Does the lure of extra money tempt you to rent out an extra bedroom or your vacation home? Sounds good but if you decide to profit by sharing your personal space with complete strangers, use these tips from my experience as an Airbnb host to make it a successful experience.
The last three years we have rented out our second home, a cute 1912 cottage in Boise, Idaho when we aren’t using it. As an Airbnb host, there are definitely great moments when that rent money is deposited into your account or guests rave about your property but temper those delightful moments with the calls at midnight when the renter is drunk and lost their key or when the lovely 2 person renter in reality turns out to be a raucous house party that trashes your home. With this reality firmly in mind, here are my top 10 tips for Airbnb hosts.
- Do your research before you commit to being an Airbnb host. Stay at several Airbnb‘s yourself and see what you like/dislike. Go through the booking process, examine how other hosts present their properties, look at reviews of properties where you stay and properties that are located near your property.
- Have an emergency plan. We have a family member who lives locally and oversees our property for us. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a friendly family member to assist you, then you will need to hire a property manager. In addition to handling emergencies, this person/company can check people in and walk guests through your property so they have a great experience. We also keep a lockbox on property in case of emergencies. A guest WILL lose a key so, to prevent midnight calls, get a lockbox that goes on a door knob with a code you change after every guest. Stuff happens. Be ready.
- Cleanliness is key to bookings. Guests will let you know in their reviews if there are housekeeping issues and then you will miss out on future income. Face it, no one wants to stay in a dirty place. We deep clean every time we visit and our property manager handles the cleaning after each guest leaves. Have cleaning supplies handy for guests to use as needed, especially if you have long-term clients staying longer than a few days. Same goes for toilet paper, paper towel, garbage bags, etc. Extra is better. If a guest runs out of toilet paper, you are guaranteed a less than stellar review.
- Little touches make a difference. We provide complimentary bottles of shampoo and body wash, coffee/tea/sweeteners, umbrellas, strong Wi-Fi, board games, cards, a Frisbee and a couple of bikes. Guests love the bikes at our cottage as we are close to downtown Boise and parks and tend to attract an outdoorsy clientele. We are kid-friendly with a port-a-crib available as well as kids books/,movies, and games. After a client leaves, Airbnb will send an email to guests so they can leave a review. When we check in a guest, we encourage them to complete the reviews. Great recommendations will get you listings. The more, the better!
- Comfy bed, linens and towels are essential. We learned the hard way that cheap towels don’t last. Buy everything in white so you can bleach out the crazy stains you will find and spring for nice quality, not WalMart specials, so they last longer with frequent use. Same with your mattress. When we rent an Airbnb for vacations, I always read the reviews specifically looking for a great bed that won’t torture our backs.
- Tourist information is up-to-date and plentiful. We gather the latest tourist brochures and magazines from downtown hotels and restaurants when we stay at our cottage and leave the information for our guests so they know awesome places to eat and visit in Boise.
- “Above and beyond” perks are appreciated by all. We have stayed at Airbnbs all over the world and the best perks were: Bluetooth Bose speaker at our Waiheke Island, New Zealand Airbnb so we could listen to our playlists while lounging in the giant beanbag chairs on the patio and fresh soda bread upon arrival at our thatched roof cottage in Galway, Ireland. That’s great service!
- Fully loaded kitchen with everything needed to cook. I know many people go on vacation to eat out at restaurants but I like to explore the local groceries and cook to save $$ that we use on other travel splurges like zip-lining, shopping, and concerts. Upon arriving late in Portugal, we found out that coffee was not a big deal there so thus no coffeemaker just instant coffee and a hot water pot. Bummer. I will be first to admit I am a coffee snob who grinds beans fresh every morning. We immediately went out and bought a coffee press for the apartment which we left for the next guest. Also, we supply salt and pepper as well as plastic wrap, Ziploc bags, tin foil and every kitchen utensil, pot and pan that you need to make a meal at our cottage. Guests love it!
- Safety first. Provide a fire extinguisher just in case. Hopefully no one will need it. Of course, you should have working fire detectors and carbon monoxide alarms too. We don’t provide candles or a grill due to fire safety concerns with our wood cottage. Be prepared for the worst and provide a first aid kit. I was injured on the ferry ride to our Airbnb cottage in New Zealand and the host promptly provided a cold pack for my injured hand.
- Finally, expect to make money but understand the expenses you will incur. First, price your property within similar market offerings but not at the low-end. Airbnb might encourage you to drop your price but we did our research and kept our pricing firm. Guests may try to do side agreements to sidestep Airbnb but we politely refuse. You run risks if you don’t have backing of Airbnb in case of damage and there will be damage. We’ve been lucky with only one issue and the guest paid for the damage quickly so we didn’t even have to get Airbnb involved. We allow only dogs due to my husband’s allergies to cats, which helps bookings because not very many properties allow dogs. In our three years as hosts, we have only had people “acting like animals” damage and no true animal damage. Go figure! To save on energy costs, we installed a programmable thermostat that we can monitor via an app on our phones to make sure that in between guests, the temperature is appropriate. You will need to have a landscaper, pest control, HVAC person, handyman and plumber identified and use as required. The costs do add up–a broken water line here and an ant invasion there will reduce your profit. Save some of that rent $$ for regular needed maintenance and emergency repairs or you will be sorry. If you plan to occupy the property like we do on a regular basis, it will be convenient for you to have one closet locked and for your use only for your personal toiletries and extra clothes. We just bought a mini fridge for the basement so we don’t have to keep throwing out condiments after each of our personal visits between guests. Buying ketchup, mayonnaise, and butter every visit can add up and you can’t really leave food stuff for guests to use.
Hopefully these tips will help you if you decide to become an Airbnb host. Overall, it’s been a good experience for us and a great assistance financially to help us pay for our second home to spend time near our family. Good luck and happy hosting!