‘Hosting biz besties’ Annette Grant and Sarah Karakaian, who present the popular Thanks for Visiting podcast, talk about mess-ups, hosting myths and wallpaper magic…
The two Superhosts from Columbus, Ohio, who came to vacation rentals from diverse backgrounds, joined forces to share their experience and knowledge with other hosts ready to grow their businesses. They also offer free workshops and a private community for hosts.
We caught up with them virtually and this is what they told us.
So, how did the two of you meet?
Annette explains how they hooked up at a council meeting while showing up to fight against vacation rental regulations. Hosting can be lonely, which is why every host needs a hosting biz bestie, she says.
What makes you different from other ‘experts’?
Being females in the space, and encouraging other women real estate investors to build their portfolios. Also, their honesty about what it really means to be a host.
How did each of you get started in short-term rentals?
Sarah first entered the vacation rental world as an actress in New York City – renting out a room in her basement. Annette, after ‘getting quit’ from her top experimented with one apartment while trying to work out what to do next, and was bitten by the short-term rental bug.
What do you mean this job is part-time, all the time?
Passive income is a myth, says Sarah.
This is not the industry for you if you want to lie on the beach and drink piña coladas. Whether you have one or 100 properties, you never know when the guest is going to reach out. It’s part-time, but it’s basically full-time. You are still on call. When the guests need something, they need something!
Tell us more about the Thanks for Visiting motto – Hosting with Heart?
Sarah says, “It’s not about money. If you put people first, profits will follow!”
Hosting with heart means thinking about people, including guests, and your turnover team.
What do each of you bring to the party?
Annette comes from a business operations background but has always been involved with people. Sarah is an interior designer and former actress who still craves applause in the form of 5-star rental reviews.
She says: “Every home is like a stage and when a guest walks in, it’s like opening night and I try to wow them…”
Do guests want more unique experiences now?
Guests always wanted amazing experiences, says Annette, but online travel agencies (OTAs) have made amazing experiences more accessible. People want a unique experience and want to share that experience with the world via social media.
The OMG! Airbnb properties will continue to be more of the norm, because of how travel is changing. It’s no longer just one person having all the Marriott points or going to the same Lake House for holidays every year, she adds. COVID helped to escalate that with the ‘work from everywhere’ trend.
What are your basic interior decorating tips for new hosts?
The important thing is to get people into the home first, says Sarah, starting with your listing. And even before that, the first thing they see is your hero image.
See who you have stacked up against – how can the colors of your photo stand out and draw them into your place.
She also talks about wallpaper, not grandma wallpaper but new fresh, temporary wallpaper like giant stickers, as well as light fixtures and making curtains work hard for you.
What mess-ups did you make when starting out?
Annette had smart locks but did not use them smartly. She also learned to have a backup for her back up and not to hide a physical key in the same place for years!
Sarah didn’t understand at first how important it is to be proactive and to invite your guests back, stay in touch, invite their friends and family, and spoil them if they come back.
What does it take to be successful in short term rentals?
A combination of tenacity and systems, says Sarah.
If you don’t have systems in place, burnout is real. The industry is fun and lucrative, but it is a lot of work. Systems help to alleviate this. You have to be excited to solve problems, and willing to always be learning.
Being a people person is important, adds Annette. You have to celebrate when they celebrate, commiserate when they commiserate. Be ready for whatever they’re experiencing.
When is the right time to scale your business?
Only you can answer this question, says Sarah.
Don’t look for outside input – vanity numbers are real in the industry, don’t become a victim of them. What are your goals, understand where you want to get it – and do it your own way. You got to do you.
What are your concerns about the future of the industry?
if you’re the best at something, you can be more recession-proof, says Sarah. If things were to change – you are prepared for it. Also – make sure you have 6-8 months of operational cash stowed away and don’t run your business on a month-to-month account. That’s just good business practice!
How has the Airbnb Summer Release 2022 impacted your business and what is your advice?
They have seen a common theme of calendars not being as occupied as they were in 2021 – which they believe, is even more proof that travelers are hungry for unique experiences.
You have to tap into this to pivot your business. Stop relying on Airbnb to bring you your leads – if you do that you’re a travel agent, you’re not a hospitality owner. Airbnb is a lead generator, but you can pick up the phone, build your own relationships, get your own bookings. Now is the time to take matters into your own hands.
Final words of encouragement for hosts…
Sarah says: “The cool thing about being a business owner, you get to put a bit of yourself into it. That’s what makes your business unique -look inside yourself – what’s important to you. If you communicate this into your property, will make your property unique and the experience unique for guests.”
Annette adds: “If you are a host, find a community – go to the meetups, meet other hosts. My circle of friends are now hosts. Find a hosting bestie. It will pay dividends.”
Where to find Annette and Sarah – Thanks for Visiting podcast, free workshops and private community
After each workshop, there is an offer to join an amazing private community – the Hosting Business Mastery Community – which includes a course and membership. Here the ladies dive way deeper into hosting, and it includes one-on-one advice, looking into the numbers, listings, and answering real-time questions.
They also add new episodes to their podcast every week.
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