Top 10 Tips For First-Time Airbnb Hosts

Airbnb is a great way to nab some spare cash for the nights you're not using your place or if you have a spare room, but how can you make hosting easier? Here are 10 tips to make your first time as easy as possible.

Airbnb is a crowdsourced accommodation platform that allows ordinary people to put up their places, spaces and spare rooms for other users to stay in. You can put up a whole apartment, house or just a spare room. Guests book and pay hosts a nightly fee set up in advance.

Airbnb found through some research recently that the average guest spends approximately $2684 per trip in the city of Sydney (where our story takes place), with local hosts earning roughly $4266 per annum. It's definitely an attractive way to turn your place into a money spinner when you're not there.

Those are the basics. Based on my own experiences, here's how to be the host with the most.

Communicate

Airbnb is a platform where clear lines of communication are of paramount importance. Airbnb search rankings take into account your reply time to ensure a good experience for guests when booking, so make sure you reply quickly — ideally within an hour of a potential guest making contact. That way, your profile will show you're a good talker and that will increase trust.

If you don't stay in touch as often as you should, Airbnb takes action against your listing and takes it down, costing you time and potential guest money. Make sure you stay chatty!

Detail

Airbnb isn't a meat market of houses and spare rooms. It's a luxury service that adds a whole new spin on travel. As a result, experience and therefore price and the worth of an apartment can fluctuate from street to street rather than suburb to suburb.

When setting up your profile, give Airbnb as much information as you possibly can. Fill out every one of the fields with friendly, conversational detail so that your listing doesn't come across like some Craigslist dungeon where guests will wake up in a bath of ice.

By doing this, you'll give Airbnb's system a better idea of how much you should charge per night for your place. More detail might mean a higher recommended listing rate, which is only going to help your bottom line in the long run.

Price

Speaking of price, you have to decide what you want your place to be worth. There are a few different strategies here, but the best thing to do to get started is research. Know your neighbourhood. Check out other listings on Airbnb and make a quick note of pros and cons when it comes to your space versus theirs.

Is yours bigger? Does it have more rooms? Is it prettier? Is it more modern? Do you have amenities like Wi-Fi or a coffee maker that they don't have? Once you've done that, decide on your price against what the market can bear.

Airbnb will recommend a list price for you, but sometimes you might want to charge more or less depending on circumstances. You'll have to decide if you want to list your place slightly cheaper than the suggested average or more expensive. Remember: too cheap a price attracts too cheap a guest, and a more inflated price will have guests expecting to get what they paid for. Price wisely.

Once you've set your price, Airbnb will give you the option of charging extras like cleaning fees, security deposits and weekend rates. Make sure you at least put down a cleaning fee, because if you have to be scrubbing and making your place sparkle, you want to make it worth your time.

Photos

A picture always tells a thousand words, so have as many as possible. Think outside the box and get creative. Don't just upload one photo like some bargain-basement real estate agent. This is your home and you want to make it look as attractive as possible to a potential guest.

So don't just take one shot of the central living space and call it a day. Get two angles of every room to give guests a virtual walk-around of what they can expect to be experiencing.

Also take good photos of the front of your building, notable places near your residence like a beach or landmark, as well as any extra amenities on offer, such as a photo of your Wi-Fi router to illustrate the internet availability or a coffee machine guests can use.

Side-note: don't have a coffee machine? You'd be surprised how far free Java can go to seal the deal. Head down to Aldi and get an Expressi 3 for $80 and pods for around $10. That way, people get free coffee and you get sweet guest action.

If you're not a competent photographer, don't worry: Airbnb works with a network of freelance photographers that can come to your place and take professional photos free of charge. Get in touch with Airbnb if you want that to happen.

Clean

This would seem like an obvious one, but it bears repeating. Hotel rooms are always super-tidy because of the dedicated cleaning staff, but presumably, all you have is your two hands.

A good rule of thumb to follow before you hand over the keys is to clean the place to a standard that you feel is equivalent to a hotel room. That way people won't be grossed out staying with you and you'll get sweet reviews.

Safety

Airbnb is founded on trust. Hosts trust guests and vice versa. Profiles are set up to ensure that people are who they say they are, and a community review system is in place to weed out the bad guests and hosts. ID is verified offline by Airbnb, profiles are clearly laid out and Facebook integration with the service is encouraged so people can see that others know you enough to friend you.

Airbnb handles all the money changing hands so nobody can screw anyone else. Once a guest makes a booking and the hosts confirm (hosts are given a right to refuse someone staying just if you don't like the look of them), money is paid to Airbnb. The service holds onto it until 24 hours after the guest has checked in, when it then passes it onto the host via PayPal or bank transfer.

To make you feel even safer, hosts are covered by the Host Guarantee, which sees you insured for up to $900,000. It's free insurance, underwritten by Lloyd's of London.

Airbnb says that the "Host Guarantee provides protection for up to $900,000 AUD in damages to covered property in the rare event of guest damages" in eligible countries. The full list is on the site, but it includes Australia.

The Host Guarantee doesn't cover cash and securities, collectibles, rare artwork, jewellery, pets or personal liability. Make sure to clear your house of anything you wouldn't want lifted by someone staying with you. (In my case, that was a whole heap of gadgets for future review.)

Personalise

Add a few nice touches to your place to make it personal. This is a house or a room, not just a cookie cutter-shaped hotel experience. Put some breakfast in the fridge for the next day. Maybe ask them if they like a certain beer or wine and furnish the place with a six pack or bottle of said beverage?

Write A Welcome Guide

Don't assume that a guest knows everything about the neighbourhood they have checked into just because they read your listing. Sure, they have access to Google, but you actually live there. Tell them about the place in a Welcome Guide that you email to them or print out to keep in the house.

Make sure to include any quirks about the house, rules you want them to follow and places where they can go in your neighbourhood. I live in Darlinghurst, Sydney, so I was able to include some suggestions about cafès in the neighbourhood, nightlife around the area, and cool landmarks to visit.

Keep Communicating

Make sure to tell your guests that you or someone who can help if something goes wrong is available should the unforseen happen. My first guest didn't know how to work my fan, so I was able to talk him through it. It adds a layer of comfort for the guest knowing they can call or text someone if something goes wrong.

Review

At the end of the experience, the guest hands your keys back and you part ways. After that, it's their job to review you and your place, and your job to review them. You leave a public-facing review with your honest thoughts and opinions, before giving an anonymous review to Airbnb about any concerns you had with the guest that they can look out for in the future.


What are your best Airbnb tips, either as a host or a guest? Tell us in the comments.

Lifehacker 101 is a weekly feature covering fundamental techniques that Lifehacker constantly refers to, explaining them step-by-step. Hey, we were all newbies once, right?


Comments

    When I was a guest in several airbnb homes in America, I always left a thank-you note or, if a guestbook was provided, added an entry. As a guest, the welcome guides were very very helpful. I can't stress that enough. The best places we stayed were homes where the hosts made it clear (through the guide, and through chatting, and little extras like milk in the fridge) that they loved their city and they loved meeting us - nobody wants to feel like they're putting someone out!

      Also, Luke, would it kill you to crack a smile in that profile pic? ;)

        Luke doesn't smile because he reads too many Gizmodo comments.

    In theory, this would be an excellent way to launder money.

    ...it's still Evil Week, right?!

    Last edited 06/11/13 4:30 pm

    Yes,but the point is there are some other significant points also to be observed for a new airbnb hosts like payment methodology, demographics settings, reliability of the website etc. And these days, several rental booking websites were evolved by grabbing the utmost benefit of this industry. hence it is beneficial to start a rental website been developed from several successful web application development firms like agriya and some other reputed concern and extract the maximum benefit out of it.

    I was a big fan of Airbnb until they started requiring users to send them a scanned copy of official identification like a driver's licence or passport. This doesn't apply to new users, or last minute bookers, it applies to users who have a long history and dozens of good reviews. Sorry, that's a dealbreaker for me. Airbnb already has enough information on any user to identify them: credit card details, email address, home address, phone numbers, pictures, and reviews from other users proving they actually exist.
    It doesn't make anyone safer, it will make the innocent less safe by making them more vulnerable to identity theft. It won't stop criminal activity - they'll get around it with identity fraud. Most importantly, it won't stop someone axing you to death and burying you under the stairs. Newflash, criminals will commit crimes, and this onerous and invasive requirement won't stop them.
    Use Wimdu or Roomorama, they offer more or less the same service, without this execrable policy.

    On the flipside, here are some tips for renters:

    https://bonjourn.al/blog/10-travel-tips-improving-your-airbnb-stay

    Some good tips here! As the author of the Nr 1 best selling book on Airbnb, let me add a few things here:

    *Pricing: make sure to vary your price according to demand, i.e. weekdays vs weekends, summer vs winter and raise the price when your area hosts an event / conference. Also, don't forget to adjust for Xmas / NY etc.

    TIP: on Booking.com you can see the percentage of hotels that are booked in your area, use this as an indicator!

    *Photos: instead of a picture of the router, why not take a screenshot of an actual speedtest? A floorplan and picture of your entrance / door / building is also helpful.

    *Communication: Make sure to check-in with your guests after they've arrived to ask them if everything is ok. This shows you care and also gives your guests the opportunity to let you know if something isn't as expected.

    *Reviews: reply to every single review you get, even if it's a positive one. This shows you care!

    For more hosting advice, you can get the first few chapters of the book for FREE at http://getpaidforyourpad.com or you can check out the podcast under the same name.

    Happy hosting!

    Good article, I'll be stealing a few of those tips for my own use!

    I'm an airbnb host and have a couple of points to add from my own experience:

    * Make your guest feel welcome by popping a few chocolates or similar on their bed when they first arrive (it's the little things!)
    * I gathered a whole bunch of information together - maps, tram timetables, a myki card etc etc - and put this in the room (alongside welcome sheet with wifi details, details how to use TV etc). Having stayed at other airbnbs overseas, I was quite amazed when they didn't even offer a basic map.
    * I am in the process of getting a guest book together so people can share their tips on little things they enjoyed in the area which I may not know about (good coffee spots, restaurants etc)

    Have also written a bit more about being a host here: http://heylittlespender.com/2014/10/day-21-become-an-airbnb-host/

    The review system has a fatal weakness for hosts - airbnb refuse to amend or withdraw a review in cases when a problem is discovered after the review has been submitted. So be careful, there are some reviews on guests which can no longer be relied on !

    To add further to your point about taking lots of photos, Airbnb offers a free service where they will send out a professional photographer to take photos of your pad. It’s an awesome perk and we’ve definitely taken advantage of it and it’s made all the difference in the number of requests that we get for our rooms.

    https://www.zoplay.com/web/rental-booking-script/

    Can't stress enough how important it is to offer accurate descriptions of your property, if you are going to list it on Airbnb, or any other community accommodation marketplace for that matter. The biggest bugbear users have is properties not matching their expectations. Honesty and transparency is always the best policy.

    I had renters in my small studio condo and then they decided to have two additional guests. I sent a request to airbnb.com for the renter to pay an additional amount for the two guest plus and additional security deposit as stated in the online contract. It has been 5 days and there is still no resolution or anyone available at airbnb.com to handle the matter. So in the mean time my 600 sf condo is being abused by 4 people with A MAXIMUM OF 2.

    Airbnb.com representatives are not professional and are unable to take care of any matters. I have called 5 times, its been 5 days and no word from airbnb.com. NOT A HAPPY CAMPER!!!!!

      How exactly is your place being "abused"? What damage are these extra 2 people causing? And how would that abuse and damage suddenly disappear if they were paying you some extra money? Not a nice move by the guest to have more people staying than agreed - but this sounds like a cashgrab on your part rather then actually being a victim of anything.

    For those hosts looking for help in pricing their calendars, check out our Airbnb occupancy graphs to understand the seasonality of the Airbnb market in Sydney and our "Intro to Pricing in Australia" slidedeck that provides insight for best strategies when running an Airbnb in Australia.

    https://blog.beyondpricing.com/how-to-price-airbnb-sydney-australia-and-occupancy

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