Sunday 15 September 2019

To Airbnb or not to Airbnb? 'Superhosts' tell us how they do it!

As summer approaches Alison Gill talks to the experts about the pros and cons of letting out

Joanna Sloan outside the Gate Lodge in Dunganstown. Photo: Bryan Meade
Joanna Sloan outside the Gate Lodge in Dunganstown. Photo: Bryan Meade
Eva Hegarty outside the transformed horse box
Decluttering expert Sarah Reynolds
The gate lodge living area
Stone detail of the gate lodge
The tennis courts on the grounds
Joanna Sloan with one of her horses
One of the two bedrooms at the old rectory
The main house in Dunganstown

A recent report by Daft suggests that 53pc of Dublin's rental space is now targeting short-term lettings with available Airbnb spaces now standing at 1,419, (data from Inside Airbnb) compared to 1,264 advertised regular long-term lets.

So why have we come to a point where there are more beds available for tourists than for Irish home-seekers? Airbnb must be doing something right if so many homeowners see the Airbnb way as the only way.

First off, not many want to let out spaces in their homes on a permanent basis but having the option to do it for a portion of the year adds a welcome extra household income. Second, those who have to shelve their careers or businesses because of family commitments can turn space at home into a more manageable business via Airbnb.

Joanna Sloan and her husband Simon Kelly say their lives have been transformed since they joined Airbnb. They only opened their gate lodge in Dunganstown, Co Wicklow to Airbnb guests two years ago, but are already termed 'superhosts', with 90 five-star reviews under their belt. Joanna was running her clothing company out of the lodge but family demands meant she needed to make changes.

Eva Hegarty outside the transformed horse box
Eva Hegarty outside the transformed horse box

"I ran a company called Old Rectory Print Ltd where I produced children's' organic clothing and textiles," says Joanna. "I managed it quite well when the children were small, but as they grew and their academic needs increased, I had to put the clothing business to sleep for a while."

Two years ago, the family left Wicklow and went to Spain for a year so the children could have a bi-lingual experience. It was here that they had their first taste of Airbnb-living and realised that their gate lodge would convert perfectly into a self-catering unit.

"We considered getting a long-term tenant but then decided that we're just not the kind of family that would suit that. For us it wouldn't just be a tenant, it would be someone living right beside us and there would be an extra pressure to always get along. Having different people every week keeps it nice and light."

Once they made the decision, they started taking photos of the property and uploading them onto the site. Within 10 minutes, they had a booking and it hasn't stopped since.

Joanna is delighted because it has given her the opportunity to run her own business from home so she can be around for the kids. It has also been a good experience for the younger members of the family. James (18), Cuan (16), twins Hugo and Senan (12) and Wolsey (8) have learned that the upkeep of the property is part of their lives.

"When I first told the boys I was doing this, the older ones were up in arms because I think they had this fantasy that the lodge would be a party venue for them! They've really settled into it though and enjoy meeting new people and learning about different cultures."

Decluttering expert Sarah Reynolds
Decluttering expert Sarah Reynolds

The only thing that Joanna wasn't prepared for was the amount of digital correspondence involved. "The digital end of things gives me a headache. You can't really put your phone away because of bookings and guest queries."

In 2015, Eva and Stephen Hegarty spent €40,000 transforming an old horse box into luxury Airbnb accommodation. They chose Airbnb because they found it to be an easy and approachable way to connect with prospective guests. Three years on and they are fully booked for the summer months.

"We love meeting the people who we are hosting," says Eva. "For us, it's like travelling from the comfort of our own home. We usually spend a lot of time with the guests, sharing stories and learning about their lives."

They are fortunate that they've never had a bad experience but have learned lessons along the way in how to improve things.

"We try to avoid one-night stays," says Eva. "It's very costly and time-consuming and has a negative impact on the environment. There is so much to do around the Burren and the scenery is so beautiful that any of our one-nighters usually say that they wish they'd booked for longer."

For those who remain eager to take to plunge and create an Airbnb at home, Sarah Reynolds, a decluttering expert with Organised Chaos, has plenty of good advice:

The main house in Dunganstown
The main house in Dunganstown

1. Create a welcome pack

In every hotel room, there is a folder with information. Why not recreate this for your own guests. It is useful for your guests and reduces the questions you might get after check-in.

2. Zoning

The key for efficient separation of your life and your hosting life, is to create clear zones within your space. Allocate one shelf in the hotpress for guest bed linen and towels. In the bedroom, use the tops of wardrobes for your items and free up lower shelves for guests. In the kitchen, clear a cabinet, place some crockery and leave space for their food supplies.

3. Create a stock of supplies

Have a specific set or two of bedlinen and towels for guests. Having more than one will mean your guests won't have to worry about laundry or should you have a quick turnover of guests you will have another set ready. Have a stock of toiletries for your guests and a stock of basic food especially for guests arriving late.

4. Declutter

Eliminate any unnecessary clutter. You may wish to write a checklist of the items you like to hide away so that with each visit items can be identified and put away quickly.

5. Hooks and shelving

One of the quickest and easiest ways of adding more space is with basic hooks and shelving.

6. Dual function furniture

Maximise space by opting for dual function furniture. Beds that fold up into a wardrobe, bookshelves that hold your dining set, beds that incorporate your desk space give you twice the storage for the space they occupy.

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