This week let’s meet Kirsty. 😊
Kirsty lives in and loves Glastonbury, Somerset. She has a large family of 5 children, a big fluffy dog, and a small flock of chickens. She loves spending as much time outdoors as the British weather allows!
Kirsty is a super host of one 2 bedroomed cozy apartment in the heart of Glastonbury. It’s important to her that all guests really enjoy their stay stress-free, and to feel like they’re away from home without sacrificing home comforts, so has done her best to equip and furnish the rental with these standards in mind.
Let’s hear her story! 🔊
So, Kirsty, tell us, how long have you been hosting for? How and why did you start? How many properties do you manage?
I’ve been hosting on and off since the 1990s. My first house in Cornwall had several storage rooms beneath it on the ground floor which I converted into a 2 bedroom flat and used to advertise in newspapers and magazines- very old school! At the time I was working as a psychiatric staff nurse so it was very much a part-time occupation.
However I found it gave me an appetite, and as the years went by and I reduced my nursing hours to raise children I found myself seeking out more opportunities to work around family life. My ex-husband and I moved from Cornwall to Somerset and ended up managing 6 properties in total at one time, most of which were long-term lets.
We would buy a run-down house, completely renovate it then let it out. It gave some degree of satisfaction, but for me, it just fell short of hitting ‘the spot’. I absolutely love setting up a home with everything people need to just walk in, drop their bags and feel immediately like they’re on holiday- that’s where I feel most fulfilled.
Are you an owner or a manager? Is this a part-time or full-time occupation for you?
I now own and manage just the one 2 bedroomed apartment. It’s my only paid occupation- I wouldn’t have time for anything else!
What is the best thing about hosting, and what are the biggest problems you face?
What I love most about hosting is the feedback from guests. It gives me great joy to find little notes of appreciation when I go to do a changeover. When guests part with hard-earned cash and take a break from their busy lives, I want them to feel totally relaxed and catered for from the moment they walk in.
The biggest problem I’ve faced is the pandemic/no income for several months……but I don’t want to dwell on that! The trickiest aspect of hosting is finding someone with equally high standards to deputise if I need time off- I’ve not yet nailed that one! And booking.com- they bring in lots of bookings but my word, the platform can be a bit of a nightmare!
What is one thing you wish you knew when you started hosting?
I wish I’d know a few things- the main one being the bedding laundry! It is by far the largest task in changeovers. The issue with quality bed linens is that they take ages to dry and you need to catch them just right so they’re not too creased when they come out of the drier- I started out ironing every item of bedding, but then realised that removing them from the tumble drier while they were still just on the cusp of damp meant they were virtually crease free, saving not just time but my sanity too!
I also wished I’d found Hosthub sooner!
What is the most important advice/tip you would give someone interested in becoming a short-term rental host? Besides listing on multiple channels, what other things can a host do to increase his/her bookings and revenue?
I have no doubt that using both Airbnb and BdC together is what keeps my calendar FULL, but it is absolutely essential to use a comprehensive and reliable channel manager when taking bookings from more than one site. Obviously, you can choose to just stick with one booking platform and not need a channel manager, but if you’re looking to maximise bookings and income you simply can’t do without it. Blocking dates, changing pricing, setting prep time, etc are all things that can be done on the one site that updates with immediate effect on your booking platforms.
I’ve yet to set up my own website for my accommodation, but this is definitely something I’d like to do in the future, as well as expand my letting potential with more property- a girl can have dreams right?!!
I honestly LOVE what I do, and that helps me do it well. Years of experience in both hosting and booking places as a guest have given me a good grounding and understanding of what makes a successful holiday let. These days it’s ALL about your reviews and ratings. Whether you’re in the middle of a city, the countryside, or beachside, have a studio or mansion, what every guest needs is a good night’s sleep! A comfortable mattress, quality bedding, and blackout curtains go a long way towards those 5 or 10 stars.
Now more than ever, cleanliness is paramount. It takes time, and you have to allow yourself that time. If you’ve missed a tissue under the bed, melted cheese in the bottom of the oven, toothpaste down the side of the sink, splatters inside the microwave, finger prints on mirrors, etc or simply haven’t wiped down skirting boards for a while, a disgusted guest is not going to overlook that in their review.
I now leave 24hrs between bookings (which was introduced as compulsory by Airbnb as part of their covid compliance for hosts) as it takes that pressure off trying to turn a place around in 3 hours whilst maintaining really high standards of cleanliness. You don’t know what you’re going to walk in to when you go to do a changeover, and it’s best to allow for the worst case scenario than to face people turning up and you’re not ready!
Communicating courteously and promptly with guests is also an essential part of good hosting. From booking messages to laminates in the accommodation- people are generally excited about their stay and want to know what to expect, and what is expected of them. Don’t leave them wondering how to use the TV remote or the Nespresso- leave clear instructions. If you want them to do certain things on checking out, leave a note. Balancing being warmly accommodating with unambiguous boundaries is what gives everyone a clear picture of what to expect and a feeling of security. Happy guests mean good reviews, and good reviews mean more bookings!
Besides Hosthub, are there any tools, devices, or software (eg. Remote keylocks, cameras, local guide apps, power meters, etc) you use? What is your experience with them?
It’s all very low tech at Namastay- I do have a washing machine that communicates with my phone! Guests self check-in and out with a key lockbox by the front door- this was a decision I made before the pandemic as I didn’t want the pressure for myself or guests to have to wait around at the property or be there at strict times, but obviously it’s become a real blessing with everything having to be non-contact in the last year.
Which channels do you list on? How much has your revenue increased since listing on multiple channels?
I first started letting it via Airbnb in 2019, then eventually moved it on to Booking. com as well. This move immediately filled in the gaps between bookings and doubled revenue, but of course, advertising in more than one place brings issues with it- notably the most dreaded double booking scenario! It soon became apparent that relying on the two sites syncing with each other was not enough to avoid disappointing people- there’s little worse in this game than having to cancel guests.
I spent ages researching channel managers and settled on one (iRoomi) that charged a significant monthly fee, yet did not always sync the calendars and had non-existent customer service! In the early days of the pandemic cancellations and rebookings were shifting by the minute, and were impossible to keep on top of manually. This was the point when I decided enough was enough and sought out a new channel manager and ended up with Hosthub.
You can find out more about Claudine’s properties here:
Here are some photos to give you a better vision of Kirsty’s rental (click for larger versions) 🧐