Some thoughts on Air B&B

If you going to be away for long periods like I was living in London for a year it's very enticing to consider the Air B&B host route.  Yes, you can make good money doing it.  However, I found some pitfalls I'd like to share with you.

1.You need to get the proper permits and insurance.  Each town, in fact each part of your town or hamlet, has a limit to how many permits are available in that area.  It means standing in line, filling out forms and getting inspected by the Fire Marshal and yes, standing in more lines to get the final form processed.  However I strongly urge you to take the time and do it right (and legal).  This can help if you have any issues down the road with your house, with your liability and yes, simply protecting your guests.  Should you ever need to file a claim (more on that later) it can be very useful.  You may have to add more smoke detectors and have them synced properly and each exit must be easily accessible and can be no more than two doors away otherwise you will not pass inspection.  I know plenty of people who are hosting without the permits and inspection but this is playing with fire (pun excused).  Not recommended.  Just because you don't permit smoking in your home doesn't mean guests will honor this nor can you count on their using appliances correctly in your absence should you allow un-hosted stays (more on that later as well).  We got a million-dollar umbrella liability policy for only a few bucks per month so there's no excuse to not get the insurance at least.

2.Expect that guests will do everything wrong and treat your home as nothing more than a glorified hotel.  Even the good guests.  Stuff will get worn, damaged and broken.  Things will go missing.  We left a virtual manual behind of how everything works, including trash collection, only to get asked all the same questions via email and texts time and again and found 3 months of uncollected trash in the cans and in bags outside the cans because nobody took them to the curb.  This was all spelled out in our renters manual.  Don't be surprised if when you get back your washing machine is leaking because someone put something in it with a zipper and closed said garment in the portal and the liner ripped.  Don't be surprised if your coffee maker is funky or your couch is broken.  This and much more has happened to me.  For this reason many of my seasoned host friends will not rent un-hosted stays and will not rent to groups of more than 2-3 people.  I wholeheartedly agree.  Sure it's more money in your pocket but you are also just asking for trouble.  If you have to do un-hosted stays get a very responsible adult or find someone in your town, usually a realty agent, who manages Air B&B's and ABSOLUTELY REQUIRE that your guests do not check out unless that agent is there to do so with them present.  I had a guest in a short 4 day, 3 night stay absolutely trash my house, cause $5000. of damage, stole a lot of items and to top it off left with the house keys and alarm fobs.  I dare say it doesn't take a lot of imagination to think they were likely coming back later to do worse.  They obviously did not want to wait for my dear friends who signed them in to sign them out.  My friends were mortified when they saw the state of the house and realized the keys and fobs were missing.  This is not a call you want to receive at 1am and 8000 miles away.  So, no un-hosted stays without an reputable agent and no-one leaves without the agent signing them out.

3.DO NOT RENT TO ANYONE WITHOUT MORE THAN A FEW 100% FEEDBACK RATINGS.  See above.  Again, it's not worth the money and headache and my nightmare guest used at least one other name on Air B&B to hide his record and claimed this was an error on Air B&B's part.  Just say no.

4.If you have to make a claim you may be screwed.  Yeah, Air B&B says they have "1 million dollars" of insurance but there's a lot of fine print and most of it comes back on you.  We had to fight like dogs to get our damage covered and even then it was 2/3's of what we thought was the damage.  Turns out when we got home it was less than half of what was really damaged and missing.  Read the fine print and consider this carefully before you dive into being a host.  Can you afford a claim?

5.Do not do any repairs or upgrades before listing your home or apartment.  Why?  Because improvements cannot be written off against income until after your listing has been active.  And there will be wear and tear as previously noted.

6.Do not leave your good China, dinnerware, etc.  Maker sure you have extras available to your agent (forks notoriously go missing for example).  Make sure you have extra sheets and towels for your guests readily accessible.  They will go missing.  Some maid services won't allow their employees to go into closets to get these items.  Leave them out.  We lost an iron after one guest.  Have a spare.  Heck, have a spare of a lot of things.

I'm sure there's some stuff I've forgotten and I'll try to add that later as I remember and I'm not trying to scare you away.  You can make good money from Air B&B but just be warned that's it's not all cherries and cream and the responsibility will always ultimately fall back on you.  Guests will complain about things even if you think you remembered everything.  Sometimes the previous guest may not have been as responsible as you'd like.  As long as you're willing to accept these challenges you can manage well and do well.  If you're particularly attached to your house and sensitive how it looks and is presented I'd say tread lightly though.  This may not be the path for you.  Good luck!!  If you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask.


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