PROPERTY MANAGEMENT LESSONS FROM AN AIR BNB SUPER HOST
What does an Airbnb super host and a property manager have in common? Well, it turns out there’s a heck of a lot. Communication, customer experience, attentiveness, and an ability to listen are just a few of the secrets to success that my guests Juls Rolnik shares. And if you want to have a steady stream of five-star reviews rolling into your business, I’d grab a pen and paper, you’re going to learn a lot. Have you ever had a nightmare Airbnb experience? I have. And my most recent one was in Sydney. I stayed at Coogee, and I had a bed that was a trundle bed pulled together and it collapsed on the third night. And the host just asked me to try and pull it together and fix it best I could. The bathroom flooded and the TV only had Netflix and I know this sounds like first world problems and, and they are, but I was paying a lot of money for the experience, and it was a little bit disappointing to say the least. My guest today would never have allowed that experience to happen. She’s written a book called Secrets of a Super Host, how to become an Airbnb Rockstar. And she has risen through the echelons of the Airbnb world and has been named a super host 23 times. In order to do that, you must maintain a 4.8-star rating. Now that is not an easy feat and, in our conversation, today Juls breaks down the simple, but really effective strategies and secrets that we should all apply to our businesses because reviews are so important to all of our businesses these days.
HOW DID SHE GET STARTED AS AN AIR BNB SUPER HOST?
‘Well, how did I get started as a super host? Well, I have to take you back to 2013. When my gorgeous husband, Adam was diagnosed with bowel cancer and unfortunately it had traveled to the liver. So it wasn’t looking very good. And I was sitting there with the prospect of not only losing my husband, but I also had two young kids, I had a mortgage, I just couldn’t afford. And I hadn’t had a proper job in many years. I was 44 years old. So I was pretty scared. Interestingly enough, Adam, at that time had said to me, a work colleague of his head bought an apartment and was renting it out on Airbnb. And Adam said, Juls, I think we should look at buying a property as an investment and doing that because he said you would be amazing as an Airbnb host. And I said, oh no, I don’t think so. No. He said, there’s a couple of reasons why you’d be good. Mainly because you have incredible communication skills, you have such a generosity of spirit, and everybody loves you. And I went, Okay. And funnily enough, I just read this incredible book called Rich Woman. And that book is all about investing for women and it’s written by a woman for women and it’s about encouraging and educating women to create financial security. So I thought, oh, this could be a good idea. So, first thing I had to do was, I didn’t know anything about property investing, so I took myself out and I went to every property seminar I could find. And I actually really enjoyed the process. It was like, oh this is actually quite good. So, I had to narrow it down to okay, if I’m going to buy property for Airbnb, what am I going to buy?’
‘So, I narrowed it down to what I could afford and that was a one-bedroom apartment. So, the next thing I had to do was work at where am I going to buy this apartment? And after doing lots of research, I settled on Melbourne city. And the reason I chose Melbourne was because there’s lots of tourists that come through. Also, there’s so much shopping and sports and entertainment and cafes and restaurants and bars. So I thought, oh, this could be a winner. So I had the one bedroom property I wanted and the area. So off I went on my very little way, and I lucked out by coming across this incredible agent, he was one of those old guys, sorry, John, from a timeless era, he was so dapper, and he was just gorgeous. But what I loved about him was that he listened, he listened to what I wanted, which I was having a little bit of difficulty with that. So, after a few falls starts, we came across this one-bedroom apartment in the beating heart of Melbourne and it was perfect. It ticked all my Airbnb boxes that had the village vibe, it was close to transport, there were cafes and bars everywhere. And so I thought that’s it. So, I put in an offer, and I got the apartment and I thought, okay, I’ve got it now, what am I going to do? How do I become an Airbnb host? So, I had a bit of a panic attack and then I thought, okay, I’m going to do a course. And I typed in the computer, you know, Airbnb for dummies or Airbnb 1 0 1. I can’t remember what it was. And I came across this course for $50, and it was amazing because it took me through everything, I needed to do to become an Airbnb host. What sort of photographs to take landscape or portrait? How do I write an ad? It, it just went through everything. So, I did that took me a long time to prepare it, but once I did, I listed it and off we went.’
SOMETIMES YOU JUST HAVE TO GET STARTED AND LEARN AS YOU GO
‘I remember when I was writing the ad and I was, I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so it was taking me forever and ever, and ever, and Adam, my husband is a real, just do it. That’s his motto, just do it. So, he literally had to force me, when we were ready to list. I kept making excuses. Oh no, I’m not ready. And I remember going out of the apartment around the block, having a panic attack going, I can’t do this. This is terrible. And I came back, and he literally grabbed my finger, and he pushed the list button, and it went live and within, I think it was like 15 minutes. I had traction.
HOW TO GET RAVE REVIEWS
‘I remember years ago; I heard a saying excellence is unforgettable. And that really stuck me because excellent service is unforgettable. And you know, you could even go down and get a coffee from your barista and if he gives you a beautiful coffee and provides excellent service, you’re never going to forget him. Excellence is unforgettable. So that was absolutely crucial for me. And I think whether you’re an Airbnb host or a property manager, you need to provide excellent service, you also need to have incredible communication skills. I often scratch my head because I think, oh, people think communication happens when often it doesn’t, it’s the illusion of thinking communication has happened. So you really, really want to have great communication skills. And I know for example, as an Airbnb host, if I got a request, a book or an inquiry, I would act with immediacy, I would be straight onto that guest. I would be looking at the reservation, I’d be answering any questions they had, but I would get back to them as soon as possible. And also any issues, complaints, or problems or questions I would absolutely act with immediacy. I would go into rapid response mode. I would attend to whatever was needed with as, and I know I keep repeating myself, but it was with immediacy because all people want is to know is they have been heard? Has she heard me? Do they care about me? And you ask that guest or tenant or whoever it might be, what could I do to help? What can I do to fix it? So for me, I believe it doesn’t matter what you do, whether you’re an Airbnb host or in property management, those three things are crucial. Communication is getting on the front foot with any questions, queries, anything you get straight onto it and deliver. You, ask that person, what can I do to help? How can I make it better? Believe you me that’s happen to me a few times. And I would say, okay, what do you need? What can I do to help? And that’s all they needed. That’s all they needed to hear. And it was like, oh, thanks, Jules. You care. So, and as I said, that last beautiful saying excellence is unforgettable.’
CUSTOMER SERVICE VERSES CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
‘When I was doing research for my book and I had to go through a lot of the reviews that I got, I remember sitting there and I was actually in tears because a lot of my reviews were like, love letters. These people write these beautiful reviews, but they were, they were so personal. And they’d write things like the apartment was amazing. Juls ticked all the boxes, but it was also Juls that made the experience because I wanted everybody to feel like firstly, Airbnb is a home away from home. So I wanted to create the environment that people could walk in. They wouldn’t have to want for anything, do anything. They could just sit down, make a cup of coffee, grab a magazine, turn the TV on. And Netflix is there and just relax. So that was important for me to make them feel that they were looked after and really like king and queen. So, I think by providing that, that experience rather than, oh, this is just an accommodation. And also, and as I keep going back to communication was everything. I would keep in communication with them, if they reached out to me. Yes, yes, yes. Great. What do you need? I think those things were really important. Making them feel that they were loved and cared for and special because we that’s what we all want. And also what I used to think, what do I want, what do I like when I go somewhere? And that was really important. And it’s really interesting, I call them the three pillars and that is really crucial to a successful Airbnb. Great bedding. You know, when people stay at an Airbnb, it’s not so much, oh, because people are going to sleep. They’re going to sleep there. So invest some time in getting a bed that is the mattress comfortable. Doesn’t have to be too soft, too hard, but invest, you don’t have to spend a fortune. I didn’t, but I took time to invest in a good mattress, soft, bath towels, you know, just luxurious towels. The thing is what people don’t understand is, oh, that’s going to cost me so much money. It doesn’t when you buy good quality, it lasts forever and good air conditioning, all these little things. It’s all the little things. It’s like the devils in the detail. So, if you can do the little things, then, you know, you’ll absolutely be onto a winner.
TOP SECRETS TO SUCCESS
‘Okay, well you, without a shadow of a doubt, you’d need to prepare your Airbnb for success. That’s the first and foremost. So educate yourself. Get on the front foot. You don’t want to go in with your training wheels on, as I said, you really need to get going immediately. It’s all about reviews with Airbnb, 4.8 to become a super host. For example, you need 4.8, an average of 4.8 stars each and every time. So, to put this in perspective, I reached super host status on my first assessment. Now you get assessed four times a year, every three months to become a super host. So, you have to maintain the range. So, every three months you’re going to be assessed again to see if you are going to reach super host status. And if you don’t reach that 4.8-star rating, then you’ll lose your super host status. So, I was lucky enough to become super hosts on my first try. And I was super through my whole time with Airbnb. And I think I racked up 23. 23 times I was a super host and it, and it didn’t stop there. So that’s the first thing you really need to do. I would spend time on designing your Airbnb. I would really spend time on decorating it. So for example, with myself, and, and it’s funny because originally I was going to hire someone to come in and design and help me design my Airbnb. I realized I couldn’t afford $20,000 to design or, or style a one-bedroom apartment. You can do that yourself. Definitely styling is important because you want it to look gorgeous, but you also want it to be clutter free. And this is a big one. And it’s funny, because if you have a room in your home or even if you have, for example, like me, an apartment, people love to put photos up and knick knacks and all these sorts of things. No one wants that. Plus, a cleaner does not want that because the cleaner comes in and they’ve got to dust things and whatnot. So you want to have it stylish. And you can just, for example, I had a fabulous sign made up of, it was my street name. So, my apartment was on Hardware Street in Melbourne. So, I got this sign made up with hardware street and the coordinates. And so that was, I had that on the wall and that’s just one thing. One piece, one standout piece. People loved it. They were absolutely crazy about it. They’d walk in, they’d see this sign and be like, oh my God, that is so cool. So you don’t need a lot. You don’t need fabulous. You just need a couple of statement pieces. And as I said, keep it clean and clutter free. The great thing is with my apartment, people would walk in it. Wasn’t like, you know, the Taj Mahal or anything, but people felt like it was Zen and the stress just moved away from their body. So that’s really important. That’s another important tip you want to hire a good cleaner. That is absolutely huge.’
SHARING HER SECRETS IN A BOOK
‘Over the years I had many people ask me, Juls share your secrets with me. How did you become this successful Airbnb Rockstar? And I was like, oh, that’s interesting. And this would happen a lot. So, I thought, oh yeah, okay you know, I, I see that there’s something here. So that was one reason. Another reason was, and this is so funny when people used to ask me, what do you do? And I’d say, I’m an Airbnb host. Do you know how many people would share their horror stories? Soon as I would say, I’m an Airbnb host, they’d be off and running and it would be one horror story after another. And I’m not kidding you. It was more horror stories than positive stories. And I thought, wow, I’m having the complete opposite effect. My guests love my apartment. They love me. And they give me the best reviews. So something’s going on here. And funnily enough, Adam, the kids and I, we were in on the gold coast a few years ago and was saying this beautiful apartment, right on the beach. It was stunning. But there was all these things that weren’t right. For example, there was no on arrival. Most people, as I’ve said before, they just want to arrive and relax and have a coffee or tea. So there was none of that. The TV was broken. There were a couple of other things. But what was really interesting was that my kids were like, Mum, Mum, what’s the WIFI. Where’s the WIFI codes. And I’m like, oh, I don’t know. I couldn’t find them. And funnily enough, with my apartment, one of the things I really wanted to make sure of was that I had the fastest WIFI, an unlimited WIFI and what people have to remember, all these things are tax deductible. And what is the question that most people would ask me when they’d request to book? Do you have WIFI? Do you have fast WIFI? That was like the number one question. So here we are in this apartment. So, I rang the host and I said, oh, look, you know, just wondering where the WIFI codes are. And she said, oh, sorry, haven’t got them on me. I’ll just pop in tomorrow and I’ll give them to you. And I was like, what? And I got off the phone and I went, oh my God. And I sat there and I was shaking my head thinking what’s wrong with that woman? I would move heaven and earth. If my guests, you know, if they couldn’t find the WIFI codes or whatever, I’d move heaven and earth to, to fix it. So, Adam turned around to, he said, Juls, you need to write a book and share your secrets with the community. And I went, oh yeah. Yep, yep. That’s great. I’ll do that. Yes I will. And of course, 18 months goes by and here I am in Bali and I’m on this retreat and I’m sitting at this in the breakfast room and there was a guy sitting across from me and I had my laptop there and I was attempting to start writing my book and I got chatting, this guy, and he said, oh, what do you do? I said, oh, I’m writing. I’m an Airbnb host. And I’m writing a book about my experience as the host. And he looked at me, said, really? He said, I’m here on holiday with my wife. And we’ve rented our apartment hour back in Sydney, on Airbnb for the first time. And I’m thinking, God, you can’t make this stuff up. Can you? And he said, can you share with me some of your tips? And I said, absolutely. And I was sharing all sorts of fabulous tips with him. And he turned around to me and he said, Juls, you have to write this book. He said, it’s not so much a how to book, but a book of your experiences as a host and what’s worked for you. And also people will be able to see what life is like through the eyes, through the lens of a host. So that was the moment that I went. I’m going to write this book and I did.’