Annette and Sarah, owners of multiple stunning Airbnb short term rentals and hosts of the podcast Thanks for Visiting, sat down for a interview with us and gave some tips and tricks for short term rental hosts. With Annette’s extensive background in business operations and Sarah’s experience in high-end hospitality management and interior design, they are a force that is dominating the scene and we are so excited to share what they had to say.
Tell us about Thanks for Visiting, and what inspired you and Annette to start it.
Sarah: We met at a city council meeting where we were fighting for our right to host responsibly. Annette was already working at a podcast, called the Art of Hosting.
Annette: Yes! And Sarah was a guest on the show and I hadn’t launched yet and I thought, “wait a second I do not want to do this alone there’s better synergy here” and we have two very different methods of hosting. Sarah is a real estate investor with her husband and I partner with real estate investors. So she (Annette) owns property and I do not, but it was a really great energy. We both saw a need in the marketplace; if we could sit and talk for hours about STR hosting and Airbnb’s, people would probably want to join in on those conversations. We are super anti-heads and beds and we felt that everything out there was focused on profits and we are people before profits.
In addition to the podcast, can you tell us about your other businesses in industry – and you are also specifically a short term rental interior designer?
Sarah: I am an interior designer/stager, a realtor and I invest in real estate. I am also a dog mom!
Annette: We co-host, so we have a hosting business with multiple properties.
Sarah: Annette likes to take businesses and she matches people with amazing humans to take the business to the next level. That’s her superpower.
Any tips on creating a “cohesive” home in terms of interior design?
Sarah: The first thing people tend to think about when designing a home is budget. How cheap can I do this? I am not saying you have to spend a million dollars to get a short term rental set up beautifully-
Annette: But you can be a baller on a budget!
Sarah: You can be a baller on a budget. Ask yourself, what are your most important things? What are you going to invest in? That’s beds, mattresses, couches. Then ask, what is your low? Things on the walls can be low. A tip would be to get some really fun light fixtures because guests do not interact with light fixtures, so you’re going to install it and it’s going to be there for a really long time. Get proper color of light bulbs because lighting in a home, whether its overhead or secondary lighting, should be on point. If an inspector is going through our properties before a guest checks in that day we always put some lamps on because it creates that cozy, safe feeling. Also, do not get so literal with the whole ‘theme’ thing. For example, we are currently doing an Airbnb that’s a fourplex and every apartment in it is representative of a powerful woman in history, one of them being Amelia Earhart. We do not have to put airplane wings on the wall, we can instead do a lot of leather and nailheads on furniture. Lots of things that are the essence of that vibe. Ask yourself, what vibe do you want people to feel when they walk in there and how can you texturize it and put that into the form of a couch and a rug?
What are some essentials you think hosts often miss out on that they should be providing to their guests in terms of furniture, amenities, or supplies?
Anette: Number one, we think they miss out on quality furnishings. It does get really expensive when you’re furnishing a house from nothing, but we think it is key to not skimp on couches, mattresses and the things the guests are paying for. It is important even when rehabbing a property to not skimp on the bathroom hardware or even the type of floor.
Sarah: Or even the kind of caulk you use because then it will yellow in six months and look like your place is dirty. If you are going to do this, do it right. Also, and this comes from Airbnb guest experiences, they hate when a listing says, “fully stocked kitchen,” but then you don’t a cheese grater or salt and pepper.
Annette: Yes! Most people love the fact that even if they are not cooking, there is a kitchen. You do not want to just have your silverware, pots and pans, you want to be fully stocked. If someone wanted to have a full on Thanksgiving dinner, would everything be there? It is a one time expense, with long term reward. Extras too, give them some plastic bags, aluminum foil… the basics, anything a hotel room would have, you need to have it. A full size iron and ironing board, a blow dryer. It blows my mind to this day how the basics that you find in a low budget hotel are missing from a short term rental.
Do you have a favorite listing you’ve worked on and why do you love it?
Annette: We have a property in the middle of Ohio called The Cliffs. This is a completely experiential, top of the line, guest first property. There are waterfalls, hot tubs, secret hideaways, and a game room. It is perfect for a family reunion, Thanksgiving, Christmas, you name it. We have people from other countries staying there and it is currently sold out for the next two years.
What is the biggest problem you see in the STR industry today? What do you think can be done to fix it?
Sarah: We think the biggest problem is the heads and beds mentality, meaning shoving as many beds in as tight a space as you can because people equal dollars. It should be about creating an experience for your guest and the money will follow and it will be there for a long, long time. The way to fix that is having this free resource, our podcast Thanks for Visiting, where people who are killing it in the industry speak so people can learn. We get on our soapbox every once in a while and remind people that you are inviting people into a property that you are responsible for and that is not to be taken lightly. They are paying to have an experience, to feel safe and to feel taken care of, so it’s not about people equal dollars, dollar signs will come, it’s about hospitality.
Any parting words of wisdom you’d like to share with our members?
Sarah: Are you sad that you cannot stay in your own Airbnb because it is so loved by other guests?
Annette: And is it that awesome? Would you stay there? Do you stay there? Would you suggest your family stay there? That’s the way to really know if you are providing an amazing product for your guests.
Sarah: If you’re not willing to stay in your own short term rental, I have got questions for you. You are providing a service and it has to be safe and memorable and that is what we do here at Thanks for Visiting.