Do you have a spare room, guest house, or second property? Are you able to leave your own home for long periods of time? Then you’re probably considering being an Airbnb host. And it makes sense. It’s a pretty nice way to make some easy money, right?
Well, it may not be as easy as you think. Airbnb hosting takes a lot of hard work — and homework and prep work and … you get the picture. It takes work. What you put into it affects what you get out of it, so if you want to be successful, you’ve got to put in some literal and figurative elbow grease.
Whether you’re beginning your Airbnb hosting venture or looking to pick up some new tips, we’ve got the inside scoop on how to turn your house into an ideal home away from home.
1. Do some research
We talked to Airbnb Superhost Leslie Taylor, and she offered some insight into what it takes to be a highly rated host. Leslie currently owns a one-bedroom apartment in Bozeman, MT, that she lists on Airbnb, and she’s also rented a room in her Maryland home.
She’s stayed at numerous Airbnb rentals herself, so she knows what it takes to be successful — as well as some common mistakes to avoid.
To start, she suggests getting in the right headspace by setting up an Airbnb account, looking at other listings in your area, and reading articles on what it takes to be an effective host (you’ve already got a jump on that one!).
There are lots of great resources out there — even one managed by Airbnb.
Some things you’ll need to contemplate before creating your own listing:
- Nightly rates: Look at prices for various types of accommodations and amenities to get an idea of how to assess your own place.
- Booking availability: Are you able to offer your home throughout the year, or are there times when your listing will be unavailable? How much turnover time do you want? Leslie says that most of her guests stay for a week, but she’s had bookings ranging from two nights to two months.
- Airbnb rules: Are you fine with children and pets in your home? How many people can comfortably sleep there? Consider what’s feasible and what’s out of the question.
- Design ideas: As you peruse Airbnb listings, you’ll notice that some look much better than others. What makes the spaces stand out? Maybe it’s the minimalist décor, clean paint colors, or special amenities. What do you like or dislike? Make a list you can reference as you plan your own home makeover.
- Photography assistance: In the age of smartphones, we all think we’re photographers, but there’s a reason why some photos look better than others (hint: they’re taken by experts). A quick look at Airbnb listing photos, and you can easily tell the ones that were snapped by the host’s iPhone and the ones that were shot by a photographer. If you want your listing to stand out, consider hiring a pro. This is a great investment that will pay off in future revenue.
- Your competitive edge: Is there anything that makes — or could make — your property stand out? Ask yourself why guests should choose your home over the other options in your city. “Read the reviews to get a sense of what’s out there,” Leslie says. “That way, you can understand what people value and what things they’re looking for — or missing — in a place to stay.”
2. Give your space a guest-friendly makeover
To make your place suitable for guests, you’ll probably need to make some updates or additions. Before you add, though, focus on subtracting.
People typically like a clean aesthetic, so a great first step is to declutter and organize. If you’re not going to be living in the space full-time, consider cleaning out personal items like picture frames, portraits, and albums. If you’re cleaning out things that you don’t want to throw away or donate, use a portable storage container or self-storage unit.
Here are some other possible enhancements or updates:
- Leslie notes that most of her guests like to cook and eat in. If possible, provide at least a coffee machine, electric tea kettle, and refrigerator or mini fridge.
- Check your internet service and speed. “Good WIFI access is a must,” says Leslie.
- If you want to make the most of a small space, add bunk beds or a pullout sofa.
- Have a dresser, closet, or chest where guests can store their things.
- Everyone loves good lighting. Put a lamp by the bed for nighttime reading.
- If you don’t want to fool with exchanging or hiding keys, a keyless entry pad is a game-changer. “I code mine with the last four digits of my guests’ cell numbers,” Leslie says. “This is a nice personal touch.”
- Some hosts don’t put enough thought into their beds, according to Leslie. They use cheap sheets and mattresses, and the poor night’s sleep results in poor reviews. Invest in a nice mattress and high-quality, white, cotton linens. You don’t have to spend a fortune on Egyptian cotton, either. Many retailers carry quality options for reasonable prices.
|Pro Tip: If you're cleaning out things you don't want to throw away or donate, or if you’re doing some serious remodeling to get your home Airbnb-ready and need to clear the clutter, consider using a portable storage container, which you can store either in your driveway or at a secure storage facility for as long as you need.|
3. Stock up on supplies
You’re going to need more than a comfortable place to sleep to keep guests happy. You don’t have to go overboard, but you do want to keep your Airbnb home stocked with the basics.
For the kitchen:
- Bottled water
- Sugar/sugar substitutes
- Salt and pepper
- A few basic cooking spices
- Paper towels
- Hand soap
- Plates, cups, and silverware
- Garbage bags
For the bathroom:
- Toilet paper (and lots of it)
- Towels (and lots of them)
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Hair dryer
- Extra blankets
- A television
- Local maps/lists of places of interest
- Disinfectant wipes/other cleaning supplies
- Latex gloves in a dispenser
- Hand sanitizers
- Individually wrapped masks
|Pro Tip: Leslie says guests love using pump dispensers. From hand soap to conditioner, try to provide as many products as possible in pump form.|
4. Go by the golden rule
As you start working with guests, think about how you’d like to be treated if you were the guest.
A few key values and traits that go a long way:
- A clean home: According to Leslie, this is the top priority for most people — and understandably so. Now more than ever, they want to know that their temporary home or apartment is clean. In addition to keeping her Airbnb homes decluttered and organized, Leslie uses a professional cleaning service between visitors to ensure a positive experience
- Open, friendly communication: Did you know Airbnb allows you to digitally store and send documents to your guests? Let them know how to get to your home, gain entry, and any other pertinent information.
- Accessibility: Sometimes things go wrong and the guests need to get in touch with you quickly. Make sure they have your contact information — and that you’ll be around to take their call, answer their email, or respond to a text. If your guests have a major problem, it needs to be dealt with right away.
5. Expect the unexpected
Speaking of things going wrong, it happens. Keypads fail, electricity goes out, toilets overflow. The important thing is to be prepared.
“You need to have a plan and people you can rely on,” says Leslie. This includes a property manager (if you’re unable to do it yourself) and some go-to contacts for repairs, like plumbing and heating or A/C.
But what happens if something goes wrong that isn’t home-related, like a personal injury? While Airbnb has liability coverage, Leslie recommends doing two things:
- Let your insurance provider know you’re going to use the residence for Airbnb hosting purposes.
- Set up an LLC and use it as your hosting company. This isn’t as complicated as it sounds. A limited liability company protects your assets if you’re faced with a lawsuit.
To show your guests you’re putting their safety first, have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors installed in your home. Check them regularly to make sure they’re in good working order. And if you’re going to host families with children, you need childproof outlet covers and other child-focused protective measures.
Also, create an emergency plan. This can include contact information for local law enforcement and fire protection services as well as an evacuation plan. Leslie emails this information to her guests and leaves a printed document in her apartment for quick reference.
6. Unleash your inner Superhost
Airbnb has an algorithm that puts certain listings at the top of the search results, and one thing that affects that placement is reviews.
If you have several positive reviews and meet a few other criteria, you could become an Airbnb Superhost. This status is earned by experienced hosts who exemplify superior service.
To earn positive reviews, you have to provide a positive experience. It’s a no-brainer. But in addition to following the previously mentioned tips, Leslie suggests going above and beyond and letting your guests know that they can personally contact you if anything goes wrong.
She admits that this is easier to do when a guest is renting a room in a host’s home, but if you’re not going to see the guests during their stay, ask them to please contact you to correct any issues. This (hopefully) prevents them from taking out their frustrations in the reviews section of your listing.
Unfortunately, once a bad review is published, there’s nothing you can do about it. And, like your GPA in college, somehow one bad review seems to have a bigger effect on your overall rating than you might think.
Don’t let the thought of negative reviews scare you, though. Overall, Airbnb hosting is a fun gig. “In my experience, most guests are good, nice people,” says Leslie. “And Airbnb is an efficient, transparent system.”
Sure, becoming an Airbnb host requires putting in some hours and keeping your property well maintained — which you’re hopefully doing anyway — but think about all that you get in return. You’re not just making a little cash on the side; you’re getting an opportunity to meet new people and provide a helpful service. That’s pretty priceless.
LB Gabriel is a freelance writer and frequent PODS blog contributor. When she’s not on a deadline, you can find her on a tennis court or golf course.
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