But I quickly realized the point. The preceding 40 minutes had offered up everything I needed in order to fully appreciate why this cold, clinical explanation was indeed the correct answer.  It was never about the destination. It was always the journey.

    Now, you may be wondering, what does all this have to do with hosting during a pandemic? Hold on. I’m getting there....

    The bulk of the program is an exploration of our most basic, innate fears. Innate fears are present at birth; they aren’t acquired or learned. Although we can learn to manage them, we can never entirely master them; they are always present, encoded in our DNA.

    You can easily guess the first two: The fear of falling, and the fear of sudden movement, deeply connected to the startle reflex. 

    Here’s where it gets really interesting. Remember that this episode was conceived, written, produced, and posted online the week before Halloween, on October 24, 2019; 23 days before patient zero was first documented in Wuhan, China, on November 17, 2019. Yet watching it today, it’s chilling how fully Covid-19 inhabits the six remaining innate human fears:

    *Pain

    *Disease

    *Isolation

    *Suffocation

    *Incapacitation

    *The Unknown/Abnormal

     

    These all flow from the greatest fear of all, the fear of Death. (Did I mention that this video is mostly a comedy?) In writing this article I am filled with even more admiration for Mr. Stevens’ comedic genius, especially in tackling such a dark topic. But then again, if you harken back to that innocent time before the pandemic, such gallows humor went down a lot easier.

    For readers currently living through the worst pandemic in a century, it is immediately clear how directly each of the six remaining innate fears relate to Covid-19: It’s an Invisible (unknown) Disease that Incapacitates its victims with tremendous Pain. Moreover, it forces us into Isolation, and causes Death by Suffocation.

    An especially ingenious aspect of the episode is that it is structured like a horror movie, and even includes an interview with Sean S. Cunninghan, the producer/director of Friday the 13th and many other films. The program uses this movie connection to explain how fear is maximized in horror films through something known as “category jamming.” 

    Category jamming is a technique that has been perfected over many years. It’s why a character like Freddy Krueger in Nightmare on Elm Street is so terrifying: Several of our most basic fears are piled one on top of the other to multiply the terror.  It also explains why movies like the Alien franchise are so effective: unknown creatures hunt human prey, isolated in a spacecraft where air could run out at any second. It even explains the logic behind a movie about Snakes on a Plane: People already fear both snakes, and flying. Putting them together creates a confluence of terrifying factors including fear of falling and sudden movement.

    How does this relate to hosting during a pandemic? 

    The pandemic we’ve all endured over the last year is a lot more like living in a horror film than anyone realized. But not just any horror film. This seemingly endless movie moment is category-jammed with all of our most basic, innate fears, and they have been more effectively stitched together in real life than any horror film. 

    For me, the concept of category jamming was a light bulb moment: It’s no wonder we’re all so stressed and disoriented. We’re simply not built to live with so much fear, and there are numerous studies that show the adverse effects of constant stress (though I’ve seen none as yet, about the pandemic). Our bodies are evolved for fight or flight; something that ends in a matter of minutes, or maybe hours, but not days or weeks on end. Months or years? We’re not built for that.

    From a hosting perspective, every guest is potentially Freddie Krueger in a hockey mask, carrying a Texas chainsaw in his oversized luggage. Every child is The Good Son. Every toy is Chuckie

    From the guest’s perspective it’s just as bad: every host is Norman Bates welcoming them to Hotel California: You can check out any time you like, but (if you catch Covid) you might never leave (alive, that is). 

    As a home-host, welcoming guests into my own living space, these issues are compounded. It’s no wonder that on many of my days off (when no guests are around, no arrivals scheduled) I’ve found myself unable to get out of bed, sad to the point of incapacity, weeping for no good reason that I could figure out. Until now. 

    I simply didn’t appreciate that we are being category-jammed by the most frightening monster of them all: Our own imaginations, as fueled by the combined resources of the entire planet’s news, information, and entertainment industrial complex. 

    Dealing with it

    It’s said that acknowledging the reality of a situation is one of the first steps toward healing. Working through the anxiety and the range of other emotions brought on by a year of lockdown and isolation is no easy task. But luckily, the same advances in science and technology that allowed us to create a vaccine and find effective treatments for COVID-19 also offer a number of proven strategies to help us deal with such monsters, both real and imagined.

    Exercise your knowledge and your body

    Once you appreciate the full scope of what's going on emotionally (i.e. in addition to the physical dangers we face, we’re also being held in a psychological prison by a tiny, invisible invader), there are many ways to help reduce your fear and anxiety. Two of the most important are related to movement, both physical and mental. 

    More than any time before, during the pandemic I’ve come to appreciate the value and the volume of information that now resides at our fingertips. Educating yourself about the realities of COVID-19 is an effective way to gain a measure of control over the situation. And of course, a daily walk with my beloved dachshund, Buddy, does wonders for dissipating the monsters too. 

    The bottom line

    Hang on, and stay as healthy as you can by exercising both your body and your mind. You’ll need them both for the next Renaissance.

    _____________________________

    An Airbnb Superhost since 2016, David Boe has welcomed more than 1,100 guests into his home in Portland’s West Hills. This article is based on his experience of personally hosting more than 50 trips between April and December of 2020. David is a charter member of Host2Host, and is also the author of Secrets of an Airbnb Superhost, and Walk With Me, Discover Hoyt Arboretum in Portland, Oregon, based on the Airbnb Experience he created in the Arboretum, which is within ½ mile of his home. Both books are available on Amazon.com.

  • Sat, January 09, 2021 9:36 AM | Jill Palamountain (Administrator)

    Submitted by Amina Moreau, Host2Host member and CEO & Co-founder of Radious

    Locals… I thought people loved locals. But as it turns out, many short-term rental hosts shudder at the thought!

    For some of us hosts, a booking request from a local guest, raises red flags. Will they be partying it up? Will our place get trashed? We start to cycle through the countless things that could go wrong.

    Before the pandemic, there seemed to be a general sentiment that out-of-towners were the safer, more responsible guests. After all, it’s less likely that they’d be traveling with a huge entourage looking for a place to party. Locals, on the other hand? They signaled trouble.

    As a relatively new host, this aversion to locals was counterintuitive for me at first. Until I’d started having conversations with more experienced hosts, I’d assumed that locals would actually show more respect for hosts’ properties. I figured people would be less likely to cause turmoil in their own neighborhoods, for fear of being recognized and called out as the community hooligan. But no. It seems that every town has its bad apples and it’s up to us to recognize them before they inflict their wrath.

    And so I learned to consider “locals” as a dirty word.

    And then COVID-19 happened. 

    Travel all but halted completely, which meant out-of-towners were a thing of the past. Many short-term rental hosts found themselves with a greater number of inquiries coming from locals looking for a change of scenery. Cooped up families were looking for a holiday refuge or simply for a quiet place to work away from distractions.

    While some nervousness about locals lingered, the pandemic increased demand for “legit” local rentals that didn’t include partying or property damage. More and more local guests were proving themselves to be quite lovely. Was this the start of a shift in perceptions? Maybe locals might not be so bad after all?

    In parallel, we’ve seen small businesses suffering immeasurably due to the pandemic. But, in inspiring fashion, communities have come together in solidarity to support local businesses in any way they can. “Shop local” has become an ever-present philosophy, and people have really leaned in. Locals have stepped up as stewards of their communities, taking on projects to clean up graffiti, donating food, propping up those who have stumbled, and being all-round good neighbors. The word “local,” in this context, seems to mean “friend.” And short-term rental hosts have played a big role in being those good friends.

    One might suggest that as hosts, we really are leaders. We provide shelter, safety, a sense of warmth and community, at a time when distance and isolation are the norm. 

    If we’re afraid of locals, we’re afraid of each other.  I believe we have a unique opportunity to come together, see one another as allies, and rebuild our communities in a way that feels welcoming, open and genuinely collaborative.

    2021 began with it a much-needed feeling of hope. No matter what happens, let’s embrace hope by taking every opportunity we can to help one another, and let go of past beliefs that may no longer serve us. Let’s create the “new normal” we really want to see.

    Amina Moreau

    CEO & Co-founder of Radious

    Your home office, away from home.


  • Sat, January 09, 2021 8:59 AM | Jill Palamountain (Administrator)


    Submitted by Alan Colley, Host2Host Past President & Newsletter Editor

    Dear Members of Host2Host and Hosts Everywhere

    As the new year dawns with all its potential, it occurs to me that it may be a good time not only to consider how we can reinvigorate our own properties for our guests, but also to embrace our neighbors in that invigoration. Here are some thoughts.

    As a community of hosts we are doing a pretty good job of gathering and building our own community. We have learned to support each other as we all have navigated this pandemic. While we have been prone to saying “We’re all in this together”, we can often forget that our neighbors are likely struggling too. How can we then begin to reach out to them? 

    Here are some good tips from Matt Landau, founder of VRMB to get us started. I quote them here to prompt our own conversation.

    “Across the research and interviews, it became obvious that all successful regulation starts at home and it starts with... being a good neighbor to others in their neighborhood.

    • “Being a good neighbor means spending more time on your porch, front yard, or hallway, taking neighborhood walks, introducing yourself, helping fix things that affect you (like broken fences or overgrown weeds) by inventing your own hair-brained solutions some of which will work and some of which won’t. Being a good neighbor means trying...

    • “Being a good neighbor means listening to neighbors, asking open questions, saying hello when you pass in the street, or calling to check in regularly if you live somewhere else.

    • “Being a good neighbor means chipping in where you can, ... and leaving the place better than you found it.

    With all the horrific events that took place on January 6, our actions now count even more. The need to care about and for each other, and to renew our commitment to our social contract is more crucial than ever. John Paul Lederach, Professor Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame statement is particularly poignant:

    “Act on and walk into what you know to be true. Start local. Reach out beyond your comfort zone. Commit to nonviolence. Always protect the dignity of others. Walk together.”

    You may not be able or ready to take on all these suggestions, but just opening up to the possibilities you can take action on, could be beneficial.

    Whatever you find worth pursuing, I hope you find satisfaction and prosperity in this coming year.

    With deep gratitude for you,

    Alan Colley (he/him/his)
    Host2Host Past President & Newsletter Editor

    PS: Check out Rent Responsibly's Fostering Good Neighbor Relations brochure for more in depth ideas about embracing your neighbors.


  • Mon, December 28, 2020 1:10 PM | Jill Palamountain (Administrator)


    Dear Members and Friends of Host2Host

    We can truthfully say this year has been like no other. As 2020 winds down we want to extend our warm thank you to each of you. As a people, and as members of Host2Host, we have greatly pivoted and achieved milestones that are worth celebrating. They signal we are capable and willing to face challenges. As an association of hosts we are showing the world we are resilient, creative, caring and professional. 

    We look forward to what can be achieved in the coming year, and are grateful for your continuing participation and support of the work that we do together - a community called Host2Host.

    On behalf of the Board of Directors, we offer our sincere good wishes for a safe and very prosperous 2021! 

    Alan Colley (He/Him/His)

    President, Host2Host

  • Fri, December 11, 2020 12:37 PM | Jill Palamountain (Administrator)

    Written by Nancy Stevens and David Boe, Host2Host Meet-up Team and Charter Members.

    Host2Host’s first virtual Holiday party was, well, like nothing we’ve ever experienced. We were a bit skeptical about holding a holiday-themed Zoom party, but we wanted to mark the end of a strange year with a hopeful look forward. We called it the Bon Voyage 2020! Happy Hour and Gift Giveaway!

    Many of our host/members and a few non-members Zoomed in, some 58 in all, a healthy turnout for any meetup! Many participants wore party hats, as well, lending a celebratory atmosphere to the evening, even if we had to flip our screens frequently to see everyone!

    Debi Hertert was our Master of Ceremonies, and she was certainly masterful at moving things along while handing out prizes left and right! She ran a series of repeated events, starting with a gift giveaway, then on to a poll/survey, followed breakout rooms with four to six participants in each room.

    Zoom’s “instant polls” were fun and fascinating. There were five in all: 

    • “Is your STR currently open?” was first, and to our surprise, 66% of participants said yes!

    • “Are you a Superhost?”  88% said yes. (We wondered aloud if Portland still has the most Superhosts per capita of any city, but all agreed that it’s great for both guests and hosts!) 

    • What color towels do you use? (White is most popular, followed by blue & other) 

    • What type of coffee maker do you offer guests? (“Mr. Coffee” style was most popular) Finally, 

    • How many stars would you give H2H? No surprise here – 5 stars! 

    Three breakout sessions of ten-minutes each allowed attendees a cumulative half-hour to mingle in smaller groups.  Each session had a different topic: What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you as a host or guest? What’s the nicest thing you’ve ever done for a guest or a host? And what’s the best thing that happened to you in 2020? Attendees from all of the rooms said that they enjoyed the chance to meet and share stories with hosts from as far away as Missouri and New York.

    The highlight of the evening were the amazing prizes. Some two dozen vendors and individuals donated gifts valued at more than $2,000! The wonderful giveaways included:

    ★ An ice cream party for 10! ★ Free annual memberships!  ★ An amazing array of gifts & gift cards! 

    The full list of prizes and donors can be found on previous blog posts:

    We hadn’t imagined that a Zoom party would be that much fun! It was so well received that the meetup team is thinking about doing it again in the future! 

    There you go, 2020, out with the old, in with the new. We are so ready for 2021. After the year we’ve had, it gives the expression “20/20 hindsight” a whole new meaning!

  • Fri, December 11, 2020 9:06 AM | Jill Palamountain (Administrator)

    A great time was had by all at the Host2Host Bon Voyage 2020 event on December 8, 2020. A huge thank to all our donors. Their generous support allowed Host2Host to give away over $2000 in gifts.

    iTrip Vacations

    iTrip Vacations is a locally owned short term rental property manager. Advertising the properties they manage on over 85+ different channels while delivering the local white glove boutique level of service to both the guests and homeowners. iTrip Vacations currently manages over 80 short term rentals from Mt. Hood to the Oregon Coast and everything in between! Locally owned by Corey Tigner and Ryan Tigner, who is on our Board of Directors.


    Goddamn Man Co.

    We love men and their beards and want them to feel confident about how they show up in the world so they can attract their lovers and be on top of their game without distraction. That's why we handcraft premium body and beard care products with love, humor, and responsibly sourced organic, wild harvested, and Oregon-made ingredients.


       Ensourced

    Ensourced is a premium Airbnb management service specializing in maximizing Happiness for guests and their hosts. From cleaning to concierge, we are Listing Management experts. 


     Ruby Jewel Ice Cream

    Handmade ice cream, locally made and sourced in Portland, Oregon.


     Proper Insurance

    Proper Insurance leads the Nation in short-term rental insurance, with over 40,000 policies written in all 50 states. Backed by Lloyd's of London and exclusive endorsements from HomeAway & Vrbo, our company is built on world-class insurance coverage designed for vacation homes, townhouses, condos, duplexes, cabins, cottages, and more. 


         The Distinguished Guest 

    TDG's an educational portal and your go-to source for hospitality data, advice, and inspiration. Let us guide you toward the best industry events, products, people, and marketing strategies for small/independent hospitality providers!


     Hosting Your Home Podcast

    Stories from short-term rental hosts and guests. As hosts, guests, and human beings we can lower cultural barriers, making friends and sharing powerful experiences using this simple travel method.


     Spin Laundry Lounge

    Spin Laundry Lounge is here to help with all of your laundry needs! We are an essential business and are grateful to be able to stay open to give our community safe and healthy laundry options. Both stores are open daily 8am-7pm for drop off and self service laundry.


     FabStayz

    We believe traveling the world should be a relaxing and fun adventure for every person. Our mission is to provide a platform of truly inclusive and welcoming super host allies to the LGBTQ+ traveler.


    Dr. Pamela Jeanne

    Dr Jeanne has been in private practice for 30+ years and helps people with their health and wellness. Hosts need to stay strong through this unprecedented pandemic, so health education is imperative. 


             Together Anywhere

    Together Anywhere is a new company, taking visitors and locals on tours of Oregon from the comfort of your car using our smartphone apps (still free). Listen to stories and fun facts about our state!


         Guest Hook

    Guest Hook creates marketing, copywriting and branding campaigns for vacation rental businesses. 


                  Tyann Marcink

    Tyann Marcink Hammond, co-founder of VR Mastered Vacation Rental Boot Camp, Community Ambassador for Touch Stay digital guidebooks, owner/manager of Missouri Haus Vacation Rentals and Branson Family Retreats, creator of Natty Media, and photographer, author, and consultant in the vacation rental industry.


     InnStyle

    InnStyle is your complete resource for all things hospitality.  From bedding to bath amenities, dining and other lodging accessories including personal protection equipment, InnStyle is your one stop wholesale shop.  Anyone in the lodging business, including a one room Airbnb is eligible for wholesale pricing. 



      Kopa Website Builder

    Kopa Website Builder takes the technology off of your hands. Create a professional, all-in-one direct booking website in 4 minutes. On average, hosts using the Kopa Website Builder earn an extra $5,000 each year by taking bookings directly and avoiding the 15% platform service fees.


    Property Protect

    Supplemental Damage Waivers to preserve your primary homeowners policy, great for direct bookings!


          Breezeway

    Travelers want to stay in high-quality properties, and safety and regular maintenance are at the very core of this expectation.  As the leader in short-term rental safety, Breezeway has developed safety checklists and education programs that help ensure managers are operating at the professional level they are expected to be at.


     StayFi

    With StayFi, you can brand WiFi, collect guest data, and increase direct bookings – all while providing a better WiFi experience for vacation rental guests.


         Vrolio

    Vrolio is a vacation rental real estate brokerage that connects buyers and sellers of short-term vacation rentals. We know 2020 was a rollercoaster of a year for hosts and investors and we are wishing everyone smooth sailing into 2021 and beyond!


     Sweet Haven

    Sweet Haven hosts a variety of unique vacation rentals in Oregon! Discover your next sweet getaway.


  • Wed, December 09, 2020 9:24 AM | Jill Palamountain (Administrator)

    Host2Host Letter from the President

    Dear Fellow Members of Host2Host and hosts everywhere,

    I once wrote that I had let milestones in my life become millstones which were rapidly leading me to gravestones. I’ve since learned that milestones can just as easily signal achievements that we can build upon and with. It’s not the achievements per se that are worth celebrating. It’s who we have become to reach those milestones that really counts.

    No one has to tell you that this year has been like no other. The challenges, set backs, pain, fear and loss have been daunting to say the least. Yet without being glib, I believe it’s also fair to say that as a people, and as members of Host2Host, we have achieved milestones that are a great deal worth celebrating. We have demonstrated that we are creative professionals, open to learning and moving forward.

    These milestones also signal we intend to keep building. They signal we are willing and capable of facing challenges. As an association of hosts we are showing the world we are resilient, creative, caring and professional. We are ready to keep building a world that welcomes guests with professional grace and competence.

    So let’s say, “Bon voyage, 2020, thanks for showing us our grit and resilience. We look forward to 2021!”

    With deep gratitude for you,

    Alan Colley (he/him/his), Host2Host President

  • Sat, December 05, 2020 10:24 AM | Jill Palamountain (Administrator)

    Submitted by David Boe. David hosts in his SW Portland home and has remained open through the pandemic.

    True or false?

    “Home Hosting during a pandemic is exactly the same as in normal times, except with more cleaning.”

    True. And false. 

    It’s the same, but it’s oh, so different. First of all, there’s a very real possibility that someone walking into your house could be carrying a deadly virus. So that’s always in the back of your mind.

    You tell yourself that nobody wants to get this thing, and that they wouldn’t be traveling if they weren’t healthy. You hope. 

    Luckily, I’m pretty healthy and very careful about my interactions with others. I’ve worked to make my home safe for myself and my guests. Some people have expressed concern that I’m still actively hosting, but I believe that my precautions are adequate, and I’ll share them here. 

    If you’re already accustomed to keeping things clean as an Airbnb host, the additional cleaning protocols are not that much more onerous, although it didn’t feel that way at first. Initially, it added 20-25% to my cleaning time, but one finds ways to improve efficiency over time.

    Before the pandemic hit, back in mid March 2020, (on Friday the 13th, no less) my Airbnb was enjoying almost 100% occupancy. That’s hard to do over the winter, but with spring break coming up, and the weather getting better, 2020 was on track to be my best year yet! Bookings already stretched into September, with guests coming from as far as Italy and Australia.

    That all evaporated in one single weekend, after Friday the 13th, with more than $8,000 worth of cancellations. My rapidly filling calendar was suddenly empty for the rest of 2020. 

    I never closed. I kept my account active through all of March and April, with two rooms ready to rent the entire time. I tried adjusting the prices, and saw a hopeful Facebook headline about an Airbnb host in Toronto who was completely full. But at half the normal price. 

    I kept trying different price points, and was discouraged when Airbnb suggested a rate of just $18/night. I decided that it wasn’t worth it to risk my life for anything less than $29/night. (Although that’s meant as a joke, it’s at least half true. You gotta keep smiling through all this just to keep your sanity. See next month’s blog for a separate article on dealing with the emotional issues related to pandemic hosting.)

    My Airbnb, Forest in the City, bedrooms sat empty from March 13th, until April 29, when a gentleman moving to Portland for a job at the post office booked a room for two nights. My total income for April 2020 was $79, including the cleaning fee. For comparison: in April of 2019, my two bedrooms had brought in $2,737 for the month, more than 34 times 2020’s April income.

    In mid-April I got an unusual inquiry. A gentleman from Mexico wanted to book one of my rooms for the entire month of May. Over the previous four years, my average stay out of some 500+ trips was 2.5 nights. Airbnb had already noted that people were looking for longer stays, and here was proof. 

    Since longer stays were new for me, I exchanged several messages with the guest, inquiring about his reason (moving for a new job) and trying to get a feel for who he was. I was completely open about things, and said that having someone here for so long would make him more of a roommate than a guest. I explained that my usual stay was only 2.5 nights, discussed my concerns about the pandemic, and explained the need for a separate rental agreement.

    He welcomed all of the communication, and even told me that my attention to detail was a comfort for him. He said that the fact that I was engaged and interested was what convinced him to rent at my place, although he could have afforded a whole house nearby.

    This reply also made ME feel more comfortable, and I offered him a discount for the month. I also said that if he arrived and found that the situation was unworkable (by now I was feeling pretty good about this guest) that I would allow a cancellation after a week, and that I would refund him for all the nights that I was able to re-rent.

    He arrived two weeks later, and worked his new job remotely, quarantined at the house in the same way I was, going out only for food and exercise. He turned out to be a terrific guy, and there were no problems at all. He eventually found a place in downtown’s Pearl District, and I helped him get set up in his new place.

    Although not all guest visits have gone as well, the vast majority have been very much like in regular times, with a few exceptions. The VAST majority of people are great. However, there have been a lot more people who are completely new to Airbnb. Their expectations are often different from the experienced travelers, and that has resulted in some confusion. 

    For example: Some people continue to be surprised that my place isn’t an entire house all by itself. (Maybe they can’t believe their luck to stumble onto a beautiful home in Portland’s West Hills, only 2 miles from downtown but costs ~$50 per night.) 

    Invariably, such inquiries come from people who have never before used Airbnb, and don’t realize that they need to search for a “Whole House” rental.

    To help prevent such issues, I have adapted the automated messaging that Airbnb sends to guests. The Pre-Booking message is available only to hosts who use the instant book feature. After a brief “Thanks for your interest” introduction, I inserted this line: 

    “In booking, you acknowledge that this is a room in a house in which some spaces are shared.”

    I also developed my own set of “Special Pandemic House Rules,” which I inserted into the section of my listing that allows you to add any extra rules you like. You can find the full text of my Pandemic rules, along with instructions about how to find these sections in your own Airbnb listing, by following these links:

    To make myself and my guests as safe as possible during these unusual times, in addition to following new cleaning protocols, I have: 

    • Added a handwashing station at the entrance to the house 

    • Installed an air purifier (with UV light & ozone, both known to kill viruses)

    • Become much more careful/rigorous about guest screening 

    • Eliminated same-day bookings

    • Completely changed the way I interact with guests

    The first two bullet points are self explanatory. The remaining points are subsets of the final bullet point: The Pandemic has completely changed how I relate to guests. 

    More Rigorous Screening

    Since Airbnb allows instant book hosts to cancel any time we feel uncomfortable with a guest, I don’t hesitate to ask lots of questions. One prospective guest recently wrote to say that they wanted to host Thanksgiving dinner at my house, and invite a half-dozen other people to participate. Clearly, these first-time Airbnbers had not understood that I’m a home host who lives and is quarantined in the same space. (I was rather amazed to receive such a question.) Yet if I had not updated my pre-booking questions, I might not have engaged enough with these prospects to learn of their plans in advance. Such pre-screening saved everyone a lot of headaches later on.

    Eliminating same-day bookings

    In the past, I had been happy to have people arrive on a same day booking. Since I was usually booked in advance, this hadn’t been much of an issue, except when there was a late cancellation. 

    I had already noticed, however, that same-day bookers were sometimes problematic. Although the vast majority of guests have always been great to deal with, same-day bookers tended to be more demanding and less flexible than other guests. (Maybe the convenience of same-day booking creates extra high expectations in other areas.) 

    With the pandemic, this negative factor seemed to suddenly become much more significant. After two or three misunderstandings with guests who arrived on the same day they booked, I changed my availability setting. This can be found under: 

    Listings→ Availability→ Reservation Preferences

    I changed the setting from “Same Day” (with a customizable cutoff hour) to “At least 1 day’s notice.” The other available options are: 2, 3 or 7 day’s notice. 

    This setting, combined with my updated Pre-Booking Message, allows enough time for both me and the guest to verify that my place will be a good fit for their needs. This change has definitely helped to ensure that I have fewer negative or problematic guest interactions. 

    The New Way to Interact with Guests

    Although I have always enjoyed meeting new people, and have found hosting to be an excellent way to connect with people from all over the world, for the time being, at least, the pandemic required an entirely different mindset: 

    I now view every new guest as someone who could pass along the virus to me. At the same time, I must also consider myself as a possible source of infection for my guests, and behave accordingly. Although I still try to meet every guest, I keep interactions with them to a bare minimum. I try to never spend more than a few minutes in their immediate presence, always wearing a mask:

    • Check-ins now begin outdoors, in the driveway, where I greet them and ask them to maintain a 6-foot social distance between me and any other guests.

    • Next, we move to the entrance, where I show them how to use the keypad. 

    • I direct them to the hand washing station in the home’s entryway, where I ask them to wash their hands.

    • I have found that I can conduct the rest of the house tour in a socially distant fashion.

    • At the end, I explain that they will see very little of me during their stay, since I minimize my own use of the home’s common areas when guests are present.

    For these reasons, I explain that I don’t expect them to wear a mask when they’re alone in their room, or when using the common areas of the house. (Such as crossing the hall from their bedroom to the bathroom.) I explain that when I’m alone, I also don’t wear a mask around the house, since I do my best to only venture out when I know that no one else is present. “But I always have a mask with me so I can put it on if needed, and I request that you do the same,” I explain, and reiterate Airbnb’s policy that we must wear masks for all interactions. 

    I also show them the air purifier I’ve installed in the common hallway between the home’s bedrooms. Since we now know that transmission of the virus is primarily airborne from person to person, I run the device continuously. 

    The air purifier I’ve installed sits atop a bookshelf at the end of the hallway. It uses UV light, electrostatic filtration, and also produces ozone as it maintains a continuous airflow throughout that section of the house, which (hopefully) minimizes the chance of transmission. 

    This photo from Amazon is a newer version of the one I have, which I selected because the filtration components can be removed, washed, and reused. My exact model is no longer available, and has features that are now found only on more expensive models. 

    Human beings are walking petri dishes. We can pick up and transmit airborne viruses just by breathing. As a result, although I would prefer to have much more interaction with guests, I do my best to avoid all contact. With the exception of a brief meeting at check-in, to the greatest extent possible, I have replaced face-to-face contacts with written information.

    In December 2020, a new feature of Airbnb messaging allows us to automate and send customized messages. Here’s a link to the Airbnb page that explains how it works:  How to create scheduled messages & send them to guests automatically. 

    As a writer myself, I have always made extensive use of the tools available on Airbnb's messaging system, and have now built up a long list of (at least four dozen) editable message templates that I can easily send to guests. Topics include everything from detailed driving & parking directions at my home to suggested side trips that include links to Google maps itineraries (which I have created) for some of my favorite places like the Columbia River Gorge or Short Sands Beach

    Before the pandemic, these were the kind of fun and interesting travel tips that I enjoyed sharing with guests. Now, however, I do my best to engage with them in a written format. For example: Both of my Airbnb rooms include a wall-mounted, full page document entitled Check-in/out Checklist  which explains everything I would normally say in person.

    Getting back to the True/False question posed at the beginning: 

    “Home Hosting during a pandemic is exactly the same as in normal times, except with more cleaning.”

    True. But the Pandemic has intensified every element, and made things more challenging. The bottom line is this: 

    It’s still all about finding ways to connect with people, and earning their respect and trust. 

    _____________________________

    An Airbnb Superhost since 2016, David Boe has welcomed more than 1,100 guests into his home in Portland’s West Hills. This article is based on his experience of personally hosting more than 50 trips between April and December of 2020. David is a charter member of Host2Host, and is also the author of Secrets of an Airbnb Superhost, and Walk With Me, Discover Hoyt Arboretum in Portland, Oregon, based on the Airbnb Experience he created in the Arboretum, which is within ½ mile of his home. Both books are available on Amazon.com.

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