How Hostē eliminated Airbnb parties with automation

A family business

Meet Hostē, a short-term rental business founded by two brothers, both military veterans, who are living out their dreams in Colorado Springs. In 2016, Philip and Evan Wilburn got their first taste of hosting when they listed their homes on Airbnb. The experience whetted their appetite, so they went searching for a property management company that could help handle their daily operations. When they couldn’t find the right fit, they created their own. In 2017, the brothers expanded operations by investing in additional properties. Their philosophy was that hosting shouldn’t be hard, a notion that resonated with others in the industry. Before long, business was booming. Four years later, the brothers are running a successful short-term rental company with almost 200 properties under management. But not everything was smooth sailing. As the company grew, so did its problems, with the biggest of these being parties.

The “party problem”

As parties became a growing issue, the Wilburn brothers did their research. They knew they had to implement guest screening if they wanted to get the parties under control. To make this happen, they took a two-fold approach:

First, they had their team figure out which reservations seemed more likely to result in parties, settling on last-minute stays, one-night weekend bookings and larger groups. To police these reservations, they added booking restrictions to their listings. 

Second, they had their guest support team screen reservations by checking out social media profiles, flagging local guests and highlighting suspicious booking details, like small groups booking large properties.

“We’d already set houses to a two to three night minimum,” Philip said. “We were still getting those flash parties.” 

There were over 50 cop cars there, there were over 100 cars in this little cul-de-sac neighborhood. There ended up being fights in neighbors’ yards, broken windows, guns being shot.

The Hostē team had to pick and choose reservations to screen based on the perceived risk of the guest, the reservation and the booking channel. If the guest was considered high-risk, the team would go back and forth in conversation, trying to collect IDs and digging for information. “Sometimes that was right before the guest was checking in,” explained Philip, “So we were like, ‘All right, we have to make a call here.’”

Fast forward to March 2020 and Hostē had firmly established itself in the industry, processing 1,500 to 2,000 guests per month. Its manual guest screening efforts, however, were spreading the team thin and parties were still slipping through, eating up big chunks of revenue with unexpected cleaning fees and repair costs. Plus, the company’s reputation was in need of serious damage control among its residential neighbors. 

The breaking point came when Philip received a call in the middle of the night about a flash party at one of their properties. “It ended up being 200-plus people with a police report. There were over 50 cop cars there, there were over 100 cars in this little cul-de-sac neighborhood. There ended up being fights in neighbors’ yards, broken windows, guns being shot. It was a whole ordeal.”

Manual screening wasn’t working. The two brothers needed a new solution.

Preventing incidents and saving time with tech

Hostē knew it was on the right track with guest screening, but needed a systematic process to streamline it. That’s why Philip and Evan came to Autohost. 

Autohost’s risk algorithm leverages machine learning to create a scalable process for reviewing and verifying reservations online. Thanks to automated guest screening, the Hostē team now spends just 10 to 15 minutes per day reviewing reservations—and only those flagged by Autohost.

Plus, the Hostē team can customize their settings (as seen above) to highlight possible parties in their reservation dashboard, making the review process even easier. 

With screening off their plates, the guest support team is focused on other priorities, leaving security to Autohost. 

“I think that’s the main takeaway,” Philip said. “The automation certainly frees up a lot of time and that time can be spent reaching out to guests, acquiring new guests or even processing payments.”

Ready for scale

The company’s property count has been doubling year over year, and Hostē has no plans of slowing down.

With anywhere from 12 to 15 new properties onboarded every month, Hostē is ready to scale. Here’s how it’s using Autohost to make that possible:

Preventing issues: “The issues we were responding to and dealing with would scale up as we scale, so Autohost helps us solve that at a root level,” said Philip. As Hostē scales and onboards new properties, Autohost scales with it, screening as many reservations as the property management company can throw at it. 

Reputation: With parties in the past, Hostē’s reputation has soared, allowing the team to build good relationships with neighbors and open doors to new owners who want their rental properties managed. 

Time and resources: By automating the guest-screening process, Hostē has freed up time and resources within its team. Now they can focus on perfecting the guest experience, processing payments and onboarding new properties, all while enjoying a real sense of security.

For Philip, Autohost offers peace of mind. “Honestly, I used to be concerned about it all the time, but I’m not anymore,” he said. 

With a clear mind and no more after-hour emergencies, Hostē is ready to take off.

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