About a year ago, my husband decided that we should turn one of the rental properties he owns and manages into a airbnb rental. The guest house, as we now call it, sits on the same piece of property as our own house, making it easy to clean in between renters and convenient should they need anything for their stay. On top of that, we were tired of long-term renters not working out. It seems like a great plan being able to pick your own
renters, until your renters turn out to be deadbeats and you’re forced to try to evict them! Thus, after gutting the kitchen and repainting and furnishing the place, we launched our airbnb experiment, the Cascade Creek Guest House.
Rochester, Minnesota is a great place to have short-term rentals because there are so many people coming and going from the Mayo Clinic, and there’s always a need for lodging. Having an airbnb was fun, albeit work in keeping it clean and prepared for guests to arrive on any given day. (To that point, I will admit my husband takes care of 95% of the airbnb maintenance.) As our listing gained traction, we started to fill up, sometimes months in advance. As a result, we almost always have “neighbors,” and we’ve met and hosted people from all over the country. The Cascade Creek Guest House was, and is, a success, and it got us thinking!
Half the basement in our home has been finished into an apartment, completely separate from our own living space. There’s an exterior entrance and is entirely its own space. It was also rented out as a long-term lease, but with increasing problems in our tenant’s behavior, and the success of the guest house next door, we began to think of switching it
over to an airbnb. It’s kind of a weird space being in the basement and all, and in a decisive moment of marital trust, my husband decided that if we did it, he’d let me design and decorate the whole space myself. I was in, and though flipping a basement apartment in the middle of winter in Minnesota is on no one’s ideal to-do list, we were ready for our first guests in our new basement guest suit on New Year’s Eve. We called it Rhythm and Snooze.
The experience of hosting both sites continues to be wholly positive. We meet amazing people from all over who come to Rochester for all kinds of reasons, and share just a little bit of their time and trip with us. Sometimes we see our guests a lot. Sometimes we don’t see our guests at all. But at the end of each stay, we are asked to review our guests, and they are asked to review us, and while we’ve never really had any major problems, this is where things sometimes start to get weird! People are funny, and oddly particular when it comes to how they like their space, and though we may have seen them out and about around the property throughout their stay, or we might not have heard from them at all while they were in town, after they leave, the physical things, and the comments they leave behind tell an interesting tale. And this is where we start to learn some general things about the human travel experience! For example…
The number one thing people are sensitive about, bar none, is toilet paper!
Let’s say you were staying in a hotel, and you thought your room was out of toilet paper. Would you: A) Check your room to see if there was a spare roll somewhere; B) Call the front desk and ask for some to be brought to your room; or, C) Go out to the store and buy your own? Maybe I’m in the minority for saying I’d probably choose A, followed by B if I didn’t find any, but the majority of guests that complain about toilet paper jump straight to option C. There’s a half of a roll when they start their stay, they use it all up and then…don’t look, don’t ask, just go buy their own toilet paper, and then leave in the comments that they had to buy their own toilet paper. For the record, we don’t make our guests buy their own toilet paper. There’s lots of toilet paper in both guest locations, and we’d even bring you a roll from our own house if you found you were truly out! But if people don’t look and/or don’t ask, then we can’t help them. And if you chose option C, I’m sorry, but that’s on you!
An interesting variation on the toilet paper complaint recently played itself out in the guest house next door. A guest went out and bought toilet paper, leaving most of the roll they’d purchased in the bathroom. When cleaning the guest house, we left it there. Why not, right? It’s a perfectly good roll of toilet paper. The next guest commented upon leaving that the quality of the toilet paper we purchased for the guest house could be better! How to explain that the toilet paper wasn’t really the toilet paper we buy, but rather to toilet paper that the last guest bought because she didn’t think that we bought enough toilet paper in the first place!? Of course, we didn’t explain anything at all, but thanked her for her feedback and wished her a pleasant trip home.
Where things are placed is only a suggestion, feel free to move stuff all over the place
I get it. Sometimes you want the floor lamp on the right side of the couch instead of the left because it’s where you feel more comfortable sitting to read. Or maybe you need the chairs rearranged so that everyone can play cards around the ottoman. Or you take the blanket off the bed to curl up and watch TV in the living room. This is not the weird stuff I’m talking about. I’m talking about why someone would decide the bathroom rug was actually better suited in the kitchen. Or how does every single pillow, including all the decorative and throw pillows, in the entire guesthouse end up in one massive pile on the bed? What purpose does that serve? I mean, I have my theories, but I won’t speculate here! 😉
It makes sense (or no sense at all sometimes) to buy things here and then leave them behind
There are different categories of things that people buy and leave behind. One is things like the toilet paper, things that people don’t ask about or look to see if we have, and go out and purchase for themselves, despite the fact that we could have offered them the thing they needed. The largest item someone went out and bought was a humidifier. They then left it behind, generously leaving it for other guests that might find the guest house a bit dry. The irony was the very next guest ALSO went out and purchased the exact same model of humidifier that the previous guest had purchased, and then left t behind so that future guests could use it. Had they asked, we could have directed them to the one that was left behind for guest use. Because they didn’t, we now have two matching humidifiers, and we accepted their generosity warmly, putting one in our own home, where it kept my piano humidified through the winter.
Another category of things people buy and leave behind is food items. This can also be very generous. One of the benefits of an airbnb is you often get your own kitchen space, and both our rentals have fully stocked kitchens we’d love for you to cook in. So when people leave behind non-perishables, or even things that we know we can offer the next guest (milk, eggs, butter, etc.) it’s great. Sometimes people leave behind stranger things however. Last week I cleaned the downstairs unit and found that the guests had left snack items behind on the pantry shelf. This might have been generous, but I don’t think the next guest was going to appreciate 7 random Combos at the bottom of the bag. People have left vitamins behind. And in the strangest food related incident, a couple left half of top of their wedding cake, along with the glass cake display plate and cover, for us. Apparently there wasn’t a lot of sentimental value in keeping that for the first anniversary.
Sometimes people make odd requests and suggestions
Don’t get me wrong, if you stay with us and you want or need something, we want you to ask. But sometimes those request are kind of odd in light of where you’ve chosen to stay. For example, we’re not a hotel, so we’re not going to come make your bed every night, but we can direct you, or bring you, fresh towels. You’d be shocked at how many towels some people go through! We don’t have hotel flip-flops. I didn’t actually know hotel flip-flops were a thing, but someone asked for them specifically as “hotel flip-flops,” so apparently they are and I’m just not staying in fancy enough hotels.
Someone next store recommended that we provide paper plates for our guests so they had something to eat on. This would be completely reasonable, but we fully stocked the kitchen with real, ceramic plates, glassware, and flatware. So paper plates just seemed like overkill (and extra trash!) True, some people like the quick convenience of not washing dishes, but the guest house also has a dishwasher, that we even offer to run for you at the end of your stay. So you can stay, use real plates, and not even be responsible for the dishes. This seems significantly better than a paper plate option! But hey, that’s just me.
Everybody has a different version of clean, but everyone’s version of clean includes ZERO hairs
Last but not least, I can attest to the cleanliness of both or guest accommodations. My husband does a good, thorough job of scrubbing down each unit before our next guests arrive. We go through so much laundry right now, the utility company probably thinks we’re raising a dozen children. But things are clean. Towels, blankets, sheets, slip covers, floors, sinks, toilets. We clean em’! So when a guest suggests that the place could be cleaner, it’s a bit frustrating, but also a bit surprising. What did we miss? We promise it was fully prepared for the next arrival.
Things that people generally consider “unclean”.
* Water spots in the kitchen sink
* Kitchen floors (To be fair on this one, we didn’t replace the vinyl flooring in the kitchen, and there are a few spots where it’s chipping. But that doesn’t mean it’s dirty.)
* Papers found under a piece of furniture that were discovered only when said piece of furniture was moved from a place it’s never been moved from before. (See item #2. People like to move stuff!)
* Any place they find a hair.
I actually kind of understand the hair one. I don’t like my own hair lying all over the place in my own house, let alone finding someone else’s hair in a place where I’m staying. It’s the hair thing that seems to be most people’s breaking point, specifically if it’s a hair in the bathroom somewhere. We’ve actually had a person call and say they didn’t think the bathroom had been cleaned because they found a hair in the shower. (At least that was probably a clean hair!) I kind of get it, but it’s also one of those human nature things that I maybe didn’t anticipate until I saw it play out so repeatedly.
If you’re ever in Rochester, feel free to look us up! We’ll have a space ready for you. Have a funny travel story or an airbnb host or guest experience? Drop it in the comments below. I’d love to compare experiences.