Superhost Session 001: Laura Pilcher of 100k Cabin
October 19,2023 | Published by Barr Balamuth
5 MINUTE READ
We're thrilled to kick off our brand-new series, Superhost Sessions, where we delve into the strategies, tips, and behind-the-scenes insights from the movers and shakers of the short-term rental world.
For our first Session, we sat down virtually with Laura Pilcher, the dynamic hosting force behind 100k Cabin. Operating since 2015 in the beautiful mountains of Colorado, Laura has become a seasoned pro in understanding what it takes to excel in an ever-changing Airbnb marketplace.
With over 7 years of experience as a top Airbnb host under her belt, Laura Pilcher is a veritable goldmine of hosting insights. During our candid discussion, Laura gave us a look behind the curtain, revealing strategies she's learned for delivering 5-star guest experiences. She stresses anticipating every need, from luxury sheets to personalized recommendations.
Laura's hard-won wisdom comes from lessons learned on the front lines of hosting - where stellar reviews must be earned through dedication and exceeding expectations. Let's dive in.
Walk us through your journey to becoming an Airbnb host.
Laura: I started out back in the Wild West of 2015! We were mainly looking for affordable ski lodging for our family. Then we realized before the Airbnb boom, especially in Colorado mountains, that we could try hosting. We got an amazing response and kick-started everything. We’ve built a few properties since.
How many properties do you manage?
Laura: So this is my pivot - we actually sold the properties we had and are building a different, bigger one than ever before. From our real estate investment view, we realized our market had changed and it was in our best interest to sell. We just have one propertry now in Granby, Colorado. It will be interesting to see how the market evolves. With Airbnbs, guests want a more elevated experience, the market is way more competitive, so you’ve got to bring your A game.
What changes come with building out a higher-end property compared to your previous ones?
Laura: My previous properties were more budget-friendly builds. Now, we're constructing a luxury property in Granby to meet the increasing expectations of guests. Things that used to be nice to have are now basically required, for example, a really nice gas firepit and hot tub. You’ve got to have top-notch bedding and sheets too. I never realized how important those details were until guests started asking about thread count and wanting luxury sheets.
How have your guest's expectations changed over the past few years?
Laura: We were the first modern looking cabin in our area. Our property had a very Scandinavian, very modern feel on the inside. People were used to more rustic log homes, so it was a big eye-opener – everyone was so excited to be there. Then our guest evolved into being more amenity-focused.
Guest feedback has also really changed on what's expected.When we first started, we got comments like "I can't believe you were willing to open the door to your home to us, thank you. Thank you for having pantry staples in the kitchen. We so appreciate you." There was no mention of amenities. I just think the bar was so much lower.
The mindset now is "What are you giving me besides just opening your home to me?" You’ve got to provide a similar or better experience than hotels. We started hearing questions about what products we have. People would name drop brands they liked, so I realized they pay attention to those details.
How do you shape the guest experience at your stays?
Laura: I think it starts with communication and branding - successful hosts have a distinct brand, even if their home looks similar to others. You need good photos and videos so guests know what to expect. Professional pictures can look way different than the actual home. I also try to anticipate every need upfront and provide a house guide with all the information before they arrive. Very rarely do people read a big manual, they want to know everything before walking in. Local treats and activity ideas are great too. I love having bike rentals or fishing lessons to give guests unique experiences. Rather than waiting to respond to needs, anticipate everything possible.
What type of guests typically book with you?
Laura: During COVID, every host considered how to accommodate longer stays - laundry and workspaces became priorities. For example, I had a guest stay for 2 months while working remotely. I was very geared toward weekenders before but had to pivot. They were from San Francisco and they stayed for three months.
We provided the things that we would want for our everyday life, like providing on-site laundry, just making their everyday lives easier. We still had our cleaner come by.We're into coffee, so we gave them literally every kind of coffee option they could possibly want. We want to be sure that everything is taken care, so our stays feel like home away from home. I still market towards a "target guest" but we adapt every booking based on who is booking and what they want.
What advice do you have for new hosts?
Laura: Don’t assume guests want what you like about a property! Try to remove your personal connection and view it objectively through guests’ eyes. Also prepare for negative feedback - it’s inevitable at times. Roll with the punches and thank guests for their perspective. At the end of the day, providing an exceptional, tailored experience is number one. Go over the top to anticipate every need.
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Barr Balmuth is a staff writer at InHouse specializing in STRs.