Portland, Oregon Airbnb host Nina Liebow talks with Debi Hertert of the Hosting Your Home podcast about Nina’s life and how she came to hosting with Airbnb. Listen in as Nina shares her wonderful story, her Japanese connection, and her deep, heartfelt feelings about hosting. Nina hosts in the historic Irvington neighborhood in the heart of Portland.
1:20 Debi introduces Nina Liebow, who tells Debi a story – way back, in high school, Nina was at a used book store and found a book titled “Make a B&B anywhere you live”. The book was meaningful to Nina. She had grown up in difficult surroundings, and when she was old enough to be on her own, her spaces became very important to her. She lived and traveled in Asia much of her 20’s, often staying in a “Ryokan” which is a one room space, with a tatami mat on the floor – this one room would be changed in function throughout the day, from living space, to eating space, to sleeping space. It was always women who managed the Ryokans and the sense of welcoming and caring that these women provided really resonated with Nina. She felt a loss of ego that made her feel comfortable.
4:00 Nina describes how she ended up in going to Asia. It was with a jazz dance group, providing basic entertainment for hotels. She would sublet her apartment in LA for 6 months and go to Japan, come back, miss Asia and do it again throughout her 20’s.
7:00 A time came that her travel bug came to an end. She by fluke ended up in Portland, and bought a for sale by owner house. Her aunt Sharon in LA had just bought a duplex thinking that they’d both live in the duplex, but Nina bought her own house and Sharon never ended up moving to Portland. Nina began managing Sharon’s duplex, renting mostly to Japanese students. When she first moved to Portland, she found “The Portland Whitehouse B&B”. She wanted to work there so badly that she went every day for a week asking for a job and Mary, the owner finally said ok. Nina loved working there and stayed about 18 months, but had to leave when she got pregnant and wasn’t feeling well enough to work. This experience made here think once more about sometime having a B&B herself.
10:00 after having kids, and a few years later, she was asked if she would host Japanese young women in her home. For years she did this and learned how to take care of others in her home. It wasn’t really like Airbnb, but there were some similarities.
12:30 Nina found herself divorced. She got her basement finished off and then her friend Sue told Nina about Airbnb. She minimally decorated the space and had her first booking in 3 hours. That was two and a half years ago. She loves making sure the people are ok, happy, then leaving them alone. She speaks Japanese and has attracted some Japanese guests.
15:20 Nina’s older daughter moved out for college and said mom could rent out her room. She had a funny story about redecorating her daughter’s room. But her daughter loves it when she comes home now! Nina began renting out the room, to women only, out of a safety concern. Deb asked about her experiences with the women-only rental and Nina told her a nice story about now accepting couples and how that came about. Nina says she couldn’t really ever have a true B&B because she’s not a morning person! But she loves doing her Airbnb hosting, and likes people to be comfortable. For her the biggest feeling is that she’s traveled, has been to places that feel scary, and wants to have a place for a single woman to feel safe in someone’s home when she travels.
17:40 Deb asked about financial aspect. Nina replied that all she ever wanted was to be a homemaker, a mother, but our culture doesn’t honor that, and she married a Japanese man who did honor that. It was a very traditional lifestyle. She has over the years taught children’s dance and that has helped her economically. Nina took a break from teaching, and when the divorce happened, being able to stay in her home was so great. Airbnb has enabled her to keep her home. She describes her really nice feeling when a guest comes and expresses appreciation for the nice space, or clean room, and that our family never says that so it’s great to have this affirmation.
23:30 Deb asked Nina about how she gets Japanese guests, and she said she’s only had a few, and talked about how she got her first Japanese guest, Achiko, a very fun story. They are best friends now. Nina doesn’t really market, but thinks she should. She does show on the Airbnb listing that she speaks Japanese.
27:23 Pilates: One of the other clientele base she is trying to build on is the studio where she did her Pilates training has people come from all over the world; they have hotels listed, and Nina went to them and asked them to add her listing. So she gets Pilates guests.
29:00 Victoria: Two years ago, her divorce had just happened and she needed to get away. She had just started hosting in Portland and stayed at an Airbnb in Victoria. She took a yoga class there and was so impressed that she decided to go back and get certified as a trainer. She spent 3 months there and goes there still. She has a strong connection with it. She’s going through a phase of her life where she needs to go inward and that’s a good place for her to go. Airbnb makes so much of this possible. She told her host in Victoria that she would like to find a 3-6 month sublet up there, and bring her kitties, and the Airbnb host there said things are slow in the winter; maybe they could work things out…
32:00 “Your second cousin”: A women in her 50s wanted to make a reservation with Nina, but was worried. She asked Nina about what it’s like staying at an Airbnb, describing herself as quite nervous, has never done it before, what is it like? Nina told her “well think about it like your second cousin you’ve never met. You know your family, but you’ve never met, but you know you’ll get along”. The lady warmly confirmed this analogy.
32:30 We’re all people, and we’re connected: In an emotional and heartfelt voice, Nina told Debi: “This is so silly, it teares me up, it’s such a big company but it comes from that premise of Brian Chesky’s theme that we’re all people and we’re connected. Airbnb really proves that there is so much more good in the world than there is bad. It brings out the best in people. And our world needs it. I think part of this is that in a tiny way, it’s a way of giving love to the world. I get to do this in a different way than with my children. I love doing this; I get to stay in my home, take care of people, and still be independent.”