Company’s Coming: Airbnb

Sharing is usually a good thing, and Airbnb is no exception.

Airbnb was launched just four years ago, based upon the idea of earning extra income by having guests pay to stay in a private citizen’s home. I’d only just heard of Airbnb this past year, and am intrigued by the premise of opening one’s home to complete strangers from around the world.

In looking online at Airbnb in Redding, there are 89 listings, ranging from $35 a night, for a bedroom and bathroom with pink daisy shower curtain, to $265 a night for a “luxury home” with four bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms and pool.

If you are seriously considering signing on as a host, first consider that you are competing with other Airbnb folks. Being an Airbnb host is the ultimate “company is coming” scenario, in which the best house — or room — wins.

Full disclosure, A News Cafe owner, Doni Chamberlain, is my sister — twin, in fact. Doni’s midcentury modern house has been in the limelight twice: on A News Cafe.com’s Pink House Chronicles, in which I was the designer in the remodel, and on the AAUW home tour in 2012, where, again, I lent a designer hand.

When Doni called upon me to help get her house ready for photos for Airbnb, and subsequent Airbnb guests, I didn’t think there would be much to do. Not true. I soon realized that making her house “company ready” is exactly the same as when I’m hired to stage a house for sale.

When cruising though the Airbnb website, I was quite surprised to see photos of rooms that didn’t exactly scream “warm and cozy”, but rather, “get me outta here!”

A few tips from staging will get you on your way to hosting guests who will give a good review and rating for their stay.

1. Before you have your first guest, leave your house through the front door. Shut the door, and walk to the street. Turn around. How is your home’s curb appeal? A scraggly lawn, overgrown landscaping and shrubs does not exactly say, “Welcome”. A yard nicely trimmed, with pruned and clipped shrubs, is achieved in just a few hours. Speaking of welcome, for the love of Mike, and all else, buy a new door mat! Not the cheapest little rubber mat, but one that is substantial and coordinates with the style of your house. Paint the front door in a bold new color, whether it be peacock blue, or high-gloss gunmetal grey. The front door is a single point of impact that brings drama to the ordinary, for the cost of a quart of paint.

2. Clean all the windows and screens, inside and out. It is remarkable how something as basic as cleaning windows can create such a huge impact. Consider the investment of hiring a cleaning service to deep clean your house, even if before the first Airbnb guest, with you maintaining it after. Have your carpets cleaned, especially if you have pets.

3. Now that your house is gleaming and clean, it’s time to edit. Get some boxes for things that clutter and serve no purpose, or give no joy. Out. These cast-offs can bring someone else joy or usefulness. Get bags for throwing things away that no one would want, things like nasty silk or dusty dried flowers. Gone. Untouched for years, such as old games, puzzles, and books of a genre that no longer applies to your life, and knick-knacks-paddy-whacks that don’t add joy or beauty? Good-bye. Go through each room and closet, with boxes and bags for donating or tossing, until you have finished the entire house.

4. Any room that is being rented should have brand new textiles. Bedrooms can be beautifully transformed with bed-in-bag sets that include everything from comforter and shams to pillow cases and bed skirt. Coordinate with window panels, with rod installed as high as possible, but still allowing the hem to nearly touch the floor. Queen and king beds should have some sort of night stand on either side of the bed. Coordinating lamps whose light can actually be used for reading, is a must.

From House and Home Magazine.

Bathrooms, definitely, should have new towels. Bright clean white is nice, and gives that hotel/spa look, as well as being able to launder with bleach or peroxide, for germ/bacteria’s sake. The bedrooms and bathrooms should have a feeling of a hotel in the lack of clutter, and stream-lined aesthetic. Simplicity is the main objective, which brings a sense of peace and calm for your guests.

5. Take the best photos possible of your house or room to post on Airbnb, or even hire someone. Guests have lots of choices, and professional looking photos will stand out among the rest.

6. You’ll need a designated room or closet in which to lock up items you don’t want to share with your guests. Doni had a lock installed on her office, where she stores and locks up her personal belongings.

6. Lucky guests at Doni’s house are greeted to a welcome basket with her famous coffee cake, homemade granola and jams. She also has information about her home, such as details about the thermostat, and her plumber’s number in case of a back-up. She also has material for guests to peruse about popular Redding spots, such as the Sundial Bridge, river trails, Whiskeytown, farmer’s markets, and favorite restaurants. Have a guest book, with pens, for your guests to write their glowing compliments.

7. Finally, make a bucket list of things on which to spend your new Airbnb income. Doni was able to afford her trip to the Czech Republic at Christmas from rentals in October through December.

Why not put your home to use, while sharing hospitality with eager travelers? You have a choice to rent to guests while you are gone, or to be there as host to your guests. Sometimes, Doni will stay with me, while guests stay in her house.

At the very least, your newly refreshed house will be pleasant enough that you will feel like you are on a vacation, without leaving home. In that case, the special company who’s coming is you!

Shelly Shively lives in Redding. She is Interior Re-design Network certified.  Among her specialties are real estate staging, furnishing vacation and new homes, and the art of interior “re-design” – where she transforms and refreshes clients’ living spaces using their existing belongings. Shelly is also a freelance artist, illustrator and muralist.  To inquire about a consultation, she may be reached at  530-276-4656 or leinanishively@gmail.com

Shelly Shively
Shelly Shively lives in Redding. She is Interior re-design network certified. Among her specialties are real estate staging, furnishing vacation and new homes, and the art of interior re-design where she transforms and refreshes clients living spaces using their existing belongings. Shelly is also a freelance artist, illustrator, muralist, Whiskeytown kayak volunteer and curator at O Street Gallery. To inquire about a consultation, she may be reached at 530-276-4656 or leinanishively@gmail.com
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14 Responses

  1. Matt Grigsby says:

    Your advice is simple and practical even if you’re not planning on renting out a room. My house could certainly use a reboot, and this is a great outline on how to do that. Well done!

  2. Doug says:

    Funny you should write about Airbnb now, Shelly; I’m off on Sunday to Brittany (France) for a week and staying at a house we got through Airbnb. So far it’s been a good experience, though I confess there’s been more texts and emails than I like (the same info ends up on my Blackberry and my email all at once). Being the techno dinosaur I’m not thrilled with the extra deleting I need to do…one email is enough! But there were a lot of houses and direct communication with the owners so it’s been okay. Your article helped me understand a bit more on the other end of the site.

  3. Barbara Stone says:

    Great ideas for spring cleaning and spruce-up, too! I like the bed in a bag idea ~ what a great way to give a room a new look.

  4. AJacoby says:

    Oh, expletive! My house (and me personally) need your help. This is more a psychological battle than a physical battle with me. De-trashing house ranks right up there with the diet I’m going to start . . . tomorrow.

    I first learned about it through a sister-in-law in San Diego that started participating a couple of years ago. Ended up getting a long term roommate out of it. They’re both happy!!

    Thanks for the encouragement, though! . . . maybe tomorrow . . . .

  5. david kerr says:

    Many cities are cracking down on illegal renting of houses without paying fees.

    http://dcourier.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=1&ArticleID=140949

    The Superbowl is creating an enforcement opportunity in metro Phoenix.

  6. Canda says:

    Great article, Shelly. After the redesign you did on our house, it always looks company ready. (well except for the dust bunnies) I don’t think airbnb would work for us because of our cats, so we’ll just enjoy vacationing in our own beautifully decorated home! Thanks, for an interesting and informative article.

  7. Liz A. says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but different towns seem to have their own rules re: Airbnb- most homeowners are cautious and would only rent to reasonably vetted people – It seems like a “win win” to me. : )

  8. Joanne Lobeski-Snyder says:

    I loved your article Shelly. You designing wisdom makes me want to take a different look at where I live and how I can make my living space better and more comfortable and calm. Thank you.

  9. Joanne Lobeski-Snyder says:

    “your designing wisdom”

  10. Dana Shigley says:

    I strongly recommend everyone check their city’s policies about vacation rentals before signing up. Many cities prohibit short term rentals in residential neighborhoods. While you may screen your guests well, not all do. Imagine if the house next door to you had a steady stream of boisterous vacationers coming and going every few days. Believe me, neighbors get fed up. If your city does allow short term rentals in residential neighborhoods, there will likely be regulations to follow and you will likely be required to collect Transient Occupancy Tax from guests. Unfortunately, the AirBnB and VRBO websites gloss right over these challenges and offer little assistance. They consider it to be your responsibility to know and comply with local regulations. (I am a city official and have talked to them about this). In my city (not in Shasta County) vacation rentals are not allowed and we do keep an eye on the listings to enforce. We have shut down rentals, forcing the owner to cancel future renters. I am not trying to be a party pooper or be discouraging, but please educate yourself about the rules and risks.

    • david kerr says:

      Many cities and counties require fire sprinklers in rooms rented commercially. A homeowner could face expensive code violation or Americans with disability act lawsuit.

  11. Ginny says:

    Good ideas in your column. That is true of all the columns you submit.

  12. Dick says:

    …and your insurance agent.

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