Six months ago, after weighing the pros and cons, my wife and I decided to turn an investment property into an Airbnb vacation rental. Having never hosted before, we scoured the internet to learn as much as we could before kicking off our Airbnb side hustle.
Despite our preparation and research, we’ve still learned several things “on-the-job” that we would have loved to have known ahead of time.
Below, I share the 3 most important things that we’ve learned after 6 months as Airbnb hosts.
1. Create Inexpensive “Wow” Moments for Your Guests.
It’s easy to look at pictures of some of the other Airbnb homes in your area and immediately feel discouraged.
There are hosts out there who have invested serious cash into making their home a dream vacation stay, adding things like:
- Expensive furniture and decorations
- Jacuzzis in the bathrooms
- Pools and hot tubs outside
- Elaborate game rooms inside
For hosts who have added these upgrades, I commend you for investing the hard work and money. But if you don’t yet have the budget for those types of additions, that’s ok. There are many inexpensive ways to add little, thoughtful touches that make a big difference.
For example, we leave homemade cookies on the counter for our arriving guests along with a quick, handwritten welcome note.
This gesture costs us pennies but is by far what guests have mentioned the most often in their positive reviews (and helped us reach Superhost status quickly).
Since our particular Airbnb listing is for an entire home, we naturally attract a lot of families. Knowing this, we’ve included a few affordable kid-friendly touches. Having kids ourselves, most of these things were items we already owned and had duplicates of, so they didn’t cost us anything at all. Things like:
- Toys and coloring books in the guest room closet
- Pack-and-play in the master bedroom
- High chair in the dining room
- Board games in the pantry
- Boogie boards and beach toys in the garage
All these little things add up, and I believe are the reason why we, so far, have only received 5-star reviews on our place.
Is our home the most breathtaking one on the market? No, not by a long shot. But our guests can tell that we care, and that’s really all they’re looking for. Get started as an Airbnb host.
2. Focus on “Beds” not “Bedrooms.”
Within our first month of hosting, we discovered something that significantly increased our bookings: a lot of people filter their Airbnb searches by how many guests the house can accommodate, not necessarily the number of bedrooms.
Believe it or not, many guests (especially larger groups who are splitting the cost of the Airbnb) are fine with having multiple people per bedroom or using the living room as sleeping quarters at night.
So what did we do? We purchased a queen air mattress and two twin roll-away beds. And just like that, we were able to accommodate 5 more guests! Also, our bunk bed in the guest room has a full mattress on the bottom, so technically it can fit 3 people. We made note of that on our listing.
And, yep, we even added the couch as available bedding!
When you include all of these extra bedding options, we can accommodate 9 guests… in a 2-bedroom home! And that makes a HUGE difference in getting found on searches.
Now let me be clear: you definitely want to be honest about your accommodations.
Don’t say you have a 3-bedroom home, when you only have 2-bedroom. And be forthcoming about the kinds of beds that you have. If your 5 “beds” includes an air mattress and a couch, just make sure that’s clear on your listing.
But as long as you are honest and straightforward about what you have to offer, increasing your home’s bedding capacity is a really smart move. Start building your Airbnb listing.
3. Automate Tasks to Save Time and Hassle.
When we had the idea to start an Airbnb, we went into it with the perspective that we wanted our earnings to be as close to passive income as possible.
Obviously, Airbnb income will never be as passive as being a traditional landlord due to the need to communicate with guests and clean the house in between stays. But we wanted to eliminate as much unnecessary work as possible. In other words, we sought to automate as many tasks as we possibly could.
For starters, we have a system in place for our guests to let themselves into the house upon arrival. For the first 6 months, we used a simple $10 key box with 3 keys inside for our guests to use. Just this month, we upgraded to a $50 digital lock that uses a pin code.
We make it clear to our guests that we will NOT be giving them a tour of the home when they arrive. We word this in a way that makes them feel like this in the interest of respecting their privacy. This has saved us so much stress and hassle for two main reasons:
- We don’t have to have our whole day tied up waiting for guests to arrive.
- Guests who are driving to our home from long distances can arrive late at night and it doesn’t affect us one bit.
When corresponding with our guests, we’ve saved certain “templates” that we use with every guest. Instead of spending several minutes writing a note to thank a guest for booking with us, we can send that same message with one tap on our phone. Huge time-saver!
We also have clear house instructions that preemptively answer the most common questions that guest have – like how to connect to the wifi, how to operate the tv, and where to find extra towels and linens.
Many guests not only expect their hosts to provide their home, but also to give recommendations for sites to see and places to eat that tourists wouldn’t normally be aware of.
We’ve put together a guidebook filled with all of our favorite local restaurants and attractions. It includes the address, contact info, and a few personal thoughts on why we love each place.
This has turned out to be more efficient for us AND more helpful for our guests than having long conversations with every group about things to do in the area.
Having extra towels and an extra set of sheets per bed is huge as this will take a lot of stress off of you during cleaning.
Upon arrival to clean, my wife immediately puts clean towels in the closet and clean sheets on the bed. Then she just takes the dirty ones home and cleans them at her leisure.
For our first month of hosting, we didn’t have any extra sheets or towels and the pressure to get everything washed, dried, and back in place for our next guest was enormous. There were a few times that we literally finished up only a few minutes before our next guest arrived!
If you can’t afford any extra towels and linens at the beginning, I would highly recommend making this your first investment after your Airbnb starts bringing in some income.
Still not convinced you should give Airbnb hosting a shot?
Well, let me finish with this: the most pleasant discovery that we’ve made during our 6 months as hosts has been how nice our guests have been! In 6 months, we haven’t had ONE confrontation with a guest. In fact, nearly everyone has been incredibly sweet.
Some people go into Airbnb hosting expecting the guest to be the enemy that you need to protect your home against. Don’t have that mentality. It will immediately change the framing of each conversation with your guests from friendly to adversarial.
The truth is that the vast majority of people on Airbnb are kind, respectful people. Act like that’s what you expect and most of the time, that’s exactly what you’ll get.
Good luck and happy hosting!