Posted by: jeanne | November 17, 2015

my airbnb story

it all started when our tenants left in a hurry this summer, leaving all their stuff behind and the rent due.  so we made a deal with them – the rent for the furniture.


and at that point, after many years of renting to people we came to think of as members of our family – dysfunctional members, who had trouble keeping their promises and paying their debts, and tended to think of it as our problem – we decided not to do that anymore.


so i cleaned out the apartment.  it was a wreck, of course.  i had to do all the things you do when you’re going to rent an apartment.


not only was everything worn and torn, but some of the walls needed painting and some of the floors needed refinishing and some of the appliances needed replacing etc etc.

i made a list.  i would make 5 similar renditions of the list in the months to come.  the process took months and months.  summer turned to fall.


first thing was the bedroom.  the previous tenants liked it dark, so they put a very dark shade of green on the wall.  it made he bedroom look very dark, and as there is only one window and a small glass wall, i thought it was important to brighten the place up some.

what you can see on the floor is the bedstead.  our prior tenants’ taste in furniture ran to the old waterbed furniture somebody grew up with and then sold to them.  it’s all genuine hippie furniture, made by genuine hippies with genuine wood, back in the day before furniture was made by ikea.


so all the furniture got moved into the living room, so that i could sponge paint all the walls in the bedroom.


i’ll spare you the details.  it took four coats of different kinds of paint to make the room look decent.  the first three made it look horrible, but i’ve done this before, and persisted until it looked okay.  there’s light green over the dark green, then a beige, then silver, and then gold, all sponged on.  then i started moving the furniture back in.  with lots of help.


the floor of the bedroom needed attention at this point.  years ago, when we first turned this space into an apartment, we painted the floors with a nice pattern.  in the years since (1989), it’s gotten a bit worn, so jim took the time to repaint the stencil pattern around the edge, where a dripping air conditioner and a ditz of a tenant had ruined the paint.  lots more touching up, and then a coat of polyurethane over the new paint.


now the living room.  the walls only needed touching up, but since some tenant had painted the living room this color and was so confident of their skills that they neglected to tape off the corners, i had to go back and redo it.  good thing we kept the extra paint…


this is what the underside of an old couch looks like when you take the cushion covers off to clean them.  all that surface padding got scrunched by somebody’s butt, and the entire thing doesn’t bear too much scrutiny.  luckily, nobody had spilled anything that dissolves foam, so the cushions were all intact and only needed minor repair.


and finally it was time for the art.  it took so very long to clear the essence of the previous tenants out.  their taste in furniture, while eclectic, is pretty expedient, so we had a decent start, but the problem is how to make it all livable, comfortable, and uncluttered.


and then, when it was uncluttered, it was ugly and stark, so we started bringing in the art.  pictures jim has painted over the years, mainly venice paintings, but some beach and koi, and a dragon painting for luck.


the laundry room got organized.  the previous tenant was a virgo, and a neat freak when she had her mind on straight, so i didn’t have to start from scratch here.


and the bedroom got its art as well as a waterproof mattress cover, 5 sets of cotton sheets, and an old wool rug.


the living room got its art, and i finally got the cable working, and the dvd player, and the playstation and netflix.  being a neoluddite, i don’t do well trying to hook up this crap, so i was pretty proud of myself when i got it working.  now to cover it so people don’t waste their time watching it.


whenever i thought i was getting anywhere, all i had to do was walk into the kitchen, and have reality hit me in the face again.  all the stuff ended up in the kitchen; it was my staging place even when i felt i could take a break and put my feet up in the living room.


at this point i began turning my attention to the larger issues.  blinds, lace curtains, drapes, swaths.  i had one set of 2″ slat venetian blinds for the door, and managed to find clearance prices for another 4 sets.  all the windows in our 100 year old house are different sizes, but i managed to fit them all with the same size blind.  and then decided i only needed drapes in the living room, because several prior tenants had it in their head that hazed film stuff is good.  the front door needed a lace panel, tho, and i searched long and hard until i came up with something i liked that didn’t look horrendous close up.


and then to paint the trim.  new red on the porch floor (jim got pink first and we had to try again for brick red).  new trim paint around the windows, touch up on our new blue paint job on the house.

and then i had to prize the windows open, and by god i got them all to open in the end.  they’re pinned shut for the winter at this point, but i can open them when i want.  it’s good to air out the place.


and still there’s the kitchen reminding me that a woman’s job is never done.  the kitchen’s always the last thing to organize, because everyone congregates there in any house i’ve ever spent any time in.


the patio was a mess, and lots of things got staged there on the way to the curb or the trashcan.  i left it until last, because starting on the outside there’s no end.


but yay, finally it was done enough to start taking photos and getting the listing ready on airbnb.

so this is the kitchen, sort of dolled up.  now there’s a potted palm in the corner.


and here’s the living room, all bright and cheery, with a full complement of slasher videos (from the ex-tenants).  there’s double that now because i finally finished cleaning and cataloging them all.


everything looks nicer with art, doesn’t it?


and this is the couch made up as a single bed.  it’s an actual xl twin size, so i got several sets of sheets and comforters for it.


in the bedroom, featuring the glass block window, natural light, all the lights in the bedroom on, and a shelf full of books and tv-type entertainment.  pillow-top bed, too, and all the pillows you could hope for.


outside, once the leaves are picked up, it’s nice to sit in the patio chairs and know that you’re only steps from a busy street and nobody knows you’re there.  there are steps down to the apartment, and i’ve done what i could to mark them with step mats and led string lights, as well as motion detecting led lamps


the front door, with a set of old woodstock chimes as well as my sister’s rain chain.  plants and little touches.


in the back yard, it’s private because we’ve let the bushes grow up, while everyone else on the block decided to cut their trees down.  we love our little nature preserve.


some time early in october, i finally finished fixing the place up, ordering this and that and the other thing, cleaning and dusting and arranging.  i took all the pictures, spent painful hours adjusting the advertising copy, and finally put the listing up.

you have to settle on a price for your rental per night, week, and month.  and then when you set on a price, they tell you it’s too high and want you to change everything to their price settings.  but i’m not interested in renting my house out for 50 bucks a night, so i’m a bit sceptical about it.

the first thing that happened was that i got 2 rental requests right away, for one night each, back to back.  the first ones wanted to go to a concert.  that meant they were young, and would stay up all night singing concert songs.  which we don’t really mind.

actually, the first thing that happened was that my sister visited and i made her the first test guest for our new rental.  she went thru the place and made suggestions, and i ran out and got everything she suggested.  like a rice cooker, and a pressure cooker.

and then the paying guests, and both sets of them were fabulous, quiet, and loved our apartment.

so, wheeeee.

and then a period of no inquiries, no bookings, when i decided i would go ahead and try airbnb’s price points.  and i started getting bookings.  and now i have my next renter downstairs at the moment (grateful dead concert tonight), and two more lined up for later in the month.

so it looks like it might work.  we’re in a great location, after all, and have a great apartment.  if we can get any kind of high-ish occupancy, we’ll be able to go back to venice sooner than later (and do the same thing over there, except we’ll be the renters).

wish us luck.

ps, it takes about 3 hours to clean the apartment, including washing all the sheets and towels, straightening, sweeping and mopping, dusting, watering the plants, and making sure everything is still in place.  i’ve heard from others that it should only take an hour, but i’m a perfectionist when it comes to being neat (when i can bother to clean at all).


  1. It looks great! Good luck with it.


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