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?
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
You don’t just list your unit and then the money starts to come in. It takes time to chat with potential guests who ask questions before they’re willing to book with yours. 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.
Starting out and doing everything on their own, beginner hosts are often shocked by the amount of time and effort needed to consistently deliver an experience for their guests.
But as they get into their groove, become more efficient, and utilizing tools for automation, hosts learn ways to save time and energy without lowering their quality of service.
Know the Size of Your Prize BEFORE Hosting
Would you quit your current job before knowing how much your new job would pay you? Of course not.
But that’s exactly what most new hosts do. They jump right into hosting on Airbnb before knowing the size of their prize.
Even though Airbnb has grown by leaps and bounds, there are still markets that just don’t and won’t have enough demand to support hosting. Wouldn’t you want to know if you’re in one of these markets?
On the flip side, you should also find out whether you’re in a super hot Airbnb market. Otherwise, you might be happy with making $2000 a month when you should be making twice that.
So how do you know the size of your prize? Go get a market report from a trusted data provider. LearnAirbnb recommends AirDNA–they have extensive data for all major Airbnb markets and can give you a realistic expectation for how much you can probably make hosting on Airbnb in your market with your listing.
PRO RESEARCH TIP: Sign up for AirDNA and get your market report BEFORE investing time and money into Airbnb hosting. Don’t jump in until you’re certain the market has enough demand to make it all worth your efforts.
Get The Proper Insurance Coverage
Especially 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.
Noise complaints are the biggest indicator for unhappy neighbors. Check out a nifty product that can help you prevent and manage noise issues with guests.
Yes, Get Your Landlord’s Okay
Yes, 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
Yes, 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.
Get all the Essentials for Your Listing
As more and more hosts bring listings onto the market to compete for the guests, so too have guest expectations grown. What used to be a nice-to-haves are now must-haves. Certain amenities are absolutely essential to delivering a great experience.
Especially 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?
Know that getting the guest’s sleep experience right is critical to getting 5-star reviews. There are not enough things you can do right to offset a poor night’s sleep. Sleep-related purchases are one area where you do NOT want to go cheap on.
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. But use the figures you obtained from AirDNA to inform your income assumptions in the calculator.
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
It’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
- Don’t have a sucky title
- Don’t have sucky descriptions
- Don’t have sucky photos. Do make sure you get GREAT photos.
- Don’t get sucky reviews
- Don’t have a sucky host profile
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?
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 the confidence to keep hosting through their platform.
Here are some ways to stay smart as a new Airbnb host.
Protect Your Identity
Most 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
The easiest way to do this is to keep your bookings short. The vast majority of bookings are less than a 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.
PRO PRICING TIP: Better yet, work with a trusted third party pricing partner such as Wheelhouse to make sure your pricing is always and automatically optimized to maximize your profits. Why 3rd party and not use Airbnb’s pricing recommendations? Airbnb’s pricing recommendations tend to be far lower than what is achievable in the market. Hosts who have tried both have found that Airbnb often recommends pricing that is 15%+ lower than Wheelhouse while achieving similar occupancies. Meaning: Airbnb wants to maximize bookings, not your profits. Wheelhouse only gets paid when you get paid.
Anticipate and Address Guest Headaches
Your guests have traveled far to stay at your Airbnb listing, sometimes from halfway around the world. And it can be stressful. Flights can get delayed. Keys can get lost.
So being thoughtful and proactive towards some of these most common guest headaches could go a long way towards turning potentially stressful situations into moments where you shine as a host.
Having a simple lockbox to keep a spare set of keys that you could send the combination for a guest to open late at night will not only make them happy but would save you time when some of your guests are bound to get locked out late at night.
Providing a way to alleviate the stresses for guests who either need to arrive early or check-out late is another great opportunity to deliver an exceptional guest experience.
Optimize, Automate, or Outsource
The average listing on Airbnb makes about $14K a year in gross bookings, before expenses. If you’re only managing your one listing, you may find it more than manageable to do everything on your own. However, if you have a busy listing with 8-10 bookings per month or if you’re managing multiple listings.
You’ll need to become more efficient and find ways to take yourself out of the equation. Your time can only scale so much.
First, optimize. Have guests frequently asking the same questions? Save all the answers as templates you can easily copy and paste. Consider using smart locks of keypads to do remote check-ins and check-outs.
Then automate. With multiple listings, some hosts end up spending up to 2-3 hours a day responding to the same guest inquiries. But it’s not just the time. It’s also the response rate. How do you respond to every single inquiry within 5 minutes? Not possible without tools like SmartBNB, which can help guests automate and eliminate up to 95% of all guest communications. It even helps you automate your reviews and with its latest update, you can even train it’s AI to start recognizing and automatically answer same questions but are worded differently!
PRO AUTOMATION TIP: Start using an automation tool like SmartBNB as soon as you can. The early investment in time will save you hundreds of hours of time a year. It costs $18/mo for a single listing and approximately $80 for 10 listings. One of the best ROI we’ve seen with any tool. Would you pay about $1 to save an hour of time to do something else?
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.