More and more of my friends are becoming Airbnb hosts, and as someone who has had investment properties she’s listed on the vacation rental giant for nearly a decade, I’m a seasoned pro on the hosting side of things. Want to be the best Airbnb host you can be? I’ve got tips.
Where to list your vacation rental
Airbnb has caught flack in recent years, and rightfully so: The service fees have gotten out of hand, and a $200 stay can quickly add up to double that with all the taxes and fees imposed. I feel like with cleaning fees and everything else, Airbnb is only worth it for a weekend stay or longer; otherwise, a hotel is the more economical choice.
That said, we’ve had five different properties on a variety of vacation rental services over the past decade, and Airbnb was the only one that brought us quality guests. Our VRBO and HomeAway guests had a lot of demands and complaints and only ever booked for one night, whereas many of our Airbnb guests averaged out to a long weekend or even a week.
Still, it all depends on where you live. For example, companies like TurnKey Vacations absolutely own the market in beachy destinations like Charleston or Santa Barbara. VRBO and HomeAway are still prevalent in areas like the South that take a bit longer to get hip to the trends. And Booking is the European-favored site for both vacation rentals and hotels alike.
So if you’re thinking of listing your home on a vacation rental service, I recommend looking into and possibly signing up for all of these to start and see what works best for you before you settle on one or two as your preferred vacation rental providers.
Vetting Airbnb guests
I love me some Airbnb, but I agree, hosting can be risky. On my cousin’s third round of guests through Airbnb, a guest vomited in his bed (and the guest was in her 50s, too!). Definitely not the kind of welcome you want to come home to, but also a rare scene—in the 500+ groups we’ve hosted, we’ve probably only had five we would not allow back. One was a bachelor party that left a sea of empty beer cans on the floor as if our nice condo were their frat house.
By carefully vetting your guests—for us, that means requiring a minimum of three verifications, including a driver’s license, so you can verify their existence—you can prevent the majority of problems before they surface. We allow families and travelers with dogs, but we don’t accept parties. Then again, we’re now only long-term hosts, no more short stays, so that’s made it easier to attract quality quests.
While Airbnb (and I imagine most services) won’t let you exchange contact information prior to booking, you’ll receive the guests’s phone number or email once they pull the trigger. And 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.
Tips to being an Airbnb host (or other vacation rental service)
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 and long-time Superhost, here are a few tips to becoming a top-rated Airbnb host and a thing or two I have learned in the process.
Give guests a guide to your home, your neighborhood, your city
Ensuring your guests have a detailed guide to your city, apartment and neighborhood will go far in making them comfortable. Your guide 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 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 Schlage setup we have on all of our properties. 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, as a homeowner, 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 with both check-in and check-out instructions; 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.
Supply complimentary amenities for your guests
We rented an Airbnb cabin in the Smokies and were shocked to find the cupboards were bare; the hosts didn’t even supply 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.
As hosts, we always make sure our guests have the following:
- Filtered or bottled water
- Soft drinks
- Cooking oils
- Basic cooking spices
- Sauces like Ketchup, mustard and sriracha
- Cleaning supplies
- Shower supplies
It’s also nice to supply items like an iron and ironing board, sturdy clothes hangers, a steamer, a hairdryer and other amenities that guests wouldn’t have packed or might have forgotten. We stock one of the bedroom closets with feminine products, tissues, Q-tips and other items guests might need infrequently.
Make sure there are extra linens
As long-time hosts who have long-term guests, our properties get more wear and tear than just a usual short-term stay might experience. So we change out our sheets and towels annually, because no guest wants to use pilled linens that are completely worn out. We also always make sure our guests have back-up towels and sheets, as well as have two backup sets in our locked owners’ closet for when our cleaning service comes between guests.
When we’re done with a cycle of towels and sheets, we donate them to a local dog rescue who uses them for rags and bedding.
Provide snacks for guests, 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. It’s increasingly harder with robocallers and spammers being the bulk of most of our incoming calls, so I always ask our guests to text before they call so I know to expect them.
Review your guest after they leave
Your guests are 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.
What’s your top tip to being a great Airbnb host?
Great tips! As a guest, I’d like to have these things taken care of.
Love this! My boyfriend started renting out his condo using Air BnB a few months ago and we have been kept hopping to keep up with the demand! It’s in a gated community, so we can’t use a lockbox on the door, but one of us just meets the guests at the clubhouse with the keys and gate clicker so at least there’s no driving out of the way for our guests. Reviews have been great so far, so I think it’s going well. We provide snacks and bottled water and have a small basket of travel toiletries in the bathroom.
One other thing I would suggest is instructions on tech items. Wifi name and password is a given, but if your rental is also your house, your TV setup is probably more complicated than an average hotel. At my boyfriend’s, there’s a TV, separate surround sound system, PS3 and Apple TV. Adding a page to our informational binder regarding how to make that all work has saved a ton of back and forth communication from us to our guests. (It’s been SO RAINY here in Denver this summer that our renters are spending more time in the condo than most of them probably planned on so having a good entertainment setup is helping keep our reviews great!)
Thanks for the article–I’ve been reading you for years and love when you post helpful tips like this. 🙂
Snacks are always a good idea! 🙂 And I LOVE the idea of a neighborhood guide. I sometimes think it would be fun to put a house up on Airbnb, but I think I would be too nervous. I’m never opposed to renting one though!
Ok that experience of your friend and his bedroom is totally disgusting. I’m always surprised when bad guests ruin things for a host like that! I also totally agree with your tips. I’ve consistently had great AirBnB experiences but they were made great by having: good internet, a friendly and accessible host, the basics available in the kitchen, and a clean space. That’s it! Not asking for much 🙂
Top tips! This is pretty much everything that would make me super happy as a guest 🙂
I am making a trip to Manhattan soon and seeing as the hotels there are incredibly pricey, I plan on using Airbnb for the first time. Knowing this is definitely helpful and I feel much more confident that I will be okay now that I know how to carefully book my rental. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and advice! I don’t doubt that it will improve my future stay
Hello there! Long time “stayer” in Airbnb’s someday host down the road. I tend to do long stays – 1 week, 2 weeks, now a month in Lisbon. I love finding places that are beautifully designed, convenient locations, etc. There are a few things on my wishlist that I wish owners did, some of them may be my naivety as I am not an owner. But invest in a quality bed and quality sofa especially if you are going the long-term route. There is nothing worse than staying in a place for many days with a terrible bed or sofa, it sucks and you (me) are stuck. Also, love design but remember also need a place to put their stuff. So maybe don’t fill every bookshelf with a million knickknacks, save some space for your guests to put their things. I would kiss the host that left a power strip, especially ones with USB for all my devices that need charging. And even if you do an in-person walk-through consider having that book of instructions you mentioned. So many times I have been traveling for 24 hours and while I am listening intently, trying to absorb and note everything my host is saying, I am also dead tired that first night and it is good to have that book as a reference! I am also a fan of the welcome gift/wine bottle!
This is lovely Kristin.
I’ve only ever used Airbnb once, but it was a great experience!
I spent about 6 months as a long-term guest a few years ago. I had just started a new job with an IT company that entailed me travelling between Berlin, Dresden and Gifhorn.
The perks of my organisation included a “second-home” allowance, so I opted for a farm hotel in Gifhorn and an Airbnb in Dresden!
The house in Dresden was a fully-furnished three floor maisonette, with four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a cleaner who came in once a week!
The landlady who lived in the countryside was lovely, and would only accept long-term guests who were either management professionals or postgraduate students, so you got a better quality of “house-mate” and there was no risk of noise or partying, which was quite a relief! 😀
What an amazing share! I have recently decided to become an Airbnb host. I have some extra space, and I have been thinking about turning it into an Airbnb. I think your tips will help me become a better host. I really appreciate you sharing all of these details like where to list the vacation rental and vetting guests. I am sure it will be very helpful for me. I am looking forward to using your tips and becoming a good host from the get-go.
Your tips are fantastic, and I thoroughly enjoyed your post. I did some, but I missed a few. I will definitely share this article!