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Podcast - Into the Airbnb

Interview with an Airbnb Host from Anchorage, Alaska – S2 EP57

Welcome back to another episode of Into The Airbnb, where we chat with Airbnb hosts about their short-term rental experience.

Today’s guest is Allie Shepherd, an Airbnb host who owns and manages one listing in Anchorage, Alaska. She started a year ago trying Airbnb for the first time after doing long-term rentals for a few years, she definitely took off really quick, not only because of the popularity of her market on Airbnb, but also because of her great listing, which is remote worker friendly and pet friendly as well! Listen to the full episode today to hear more about Allie’s journey and experience and also get some super interesting insights on the Anchorage market.

This episode is sponsored by Airbtics, short-term rental analytics for high return investments, comprehensive data for insights, ideas, and inspiration. Go to app.airbtics.com to find precise Airbnb data such as occupancy rate, revenue, average daily rate, and so on. So, without further ado, let’s get into it!

Into The Airbnb Podcast S2 EP 57: $5K-6K monthly revenue with a 2/2 Airbnb listing in Anchorage, Alaska
airbnb revenue in Anchorage

Delia:

Can you tell me how did you get started with Airbnb or short-term rentals?

Allie Shepherd:

We used to live in North Carolina actually, and we had a long-term rental. And we moved to Alaska six years ago, and continued to rent it as a long-term rental. And right before COVID, we actually sold the long-term rental just because being across the country was too much for us to handle. Then we had the money from the long-term rental, just kind of sitting in a bank account, we weren’t quite sure what we wanted to do in terms of investment. We were looking for maybe a long-term rental here. And then we have a friend who was moving to California during the pandemic and she was getting ready to sell her house and because she was moving out of state, she was selling all of her furniture and everything else. It’s in a good location, it was kind of near us. And she’s an architect, she had remodeled it, it’s beautiful and the opportunity was just perfect. So we bought our house that we use as an Airbnb now from a friend, and with another couple, and we bought it furnished and basically ready to go.

Delia:

And how was the market research there to see if it was going to be at the better as a short-term rental than as a long-term rental?
Allie Shepherd:

Well, we probably could have done it as a long-term rental, but since she sold it to us furnished and everything it really made sense to try it as a short-term rental and Anchorage is, definitely Alaska in itself is a tourist destination year round to some extent, but mostly in the summer and we figured we’d try it. She moved in July, so we figured we’ll try July, August, September, you know, the summer months as a short-term rental on Airbnb, see how it went. And depending on how it went, we would go ahead and switch to a long-term rental in the fall if we needed to and as it turned out, that never needed to happen.

Delia:

So the short-term rental works really well there for you?

Allie Shepherd:

Yeah, it’s worked really great for us so far.

Delia:

Can you please tell me what city are you currently located in? Like the Airbnb?

Allie Shepherd:

We’re in Anchorage, Alaska.

Delia:

And can you tell me a little bit more about the market there? How is it like in relation so if you have a high season, if you have a low season, what’s your average occupancy rate, like?

Allie Shepherd:

There’s definitely a high season in the summer say, probably starts around Memorial Day around the end of May and that’s really when it starts to warm up, the snow is gone. It goes through the end of August, a little bit into September. That’s definitely the highest season. When we started, we listed it in the beginning of July and by the end of July, we were booked for I think we had six open days between July August and September like it was completely booked within a matter of weeks, which was surprising to us. We didn’t think it would do that well but we were really pleased that it did.

Delia:

And when you started right, how long ago was that?

Allie Shepherd:

That was the last summer. We started last summer, so this is only work just coming up on a year of having our Airbnb now.

Delia:

And how has been your experience so far in that particular city? For example, when it comes to the type of guests you get, how is the Airbnb service for you working?

Allie Shepherd:

We have the two types of guests, one are the vacationers and then the second one… Alaska has a lot of, it’s huge state, we have a lot of rural villages, and people fly into Anchorage to go on like little miniature vacations or to go to doctor’s appointments, to do some shopping because there’s a lot of the other places. So a lot of the people come from the rural areas into Anchorage to go to doctor’s appointments to have babies, a lot of times they come, we haven’t had anybody coming to wait until they had a baby, but they’ll come to go shopping, they’ll come for a lot of different reasons. In the winter, we actually had someone come from Kodiak, with his wife and child for like two months because he was going to a training for electricians union and so they stayed for two months almost because they needed to come to town for the training. So those are the two types of people we’ve had as guests in our property.

Delia:

I see now, it’s very diverse. And what about when, you told me the high season is around, I think May through August, right?

Allie Shepherd:

Yeah, our high season is May through August.

Delia:

And what about the occupancy rate you get during that season?

Allie Shepherd:

For the most part, it’s been people traveling here from other states, vacation and for different reasons, but vacationers mostly. We do have some people coming in next week, who are going to be there from a village and they’re just coming in for some doctor’s appointment and some shopping. She’s meeting up with her mom who’s coming from out of state and they’re just having a week of or almost a week of just some girl time.

Delia:

Are you fully occupied during those seasons? Like 100% occupancy rate, do you keep the short-term stays going?

Allie Shepherd:

So in the summer, absolutely. We are probably at like 95% occupancy rate. We have an odd day here and there where we’re not booked just because of the way people stays fall. It’s very rare that we have availability and openings during the summer, so far. And then in the winter months, between a few long-term stays that we’ve had, we’ve had very little openings in the winter. We had a couple of weeks in the spring, but so far we’ve been pretty well occupied.

Delia:

On winter as well.

Allie Shepherd:

Yeah and that was something that we were not expecting at all. But we’ve had some long-term stays. We had people coming into town for training. We had some folks stay, their house sold before they were expecting it to and they were building a new home and it wasn’t ready for them to move into yet, so they stayed for a few months in our property.

Delia:

I see now and do you usually like, you told me that you have longer stays during winter, are you planning to switch this year maybe also accept some longer stays on winter as well?

Allie Shepherd:

Yeah, well, we’re absolutely open to longer stays and actually it’s adds a lot of security and it’s easier, so there’s not the constant change over. My friend and I who we owned that both of us are teachers and my husband’s an engineer and her husband is really busy also, so when we have to do the changeovers, if there’s changeovers during the week, during the school year, it gets a little tricky because we both are busy during the day. So we’ve had a few times where we’re like scrambling really quickly to get things changed over because we do most of the changeovers, but we have a crew in case we’re working and we can’t get it done in the window.

Delia:

And it’s not a big place, right? That’s why you can do by yourself sometimes.

Allie Shepherd:

No, it’s pretty small. We’re able to do it ourselves. It’s two bedrooms and two and a half baths. We have a full fenced in backyard, which I think is one of the appeals because we accept pets and so people can have a place for their dogs to run. And we did end up, last summer we did the yard ourselves and then this summer we hired a yard crew. We’re like we can’t keep up with everything. So.

Delia:

Yeah, I get it. Now that you mentioned that you accept pets, how has been your experience with that so far?

Allie Shepherd:

So far it’s been great. And we’ve had people come with a variety of different size dogs. We’ve had one dog, two dogs, Somebody came with a bunny, which actually left more hair all over the house than any of the dogs we’ve had and I mean, I still feel like sometimes we find that like fine bunny hair from that visit and that was a few days ago and I’m like “still here”. But mostly it’s been dogs and there’s pet hair, but we’ve had pets stay and we’ve had big dogs, small dogs ad none of it’s been a problem with pet accidents or anything else. We have a dog door, which I think helps with some of that. And the only problem that we really had was the people who had the bunny left so much hair everywhere. That was all and she didn’t tell us she had a bunny until like, she checked out and she was like, “Thanks so much. It was a great stay and my bunny and I loved it!” and we’re like “A bunny?”, but it is what it is.

Delia:

Yeah, I understand. And what about, what do you offer for these guests, who bring their pets, to make their state like more enjoyable?

Allie Shepherd:

We have pet bowls and other than that, I mean, people haven’t asked for anything else. We have some like towels and things that we leave out that are dark colored in case the dogs are muddy or anything else like that, you know, just kind of like the things that you use as a dog owner. Oh, and we have a dog, like a pooper scooper for the backyard, so they can clean up after their pets.

Delia:

Yeah, I understand and what about what type of screenings do you make for these guests who are going to bring in their pets?

Allie Shepherd:

We so far have just taken them at their word that they’re bringing whatever pets they say and that it’s not an issue and it hasn’t been except for our surprise bunny, but again, that really wasn’t too much of an issue other than some fur.

Delia:

And do most of your guests bring their pets? Or it’s just our smaller rate of your guests?

Allie Shepherd:

Maybe not all of them, but I’d say especially the ones who are coming from Alaska, they all seem to have pets with them. So anybody who’s in state has an animal, most of the people who are coming on vacation, do not. But sometimes they’re coming up to meet with friends and thenm the friends have a dog and I think oh.

how much can you make on airbnb

Delia:

I was about to ask you about a pet fee, do you also request a pet fee for people who bring in pets?

Allie Shepherd:

We don’t request a pet fee mostly because the way Airbnb had it set up. When we started, it made it really complicated to request a pet fee because you had to request it after the booking and other things. And I’ve noticed that they’ve changed it, but we haven’t changed our policy.

Delia:

I get it completely. So do you include like, kind of fee with your same fee or not at all?

I do think we are priced maybe a little bit higher than some of the properties that don’t accept pets. But I do sort of check out the hotels in the area and we’re much less expensive than hotels, which I think is another attractive thing about our property is that we will take pets, and we’re less expensive than the hotels in the area.

Delia:

And can you tell me a little bit about the difference between you and the other listings in your market?

Allie Shepherd:

A lot of the listings in our market have a very Alaska cabin vibe to them and ours doesn’t have that look, it’s more of a modern, maybe boho-type look, more hotel-ish than some of the other listings in our area.

Delia:

Can you tell me a little bit about, now that we touch that topic, about your daily rate?

Allie Shepherd:

Our daily rate, we are usually around $250 and we offer discounts for week long stays and then for month long stays. And we have some offseason discounts as well, we lower our price a little over $50 for the winter months and that seems to have worked well.

Delia:

Okay, so about $200 on those slower months. And if you don’t mind sharing this, how much is your revenue per month?

Allie Shepherd:

In the high season, we are usually bringing in maybe around $5K-$6K a month before our expenses

Delia:

In the slowest season?

Allie Shepherd:

In the slower season, it was closer to $3K a month, but it was still covering our expenses, so we were happy with that and then a little extra beyond.

Delia:

And can you tell me if with the revenue you’re making with Airbnb, were you able to cover the price of the property you bought yet, I mean, it has been used for a year but…

Allie Shepherd:

So right now our plan has kind of been to… Well, before the market kind of went crazy this year, we were saving to see if we wanted to get another property, either long-term or short-term, but now we’re just sort of waiting to see what happens with the market.

Delia:

And mostly you’re going to stay with short stays for now?

Allie Shepherd:

You know, we’re not really sure. With the market the way it is right now, we’re also looking at maybe a multi unit long-term property, especially with all of us being as busy as we are. We know we’d have to contract out more of the cleaning if we have more than one unit and we’d have to contract out all the yard work and other things. So it would be a lot more management that we might not have time for if we had multiple short-term properties. But I don’t know we’ve talked about a lot of different things and we’re not quite sure what we’re going to do from here.

Delia:

Yeah, I can barely get a so don’t worry. And can you tell me about the challenges that you had so far as an Airbnb host?

Allie Shepherd:

I think the biggest challenges or the biggest challenge, we had someone staying for two and a half weeks, they had just moved up, and their home wasn’t ready. And they were having a rental property but it didn’t start till the first of the month and they checked into our property. They were like, “We love it. It’s great”, the snow was melting at the time, so they were like, “Oh, hey, there’s a lot of dogs in the yard” because as the snow falls, a lot of it gets buried, so we’re like, “Oh, gosh, we’re so sorry”. So we went out there and we had, we cleaned all that up a couple times as it was melting and then I mean, I feel so sorry for these poor people that they had that issue. And then one day, they call us and they’re like, “There’s no hot water, we don’t know what we’re doing wrong. Maybe like the pilot lights are out or something”. We went over there and the hot water heater was dead, so we had to replace the hot water heater for them. And I mean, it was just, they were super understanding and it was very fortunate that we had a plumber booked for my husband’s office the next day for the building that he owns, where his business is. And we just had him come to the Airbnb and replace the hot water heater the next morning instead. So you know, we were very fortunate that it was less than 24 hours before we were able to completely replace this hot water heater for them and it wasn’t in the middle of the winter and it wasn’t too much to put them out. But that has been the biggest challenge that we had. I kind of felt like with these poor people, it was like one thing after another and it wasn’t that they were complaining, it was just like legitimate things that kept happening and it was just like, “Oh, no”.

Delia:

So if any of this were to happen again, do you think, according to what you told me, you don’t have much time to get to… How do you say this, to get there to help these people, right? That’s the main reason why you don’t know if you’ll like to continue with short-term stays?

Allie Shepherd:

Yeah, just the time that it takes. And part of the reason why we’ve contracted out some of the cleaning and the yard work for the summer, was that there’s so many turnovers and the summers are short in Alaska and the time is valuable and depending on how the turnovers fall it was limiting for us on when we could travel and when we could go camping and go to the cabin and do our fun summer activities. If we were to have more short-term rentals, we definitely would have to contract a crew for, to take on more of that just because we have found it kind of eats into the time that we want to spend in the summer. In the winter, it’s a little bit easier. There’s less things that we want to do ourselves. But in the summer, you know, you don’t want to have to plan your own fun time around having to go clean the Airbnb and change the sheets and vacuum and do cleaning.

Delia:

Yeah, I get it. I get it completely. So would you say Anchorage is a good market for people to invest in Airbnb or maybe for people who already owns our property there and wants to start with Airbnb?

Allie Shepherd:

Last year, I would have said it was a great time. But right now I’ve been noticing like some person I kind of know through the neighborhood was saying that the apartment complex she lives in, their landlord has five units in their complex and is changing them all into short-term rentals. And I think that the market in Anchorage is a little bit saturated right now. And I think you really have to have kind of a unique property or something like either the price has to be very low which comes with its own set of problems if your price is too low, the type of people who are going to book a very discounted property may not take care of it the way that you want them to. Or you have to have like a unique something about your property that makes it different from others. I think that the market right now, tourism is picking up and that’s great, but I don’t know that investing in another, that’s been our hesitation too, like investing, it would have to be like just the right property for another short-term rental because I don’t know that just any old property would be beneficial right now, would be a good investment.

Delia:

Okay, so it can work, but it has to be a pretty unique like property.

Allie Shepherd:

I think it has to be well planned out and well thought out. So when this woman in my neighborhood said that her landlords changing all five units into short-term rentals, I just, I don’t know maybe they’ve got some math that works a different way and maybe their finances on that are different but I was just like, I can’t see that working for like the small two-bedroom apartments that they have with no yard and there’s five units all together right there, changing them all into short-term rentals, just kind of it doesn’t make sense to me. So I don’t know exactly what you would need to be as successful short-term rental with a saturated as the market it is, but would it have to be something that just hit the sweet spot and was just right.

Delia:

Okay, okay. Yeah, I get it. So lastly, are there any tips that you’d like to give out for other Airbnb hosts?

Allie Shepherd:

You know, we have gotten a lot of compliments on how like immaculately clean we keep our property and I think that that means a lot to people. My dad also had a property that he listed on Airbnb in North Carolina on the coast and that was something that he said to us, he was like, you know, that was one of the biggest things is people constantly comment on how clean our spaces and he’s like so if there’s nothing else, make sure that your property is super super clean. And we’ve had people compliment us on how clean it is and also how well equipped it is. I know, I’ve stayed at Airbnbs and you’re like, looking everywhere for a can opener or there’s, it sleeps 10 people and there’s five forks, you know, things like that. We make sure we have tons of plates and cutting boards and a blender and a mixer and all those different things that make people stay, especially if they’re there for more than a few days comfortable.

Delia:

Those are great tips. Yeah, I agree with them. And yeah, that’d be it for today. Thanks a lot for your time and for being my guest today.

Allie Shepherd:

Thank you so much!

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