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Great Airbnb hosts build trust: Airbnb Superhost Stan Roach

Stan Roach is as close to my idea of the perfect Airbnb Superhost as you can come. Not just his hundreds of 5-star reviews on Airbnb. Not just his total guest focus. Not just his love of his local area. Not even just his appreciation of The Beatles! It’s the all-round package that this represents.

For us guests someone like Stan instantly fosters a feeling of trust. And it’s trust that ultimately results in guests clicking on the booking button.

I connected with Stan after some Twitter exchanges as he seemed just the type of person I wanted to hear more from. How did he come to earn 400 excellent reviews? What does “live like a local” really mean? And what’s this about guitars and The Beatles?!

Q1: You’re an Airbnb Superhost with over 400 reviews, pretty much exclusively 5-star ones. What is it that guests find so amazing about you and your homes?

The Airbnb Superhost program attempts to provide hosts with some recognition for achieving a level of excellence in hospitality. The truth is that they make it pretty easy setting the minimums at a very achievable level for the occasional host. Currently, to be an Airbnb Superhost, it takes a minimum 10 hostings across all listings, with 80% of them being 5 star reviews, no cancelations and 90% response rate. So they set the bar pretty low.

In contrast, for 2015, we hosted 870 guest nights with 100% Response Rate, 100% Commitment and 85% 5 Star Reviews. It becomes much more of a challenge to achieve and maintain the current benchmarks for Superhost when hosting several hundreds of guests in a year. We are on track to see an increase of 15% – 20% in guest nights for 2016 so we have our work cut out for us. Airbnb needs to rethink the Superhost Program to define and reward High Volume Hosts for generating serious revenue and maintaining a level of excellence in the process. How about a Super Duper Host program for high volume hosts with benchmarks that scale accordingly?

For the second part of your question, we started out owning a second home in Sunriver in 1988. It was a 4 bedroom, 3 bath, with a cabin feel to it. When we were not staying there, we rented it out as a vacation rental so we had to furnish it with everything a home would have. Even though we used several different property management companies, we had to invest a lot of time in keeping it up to date, clean, and maintained and provide everything a guest would expect to have.

So we learned a lot about what guests expected in exchange for their hard earned money.

We now personally manage our current properties and make sure that the furnishings and decor are up to date, professionally cleaned and comfortable. We provide all the little touches like quality toiletries, fully stocked kitchens, fresh fruit, snacks and the occasional bottle of wine or micro-brew that Bend is known for. First impressions and presentation are really important.

Communication and response to guests is equally important. With the Sunriver experience we learned a lot and we took it up to another level with our current properties and are much more hands on. That translates to a better experience and more value for our guests.

There’s a lot that goes into being an excellent host and in lieu of writing a book about it this is a pretty good summary!

Q2: I hear the phrase “live like a local” all the time in the context of Airbnb. It’s so often used that I’m starting to wonder if it’s really just become marketing speak. What do you think the phrase really means? Why has it become synonymous with Airbnb?

In our particular city of Bend, Oregon, it is known for it’s natural beauty, outdoor recreation, cultural events and last, but certainly not least, it’s eateries and numerous breweries.

Bend is, and has been, a destination for visitors for decades. Vacation rentals (now referred to as “Short-Term Rentals” (STR’s) have been around for decades as well. Renting a furnished home for a weekend, a week, or a month (or longer) gives visitors an opportunity to participate as a local resident. They can get a feel for a neighborhood, the people, the culture and enjoy all the same comforts and convenience of a home.

Thus, “living like a local” gives people a sense of the place you can’t get staying in a hotel or motel.

Airbnb grasped this concept early on. Many of our guests say that a weekend is not enough time so they stay longer the next time around or make a few more trips. We have many guests return once they have stayed in our homes. Thus, the TouchStay offering is something we are very interested in because it provides an extension of the “live like a local” experience.


Q3: I notice you use the Airbnb Guidebook feature. Have guests commented that they find this useful? Do you wish it had more features, or does it tick the box for you?

Yes we use the Airbnb Guidebook. Conceptually it’s intent is to provide guests with information on what to do, where to eat, attractions, and events. It’s a nice feature, however very few guests actually use it. We find that guests often times do not bother to read the important details or dig in to the guidebook. It’s almost like an after thought and the info is so far down in the listing details that it’s ignored.

As far as creating a Guidebook, if a Host has multiple listings there is no convenient way to duplicate the information across multiple listings. You have to recreate the same information multiple times. It’s very time consuming to create and maintain pertinent information. Even if you have the time, the guest is unaware that information is there. I think that’s an advantage for TouchStay in that the information can be published on a more friendly and accessible platform.

The Airbnb Guidebook is a good idea lacking functionality and usability. I would rate it 2 out of 5 stars.

Q4: There’s been a pretty robust kick back from owners on HomeAway sites about the introduction of guest fees. This has always been the Airbnb model. What is your view on charging guests a fee?

Guest fees are what make Airbnb profitable. An Airbnb Host pays 3% of the total booking. That basically covers the cost of credit card fees and administration. Not much profit to be had there. Guests who use Airbnb regularly seemingly have no problems paying a fee. The platform is (generally speaking) convenient and easy to use. Airbnb provides a great interface between guests and hosts and they have to cover costs for their extensive support system.

If there are issues (and there are) Airbnb gets involved on many levels. They have to cover costs for support and charging guest fees is the way to cover those costs and make a profit. We use Airbnb exclusively as it gives us a solid platform for knowing who our guests are and vice-versa. Reviews and verifications are invaluable for both guest and Host. I like the idea of the guest having to “pay to play” on the Airbnb platform and guests who use Airbnb regularly understand they are paying for a service that other platforms do not provide.

Q5: So Stan, you’re also a singer/songwriter, actor, producer and director. Can we hear or see some of your work?! Do you perform for your guests?

Ha, ha! You did some homework! Career wise I spent many years in the high-tech industry as a marketing and business development executive. I worked for several small successful start-ups and that was a lot of fun and I learned a lot.

But everyone has other interests (or should have other interests) and early on (back in the 60’s) I was inspired to teach myself how to play the guitar. As is the way, life took over with career, raising a family, and all that. I didn’t have time for music. Then, in 1998, while living in Fort Collins, CO, I met a neighbor (Ron) who had a group called The Fab 4 (fantastic Beatles tribute band) and I unpacked my guitar and started playing again at Ron’s place.

About the same time, a friend told me about an audition for a movie being filmed in Laramie called “The Laramie Project” so I went to the audition and surprisingly was cast as a Sheriff Deputy. The movie was nominated for an Oscar. That led to other auditions and I landed a role as a detective and cop on Animal Planet’s “Busted” series. Thet led to commercials, industrials and stage acting. I have directed many media productions and the last one I did was as the musical director for a local production of The Who’s Tommy – The Musical. Although I have an agent, living in Bend has made it difficult to land other acting jobs outside the area so I don’t do much of that these days other than an occasional local commercial or voice over project.

I have written and recorded several songs over the past several years and have become a pretty decent singer/songwriter winning a couple of songwriting awards. I sometimes perform live depending on the event, venue and compensation. I don’t have a band per se so I bill my self as Stan Roach and Friends so if there’s an occasion I pull some musician friends together and we put together a project and get up on stage. Music is my main creative outlet these days. It’s serious hobby but it’s till just a hobby. You can listen to few of my songs here.