Just like hotels, Airbnb has its low season, and when it comes, its rough. A total dry spell. This varies from place to place, but in my case its New York City. Back June 2014 when I started hosting I was receiving more inquiries than I could handle. I remember getting my first inquiry for a booking 15 minutes after posting my listing. It was so successful, that I quickly began working on my second listing. Things were going good. It felt good being able to pay all my bills on time and chip away at some old debt. But as the month of December passed I realized I wasn’t getting many inquiries for January. I continued to drop my nightly prices and nothing. With the end of the year coming up and my calendars empty, I began to panic. My fixed monthly expenses for my listings including rent was a little over $6000. With January here, 2 empty calendars and a 95% drop in inquiries, I quickly realized I was in deep trouble. Not only was it for January, it was for February and March too. There was no way I could survive that financially. But instead of wallowing in self-pity I decided to do everything in my power to get my listings booked. So far I have had some success. Here are a list of measures I took to survive this low season:
1. Substantially Lowered Pricing
I lowered all my pricing; nightly, weekly, and monthly by about 25%. It was a drastic drop but it helped pay my monthly expenses. I broke even, but i knew when the high season came, I was going to kill it.
2.Updated Listings Daily
Airbnb search favors listings that are updated frequently. It lets them know there is an eager host willing to put in the work. It also helps you familiarize your self with all the features Airbnb has to offer.
3. Spread the Word
I would tell my coworkers and friends I was offering discounted rates to see if they were interested. I was able to book a few nights this way. You can also use social media to promote your listing. Just be aware of the legality of short-term rentals in your area and your willingness to expose yourself.
4. List with Other Services
Even though Airbnb is the most popular home-sharing platform out there, it is not the only one. I listed with Flipkey and VRBO and had some success. Note: These services only offer full home rentals and not rooms.
5. Fast Responses
I used the Airbnb app on my iPhone to respond to my guests in real-time. In my experience, most guests do a lot of research before they contact multiple hosts. Many times they go with who ever responds first. I made sure I was that host. If they never responded to my initial message I would check in with them the next day. All my guests really appreciated my attentiveness. This had terrific results.
So after learning my lesson from this years Airbnb low season, I am have already adjusted my pricing for next years season.
TIP: Identify the seasonality of your location. Plan in advance by lowering your prices (nightly, weekly, and monthly) during low season and increasing them during the high season where there is more demand. Don’t wait until last-minute. Your better off getting that calendar filled up early than not have any bookings and still have to pay your expenses. Especially if you have multiple units.