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Putting up a fake advert on airbnb

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Has anybody rented out a room or apartment on airbnb? Skip over to the last 2 paragraphs if you don’t want the back story.

 

I’ve been in Belgium since April 2016. In a poky little town called Kortrijk close to the French border. I’ve stayed illegally in student accommodation for 5 months and airbnbs for 3 months. If I was in one of the big international cities: Brussels, Antwerp, Gent etc it would be easy to get any kind of accommodation: short term furnished whatever. But outside those cities it’s virtually impossible. The standard rental contract is 9 years, and Belgian landlords consider that short term. Partly because Belgians will drive 1.5 hours each way to work every day rather than leave their home town.

So this is an obvious business opportunity. My first plan was to rent a house, furnish it and sublet the rooms on a monthly basis to other contractors. No landlord will rent to me on that basis. Oh no, I must know who is in the house. So buy a house!

 

Why buy a house when you can buy a hotel? There’s a hotel with 10 bedrooms that closed down 4 years ago. The owner has made a proposal I could lease it for 2500 per month, with a purchase option after 6 months for 525k. I’m proposing 2000 per month with a purchase option of 470k after 18 months. He hasn’t budged yet.

 

I’m currently in India, returning via Thailand 23 Jan 2017. I’ve booked myself into an airbnb until 1 Feb so I won’t be homeless. I already have one contractor colleague lined up for my brilliant scheme, but would need a total of 5 including myself to break even.

 

The obvious thing to do is advertise the rooms now on airbnb available weekly or monthly from 1 Feb 2017. If I did get 2 more victims it would give me more confidence to move forward. I’m guessing I can advertise the rooms, and then if I get applications, not accept, but message them explaining the situation.

 

However I don’t want to fall foul of airbnb which will be a major part of my marketing efforts. And before I get the inevitable “lawyer up”, I have actually taken 5 hours of consulting from a Belgian property lawyer on my scheme for Kortrijk contractor accommodation domination.

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Buy the hotel, do the marketing via AirBnB.  You wouldn't be the first one.  My wife and daughter were in such an arrangement in Venice a while back. Worked out fine.

 

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7 hours ago, MadAxeMurderer said:

But outside those cities it’s virtually impossible.

 

there may be a reason for the lack of housing that you are unaware of.   operating a 10 room hotel is not even close to renting out your flat from time to time.  operating expenses, permits, salaries, stakeholders et.al....are you doing this because you couldn't find a place or are you doing this to get into business?

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Belgium has an amazingly provincial mentality. In the cities: Brussels obviously, but also Antwerp, Leuven, Gent, and Bruges foreigners have been coming to work and live for decades. So the housing market has evolved to exploit and serve said foreigners. But in a provincial town like Kortrijk (where the first Indian restaurant only opened 2 months ago) they are not used to foreigners needing short term, flexible, furnished accommodation.

 

The standard rental contract is called the 3-6-9. You can give 3 months notice to leave (like Germany) but if you leave in the 1st year you pay a 3 month penalty, 2nd year 2 month and 3rd year 1 month. I have watched apartments that I was either turned down for, or wasn't interested in stay empty for 6 months while the landlord searches for the perfect tenant who will stay 15+ years. 

 

The man who rented me a room in a purpose built student house told me he also has 6 furnished apartments and they're always full. Otherwise I'd be in one. He's also proposed his company can manage my contractor hovel once I leave. Well I did sort of ask him.

 

Kortrijk however has at least 3 high tech companies: Honeywell, Cisco, Barco and I estimate there are at least 30 contractors. Some of these contractors are living across the border in Lille, France. More in the French speaking part which seems less inflexible than the Flemish part. I've been told to give up on Kortrijk and just commute from Gent which is a far livelier town, and has at least 6 Indians.

 

The advantage of a hotel is that each room has its own bathroom and all the permits are in place. Except I wouldn't run it as a hotel, but as a medium to long term stay with  communal living area, kitchen. 10 lads sharing a big house instead of 3 or 4 sharing a smaller. Such WG's do exist but each tenant must be on the lease, and the contract must be changed each time there's turnover. You thought Germans love a bit of bureaucracy.

 

Right that's my business justification. I still want to know about renters cancelling airbnb reservations, or sanctions for putting up fake adverts. I don't intend to screw anybody, but don't want to be blacklisted for testing the waters...

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9 hours ago, MadAxeMurderer said:

Why buy a house when you can buy a hotel? There’s a hotel with 10 bedrooms that closed down 4 years ago. The owner has made a proposal I could lease it for 2500 per month, with a purchase option after 6 months for 525k. I’m proposing 2000 per month with a purchase option of 470k after 18 months. He hasn’t budged yet.

My only thought here us the 'warm' cost. How much will the heating, water, maintenance etc be? How will you collect that from your tenants? What about electricity costs, phone and internet?

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Heating will be expensive until I replace the windows with double glazed. Which is why I'll start with just the top floor. Water, internet and VPN not so bad. No phone. Mobiles or skype out. I'll charge €600 per month pre renovation and €800 per month post renovation. If that sounds expensive I was paying over €1000 or an unheated bedroom in an airbnb. And I wasn't the only one.

 

BTW I've also heard positive noises about a mortgage from one of the more aggressive banks. The banker dude with platinum hair likes my plan

 

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One of my concerns is that you'd need to budget for someone to come in every day and clean the common areas. Ten guys sharing a kitchen is not going to run smoothly if you leave them to their own devices. 

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3 hours ago, Smaug said:

Ten guys sharing a kitchen is not going to run smoothly if you leave them to their own devices. 

 

B)Unless there are ground rules and cameras.

 

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Can't Airbnb provide information about ammount of views /shortlisted for landlords? 

 

While searching through Airbnb I sometimes ended up finding nice places that had no availability in the calendar. 

Of course views/shortlist are not a gauge compared to intent to reserve but maybe a percentage could be considered? 

 

 

I've used Airbnb only for very few stays but never got denied although a lot of times the host is never there and it's a friend /father who gives the keys... 

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There will be ground rules. I hope there will be no need for cameras, but there will be if needed. However I think people are overestimating the amount of cooking men do. It's no like they cook a full English every morning, and a nice casserole in the evenings. Nope it's more like a bowl of muesli or cornflakes which will simply go in the dishwasher. And a microwave dinner or pizza in the evening, although they're more likely to go out for dinner in the evenings. Kortrijk curry night is of course the highlight of the busy social calendar. 

 

I plan to have a cleaner come in for 3 hours every week to clean the communal areas with optional sheet changing every 2 weeks for €100 per month or full laundry for €200 per month.

 

I guess I could just put an advert with the only pictures I have of the hotel. Describe the situation, and then not accept people so their application expires after 24 hours. And then message them.

hotel1.JPG

hotel2.JPG

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@SpiderPig From a newspaper article 4 years ago

 

Quote

Het nabijgelegen hotel Groeninge, recht tegenover de Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk, dreigt dan weer te verdwijnen. Na een succesvolle carrière gaat zaakvoerder Jacques Vuylsteke(67) eind dit jaar op pensioen. Hij wil zijn zaak verkopen. 

 

Vuylseke nam 32jaar geleden het hotel met tien kamers over, maar tot zijn verbazing krijgt hij het hotel in het historische hart van Kortrijk niet opnieuw verkocht. 'Ik dacht dat er veel interesse zou zijn voor dit gebouw, want het is een droomlocatie', gaat Jacques verder. 

 

'Er waren enkele geïnteresseerden, maar zij konden dit niet betalen omdat de banken geen geld meer lenen voor horeca. De horeca heeft zijn gouden tijden gehad, tegenwoordig is er van alles veel te veel.'

 

'De kans is dus klein dat het hotel blijft bestaan. Ik zou het pand liefst verkopen, maar als er serieuze kandidaten zijn om het uit te baten, dan kan dat voor mij ook.'

 

'Het hoeft voor mij geen hotel te blijven. Er zijn tal van mogelijkheden. Met dit pand kan je werkelijk alle kanten uit. Het zou bijvoorbeeld perfect zijn voor een hostellerie, advocatenbureau of kantoorgebouw.'
 

Quote

The nearby Hotel Groeninge, right opposite the Church of Our Lady, then threatens to disappear. After a successful career is manager Jacques Vuylsteke (67) end of the year on retirement. He wants to sell his business.

 

Vuylseke took 32years ago the hotel with ten rooms, but to his surprise he is not re-sold the hotel in the heart of historic Kortrijk. "I thought there would be much interest in this building because it is a dream location," Jacques adds.

 

"There were a few interested people, but they could not pay because the banks do not lend money for the catering. The hospitality industry has had its golden age, now there is all too much. "

 

"The chances are so small that the hotel remains. I would prefer to sell the property, but if there are serious candidates to benefit from it, you can do for me. "

 

"It need not remain a hotel for me. There are plenty of options. you can really all directions with this property. Example, it would be perfect for a hostelry, law firm or office. "

 

3 hotels have closed down in the last 5 years. Hotelling is not a good business anymore, maybe in Kortrijk, maybe all over?

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I like the plan and the building. My estranged husband has rented an Airbnb flat for a year in Freiburg. However, when they started looking for a longer-term tenant, the landlords have placed an advert elsewhere as well; EH found it on the university website. I have just checked and they have taken it off Airbnb, for now at least. His colleague did rent long-term in France through Airbnb, though I am not sure how the messaging was conducted. Could you contact potential tenants through the companies where they work? 

 

Would you have to invest much at the beginning? Does the building look reasonable inside and does it come with all the furniture and appliances with which you could at least make a start? 

 

I agree with Smaug about the cleaning, even if it should not be required daily. Wikipedia tells me there are several HE institutions in Kortrijk, so maybe you could have a student or a cleaner live in one room with reduced rent or with a part-time contract to do this (I have no idea about Belgian labour laws though). Then at least any 'accidents' could be dealt with when needed rather than waiting till when the cleaner is scheduled to come, and the person could help you with other odd jobs around the house. I live in a house with ten flats and one tenant is paid a little to do some jobs around here. 

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I lived in Belgium for two weeks this year, no problem in finding accommodation at the coastal town of Knokke-Heist. The landlord who was an employee of a property agency spoke good German to me, the agency he works for has a lot of properties in that town, totally rents to foreigners like me.

 

But I didn't use airBnB, I used some German website, ferienwohnungen.de or something.

 

I think your view of Belgium property market is wrong. Just because Belgians don't use some American website, it doesn't mean there are no properties there. I personally didn't have any problems with finding accommodation anywhere, but wanted to live at the coast.

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MAM I like the cut of your jib but I don't think this business idea has legs.

 

Maybe I've been around Germans  too long but what happens if things go tees up? First the language. That would make me run a mile. Second the legal systems. Probably worse than Germany. Then you have the business climate. Check out layoff.com (I think) to see how healthy those 3 firms are - I know tech is taking a hammering at the moment).

 

If this is your first business idea keep them coming. I get them all the time. imho this one has "legal/linguistic minefield" written on it.

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@yourkeau So you easily found temporary accommodation in a coastal town that caters to week by week visitors? How is that relevant to finding accommodation in a town with little experience of foreigners or holiday visitors? It's like comparing Ballydehob to Berlin. Yep they both start with B and a vowel.

 

Is the American website airbnb? Because that is almost the only way of finding temporary accommodation in Kortrijk. 3 furnished apartments have become available in the last 8 months. I applied for one and was turned down. But even furnished apartments are rented on the 3-6-9 rule. So if you are given 1 months notice at the end of a 6 months contract: You will have to pay 5 months more. You will pay 11 months rent to live somewhere for 6 months.

 

@jeremy Language problems??? You mean you can read an apartment purchase contract in English??? Well poor little me needs a lawyer for that kind of thing, and if the lawyer speaks English it doesn't really matter whether the contract is in English, Dutch, or Swahili. 

 

Tech is actually quite vibrant now judging by the frequency of unsolicited calls I get from agents, and the number of jobs in my daily jobserver Email

 

If this venture was easy it wouldn't have much profit potential. The fact that it's proven almost impossible for me to find a place to live is I think quite a good reference for the whole idea.

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@LenkaG

 

I would have to commit 6 months rent at say 2000 per month, and would need another 2000 per bedroom, and say 3000 for temporary kitchen & living room. While one could theoretically sleep on the beds as are: the only furniture that's really usable are the sofas in the 2nd living room, and the tables in the breakfast room which could be a work desk in each bedroom.

 

He seems to have shut the doors on his last day and walked away. The beds are made, there are plates, cutlery and glasses in the dining room. But it's all 1948 chique. The kitchen is hideous. I have high tolerance and it is unusable even by my standards. Anyway I think the entire ground floor should be reserved for retail. There are 5 bedrooms each on 1st, 2nd floors. Two bedrooms converted to living room/kitchen leaving 8 bedrooms for contractors.

 

It's slap bang in the heart of the old center. A run down shambolic area gentrifying fast. There are 3 antique shops in the vicinity, and a closed cafe for rent. I will enquire about the cafe, not because interested but to gather intelligence.

 

I intend to contact the HR person in my company (who is hot BTW) and ask her what they do with new employees, and do they give any advice to contractors. And could she tell new contractors about my venture, and likewise have her buddies in Barco, Cisco do the same. Note advising of availability is not the same as recommending. My agent also likes the idea, not least because of all the contractors he's placed moaning about the impossibility of finding a place to live.

 

A couple I know in an even more provincial town called Oudenaarde (one Thai zero Indians) have a house with 5 furnished apartments. Samsonite HR looks upon them as a useful resource.

 

Wikipedia does not lie! There are loads of studentenkots. To the point where the city refuses to allow anymore to be built. Ranging from houses with 5 bedrooms, to purpose built building with 30-40 bedrooms and communal kitchen. I stayed 5 months (illegally) in the latter. One of my colleagues and potential customers is in one right now, because I found a a free one and said I'd take it, but he could have it instead because he was dying of a hacking cough from our unheated airbnb.

 

I did look at a studentenkot for sale with 7 bedrooms, but one just one bathroom, and extra outside toilet for sale for 270k. About 1km from center.

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4 hours ago, MadAxeMurderer said:

So you easily found temporary accommodation in a coastal town that caters to week by week visitors? How is that relevant to finding accommodation in a town with little experience of foreigners or holiday visitors? It's like comparing Ballydehob to Berlin. Yep they both start with B and a vowel.

No, I was able to find accommodation everywhere, just decided to live in Knokke. I haven't been to Kortrijk, though. Is it a depressive coal miners town like Charleroi? Then I am not surprised.

 

Edit: This is the website I used to contact the landlord. It shows one available house in Kortrijk, for 10 persons. Not saying you will not succeed, but maybe there are no more properties because this one is enough?

https://www.traum-ferienwohnungen.de/178881/#lage

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5 hours ago, MadAxeMurderer said:

I intend to contact the HR person in my company (who is hot BTW) and ask her what they do with new employees,

 

You should also ask (if they have a steady stream of contractors/new employees) if they would consider a long-term contract for X number of rooms at a discounted price.  I've been on a few contracts in remote areas where the client did this....saved money for them.  One even offered a company car.

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