Leave snacks or drinks for guests. Even bottles of water in the fridge are appreciated. I take it to the next level and have cans of blood orange San Pellegrino in the fridge at all times. I also have a basket of snacks that I like to leave out for guests, with chips, Japanese candy, etc.
Many people dream of becoming an Airbnb host but don’t know where to start. In this series called “5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host” we are interviewing successful Airbnb hosts who share lessons from their experience about how to run a very successful Airbnb property. As part of this series I had the pleasure of interviewing Phillip Van Nostrand.
Phillip Van Nostrand is a photographer and coach based out of New York City. For over 12 years Phillip has photographed weddings, commercial, and lifestyle projects, and is an expert in capturing cinematic lifestyle imagery. He travels abroad somewhere new at least once a year and has photographed 40+ countries.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?
Yes! I was born and raised in Santa Barbara, CA. I worked with youth most of my life as camp counselor, tutor, mentor, youth pastor, playground supervisor, substitute teacher and middle school math teacher. Eventually my side photography hobby turned into paying gigs and won out over my teaching career, and now I am a full time photographer in New York City.
What led you to first start becoming an Airbnb host?
I was a very early adopter of Airbnb! I think my aunt sent me an article about it and I had been hosting couchsurfers for a few years at that point. I said to myself “I could get paid to do what I’m already doing? Amazing!” and I signed up immediately. I loved my experience with couchsurfers and I loved showing off my beautiful town of Santa Barbara, so Airbnb felt like a natural step for me.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this?
Hmm, I suppose this is an usual Airbnb story: A friend sent me a link to Airbnb’s careers page when they started hiring photographers to photograph apartments. I applied and miraculously was accepted to be an Airbnb photographer, despite my lack of skills with interior photography. I learned quickly, however, and ended up photographing hundreds of listings, from avocado ranches in California to million dollar apartments in Manhattan. I made friends in NY who I stayed in touch with for many years this way; I photographed a barn built in the backyard of a Brooklyn apartment; I also ended up getting hired by Israeli entrepreneurs to photograph all of their listings throughout the city.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Nothing comes to mind. Things were pretty smooth from the beginning!
What are some of the common mistakes you have seen people make when they first start hosting with Airbnb?
I think the most common mistake people make when they first start hosting is not making check in instructions clear enough. If I book an Airbnb and the address info is not all there, or I have to have more contact with the hosts after booking, it becomes a burden.
What are some of the things that can be done to avoid these errors?
Fill out the website in its entirety, and maybe try to book your own listing as a guest to understand what others are seeing when they book with you.
Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the Airbnb experience? In your opinion, what makes you different from the rest?
I think a lot of people hosting on Airbnb have a pretty generic experience for their guests. Some homes/apartments are owned specifically for airbnb, but not necessarily lived in. My home feels cozy and alive. I have plants throughout the space, I have great books for people to peruse, magazines, food in the fridge and spices in the cabinets. I think I give people something that actually feels like they are living as a New Yorker in the best neighborhood in the city.
Wonderful. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share “5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host”? Please share a story or example for each.
- Leave snacks or drinks for guests. Even bottles of water in the fridge are appreciated. I take it to the next level and have cans of blood orange San Pellegrino in the fridge at all times. I also have a basket of snacks that I like to leave out for guests, with chips, japanese candy, etc.
- Check in with your guests and communicate really well. I am constantly aware of the moment my guest is expected to check in. I message them within an hour of check-in to say “Did you get in ok?” and then I check in with my guest about midway through their trip to say “How is everything going? Hope you are enjoying New York! Let me know if you need any suggestions.” Then, the day before they check out I let them know if they can stay late based on who is coming next or not. Also, I try to respond to inquiries within an hour if I can. It’s a nice touch and people appreciate speedy responses.
- Design your space. People love to Instagram a good home. I added some great wallpaper to one of my walls to add some splash to the space. And I have string lights outside that look wonderful at night. Plants and color help a lot.
- Tell your guests where to go. Travelers love to feel like a local, so if you can tell them where the best place in town is that is not super touristy, you are winning. I also have a journal that I leave for all my past guests to fill in their favorite tips for future guests.
- Make it pretty. I have a subscription to monthly flower arrangements, so a couple weeks a month there is a really lovely bouquet of flowers on my table waiting for the guests.
You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?
My perfect vacation experience is to enjoy a city as if I were a local. I want to meet real people who live there, make friends, go to the off-the-beaten-path locales, and get lost in a neighborhood. In my dream world, if someone’s grandma invites me in for a cup of tea to their home, my trip is complete.
Can you share with our readers how you’ve used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I really believe Airbnb has given me extra freedoms, and I love to share with others how things like this have shaped my life. I mentor many many people and speak often about lifestyle design and how to live an epic freelance life. I think a rich and full life can be enjoyed by most people.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would start a movement of ensuring every student in America has an amazing mentor in their life who cares about them and exemplifies what it means to be a successful adult (not necessarily monetary success).
How can our readers further follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!