As Australia prepares for lockdown due to the current Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak, those who own Airbnb properties are already seeing many cancellation alerts coming through with no financial compensation.
Non-surprisingly Airbnb has updated its cancellation policy and is offering eligible bookings a full refund if guests are cancelling due to the pandemic.
As both Airbnb property managers and investors of Airbnb properties ourselves, we’ve thought of a few ways to be as proactive as possible to help boost your bookings and minimise the financial impact during this quieter time.
Managing Your Property
1. Be Patient
The last thing you want to do is make quick decisions and sell your property, or put it back on the long-term rental market. You may need to use your short-term rental property as a back-up residence for you or your family members to self-isolate or simply getaway during this time. Every person and industry is going to have some kind of difficulty in the short-term so be considered in your approach and ensure you’re making a well-informed and planned decision.
2. Focus on Cleaning
Setup your property as a clean safe zone and let potential guests know the steps you’re taking to provide an extra clean home during this time. What extra cleaning duties are you doing, what cleaning products are you using and how are you helping people feel safe and comfortable in your home during this time? We also suggest putting up extra signage and reminders around your home to remind guests about extra hand washing.
Make sure you, your cleaners or management company have put processes in place to allow for extra cleaning time to disinfect common touchpoint areas like walls, door frames, door handles, light switches, and remotes. And be sure to give yourself plenty of time for this additional cleaning in between changeovers.
3. Alter Your Pricing
Consider dropping your nightly prices or offering bigger discounts for weekly or monthly stays to help those in need. People will still have a need for short-term accommodation, you’ll just have to be prepared to accept lower rates during this time. Come up with a new pricing strategy that will make your property attractive and affordable for new bookings. Some income coming in is better than none at all. You will make it back up again when things peak again.
4. List Your Property on Other Booking Platforms
If your property is listed on Airbnb only, we suggest listing this on other booking platforms like HomeAway (Stayz) and Booking.com to get maximum exposure across these popular short-stay accommodation booking sites. If you have someone managing your property for you, and they don’t have it listed on multiple platforms, push them to do this pronto!
5. Self-promote your Property
Send a link of your Airbnb listing to all of your family and friends through Facebook, Instagram or even email. Let your friends, family, and colleagues know you have a fully furnished property available with internet and bills included. Who knows they may need a new office for a week or two or somewhere to be comfortably quarantined.
Think of other ways to advertise it – whether through Gumtree or community notice boards or online groups. People may not think of Airbnb as a place to search for their current needs as it’s conventionally a holiday booking platform. If a property management company manages your listing then ask them to send it to you so you can share it around. Every bit helps.
6. Give your Property a Decorative Refresh
If you were already considering freshening up your short-stay property then now’s the time to do it. There may be some maintenance tasks that need attending to. Don’t wait until it’s booked out again as this can then be a hassle for you and your guests.
There are things that get neglected or forgotten over time: steam cleaning carpets, polishing floorboards, cleaning cushion covers. Purchase a new couch if you need to. Buy some new artwork or freshen up with pops of colour with throws, cushions and other small decorative pieces.
If finances allow, go slightly bigger – freshen it up with a coat of paint (think lighter colours if your place is dark or lacks natural light) or replace stained or damaged carpets. With any updates you make, get some fresh new photos added to your listing to increase its attractiveness for future bookings.
Managing Your Cashflow
7. Update your Budget
Now’s a good time to know your numbers. Sit down with your partner and do an up-to-date budget. Know where your money is going. Cut back on some expenses if you need to, and lastly make sure you have a buffer.
8. Call your lender
Some of the biggest banks in Australia have announced recovery relief programs to help with hardship due to COVID-19. You may be eligible for assistance.
Give them a call to discuss possible options during this time like:
- Extending the period of your contract
- Reducing the payments for a specific time
- Postponing the payments for a specific time
9. Consolidate your liabilities
Look for ways to combine credit cards or loans to reduce the interest you’re paying and make sure you save any additional cash in your mortgage offset accounts to again, reduce the amount of interest you’re paying.
10. Call your insurers
Speak to your insurers to see what they are doing to lighten the financial load during this time also. You may find you can pick up a few premium freezes or other interim solutions to help. Alternatively, it may be the perfect time to compare costs and shop around for a better deal.
There’s a lot of people who will feel the financial crunch, health pressures and uncertainty a pandemic like this brings but surround yourself with your loved ones, call on the support of those you trust and keep the faith that we’ll all come out of this on the other side.