Airbnb businesss: Pitfalls to avoid

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Alina Calleja’s travel-themed condo in Mandaluyong

Any business, even a low-barrier business like airbnb hosting, has its downside. Newcomers to hosting, especially, must watch out for the risks and dangers the business is fraught with.

For one, the competition is keen. This owes largely to its low-barrier characteristic, that is, as a type of business comparatively easier to go into than most others. So many are getting into it that the market may sooner or later find itself at saturation point. Because of the tough competition, airbnb owners are advised to always think ahead, to constantly develop something new that will meet market approval lest they find themselves at the bottom of the heap.

By far the biggest danger awaiting airbnb hosts is letting into their spaces people who may not respect spaces they rent the same way they respect their own homes. These are what are being whispered about in the industry as “visitors from hell” — who mess up the place, break things or even take them, and misuse or overuse facilities/fixtures.

Fortunately, according to all three respondents, the “good” kind of visitors outnumber the nasty ones.

Calleja recalls hosting a group that overlooked turning off the ACU when they went out and even when they have checked out. Another group stuffed tissue into the toilet bowls, which called for an expensive visit from a plumber.

Baluyut shrugs off so-called visitors from hell. There have been very few such customers in his years of hosting experience.

This is not the case with Bitara. From what he relates, he has had more than his fair share of unmannerly customers.

He had guests who left all doors open while the heater was running! They also plugged their portable heaters and used them to warm them outside, thus overloading the system and causing power outage!

In addition, says Bitara, there is the risk that a visitor could get hurt while being hosted. “You can think of anything here – slipping and fracturing a bone, being hit by a branch falling from a tree in the yard, or triggering a fire due to misuse or overuse of appliances.”

He continues his tales of hosting woes:” There was a guest who took towels and decorative license plates from our unit. When penalized with a forfeiture of her deposit, she retaliated by giving us a “horrible review in the airbnb website.

There are, however, measures one can take to avoid hosting mishaps.

Be clear about your house rules, says Bitara. Make sure the prospective guests have read and understood them before finally closing the deal.

Establish deposit requirements and  strictly enforce them,   Deposits will cover you from possible damages and losses.

He warns wanna-be hosts never to do business outside the airbnb platform “because then one is no longer covered against property damage and losses.

He advises newbies to hosting to be honest when describing their space. “Do not embellish your description , because guests will eventually find you out .”

Baluyut urges newcomers to set visitor expectations correctly. “Airbnb is set up in such a way that you can review your guests the same way they can review you. So ithe system works both ways. Feel free to ask follow-up questions if you need more information.”

Calleja confirms airbnb has a way of identifying and endorsing prospective customers. “I guess you just have to trust the system.”

One thing sure, she warns, hosting is not for the control freaks, not for the obsessive-compulsive. One has to be open to surprises, good and bad.

“I guess that is what makes the business exciting us well,” she concludes.

Alina Calleja’s travel-themed condo unit on Pioneer Street, Mandaluyong City

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