Ryan Boyd 15 May 2018

We’ve all heard the Airbnb horror stories from apartments being turned into brothels to methamphetamine cooking weekends to homes trashed beyond repair – so we thought we’d talk to a couple of Kiwis using the platform so see what the reality is.

For central Auckland apartment owner Stefan Nikolic, a mattress full of bedbugs is about the worst thing that’s happened so far.

“That was a total nightmare and we had to replace the mattress. Now I always recommend people get a bedbug mattress protector because with tourists and travellers in general, it’s easier for them to pick these up in different environments.”

Stefan says apart from a few little things here and there, he’s never had any major issues with hosting his apartment.

“Generally people respect it. Sometimes when we go in to clean it’s a bit messier than others, but mostly it’s fine. As long as you’re clear with your House Rules, they stick to them. Things like no parties, respect the neighbours, no loud noises after 9pm.

“On Airbnb, you give each other a review, so I guess there’s that pressure of wanting to get a good review as well so they’re on their best behaviour.”

He says the apartment is occupied an average of 80% to 85% throughout the year - 90% to 100% in the summer, or high season, and around 70% to 75% during the winter months.
“For what our rental appraisal was, it’s like double the income in the high season so it’s really good. During winter, we don’t have to top up the mortgage payments and are still making more than we would with a long-term renter in there.”

He says the most common thing is people forgetting to leave the keys in the apartment and walking off with them.

Now well-versed in the world of Airbnb, Stefan has become an expert in how to run an efficient property and after finding it difficult to source good management while working full-time, he decided to start his own Airbnb property management company – Zodiak Airbnb Management.

Stefan’s advice to anyone considering looking at Airbnb:

  • The apartment needs to be above average quality. You don’t want something like a student apartment.Make sure it’s in a good location.
  • The CBD is the area that does the best with Airbnb all year round.
  • Set clear expectations around what your House Rules are.

For another host, Bruce, communication breakdowns with guests can be a problem.

“They have trouble finding the key, or meeting the housekeeper for check-in or figuring out where the carpark is, and that creates the extra headaches.

He says getting multiple phone calls is something you just have to get used to.

“For example, we get a call and the person says, I went down to my car and it’s not there, do we know where my car is, and we’re like, how do we know where your car is, where did you leave it? And they’d parked it in a tow-away area thinking that it was the car park and they’d obviously not read the guide.” 

“We have a beautiful guide book that we sent to upcoming guests with instructions for check-in, instructions for car parking, instructions for absolutely everything – it’s all in there point by point by point and it’s so easy to follow if you read English. But I think they just skip over it.

Bruce says as part of the House Rules they have a security bond so the guest’s credit card has a hold put against it if there’s any problems, which essentially covers any kind of excess that may be required.

“We had an incident where a guest stayed and she definitely threw a party. When we came to do the checkout, there was three big bags full of rubbish, which was mainly bottles and that kind of thing that she’d obviously tried to hide in the emergency stairwell.

“We walked into the apartment, and they’d obviously been a bit rambunctious because there was a hole in the wall and the shower door had been ripped off.

“But that’s the thing about having good insurance and being covered by Airbnb, we just got quotes and got someone to come and fix it no problem and it was all covered and no expense to us.”

Although there may be things that crop up from time to time, Bruce says overall Airbnb has served them well.

“We’ve had a couple but it’s so minimal compared to the number of stays we’ve had. We wouldn’t do it if it was a bad experience.”

Bruce's advice to anyone considering looking at Airbnb:

  • Identify whether you are doing this for a little bit of money on the side or planning to do this as your investment or business because you can run into taxation and GST issues. Look into your taxation obligations and requirements are before proceeding if it is a business.
  • Take time to create an aesthetic that is unique and different from what people would experience in a hotel. It’s the attention to detail, the little touches– artwork, furniture, accessories etc, that make the difference between something that’s 5-stars from hundreds of reviews verses 4-stars.
  • If you have a guide book for guests, it’s worth having it translated into Chinese, particularly if you are hosting apartments in the city.
  • Use a lock-box to limit keys going missing all the time.

 Airbnb in New Zealand by the numbers:

  • The number of Airbnb listings in New Zealand has grown 61% year-on-year with more than 37,000 now available throughout the country.
  • Guest figures have more than doubled in the past year from 690,000 to 1.46m.
  • Generating $55m in the last year - $22m of this was spent in Auckland and $17m in Queenstown-Lakes District.
  • The typical New Zealand Airbnb host earns NZD$80 per week or NZD$4,200 a year in income.