In this interview, get to know Airbnb Superhosts Alex Nigg and Tammi Sims as they talk with Debi Hertert of HostingYourHome.com. Alex is the creator of “Properly”, a suite of tools that allows homesharers, vacation rental owners and property managers to manage guest turnovers remotely. Properly users can send detailed visual and text checklists to their helpers, and have peace of mind that every detail of their hospitality instructions was completed just as intended.
Properly also allows the community of hosts to share their best service providers, providing opportunity to their favorite helper, as well as a trusted resource to the community.
But any of you who have listened to previous podcasts know that Debi can’t just talk about an app, she has to know about Alex and Tammi! They put on a great workshop for our local HomeSharePDX (Meetup.com) group earlier in the day. Before getting into the Properly app, Deb asks Alex and Tammi to tell her how they each got started hosting.
[3:30] Tammi had worked for 20 years for an NGO serving children with developmental disabilities. She was curious about Airbnb because part of her house in Seattle was vacant whenever she was gone. Then in 2014 her washer broke. She thought she’d host until the washer was paid off but then got hooked. She had hosted about 40 times and was talking with a guest on the porch before he left, and it occurred to her that she felt better about the world, having met and hosted all these lovely, good, kind people. She thought either she had been improbably lucky, or that we have a world of really good people and maybe we’re not doomed after all!
[7:05] Alex worked for a venture capital fund in San Francisco and began hosting because of his interest in Airbnb’s economic model, plus his other interest in design – making a home function well as a home and then quickly be able to convert to function just as well for a short-term rental. Then he got hooked too! He told Debi a touching story about a guest who stayed with him before undergoing an experimental and risky brain surgery. Before the surgery, family members from different places in the world came to see him at Alex’s house to reunite and wish him well. Friendships developed.
[10:45] Tammi speaks about the surprise that new hosts feel when they begin feeling the responsibility, honor and pleasure of providing a welcoming space for visiting strangers. When asked about whether they still mostly host remotely and whether they use a management company, Tammi said they travel so much that remote hosting is how they operate but that she doesn’t want to give up the email connection that she has with her guests. She answers questions, helps them figure out where to go etc. So she doesn’t ever want to lose this connection so she doesn’t use a management company. Alex feels the same way. Debi asks them about the details of their personal listings, and links are provided at the end of these show notes.
[14:20] There was a discussion about restrictions in each city – Alex said he is out of town so much that he is considered an “absent owner” in San Francisco and is restricted to 90 days of rental per year. He discusses the backlash of the emotional aspects of short term rentals in San Francisco. Tammi said Seattle is considering the issue now.
Of course Debi had to know how they met – and it is a true Airbnb romance! They met at a Superhost reception at the first Airbnb Open, held in San Francisco in 2014. Alex had just started his company “Properly” and had a prototype of the app and figured a Superhost reception was exactly his target audience to show people. They met, didn’t see or talk with one another for 7 months, then met again at another Superhost function and have been together since!
[18:20] Product conception and description
Alex told about being constantly interrupted at work by calls having to do with cleaning his Airbnb, and tried various manuals and lists until he finally hit upon the idea for an app that could take the guesswork out of turning over a short term rental. The app began to evolve, and he has a funny story about one of the Airbnb founders who had started using the app and liked it, and one day called Alex in a panic to see if Alex knew of another cleaning professional who could do a turnover for his house.
This is the point when Alex began working on the “Community” part of the app, which allows hosts to recommend and share cleaning professionals. Assuming the person or company wants to be listed, they are then visible to other hosts who can arrange work with them. It’s a great referral system. Alex also noted the difficulties generated by hosts due to the impromptu schedules and how different it is from residential cleaning schedules. He describes the “pro or semi pro” hosts who want the Airbnb cleaned as soon as it’s vacant, typically sometime between 11 and 4, versus the more casual host who are more flexible and might wait until the following morning for cleaning. Having the two groups helps balance out the demands on scheduling for cleaning professionals. Debi brought up something that came up in the workshop earlier in the day, that one cleaning professional listed on the app and got 30 new jobs in 3 weeks. Alex sees this as something of a giving back, that we hosts have benefitted from the home listing phenomenon and now the cleaning professionals (and potentially other workers) can use this app to list their services.
[28:15] How the app works:
Alex summarizes the Properly app as being two things: First, it’s a housekeeping app for hosts, allowing them to manage turnovers remotely, with very good detailed lists for the cleaning professional, and allows hosts to follow along as the job is done. Second, it has a marketplace capability that allows hosts to share their human resources in an area. Cleaning professionals can be recommended by hosts and can then decide if they want to be on the app and potentially find jobs using it.
The product is used by over 4,500 property managers and hosts, in over 50 countries, and 8 languages.
Tammi gives her take on it. One of the things she likes the most is that you can add pictures to the app so the cleaning professional knows exactly how you want things done. Deb notes that because it’s on the phone, you can have real time interaction with the person doing the cleaning, if you want, via verification photos.
[31:30] Alex goes into the question of how cleaning professionals react to the aspect of optional picture verification, noting that cleaning short term rentals is different than residential cleaning in that the person who sees the work is not the person who is paying for the work, and is less likely to complement the cleaning professional on a job well done. He believes that for that reason, the cleaning professionals often find the pictures rewarding because they get to show the owner that the job was done well. Tammi says that it removes so much uncertainty for both parties when there is a new person doing the turnover. They discussed the high value of cleaning professionals in the overall guest experience.
[36:00] Debi asks Tammi if she has a warm fuzzy story, and Tammi tells a great story about some young women who were really fun and had signed up for a trapeze class, and one of them eventually fell in love with one of the trapeze instructors and a great rapport was developed
[37:50] Debi asks Alex and Tammi if there is anything else they’d like the audience to know. Tammi talks about some of the values they share and how they work out their time together and travel with such a busy startup company schedule. They both love hospitality and told about putting on a massive feast three days in a row at Burning Man – they only had 5 or 6 people in their group but the others just kept coming for dinner. They love their kitchen time and brought us a jar of yummy jam they made. We found out during the interview that they made it at 2:00 am so we nicknamed it 2am jam.
Properly – the website: https://www.getproperly.com/en
Tammi and Alex’s Airbnb listings:
San Francisco: www.airbnb.com/rooms/1434314
Coming soon – New Zealand: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4879541