The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Airbnb Hosting

Airbnb Hosting Guide

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We’ve blogged about many of the challenges that current Airbnb hosts face and how to address them but we keep getting questions from many who aren’t currently hosts but are seriously thinking about Airbnb hosting.

Where do I even start?

So, if you’re just starting to think about becoming a host, start here and follow these steps to give yourself the best chance of success.

This is the Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Airbnb Hosting.

Before You Even List on Airbnb

Understand Rental Arbitrage

There is an underlying market force that makes all of the short term rental market possible.  And that force is called rental arbitrage.  This will exist in EVERY market that makes it viable for Airbnb hosting but not all markets are created equal.  Know what it means to quickly assess to what degree your area is well suited for you to host.

Ten Things to Consider Before You Host on Airbnb

Before we dive in and into some of the details, here are ten hosting considerations to think about.  Having a better sense of these items will make your path to hosting a much smoother journey.  It’s not just your and your extra room, hosting on Airbnb could involve many other parties and more commitment that you expected.   You don’t need to answer these questions yet but they do provide relevant context to the topics below.

What Kind of Host Do You Want to Be?

What type Airbnb are you?Yes, we know you want to make some money doing this but there are more than financial benefits to becoming an Airbnb host.

What do you want to get out of hosting?

There are three main types of hosts out there–those that want to make a few extra bucks with their available space, those who want a stable secondary source of income, and those who want to build a serious Airbnb business that will eventually become their main source of income.

The more income potential you desire, the more planning, capital, work, and risk you’re going to be taking on.  What you want to be able to achieve will dictate the location, size, and nature of your listings as well as the tools and strategies you will be using.

Are you even cut out to host?  If you’re ONE of these types of potential hosts, please don’t host on Airbnb and ruin it for the rest of us.

Do you have the six qualities that make a great rentrepreneur?

Have Realistic Expectations About Time Commitment

airbnb hostingYou don’t just list your unit and then money starts to come in.  It takes time to chat with potential guests who ask questions before they’re willing to book with your.  It takes time and effort to earn great reviews.  It takes time to check guests in and check guests out.

Set the right expectations about time commitment by evaluating how much time it’ll likely take for you to host on Airbnb.

Get The Proper Insurance Coverage

airbnb insuranceEspecially if you’re renting out your own home, your home insurance plan is almost guaranteed not to cover any damage that results from short term renting.  Yes, Airbnb’s $1M guarantee gives great comfort but if you have some special items or risk factors not covered by their policy, you likely need additional insurance.  Learn all about Airbnb’s liability insurance policy here and see if it’s enough for you.

Remember You Have Neighbors

Are you in a quiet gated community with early to bed neighbors who are very very sensitive to noise or outsiders?  If you’re living in a unit that is part of a community with shared space, you have to keep your neighbors in mind.  Even if you have your own standalone house, you will want to consider managing your relations with your neighbors.  An angry neighbor could kill your Airbnb hosting dreams. 

Yes, Get Your Landlord’s Okay

airbnb landlord permissionYes, it might mean that you can’t host in your current apartment if your current landlord forbids it.  Many apartments aren’t open to short term subleasing.  But there are ways to increase your odds if you approach your landlord in the right way.  If all else fails, consider finding a new apartment that would allow you to host or look to getting a dedicated unit.

Find the Right Customers for Your Unit

airbnb hostingYes, you love your place but not everyone else visiting your area will think the same.  In order to maximize your odds of success, you will need to position your unit’s listing to appeal to the customers who are most likely to book with you.  Sure, business travelers might be willing to pay higher rates but if your unit is located far from the business district in your area, you’re better off targeting someone else on Airbnb.

Know Who You’re Competing With

You’re not the only game in town and you will have competition.  The more you know about them and the better you understand what makes them appealing or not appealing to potential guests, the better you are able to adjust your offering to have a winning Airbnb listing.  But first, you need to be able to identify the right competition.

Have the Right Furnishings

airbnb hostingEspecially if you’re serious about hosting, your furnishings and amenities could make a big difference.  Every unit must have furniture so what should you consider when purchasing furniture?   Choice of furniture can be distilled into two things: function and form.  You must consider what pieces are important to your guests?  What need is it fulfilling?

Do a Sanity Check First

If you’re going to be doing a dedicated Airbnb unit, rather than just renting out extra space in your current home, do a sanity check with the figures and make sure it’s worth your time and money.  Use our free Airbnb calculator to evaluate any new potential listings BEFORE spending money on furniture and committing to a lease agreement.

Get Your Listing Right

Once you’re ready to put your listing together, here are some basics you need to get your Airbnb listing right.

Position Your Listing for Success

airbnb hostingIt’s not just about great photos and descriptions for your listing, it’s also about how you differentiate your Airbnb listing from your competitors.  Remember how you found your target customer above?  Well not is your chance to actually target them instead of trying to make your listing appeal to everyone.

Set Clear and Simple House Rules

Don’t go overboard and make rules so obnoxious that no guests would want to book with you but do be clear about what are off limits (e.g no smoking).  Get the right balance when setting house rules.

Make Sure Your Listing Doesn’t Suck

When you’re making a decision how about how to take a photo of your space–just think to yourself will this help make it Instagram worthy?  What would make your guests want to take a picture and tell their friends about how great your unit is?

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Hosting Smart From the Start

There are horror stories abound on the internet about nightmare guests who trash a place or end up squatting and refusing to leave.  But those are all very rare and Airbnb has every incentive to ensure that it’s hosts have confidence to keep hosting through their platform.

Here are some ways to stay smart as a new Airbnb host.

Protect Your Identity

airbnb hostingMost guests are going to be great but there are some jerks out there who would take advantage of an opportunity if it presented itself.  Take any of these simple, one time measures to not have to worry about your identity getting stolen while hosting on Airbnb.

Spot and Avoid Potential Squatters

airbnb hostingThe easiest way to do this is to keep your bookings short.  The vast majority of bookings are less than week so unless you’re in a market where people tend to stay for weeks or months at a time, you should NOT begin your Airbnb hosting journey by doing long term bookings over 30 days.  Although your chances of getting a squatter as a guest are very low, you could remember these simple tips to make your listing a tough and unattractive target for would be squatters.  

Get Pricing Right From the Beginning

Setting the right pricing isn’t just a one time deal, it requires regular checking and updating. If you price too high, you could end up with more vacant days but if you price too low, you’re leaving money on the table.  Come up with a pricing strategy that will allow your unit to achieve the rents it is capable of.

NEVER Do Any of These Four Things

While this isn’t an exhaustive list of things you shouldn’t do as an Airbnb host, these four things should be obvious to you.  Not doing any of these won’t set you apart but if you make the mistake of doing any of these, your future self will hate you.


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