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Whether it be a vacation rental or inviting guests into your own home, taking the first steps to establishing an Airbnb rental can feel daunting. Big or small, private or communal, my experience running an Airbnb as a Superhost can help you do the same.
How Does Airbnb Work as a Host? The 5 best tips to being a successful host are:
- Make sure your property is rental ready.
- Develop a well-documented listing.
- Communicate well from the first interaction to the last.
- Greetings and goodbyes– how to set expectations and get great reviews.
- How reviews are used by both hosts and guests.
When renting space as an Airbnb, I start seeing that space as though I were the guest. As I walk through the space I ask myself: What is the initial impression of the landscaping? What do I smell as I walk through the door? Is the bathroom clean? But in reality, our guests start evaluating our rentals before ever stepping foot on the property.
The first impression is through the listing and the last impression is made during the review process. No host wants a disappointed guest, so managing expectations and communication throughout the rental process is vital.
My 5 best tips for being a successful host will help you establish your first Airbnb listing so the guest leaves delighted!
Hosts Should Make Sure Your Airbnb is Rental Ready
Most hosts understand that you can’t just make a bed in a spare bedroom and suddenly have a successful Airbnb rental. Whether you live in your rental or it’s a separate unit, the entire property contributes to the over-all impression your guests make.
You’ll also find that, if your property is well maintained, you’ll attract guests more willing to keep it that way. Here are step by step instructions for making your property rental ready:
- Walk through your property with a clipboard before you get started and make a list of everything you need to do. You should do this after you think you’re “done,” and at least once a week as you rent your space.
- Ask yourself questions as if you were the guest. “Where do I park?” “Where is the bathroom.” “How do I find extra towels, blankets, and toilet paper?” “Is the rental clean?” “Where is the nearest grocery store, gas station, or post office?” Seeing your property through your guests’ perspective is key.
- Clean everything! Your rental should sparkle and smell clean. Pay special attention to toilets, sinks, and beds. If bedding smells sour or like mildew wash everything in white distilled vinegar and again with detergent. If carpets smell bad and continue to smell when deodorized with baking soda – then rip them out and put down laminate, hardwood, or tile.
- Eliminate knick-knacks and clutter. If it’s broken – fix it or replace it. Understand that every smell, broken fixture, or missing lightbulb will show up in the review process. This includes communal spaces, whether that is the rest of the house outside the bedroom door or the lawn and garden spaces. Keep things clean, organized, and guest ready.
- Finally, look over the décor of any guest space. Unless you’re advertising a space built around a theme (like a Victorian house, English cottage, or ocean boardwalk bungalow) the space should be minimalistic and modern in decoration and design.
- The reason is because modern and minimalistic spaces are easy to clean and leave a good impression. Everything has a place and when you take pictures of the rental it looks clean, crisp, and ready to occupy. If you can’t afford to redesign your rental space, start by taking down personal photos, and only displaying a few paintings or pictures on the wall. If it’s sentimental, it should stay in your private quarters.
Take that clipboard through the rental one last time and note anything that needs to change. Use all of your senses and make sure the rental looks, sounds, smells, and feels like a good space to visit. Then prepare to build your listing!
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Hosts Should Develop a Well-Documented Airbnb Listing
Many people publish their listing without the recommended number of photos, without figuring out the right rental price, or before fully describing the features that make their investment property unique. This is your guests’ first impressions. Follow these tips to create a great listing:
- Take many photos and make sure they’re good ones. Some vacation rental owners pay a professional photographer to take photos of their rental, and for good reason! The photos are what actually sells your listing to your future guests. If the photos aren’t good and plentiful, you’ll only see a small amount of possible bookings for your property. Some rentals see a dramatic shift in the number of occupancy days and the amount owners are able to charge, simply because they improve the photos seen by potential guests.
- The Airbnb platform will walk you through the steps for creating a great listing – don’t skimp on any of the steps. List each amenity. Spend time describing your property and the surrounding area. Carefully consider whether you should accept pets or if your property can be considered wheelchair accessible. Will you provide breakfast as part of the rental? What kind and how? This could be muffins from a local bakery or just keeping eggs, milk, and bread for your guests to make their own. Whatever you offer or do should be well documented in your description. This is the time to set prices and establish damage deposits as well.
- Once you have your listing finished, read through it making sure it fairly represents the actual property. It’s not good to tell guests that they’ll have a “gourmet breakfast” when you’re just dropping off some bagels from the grocery store. You shouldn’t advertise a mountain view that’s only seen from the upstairs bathroom window. Make sure expectations are slightly lower than reality so your guests feel you deliver more than you promise.
Once your listing is perfect. It’s time to publish and start getting a return on your time and hard work. Your property and listing are ready for guests! It’s time to prepare the host!
Airbnb Hosts Should Communicate Well From the First Interaction to the Last
As the host of a rental, a large part of your job is ensuring the guest can communicate problems and questions. Most written communication can be done entirely through the Airbnb app but there are ways to answer questions before they come up for a smooth, consistent experience for each guest.
- Prepare some automatic replies to common questions. These will include directions to get to the house and where to park, your pet policy, and whether you can accommodate food allergies. You can also draft an email that tells the guests about any maintenance that’s occurring on or around the property or any events that may make travel to your property difficult.
- Keep your notifications on before and during a guest’s stay. Keeping lines of communication open allows you to respond to a guest’s need in a timely manner. Often an issue is overlooked during the review process if it’s solved quickly and efficiently.
- Provide a local guide for your guests. This can be in the form of a booklet, electronic tablet, or a collection of brochures from your favorite local attractions. Don’t forget to supply guests with emergency contacts for the hospital, police, or fire department. We also supply directions to the nearest grocery store, post office, automotive repair and coffee shop. Some hosts even supply restaurant guides and reviews. Whatever you compile for your guests, make it portable so they can take it on day trips.
- At the end of a visit, send an email thanking them for their stay and offering accommodations next time they’re in town. I like to include a personal statement, like: “It was a pleasure to get to know you and your little dog, Rosco.” This is not the time to bring up any issues you had with your guest. Keep this email light and full of gratitude.
Your ability to communicate will make a marked difference in the reviews you receive from your guests. Keep communication positive and light whenever possible.
Host Greetings and Goodbyes
Both greetings and goodbyes are an important part of hosting. Greeting your guest helps establish a friendly rapport and inform them of any important details about their rental. A well said “goodbye” reminds guests of your participation in their stay.
- When greeting a guest, keep in mind that this is the perfect opportunity to determine what that guest will need during their stay. They may be friendly or reclusive and their response to your greeting will help you determine what kind of interaction this guest will want. I like to greet guests with a glass of wine when they arrive in the evening. They can either join me at the table in the garden or, if they seem to need privacy, I offer to take a glass or two over after they have time to settle in. I’ve stayed in Airbnb rentals where I’m given a tour of the area, offered a piece of chocolate, or even invited to the nearest tavern for a beer. A special greeting helps make your guest’s stay memorable.
- When guests take their leave, I take a moment to thank them for their stay and invite them to come again. I often reiterate all the things I did to make their stay successful. For example: “I’m so glad your children enjoyed the games I found for them.” This sets you up for a positive review.
As you get used to hosting an Airbnb, you’ll find yourself predicting what people need and want from your rental. Some guests come and go without saying more than a few words to their hosts and others are eager to be introduced to the culture and people of the area. Paying attention to these differences is an important aspect to hosting.
How Reviews are Used by Both Airbnb Hosts and Guests
The review process is a vital part of the Airbnb platform. Crowdsourcing reviews help reassure both guests and hosts that they are dealing with honest, decent people.
- Reviews are used by guests to communicate to the owner any issues that affected the quality of their stay. They’re also, at times, addressed to future guests encouraging them to visit or not visit based on this experience. It’s easy to take guest reviews personally. After all, They’re talking about your performance as a host. In reality, the review is the best single source of information you receive from your guest. Overall, the review system tells you exactly what you need to improve upon and what aspect of your rental is most valued. You’re invited to respond to a guest review to acknowledge the comment and state how any complaints are being resolved for future guests.
- Reviews written by hosts operate on a similar premise. It can tell hosts whether to accept someone as a guest. There is a drawback to leaving negative feedback for guests, however. If you do so, they are unlikely to return to your rental. I try not to leave any negative reviews unless the guest caused damage and wouldn’t be invited back.
The accumulation of guest reviews will be averaged to form a star rating for guests to look at when choosing a place to stay in your area. That rating can eventually earn you a “Superhost” badge.
Encourage your guests to leave a review because the more reviews you have, the more likely the odd negative review will be countered by positive feedback.
Making sure your property is ready, creating a great listing, learning how to greet your guests, communicating well, and embracing the review process will undoubtedly help you create an Airbnb rental that rises above the competition.
Remember to use Airbnb host forums if you have questions that Airbnb can’t answer. Happy hosting!
How does Airbnb Work for Guests?
Guests search for rentals either by a specific area, rental type, or accommodations and are given a selection of rentals to choose from. Superhosts are identified by a badge and float to the top of the search criteria.