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How to turn your vacation rental into a brand, according to an Airbnb Superhost who saw booking demand soar 30% during the pandemic

Business

Haystack Haus Airbnb

Summary List Placement

Becoming a successful Airbnb host takes more than listing your home for rent and then hoping people book a stay.

According to Larissa Fransen, who owns a two-bedroom cabin called “The Haystack Haus” in Cannon Beach, Oregon, with her husband, Randall, treating your home like a brand of its own is key to generating interest on Airbnb. 

“There’s tons of opportunities to create this amazing brand that’s custom and catered to you and your interests,” she said. 

Fransen is a Superhost, a special designation for experienced and top-rated hosts on the platform. 

To qualify as a Superhost, users must have a rating of at least 4.8 stars out of a possible 5, at least 100 nights booked at their listing, a cancellation rate of less than 1%, and a 90% rate of responses to customers. Hosts are evaluated for Superhost status four times a year.

Superhosts benefit from increased visibility on the Airbnb platform with a badge that designates their status, and they can also earn referral bonuses for recruiting new hosts. As a result, Airbnb says they also often earn more than a typical host. 

Fransen said she and her husband bought the house — located near the famous Haystack Rock — with the intention of renting it out on Airbnb. They spent 18 months looking for the home that best suited their needs, and then started accepting guests in January 2018. 

The couple sells branded “Haystack Haus” t-shirts, tote bags, pins, and hats online. They also offer self-care kits stocked with items like bath bombs, as well as celebratory treats like birthday cakes, toys, and games, depending on what guests want. They even offer elopement services, complete with help with securing an officiant, photographer, florist, or hair and makeup professionals. All of these services can be added onto travelers’ reservations for an additional fee, leading to more income for the owners.

Fransen comes from an interior design and hospitality background, previously designing hotels and owning her own design firm, while her husband works in advertising. She said their combined experience has been hugely beneficial in operating their Airbnb listing.

She recommends that hosts stay up-to-date on trends in design and hospitality while building their brand. 

“Obviously, there are a lot of hotels. The balance between short-term rentals and hotels is still very much a conversation,” she said. “But there are many things that you can provide to your guests, not to compete with the hotel experience, but just to be up to par with what you would get from a luxury hotel.”  

In addition to the special amenities offered, the couple improved the house’s WiFi to accommodate travelers who may be working remotely or whose children could be doing virtual schooling during the pandemic. 

Haystack Haus lunch

They’ve already built up a bit of an audience for the Haystack Haus. An Instagram account for the house, featuring stylish photos of its interiors, branded products, and natural surroundings, has more than 2,000 followers.

Fransen said that demand for bookings has soared during the pandemic — up 30-40% in 2020 over 2019 — but that local regulations limit them to two to three renters a month. Their available dates are currently 100% booked through mid-October, and slots tend to fill up within 48 hours of them being listed. 

“I think it’s been a little bit challenging to navigate the increased level of interest because we already felt like we were pretty busy,” she said. “We’re definitely getting tons of inquiries through Instagram, tons of inquiries through Airbnb.”

She also said she has gotten a number of messages on Instagram from people seeking advice on how to recreate their Airbnb success. Consulting with prospective hosts has become an additional source of income for popular hosts like the Fransens. 

Fransen said her best advice would be “just to always focus on the guest experience and creating something that as a host, you’re proud of, and as a guest, that you would be happy to stay in also.” 

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