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How to set up Your Home for AirBNB
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How to set up Your Home for AirBNB

Are you interested in short-term vacation rental hosting? You’re in the right place! We’ll be going over everything, from all the things you should consider before making the decision to jump in and list your property to how to prepare for guests in order to provide the best experience!

Here are some things you’ll want to ask yourself before you begin…

Is my home desirable?

A common misconception of Airbnb properties is that you have to live near a beach or near a  body of water to have a successful rental. While location does lend some additional appeal, it is not the only thing that determines a rental’s success. According to Airbnb’s website, they have over 4 million Hosts who have welcomed more than 900 million guests in almost every country across the globe! These listings include yurts, buses, gypsy wagons, windmills, treehouses, tiny houses, and even castles. These one-of-a-kind stays and unique experiences are what travelers are looking for. Creating a safe, comfortable, and clean space for guests to enjoy is the one thing that will be important no matter what type of rental you have.

What are some budget-friendly ways to make my property stand out?

A little can go a long way in terms of making your property stand out from the sea of rentals. It can be a thoughtful amenity you’ve included that makes guests feel extra welcome, a unique furniture piece, a fun accent wall, an unexpected focal point, or quirky decorating style.

There are certain things like cleanliness guests will come to expect, but giving them a little something unexpected or unique could be just the thing to help your property stand out. Whether you plan to DIY, or hire a handyman company like Fixer to help create a more custom feel, don’t skip out on going the extra mile to impress your guests. Take a look below for some fun inspiration!

Maybe your city is known for great biking. Incorporating a bike as part of the decor can be a fitting focal point that gives your property a hip, urban feel renters are looking for.

In this example, old bike wheels are used creatively as lighting.
Here the wooden surfboard along with the natural wooden antique crates add character and personality to this beach bungalow.
The vintage vibe at this property is played up with some quirky wallpaper, antique furniture, and a few one-of-a-kind objects that add a pop of color and a touch of whimsy.

If you’re also looking for some easy, inexpensive ways to improve the exterior of your property, check out our previous blog post, “10 Quick & Easy Ways to Create Curb Appeal on a Budget.” Or if you need some help planning or redesigning your interior vibe you may be interested in, “How to Create a Mood Board.”

What is your end goal?

Are you hoping to make some occasional or consistent secondary income or do you hope to make it a full-fledged business that generates a larger flow of revenue? Maybe you already have a family property you’ve purchased and in order to make it more affordable, you want to rent it out to others when it is not in use? This step is necessary to determine before you rush into renting because you’ll need to figure out how much cash and time you’re willing to invest into the property to make it desirable for guests.

Costs Involved?

Walk around the space critically and with an eye toward safety. Are there any loose steps or exposed wires? Other hazards? Get all that fixed before you advertise for your first guest.

In addition to safety, if you really want to impress potential Airbnb tenants, making some smart upgrades such as, providing high-quality appliances, furniture, decor, and  amenities can really help maximize your profit. Is there a dated light fixture or caulk that needs replacing? Don’t skip out on these details! In order to charge a top dollar nightly rate, your property needs to be well maintained.

Some other expenses you may want to consider that can be overlooked are cleaning crew costs, increased cost for utilities, additional spend for expected amenities such as cable and wifi, insurance coverage, taxes, household supplies, and repairs.

Do you have the time & flexibility?

People often think short term rental hosting is easy, but there is so much more to it than impeccable cleaning and collecting rent. Your responsiveness, not only with bookings, but also for any issues that may arise while guests are at your property (eg. internet goes out or drain gets clogged) will make or break your rating as a host.

In fact, Airbnb tracks a host’s response rate, which measures how consistently you respond within 24 hours (by either accepting or declining) to guest inquiries and booking requests. Your response rate can impact your position in search results so you’ll want to make this a top priority.

Maintaining a 90% or higher response rate can also help you achieve Superhost status, which can increase trust and boost conversion rates. To learn more about becoming a Superhost click here.

Keep in mind being a host could mean you have to wear many hats. Be prepared to be the sales, marketing, and customer service person of your space! If you’re lacking in any of these areas or simply know sales, for example, is not your forte, you may want to consider hiring an employee or two or investing in automation tools to help create efficiencies in guest communications.

Host tools that may be helpful

BeyondPricing – delivers a smart, dynamic pricing tool that first analyzes your listings’ market value based on locality, seasonality, and demand. Then, it updates your listings’ prices accordingly. This update occurs daily and automatically, so you don’t need to spend time researching competition or waste energy manually changing your rates.

Guesty – the ultimate property management platform for short-term and vacation rentals. It simplifies the complex operational needs that property managers face on a daily basis – from guest communication to task assignment to payment processing.

Smartbnb – Smartbnb automates the day-to-day tasks that should be managed by technology, freeing up hosts to deal with only the issues that need a human touch. Automates communication from the first inquiry to the final review.

Touchstay – allows you to build digital guidebooks designed to help any type of hospitality professional better communicate with their guests.

What are the local laws regarding hosting? Do I need a permit?

It’s important to check your city’s local laws and regulations for short-term rentals and stay up-to-date with any changes. Be sure to check with your city’s local zoning department to see if you’re required to register for a permit or for any further code rules.

In addition to registering, some tax jurisdictions may require short-term rental owners to pay an occupancy tax. Occupancy taxes, also commonly known as lodging tax, room tax, hotel tax, or tourist tax, are taxes that hosts and property managers are required to collect from guests then pay to state and/or local tax authorities when operating a short-term rental. Occupancy tax is collected differently in every jurisdiction so be sure to check to avoid any fines or penalties.

Check regulations for Seattle , Dallas, Chicago.

What type of neighborhood is the property in & who are the neighbors?

This may not be something that immediately comes to mind, but is an important consideration. Are there neighbors in close proximity to your property that may be bothered by noise? Are there families with small children nearby that would feel uneasy by strangers coming and going every week? Do you have rules in place to respect others that live near your property?

All of these questions are good to think about before deciding to turn your property into a rental. Also, having some transparency with your neighbors and giving them a heads up or asking them how they feel about the idea, can also help ease any concerns and help prevent issues before they arise.

There is no doubt there is a lot to think about before deciding to become a host of a short-term rental. Being a successful host requires a lot of time, flexibility, patience, and good managerial skills. If this excites you and you’re thinking to yourself, “I’m in!,” let’s dive in deeper and take a look at what you need to prepare for guests and potential problems you may run into so you can be prepared how to handle them ahead of time.

How to Prepare for Guests

Safety

This step should not be overlooked. Ensuring your property has smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers in place is a good start. If you allow children to occupy the property, adding things like outlet covers, cupboard locks, and a baby gate will be much appreciated by parents who already have enough to pack with little ones in tow. Also, including a well-stocked first aid kit will be handy in case the need arises. Don’t forget to include either your email and phone number and/or the contact info of the appointed person who will respond to guests’ questions or problems.

If your property is in an area that gets snow or other weather-related emergencies it would be a good idea to provide shovels, ice melt, flashlights, extra batteries, and have a stock of non-perishable food.

Presentation

Presentation is everything when it comes to listing your property on a rental hosting site. Think minimalism. You should definitely declutter and clear out everything but the basics to create a spacious, relaxing vibe. Organize all the necessities so they are easy to find and convenient to use. Then do a deep clean including blinds, walls, floors, light fixtures, baseboards, and appliances. Make sure to dust end tables, headboards, TV stands, wall shelves and sanitize all high touch surfaces like counters, sinks, doorknobs, light switches, and remotes. Guests will expect the property to be as clean or cleaner than a hotel. If this is something you might struggle with, consider hiring a professional cleaning crew to help. It will be worth it when good reviews start pouring in!

Once your property is tidy, clean, and ready for guests it is important to capture quality photos taken from multiple angles with good lighting. Remember guests are relying on the photos when deciding which property to rent. Good photos can make or break a guest’s decision to rent so if you’re not confident in your ability, hire someone. It will be a one-time expense that can really pay off.

Basic Necessities

We’ve included a detailed list of basic necessities you’ll want to have in each area of the home here.

In the kitchen, you’ll want to have pots and pans, dishes, utensils, cutting boards, dish towels, dishwasher soap, basic condiments & spices, and commonly used small appliances.

In the bedroom, you’ll want to have a comfortable bed, mattress protector, sheets, and pillows with extras stashed in the closet if needed.

In the bathroom, you’ll want to have basic toiletries, soft towels, and ample paper products like toilet paper, tissues, cotton balls, and Q-tips with extra stored nearby.

Remember one of the draws to Airbnbs is to be able to cook so making sure there is a space for guests to gather for meals. If you don’t have room for a full dining table and chairs consider providing stools for the kitchen island or TV trays.

Amenities

Some extra amenities you can add to make a renter’s stay just that much more enjoyable are onsite parking, onsite laundry, keyless entry, an outdoor grill, fresh bathrobes, a universal charging station in case guests forget theirs, and a welcome basket with bottled water and snacks. Not all of these are absolutely necessary, but they may just show renters you’re dedicated to making their stay extra amazing!

Consider also adding a host book that includes instructions on how to use wifi, cable, thermostat, pool, hot tub, and any other electronics the property might have. Include instructions about check-in and check-out, parking, where to take out the trash, and any rules you have for guests. Add information about nearby restaurants, activities, and attractions.

Common problems & how to be prepared

As a host, you’re bound to run into problems sooner or later. Let’s dive into some common issues that may happen so you’re prepared and equipped to deal with them once they do.

Check-in/out Time Changes

There will likely be a time when a guest wants to change their check-in or check-out time. The best way to avoid dealing with any headaches regarding time changes is to be upfront right in your listing as to what sort of time changes you’ll accept and how much notice before their stay you’ll require. If you mention the rules, but your guest asks anyway and you can accommodate the change without incurring any losses, definitely do it to make your guests happy.

Late Notice Guest Cancellation

One of the most disappointing problems for a host is getting an unexpected, last-minute cancellation. To avoid these issues, communicate with the guest before accepting the booking. Knowing their reason for renting can help you determine how serious they are about their reservation. Checking their reviews from other hosts can be helpful as well. If the problem is happening frequently you may have to consider a cancellation policy, but keep in mind this could put off potential guests.

Amenity Problems

If you run into amenity problems, like the internet going down or a faucet leaking, make sure to have a process in place to fix it in a timely manner, otherwise, guests might get upset and want to cancel their stay. Make sure to always apologize and ask the guest when would be a good time for you to fix it and make sure to follow through.

Property Damage

One of the worst possible problems you may face is property damage. Whether accidental or intentional these things can and do happen, however, there are ways you can protect yourself from having to absorb the responsibility of damages. You can charge a security deposit, draw up a legal vacation rental agreement, and purchase vacation rental insurance.

Bad Reviews

Receiving a negative review is also another common problem you may face as a host. A genuine, kind apology is always a good first approach. If that doesn’t work, politely share your side and highlight all of the positive aspects of your guests’ stay and explain in detail how you attempted to resolve the issue. If you know truthfully you dropped the ball, admit it. Honesty will be the best policy and detailing the changes you are making to address their concerns is a good idea.

Benefits of vacation rental hosting

Being a vacation rental host can certainly have its challenges as we’ve outlined above, however there are many benefits as well. If you’ve been thinking long and hard about whether or not hosting is for you, check out some reasons people choose to do it below: 

Generate Income

Income can vary dramatically depending on the rental location, how frequently you rent it out, the quality or uniqueness of your home, and the experience you provide. According to Earnest, Airbnb hosts can make on average $924 per month or approximately $11,000 per year. So whether you’re interested in generating some cash flow with a side hustle or a full salary, hosting can be a lucrative option.  

Provides Flexibility

Hosting may be a great option if you’re looking to break away from a typical 8-5 job, you seek flexibility, or simply want to spend more time with your family. 

Meet New People

Some really enjoy greeting their guests and the social aspect of hosting. If you are an extrovert and meeting new people from around the globe sets your heart on fire, hosting might be a source of excitement and joy. 

Learn New Skills

If you’ve been considering entrepreneurship, or are just looking for a way to expand your skill set, hosting could give you a taste of what that looks like. You have the option to start small with renting an extra room and build up to managing multiple properties if that is the goal. 

Hopefully we’ve answered some of your most burning questions when it comes to short-term vacation rental hosting. No matter if you’ve been daydreaming about having a vacation rental, you’ve already begun, or you’re looking for ways to improve and get more bookings, we hope you’ve found something useful here that helps you on your journey!

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