Hosting fatigue: remedies and prevention
September 10, 2019
By Jasper Ribbers
Founder of Get Paid For Your Pad and Smartbnb user
When I first started hosting on Airbnb in 2012, I couldn’t have been more excited. I was curious to get to know my guests, inspired to learn about hospitality and stoked about the extra income it generated.
The first couple months I met every single one of my guests. I took them out for coffee, lunch and often showed them around the neighbourhood. I loved hearing that Airbnb booking notification sound.
After a few years this all changed. The thoughts that came to my mind when hearing that booking confirmation sound were vastly different: "Another guest who doesn’t read my description and asks me the same questions over and over again. What will this one complain about?"
When I started out I, I felt honoured that a group of strangers took a leap of faith in me by booking my home. I felt privileged to have the opportunity to host people in my home and get paid for it, on top!
Two years later, what a booking meant to me was more along the lines of: "Great, I put my heart and soul into my Airbnb business, just so that another group of unappreciative, entitled and spoiled guests can pull my guts out because my apartment doesn’t live up to their unrealistic expectations based on NOT reading any of my communications. Another group of guests that I need to enslave myself to, ask them over and over if everything is up to their expectations and solve any minor issue that comes up. As a thank you, they leave me with a four out of five star rating. Although my guests think they are doing me a favor, Airbnb sends me an email telling me I need to “up my hosting game” or they will temporarily deactivate my listing because I’m now at a 4.6 average rating instead of the 4.7 goal they’ve set for me."
And mind you, I was remote-hosting. I didn’t even have to deal with my guests in real life. Thank god my cleaning-lady-turned-Airbnb-manager took that burden off me. I lost my superhost status and I seriously contemplated selling my apartment. I didn’t record any podcast episodes, publish any blog posts for months. I was done with it.
What happened? How did I transform from an appreciative, inspired and passionate host to a bitter, resentful and ungrateful Airbnb business owner, expecting guests to just hand over their hard earned cash and leave me with a five star review without asking a single question and providing any constructive feedback?
In short, I was experiencing a severe case of what is now commonly known as “Airbnb hosting fatigue” or an “Airbnb burnout.” And it’s totally normal.
What causes Airbnb hosting fatigue?
In order to understand how we as Airbnb hosts can maintain a positive stance towards hosting over a long time period, we need to understand what causes the most frustration.
The review system
A lot of guests, in particular those who are new to Airbnb, understand the review system as the hotel industry uses it. Five stars are reserved for high-end experiences at expensive hotels like the Four Seasons, the Ritz Carlton and the Marriot. As a result, a completely flawless stay at a budget Airbnb is often rated three or four stars.
Airbnb has a very different interpretation of what the stars mean. They perceive any non-five star rating as a sign that the host isn’t delivering what’s being promised. Hosts who fall short of the 4.7 average target rating are told they need to work on their offer.
It’s easy to see how this can frustrate hosts. You deliver everything that you promise at a very reasonable price, only to receive a four-star rating because you don’t match the high level of service that five star hotels provide.
As a result, Airbnb may show your listing to fewer of its users, potentially causing your income to decrease. This is particularly stressful prospect for hosts who are financially dependent on their Airbnb income.
Hosts understandably start resenting their guests for leaving them with a less-than five star review. But it’s not the guests’ fault. Airbnb should do a better job educating its users about the review system and how it’s different from those used in other industries.
It’s hard work
A lot of new Airbnb hosts don’t realize what they are getting into. Running a successful Airbnb is a lot of work. Messaging guests, check-ins, cleanings, writing reviews, dealing with issues, maintenance, keeping sufficient stock of amenities and keeping your listing(s) updated.
Many hosts think they can do all this on the side while working a full-time job and still have a life. They are in for a rude awakening.
While fun and exciting at first, eventually the hosting process becomes a routine, at which point little annoyances can turn into frustration. Guests who don’t read your communications, leave a mess, turn up late without giving a heads-up, lock themselves out or forget to leave the keys behind.
It’s easy to deal with these if you’re making a killing. But if the results aren’t what you were hoping for, and you don’t feel naturally passionate about hospitality, it’s a different story.
Eventually almost every host will run into a bad guest who damages your property, steals your belongings or disturbs your neighbours. If this experience happens early in the hosting journey, it can have a devastating effect on your motivation as a host.
The need for variety
Even if the business is going great, you’re getting five star reviews across the board, guests behave like angels and you’ve outsourced most of the work, you may experience Airbnb hosting fatigue.
The human psyche has a need for variety. Tony Robbins lists “uncertainty” as one of the essential human needs. When things get stale, gratitude and appreciation can turn into frustration and resentment for no apparent reason. Humans simply always want more. If this wasn’t the case, we would still be living in caves.
Prevention and remedies
The million dollar question: what can hosts who experience Airbnb hosting fatigue do about it? And even better, how can they prevent it from happening?
Here are a few tips.
Are you a business owner or a business manager?
Airbnb hosts need to understand that they are running a business. An Airbnb host is an entrepreneur and these come in two forms: business owners and business managers.
The difference? A business owner pays people to do certain tasks and is left with a profit. Business managers perform most of the tasks themselves.
Business managers work in their business, business owners have a business that works for them.
Which one do you want to be? Both the owner and the manager can be successful, but as a manager you need to be passionate about what you do. If you’re not, you’ll burnout eventually.
Automate and outsource
Business owners should outsource most if not all of the daily operations. Hire a cleaner, a manager and a check-in person. Or, outsource the entire business and look for a property management company.
The best way to be a manager host and still have a life is to manage the business efficiently. What I mean by this is to automate as much of the work as possible.
Only do the tasks that require your specific attention or the ones that you feel passionate about.
Tasks that you can automate include setting prices, messaging guests, and managing staff. You can use remote locks to let guests check-in themselves. Reducing the workload makes the Airbnb hosting process a lot more enjoyable.
On the topic of automating guest messaging, for example, a host using Smartbnb saves an average of 50 minutes per guest on messaging alone -- That's for a very basic 9-message flow per guest including booking confirmation, check-in and check-out instructions, thank you message and review reminder! Try Smartbnb free for 14 days and see how long it could save you.
Screen your guests
Most of the bad experiences that happen in Airbnbs could have been prevented if the host had screened the guests better. You don’t have to accept all booking inquiries. If you’re using Instant Book, you can cancel the reservation penalty-free if you don’t feel comfortable with your guest.
Things that should set off alarm bells include local guests, guests with negative reviews, new or empty guest profiles, one-night stays, and guests who don’t have any verifications. None of these factors alone should deter you from hosting a guest. Instead, use them as a trigger to investigate your guests a little more and ask some questions.
No matter how much effort you put in, you will encounter that one guest who just isn’t satisfied. Some people just like to complain. Don’t take it personally; accept it and move on.
As the Stoics say, focus on the things that you can control and accept what is outside of your control.
One bad review won’t kill your Airbnb business. People understand that you can’t make everybody happy. If you respond politely and professionally the damage to your reputation is minimal. In fact, a good response to a bad review tells more about the host than the bad review itself, so it could even help your business.
One more thing, don’t get too obsessed over the Superhost status. It doesn’t make or break your business. I actually had my most profitable months on Airbnb during a period when I wasn’t a Superhost. I had raised my prices to maximize my profit.
As a result, I was getting more four star ratings. However, my “value” rating started dropping, which makes complete sense. After implementing some improvements, I got it back, but the costs of the added amenities weighed on my profits. Ask yourself, do you want to maximize ratings or profits?
Make some improvements
Progress is happiness.If you feel uninspired, change things up a bit. Why not create a beautifully designed online guidebook for your guests? Hostfully and Touchstay are tools that you can use to do this.
Or how about you go through your reviews and private feedback to see where you can improve your offering? Maybe you can invest in your property or add some amenities.
Find some local businesses that you can recommend to your guests. See if you can get a special deal, or simply let the business owners know that you’re sending them customers.
Are there any local meet-ups for Airbnb hosts in your area? Maybe you can find some on Facebook ormeetup.com. If there are none, how about you start your own? Having a few understanding pairs of ears to share your experiences with can bring great relief.
Shift your focus
If you find yourself in a negative thought spiral, change your focus by asking yourself different questions. Here are a few examples.
Who were some of your favorite guests?
What has Airbnb hosting enabled you to do?
What can you do to improve your results?
Realize that the grass is always greener on the other side. If you’re experiencing Airbnb hosting fatigue, you may wish for a long term tenant. Or you may want to take a break from hosting entirely. And maybe you should. But be aware that these come with their own challenges.
Airbnb guests only stay for a short time. If you have a bad tenant, you’ll have to deal with that person for a long time. Plus you lose control over your room or property. You may have to work longer hours to compensate for the loss of income.
Most Airbnb hosts will experience some form of Airbnb hosting fatigue eventually. If you do, don’t resist it. It’s part of the game.
Reduce your workload by automating or outsourcing some of the tasks.
Change things up a bit, and find new inspiration to improve your business.
Shift your focus and before you know it the storm has passed.
Over the last seven years, there have been many times that I’ve considered throwing in the Airbnb hosting towel. I’m glad I didn’t.
Jasper Ribbers is the founder of Get Paid For Your Pad, an online resource that empowers small-scale hosts to achieve financial freedom by educating them on the best practices for using their own homes as a short-term rental business. It features a book, podcast and blog. Jasper also co-founded STR Legends, a quarterly mastermind for established short-term rental operators.
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