I was having lunch with a friend recently and during conversation my widely travelled friend said that she’d NEVER book a house overseas, or Airbnb accommodation, owned by Australians. And, after a lengthy conversation on the subject, I thought..she's absolutely RIGHT!
And here's why: 5 reasons NOT to book with an Australian owner of overseas properties:
1. It’s just not authentic. They're Australian for heaven's sake! They're not French!
They don't even speak the language. I want to get away from Australians not stay in their overseas tax-dodgy digs! Give me authentic any day please!
2. I don't need an Australian to communicate clearly with me. Communication is the same all over the world surely. Why would we need or want an Australian? It's the 21st century and in this world of advanced communication, there are now no barriers to communicating from one hemisphere to the other efficiently, quickly and effectively. I'm savvy. I can do this.
3. Australians don’t know the area like a local does. How could they? They weren't BORN there. The French locals can give me the download on where to go and what to see. Failing that there's always the Tourism Office. Give me the local knowledge any day!
4. Why would I need or want a house/ apartment that’s been set up by an Australian!
Surely French accommodation set up by a fabulously chic french owner would be preferable? Isn't that part of the experience? I want the whole French immersion not an Australian imitation. Lets get real shall we?
5. Australians simply aren’t cultured enough nor do they have the knowledge nor the depth of history that Europeans do. Why rent from them?
I'm sorry but a country like Australia, bereft of history, doesn't even compare with the richness of France -steeped in a vast history spanning centuries. I'm convinced that living in a house which has stood the test of time owned by a person who has a generational tie with that home in addition to french culture, would be a vastly more superior experience.
Well, that all sounds very convincing doesn't it? Or does it....? Now for some honest feedback on all five points.
1. Authenticity has very little to do with nationality but it's easy to fall into this trap. We have! And that led us to seriously consider WHO exactly we were dealing with. Integrity became the more important issue to us when booking our overseas accommodation.
Have we been ripped off by the locals? Sure we have.
Let me give you just one example. We arrived in Paris several years ago after booking with a French company. All seemed pretty smooth sailing. After a really difficult search to find the property and frantic phone calls to the French company in Paris, which were then re-directed to London! -we found our apartment eventually only to discover it had already been occupied by another family! We were literally out on the street sitting on the kerb with our suitcases. Had we just been DONE for 1200 euros? We had to find alternative accommodation for 5 people at 1 o’clock in the morning. I loved it the next time we booked accommodation in Paris when the Sydney owner sent us the key to his Paris apartment in the mail before we left Melbourne. For several years after that episode we booked our accommodation in France from an Australian couple who owned 7 cottages in France. Each one completely charming, oozing character and totally authentic. Authenticity is found when you walk to the patisserie, forage through a Saturday market of fresh produce or wave to the locals as you walk to the local café to spend an hour or two "people watching" to your heart's content. The nationality of a home owner is, in fact, quite inconsequential.
2. Communication is arguably one of the most important factors when travelling overseas and when booking accommodation. Every detail needs to be precise and clearly understood.
I like to think I'm fairly savvy when it comes to the internet and navigating sites like Airbnb but even the most experienced of us can be misled. Here's one such example.
Reading the extremely fine print of an Airbnb booking in Spain ( AFTER we failed to receive our security deposit back) I soon realised I’d missed a vitally important point (and our host had failed miserably to mention it) that the tariff applied to only ONE person. The payout was TWICE what we were expecting! Communication breakdown. Ouch. Our mishap in Paris with the double booked accommodation mentioned earlier, was a communication nightmare. I was SO grateful my husband speaks fluent french. I don't know how we would have managed to get our 1200 euros returned to us without it.
Now as a french home owner I've listed two properties on Airbnb and have achieved Super Host status. One of the main criteria assessed- is the ability of the Host to communicate clearly and well. We make sure we find out what interests our prospective clients have and guide them accordingly. We make it a priority to communicate extremely well with our guests and to ensure that every base is covered because we know first hand what it’s like to land in a large city, like Paris for instance, for the first time. It can be overwhelming, and so we try to ensure we make the whole process of locating our cottages as travel friendly as possible and eradicate the possibility of any problems or stress.
3. Local Knowledge
Good point and I guess I could agree that this could be true in some cases, but it’s come to my attention, during the time we’ve owned property in France, that the locals are just that....local. Our neighbours in the little village of Berbiguieres for instance, have lived there for over 50 years and in all that time, have NEVER once visited Paris. You know what it’s like. When you live in a place for a long period of time you think ...I’ve got plenty of time to visit this and that. Years roll by and you simply never get around to it. NOT being a local can be a great asset as you tend to want to know everything you possibly can about your new home. French friends of ours are always gobsmacked at the amount we see and do and the places we discover on our annual trips. We are always finding new little treasures and well kept secrets which we love to pass on to guests. Hence, sometimes we can actually be MORE local than the locals!
4. Home set-up
Well put quite simply. Aussies know what Aussies need AND If you book a French property you’ll be hard pressed to find a kettle or a toaster provided. Air conditioning in European houses is a rare thing and even a humble fan may be hard to find. It’s actually quite an experience renting a foreign property and navigating a kitchen. Often your host assumes you will go out to eat so utensils may be a bit thin on the ground, and finding a nice wine glass- near on impossible! Worth thinking about. Australians know what Australians expect and cater accordingly.
5. Lack of culture?
Oh so harsh. This is a widely held belief and the many loud, beer drinking, back packing Aussie travellers traversing the world in a pair of thongs, only helps to fuel this notion. Australian property owners, we have found, are quite a different breed entirely. Often yearning for that missing history in their history impoverished lives, they are genuinely in awe of their environment and the history found therein. Their wonder of places steeped in so much history excites them in a way that mystifies the locals who are so used to it all and to whom it has all become very mundane and normal. Perhaps that’s what tends to make Aussies who own property in Europe really passionate people. They have an insatiable appetite to taste another culture and live it. To revel in a culture that, in many ways, has remained unchanged, for centuries.
So summing it up
I guess I'm one Aussie who loves renting accommodation from Australian overseas property owners for all the reasons I've elucidated above. We have found the whole process so easy- even down to depositing rental charges into an Aussie bank account.
Somehow, it gave us peace of mind. To know I could call an Australian and have a clearly understood phone conversation if I needed to, was a great comfort.
The areas we address and that receive the most excellent praise from our guests are generally:-
1. The whole communication process from beginning to end.
2. Our well equipped, authentically french, comfortable homes.
3. The integrity of our business and the way we run it.
So, what would I say to my friend in response to her statement? Simple.
You'd be mad NOT to book with an Australian
For more info on how we became Airbnb super hosts please read the published blog " Sky high and contemplating why"