This is a how to guide for getting your space ready to rent on Airbnb, it includes beginner tips and expert advice for becoming a successful host, and it’s really the video I wish I had when starting out on Airbnb. When I was trying to get started, I found lots of news articles and webpages with generic advice and most of it came from people who had never hosted with Airbnb before. This video explains how I went from an extra bedroom that was completely empty to an almost always booked high quality Airbnb listing and hopefully this helps others do the same.
The article is divided into 10 big topic areas with about a hundred little tips and tricks mixed in. This is a lot of content to take in and might be a little dense, but hopefully this makes it more useful to you and helps you avoid newbie mistakes.
You’re probably familiar with the basic idea of Airbnb. It’s a website where people can rent out a spare bedroom, a house, a caravan or anything in between. Hell, I’ve even seen people renting out tents on AirBnb!
The Airbnb site organizes and manage most of the booking process and payment process and the host simply has to fill out a listing which describes their space.
My first advice for any new host is to try booking and staying in someone else’s Airbnb first to understand how this works from a buyer’s perspective. New users can usually get a sign up bonus if you use a referral code when you set up your account. If you’re ready to become a host, how do you get started?
Well, we’ll use my apartment as an example. So in my apartment I had one extra bedroom that was completely empty except for a nice queen size mattress that I had and I wanted to turn this into a great Airbnb listing.
I was a little bit nervous at first that I would spend a bunch of money to create a bedroom and then no one would end up staying here. So I started out with a two part budget just in case it didn’t work out. Part one was all the essential costs for basic items that you needed to get a rental on Airbnb, and part two was the extra upgrades to make the rental experience better, and I did this after I had started making money.
The first step in creating your space is to find a style, make sure it’s a unique and catchy style and something that can distinguish your listing from all the others in your area. Check out sites like Instagram or other Airbnb listings for inspiration. Remember to also consider function in your design, like the ease of changing sheets, the ability for the equipment to handle wear and tear, and the time it takes you to actually set everything up.
Don’t forget to consider the style and design of all your amenities too, like hangers, mirrors, lights, rubbish bins, etc.
Here are a few setup tips that I learned. First, if your guests can use your closet, leave the door open so they know that. Also, put all your Airbnb items inside the room, but don’t necessarily put them all out for your guest. For example, I have warm blankets and extra linens in the closet where guests can see them and use them if they need to. But since 95% of guests won’t use them, it saves me time rewashing and refolding them and it decreases their wear and tear. This also minimizes the chance that your guests will bother you asking you for more towels or even worse, leave you a negative review saying that you didn’t have enough towels. The most important tips for your bedroom or the actual bed, make sure your bed is comfortable and if necessary by a piece of memory foam.
Also, buy a vinyl mattress and closure. This is a R200 piece of thin plastic that encases your bed and prevents things from getting through to the mattress. This will protect your mattress from odors, perfume, water, and even bed bugs, pinworms, lice or heaven forbid, pee. Obviously those are very rare things that you’re not likely to see, but this enclosure is a simple way to reduce the chance that any of these things become a problem. Vinyl covers are also very easy to wipe clean in a few seconds with a damp towel.
Next is the bathroom, which I’ll spend some time on because this can be a host’s biggest problem. If possible, try to give your guests a private bathroom, which they have exclusive access to. Before you start renting, do an inspection for basic maintenance. For example, you might want to re-silicone the sink or tub or fix a leaky toilet or scrub and paint some old stains, etc.
Another tip is to get a shower head with a hose attached, which makes cleaning the walls much faster. It’s a really inexpensive hardware upgrade, I would strongly advise. After you freshen up your bathroom, get it set up for Airbnb guests. Invest in bottles of soap dispensers, shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. This is a cheap, clean and fast way to give your guests all the basic bathroom necessities. I would also suggest a spray can of air freshner to put on top of the toilet. I like to stack towels on the desk in the bedroom, not on the towel rack, so guests know that they’re getting a clean towel. Inside the bathroom I also have some backup stuff on hand, like extra toilet paper, toothbrush, toothpaste, disposable razors, etc. just in case a guest’s needs them. I usually put these in the drawer where guests who are missing them might look, but otherwise most people will never use these items.
The most important part of your bathroom is to make sure it’s clean. Before each guest the bathroom needs to be cleaned. This is an area where I know people will be tempted to cut corners. For example, if a guest stays for only one night and barely uses the bathroom, you might say, “Do I really need to clean the bathroom? It looks perfectly fine.” Well, people aren’t paying you for a place that looks clean, they wanted a bathroom that was actually clean. The reason we do this is, because you can’t see viruses, fungus, bacteria, etc. So let me give you some tips on what to do with a barely used almost clean bathroom that you were tempted to just leave alone. We’re going to do a bare minimum touch up cleaning that takes 100 seconds and should minimize the chance that you have any problems, while saving you time.
The 100 second bathroom cleaning starts with the right tools in the same place. You need everything in this picture. Notice that I have a real spray bottle from Home Depot, not the cheap ones that come with household cleaners. This allows you to make your own detergent if you’re interested and this cleaner has bleached detergent, fragrance, and water. Start by spraying the tub and letting it sit for a minute. Then inspect the mirror and wipe it if it’s dirty, then always wipe the handles in the counter-top because this is where people touch and end by wiping the inside of the sink. Make sure your soap and conditioner bottles are clean and not empty. Then check your toilet paper and go to the toilet and wipe the handle, the seat, under the seat and the rim. Now go to your tub and mop the bottom and sides. Turn on the shower and rinse the entire tub. Be sure to look for stuck hairs. Even one hair will stick out and make the entire bathtub look gross, end by wiping the floor.
You should do at least the 100 second cleaning every single time. Don’t forget to do a complete cleaning on a regular basis, which includes washing the shower and the floor mat. This should ensure that your rental will not become the feature and a bad news article. When it comes to preparing for your next guest, make it easier on yourself. This starts with good planning. Make sure all your linens are white and you have all the proper cleaning supplies nearby and ready to go. Develop an organized routine and checklist so you can work efficiently without missing anything.
My cleaning process works like this. Grab all the bed sheets and towels and wash them in one load with a tiny bit of bleach and fabric softener. Then dry them with a fabric softener sheet so they smell delicious. With five minutes left on the dryer, I start my cleaning routine. Arrange the closet, then the window blinds, then the desk, wipe the bed cover, check the floor, check the trash, vacuum the floor, the hallway, put the keys on the table, put sheets on the bed.
After you’ve done this a few times, it really should only take 15 minutes to prepare for the next guest. A few pro tips during this cleaning process. As soon as your dryer is done, put the bed sheets on, this avoids wrinkling. For towels however, make sure they’re all dry before you fold them because you don’t want guests to think a towel was damp because the last guest used it. Also, do a pillow sniff tests between each guest to make sure your pillow smells neutral. You don’t want guests to smell someone else’s hairspray all night. I recommend having backup pillows and bed sheets just in case. Last pro tip, sticky roller for hairs. This is the sheers, because hairs are one of the few things that just don’t come out in the wash. To use it, roll it over the pillow case before you put it in the laundry and then check the whole bed after washing to pick up any stray hairs. Even though washed bed sheets with one hair on them are actually completely clean, as I mentioned with cleaning the bathroom hairs are just one of those things that guests associate with being dirty or unwashed.
Once your place is set up and clean, you’re ready to create a listing. Creating a listing is a bit more straightforward than getting your house ready because there’s a lot more instructions from Airbnb on how to get your place posted on their site. My basic advice here is read what Airbnb says and read the descriptions of other rentals in your area, particularly the successful ones to know how to make a good listing that looks better than the competition. A few tips and pitfalls here that are worth noting though. Mention things that your guests might have a problem with in your house. For example, are you up late at night are there kids, pets, strange smells? What about the area that your place is in. Sometimes you’ll have to have a few guests stay before you’ll actually notice what the problems are. Also, mention things that guests don’t have access to, but do this briefly. You don’t want to have one page of house rules because nobody will rent from you.
One thing you can do here is use certain expressions like normal use or reasonable amount when describing how many amenities guests can use in your home. Another little tip, tell guests almost all the advantages and features of your place, but save a few for when they arrive. For example, offer your guests something small that they weren’t expecting like a basket of mints or a bottle of water. This helps undo any problems if one of your listing features wasn’t quite as specified in your listing. The most important part of your listing is the photos because this is what guests see first. You’ll need about 10 good quality photos and one perfect photo, which should be of your actual bedroom. Do some mild digital editing, like adjusting the brightness and contrast, color saturation and using a high resolution camera. If you use your cell phone camera, make sure the photo is not compressed when you send it. For example, text messages are usually compressed. Also, remember not just to write a really great listing, but also have a good host profile and host picture.
I didn’t do anything crazy with Airbnb like listing your spare room and your couch and your whole house for a premium and sleeping at a friend’s place. Some people might do that, but it didn’t interest me. I did offer an optional air mattress in the living room for a third and fourth guests and charge 10 bucks more per night. That brings us to pricing. Check your local area for prices on similar listings and start out on the lower end. You can always change the price. Budget conscious renters are sometimes a little bit less picky about the amenities that you offer. You can vary the price on peak days or days where you are busy like weekends. Remember the price Airbnb charges your customers is a few dollars higher than what you charge. This can be important. For example, if you charge $48 the buyer will probably see a price of $52, so if the buyer searches for anything below $50 using the Airbnb filter, they’ll never find your rental.
I’m not going to go into discounts, short term versus long term rentals because this is very marketing and listing specific, but I do want to point out that you can really vary the type of bookings that you get by how you adjust these extra charges like cleaning fees. For example, consider two places, one at 30 per night with a $20 cleaning fee and the other had 40 per night with no cleaning fee. Many guests will book for one to two nights while the $30 listing is more likely to get week long rentals. You might look at rentals in your area and say, “These are too cheap for me, I guess I can’t do Airbnb.” Well, first you should try it out at a basic price a few times just to see if you like Airbnb. Then you can always list your place for more money because you might still get a few bookings and here’s why.
The hotel industry is famous for having wildly fluctuating nightly rents. Each city has a few weekends a year where there’s a big event in town and all the hotels are charging top dollar and all the cheap Airbnb places were booked up a long time ago. So your place may look like a great deal even though it’s usually too expensive. For communication, you should reply to all messages right away because response times are tracked by Airbnb. Send all your guests a personal confirmation message so they know that you are paying attention to your Airbnb listing. This is very important if you allow automatic booking because then you may not have talked to your guests yet. By the way, automatic booking work great for me, but you should be cautious about enabling this initially because you want to know who your typical renters are first. The day of arrival, I text guests a photo of the house and a map so they don’t get lost, and I ask what time they expect to arrive.
This is very important if you have neighbors with similar houses to you because guests can get annoyed and neighbors can get annoyed quickly if guests keep coming to their door and you don’t want to be unneighborly, of course. Also, if you’re a tenant or your landlord has special rules for short team leasing, this might be a problem. So check with your landlord, your lease agreement and your homeowner’s association first. Okay, so back to communication. For check-in try to be home to give guests and introduction to your place. Though if you’re not available, there are things you can do. For example, you can put a key hidden under the door or better yet get a lockbox like real estate agents use for extra security and then just text guests the access code. As far as how to greet your guests and welcomed them, well, I have no specific advice, but just try to be nice and welcoming and point out all the things like amenities, lights, switches and thermostats that they may want to know about.
Also, write a one page summary of all the information about your place, probably things you’ve already told them, but print it out and put it on the desk. Like Wifi information, house rules, tips, suggestions for places to go and things to do, your name, your phone number, an alternate person in their contact number and any frequently asked questions or suggestions from other people who have stayed. I saved this topic for last because I wanted to cover the substantive suggestions first and deal with some of these over dramatize concerns later. It seems to be human nature to think that new is scary and different is offensive. We saw the exact same thing with Uber and Lyft. Every time there was one bad story about one Uber or Lyft driver, it made national news. Even if these problems happened frequently with taxis. Also, for ride sharing, we heard people say things like, “Ewe, why would you have a stranger sit in your car?”
Well, for Airbnb, one of the things that people often say is, “If I let people into my house, won’t they steal all my stuff?” And of course this doesn’t make any sense. If I wanted to steal your stuff, I would just break into your house after you left. Why would I pay you money and stay with you and share my name, address, credit card, et cetera, and personally meet with you in order to steal your stuff? There’s just much less risky ways of being a thief, so guests committing crimes is one of the exaggerated fears of Airbnb. Also, I want to distinguish true safety issues in which you need to call the police from simply having guests stretch or not follow your house rules. If it’s not a true safety issue, always try the easy interventions first like talking to your guests and explaining the situation. Most people are pretty reasonable. Of course, the easiest way to avoid problems is to check the ratings of your guests first, to see what other hosts have said about them, and then always be careful if they don’t have any reviews yet.
From this video you can see that it’s easy to get started with Airbnb and there’s a very low barrier to entry. I really like Airbnb and the sharing economy idea in general because it allows anybody to benefit from all levels of a business. For example, to make money as a traditional hotel owner, you would need a few million dollars and a hotel first. To make money as a hotel manager, you would probably need a degree with work experience. To make money as a hotel janitor, that doesn’t take much experience, but it doesn’t pay any more than minimum wage. Airbnb, however, allows anyone to make a little bit of money at all levels of the business process. Well, whenever you’re talking about making money, you always need to think about legal areas like regulations and taxes. You’ll likely need to pay taxes and should be aware of your local laws on short term renting. You may find however, that local laws and regulations are uncertain or out of date.
For example, in some cities you have to be a fully licensed hotel in a commercial zoned area just to rent a couch for somebody for one night. If your local laws are not favorable to Airbnb, you should get involved in the political process. Unfortunately, hotels are already active here and are lobbying legislators to restrict Airbnb because they believe your taking a piece of their pie. If you’re able to start on Airbnb, a single bedroom can add hundreds of dollars a month in rental income with relatively little time investment. By estimating 30 minutes of prep time and $40 of net income per day, you can theoretically make $80 an hour. For my apartment, I estimate this is closer to $50 per hour, which is still very good considering how easy it is to get started. So if this video helped you or motivated you to get started, be sure to like it and share it with others. If you have your own Airbnb tips or tricks, write them in the comments below.