This is a story about our Airbnb, which is currently unable to take any bookings, at the time of writing, due to COVID 19.
This unfortunate break has given us time to gain some personal insight into why we started our Airbnb, what has been the positives & negatives, what have we learned about ourselves and will we want to take future bookings.
Why did we start an Airbnb?
The answer to this is a combination of different circumstances and our personalities. We have always been willing to take a chance on something. Not because we’re reckless gamblers but because we are the exact opposite. We research and trust our ability to make something work. We are a good team and know when to take a chance on something.
For us, the combination of different circumstances was – We were now empty nesters. Our home layout enabled us to create a ‘guest’ area. Aileen, who works from home, moved her office upstairs into one of the now-empty bedrooms. Thus, giving her a bigger office and Aileen’s old office became a bedroom for visiting family members.
We would just like to add that at this point we had absolutely no thought about starting an Airbnb.
What changed was a casual conversation with one of Aileen’s friends. Aileen had just updated her on our recent rearranging of rooms when Marion, her friend, stated ‘’Why don’t you turn your spare room it into an Airbnb? You live in a town which is the starting point for the world-famous West Highland Way. You will easily get guests.’’ The seed was sown! What followed was our usual research, hours of conversation of a glass of wine and moments of doubt.
A summary of our research
- Other Airbnb’s in the area and speaking to a host and getting their take on it.
- We were able to speak to a lady who had hosted Airbnb guests for a couple of years and she reassured us that she had never had any problems and felt safe. She encouraged us to give it a go and if it wasn’t for us, then we could just stop – good advice.
- Are there alternatives to Airbnb?
- Yes, there are alternatives and we have actually registered with them as well but the vast majority of our bookings is through Airbnb. We have also found the guest review system, with Airbnb, to be much clearer before accepting a booking. That said, we have had no issues with any of our guests from any of the other booking sites but Airbnb has been our preferred site. This is our preference and others may see it completely different.
- What policies and practices do we need to follow?
We would strongly suggest that you spend time reading these policies. Some may not apply but it’s important to follow those that do. To be honest, they helped us to feel more secure in what we were doing.
What did the hours of wine-fueled conversations bring up?
- Will this have an impact on our own social lives?
- The flexibility of being a host quickly becomes apparent when you have set up your account and can control your calendar. We just blanked out any dates that we wanted to keep free. As time has gone on, we have been able to work out what is a realistic number of bookings we need a month and we create our calendar to reflect this.
- What kind of breakfast do we offer?
- For practical reasons, our kitchen is a shared kitchen with our guests, we decided to provide a non-cooked breakfast. Cereal, toast, porridge pots, fruit, tea / coffee etc. and all self-service – just help yourself. This has worked well for us and as long as guests know in advance that our kitchen is out of use, they are fine with it. That said, we have had a couple of guests who didn’t read our information properly and were expecting to be able to cook their evening meal but they were fine with it when they were informed that this was not possible and made their way to the local restaurants or shops.
- Will we feel safe?
- This was obviously a big concern in the beginning but we soon realized that our own review of potential guests, who must have reached a high standard of good reviews, has resulted in us never having any concerns about our guests. That’s not to say that we are complacent but nearly all our guests are couples or females who are about to start walking the West Highland Way and these factors seem to help create a friendly and respectful guest.
- How much do we charge, based on our research?
- The West Highland Way is a very popular walk and accommodation is limited in Milngavie, so there is an opportunity to take full advantage of this but we’re not that way inclined. We arrived at our charges based on how much extra our food bill would be, Airbnb commission and what are other local Airbnb’s charging. Once we had worked all this out and we didn’t feel that we were ripping guests off, we set out price.
- Will we be able to cope with ‘strangers’ in our home?
- This was going to be a game-changer, depending on how we coped. We’d had limited experience of staying in a couple of Airbnb’s, both with different results. Our first was in a Large Mansion house which is mentioned in a previous blog and helped us understand the viewpoint of being a guest in a private house but this had been a very large house and felt more like a hotel to a degree. Our house was much smaller and it was our family home.
We spent a lot of time on this particular matter. Assessing our personalities, our strengths and our weaknesses and in the end, we agreed to give it a go.
As it turned out, it wasn’t such a big deal. We actually enjoyed meeting our guests, making them feel at home, listening sympathetically to all their stories of long and weary journeys, helping them to relax and enjoy what for many of them was their first time in Scotland. We both began to appreciate that we had the responsibility of being that first impression you get when you arrive in a new country and that’s when we knew that we do actually have the right personalities to achieve this!
Some work was required before we could expect any guests
- We took lots of photos to help potential guests visualize our home
- The Listing process was straight forward and there is lots of opportunities to include ‘house rules’
- We set aside cupboard space in our kitchen for guest cutlery, plates and cups
- We bought extra bedding
- We sat back excitedly and waited for our first booking
As we wait to see if COVID will stop our 2021 season, here are some memories that are worth a mention
- We vividly remember our first guests. They were experienced Airbnb’ers who obviously expected to arrive, check-in, get a nice welcome then be left to their own devices but that’s not quite what they got! Instead, they got an overly helpful couple who invited them to have a meal with them, share a couple of bottles of wine and engage in friendly conversation. OK, it might not seem like the crime of the century but as hosts, we quickly realized that this approach was unsustainable and would quickly lead to alcohol dependency. From then on, we calmed it down to a friendly welcome and gave our guests the space they needed to relax and settle in.
- As time has gone on, we have become more confident with our check-in process, always making our guests feel at home but we have come to the conclusion that we are in the fortunate position to receive guests at the start of their holiday, still full of excitement even if a bit tired. One of our guests had decided to do the West Highland Way in reverse which meant that our home was her last stop. From the moment she arrived, we could sense the weariness and lack of engagement. We treated her with the same welcome as any other guest and she appeared to appreciate this but her review was lower than any other review we have had. We often wonder if it was just her or if it was the fact that she was now at the end of her holiday.
- We have had a variety of personalities and behaviours come through our door. They all had a common goal to walk or run the West Highland Way, they came from every corner of the globe, some were experienced Aibnb’ers, some were nervous first-timers, some arrived and left without a trace, others were disorganized and needed some help, some were chatty, some were extremely quiet, one guest was rude, some were messy, some made the most of our garden and hammock, all loved Sam our dog, Everyone said they had a great sleep (we all know that’s what you say when you’re asked, even if it’s not true!), they all loved Scotland AND we loved having them!
- Will we continue? Mmmmm. That remains to be seen as we are now both retired and have a huge bucket list that will involve staying in foreign Aibnb’s or touring with Dora, our campervan. What we do know for certain is – We don’t regret doing it and loved meeting people from around the world, hearing their stories, helping them and giving advice. One of the first questions that we asked ourselves when we started our Airbnb journey was ‘Do we have the right personalities for this?’ We are now pleased to say that we believe we have.
Thank you for taking the time to read our wee blog about why we started an Airbnb and what it did for us. Comments welcome and please feel free to subscribe.
Tom & Aileen