Hesitant to be an Airbnb host? Here are 10 tips for smooth start

airbnb thumbIn July of 2013, I visited family in Maine and I wanted to offset the costs of the flight.   I had heard quite a bit about Airbnb.com so I decided to look into it.

Airbnb is a website that connects people with homes (hosts) with people who need a place to stay (guests) for a fee.  The host can either be there at the same time as the guest(s), or not.  It is a great way to make extra money.

I was staring down the barrel of a $450 flight, so I did the math and decided, what the heck, it will pay for my flight, plus a little bit of extra money to have fun with.

I thought it was a brilliant plan until it was time to actual go through with it.

I accepted two reservations over the period I was out of town.  As the time approached, it dawned on me that I am actually doing this.  Random people are going to be sleeping in my bed, using my bathroom, and sitting on my couch.  I experienced a little…

Anxiety

The anxiety I experienced leading up to and during my vacation was way more than necessary, but nonetheless I worried…

Is someone going to burn down my place? How come I never read the fine print? I didn’t even go through the FAQ’s, dang it.  Will they steal everything? What if some psycho stays and booby-traps everything?  What if they poison my milk and no one finds me for days?  I am too cheap to actually throw out my milk, so it could happen.  Ahhhhh.

Here is what really happened…

I came back and it looked just like I left it

 

airbnb

 

I came back, the beds were stripped and the dirty linens were placed in the wash.  Everything was neat and tidy.  And one more thing, I had $529 magically direct deposited into my bank account.

I look back at how anxious I was about things going wrong, and wish I had some guidance to alleviate my concerns, because they dominated my thoughts on my vacation.  So, here are my tips for having a stress free beginning experience.

Tips for first time Airbnb hosts:

  1. For your first time, consider hosting a guest at your house while you are there.  You can get a feel for things, get paid, go through the review process, etc.
  2. Make sure you have a dialogue with the person before approving him or her as a guest.  Email works just fine.  Ask them about themselves, what they are doing, who they may know in your area, etc.   Also, make sure they have several positive guest reviews.
  3. Pay attention to their social network and connections.  I declined people with few or no friends on Facebook.  Even better, if the person staying has mutual friends, this will go along way to alleviate anxiety about having this person in your home.
  4. Your first guest should be one you feel really comfortable with. You should decline anyone you don’t feel solid about for whatever reason.  The way you decline is to politely communicate your plans have changed, or you are in the process of booking with someone else.  This is common and people will not be offended.
  5. Transfer the keys in person, if possible.  This makes the whole process feel more human and less abstract.  I was able to give the keys to the daughter of my first guest.  She lived right down the road.
  6. If you are heading out of town and can’t transfer keys directly, have someone you trust handle the key transfer and let your guest know that they live close by and will be keeping an eye on things so if there are any problems let them know first and then call you.
  7. Increase your insurance.  Although Airbnb has insurance, it felt good to know I had increased my own coverage.  Because I am very comfortable with things now, I will likely reduce it to my original coverage.
  8. Remove any small valuables that you don’t want stolen and take pictures of your place.  I have not had any issues with this, but small things are hard to notice if they are missing.  Also, remove paperwork that can be tied to you.  I keep things like taxes and bank statements in the same place and remove them if a guest is at my place while I am out of town.
  9. Take pictures of everything in your place before the guest arrives.
  10. Pay a cleaner, especially if you are a guy who doesn’t see dirt.  I highly recommend this.  Cleaning takes forever, and you often don’t see your own mess.  It will make you feel good to have everything scrubbed down, organized, and sparkling for the guest.

There are two themes here.  First, be picky, and get to know your guests ahead of time.  Second, be smart and cover your bases.

The other thing that will likely pop into your mind is that these people will be able to make copies of your keys allowing them to get into your home at a later time.  This is a valid concern, but hopefully if you follow the advice above, and choose your first guest wisely, you won’t even worry about this again.  I never worried that a nice grandma was going to be breaking and entering at a later time.

Once you realize Airbnb is for you, and if you want total certainty, the best way to achieve this is to get a door keypad and change the code for the Airbnb guests.  I did, and it is great.

In my upcoming posts, I will cover how much I have made so far, and Airbnb hacks to make the whole process easier and require less work on your end.

Would you ever consider Airbnb?  Yes or no, and why?  What suggestions do you have for first timers? 

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10 thoughts on “Hesitant to be an Airbnb host? Here are 10 tips for smooth start

  1. Pingback: Airbnb and dreams of grandeur | Living Life Upside DownAirbnb and dreams of grandeur - Living Life Upside Down

  2. Stephanie

    Regarding the keys: if you live in a condo this shouldn’t be a concern as condos have “custom keys” as in the key width is unique to the building and not sold in stores. This is done for two purposes- 1: to help protect the building and td inhabitants and 2: to ensure you buy your extra keys from the building at the premium price.

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    1. Actually, I got a copy of the key made at Home Depot for my condo / loft. I still think you should pay the extra fee and have a spare. My condo also let’s me install my own lock on my personal door, and I am going to use Lockitron when it arrives for that.

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  4. Kyle – thanks for sharing these tips. Another way to make sure that you and your guests are on the same page about staying in your home, include some “house rules” in your welcome email so your guests know exactly what is expected and what is okay for them to do while staying in your home.

    If anyone is looking for more tips on being a great Airbnb host, visit our forum: http://airhostsforum.com/. We’ve also got other great resources on property management and cleaning services for Airbnb, cool tools to make your life as a host easier and much more!

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