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Airbnb, for the uninitiated, is a product of the booming share economy. It’s an online marketplace that allows people to rent out their spare rooms, apartments or houses to guests who would otherwise be looking at hotels or hostels.
There are almost 5 million listings worldwide. This means that, unless you’re lucky enough to be in an area with an under-utilized Airbnb market, you’ll need to learn to stand out from the crowd. Read on to find out how.
Consider: Will You Be A Good Host?
Hosting via Airbnb might seem like an easy way to make a few quick bucks (and it certainly can be). That said, it’s not quite as simple as signing up, chucking a few photos and a description online and watching your bank account grow.
At the bare minimum, you’ll need to be available to assist your guests and you’ll need to ensure the property is clean. To be a great host, you’ll need to spend time anticipating your guests’ needs and taking their suggestions on board to improve your service.
Questions To Ask Yourself:
1. Have you got the time?
Airbnb is not passive income, you do have to work for your money. You’ll need to answer queries before and after booking, as well as during their stay. You’ll generate better reviews if you are quick to respond (communication is one criterion for review).
People often send queries through to multiple hosts and are likely to book with the host that responds first. So, fast response time can also earn you money.
If you’re known to be slack with your phone, you’ll need to lift your game to become a great Airbnb host.
2. Have You Got The Patience?
Airbnb can be exhausting, but if you want to keep up your ratings then you’ll need to adopt the retail attitude – the customer is always right.
Issues like ‘the air conditioning doesn’t work’ when they haven’t turned it are a dime a dozen for Airbnb hosts. If you’re sharing the property with your guests, this isn’t such a problem. If you’re located in a different suburb and are renting out an entire property, this can get pretty tiring pretty quickly.
If you’re not the type of person who will deal empathetically and patiently with whatever it is people find trying, then maybe Airbnb hosting is not your calling. Think on it.
3. Are You The Type?
In addition to patience and time, it’s helpful if you’re a bit of a people person. This one isn’t the be all and end all, but the ability to sell your product (your home) and make guests feel welcome will lead to more positive reviews (and more bookings).
4. Are The Risks Worth It?
It’s not all roses and mortgage repayments with Airbnb. There are definite risks involved with renting out your property.
Issues with guests are rare, but they do crop up from time to time. You can read some horror stories here if you’re interested in the worst case scenario.
Whilst Airbnb does have the Host Guarantee that protects you from some errant guest behaviour, it is not a comprehensive policy. Many of your valuables and common areas are not protected, for example. Nor are you covered for any damage by pets, if you allow them.
Therefore, you’ll need to consider home and contents insurance. These costs need to be factored into your decision about whether or not hosting will be worth it.
5. Am I even allowed to Host?
Being a good host means complying with your city’s laws – the last thing you want is for a council worker to come knocking on your Airbnb’s door to issue a fine when a guest is in.
Just because you want to host, doesn’t mean that you can. Airbnb recommends checking out your local laws to assess whether you’re legally allowed to list your property. Regulations for many US cities are listed here.
New York, San Francisco and Santa Monica have been identified by Investopedia as cities that have particularly tricky regulations within the US.
The fines for non-compliance with local laws can be hefty, so it’s probably not worth trying to flout the system.
Just because there aren’t laws against your Airbnb ambitions doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re in the clear. If you’re renting, you’ll need to check your contract to see where you stand in terms of subletting.
Odds are that you’ll need to approach your landlord about permission to sublet your spare space. Airbnb has provided a helpful article explaining how to go about asking your landlord.
6. Is Your Property Safe?
You should list emergency contact details as well as directions and numbers for the nearest hospital/medical center/doctor somewhere obvious. The refrigerator is usually a safe bet.
Make the fire escape options obvious as well. Putting up a map beside the emergency contacts might be worthwhile, particularly in an apartment building.
Functioning smoke alarms that comply with government safety guidelines and which routinely have their batteries checked and replaced should be scattered throughout the property. This will help to protect you as well as your guests.
Consider supplying and maintaining a basic first aid and a fire extinguisher or fire blanket.
Airbnb also lists whether or not you have a carbon monoxide detector prominently on your listing. You might not be required to have one according to your city’s regulations, but it might increase guest trust.
You can check out Airbnb’s further tips for providing a safe environment here.
Many questions hosts are likely to consider have been answered by the friendly folk at Airbnb in an FAQ.
If you’ve considered everything and decided you’re made of the right stuff, here are our practical steps for becoming a great host:
Make The Booking Process Simple
Be Reasonable (and Realistic) With Your Pricing
Do some research before setting your price. Your pricing point needs to be competitive if you want to attract people to your property. Conversely, you don’t want your pricing to be too low.
Don’t rely on Airbnb’s suggested pricing. The algorithm used isn’t sophisticated enough to be truly valuable.
You should consider the other tips in their Pricing section regarding cleaning and other fees, however. Read them here.
You can also check out Airbnb’s tips for making your property more competitive here.
How To Determine Your Pricing:
You can start your research by searching for nearby properties on Airbnb. Set the date for 3 or so months in advance so that you get the best spread of properties (they don’t show if they’re booked for the dates you search for).
You should use the filters to find properties similar to yours. Consider the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you have and those that are closest to you. You want to compare apples with apples.
You’ll want to take note of the weekday and weekend pricing of your competitors. You should note how often these properties are being booked (check out the frequency of the reviews and the blocked out dates on their booking calendars).
Also, consider whether your competitors offer discounted rates for longer guests. Some guests like to stay for weeks or even months at a time. You should consider whether the certainty of income for the longer periods is worth discounting your rate.
You should also contemplate how popular your city is year round. If you’re in an area that doesn’t attract many guests during an ‘off-season’, it might be worth implementing a seasonal pricing calendar.
Making simple changes during the off-season, like including the word ‘discount’ in your title, offering a larger percentage discount for longer bookings can make huge changes to your off-season income.
Check out this article on optimizing your Airbnb for the off-season for further hints.
Some Listing Etiquette:
I once booked (overpriced) accommodation in a city for a music festival. My spirits couldn’t be dampened by the inflated pricing, however, as I was really looking forward to the event.
I was crushed when I arrived. Without boring you with the details, to say that the room was not as described still feels like an understatement, even all these years later.
If you want good reviews, you want your guests to know what to expect. Overhyping your property before they arrive will lead to disappointment upon arrival. This is not conducive to positive public feedback.
If you feel like your property isn’t up to scratch for a romantic getaway, price it so that it’s a desirable option for budget travelers who will be thankful for a cheap room over their head.
Check out this article detailing how to take great, accurate photos of your listing. Your photos should be designed so that they show off the best of your property without misleading your potential guests.
Be Clear About What You Offer (And What You Don’t)
This is some more advice about not being sneaky. If there’s something that you’d usually expect to be provided and you don’t provide it, make that very clear to your guests.
I once arrived at a property only to find out that they didn’t provide towels. The host was adamant that it was stated on the profile, but after going back through everything I’d received – I still couldn’t find it.
If I’d known, bringing a towel wouldn’t have been a big deal for me. Instead, drying myself with my t-shirt put me off an otherwise reasonably good stay.
Moral of the story is, make sure your guests know what they’re getting themselves in to. If you’re priced appropriately, whatever you don’t provide probably won’t be a big deal – unless it surprises them!
You can add a House Manual to your listing to provide your guests with further information about your property. Don’t rely on them reading it though! If there’s anything they really need to know, make it clear somewhere else.
The Guest’s Stay
You want your guests to be comfortable, safe and in the know.
Communication is Key
First of all, make sure your guests know how they’ll be getting in before they arrive. Consider that they might not have internet access on the day of their arrival (many foreign travelers don’t have local SIM cards). It’s often better to send instructions well in advance of their arrival.
Best practice is to get in touch within a few days of the booking being made with some key information. If they’ve booked well in advance, contact them again in the days leading up to their stay so that they feel secure knowing that you haven’t forgotten them and that you’re on hand.
Bonus Tip: Having a keyless entry system will really set you apart, but it’s not a deal-breaker for most guests.
The Small Things – Amenities
Your amenities are the thing that will set you apart from your closest competitors. You should consider what you can provide that will make your property more attractive to prospective guests. A basic breakfast or coffee making facilities might be the thing that prompt someone to book their stay with you.
Once you’ve decided what you’ll provide, you should make sure they’re up to scratch. Routinely check your appliances are operating well (and are clean) and that your sheets aren’t starting to sport sweat stains.
Appearances count too so you need to make sure that your amenities match your pricing. If you’ve priced your property for upper-market guests, don’t go with the cheapest shampoo/soap/towels. In fact, it’s often best to avoid the cheapest option regardless of your target audience.
WiFi is almost a non-negotiable as well. Make sure the password is easy to find (and easy to read).
Help Your Guests Explore
Putting together a small ‘Welcome Pack’ is a simple way to make your guest feel welcome and comfortable. You should include information about local attractions, nearby supermarkets and pharmacies, and restaurant/bar/pub suggestions for varying budgets.
Adding brochures, maps and booklets from the local tourist office is another easy way to get the word out about local offerings.
If Something Goes Wrong, Make It Right
Unfortunately, life doesn’t always go to plan. Air mattresses fail, the power goes out, light globes blow and freezers leak. If/when this happens, make sure you’re on hand to help out.
Offering a small refund or asking what you can do to make up for slight inconveniences tends to go a long way, especially if you offer first. That being said, if your guests are making demands for compensation and you honestly feel that it isn’t worth the commotion, stand your ground. Politely.
You can find information about providing a refund via Airbnb here.
Follow-up with your guests after they leave (and before they write a review) wishing them a safe onward journey and thanking them for their booking.
Be gracious if they provide feedback and thank them for it. There are likely to be guests you can’t please, but remember that if you receive the same feedback time after time, the guests are probably not the one causing the problem.
Finally, Airbnb hands out Superhost Status to hosts who have met the requirements over the previous 365 days. They are:
- A minimum of 10 guests have stayed at the property
- 50% review rate or higher maintained throughout the year
- 90% response rate or higher maintained
- 0 cancellations
- 4.8 overall rating maintained.
Superhosts earn on average 22% than hosts without the status, so it’s something to aim for. They also get access to extra referral bonus programs, exclusive perks, priority access to Airbnb support and a bunch of other perks.
If you have any other questions about being a great Airbnb host, feel free to let us know in the comments down below. Thanks for reading and happy frugaling!