Short Term Rentals (i.e. AirBnB, HomeAway, VRBO, etc) are one of the fastest growing segments in the travel industry. By stepping into someone’s home, rather than into a hotel lobby, travelers are given the chance to feel closer to their destination. It’s easier to feel like you’re a part of a city when you’re surrounded by locals instead of other tourists. Not to mention that travelers can save substantial amounts of money by renting an AirBnB rather a hotel room of similar size. On top of their savings, they will often also have amenities they can’t get in a standard hotel room, like a kitchen or washer and dryer.
However, in order to for travelers to have this luxury of becoming “part of a city”, there have to be people willing to open up their homes to invite them in to stay. That’s where hosts come into play. Renting out a space in one’s home is not something to be taken lightly. There is a lot of work that goes into creating a rentable space that will be well received by weary travelers. The benefits, however, can majorly offset the work. Of course, you can make extra income by providing travelers with a place to sleep, but you also have the chance to meet people from all over the world! You can have a friend in every corner of the globe in a year. You may be able to finally afford that 10-Day Alaskan Cruise you’ve always dreamed of taking! A staggering 95.7% of AirBnB hosts in 2015 said they would recommend becoming a host.
But not all hosts are created alike! Let’s flash forward and say you’ve decided that you want to take the plunge and try your hand at hosting. What does it take to become one of the top rated hosts in your area? You may be competing against hundreds of other rentals in your area. What can you do to set yourself apart? How can you get those five star reviews that people look for prior to booking? Well, having a penthouse with a view of the ocean doesn’t hurt, but any space can be a 5-Star space! It’s the simple things that make all the difference. These common sense ideas that are not always common practice.
As a host, there are three things that should always be considered when it comes to any rental space: Safety, Functionality, & Appearance, in that order. Whether we’re talking about a lamp, a door, a kitchen, or a bed, those three aspects need to be examined.
For instance, let’s look at something every rental should have - a bed. When looking at a bed, the first question you need to ask yourself is, ‘Is it safe? Will a guest get injured on this bed with normal use? Is it rickety? Will they fall through the mattress?’. If the guest could be put in harms way, then it’s not for your rental space. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the bed is, or if it’s an antique, it needs to go.
Next, look at the functionality. A bed can be functional as a bed, but can it be more functional? Can you add a trundle bed? Adding a trundle bed can increase your nightly rate because you have more beds. Can you add some storage underneath? Adding storage can give your guests more room to unload their luggage, or you can use it for extra blankets, towels, etc.
Finally, look at the appearance. Does it match the decor of room? Does it match your city? What are people looking for when they visit your town? Are you in the middle of Manhattan or in the Rocky Mountains? Look at those three aspects, in that order, with every area of your room. If a bedside table is a beautiful 100 year old antique, but when you set your coffee down it falls apart, then it’s not a good piece.
The top ten ways to be the World’s Best Host:
10. Keep Your Calendar Updated - Keep you calendar updated! There are few things more frustrating than finding the perfect space, trying to book it, and then finding out it’s not available. It’s especially annoying when it’s a group of people traveling, and there’s multiple people that need to be appeased. It doesn’t do you any favors by turning people down, and it wastes everyone’s time.
9. Know Your Competition - Watch your market. If your rental space is 30% more than every other one in your neighborhood, there should be a good reason. If you’re space is exactly the same, you won’t see much business coming your way. You may think your space is worth more than your competitors, but if that’s so, you need to sell that in your description box. When you first start out, it may even be a good idea to have your pricing a bit lower than your competitors until you have a few good reviews. Once you have a couple 5-star reviews, you can move that price up to where you think it’s worth.
8. Have Incredible Pictures - Pictures can make or break a listing, and the thumbnail (preview picture) is incredibly important! When a traveler is looking through hundreds of possible options, your thumbnail needs to stand out. If your first picture is a blurry photo of your couch, chances are it will be passed right by. Show off the best feature of your rental. But it doesn’t stop there! If you have a good thumbnail and people open your listing, many people will start with the pictures before ever looking over the description box or other information about the listing. If the pictures don’t catch their eye, they’ll move on to the next listing. So make sure your photos are high quality, well-lit, and honestly show off your space! Another idea is too also include your own photos of the local area, such as the corner pub, local street, etc. This will give the possible guest an idea of what is within walking distance, giving them yet another reason to rent your space.
7. Keep it Hotel-Like, But Personal - Provide guests small, hotel-like amenities (shampoo, conditioner, soap) but make your space personal. Guest want to be comfortable and taken care of, but in a space that is unlike a standard hotel room. Make the space your own, but keep things in style. Make your space a reflection of your local area. Do people come to your city to ski? To go to the beach? To work? Keep that in mind as you decorate your space. Include your own style, but not too many knick-knacks & personal items/photos. You can go above and beyond by providing bottled water, fresh fruit, chocolates, or even champagne, depending on the guest. For business travelers, an ironing board and iron could be important when booking, as well.
6. Easy Entry - A keyless entry can be a great way for your guests to get in and out of your rental without you having to be there. If it’s a code-based system, you can also change the code in between each guest! It also protects you from someone losing your key or accidentally taking it home with them.
5. Hostiness - “Hostiness" is an art form, and being a good host is a major part of what makes great rentals! Have a checklist of things you want to go over when each guest arrives. Be thorough and show guests everything they need to know, but read people and don’t overstay your welcome. Sense your guest’s communication style and follow their lead. Make your guest feel special!
4. Be Honest - Be honest in your listing! When selling your space online, play to your strengths, but be up-front about everything. If you’re right in the middle of the city, play up the fact that you’re in the heart of everything that’s going on, but be honest if there’s lots of traffic noise. Don't show pictures of your grand piano or billiards table on your listing and then have it locked/off limits from guests without mentioning it in your description. If you are up front and honest, you’re much less likely to have people complain in the end with a negative review. Setting the right expectations from the outset will save you headaches and bad reviews down the road.
3. Keep Everything Stocked - Keep everything stocked, with backups easily accessible. Have a designated “back-up closet” where guests know they can go and get more paper towels, soap, toilet paper, sheets, towels etc. Even extra toothbrushes, coffee and tea. Buying bulk from places like Costco or Sam’s Club will be your friend. Additionally, wi-fi is the number one guest request, and for many people, it’s non-negotiable. Wi-fi is as necessary as water today.
2. Guidebook - Have a local guidebook or app. Have local recommendations, house rules, wi-fi & internet passwords, and emergency numbers (local police department). Include an apartment guidebook (how to use the tv, washer/dryer, thermostat, what to do if you blow a fuse, etc). Two-thirds of short term rentals cross international borders, so keep that in mind when creating your guidebook. Be plain spoken, easy to understand, include maps and diagrams where available. Keep your house rules easy and followable - no smoking, quiet hours after 11:00PM and so on. (Anything too verbose will be off-putting and more unlikely to be read.)
1. Keep it Clean - You can be renting out the Taj Mahal, but if it’s not clean, you’re still going to get bad reviews. If your space is dirty, that is one thing that no guest will look past. You need to make sure you’re available to clean before each guest. If you have a busy schedule, build a good relationship with a 3rd party cleaning company, and make sure they’re there when you can’t be. Sometimes there may be as few a 2-3 hours in between guests. Have someone (a friend or family member who lives nearby) who can help you. If for some reason you can’t be there to greet someone, or if you’re gone and a guest has an issue, have someone you trust who can help.
See more of our tips and tricks on being a great AirBnB host here: