airbnb - how do I love / hate thee?

I owe a LOT to Airbnb.... I started hosting almost four years ago, and then crafted it into a full time job. I've managed to pare it down to a part time job, and dream of phasing it out almost completely. Yes, it seems odd and I'm ashamed to admit it, but I daydream about quitting my day job (that isn't even a 9-5 job). Though I am super grateful to be able to have set up my life this way - I rent out my house in Los Angeles most of the time, which allows me to live out in Joshua Tree with lots of land, beautiful vistas, space to work and keep a little flock of chickens and a few goats. And then I get to go into the city about once a week, so I can enjoy the best of both worlds.

I used to rent out this studio attached to my Joshua Tree house regularly, but now I just do occasionally as a pet-sitting exchange, giving me some goat-free time in the city.

I used to rent out this studio attached to my Joshua Tree house regularly, but now I just do occasionally as a pet-sitting exchange, giving me some goat-free time in the city.

Small-scale, it's a great little side business with flexible hours, but I've been renting out four different residences between LA and Joshua Tree (which are 2.5 hours apart), and then co-hosting two more listings in Palm Springs. I bought more property in the desert while the getting was good (prices have since sky-rocketed), and became an Airbnb machine.

Talk about anxiety-producing.... while it's not 9-5, it can be a 24 hour job. You never know when you're going to get that call - the toilet is backed up, the lock box won't open, the key won't work, we lost the key, the cleaner forgot to come, I gave the cleaner the wrong dates, wifi is out, the water heater failed and flooded the house, the fridge died, the AC died and it's 112 degrees, the police have been called at 4am because there's a huge party.... all of these and much more have happened (some several times).

One of the perks of co-owning this lovely Airbnb listing in Palm Springs is staying here and swimming in the pool when it's not rented! (not a perk - cleaning the toilet after guests! ;P )

One of the perks of co-owning this lovely Airbnb listing in Palm Springs is staying here and swimming in the pool when it's not rented! (not a perk - cleaning the toilet after guests! ;P )

And while the vast majority of guests have been quite lovely, some can be a BIT of a pain in the ass. Many will not treat your space as if it was their own... you'll find your cherished vintage dish or souvenir from Italy used as an ashtray or in broken pieces in the trash. Dirty foot prints on the couch, on the walls! Unattended children coloring the sheets and bedspreads with markers (happened on two separate occasions). A steady flow of guests really takes it's toll on a house and furnishings. It's a delicate balance - you want to have an interesting space with nice things, but it's hard to watch those things become gradually trashed. You start to realize why hotels have bulletproof furniture and everything nailed down. You start to realize why you should always tip the hotel maid. I've had to clean up some things so disgusting I don't dare write them here. I don't have the time or the stomach to do all of the cleaning, so I juggle a few cleaners in the different locations, and live in fear of pissing them off and losing them! And then there's the looming fear of bad reviews. In this Yelp age, people use reviews as a weapon. Even when they've told you what a great time they had, many will still drum up some negatives to write about - I suppose to give a thorough survey of their experience. Recently a guest who crammed several of her friends into the house, complained in the review that it was "too bright" for those sleeping in the living room, and that I should get curtains for the big windows. The big curved 1920's window is my favorite part of the house! Why would I cover it up, to be a flop house for a bunch of 20-somethings to sleep off their hangovers?

My dog, Bruno, loves our trips to the city (and this big window) as much as I do.

My dog, Bruno, loves our trips to the city (and this big window) as much as I do.

One thing I think is really important when hosting, is to once and a while be a guest yourself. When traveling, it's great to be on the other side of the fence and rent from another airbnb host. It helps you to discover what little comforts are really important, what details are easy to overlook. Apparently it's also good to blog about it, because doing so made me realize what horrible photos I have on some of my listings! I'm embarrassed to put in a link to my LA house, but maybe doing so will force me to go update the terrible old cell phone photos I have on it! It's easy to leave it on autopilot, and forget to check and update your listing. 

   I had a giant 2000 lb TV I was going to throw out, but as kind of a joke I instead bought a VCR at a thrift store and several odd VHS tapes. Turns out, people LOVE it! I keep adding to the collection, as there's usually an abundance of cheap choices at thrift stores. I keep meaning to print up "be kind, rewind" stickers.

   I had a giant 2000 lb TV I was going to throw out, but as kind of a joke I instead bought a VCR at a thrift store and several odd VHS tapes. Turns out, people LOVE it! I keep adding to the collection, as there's usually an abundance of cheap choices at thrift stores. I keep meaning to print up "be kind, rewind" stickers.

So while I love Airbnb and all it's done for me, I am down-sizing and renting some of my places long term so that I can preserve some of my sanity. Not to mention focus on making a living as an artist, instead! I also want to keep from getting too bitter - I really enjoy hosting people from all over world, and am so thankful that a platform like this exists.