Redding has nearly 100 Airbnb rentals, and today we talk with one Redding owner. Before we go too far down the road with this conversation, here’s a short description of Airbnb, by Airbnb: Airbnb is an online community marketplace that connects people looking to rent their homes with people who are looking for accommodations. Airbnb users include hosts and travelers: hosts list and rent out their unused spaces, and travelers search for and book accommodations in 192 countries worldwide.
Megan and Josh Conn of Redding were one of the first Airbnb homes in Redding. They have hosted more than 40 reservations, and have received rave reviews from guests who enjoyed the Conn’s Garden Tract guest room. While Airbnb hosts can choose whether to rent out their entire house in their absence, or to have Airbnb guests share their home, the Conns have always elected to rent to guests while the couple remains in their home, too. I have so many questions, so I’ll just jump in.
Hi, Megan. Thanks for talking with us today about Airbnb, and your experience with it. First, can you tell a bit about you and your husband?
Sure! My husband, Josh, is a graduate student in the field of Occupational Therapy. I am the Development Manager at Turtle Bay Exploration Park. We came to Redding from Chico in 2005 when I started work at Turtle Bay. We bought our first home in the Garden Tract in 2008 and have enjoy the neighborhood’s central location. Our dog, Sally, loves access to the Sequoia Middle School track and proximity to the river trail!
Thanks. Very interesting. Now, for those who’ve not heard of Airbnb, can you tell us a bit about it, and then, how did you two get interested in posting your house?
Airbnb is part of the “sharing economy”… one of many online marketplaces that have popped up in recent years that helps people share what they have and get paid for it. Other popular sharing economy sites include Lyft (for cars) and DogVacay (for dog boarding).
Simply put, Airbnb helps people rent out rooms in their home, or their entire home, to travelers, similar to guest houses in Europe. It provides structure, insurance, reviews, and marketing to hosts. We found out about Airbnb from some friends several years ago and I decided to use it for overnight trips to the Bay Area, where I travel monthly for medical appointments. The cost of nice accommodations was approximately half that of a hotel, which was my primary motivation, but I also found I enjoyed meeting people and felt safer in a homier environment. I’ve met many wonderful hosts, some of which encouraged us to host, noting we have complete control of our calendar, so if we only wanted to host a certain limited number of days, we could dip our toes in.
So you were an Airbnb guest first. Makes sense. What did you do to prepare for being Airbnb hosts?
Definitely staying at Airbnbs was the most helpful thing in becoming a host! Many hosts have different styles and there is no one “right way” to do it, other than to treat others as the way you would like to be treated. We made sure our room was well-equipped with furniture, heating & cooling, nice sheets and towels, plus extras like small toiletries, an area guide with menus, brochures of places to visit, house rules, etc. Then we put photos and description of the room and neighborhood on the website… and kept the house as clean as possible (cleaner than normal!)!
Now, in the spirit of full disclosure, Part of the reason I wanted to talk with you is I’ve also posted my house on Airbnb. I’ve yet to have anyone stay here yet, but to tell you the truth, I’m a little nervous. Did you feel nervous at first, and if so, how did you get over it? Or maybe that’s not an issue for you.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit nervous at first, but with each guest, our confidence grew. Truly, it feels like each party that comes through is lovelier and lovelier! Also, Airbnb is based on reviews so you can often see people’s track records… and if it’s their first time, we at least make sure they have their profiles filled out and talk online or on the phone first. I have turned down people I didn’t feel 100% comfortable with (you don’t have to give a reason) and also reserved certain privileges, like late check-out, until I met in person.
Can you give a break-down of the kinds of people who’ve stayed at your place? How did everything work out?
We’ve had close to 40 parties stay with us. We’ve had international travelers who were passing through Redding on large northwest and California trips. We’ve had many parties moving from LA or SF to Portland or Seattle and vice versa. Some people come specifically to enjoy Redding, particularly fly-fishers, but also marathoners and outdoor enthusiasts. We’ve had diverse mix of ages, ethnicities, socioeconomic status, etc.! Some eat the breakfast we set out, others do their own thing. Out of those 40, there was only one instance where we didn’t have a wonderful time; it was the guest’s first time in an Airbnb and despite our best efforts, they felt a bit uncomfortable. That’s a pretty darn good track record.
If you’ve stayed as an Airbnb guest, has being a host changed your viewpoint of how you are as a guest?
Using Airbnb does take a bit of trust from both sides. Being a guest, you realize how important it is that as a host, you do everything you can to make your guest feel comfortable. Also, when I stay as a guest, I try very hard to communicate with the host about my arrival time (so they aren’t waiting around), and keep their space as clean and tidy as possible. Sometimes we forget when we stay in hotels that real people have to clean up our messes. It’s harder to do that when you’ve met your host. Now when I stay in hotels, I find myself tidying them upon departure too.
What are people’s reactions when they learn you and your husband are Airbnb hosts?
It ranges from “awesome!” to “why in the world would you do that?”… We’ve had many friends who have been very interested and become hosts and/or guests themselves. We’ve also had friends and family who have been been nervous about the idea. Honestly, meeting such great people and hosting them has made the world a smaller place and restored my faith in humanity. It feels very similar to my experience as an American Field Service exchange student in high school. It takes some effort but is very rewarding to meet people and share our beautiful area with them… and learn about theirs.
What advice do you have for people considering being Airbnb hosts?
Hosting has many benefits, but if monetary is your primary benefit and you aren’t interested in the service of hospitality, it is perhaps not your thing. Stay at several Airbnbs on your next travels. They all vary greatly and if you don’t like one, you may love another (so don’t give up). If you do love staying as a guest, you might just love hosting too!
Anything else you think we should know?
Redding is a prime location for Airbnb… we have much to attract tourists plus the interstate. I think our economy can support both hotels and Airbnb – there will always be travelers who like each option!
Thanks so much, Megan. Happy Airbnbing!
Personal update: I hosted my first Airbnb guests last weekend. I was so lucky, and so happy. They were a lovely couple who shared the house with their family, who had a weekend full of plans for music and dinner out. I had a lock on my office door, and stashed all my personal items in there. But when I met my guest couple, I felt as if I’d known them all my life. I’d have them back in a heartbeat. They may have spoiled me, and I may never have guests as great as them again. I hope I’m wrong.
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.