From zero to hero in 4 weeks with several 100% scores.
How to host your property via Misterbnb vs Airbnb vs Lekkeslaap vs Booking.com
By Rubin Van Niekerk
I bought a stunning apartment with spectacular views in the Marina Martinique between Jeffreys Bay and Paradise beach next to a nature reserve with gorgeous pink flamingos about 14 years ago. We went royally overboard with the unique beach house glam décor which made it spectacular in every respect. From King size extra length beds on extra tall bespoke bed bases made from blond wood and covered in Egyptian cotton to a magnificent floor to ceiling glass bookshelf which allows the surround sound system’s gadgets to be concealed. The Airbnb and Misterbnb sites offer a lot of interesting to read information if you are curious. Steering clear of newly found best friends who wanted free accommodation is not as easy as it sounds and certainly got us banned from some Marie Biscuit and Joko tea parties. Freeloaders tend to be oblivious that there are enormous costs involved in maintaining any property. All “freebies” costs money to the owners, in terms of additional maintenance costs, cleaning costs and incidentals or simply electricity and water. So, we simply said no to almost everybody and allowed only six people to stay with us over the years. Friends in similar scenarios smiled and we shared the bond of too much love for creative projects while musing over Moet and Carr’s water biscuits with sour cream and caviar. Usually, some Frenchies or Yorkies would nod approvingly in the background. Our hectic, less aristocratic Pitties scared most of our friends, so they missed out on some amusing conversations.
However last year we decided that not capitalising on an empty apartment is also insane, and faced the same dilemma that every host faces, namely which is the way to go and how do you compare apples versus eggs on your face.
I was apprehensive, as the place was meticulously designed by Alan Samons, who has a great eye and is a natural when it comes to interior decoration – something he’d done semi-professionally for years. Since the flat was never meant to be a permanent home, or holiday rental, we’d decided on a colour scheme that was pretty neutral with lots of white furniture. But Alan assured me that it is all replaceable, so I took the plunge.
Most of us know that Airbnb enjoys higher esteem than any competitor due to its dual rating system where both the host and the guest rate each other so both will be burdened by bad baggage very soon if they skid on high expectations. As hosts we beamed at the thought that we could set very strict rules and if a guest defaulted on anything they would be penalised in terms of their own guest ratings. Likewise, similar consequences followed if we turned out to be bad hosts. We registered early in December which took a few days, but then we had back-to-back bookings for 30 days with different guests. Being risk averse we decided to have more than one company providing guests. The Dutch-owned Booking.com followed, which is a larger company than its San Franciscan competitor.
The strength of Airbnb is the rating system and the fact that they focus far more on personalised properties than the more mass market Bookings.com ended up in a 9,5 versus a 5 for Bookings.com. Insurance-wise any guest that books via Airbnb receives a million dollars coverage versus the R1000 that Bookings.com com offers, so Airbnb flies over the rainbow at 10 versus 1 for Bookings.com. The fact that you as a host can choose your guests with Airbnb versus having no control over who you get via bookings.com, once again is a 10 versus a 1. Numbers of guests however lean to Bookings.com provides more bookings so they get an 8 versus a 5 for Airbnb. Accuracy of getting the bookings right would definitely be in favour of Airbnb.
Bookings.com does not see much need for communication between a host and a guest so it’s entirely possible to have a sudden unexpected arrival, as we did, whilst hosting guests from France. Later we found out how to program the system to avoid such a nightmare materialising, but at the penalty of many lost bookings, as most of our Bookings.com guests were impulsive and tended to book last-minute. Impulsive last-minute guests should rather stay in large establishments where it is easier to find a spot in peak periods.
Due to the shocking insurance weakness with Bookings.com we charge more for such bookings as any logical host should. We also registered with Lekkeslaap which has superb telephonic backup in South Africa and a recommended a tiny damage policy deposit of about R2500. Linguistically, only Lekkeslaap caters to Afrikaans speakers and although we pointed out the absurdity of not allowing Afrikaans as a linguistic choice to tick. This problem was never solved as Swahili spoken in Northeast Africa is suggested for South Africa! It took a few weeks to get registered with Mr B&B so time will tell whether they cater much to South Africa.
Airbnb has become the choice alternative to traditional accommodation websites like TripAdvisor and its platform has over 6 million active listings around the world. We think Airbnb is the better choice from a hosting perspective as guests are more interested in authentic experiences at rental properties that offer a kind of “home-away-from-home” atmosphere. .
Booking.com remains the titan of the online travel booking industry though, offering more than 28 million listings worldwide, but telephonic contact is difficult and a booking that goes wrong is tough to solve. Lekkeslaap is by far the most user friendly, but has a much smaller audience of primarily South Africans and expats. Properties that are not ideal for small children are accommodated the best with Bookings.com that consider adult status from the age of 18 versus 13 with Airbnb.
Booking.com has always traditionally been a website for hotels, resorts, and lodges and not private vacation rentals or individual rooms. Although this changed during recent years with more focus on more personalised rental properties, some guests are apparently far more destructive according to many hosts I spoke to.
The majority of Airbnb users are Millennials who value experiences that they can share with friends. Instead of standard hotels, they look for unique rentals such as a themed house, forest cabins, yurts, and castles. These properties offer a one-of-a-kind, Instagram-worthy experience that Millennials care about.
Booking.com reaches the widest audience but tends to attract more mature travellers as well as families who want location and convenience. Places that offer breakfast, on-site restaurants, and easy access to transport appeals.
The Airbnb star rating of every guest and host gets tallied into an overall rating that is visible on their profile is popular. Host can assess someone based on past reviews before accepting a reservation and decline reservations from potential guests. When a rental owner creates an Airbnb account, the Airbnb Instant Book feature switches on. This automatically accepts all bookings. However, you can switch off Instant Book and decline a reservation if a guest makes unreasonable requests or has a low rating or no reviews.
Booking.com doesn’t offer this and all reservations are automatically accepted, which can be problematic for hosts with badly behaved guest which happens frequently according to well established hosts. Therefor we will not allow more than a ten-day booking from Bookings.com guests versus 30 days for Airbnb.
Creating an account on Airbnb is simple by clicking “sign up” and create your account using your email address, phone number, Facebook account, Google account, or Apple ID.
To create a listing, all you need is to fill in essential information about your property, add photos, choose your cancellation policy, and your payment preference. Airbnb’s interface is also extremely user-friendly, containing prompts and tooltips that help to make the process of creating listings much faster. The company that allows the most detailed descriptions is Misterbnb where your total word count can run into thousands of words under different categories.
The funniest system is lekkeslaap though who will translate an Afrikaans submission into English before sending it through to their linguistic expert’s department for the correct translation into Afrikaans. I was amused to see my identical submission so I must have passed the Afrikaans exam!
Creating an account on Booking.com is complex and time consuming, requiring research about cancellation policies, specifying how many rooms your property has and whether you want to list each room as a separate unit or one. Booking.com listed my apartment as two separate bookable units, like a hotel, which is a common occurrence to watch for.
Experiencing the horror of UK guests arriving at my apartment whilst hosting French guests is funnier now than it was then. A complex scenario to sort out after Bookings.com cloned the apartment into two and I had to decline six guests, which requires a lot of paperwork.
Airbnb has two types of fees that it charges: the Split Fee and the Host-Only Fee. The Split Fee is a service charge that is divided between guests, who pay around 14% to 16%, and hosts who pay around 3% to Airbnb.
The Host-Only Fee costs around 15% of the booking rate, while guests are not charged.
Booking.com charges a commission rate ranging between 10% to 25% to property owners, depending on their location, with the average rate being 15%. They do not charge any commissions to guests. A flat rate of 15% or more can seem quite hefty, but the higher commission you are willing to pay the more visible your apartment becomes. You can charge additional fees to guests, such as a cleaning and bedding fees which helps as that is quite an expensive service.
It costs about the same on the different platforms but the insurance benefit on Airbnb is miles ahead of anybody else.
When it comes to cancellation policies, there are a few differences between Booking.com and Airbnb. Airbnb currently has 6 cancellation policies versus 3 on Booking.com.
Airbnb cancellation policies are generally more straightforward and easier to follow. On Booking.com, there is less structure regarding cancellations, and it’s left up to you, as a host, to research and identify the best combination of settings for your listings.
When it comes to paying vacation rental owners for their reservations, there is a big difference between Airbnb versus Booking.com. Airbnb takes a more direct approach regarding host pay-outs. This is in contrast to Booking.com, which provides the means for vacation rental owners to collect their own pay-outs.
Airbnb collects payments automatically on the host’s behalf through a centralised payment system that collects and distributes all payments between hosts and guests. When you become a host on Airbnb, you will need to select a payment method as part of your account setup. Airbnb collects payments directly from guests and pays them to the rental owner 24 hours after guest check-in.
Booking.com doesn’t always charge guests and then it’s up to you as a host to collect payments directly via credit card or bank transfer and can adjust your settings on Booking.com’s website to enable only online transactions. All bookings on Booking.com are instant, and there is no feature to make them optional. While this is extremely convenient for guests, it’s not as pleasant for property owners who have limited booking control.
On the other hand, as an Airbnb rental owner, you can choose whether you want to enable or disable this option. Airbnb does reward rental owners who use Instant Book by boosting their listing’s ranking in search results. However, if you disable it, you can get greater control over your bookings.
Airbnb doesn’t currently offer a built-in tool to help your listings rank better. If you want to boost your rankings, you can do things to demonstrate you are an active host, like updating your calendar regularly, keeping your response rate high, completing your host profile, etc. Our property received several full scores which is rare for virgins! So maybe we won’t need fishnet stockings to find more clients!