Wednesday, October 9, 2019

To Airbnb or Not? What you need to know about Airbnb's

This article is not meant to deter anyone from Airbnb's. 

Hey if you have experienced them and have nothing but good experiences with them then great! 

It takes a certain type of traveler to void of protecting themselves even amidst warnings. I hope you are not one of them and if you are reading this then you have already begun your due diligence!

 For others it's really just a matter of time.

So let's get on with it... What can we learn about airbnb's and about selecting one?

  1. Uninsured airbnb's.
Most property owners signing up for Airbnb are looking to make some extra income throughout the year and everyone wants to gain an income over a loss. Signing up for home sharing is a relatively easy process. Just point and click. Just like many travelers looking at airbnb's are doing the same thing. The shocking fact is that a large majority of homeowners creating an airbnb are lacking the proper insurance and when they do have it, what do they really have for insurance? Some may even be terminated of insurance if relied falsely upon. At any time.

  Most domestic insurers will cover very short term rentals. Some carriers will cover 10,000 of coverage but beyond that, nothing. Denying that insurance claim and the number of states requiring that insurance is also a rude awakening. Not a secure feeling! And what of the customer renting? Meaning you, the traveler. Fact is, you, your family and your property is likely not to be least not for your benefit anyway. To you, this should ultimately mean you are uninsured. Yes you can think to hold the host liable but that suit could drag on for years. No help to you really. And the cost for that is usually at a higher price than you may bargain for health-wise and pocket-wise. All to save a few dollars while on vacation. 

There is a lot of information out there regarding uninsured and insured airbnbs it is highly unlikely that your rental host will be thinking of you and will want to save as much money for them too so they are careful in selecting an insurance that will not break their bank. Even as you choose an airbnb you are looking to save a few bucks. Right?

 The fact is you should have A LOT of questions to ask your host before renting. 

If you are a thief for example then an airbnb might be the way for you to go as most host insurers won't cover the host! This is not to say you should become a thief!  

Please think carefully about the questions you should be asking and perhaps we will cover those in a later article and hopefully I've helped you some here! 

 Anyone who has thoughts please share in the comments section I'd love to hear them!

A little more education you may want to consider regarding host liability. I do not endorse this company or any company thar I provide links to BUT I do believe they hold merit. I do however believe in third party insurance for my travelers as well  but I never require it. 

 The rules of airbnb host and insurance liability may vary from state to state or even country to country (lack thereof) fact is there is education to be learned about every angle you choose no matter where you choose to go!

1) Illegal airbnb's. Insecure airbnbs and the like.

Nowhere is it required that hosts must adhere to rules and regulations of state or even country (lack thereof) with actual repercussions. And like mentioned there is a lack of these. You wouldn't believe the number of airbnb's that are running illegally, insecured or unsafe. Is that really what you as an unaware traveler want for you and your family? Again, this is not to deter you from airbnb's - just make you aware of what you should be aware of BEFORE you move forward with an airbnb. My mentions are because I as a Travel Professional truly care about my clients whom often become customers and in most cases, friends. Please folks. Do your due diligence! 

 Airbnb's are not adhered to registrations. In other countries, the rules are even more loose. Read this article for more information. Then the question becomes, are they safe and up to code? Honestly you would never know and any host can lie to you. Even the most trained engineering eye would not know. And you as the traveling friend are going to a place you may have never been. And even if you have or know someone who has, does not secure you from these issues.

 Sometimes airbnb hosts can request personal identification from you such as drivers licenses, social security numbers, etc. The amount of identity theft is appalling and a scary thought! You should never give that information out to anyone unless you trust them.  Complaints can be logged to the host (if the host is available to you at all times - this is not always the case) but complaints are not required to be adhered to. 

Most hotels give you far more attention and have strict requirements in order to stay alive.  If there is an issue with the airbnb and you are hurt, and you or a member of your family go to the hospital, what's to keep you from going home (if you are in a foreign country)? A little known fact understood by many Travel professionals! 

 Refunds are not always given and in some minor cases very little. An airbnb is not required to by any means. Here is an article to many other considerations you, "the unaware traveler", will want to think about. A lot of hotels are now asking to see passports and take a copy of their customers passport for a reason. Just a copy and you get your passport back. This is becoming commonplace now but not for airbnbs. And if it were, you still have to worry about your Personal Identification being stolen by an untrusted airbnb. 

Many other issues such as this are discussed:
  • host or company can cancel the stay at any time even unbeknowest to the host. No guarantees. Host and the airbnb communication between each other is not always the best even!
  • Scams are more possible than ever.
  • unsafe conditions of the property.
  • Bug infestations 
  • Broken amenities
  • Hostile, intrusive, criminal background, pedophile, sexual offender. Is that the kind of host you are hiring? No background checks by airbnbs.
  • Crime, theft, other.
  • Hidden cameras
  • Undisclosed roommates (your host can add other people into the home to stay with you).
  • Illegal drugs present.
  • Unsafe neighborhood.
  • Illegal sub-letting. Some properties may not even be owned by the host!
  • Lack of child and disability friendly accommodations.
  • The list goes on and on and on...
2) Time well spent.

Most folks go on vacation to ENJOY their vacations. Who wants to spend one whole day preparing the property they will be staying at? Groceries, deep cleaning, checking everything in a wide space over. You get the idea. Not only this but you will have to spend a second whole day just participating in the deep cleaning process and everything all over again! And what if something goes wrong before, during and after your stay? How long will you be trying to gain access to customer service or your host?  Wait. How many days are you staying again? You get the picture.

Most hotels and other places to stay at that I would advise on are there to make your stay a more enjoyable place! Most hotels have concierges and desk representatives and managers you can speak to directly. There is a hotel/resort type for everyone!

This goes on to add that you really do not know who stayed in this airbnb before you and chances are if it was "cheaper" then it adheres to claim a certain type of customer. I'm not saying that you are that certain type of customer but I guarantee if you are paying a better penny for what you are getting, then you should be getting the value of your stay! 

Do you really need a whole house, cottage or other arrangement for your trip? Do you really need that kitchen, extra bedroom, extra anything? How much time will you really spend in your airbnb? There will be no housekeeping, lack of customer service quite possibly, no luggage holding service (for time well spent), and no room service. 

Most folks want to go out and explore almost immediately not spend their hard earned vacation time holed up in one place. They want the amenities that go along with that as well. A free shuttle perhaps, your meals taken care of, not too many rules to follow, getting into your stay on time, an ability to drop your bags off on the first or last day to immediately enjoy amenities, and the lack of any inconveniences. Are you getting all of your questions answered? Is your host actually going to be there for you when needed? What happens if you lock yourself out of your airbnb?  Ah! So many questions.... and what's more are you prepared to look for another option at the last minute if you had to? 

Just the number of questions you need to ask are not saving you any time!

3) Cheaper. What affects to the community are you taking part?

Let's take a moment to play devil's advocate. If you were the neighbor of an airbnb host how would it affect you? An increase in property taxes; perhaps it puts your daughter or son out of working at the local hotel even maybe you; renting most likely drives the cost of local rentals up so your relative cannot afford a place to stay - maybe they ask to stay with you instead? Maybe someone in your family is a real estate agent and it in turn puts them out of work or lessens their income. Here is another great article of the ramifications of an airbnb to cities/countries. You are most likely hurting the tourism industry of the country or city you are visiting. You are most likely hurting other people without even knowing it. Also...If the host property is upstairs from where you are living and their customers are coming and going at all hours, how would that affect you? Disturbing isn't it! 

Short term rentals put undue pressure upon availability and affordability of lodgings in the tourist communities or even yours. Governments are looking for ways to tax and are finding new ways because of it too. There is a huge difference between residential activity vs. commercial activity that needs to be considered both with insurance and with this. Local laws are changing in communities as well and with a lack of funds to support those newly created laws. Adherence is difficult and costly. 

Now I don't want to bore you with politics or get into it as I believe everyone has a political right to believe what they believe. This is just to point you into asking yourself a few necessary questions and decide if an airbnb is really worth it. All for a few bucks saved in your own pocket. 

How are the neighbors in that area of the existing airbnb reacting to the rental ? Based on the information provided I cannot imagine most positively. So..unsafe neighborhoods perhaps? 

Loans are going up as well. How does that affect the communities purchasing? Think supply and demand folks! 

The last question remains, where is your money actually going? We will get to that in a moment. 

As tourists we should want to support the locals as much as we can, not make their lives more difficult. We would and should want to support our own!

4) Communication, Communication, Communication.

I cannot stress enough how important communication and compiling questions is necessary before you rent an airbnb property. Even then communication is often lacking. What is not being said? There are MANY host and customer stories regarding airbnbs.  And not just from that article listed. But everywhere. And from anyone. Just because the listing has a high referral rate does not make anything right for you exactly. Never assume it will.  Communication should begin early and even before a deposit is made. Communication between you and the host and airbnb is not the only area of concern. How about the communication between the host and airbnb? These are instances often beyond your control but they can affect you and your families and your hard earned investment a lot! 

Ask to speak directly with the host and not just the airbnb company. Ask a LOT of questions and keep notes. If you can get everything in writing thats even better. Just because there is an Airbnb resolution center (if it exists) does not mean it will work in your favor. And most resolution centers require supporting proof / documentation. Not all resolution centers will give you english speakers or live customer service or perhaps help you at all. 

Not just any communication is necessary but TRUST and honest communication. Like anything in life there are no guarantees. It's a great idea to trust your instinct. If your gut tells you something is not right, do not go with it. 

Something else to be aware of is hidden fees. What you see posted for the price of many airbnbs is not exactly what you will pay. There are too many stories of surprise bills or charges popping up later.

 Stay abreast of fees and how they are rated (daily, once during stay, etc).

 Something to also consider is that if something seems too good to be true, it usually is! 

Other things to consider are bait and switch situations or when the property is not exactly as described. We will delve more in a moment.

So what kind of traveler are you? Only certain types of travelers will fit the stereotype of airbnbs.

 Good travelers will also do their due diligence prior to renting one! 

Read your refund and cancellation policy carefully as well. Know the rules of the property before you arrive. Read the listings carefully.  Act quickly in the result of issues (ie. this will not save you time). No matter how you shape it you need to go into selecting an airbnb and as ultimately being at the mercy of your host. 

5) Lack of Privacy.

I think I mentioned this before about lack of privacy but it's an important point. There is no regulation that keeps your host from coming in unwarranted and without notification. There is no regulation that keeps your host from having someone else (a stranger selected by your host) staying with you without you knowing about it or by surprise. Can you imagine showing up to find that the host is also having their friend stay there the same time as you too at the same property?  

There could be disruptions during your stay that you are unaware of and I won't go into this too much but please use your imagination! 

6) Where is your money actually going?

You will gain no loyalty points staying at an Airbnb (better accommodations, free upgrades, etc). You may think you are saving money but at what real cost?  And where is your money really going? I can guarantee it is not going back into your communities, or cities,or states, or even country. It is going to a host and its supplier. Nothing comes back to you, your families, your friends, your communities as it would if you were to use a free Travel Professional to help you. 

On a final note, I'd like to say that with a hotel you may actually pay less overall. They will not take your money up front (unless your travel professional says they may) and cancellation is usually within 24 hours. You will not be paying a "cleaning fee" or other very strange fees you know nothing about.  There are also rules on refundability with a hotel/resort and your travel professional should know what they are and be able to explain that to you clearly. No surprises. Those rules do not vary much among hotels like they might between airbnbs. This makes an airbnb confusing to navigate. With a travel professional you will also get personalized service which is something I cannot vouch for with an airbnb. It can all boil down to customer service as well and if you are really getting your monies worth. Hotels and Resorts normally have to adhere to strict guidelines and points of service to stay open. They have the kind of money on hand to purchase the right insurances, and pay taxes and hire safe locals to work for them.The Travel Professional gets a commission from most suppliers and those commissions ultimately go back into your communities and most likely back into your own pocket. It doesnt and should not cost you more to do this. 

Remember earlier when I commented about bait and switch conditions? Even hotels/resorts and online booking sites will post these hepped up gorgeous photos of the place and neighborhoods, Airbnb's are no exception. However Airbnb's do not allow travel professionals to come view them and post actual photos! Having a travel professional can come in really handy in that respect as they are familiar with hotel/resort locations or know another reputable agent who is! So you will know what you are really getting. Other bait and switch incidences have occured.

Something to note is that Airbnbs are not bed and breakfasts. They are not treated the same. B&B are regulated and zoned properly and supported.

Airbnbs prices may remain pretty stable regardless of timing (season, rooms filling or remaining unfilled, weekend vs weekday rate, etc)  which is different than hotels. But thats not always a great thing. With hotels/resorts it's much easier to shop for the best rates! 

Hotels / resorts offer a far more consistent experience amongst different brands. 

When something goes wrong, at least you have a face nearby to go to right downstairs or with a quick phone call. Customer service reps! Concierges! Bell boys! Wake up calls! Room service! 

 Far in advance you reserve your hotel you do not have to worry about losing it right before you leave.

Yes! Airbnb's can save you a little money sometimes. Airbnb's can be an option for very large families. But so can villas found through your travel professional. And much safer might I add! 

Yes, thousands of folks use the online service airbnb without ever having experienced negative effects. The lucky ones.

 And yes airbnbs can give a local flavor that sometimes resorts or hotels cannot give you - thinking pretty rural here - ( Many tours are available to you and a Travel Professional can put you in touch with a reputable private tour guide at a reasonable cost giving you the same safer experiences!) 

 Note: That you will feel out of place in any foreign country or place you do not normally live or have educated yourself on. You will be "the tourist" no matter what you do and the locals will know you are a tourist. City to city, State to state, country to country. 

Airbnb's were a great idea when they first began perhaps. Now everyone is looking to make a quick buck, exploit the system somehow and airbnb is absolutely no exception. They are more equipped to get away with it!

I know for me renting an airbnb for my invested vacation would not do! The risks associated with an airbnb do not outweigh the benefits of staying in a hotel/resort for me. 

How about you?

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Club Mobay Review

Hey folks! Today's a nice sunny, but cold day here in Maine. I just got back from 3 FAM trips allowing me to do site inspections on more than 30 properties!! Some in Jamaica and Cancun! Very exciting. Moving on... While in Jamaica, at the Sangster International airport, I had the GREAT opportunity to check out Club Mobay on my departure from the airport. How many ways can someone say GREAT?! Why? Well for a multitude of reasons! Here's the upside: * You are fast-tracked through immigration and customs! * Lots of food, food, food choices! I amazingly had the opportunity to try foods I never saw anywhere else: BBQ Pigs tail for example?! Yeh. Right. They have it! And more..believe me not everything in their case was that exotic. * Lots of Liquor! Want to feel like you're still at the resort? Well you'll feel like you're still on vacation here at Club Mobay! While there I had one Mimosa and the wait staff would come and ask me if I wanted another: yes, keep them coming! Funny thing, when I said that they literally took it as a yes. The wait staff was carefully observing my glass for empty only to replenish it again... interesting. * Service. Again besides the liquor service I told the concierge staff that I am Deaf and that I needed to be absolutely SURE I made my flight ahead of time. NO WORRIES! You're still in Jamaica, Mon! And I did... They check on you randomly without being too forward to make sure you have everything you need. * Other drinks. If you are not a liquor fan you will find an array of other drinks here. Just ask! * The room: The room itself is very tasteful. Not exceedingly large and feels elite. The chairs and tables are comfortable for the most part. * There are private restrooms, it is kids friendly and appears accessibility friendly. Here's the downside: *Charging stations. You will not find those here. When I walked in that was the first thing I asked for. Why? I work in travel so I NEED to have access all the time. They DID re-seat me next to a wall outlet and that was helpful. But there are not many of those here. Based on the above and my experiences I honestly cannot say there's much of a downside. I would use Club mobay myself each time I visited Jamaica. You are treated with Jamaican hospitality and a VIP from the minute you walk in to the minute you leave. Be sure to add this to your next Jamaican vacation through your travel agent!