More and more of my friends are becoming an Airbnb host, and being a long-time user of the vacation rental service—not to mention a frequent traveler, period—I’m never lacking for tips to give them. I love me some Airbnb, but I agree, hosting can be risky. Just last week, in fact, someone close to me had his third group of guests, and they left vomit all over his bedroom (and the guest was in her 50s, too!). Definitely not the kind of welcome you want to come home to.
However, by carefully vetting your guests—requiring three verifications or more, including a driver’s license, so you can verify their existence offline—and a little Internet sleuthing, you can prevent the majority of problems before they surface. Regular communication leading up to the visit can build trust and rapport with a guest so that they respect your home as much as you do.
But what about ensuring your guests have a killer time and not only want to come back but also refer them to your friends and to their friends’ friends and so on? As a regular Airbnb guest, here are a few things that I always appreciate out of a top-notch host:
Type up a guide to your home, your neighborhood and the city at large. This can be as brief or as detailed as you like, but it’s always nice if you’re new to a city to have a booklet that directs you to the nearest grocery, pharmacy, hospital and other important landmarks. Our host in Rome last summer left us a map guide with some of the restaurants circled and written up on a printout of the area. The result? We ate at her favorite spot every single night because it was convenient, good and the true locals’ experience in Italy. It probably only took her 20 minutes to do, but niceties like that go a long way. Bonus points if you send this to your guest prior to their check-in so they can make any necessary plans in advance.
Ensure your space is spic and span—especially the bathroom. There’s nothing worse than a hair in the sink or dust on the end tables. As a host, you set your own cleaning fee, so factor in the cost of a housekeeper or cleaning service, give them a detailed list of instructions, and make sure that your home is so clean your guests could eat off the floor when they arrive.
Make checking in and checking out as easy as possible. The best places we’ve stayed are ones that have keyless locks like this Nexia system. We don’t even have to see our hosts ever, which is nice—it makes it feel more like a hotel in that sense and less like you’re sleeping in someone’s home. Sure, it might be a little bit more money upfront, but it saves everyone the hassle of the awkward key exchange. The experiences that stand out—and not for the better—are the ones where we had to drive 20 minutes out of the way to a management company office to pick up the keys, not to mention deliver them at the end of the weekend. Moral of this story: Make it as easy as possible for all parties involved (both yourself and your guests).
Leave clear instructions of what is expected of your visitors. You can’t very well be angry with a guest for not taking out the trash if that was not specified, nor were directions given to your dumpster. Be as specific as possible; it’s not ludicrous to ask your guests to do reasonable things like strip the beds and take out the trash before they leave. However, threatening to charge them for not leaving the place spotless is not cool. That’s why you charge a cleaning fee.
Have basic amenities handy. We rented an Airbnb cabin in the Smokies last fall, and I was shocked to find the cupboards were so bare, they didn’t even have salt, pepper or olive oil. I’m not saying leave a picnic lunch for your paying guests, but at least provide them with some basic amenities so they don’t have to stock up on so many cooking necessities just to make a quick meal or two. Supplying them with coffee, sugar and creamer, as well as a few bottles of water, is also a must.
Provide them with snacks, too. Nothing is worse than getting in late at night after a long day of travel and not knowing where the closest convenience store is—or if there’s even one still open—when all you want is a Goldfish or two. The best hosts are the ones who provide a little snack basket, and maybe even leave some complimentary booze if you’re feeling extra generous. (People hardly ever take advantage of that, trust me.) Even if it means you have to up your rates $10 a night to cover the cost, the small act won’t go unnoticed and you’ll get better reviews because of it, I guarantee you.
Be accessible during the visit. You never know when something might go wrong like a blown fuse, a clogged drain, a power outage. Exchange cell numbers with your guest in advance so they can get a hold of you in an emergency—and be sure you answer those unknown call during the duration of their stay, too.
Review your guest after they leave. They’re the ones traveling and very well might forget to write up what an awesome stay they had at your place once they return to their own home. So much of the trust-based system Airbnb cultivates relies on reviews and user feedback, so wait until a day or two after they’ve checked out, write up a fair and honest review, then submit it. They won’t be able to see what you wrote until they’ve submitted a review of their own, which will further prompt them to review your place.