The Top 10 Complaints

by Steven Brenner

Travel is not a perfect science.  The higher and more unrealistic your expectations, the easier it is to be disappointed.  Sometimes disappointment arises because people expect things to work in the place they are visiting the same way things work back home.  In regards to accommodation, the particular idiosyncrasies one has to face changes from country to country, so it’s important to understand which of these are actual problems and reflect a badly run place and which are just part of local life.  If it’s the latter, the sooner you come to understand the nature of these quirks, the better you’ll be able to accept them and not really regard them as problems.  Compiled from my 14 years of experience, the following is a list of the most common complaints we’ve received which I hope to explain and clarify here and put more into context.

1.  Where’s the bacon?  Disappointment with the Italian breakfast.

In Italy, breakfast is nothing special.  It’s a culture that eats a large lunch, and until recently much of the work force would have a number of hours available in the middle of the day to go home, prepare a meal, eat it and then relax before returning to work.  Those days are mostly a thing of the past unless you have someone at home doing the cooking, but you’ll find many of the local bars and trattorias packed full of people who are generally there for an hour or two.  With so much focus put on a mid-day meal, much less is put on breakfast as opposed to British and North American culture where a long work day with little break has pushed a focus on eating a larger meal first thing in the morning.

Culturally, breakfast just isn’t part of the equation.  A typical Italian breakfast is an espresso.  Add to that an overly sugary pastry that will leave you starving in 20 minutes (Italian pastries are NOTHING compared to a flaky, buttery croissant or pain au chocolat in France).  B&Bs and hotels, having to comply with food safety laws, unless they have their own cafe – aren’t supposed to serve anything but pre-packaged food items.  That means you might get a little pastry, maybe some dry toasts (called fette biscottate), cereal, yoghurt and maybe fruit if you’re lucky.  But if you’re a B&B owner, and have to go pre-packaged, in a market that doesn’t really eat breakfast anyway, your options are pretty limited!  Basically, assume that your breakfast is not going to be anything to write home about and you might do better spending 2-3 euro on a cappuccino and pastry at a bar – of which there will always be one nearby.  Or, go self-catering and do breakfast your own way.

2.  Hot water / plumbing problems

There’s a number of things that can go wrong here:

First is the amount, or lack of, hot water. There are two kinds of water systems here – one that works on gas and produces hot water on demand, and others that use electric boilers.  The latter will have a fixed amount of water that, once consumed, will need time to reheat.  If you have an electric boiler and many people in your apartment or using the same bathroom, that means staggering out your showers a bit, and not standing there for 20 minutes taking an indulgent shower, no matter how good it feels.  The other thing to know is that these electric boilers often have on/off switches in the bathroom that can easily be switched off accidentally.  If you’ve turned it off, you’re sure to not have hot water until you’ve turned it back on and left it for about 30 minutes.  I would say that most of the complaints for “no hot water” we receive were caused by people inadvertently turning it off!  Normally, B&Bs will have a gas water heater which provides continuous hot water, but many self-catering apartments still have electric boilers. Keep this in mind if you’re a family of 8 staying in an apartment with 1 bathroom!

Second is the plumbing in general.  Even a semi-historic building, built in the 1800′s (not that old for Italy!) were built before internal plumbing was the norm, and most B&Bs and some apartments will have had bathrooms added in a part of the apartment that is often far from the septic column.  This means having pumps or raising the floor to add an incline so the waste can run “downstream”.  Add a bit of distance to the column and a daily dose of hair in the drain and you’re bound to have some stoppage.  The key thing to remember here is that buildings and apartments that weren’t “purpose built” will never be as perfect as those that are.  If you want perfect plumbing, you need to stay in a big hotel, that was designed and constructed specifically to be a hotel.  In the city center, those are generally 5 star hotels or they are chain hotels located outside the city center (where new construction is easier to do).  Staying somewhere historic has its charm for sure, but often the price you pay is that plumbing will not be perfect.

The smell:  in the bathrooms of old buildings, it can happen that when it rains, it smells.  Not much can be done about this.

Mold:  this is connected to the whole “bathroom-built-later” problem.  Old pipes pass through concrete walls and with multiple daily showers and not enough ventilation, you get mold.  This gets cleaned off with bleach and killed, and can leave stains that look like mildew, even though the actual live mold is gone.  No matter how often it’s cleaned, it will come back and can only be covered with a fresh paint job, maybe once every year or so.  The bright side is that it’s not that your owner doesn’t care, they’re just in a losing battle with nature and the elements.

3.  Language barriers

In a perfect world, everyone would speak the same language, but back to reality!  To me, travel has been an eye opener in learning to develop the skill of  communicating in a language that is not your own, and finding a way to express kindness and flexibility and all those traits that make individuals get along, no matter how much or how little they can understand the words being said.  Don’t expect people to speak your language and understand that what might seem to you like a “lack of interest” from an accommodation owner might be that they’re shy and embarrassed about speaking English and simply lack the vocabulary to express themselves well.  It’s easy to misinterpret people who don’t speak your language.  Maybe they aren’t rude – it could be a language barrier thing.

4.  Lack of useful information

A handful of superstar accommodation owners print out all sorts of information – about the surrounding area, the apartment, what to do in case of emergencies.  I love all this stuff.  But it’s a rarity.  Why is it so hard for owners to do this?  No idea – I even offer, every year or so, to help put one together in English, and they rarely take me up on the offer.  I guess it’s hard for someone who isn’t looking in from an outsider’s perspective to know what information is necessary and what is (to them) totally obvious.  TVs work differently from country to country, but only people who travel a lot realize this.  Same goes for washing machines and lighting stoves and circuit breakers and the water heater switches I wrote about earlier.  However, not all of the owners we work with are world travelers and it’s hard for them to anticipate what things will or won’t be easily understood.  Keep in mind though that if something doesn’t work, it could also be that you don’t know how to work it – even something as basic as a television.  If something doesn’t seem to work, ask the owner to show you – more often than not it just needs some explanation, and by asking them to show you it’ll open their eyes to the fact that it’s not universally understood.

5. It’s HOT

If you’re in southern Mediterranean Europe and it’s July or August, and you’re walking around under a blazing hot sun, you have to accept that it’s going to suck a bit and you’ll be a sweaty mess.  It’s not worth getting in more of a huff about – just get over it.  The US is kind of the gold standard in air conditioning, often to the point of absurdity.  In Europe you’ll find that air conditioners are turned off when you’re not in the room (pay an energy bill here and you’ll see pretty fast why this is so!); and you’ll find that even when on full blast, it’s not going to get sub-arctic like you might want it to.  We have less kilowatts of power in Europe, especially in old buildings, and due to high costs of electricity, we are forced to use A/C units that for efficiency produce less cold.  It’ll cool things down a bit, but the reality is that we don’t control the climate – we have to live with it.

6. No international TV channels

I know for some it’s nice to come back “home” after a long day and turn on the television and go brain dead for a while.  In some countries, like France, it’s cheap to get phone, internet and cable all in one go.  In other countries, like Italy, it’s a separate cost for cable, and even then there are a limited amount of International channels (they wouldn’t be part of the standard package).  As the saying goes, “when in Rome…” – in other words, you really shouldn’t expect to watch television in your language in another country.  Maybe you’ll get a few hours of BBC international news or something – which is hardly going to help you relax!  But remember, you’re on vacation – you’re away from home and ideally away from your home-habits too.  Have a conversation instead.  Drink a glass (or a bottle) of wine.  Play cards.  Read a book.  Go back out again, get a gelato or a drink and sit somewhere and people watch.  You aren’t missing anything.

8. Beds too soft / too hard

Sometimes we’ll get feedback from multiple people about the same place that reads like the Goldilocks story.  For person A the bed was simply too hard.  For person B, it was just too soft.  For person C is was just right.  I personally like very firm.  Others like soft.  It’s a personal thing, and I think when you travel you just have to go with the flow here.

9. Dodgy power

As I mentioned earlier, electricity costs are high in Europe and the available wattage is low.  Turn on the washing machine, a few lights, and the hairdryer and you’ll blow a fuse.  It’s just the way it is.  Many apartments don’t have dryers simply because they consume too much.  In the summer, with AC, this is something that can easily be a problem.  Just realize that almost all European cities were built before the automobile and don’t have huge lines of infrastructure in place to bring the amount of power that only recently is requested/demanded to apartments.  I love how the above picture shows the utility lines just under the street passing over ancient Roman ruins.  Kind of puts things into perspective!

10.  Noise

Rome wins the prize of being the loudest of the cities we work in, and it’s no doubt a cause for some very valid complaining.  Personally, I’m used to it, and I think it’s part of the overall package – the loud, crazy Romans honking their horns and yelling at each other, or the sound of elderly Venetians banging around in their kitchens all afternoon.  And if it’s not a quaint people-produced noise, it’s the trash collection at midnight or the recycling truck dumping glass bottles at 5am.  Or the construction/renovation that starts next door (or the next building over that has a shared wall) at 7 or 8am.  Or someone in the apartment above your bedroom who leaves early for work and walks around in high heels on their tiled-floors.  Really, the list is never-ending.  Good windows can help (but are very costly) and being somewhere that’s not either on a highly trafficked street or bus line or popular with drunk, reveling foreign students can also help.  But I would be doubtful of anyone in Rome with a guarantee that their place is absolutely quiet.  It’s the equivalent of selling the Brooklyn Bridge.

If you’re prepared to handle these top complaints with some understanding and patience, your bound to have a much better trip!

Location, Location, Location – where to stay in Paris

by Laura Bauerlein

Does it matter how central you are in Paris? Of course it does. But perhaps less so than in many other cites, thanks to such an amazing metro system. Having just returned from a recent trip, I’m able to compare what it’s like staying in the center vs. staying farther afield.

Paris has an Amazing metro system, with a capital A. You can literally get from one end of the city to the other in 40 minutes, and that is, from ANY end of the city to any other end. In Rome, for example, a similar endeavor would take you between 1.5 to 5 hours, at least (with a possibility of never rather than 5 hours). In Paris, it’s: hop on the metro (and not one place that I have visited was farther than 10 minutes – absolute maximum – by foot from a metro stop), switch trains, maybe switch again (a switch-switch can easily be done in less than 5 minutes) and get out.

The best thing about metro-hopping is that you won’t miss out on some of Paris’ biggest and maybe most neglected attractions: metro musicians! There are also all kinds of buses, tramways, etc that I didn’t even really consider as I could never get enough of the metro (a great place to study people, too, of course!).  If you want to stop and smell the roses, the metro at Châtelet, with the Symphonie Metropolitain, is a great way to experience something of beauty in stark contrast to the hordes of people busily rushing by.

The best thing to do is to buy a 10 ticket carnet at any one of the automatic vending machines – 10 tickets are 12.70 Euro as opposed to 1.70 Euro for a single ticket (hint: the machines are operated by a ‘rolling’ thing to move change your selection). The tickets are still good when you change trains as long as you don’t EXIT the metro system. The same kind of ticket is good for the tram, too.

Check this to see how greatly organized it all is.

On top of that, there’s the Vélib bike-sharing stations throughout the city, even in the most remote areas.

During my recent stay of more than 2 weeks, I changed neighborhood three times: I stayed in one very central apartment in the 5th arrondissement, and two less central ones – one in the 18th and one in the 20th.  Naturally there are advantages of staying in the center. Being able to walk to many sights and feel the center’s vibe, stumbling upon the Eiffel tower or the Arch du Triomphe when you least expect it – are all pretty cool.

But to be honest, I almost liked it better to ‘come home’ to a more remote, residential area – just like thousands of Parisians coming home from work or school every day. Living in a neighborhood somewhat removed from the center, you get to live more closely with the local masses, cue in the less known but just as amazing boulangeries, sit in a park in the evenings, away from tourists and the busy center. And just because you live in a more remote ‘quarter’ doesn’t mean you won’t get Haussman buildings, rooftop views or other sorts of Parisian-ness! Living in neighborhoods where the majority of Parisian everyday life takes place (as opposed to the areas where everyday Parisian tourism takes place) just made me feel more at home, and knowing that everything is really just a metro ride away should put that part of you that wants to see the famous sights at ease.

Life in Italy vs. Spain

by Amy Knauff

One would imagine the two to be pretty similar, right? After all, they’re both sunny Mediterranean countries with Latin peoples who have a history of taking post-lunch naps during the workweek, a love of good food and wine, and are known for their gregariousness, hospitality and good humor. But despite the similarities, the two countries — and more specifically, Rome and Barcelona — are worlds apart, each with their own characteristics and ways of doing things.

Scene: The historic center of Rome, which is jam-packed with souvenir shops, newsstands, bookstores, and tobacco shops selling racks full of postcards. It’s also jam-packed with tourists, some of whom presumably want to send postcards home to their loved ones.

Monday: I stop in a tobacco shop near Campo de’ Fiori and ask if they have stamps. Before I’m able to finish saying the word “stamp” (francobollo, in Italian), the cashier shakes her head no to dismiss me and starts talking to the person behind me in line. Later that afternoon, I stop in two more tobacco shops. Same result. One of them tells me to come back in the morning because apparently they’ll get a delivery of stamps then.

Tuesday: Walking near Piazza Navona, I stop in a tabaccaio. No stamps. Try three more tabaccai the same day: no luck. “They haven’t come in,” they tell me. Is there some sort of federal stamp shortage I’m not aware of? I also stop by the tabaccaio that had told me to come back today. They still don’t have them either. “By now you’ll have to wait till Thursday,” the girl tells me. Thursday? Oh yes, Wednesday is a federal holiday and everything is closed.

Wednesday: I don’t even bother trying.

Thursday: I visit three different tabaccai; no stamps to be found.

Friday: I finally give in and go to the post office. Get my number from the machine and settle in for a 35-minute wait to mail one stinking postcard. When it’s my turn and I go up to the counter, the woman says, “Oh, you’re just mailing this? You could have just bought a stamp, you didn’t need to come here.” She starts pointing to a nearby tabaccaio and telling me to get out of line and go buy my stamp there. I give her a Look of Death and say through gritted teeth, “Can’t you just print the postage on it?” As if that hadn’t occurred to her, she assents and prints the postage and I pay.

RESULT: 5 days to mail a postcard.


Scene: A residential part of L’Eixample, not particularly close to the Passeig de Gràcia (which is the more touristy part of the neighborhood) in Barcelona.

Thursday: I’ve just spent a few minutes sitting in a sunny park writing a postcard. I spot a nearby tobacco shop and go in to ask for a stamp (sello, in Spanish). I ask the owner, almost nervous, “Do you have stamps… for the US?” She replies pleasantly as she takes out her giant book full of stamps: “Yes. How many?” This has been way too easy. I decide to push my luck and ask her if there’s a mailbox nearby. She points out the door and says there’s a mailbox one block up. I find it right on the corner, bright yellow, and drop my postcard in.

RESULT: 5 minutes to mail a postcard.


CONCLUSION:  Sometimes the simplest tasks that can be easily accomplished in most other places somehow become Herculean in Rome. Organization is not Italy’s strength and although this is usually considered an acceptable sacrifice for good food and inexpensive wine, Barcelona doesn’t lack in either, and works surprisingly well, from the flow of traffic to public transport to basic everyday chores and interactions.

Little known truths about Venice

by Laura Bauerlein

1. Venice deserves a real stay, not just a hit and run.

Of course, two days in Venice is better than zero days in Venice. Many people have limited time and a long list of places they want to see, and the common misconception is that Venice is so small, one or two nights will do.

Beyond a lot of churches, monuments, museums, galleries, art, food… in other words, the old spiel that’s  true for pretty much every Italian city, there is a unique silent beauty all around. The light reflecting in the water basically everywhere, the silence (no-cars-no-cars-no-cars!! NO CARS!!) and the calm that comes with that. The fact that it’s an island — in so many ways.  Every day in Venice, I felt like I was quietly rehearsing my role in an important play on a beautiful stage, and everyone was doing the same.

We all know there’s something special about Venice, but it’s hard to grasp how very special that something is.  Give yourself enough time to settle into the spectacle, and enjoy it fully.

2. Venice isn’t touristy.

What? Yes, you read right. It’s super-über-nauseatingly touristy during high season — but only in the touristy areas. As soon as you step out of them (which is easy as they are so concentrated), you’re just that little actor in the big play again.

Many neighborhoods in Venice are very genuine, with extremely nice people (Venetians have a great sense of humor) and ‘Venetian integrity’. Think Sestiere Giudecca, Castello Basso, Cannaregio, S. Croce and S.Polo. They all have their touristy spots, but the rest remains pretty much untouched!

by Michelle L.

3. It’s a party on the beach.

Venice Lido is just a 15-minute ride on the vaporetto (water bus).  Once there you’re on an island with the true feel of summer: sand, beach, and relaxation.  And if you happen to go during the Biennale, there’s cinema too.  There are many famous movies and books set on Venice Lido, Death in Venice by Thomas Mann being the most famous.

4. The lagoon around Venice is extremely ‘rich’ with protected wildlife.

Most people only experience the city center, and perhaps the beach.  In the surrounding lagoon you can birdwatch, hike, take a trip to Burano (with its colorful little houses) and Torcello (a special flair, only 15 residents, most of them over 90 years old!).

5.  Venice is GREAT with babies and toddlers.

Babies —  you can just carry them around all day.  They’ll love the soft splash-splash of the water and being lulled to sleep.  They’ll love to be walked around in that perpetual state of nodding off.

Toddlers will love the variety of boats.  They’ll enjoy the Venetians musically raving about them and the treats they’ll be handed while having their cheeks pinched.  They’ll love the pigeons (it’s not as bad anymore! just a handful of pretty healthy birdies).  They’ll love the bridges with steps (endless ups and downs!) and they’ll love the fact that they can pretty much run freely everywhere without having to worry about traffic.

If you need or want to take a stroller along, these days many bridges are wheelchair accessible and there is a special wheelchair ‘parcours’ (LINK) which will make pushing a stroller around much easier.

Also, the owners of Casa delle Rose offer a service for baby equipment called Venice Baby Rental.

6. Venice is a perfect example to demonstrate that we really do have a problem with our waste on this planet.

You knew we have a trash problem already, I hope! Venice is small. It’s an island. Most of its streets are narrow. No cars or trucks can drive by and get that waste out of your field of vision (and with that, out of your mind, right?). Venetians know what a true WASTE PROBLEM is. They have to be super-organized with their garbage, otherwise in the blink of an eye things can turn from a problem into a full blown catastrophe, like finding their city literally buried under waste.

Avoiding making trash should always be the key. And then recycling, of course. In Venice you need to be very punctual in timing your trash-disposal.  This is particularly important if you are renting a vacation home and need to be responsible for your own garbage.  Waste is to be deposited in the streets, within a certain time frame, typically between 6 am and 10 am ONLY. Not before (say, during the night. Rats, anyone?). It’s not a joke – listen carefully to what your host has to say about disposing your trash.

(Sidenote: I was in Venice recently during a three-day strike of the garbage-management workers. It was pretty bad.)

7. The postman is your best friend!

If you are as naive as me (probably impossible) you’ll arrive in Venice, look at an address  (which is typically just an indication of the neighborhood plus a number, so ‘Castello 2915′ or ‘Cannaregio 5960′) and without hesitation hit the street for that number, thinking you’ll find the place in no time. Ha!  Don’t be fooled.

Unless for some reason you are incredibly lucky and just stumble upon it, you could be doomed forever. Numbers in Venice are no joke — or, are they? There is basically no logic to it.  You could be looking at a ’6789′ and the next house down will be a ’3546′.

There’s only one solution – find a postman! They are the ONLY ONES who know the numbers.

That being said, if you want to find a place, don’t write it down with the address being ‘Sestiere XY, number xyxy’ but rather find the nearest PIAZZA, or ‘Campo’, as they are called locally.  In Venice only Saint Mark’s is allowed the name ‘piazza’ (square); all the other minor squares are called ‘campo’. This will also distinguish you from the category ‘tourist’ and bring you closer to being a true Venetian.

8. Venice might change your life.

If you only go for 2 days, you will probably confirm that it’s as gorgeous and romantic as you thought it would be. Or, you might think you’ll NEVER want to go back – if all you see is the heavily touristed side.

With no cars and all that beauty, Venice seems otherworldly. The different rhythm of life makes you question a lot of things, pulls you inward.Venice is not just about seeing Venice but feeling it.  ”Life without cars” –  my favorite phrase.  Can you even even IMAGINE that?

Laura Bauerlein is half Italian, half German and grew up mostly in Rome.  She’s affectionately known as the Cross-Pollinate gypsy and Venice expert.  She recently spent a good deal of time there with her partner and 2-year-old daughter, meeting owners and inspecting properties.

Not All Vacation Rental Agencies Are Created Equal – an Interview with NY Habitat


I have a lot of respect for NY Habitat.  I’ve used them personally in New York, years ago, to book an amazing apartment that cost a fraction of a hotel and gave our family at least 3 times the space.  More than that, I respect them because in many ways they are on the same side of an imaginary line that separates Cross-Pollinate from other sites that, in my opinion, are following a dangerous trend in the vacation rental market.

I’ve lost count over the years of how many accommodation agencies have sprouted up like weeds online — many of them promoting the same properties (sometimes unbeknownst to the owners) in an identically impersonal way and with cookie-cutter designs (large slideshow image of a beautiful apartment and a big, fat text box that says something direct like “where do you want to go?”).  The business model may differ from site to site, but almost all of them that are getting serious press and financial backing, and thus are the ones competing for your eyeballs, have traded in any notion of quality control for scalability.  Having witnessed everything that can go wrong in international travel over the last 10 years, the thought of what happens to that 1 or 2% of tourists who fall through the cracks — ie. gets scammed, books a place that doesn’t exist, or has their accommodation canceled by the owner at the last minute — makes me cringe.   Large sites find this percentage acceptable, and perhaps when you do millions of revenue, it’s a small price to pay.  But when you’re the guy on vacation, with 1 week to spare a year, things look a helluva lot different.

It didn’t used to be like this though.  When we started Cross-Pollinate in 2000, it was all much simpler.  It was rare that people sought out apartments and spare rooms in the first place, so we had to go and inspect them and make sure they existed before we could promote them. Sites like ours, and NY Habitat, which was founded in 1998, were certainly pioneers in getting these alternative accommodations online so they could be reserved easily.  Unfortunately, this model of ours, which works quite well, albeit on a small, manageable scale, has grown into an industry of inexperienced players, flushed with cash and credibility issues.

Talking to Marie-Reine, the founder of NY Habitat, helped reinforce my conviction that the “mom-and-pop / Main Street” version of the travel world is worth preserving.



1.  What’s your personal background and how did New York Habitat get started?

Originally from a small town in Western France, I actually started my career working in an antique business company. For business purposes, I traveled to New York for a few months in 1981. That was the first time I discovered NYC, and I immediately fell in love with the city! I had to go back to France shortly after but returned to the city later on to settle eventually. Since I was living in the Big Apple, I started having a lot of people asking to stay at my apartment to visit the city: first family, then friends, then friends of friends… I had so many people asking me to host them I even told everyone to stop giving out my contacts! That’s when I realized how much of the big dream New York represented for so many people. Everyone wants to come here! So I decided to turn the loft I was working in into a vacation rental for anyone coming to New York City. It all went fast from then on: I obtained my license, expanded the team, Francois Roux joined up and implemented the website (, and we were on our way to becoming the successful company New York Habitat is today.

2.  What’s the New York Habitat model and what do you think distinguishes you from other websites?  In other words, why should someone book through you and not stay in a hotel?  Why should someone book through you and not another website?

The strength of New York Habitat lies in three factors: cosmopolitanism, expertise and protection. Indeed, you could picture NYH as a bridge between owner and tenant, between two people and between two cultures. We have agents fluent in many languages, including French, Spanish, Italian and German, and we have branches not only in New York but also in Paris, London and in the South of France. Also, we rely on our staff of most professional Real Estate Agents, who make a point of assisting and educating our clientele in their search for an accommodation or housing. Finally, we understand that in a world where it is becoming easier and easier to rent an apartment or a vacation rental, people need a safety net to protect themselves from many of the threats we have seen in the papers lately. This is why we provide guarantees before, during and after the stay of clients through state licenses worldwide and compliance to the latest current laws surrounding housing.  We want our clientele to feel safe and fully enjoy their stay in a New York Habitat accommodation.

3.  You’ve been in the business long enough to have seen a lot of changes in the online travel industry.  What changes do you predict in the next 2-5 years?

Well, first of all, I think that e-booking is definitely going to go mainstream and, with so many things to make it easy for us to rent an apartment, I am certain that within a few years we will be able to rent an apartment just like we book a hotel room. Also, we will attend the development of peer-to-peer in the market, with all of these new websites that allow people to rent apartments directly to each other. This will deeply reshape the housing market and the role of brokers in the future. In order to follow these changes smoothly, we need to think about new concepts and grow towards a more complete expertise and better communication. We need to create tomorrow’s broker.

4.  New York Habitat has a stunning amount of fans/followers – you’re like a rock star!  What do you think the key to your success is?  What is it that you think people identify with about your company?

99% perspiration, 1% inspiration! It’s been a lot of work accumulated throughout the years to become what New York Habitat is today. Our work is very tiring because what we create is something sustainable and strongly built, and I think people can see that: through a constant level of excellence in our service. Our internationality combined with a personalized expertise helped us build our reputation over the years. And all the work behind the scene, like a case-by-case approach and a thorough inspection of each one of our apartments, gives a unique sense of safety to our clientele.

Over the last 2 years, we have started to engage in the social media community and it has been very exciting. Our Facebook fans (30,000 as of today) show us what they are interested via their Likes and comments, and our Twitter followers (12,000 so far) encourage us to find new ideas, new deals. All of them share their experiences with us, which allows us to improve our service and strive for excellence. It is definitely a win-win situation when you take the time to listen!

Our goal is to share and expand our knowledge via articles, to-do lists and videos.

We recently started sharing content on Tumblr (very visual website with lots of pictures and tips), on Flickr, on Foursquare (if you are not sure what to do in New York, Paris, London or even the South of France, check us out!) and on Google+.

We enjoy sharing our knowledge and receiving feedback from our customers and Fans.

5.  Do you have a horror story that comes to mind either from the perspective of a guest or owner or agent, or all three?

We did have a few bad stories like you never expect them to happen, but there is one that struck me especially. We had found housing for this woman in a roommate share in a Paris apartment and about a year ago, a huge fire started for an unknown reason and burned down the whole place! There was absolutely nothing left but ashes! But luckily no one got hurt. Of course, since the rental was completely destroyed we relocated her, as well as the landlady that was also living there and had lost her apartment…. Insurance kicked in and helped them out but trust me we got really scared for the people living in the accommodation!

6.  Can you tell a story about how NYH has been able to come through for someone and really save the day?

It sounds incredible but we find emergency housing for people almost every week! You have no idea how many people get scammed by Craigslist all the time! We even wrote an article about them on our New York Habitat blog ( People think it is easy and simple to rent an apartment so they just go ahead and reply to an advertisement but they don’t realize how dangerous that can be until it is too late! Hopefully, most of the time we are able to find them another apartment to live in and people are always extremely grateful to us when that happens. It makes me personally proud because that is another proof of the level of service we fight to reach!

7.  What are your plans for the future – either for New York Habitat or otherwise?

Work smarter, more efficiently and keep raising our service to the next level. Now more than ever the housing market has grown increasingly competitive with the appearance of a whole series of unfair competitors. Peer-to-peer websites that allow people to rent apartments directly to each other represent a real threat to the traditional real estate model. If this peer-to-peer trend isn’t challenged legally, the whole market of real estate housing will be completely reshaped. A recent law issued by the State of New York and prohibiting rentals for less than 30-days in class-A buildings already modified our entire business structure. We adapted ourselves and do our best to stay afloat while respecting the law but this has to apply to every player in the real estate market. You will find more legal information on this blog dedicated to New York housing laws: We don’t know what tomorrow will be made of but yet here at New York Habitat, we’re hoping for the best… and long live vacation rentals!

To discover more about New York Habitat, visit our website and find the social media icons like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc.

by Steven Brenner