Join Debi Hertert of HostingYourHome.com as she talks with Airbnb host Kaila Thomson. Kaila and her husband Matt have a house just five minutes from the Portland, Oregon airport in the up-and-coming Montavilla neighborhood. They host two rooms above Matt’s “Ivy League Recording” music studio. Matt is a musician and sound engineer.
They have owned their house for five years. Before they started hosting, they had roommates in order to make ends meet, but were tired of it and wanted to get their lives back. They had some friends who had been hosts for a while and told them a lot about Airbnb. When Kaila and Matt got married, they honeymooned in Europe and chose Airbnb listings in every city. They saved money and loved the experience of staying in unique places and meeting their hosts. At each stop they talked to their hosts and asked them what they liked about hosting. Kaila and Matt loved how each place was different, meeting the people, and thought “we could totally do that. We could charge a little more, improve our house, and meet interesting people (and they treat our house a lot nicer).” They visited London, Prague, Munich, Slovenia, and Venice. They got to experience different arrangements: sharing space with hosts, sharing space with guests, and having their own separate space. Now, when they travel, they go to Airbnb first.
They have now been married for two years and are at their 1-year mark with hosting. Kaila is 31 years old and says many of her guests are their same ages or a little younger, maybe mid-20s, but they also have older guests. Debi told Kaila she likes to interview people of different ages and is glad to see younger people hosting.
Their listing says “Above a Recording Studio”. It might dissuade some people but others really like it and ask if they’ll hear music, and she tells them “you might!” They did have one unfortunate situation where the guest didn’t read the listing that described the music and operating hours of the studio.
They get a lot of people from Seattle because it is so close, but also people from all over the world. Kaila likes to talk with the guests to see why they chose Portland and she and Debi agreed that it’s a destination now. Deb mentioned their proximity to the airport and Kaila said they do have a lot of people just staying for a night before they travel on. They used to have both rooms listed for minimum stays of one night but it was too much work, as they have been doing their own cleaning, so now they list one room as a 2-night minimum and one room as a 1-night minimum. Kaila just hired a housekeeper to help out. Both she and her husband work full time in addition to hosting Airbnb and it is a struggle. Her housekeeper is part of their neighborhood, just five blocks away. Deb talked with Kaila about the housekeeper being there possibly every day, and Kaila said they have the arrival and departure times set as 12-2 so if the other guests are there, they know that there might be housekeeping going on during that time. She has multiple sets of linens so her housekeeper doesn’t have to do the laundry.
They talked about beds, furnishings, painting the rooms, and house rules: No loud noise after 10, clean up after yourself, turn lights off. With simple rules, they haven’t had any real issues. Debi wondered about walkable restaurants and it turns out Stark Street is an up and coming area with lots of nice restaurants and pubs including one with 19 rotating taps. The Academy Theater only costs $4. The #20 bus goes straight downtown, takes 15-20 minutes and works well for travelers without cars. Kaila includes menus from all the local restaurants in the room.
She works downtown herself, and takes the #20 to Olympia Provisions, Oregon’s first USDA-approved salumeria, established in 2009, where she works in accounting. Her managers are OK with her taking an occasional Airbnb call during work, which allows her to be reachable when necessary. Matt works from home with his recording studio, and helps a lot with cleaning and is very involved overall.
They have had guests watch movies with them, eat meals with them, and Deb asked Kaila for a story about a great guest experience. Kaila told Debi about Jenny and her husband from London, on their honeymoon, visiting before moving to Vancouver, BC. They connected nicely even though they were all sick and sitting around the living room! They talked late into the evening and became friends. Another couple from California stayed two weeks and became friends. They’ve also had some people stay who they wouldn’t want to stay again, noting this is the nice thing about hosting, is you don’t have to ever have to see them again.
Debi and Kaila talked about Facebook, other outreach to past guests, and occupancy rates. The “Blue Room” only had three days last month un-booked. The “Green Room” is a little less busy but she still gets lots of requests. Deb asked her about Instantbook. Kaila said that because Matt isn’t always home and she works during the day, they would just rather not use that part of the platform.
Their Airbnb activity helps them meet their mortgage every month and they plan on continuing hosting. One future question is what they will do once they decide to start a family. Deb and Kaila discussed Kaila’s favorite Airbnb on their Europe trip, which was the one in Prague, and the nice extras that the host did at that location. At home, Kaila leaves some snack bars and bottled water for guests, but said that sometimes guests don’t communicate with their hosts when they’d like something.
Kaila encourages those listeners who are guests to make sure they read the whole listings and communicate with their hosts, and to look at Airbnb more as a community than a corporation. She says she finds so much information and support on the Airbnb forum. She feels very supported by Airbnb – the couple of times she felt uncomfortable, like about a person putting in repeated reservation requests for dates not available and she called Airbnb and they took care of it. She has had to turn down a couple of people due to feeling somewhat unsafe about them. She normally is fine with anyone who has the verifications and some reviews and answers her basic questions. So she doesn’t use instant book for just this reason. Overall, Kaila gave Debi a very positive feeling about her hosting experience.