Airbnb may have changed the way many of us travel, but there are still some kinks with the service that need working out, from key pick up and depositing through to arranging cleaning if you have booked multiple guests while away.
Looking to manage these problems is Sydney startup MadeComfy. Cofounded by Quirin Schwaighofer and Sabrina Bethunin, MadeComfy looks to simplify the listing and management process for people seeking to rent out their homes through platforms such as Airbnb and Stayz.
The startup has created an end to end management service that does everything from take professional photos of their home, listing on various booking platforms, management of rates and occupancy, liaising with guests before and throughout their stay, managing bookings and check in, and arranging cleaning and linen services.
The idea came to Bethunin after Schwaighofer asked her to help manage his Airbnb in Cremorne Point. He received his first booking while overseas, and needed to call someone overnight to manage it.
“Thereafter he was coming back from his business travels every Friday to clean his apartment and wash linen, not the ideal way to spend the weekend. His guests also had issues with things such as the TV, the fridge, and the fuse box…there was a definite need for professional help,” Bethunin said.
Seeing the benefits for Schwaighofer and his guests, Bethunin, who had been looking for a business idea at the time, decided she had found the right one.
“Seeing that there was a clear gap in the property management sector for short term rentals in Australia, I got really passionate about it and together with Quirin decided to start MadeComfy,” she said.
For homeowners, the service works by first having a member of MadeComfy’s staff conduct a home visit to both ensure the property meets its standards and provide additional information to the homeowner if needed, such as styling recommendations or insurance requirements.
Then comes a professional photo session, where the house is styled to ensure maximum interest from potential guests. MadeComfy then creates and publishes a listing on various booking platforms.
Bethunin said MadeComfy uses a “dynamic pricing algorithm” that calculates the highest nightly rate possible, based on demand occupancy of hotels and shared accommodation in the homeowner’s neighbourhood to ensure a listing is successful.
“Here it is important to know that the automatic pricing Airbnb offers is usually 20-40 percent cheaper than the rate you can actually get booked. While it is Airbnb’s intention to offer cheaper accommodation than hotels, it is ours to maximise the return for our hosts,” Bethunin explained.
When the homeowner goes away, MadeComfy facilitates a clean and supplies linen and other supplies before receiving guests. The house is then cleaned again, ready for the homeowner’s return.
On the other side of the equation, for guests the MadeComfy experience first starts when they enquire a booking, with MadeComfy answering any questions they may have. At check in, a team member will greet the guests and give them a tour of the house.
If needed, the guests are given support throughout their stay, such as booking additional cleanings and assistance with any maintenance issues. MadeComfy has also partnered with the likes of Bespoke Concierge to help guests book other services such as an in-house chef, airport pick up, and travel photography. It has also partnered with IglooHomes to equip its properties with smart locks.
Currently active across Sydney, on the homeowner side of the market MadeComfy is targeting couples and young families, as well as property investors with homes in popular Sydney suburbs. The types of properties managed through the service typically start at $150 per night, and as such this figure itself appeals to certain types of guests.
“Our service is very appealing to families, professionals and business travellers looking for a consistent service on offer,” Bethunin said.
MadeComfy collects the booking revenue on behalf of the homeowner, with payment transferred once a month back to the homeowner. The startup charges homeowners a fixed percentage on the booking value, as well as a booking fee.
“As one of our key drivers is value maximisation for our customers, charging a percentage of the revenue was the obvious pricing model aligned to our strategy,” Bethunin said.
As well as value-add services, the startup has partnered with companies including Google and the Commonwealth Bank to provide special deals to their staff, which Bethunin said allows MadeComfy to build its stock of properties as well as build a “differentiated source of guests”.
Bethunin said developing MadeComfy’s online platform was one of the easiest parts of setting up the business – the hard part has been developing clear processes and procedures for every part of the end to end service, and ensuring they are robust enough to handle hundreds of properties.
“While it is quite easy to open a website and manage bookings and check ins for five to 10 properties, it is a very different game to provide a value adding service and a unique guest experience on a consistent high level for a few hundred properties,” Bethunin explained.
One potential issue for the startup is the current regulations around short term letting, though the outlook, at least in NSW, looks good. The NSW Government earlier this year recently released a position paper on how to best embrace the sharing economy.
MadeComfy reports that it currently has a monthly booking value of over $160,000, having grown at a rate of 25 percent per month. Over the next year, it hopes to have 1,000 homes on its books across Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.
Having raised a small funding round from its network earlier this year, the startup is now in the middle of raising its second round to help facilitate its growth plans.
Image: Nicky Bowie, Quirin Schwaighofer, and Sabrina Bethunin. Source: Supplied.