Airbnb hosting can be difficult and confusing. With so many moving parts to keep track of, it’s easy to make mistakes that cost you bookings or even your account.
We’ve been in the same position as you – we were new Airbnb hosts who made a lot of mistakes when we started out. Luckily, after much trial and error (and some help from our friends), we learned what works and what doesn’t work on Airbnb.
Airbnb can be an excellent way to earn extra money, whether you’re home-sharing or have a second property to rent. It doesn’t take a ton of physical, manual labor, and you can set specific rates and rules. However, there are some things that every Airbnb host should know.
Important tips that every Airbnb host should know include using a noise monitor to detect parties. Be flexible with your check-in times, don’t try to hide potential problems, stand firm in your house rules, and have a welcome guide for the area. You also want to avoid Airbnb’s Smart Pricing and use Wheelhouse instead.
After privately sharing tips with other hosts, we decided to put together this guide full of all the best strategies for making your listing stand out among the competition. These are tried-and-true methods used by experienced host across the world – follow them closely and watch your bookings skyrocket!
Be Specific About Your House Rules
First and foremost, be specific about your house rules (SmartBnb). Remember that this is your property people are visiting. If you’re home-sharing, then it’s your home where you live.
If you don’t want people smoking, don’t bend on that to attract more guests. It’s not worth it. Airbnb has several standard “house rules” that it lists upfront.
- No pets/Pets allowed
- No smoking
- No parties or events
- No loud noises after 11:00 pm
- No food or drinks in the bedroom
You can choose which of these applies to your home and also set your own. For example, if you don’t mind pets but are allergic to cats, you may want to set a rule that explicitly prohibits cats but allows other pets.
If you live in or own a property that isn’t kid-friendly, you can also set the listing to no children. It’s important to note that every rule you set will limit the number of guests who see your property or want to stay there.
Even so, it’s better to eliminate guests than to have something terrible happen because you allowed something with which you weren’t comfortable.
Know Your Tax Laws for Airbnb
Another important thing you should take care of immediately is learning about tax laws for Airbnb rental income.
One of the most important things to know about taxes is that you’re legally obligated to report your Airbnb earnings.
This is important because you could get a letter from the IRS, or worse: go to jail.
Airbnb can be a lucrative way to make extra money, but the government wants it’s cut, and they will send Vladimir to bust your kneecaps to collect.
Research tax laws yourself, or call an accountant to talk about tax laws. Either way, it’s something you should be familiar with going into this new venture.
In some cases, Airbnb may withhold taxes for you depending on your area. But you will want to get this sorted out in the beginning.
Don’t Use Airbnb’s Smart Pricing
Airbnb has a feature that allows you to set dynamic pricing that will increase or decrease based on demand. Don’t use it!
There is a bit of a conflict of interest here because Airbnb’s goal is to get as many bookings as possible, so most of the time they will adjust your pricing to as low as you will allow it to go.
Instead, connect your Airbnb property to Wheelhouse, which is a third party price optimization software company that will help you optimize your pricing automatically.
Wheelhouse has a two-step process for optimizing Airbnb’s pricing:
Step one is analyzing your current listings so they can generate recommendations on what to charge, which includes looking at the dates of availability as well as prices of other properties in the area.
Step two is to analyze current market demand and adjust pricing on the fly when it sees a sudden surge in bookings due to an event in the area.
Use Clear, Attractive, but Honest Pictures
As Airbnb photographers, it’s no secret that we proclaim your pictures to be one of the most important aspects of attracting higher paying bookings. And, to keep with the theme of honesty here- we’re not just talking about what you show in your listing images.
If a guest is scrolling through their feed on the app and sees an image that’s blurry or unclear they’ll scroll right past it. We all know how picky people can be when it comes to selecting vacation rentals.
A lot of the time, prospective guests never read the description of your property.
They browse through the pictures and check out your reviews. If the pictures look nice and the reviews are favorable, they’ll often book their stay without ever taking a peek at the description (or reading your house rules for that matter).
That’s why it’s so crucial that you have plenty of high-quality photos of all aspects of your property. Take pictures of everything both inside and outside.
Ensure the house is clean and well-organized before you take the photos, but don’t edit them or falsify them in any way. Check out our property preparation checklist before taking your pictures.
Guests will see your property when they arrive, and if it’s vastly different from the pictures you’ve supplied, you’ll be rated poorly. If enough guests complain about “false advertising,” you may lose your Airbnb account altogether.
So add plenty of appealing photos, but make sure they’re real.
Be Honest About Your Property
Furthermore, don’t just be honest with your pictures. Be honest about your property.
When we first started out on Airbnb, we tried to hide the fact that our property was right next to the train tracks. This ended up backfiring as comments from our guests started coming in.
We then spent the night in our rental as if we were guests, and learned that the neighbor worked until very late at night and often came home with their toddler children around 12am, making all kinds of noise.
Disclosing this in your listing is crucial, even if it means you miss some bookings.
If the rooms get a little chilly at night, tell guests that. If they need to jiggle the toilet handle now and then, let them know. Guests are much more forgiving of minor, primarily harmless quirks like those as long as they know about them upfront.
Otherwise, they’ll incorporate the info into a negative review.
Keep Your Property Clean and Well-Maintained
There are few quicker ways to receive a negative rating than leaving your property dirty and unsanitized, especially following COVID. People’s hygiene standards are through the roof, and they’re not going to be happy to come into a nasty house.
In fact, some guests are neurotic about cleanliness and will actually inspect every little corner when they arrive.
People are strange. One guest, in particular, went around the property and checked every single outlet for operation like they were a property inspector.
Don’t neglect the outside of your home either. The inside of a dwelling can be spotless. But if the outside has broken shutters and cracked windows, that’s all your guests will remember.
Lawns, driveways, and other landscape elements should also be well-maintained.
As with most things in life, appearance matters. Whether they’re traveling for business or pleasure, people staying at your residence want to feel like they’re escaping into something nicer, even if it’s just for a little while.
Guests Prefer Flexible Check-In/Check-Out Policies
For those of us that run a business with a tight operation, adhering to a strict schedule is very important for accommodating same day bookings.
However, guests prefer flexible check-in/check-out policies so that they can adjust their travel plans on a whim.
Rigid check-in and check-out times are a massive turn-off for a lot of guests.
Most prefer some leeway with their times. They don’t want to feel rushed to check in at a particular time, and they don’t want to feel panicked about having to be out by a specific time or risk being charged for another day.
Even if you feel like you must be strict on check-out times, always allow flexible check-ins unless there’s a crucial reason you can’t. People traveling get sidetracked by all kinds of things. They see something interesting along the way and want to stop, get caught in traffic, or spend more time eating than planned.
Any number of things can happen that’ll cause them to be late, so be flexible. Let them know they can check-in anytime after lunch. You can always use a hidden key system so that you don’t have to be there the moment they arrive.
In fact, you can even set your property up with smart locks and never have to worry about meeting your guests at all! Check out our post on that for more info.
As for checking out, it’s best if you’re flexible there, as well.
It makes people feel less rushed and panicky. If you need them to check out by a specific time, give them a range. There’s no actual difference between saying “Check-out is at two” and “Check-out is anytime between ten and two,” but somehow, it just sounds nicer.
Respond Quickly and Politely to Messages
Not responding promptly to messages from potential renters is Airbnb suicide.
We live in an instant gratification kind of world, and when people have questions, they want immediate answers. If they have to wait too long for your responses, they’ll move on to another listing with a host who answers quicker.
This is especially important when you have a guest in your property and they are having trouble with something.
Responding to their messages as soon as you can will help them feel more at peace and in control of the situation, which ultimately leads to a better experience for everyone involved.
A Little Extra Goes a Long Way (Towards Great Reviews)
Do small, inexpensive things to surprise your guests.
If you live on a farm, leave fresh produce on the kitchen table for them when they arrive. If you live in a popular tourist area, leave a small souvenir they’ll find when they go to bed the first night. If you have a fireplace, tie a bundle of firewood together with a pretty bow and tack on a note that says, “Enjoy!”
These things cost little, but they add a personal touch that’ll thrill your guests.
People choose to rent Airbnbs rather than hotel rooms for many different reasons, but one of them is because they’re looking for something more homey, comfortable, and personal.
You’d be surprised how far a cheap mug with hot chocolate and marshmallows, like the Gordon Sinclair Camper Cocoa Kit, will go towards making them feel that way about your property.
If you need help finding inspiration for good gift ideas, Vacation Home Help has 12 great welcome basket ideas specifically designed for Airbnb guests.
Leave Notes When Appropriate
Don’t expect all of your guests to be tech-savvy. Leave notes near the television, entertainment system, and game consoles. If you have a fancy coffee maker, leave a note near that. If your stove is a little finicky, let people know.
These are more of the small, personal touches that make people feel welcome and show them you care. It’s also practical.
Sometimes people don’t know how to work the coffee machine, television, or Blu-ray player. A quick note could keep them from breaking things.
Another great way to do this is with a house manual, which is a guide that outlines all of your house rules and instructions for appliances that guests might not know how to operate.
Provide Tips on Things To Do
Similar to your house manual is a welcome guide for the area. This is a great way to get the guest excited about their stay in your home and help them discover some of the activities and restaurants within the area.
If you are near any tourist attractions or activities, make sure they know how close you are to these locations and let them know about it!
Leaving a list of things your guests might want to do could be as simple as jotting down a handwritten note highlighting some of the most exciting things to do near your property.
You could also gather up brochures for local attractions and leave them lying in a prominent place in the house so the guests will see them when they first arrive.
You could even put together a “welcome email” for your guests and send it to them a couple of weeks before their arrival date. In it, you can include some of the best local spots to eat, a few attractions, and more.
Going this route will allow them to look up some of the places you’ve recommended and research them for themselves. Then, by the time they arrive, they’ll already know which of the things they’d like to do.
This can also be a great opportunity to reach out to restaurants and get them to pay a monthly or annual fee for your advertising of their business.
Photograph Your Property Between Bookings
Unfortunately, things happen and your guests may not always be honest.
If they don’t give you the appropriate notice before leaving or cause damage to your property, it’s not easy for Airbnb hosts to collect on damages without proper documentation.
So take pictures before and after each guest arrives.
Make sure the photos are timestamped. If anything is damaged, broken, or stolen, you’ll have irrefutable proof to back up your damage claim. They also prevent guests from using the “It was like that when we got here” line.
Again, don’t forget the timestamp! Without it, the pictures are worthless because you could’ve taken them at any time.
Never Argue on Reviews
As long as you don’t falsely advertise your available accommodations, keep things clean, and don’t overcharge, you shouldn’t receive too many negative reviews.
However, now and then, you’ll have a customer that you can’t seem to please. And some of them are even out to use their review to extort refunds from you.
If this person leaves a negative review, it’s okay for you to respond politely with an apology and an offer to make things right if you feel it’s warranted. However, never argue with a customer over a review. Those kinds of things devolve quickly, and your response to them can make you seem just as nasty and unprofessional.
Other potential travelers are watching how you respond as well.
The best way to combat negative reviews is to do everything you can to receive even more positive reviews in the future. If potential guests see you have 300 positive reviews and one or two negative reviews, that speaks louder than any argument in the review section.
Make Cleaning Easy for Guests
Most guests understand that Airbnb rentals aren’t the same as hotel stays.
They know that they should leave the property in reasonably clean condition. But they also wont appreciate a surprise list of checkout chores, so don’t make this harder for them than it has to be.
Cleaning up after your guests can seem overwhelming at times; however these little steps will make it much easier
Provide cleaning products so they can wash their dishes and wipe down counters.
If there are other things you expect them to clean, make sure you provide them with the tools to do it. You can’t expect them to use their money to purchase supplies to clean your house, especially if you charge a cleaning fee.
Some of the things you might want to provide are:
- Mop bucket
- Dishwashing detergent
- Sponges or dish rags
- Paper towels
- Disposable gloves
- Hand sanitizer
- Disinfectant wipes/spray
- Multi-surface cleaner
- Lysol Disinfectant Spray
Having these items in an easily accessible location will let guests know that it’s okay for them to tidy up after themselves. Ultimately, this means a cleaner property for you, so it’s a win-win.
Provide Free Wi-Fi
It’s the 21st century; Wi-Fi is practically a necessity when traveling and staying at Airbnbs.
Don’t be that person that forces guests to use their cell phone data or charge an extra fee for Wi-Fi.
The faster your internet, the better. Business travelers will appreciate it.
Provide your guests with free Wi-Fi and, if you’re using a password-protected router, include the password in your welcome email.
NOTE: It might be wise to limit the bandwidth so that guests can’t hog up all of your data but still have access if they need something important while on the go.
Trust People, but Be Smart
Most guests are honest people, and it’s okay to trust them.
Don’t be afraid to make your property look nice by decorating it with nice art, comfy pillows, and other things to improve the ambiance.
However, don’t tempt people by displaying an authentic Babe Ruth-signed baseball on the mantelpiece either.
The same is true for your kitchenware. It’s okay to supply guests with elegant dishes and flatware sets, but don’t put out your best China and your golden utensils.
Trust that people will probably take care of your things without stealing them, but be smart enough not to leave out things that would tempt potential thieves.
Pieces of your dish sets may go missing simply because a guest was eating something while they were checking out and it got mixed in with their stuff.
Furthermore, don’t stock your rental properties with things that have sentimental value, even if they’re not likely to be stolen. Accidents do happen, and you don’t want them to happen on the handmade quilt that’s been in your family for four generations.
Use A Noise Monitor To Detect Parties
One of the first things to do before renting your property out on Airbnb is to install a noise monitor.
These devices are relatively inexpensive and can give you much needed peace of mind if you don’t live on the same property as your rental.
They work by monitoring the average sound levels and humidity in order to detect parties, which will trigger a notification to send to your phone.
You can’t actually listen to what people are saying and they don’t record conversations, so it is perfectly legal to use inside the buildings.
Check out our guide on using noise monitors for your Airbnb.
Allow a Few Days Between Bookings
After COVID-19 swept across the globe, companies put many new sanitation practices into place to keep people safe.
Airbnb was one of these companies.
They implemented stricter sanitation and cleaning policies, and for hosts who didn’t want to follow them, they implemented a mandatory 72-hour wait between bookings.
As long as that’s still in place, that’s a good option for hosts. However, even if you opt to follow the stricter sanitation guidelines or if Airbnb revokes the policy, we still recommend waiting about this long before allowing another booking.
Not only does this give you ample time to clean and sanitize your property, but it also gives you time to deal with any unexpected emergencies or repairs that need to take place.
One of our Airbnb photography clients mentioned that they were so booked up that they didn’t have the ability to finish some much needed painting in the bathroom.
Have a Generous Airbnb Cancellation Policy
This one may be a little inconvenient for you.
Still, the risk of inconvenience is worth it for the influx of potential renters you get for having flexible cancellation policies.
It’s true that you will make more money with strict cancellation policies when the plans of guests change, but it is our opinion that this will ultimately hurt you in the long run.
Specifically because of user behavior, and that guests are becoming less tolerant of strict cancellation policies.
People want the freedom to cancel their reservations, and many people will go elsewhere if they find you’re not accommodating of this need.
There’s even a filter on Airbnb’s search feature that allows potential renters to only view listings with flexible cancellation policies.
Renters are much more likely to book a location with a generous cancellation policy, not because they plan on canceling, but because life sometimes happens.
People feel better knowing they can cancel if circumstances change a month from when they initially booked the property.
For example, my own mother booked a much bigger property since she was coming with a larger group for our wedding. A few weeks before the wedding, one of the group members was having trouble with long trips and finding a bathroom and went to the doctor. Turns out they had intestinal cancer and died on the operating table.
Because of this, half the group wasn’t able to my wedding and my mom needed to cancel and find other accommodations.
If the host held to their strict cancellation policy, guess who would never receive another penny from us for future bookings?
Some Guests May Not Understand the Concept of Airbnb
Some guests may not fully understand the principle behind Airbnb, particularly first-time users.
Because of the way Airbnb markets itself, newer guests have the misconception that the properties they book come with 24-7 concierge service and will expect the same treatment that they get from a hotel.
Don’t get annoyed with them if they send you a hundred messages, even if they’re asking some of the same questions repeatedly. Patiently answer their questions and offer them any tips or pointers you can to help them adjust.
Furthermore, if you can tell a guest has no idea how Airbnb works, it’s okay to explain it to them kindly. Remember, every guest is or was new at some point, and it may take time to understand the differences between Airbnb and hotels.
Provide All Essential Amenities
If you are going to allow guests into your house, make sure that all of the necessary amenities can be provided.
This includes having enough toilet paper and hand soap available for use in each bathroom. It also includes making sure there is a functioning kitchen with dish soap or detergent so they can clean up after themselves before leaving!
You’ll want to make sure you’re fully stocked on the following essentials:
- Toilet paper
- Towels and washcloths
- Bathroom necessities
- Bed linens
- Extra pillows
- Clothes hangers
We actually have a dedicated post on the most important amenities your Airbnb should have, so definitely check that out!
Make Yourself Available, but Don’t Intrude
Many guests, especially those who choose to house-share, use Airbnb because they want a personal connection with a local. Some like the companionship; others just want someone to tell them about the area.
As an introvert, this might sound like hell at first. However, you’ll be surprised how much you can grow as a person when given the opportunity to share your story with others and learn about theirs in return.
But if you’re not house sharing, your guests may actually want privacy.
Either way, let your guests know you’re available to answer their questions and help them any way you can but don’t intrude on their vacation time. After all, some people don’t book Airbnb because they want company.
You can check-in via text or Airbnb message once a day or so.
Send them a message when they arrive telling them you’re glad they made it and that you’re just a phone call away if they need you. Towards the middle of the next day, shoot them a quick, “Just checking in” type message.
Guests who want the personal experience will take you up on your offer of help and companionship. Ones who don’t will send you a casual, “Thanks! We’re great!” message or wont respond at all, and either way, you’ve done your due diligence as their host.
Aim for Superhost Status on Airbnb
While having Superhost status may not directly increase your revenue, user behavior has shown that travelers will actually use the Superhost filter for finding properties to stay in.
Do what you can to reach Superhost status as soon as possible. People will see your listing more often, and you’ll appear in filtered “Superhost Only” searches.
In order to achieve Superhost status, you’ll need to have a minimum number of completed bookings per year and maintain an average review above 4.8 stars.
You can find out more about what it takes to be a Superhost in the Airbnb Help Center.
Airbnb is a great way to make some extra money on the side, and it can even be a fun way to meet new people.
If you have available property, you may want to consider becoming a host. If you do, be sure to follow these 21 tips, and you’ll reach Superhost status in no time.
For more helpful tips and tricks on making the most out of your property, check out the rest of our blog!