These 4 Smart Devices Make Our Airbnb Party Ready

These 4 Smart Devices Make Our Airbnb Party Ready

Our foray into vacation rentals began as a romantic dream of mine, a way to invest our savings in something other than the stock market. We had never owned our own home — we lived in a two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco — but we were wildly optimistic about our ability to turn it into a lucrative side hustle that we could enjoy for ourselves every now and then.


Meet industry creators, contributors, and emerging thought leaders who work with CNET’s award-winning editorial team to bring you unique content from diverse perspectives.

Six years and three rental properties later, that dream has become a reality for us. But it certainly didn’t happen overnight, and we made a lot of rookie mistakes that cost us time and money. Here’s how we use technology to manage our investments remotely.

Noise and visitor monitoring

This mistake could have easily ended our small vacation rental business due to the “two warnings and you’re out” policy in our area of ​​residence.

Our first rental property is located in PGA West, a gated community near Palm Springs known for its world-class golf courses and resort-like grounds, making it a very attractive place for retirees to reside. Since many of our neighbors live there full time, anyone operating a vacation rental like ours is already under extreme scrutiny, and it is important that our tenants are respectful and adhere to the community’s quiet hours.

Our first year in business, a neighbor reported one of our guests to the security guard for playing loud music late into the night. The next morning, the guest told us that he hadn’t even been out the night before, or even played music. It was a “warning” that we would lose our short-term rental permit and potentially have to sell our investment property, and it turned into a “he said, she said” situation with no real resolution.

To prevent this from happening again, a Minute A noise monitor for our back porch. Unlike a baby monitor that lets you listen to everything going on in the room, Minut only alerts you when noise exceeds a certain decibel level. This helps us reach out to the guest directly to reduce the noise, preventing neighbors from complaining, and gives us a concrete data point to argue our case if we receive another report.

We also had a situation at our other property at Coachella where the tenant decided to throw an impromptu party without consulting us and then declined the entire event even though we had an invite. Ring The doorbell documenting the onslaught of guests arriving at the door throughout the night. The irrefutable evidence allowed us to file a lawsuit with Airbnb and seek compensation for the damages incurred during that wild night.

Relating to: Airbnb Bans Indoor Security Cameras in Rentals

Managing utility costs

This may seem like a no-brainer, but when we first started out, we were apartment naives (electricity, water, gas, etc. were included in our rent) and had only heard of smart thermostats when we worked at CNET.

Our first guests left the air conditioning on at a chilly 65 degrees (in mid-August) and we only found out two weeks later when the cleaners stepped into the ice room to prepare the area for the next guests. The shock of our first electric bill made us be smarter about our air conditioning policy and turn the stupid thermostats up two Nest thermostats.

The Nest allows us to remotely control the thermostat and set it on a schedule, so even if a guest manually adjusts it, it will revert to the range we preset at certain times of the day. We also added some energy usage rules to our lease to discourage guests from unnecessarily cooling the place to arctic levels.

We adopted the same approach in the pool and jacuzzi. Pentair heaters It can be controlled remotely using the Pentair app. And unlike Nest thermostats, these heaters aren’t easily accessible for guests to manually control, so guests must request temperature changes in the pool and spa from the host.

We also trust software

Party prevention aside, the most expensive mistake we made was not adjusting our pricing regularly. Starting with no reviews on Airbnb, Vrbo, or any rental platform can be tough for even the most impressive properties, so we had to price our rental much lower than our competitors to make it more attractive.

As our listing started to gain a bit more traction, people started locking in future dates that we had carelessly made available on our calendar at the same introductory prices we had offered at launch. When we raised our prices, a guest had booked the week of Thanksgiving for less than a quarter of what we were expecting for those dates. We tried to cancel and adjust pricing, but Airbnb penalizes hosts for canceling reservations; if you cancel a reservation you’ve booked, you have to pay a percentage of the reservation, and Airbnb blocks those dates from your calendar so no one else can book them at the new price.

This experience has led us to regularly re-evaluate our pricing a year in advance to account for seasonality, holidays, and any major events that could increase demand. At our Palm Springs location, two weeks of the Coachella music festival alone can generate enough revenue to cover half of our annual operating costs. This helps make up for those slow months in the summer when temperatures stay in the triple digits overnight and the location sits empty for weeks.

We have automated most of the daily pricing decisions using Beyondis a revenue management platform that uses algorithms to optimize nightly rates across all your vacation rental platforms. The program takes a 1% cut of every booking and still requires some oversight on our part, but with three properties and regular full-time jobs to take care of, it’s been a worthwhile investment.

Perhaps the biggest lesson we’ve learned about vacation rentals is that while they can be a significant source of income, they are definitely not passive income. Despite all the smart home gadgets and automation programs that can be purchased with experience and money, if you want to make money from them, you need to run them like a business. You also need to have at least some fun doing it. Otherwise, you’re better off betting on the stock market.