Tips from an experienced Airbnb host.
These tips mostly apply to whole-home rentals.
Basics for a new host
- Understand all local laws and regulations. Many areas require permits. Remember that HOAs can ban airbnbs at any time, and have no legal obligation to ‘grandfather you in.’
- Stay in airbnbs in your area. This is to both learn your compeition and learn how airbnb works as a guest. Learning your compeition may be a business expense.
- You can get your listing set up before you go “live.” Use this time to learn the airbnb web site and app. Turn on “professional hosting tools” and learn how to set rules and apply them to specific dates (for example, you can tell airbnb to increase your prices 15% and have a 3 night minimum for holiday weekends).
- Schedule messages. You can do this through third-party tools like HostTools.com or directly in Airbnb. I have the following messages automatically sent:
- At booking: Send welcome message, inform guests of things I’ll be asking in the future (My county requires that I collect the names of guests prior to stay). I also remind guests to install the airbnb app if they haven’t yet done so, because any communication must happen in the app. I also tell guests that I use cameras to verify guest count and exceeding the number of guests on the reservation will result in immediate cancelation of the reservation. This works - not a single unregistered guest in many years of hosting.
- 5 days before check-in: Request names of guests, provide lock code, directions to the house, wifi credentials.
- 8PM the night before check-out: Check out instructions. For me, I ask users to load the dishwasher and place used linens/towels in front of the washing machine.
- Stay in your own airbnb for several days. Do work. Watch TV. Cook meals. Do laundry. Don’t take things for granted, such as knowing how to switch inputs on the TV. Use this information to purchase the right supplies and build your guide book.
- Understand airbnb’s cancelation policy and choose what best fits your needs. I’ve had plans change and appreciate being able to cancel, so I chose moderate for my property.
- Learn how to send & request money and report damages through the resolution center. Airbnb has detailed how-to guides on their website for all of this.
- Only communicate with guests via the airbnb app. If a guest texts me, I take a screen shot and paste it into the airbnb app, then reply there.
- Have friends be the first ones to stay in your airbnb. They’ll give you valuable feedback and be the first ones to review your property.
- Learn how to use the ‘special offer’ feature (use it with one of your friends that is staying!)
- Learn the difference between an inquiry and a booking request:
- You don’t have to accept or deny an inquiry, despite nagging from airbnb. You do have to reply, to make sure your reply stats are good. After you’ve replied once, you can archive the conversation.
- You DO have to accept or deny a booking request.
- Understand how AirCover works (short answer: Submit proof of damage to guest, if guest does not pay, AirCover kicks in) and understand what it does NOT cover (and why you want a separate short term rental liability policy from a company like Proper).
- Get an accountant. Don’t try to do your own taxes.
- Never install smart devices at your airbnb that you also don’t have at your primary residence. You need to know how to use them!
- I consider smart locks, smart thermostats, and exterior cameras a requirement for all Airbnbs. My recommendations:
- Smart lock: Schalge Encode. There are channel managers like Guesty that will auto-program these locks based on the airbnb calendar. Note that smart locks only need internet to be programmed remotely. Once programed, a guest will still be able to enter even if the wifi is down.
- Smart thermostat: Ecobee (the “premium” model includes an air quality sensor)
- Cameras: Wyze v3 Pro (No monthly fee and 24/7 recording!). These cameras require power (MicroUSB power cord, you can get very thin ones up to 25’ in length, run them through the top of the garage door). If you install a MicroSD card, they will record 24/7 for many days, allowing you to scroll back in time. Battery powered cameras only record motion events. There have been many situations where I need to see something on the video that did not trigger a motion event or exceeded the ‘event length’ for battery cameras.
- Make sure cameras are disclosed - including whether they are recording video and audio. This is required.
- Have a backup lock code AND a key in a lock box somewhere on your property as a backup to the smart lock.
- Set up reasonable temperature limits on your smart thermostat. Some guests think that turning the A/C down to 55 degrees will make it cool faster.
I have a more advanced home automation system in my airbnb that I have documented here.
Planning for the worst
Make a playbook.
Think about everything that can go wrong with your unit:
- Insects found
- House not clean
- Water leak
- Internet outage (perhaps you will have different plans for different length outages)
- Power outage (perhaps you will have different plans for different length outages)
Think about everything that could go wrong with your guests:
- Brought a disallowed pet
- Too many people showed up
- Wants to cancel beyond your cancelation policy
Write down what you will do in each of these situations, so if/when they do happen, you will have a logical thought-out response.
Dealing with Airbnb
- Familiarize yourself with airbnb’s policies / terms & conditions. There are times when you may get an inexperienced airbnb customer service agent and you have to ‘remind’ them of their own policies.
- Always call Airbnb and let them know if you think there is a problem with a guest. It’ll be good for their agents to have your side of the story before a guest calls.
- Airbnb will remove reviews for specific reasons - familiarize yourself with them. Extortion is a big one - if a guest tells you (via the airbnb app) that they’ll give you a bad review unless you refund them, you have nothing to worry about.
- Find your cleaner via facebook marketplace / nextdoor.
- Network with other hosts in your area
- Turno (formerly TurnoverBnB) is a great service for cleaner coordination. Tells them when to clean & pays them from your bank account. If you on-board your cleaner to Turno, it’s cheap (only 4% on payments). If you find your cleaner via Turno, they also charge the cleaner a fee.
- VRBO and Airbnb will sync calendars with each other without any other services. Plenty of how-tos online.
- Channel managers are services that help you manage a single property on multiple platforms or multiple properties. Ownerrez and Guesty are popular ones.
- Airbnb’s smart pricing has been troublesome for many. Either manually set prices or use a third party pricing tool like Pricelabs.
- Pay a neighborhood teenager to take trash bins to/from the street if necessary.
- Your neighbors won’t like that you are running an airbnb. Be honest and upfront with them prior to going live. Let them be a part of the rules you send guests around quiet hours, occupancy, going slow on your street, etc. They’ll be more willing to contact YOU rather than the police if something goes afoul.
- Be a part of the community. Contribute to local facebook groups / nextdoor. Purchase gift cards to local businesses and give them to guests.
- Don’t make your guest sweat the small stuff. Don’t ask guests to pay for small damanges (<$50) that they are up-front about.
You can find me as the admin of the “Airbnb Whole Home Host” Facebook group, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.