A few weeks ago I put our family house up for group bookings on Airbnb. We had been considering opening as a B&B but in the end that sounded like too much work – I’m not at my best in a pinny cooking sausage and bacon before trying to catch the 7.13 to London. Just too much can, and will, go wrong, with it all captured on TripAdvisor I’m sure.
It has been something of a learning curve, although I’m sure someone more digitally savvy than me would have found it incredibly easy and intuitive – all sorted out over half a glass of Gavi di Gavi – but I had to consume the whole bottle just to write the headline. I had two different Airbnb log-ins for a start – one on my PC and one on my laptop. That took a while to sort out. Then I couldn’t change the cover photograph from one of a bathroom to one of the whole house. I’m certain some potential guests would be more interested in the loo than the garden but I’m not sure they would be the sort of people I want to encourage to stay in my home.
Buckingham is, of course, the centre of the universe but what’s more important to guests, our proximity to Bicester Village, Bletchley Park or Blenheim Palace? Do they want to Go Ape or go shopping? Does “only 35 minutes to London” or “only an hour to Oxford” sound as if they might want to get away from the house? Does mentioning National Trust properties make us sound like a pair of old, middle-class Brexiteers who have just been to watch the matinee of Downton Abbey? It’s all very worrying.
Seemingly “hot tub” is the most searched-for term when seeking holiday rental cottages so we’re going to have to buy one (with a small mortgage) and install it before we welcome our first guests in January. We can mention it, indeed I have, but the only photograph I can take of a hot tub right now is of one for sale in Dobbies, which might be a bit misleading on the website. Similarly, we don’t yet have a croquet pitch (is that even the right word?), a football pitch or a pretty fenced-in pond as described in the details – so autumn is going to be full of dodgy DIY projects.
I still can’t decide on the cancellation policy either – will a “flexible” one encourage guests to cancel at short notice or a “strict” one mean people are too frightened to book in the first place? That’s another dilemma to tackle so I have wimped out and gone for the middle choice, which of course will please no-one.
Then there’s all the painting, repairing, flooring, gardening, tidying, deep cleaning, lock installation, window washing, ant removal and cobweb moving to be done. At the same time, we have to buy 16 of everything in the crockery and cutlery section, order new beds, find new bedding, and source new soft furnishings (that’s my excuse anyway). We have to write all the “how-to guides” – visit local places, make the most of the village, not break the TV, use the dishwasher, be nice to the neighbours, light the barbecue, not spill wine on the carpet etc. Our “to-do” list seems to grow longer by the day – writing a “to-do” list is on our “to-do” list.
I’m loving it, though, and have learned so much already, with much more to understand and appreciate about this market place. Seeing bookings come through and communicating with guests has been amazing. I understand why people want to open their own businesses in bricks and mortar – it’s intoxicating. Roll on January.