The Ultimate Airbnb Guide For New Hosts

airbnb-logo-vectorIf you are new to hosting and want to host with excellence, this guide was developed for you.  So many folks ask me about getting started hosting that I decided to put together a guide for hosting with excellence.

NOTE:  This is geared towards hosts who are renting out there ENTIRE place.  However, it is also useful for those who are just renting a room.  Also, since this is thorough, it is long and you may want to print it out (see “print” button above).

This article will provide you best practices for the following:

  • Crafting a winning profile
  • Rejecting and accepting guests
  • Security
  • Creating an amazing guest experience
  • Achieving 100% reviews from every guest
  • Maximizing efficiency
  • Tools for making hosting easier

Let’s jump right in.

CRAFTING A GREAT PROFILE

  • PHOTOGRAPHY:  Airbnb has a service that will send a photographer out to your place.  Use it.  Images are key to marketing your place.
  • VIDEO:  As a new host, you don’t have reviews.  Make a quick video introducing yourself to build a connection with potential guests.  It’s all about connection in the shared economy!
  • RESEARCH PROFILES:  Take a look at profiles that you feel would inspire confidence and entice you to book if you were booking a place.  Make a list of things you like about them and emulate them.  Market your place by including great things about your place and location, things such as: Public transportation, proximity to highways, and things that make your neighborhood unique and special.
  • RECOMMENDATIONS:  Ask your friends to provide personal recommendations for you.  These will have to do until your guests begin reviewing you.
  • SOCIAL NETWORKS AND CONNECTIONS:  Connect your networks to Airbnb so people trust you more.
  • NEIGHBORHOOD:  Airbnb allows you to list your neighborhood.  Do it.  It will make you more valuable to people who choosing based on neighborhood vs price.
  • CREATE INTERACTION:  In your profile, request that guests email you before booking so you can get a feel for why they are in town.  It is normal to have several exchanges about who they are, their trip, etc.

REJECTING AND ACCEPTING

  • GUEST DECISIONS:  If you don’t feel great about a person, have a prepared rejection response such as “Sorry, my plans just changed last minute, and we can no longer host anyone during that time.”  It’s your house, be picky.  It’s no big deal to kindly deny the booking, and people don’t take offense.
  • GUEST REVIEWS:  Focus on accepting guests with great reviews even if it means less money.  Otherwise, if you’re new, and they’re new, the chances of things going wrong increase.
  • UPPER HAND:  Don’t book your first guest solely for the money, because this could sway you to make a poor decision.  Ask a family member or friend to stay in their place if you end up booking a guest over the weekend.  If it works, great, you can make it a fun weekend with friends.  If not, try again.

SECURITY

  • KEYS:  Plan to transfer the keys in person for your first time, if possible.  This makes the whole process feel more human and less abstract.  Or, 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.
  • LOCKBOX:  Buying or borrowing a lockbox is highly recommend in the event that you can’t transfer keys in person or your guest loses the keys.
  • SPARE KEYS:  Either hide spare keys very well or leave them with a neighbor in case of an emergency.
  • AIRBNB INSURANCE:  Review Airbnb insurance policy.
  • PERSONAL INSURANCE:  Consider increasing your insurance, even if just temporarily.  This gives extra confidence.  Afterwards, you can reduce it if you choose.
  • PHOTOS:  Take photos of everything in your place at least once to maintain a baseline record of your possessions in the event something is stolen.
  • SAFE / REMOVE ITEMS:  Place valuables in safe or remove them to the home of someone you trust.
  • LIST OF VALUABLES:  Make a comprehensive list of valuables that can’t fit into a safe, assuming you have one.  Save this list for the future so you can remove valuables such as jewelry you don’t want stolen.
  • KEYLESS LOCK:  Keyless combination door locks run about $120 and can be bought via Amazon or you’re local Home Depot or Lowes.  This is ideal, because you can manually change the combination for Airbnb guests and then change it back to your private combination.  Even with this system, keep spare physical keys in a lockbox or safely hidden.
  • LOCKITRON:  This is a really awesome lock that let’s you control access to your home remotely.  Check it out here.

CREATING AN AMAZING GUEST EXPERIENCE

This is the fun part. The Airbnb community is filled with amazing folks from all over the world!  Creating a great guest experience is very rewarding, but it requires upfront thought, time and money.  Here is a list of everything you should or eventually plan to have:

  • NEW TOWELS AND WASH CLOTHES:  These should be white and of high quality inspire confidence in cleanliness.  The towels should be oversize. NOTE:  Guests have consistently commented in reviews that they loved the the quality “large fluffy white” bath towels.  People love it.
  • TOILETRIES:  Provide guests soap, shampoo, new toothbrush,  travel mouthwash, razors and the like in case they forget theirs.  Put everything in a little basket so they know it is for them.
  • HAIR DRYER:  Guys, if you don’t have one, buy one.
  • BED LINENS:  Buy a separate set for guests.  It’s nice to keep some things separate.  Hit up TJ Maxx, and you can get a really great deal.
  • BEDROOM PREP:  Make your bed look amazingly comfy (pillows, blankets, etc).  It is the first thing people notice when they enter the bedroom.  A guest once left me private feedback saying that would have been a nice touch).
  • FOOD AND SNACKS:  Provide food, snacks, coffee, and drinks.  This is particularly nice for breakfast.  Communicate that this is for them and make them feel at home.
  • LAUNDRY:  Provide laundry detergent and other supplies for guests who have been on the road and want to refresh.
  • COMMUNICATION:  Create and save a standard communication email.  At the bottom of this page, you will find the email I send out as soon as my guest has booked.  Standardizing saves a tremendous amount of time.
  • WELCOME GUIDE:  Create one and leave it out for guests.  If you don’t have time to do this, at least let your guest know they can email you or text you with questions.  The guidebook doesn’t have to be fancy, just informative.  Guests genuinely appreciate a curated guide of the area so they can try your favorite local restaurants, bars, etc.  Below are the sections to include:
    • Any helpful info they need to know before settling in, even if you already emailed it to them.  Include information about laundry, food they can eat, how to access the internet, how to use remotes for TV, cable, DVD, etc., laundry, heating / AC, etc.
    • Any information about safety.  Some cities have good pockets and bad pockets after certain hours.  People appreciate knowing this, especially if they are walking places.  Also, include emergency phone numbers and numbers to neighbors in case they can’t get in touch with you for any reason.
    • Information on how to use public transportation and the nearest access to transportation.
    • Information on taxis if needed.  Does your city have Uber or Lyft?  Provide them links for using this.
    • Information on your favorite restaurants.  Guests LOVE this, because they like exploring local places and getting the information first hand from someone who lives.  Include your favorite places for breakfast, lunch, coffee, dinner, drinking, etc.
    • Information for the nearest grocery store, shopping center, etc.
    • Information on entertainment, including your favorite comedy club, parks, trails, local theater, museums, etc.
    • Be thorough, and follow the golden rule.  What would you want to know if you were new and wanted to make the best use of your time.  It is guaranteed that your guest will appreciate this.
  • CLEANING:  Your place should be spotless.  If you are a clean freak, getting ready for a guest could be easy.  If not, you will likely be shocked at how much work it takes to do a deep clean.  Make sure you make time for this.
  • CLEANING SERVICES:  If you don’t clean, hire someone.  Ask around and get recommendations.  Include all or part of the cleaning fee in the cost to rent. Schedule the cleaning service a day or two before the guest arrives.
  • GUEST BOOK:  This is a fun for a guest to know they are the first one in the book or see who else has been a guest and where they were from.

This seems like a lot of work, but here is the deal, most of this is ONE TIME work.  Once you do it, you can put things on autopilot.

100% POSITIVE REVIEWS

  • PLAN FOR THE WORST CASE:  The worst situation to find yourself in is to not be home and have a guest locked out.  Always have a backup key / plan.
  • WHATEVER IT TAKES:  At one point, the front gate to my loft complex stopped working at 11 p.m.  It wasn’t my fault, but the guest was stuck outside and couldn’t get in. I found a way to get them in by tracking down an emergency gate access code.  The guest was frustrated, but still gave me a great review, because I went above and beyond to take care of the issue timely.
  • FOLLOW UP:  Ask your guest how their stay was via email or text to find out ahead of time and if they have any recommendations for improvement.  Show that you care, and people will give you grace.
  • REVIEW FIRST:  Beat your guest to the review and make it genuine and specific.  Give people grace and focus on the positive.  They will reciprocate.
  • DOUBLE FOLLOW UP:  After you have reviewed a guest, follow up with a text message asking them to review you.  At this point, you already know how their stay was.  You merely are ensuring they make time to review you.  I have 100% success getting positive reviews from every single guest that has ever stayed in my place.

BUILDING PROCESSES TO ACHIEVE EFFICIENCY

You can make solid side income being an Airbnb host.  I plan on making $6k in 2014.  It’s not get rich quick money, but $6k is $6k and over four years could approach 30k as rates rise.  However, like everyone else, I’ve got a lot of other responsibilities and things demanding my time.  The trick to doing well at Airbnb over the long-term is building systems to drive down the amount of time it takes without compromising guest experience.  They key is creating lists and reminders.  I use one called “Checklist +” and it is very simple and free in iTunes.

Below are the  lists I created to be more efficient.  Feel free save time by copying this list for your own use.

  • CLEANING:  You’re cleaning lists are incredibly important (below are the items on my list):
    •   Bathroom:
      • Clean toilet
      • Spray down shower with clorox bleach
      • Scrub shower and tub
      • Clean mirrors
      • Clean sink
      • Check TP
      • Check soap
      • Clean bath towels and washcloths
      • Bath mat
      • Hand towels
    • Living room:
      • Vacuum
      • Dust
      • Clean couches
      • TV / Cable remotes
    • Bedroom:
      • Strip bed
      • Wash bed linens
      • Make bed with clean Airbnb linens
      • Vacuum
      • Dust
      • Trash
      • Laundry
      • Provide guests luggage space
    • Kitchen:
      • Clean all dishes and put away
      • Empty trash
      • Clean sink
      • Clean coffee maker
      • Clean fridge
      • Food for guests
      • Wipe down counters
      • Check paper towels
    • Other
      • Remove valuables
      • Check keys in lockbox
      • Email instructions
      • Put out welcome guide / guest book
      • Take all trash to dumpster

The highest priority is the bathroom and bedroom cleaning lists.  You don’t want one stray hair or anything “weird” to give guests a negative impression.

 

TOP 10 TOOLS FOR AIRBNB HOSTS IN 2014 (This is a separate post)

This section is its own separate post, because this was getting insanely long.

CONCLUSION

Hosting is not that hard, but remember even though it is fun, it is a business and guests expect quality for their money.  Hopefully, this helps you deliver a great experience.

 

—————————————————————————————————————————–

NOTE:  As mentioned above, here is the email I send out to guests which goes over the things you need for your stay.  Feel free to use or modify for your own purposes.

 

Hi (first name),

I hope you are looking forward to your stay.  Here is the email I send out to guests which goes over the things you need for your stay.

A FEW OF THE MOST IMPORTANT ITEMS!

Address:  list address

Phone number:  If you need anything, please call or text me at XXXXX.

Locks / Access:  The lock on my front door has a key pad.  Entering the following to unlock the door (state combo), which is a special combination used for Airbnb guests.  In the event that this doesn’t work for any reason, there are spare keys located in a lockbox attached to the door on my patio (please call me for the code XXXX).  In the lockbox, you will physical keys to access the doors.  PLEASE ALSO ADJUST THE NUMBERS ON THE COMBO LOCKBOX OTHERWISE IT WON’T LOCK AND PEOPLE CAN JUST PULL DOWN TO OPEN.  

Information guide:  Once in the loft, you will see a print out of general information for your stay on the kitchen island.

Front gate automobile access:   Since I live in a loft, the front car gate is open during the day and closed at night.  You will find a WHITE access card on the island once you get in my loft.  Take this with you for access to the property in the evenings.

Parking – You can park in my spot (#XXX).  You can also park in any unnumbered parking space.  This is guest parking.


OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE:  

Cleanliness – My loft has been cleaned prior to your arrival by cleaners.  All linens are fresh.  Additionally, you will have a fresh bar of soap and shampoo available.
Kitchen – You are welcome to anything in the fridge.  There is ground coffee in a plastic  container.  Sweetener is available in the cabinet above the coffee maker.   You are welcome to use the fridge, and anything you need to cook / eat while you are there.  Feel free to use any spices or the olive oil.  Please wash all dishes and put them away before you leave.
Internet – The wifi is XXXXXXXX  and the password is XXXXXXX.
TV – Use the Comcast remote to turn on the TV.  It also controls the sound, which will come out of the TV.
Bedroom – Feel free to hang up your clothing in the free space made available at the bottom right.
Garage door inside – This opens and closes.  Feel free to open and close as you would like.
Fitness room – Passcode is XXX

I really hope you enjoy your stay.  Please let me know if you have any questions and feel free to provide feedback in the private comments for ways I can improve the experience for future guests.

 

 

 

 

 

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