Back in October, I wrote about dipping my toe into the Airbnb waters with a listing for my vacation rental condo on Kauai.
My Month 8 verdict: Like any listing site, Airbnb has its ups and downs. But it’s certainly a worthy tool to add to your toolbox. It’s free to list, so the risk is low, and I’ve had some great Airbnb guests at my condo.
Thinking about giving Airbnb a shot yourself? I’ve got the perfect book for you: The Accidental Airbnb Host: Your Room-by-Room Expert Guide to a 5-Star Guest Stay by Veronica Tercan, all-around lovely person and Airbnb Superhost who got her start at the Airbnb startup Urban Bellhop.
Veronica wrote “The Accidental Host” to usher new Airbnbers into the fold. The book’s title was inspired by the fact that many people don’t make a careful, considered decision to become Airbnb hosts—instead, they jump in with a “let’s see what happens” philosophy.
Sounds familiar, right?
The book is arranged into two sections. The first part takes you through the basics of optimizing your listing and ensuring you attract great guests. In the second section, Veronica gives room-by-room advice for kitting out your vacation rental to be totally guest-friendly and on-par with a hotel experience (in other words, music to my ears!).
My favorite part? The easy checklists for each chapter and room at your rental, which give you actionable step-by-step instructions for crafting a 5-star stay.
Let’s Talk to Veronica
Veronica was nice enough to answer some of my newbie questions about how to be an awesome Airbnb host.
Like many Airbnb hosts, I started out overnight, just renting out my extra bedroom to tourists and business travelers. I had zero hospitality experience, Airbnb was not very mainstream at that moment. It was only after I started working at Urban Bellhop, an Airbnb management startup, that I started taking hosting and hospitality more seriously.
I started looking for hotel quality products to use in the rentals I was managing and looking around in what I'd call, the more traditional, vacation rental industry. I found businesses that offer hotel quality products, like The Distinguished Guests, and started using them in my rentals.
I even started reading about vacation rental interior design through a website 1chicretreat and met Mercedes Brennan, a vacation rental interior designer. I started implementing all the great tips into my own Airbnb rentals. I knew that there were many people like me who were becoming Airbnb hosts overnight, and I wanted to share all the hospitality tips I had learnt with them.
NOT having professional photo's of your listing. I still see listings with dark images or non-professional photos when I search for listings on Airbnb, yet the photo of your listing is the first thing potential guests see in the search results when they're looking for a place. You want to catch people's attention right away.
Another big one is not filling out your profile description fully or having a unclear profile photo. These things seems trivial at first, but they can make the difference between a guest deciding to book with you vs. booking with someone else.
Airbnb, just like a few other sharing platforms, is built on trust between the host and travelers and having a clear photo of yourself and description of who you are is an essential part of that booking/travel experience.
The number 1 thing hosts can do, or maybe even should do, is to hire a professional cleaning service. It will make a huge difference, not only for you as a host but also for guests. Professional cleaners, in general, know exactly, what and how to clean certain areas well. There is an art to cleaning and you'll often notice it only after a professional cleaner has cleaned your house.
Especially if you host in your own house, it's easy to think you can just clean the space yourself. BUT you have to remember that your cleaning standards aren't necessary your guests’ cleaning standards. I had one guest cancel their stay because she thought the rental wasn't clean enough. She was checking remote controls, light switches, kitchen cabinets. I know that not all guests will be that picky, but you still want to clean for the pickiest guest.
Since the day my guest cancelled her stay, I stopped cleaning a rental myself and hired a professional cleaning crew. I never looked back!
I would however encourage host to make a list for their cleaning professionals of things that they cannot skip because they are especially important when hosting guests. For example, spotless glasses and cutlery, or no lingering hairs or fibers on the bed. I leant the hard way that details DO matter, especially when it comes to hospitality!
I think that what Airbnb guests most appreciate is having that local experience. There are many guests who like to stay with hosts, and those people usually rave about how welcoming their host was and how the host took them to places or even prepared a meal at home for them.
Not everyone decide to stay in a shared house, a lot of guests prefer to rent an entire apartment, because it has a kitchen or it's much easier to stay with their kids. So far, I've preferred to rent an entire place because I really like a lot of alone time for myself and don't feel like socializing all the time. But I do know that if I ever go to a city I don't know and decide to stay in a shared house, the host's profile is definitely one thing I will check out as well .
I realized over time, while being an Airbnb host, that it's important to have products and workflows that make hosting and turnovers easy. I'm talking about using products that can be easily replaced and washed.
For example when guests break a plate, that same plate needs to be replaced So you want to look for collections at IKEA or Crate & Barrel (or another store) that have the same collections for years. I also recommend products that are dishwasher-friendly, because guests simply don't want to be washing dishes by hand all the time.
And sheets that are easy to launder and dry. I didn't know about poly-cotton sheets until I met you, Alanna! When you take these sheets out of the dryer, they look as if you have ironed them (which you have not, of course, haha!), which is exactly how you want your guests to see them, wrinkle-free—like at a hotel.
Many Airbnb host in their own homes and take care of a lot themselves, so it's really important that you find a good balance between providing an excellent guest experience and having fun while hosting too (a.k.a, not driving yourself crazy!)
Thanks so much for your thoughtful answers, Veronica!
For many, many more tips and tricks for vacation rental hosts, pick up a copy of The Accidental Airbnb Host.