The Cabin by the Hunter Houses in Maplecrest. | Photo courtesy of The Hunter Houses
Thinking of jumping into the short-term rental market in the Hudson Valley? Get expert advice from these Airbnb hosting pros.
You already knew the Hudson Valley was a magnet for travelers. But did you know the area scored ninth on Airbnb’s Top 10 list of the most profitable U.S. locations for new hosts? And that was just in the first six months of 2021. If you’re mulling over renting out a home to offset the mortgage, get a sense of how much you can charge by going on AirDNA.co (or from Airbnb itself). Then get the lowdown on how to be successful from these savvy Valley-based superhosts:
Look into your town’s rules
“Know the area and whether short-term rentals are a risk for regulation. Many of the towns in the Hudson Valley have started to explore putting strict policies in place,” advises Stephen Beck, who rents out Willow Vale House in Pine Plains. Most of that ire is directed at absentee investors, but at the very least you’ll probably have to fill out an application to register the home as a short-term rental and then answer any questions from the planning board as well as submit to inspections, notes Catherine Wolpe, host of Long Pond Cottage in Rhinebeck. Since that takes time, “it’s important to begin three or more months before your desired start date,” she adds.
Get friendly with the neighbors…
If you’re from out of town and your place needs sprucing up, introduce yourself to your neighbors and tap into their network of local contractors, Wolpe says. A neighbor can also lend a hand by stopping by to check if something needs attention when you can’t get there, says Tina Roth Eisenberg, who rents out a cabin in Red Hook and has a person she can count on.
…Then get your team in place
Stuff happens: “Fuses are going to blow, drains are going to get clogged, something’s going to break at some point,” says Austin Urban, Airbnb host of the Barn at Copake Lake, as well as an apartment in Hudson. So keep a list of reliable pros in place and have a couple of backups for every electrician, plumber, and handyman, he advises. Kathy Corby, owner of Lilac House in Saugerties, has a spreadsheet of 31 contractors that she depends on, including appliance repair people and folks who assemble furniture.
Get a cleaner—and a system
Finding the right cleaner can make all the difference: “They can make or break your business,” says Dyanna Rettig, owner of the Dharma Dome in Kerhonkson. But she doesn’t stop there. She went through each room of the geodesic dome and “made a list of every single thing that needed to be cleaned between guest visits. It’s a great way to make sure that nothing gets missed when you’re on autopilot,” she says.
Start small, or go for longer-term stays
Once you begin renting, you have to stay on top of all the moving parts—the guests who are booking, leaving, arriving, plus anything that needs to be fixed in between rentals. To avoid becoming overwhelmed, Rettig advises doing fewer reservations at first, at least until you get into a groove. And Beck discovered that increasing the minimum stay to five nights reduced the number of booking requests to manage. One downside to that strategy: “With longer stays comes more issues with guests to sort out including damage, wear and tear, and plumbing and heating issues,” he says.
Craft a welcome message
Many hosts send out pre-written messages to guests as soon as they book, sharing Wi-Fi passwords, parking info, important details about the house and area, and even options for hiking, shopping, and eating out. People appreciate getting a guide from the get-go, says Urban. But it also helps you get a sense of your guests. How? Roth Eisenberg’s message asks guests to send her a quick text after they arrive. “I’ve only had issues with guests who have not followed that simple rule. It usually means they also don’t read any of the other house instructions,” she says.
Follow the golden rule
Treat your guests the way you’d like to be treated. Besides providing the basics—shampoo, soaps, toilet paper, and linens—as well as supplies a guest may have left at home (like a charger or sunscreen), add thoughtful details. “We provide firewood for the fireplace, anything you might need to cook or make coffee, and stock the house with books and records,” says Danielle and Ely Franko, who own three properties in the Catskills, including their newest, the Cabin. Corby sets out a gift bag with Birch Benders pancake mix, local maple syrup, homemade blueberry preserves, scented candles, even packets for the fireplace that changes the colors of the flames. “If owners don’t have energy to put into really making it a great experience for their guests, they probably shouldn’t host,” notes Corby.
Decorate with guests in mind
You want your place to feel homey while playing up its strengths, whether it’s the natural light or rustic nature. The Frankos decorated the Cabin with bigger pieces from West Elm along with as many “found objects” as possible, either from Craigslist or their parents’ garages, to bring a sense of life and history. “You definitely want to use quality, well-made furnishings as they do get a lot of wear and tear,” advises Samantha Orley, who rents out Cranberry Pond in Livingston Manor. And because she assumes that guests will feel free to use whatever’s in the house, she limits personal items, like small ceramics, artwork, and even coffee table books, which may add to the vibe but will be hard to replace if they get lost, broken, or even taken.
Get feedback, no matter how negative
“Every single time guests stay at your house, ask them what you could have done better to make the stay better,” advises Urban. Roth Eisenberg does the same. “I get really wonderful suggestions,” she says, like the guest who told her the pillows were too hard. She got softer pillows and now guests have a choice of where to rest their heads as they snooze. There are a lot of traits that go into being a good host—being organized, getting back to guests quickly, keeping the house running without (too many) glitches. But above all, say these hosts, you have to put in the time and enjoy sharing your space with people. “Renting at any scale is definitely not ‘low-touch’ or ‘passive,’ and we pride ourselves on the care and consideration we put into the property and our job as hosts,” says Orley.