If you have been reading this blog recently, you are already familiar with my experience as an Airbnb host and my basic introduction to hosting on Airbnb. After publishing those posts, I wanted to make sure that I provided you with an easy list of some of the most important tips that I have learned as a host over the past year. These are some of the often overlooked keys to success that all Airbnb hosts should definitely know, but may not always occur to you when setting up your listing or starting to host guests. While some of these may seem obvious, they can be the difference between making money with a high occupancy rate or failing as an Airbnb host.
Airbnb hosts should always communicate well
Communication with your guests is the main cornerstone of being a good Airbnb host. This will affect the quality of your guest’s stay, your reviews and the ease of hosting on your part. First, be sure that all of the instructions and information on your listing is very detailed and correct. You will also want to send a note to your renters when they first book a stay with you and make sure that they understand when you’ll be contacting them in the future, how they will receive the keys and any other pertinent information for their stay. I always send a quick note when someone books with me, then follow up one day before their stay with instructions on getting into the property. Typically, I try to stay out of the guest’s way when they are staying, but I do send one message after they have checked in to make sure that they have everything they need. For those staying more than a few days, I will reach out again to make sure that they have all the linens, toiletries and everything else that they need for their stay. After a guest has checked out, I will send them a thank you note and wish them safe travels. This is not an overly time consuming exercise, but will pay off in the long run.
Good Airbnb hosts know their competition
For Airbnb hosts, it is indeed a lot of fun, but try to always remember that it is a business. Like any business, you need to stay up to speed on your competition. Keep in mind that competition includes other short term rental properties in the area as well as local hotels with similar pricing and amenities. Keep an eye on similar listings in your area that you will be competing with. if they are offering amenities that you are not currently offering, you can choose to add these to your rental unit or address them in your Airbnb description. The more that you can prove the value of your property up against your competition, the more you will be able to charge and the better your guests’ experiences will be.
The other side of keeping an eye on the competition is keeping in mind what you are offering and making sure that it stacks up. To me, this means always knowing that there are three hotels within a quarter mile of my guest suite. If I’m not providing a clean, relatively affordable, pleasant, convenient and unique experience to each and every guest, then I am not winning against my competition. Make sure that your renters are getting a better value than they would get at a local hotel or any other accommodations that they are choosing to pass by on their way to your property.
Make it a five star experience
The three main metrics that you are tracking as an Airbnb host are the price, occupancy rate and your reviews. All three of these feed off of each other. If your reviews are consistently positive, you will see that you can demand a higher rate. If your price is competitive, you will see that your occupancy rates will be strong. While there are a lot of tactics you can use to optimize each of these metrics, the easiest way to achieving success in all three is to consistently offer a five star experience. Create a checklist for yourself of all of the factors that you believe will contribute to a five star rating, then make sure that each time you host, you have done everything that you can to deliver on these things. A shortened version of my personal checklist includes:
- Prompt and friendly communication before and after checkin
- Clear instructions on how to get into the property and rules for staying, parking, etc.
- Recommendations on restaurants, entertainment, grocery stores and other attractions that fit with what I know about the guest.
- Cleanliness of the property that matches any hotel they might stay at
- Fully stocked toiletries for more than the length of the stay
- Kitchen items fully stocked
Current, detailed, beautiful listing
I have talked about what to consider when you are creating your listing in past posts, but the key with your listing is to make sure that it accurately and persuasively reflects all of the great attributes of your listing. Include photos that make your property look appealing. Keep the description, instructions and all other details updated. I have updated my listing about 15 times in the past year based on feedback from guests, reviews or challenges that I have had with guests staying (for example, I found that the instructions for where to park were not clear in my original listing). If you have changed anything in the rental, make sure that you have updated the listing and description to reflect that. Lastly, keep your calendar current and ensure that if there is a date on the calendar that the property is available to rent, that you will be able to have it cleaned, ready and have a plan in place to get the keys to the renter.
Provide a personal experience
One of the biggest reasons that a lot of renters like renting on Airbnb is the fact that it is a more personalized experience than they might get at a hotel. Don’t be afraid to show this personality in your listing, communications and instructions that you provide to the renter. In your welcome sheet, feel free to use your own voice and talk like you would talk to a friend. Think of yourself as a concierge for this person during their visit. Many times, the renter will not be familiar with the city and you have a chance to share with them all of your favorite places and things to do. Ask them when they arrive if there is anything specific that they are trying to do while in your town and point them in the right direction for little known secrets of the locals. You can also “surprise and delight” the visitor by providing nice to have items that they may not have expected to find when they arrive. For me, this is simply including items like toothpaste, razors, shaving cream, sunscreen or other items that people may have forgotten. I’ve also dropped off some $7 flowers for a woman who was in town for a funeral and included a congratulatory card for honeymooners. These simple, inexpensive touches will help to increase your positive reviews, repeat visitors and ultimately, occupancy rate.
Create a welcome guide
Another simple item that I have created to help visitors have a better stay at our place is a welcome guide that I leave propped up on the table when they arrive at the rental property. This includes my contact information, contact information for Airbnb in case the renter has questions, the address and cross-streets of the suite, nearby restaurants, pharmacies, food delivery options, grocery stores, basic instructions for parking, turning on the heating/air conditioning, using the microwave or television, etc. This is something that I created once, laminated and have kept in the unit for the past year. This one welcome guide alone has been mentioned in four of my positive reviews as something that improved the guest’s stay.
Make it easy on yourself
Whenever possible, try to find ways to minimize the amount of time that you will have to spend cleaning, managing or furnishing your Airbnb property. While a few minutes here and there may not seem like much, when you are hosting 50-100+ times per year, this starts to add up. A few of the ways that I have reduced my time spent as an Airbnb host include:
- Use a bluetooth lock for the door. As a Superhost, we actually received a Kevo Smart Lock as a gift from Airbnb. This cuts down on the need to meet face to face as you can simply provide a code for the guest to open the door with their smartphone. I always keep a backup key hidden in case their phone dies or they have trouble, but overall, this has cut down on the amount of time that is required to check someone in and is kind of a cool touch for your guests.
- Limit the number of items that have to be cleaned. When someone stays at your rental, dishes get dirty, linens get used, etc. While it’s not always the most eco-friendly option, providing paper or plastics dishes and utensils, bottled water, single serving coffee and other items that don’t require cleaning will cut down on the overall amount of time that you have to spend cleaning when a guest departs.
- Own multiple sets of everything. This isn’t crucial when you first start hosting, but once we got into a rhythm of turning over the guest suite multiple times per week, we purchased additional sets of sheets, towels and pillow cases. This cuts down on the amount of laundry we have to do and allows us to change everything over quickly instead of waiting to clean anything before we remake the beds or replace the towels.
- Keep cleaning items in your guest unit. Not only does this make it easier to clean when you go in there, but it also encourages guests to clean up after their own messes, which they end up doing far more than you would expect.
- Write all of your correspondence ahead of time and reuse it. For messages like directions to the property, check in and check out instructions, welcome and thank you notes, or other messages that you will send more than once, it is good to sit down and write a thoughtful template that you can reuse instead of writing it from scratch each time you have a guest that books with you.
Stay on top of your reviews
This is a very obvious, but very important element of successful Airbnb hosts. Most users will at least look at the overall review average for your property, if not reading all of them or filtering by criteria like Superhosts only. By quickly reviewing your guests, you will allow the reviews of your rental to appear sooner on Airbnb. In addition to providing timely reviews of your users, you should also be sure to monitor what your guests have left in their reviews. If it is something negative, be sure to respond publicly to it with an apology (if necessary) and letting them know that a change has been made to correct it. Then, learn from the reviews and improve your property.
If you do all of these things, you will not only have a much more enjoyable and profitable experience as an Airbnb host, but you will also be providing a better level of service and experience to your guests. As always, feel free to post below with questions, additional tips or comments.