Instant Book basics
Instant Book is a powerful tool that allows guests to instantly book your home for available dates—alleviating the need for hosts to review and accept each booking request individually. Many hosts report that they earn more money by making the booking process easier for guests, and that they appreciate the convenience this provides. Listings with Instant Book also tend to show up higher in Airbnb search results. “The Instant Book feature has worked very well for us,” says host Antonio of Goa, India. “I keep the calendar updated and many guests book without my intervention.”
Keeping your calendar up-to-date is key to using Instant Book successfully. If you’re not able to do this, you could be surprised by unexpected bookings or end up canceling a reservation due to a scheduling error—an Airbnb no-no that could result in a cancellation fee. To ensure that your Airbnb calendar is always current, it’s a good idea to sync it with whatever calendar you primarily use (iCal, Google, etc). Here’s a tutorial on how to do that.
Tools for extra peace of mind
Some hosts may initially feel hesitant to use Instant Book because they worry that they won’t have much information about potential guests before booking. You can set your preferences to offer Instant Book only to guests who have received positive reviews from other hosts, and/or guests who have government-issued IDs. You can also create a custom greeting and include important questions (for instance, “Who else will be staying with you? What’s the purpose of your trip? Can you confirm you’ve read the House Rules?) that Instant Book guests will see during their booking process. After the booking is confirmed, you can follow up to ask additional questions if needed. “I used to require reservation requests,” says host Kristine from San Francisco, “but once I realized that what I was looking for in guests (positive ratings) could be handled automatically by Airbnb, it actually made more sense for me to use Instant Book to get the benefits of more views and bookings, while maintaining the same level of guest quality I enjoyed by reviewing requests myself.”
Why you might still get booking requests
Even with Instant Book turned on, there are cases where you might receive booking requests from guests. This could happen if you haven’t updated your calendar in a while, or if you’ve recently needed to cancel a reservation. Guests who don’t meet your criteria to book instantly might also send reservation requests. For any requests that do come through, you’ll need to respond by accepting or declining the reservation, or messaging your prospective guests within 24 hours.
Why some hosts don’t use Instant Book
Despite the many benefits of Instant Book, some hosts find that reservation requests work better for them. Annie, a host in Sonoma, California, uses reservation requests because she only offers long-term stays of 30 days or more, to comply with hosting regulations in her area. “I would love to use Instant Book, but there are a lot more logistics to figure out when you’re hosting someone for that long,” she says. “It’s more like having a tenant.”
Nichola, a host in Guelph, Canada, has an environmental sensitivity that requires her to keep her space scent free, so she uses reservation requests to ensure that guests are willing to agree to her very specific house rules. “I get migraines from scented products so I need to make sure my guests are folks who understand scent allergies,” she says.
Another reason to choose booking requests rather than Instant Book might be that your space has specific qualities that you need to make sure guests understand before their stay. Examples might include a private room in a home that includes pets or children, or an extremely rustic space that might be challenging for certain guests. Booking requests can be a good choice for assuring that guests are aware of all the unique aspects of your home before they visit.
Reliability is key for using Instant Book
Whatever decision you make, remember that Airbnb has strict policies around hosts canceling reservations, because reliability is a critical part of being a great host. That said, if you allow guests to instantly book and are uncomfortable with a reservation once it’s made (for instance, because your prospective guests are asking if they can break your house rules), you can cancel a booking without penalty using the online cancellation tool up to three times per calendar year. Just know that canceling a reservation signals that Instant Book may not be a good fit for you right now, so if you do this, Airbnb may send booking requests instead for your next few reservations.
Want to update your settings to turn Instant Book on or off? Here’s how to do it.
Spot on... All users of Airbnb should have their identities verified. I dropped the two rooms in my home that I used to share because of Airbnb dropping the ball on government ID verification.
Agreed ! I am sharing a room in my home with my family and I'd like to know a bit more about who will be spending time in my home, AHEAD of my having to approve their visit based on a very limited knowledge of who they are, and what other hosts may have experienced with them. Seems only fair.
Annie, a host in Sonoma, California, uses reservation requests because she only offers long-term stays of 30 days or more, to comply with hosting regulations in her area. “I would love to use Instant Book, but there are a lot more logistics to figure out when you’re hosting someone for that long,” she says. “It’s more like having a tenant.”
Correction: Under California law, Annie's guests legally are tenants after 30 days. Airbnb could do a better job of clarifying to hosts that guests who book a long-term stay through Airbnb can still acquire the rights of tenancy that supersede Airbnb policy - a very important reason to eliminate Instant Book as an option for stays of 30 days or more.
Probably not. I used to do minimum 2 night bookings and was very busy, but it has become an issue in my community so I now do minimum 30 days. And it is important that I vet my guests carefully. Complaints from my neighborhood will shut me down.
Many HOAs, at least in San Diego, will require that rentals be 30 days or longer to discourage coastal communities having a constant influx of random daily or weekly renters. The San Diego city counsel has even tried banning short term rentals all together and a minimum 30 limit was one of the many regulations that they had discussed. You are correct that after 30 days the guests have legal rights, but you do not have all of the information. I do agree with you, though, that it is dangerous in CA to rent for 30 days or more, so my max is 15 days. I have instant book on, but if they try to book for more than 15 days it should not be allowed. I haven't tested it, so I sure do hope that Airbnb has this feature set up correctly!!!
"Whatever decision you make, remember that Airbnb has strict policies around hosts canceling reservations, because reliability is a critical part of being a great host."
What about guests who cancel? Is reliability on the part of guests not considered to be important? These days, guests can cancel last minute and Airbnb phones the host on the guest's behalf, pressuring the host to issue a full refund in contravention of the host's cancellation policy. Hosts don't just make up their cancellation policies- they are chosen from the options that Airbnb provides. What's the purpose of a cancellation policy if Airbnb is not going to respect it? What sort of message does this send to guests? That it's perfectly acceptable to just suck up a host's time answering messages, cleaning and preparing the space for the guest, only to have the guest not show up and somehow be entitled to a full refund? While that guest's booking blocked the host's calendar so they lost out on expected income and had no time to rebook the space? How is this disconnect between being a good host and being a good guest fair?
AirBnb charges a cancellation fee even if the host does not. I find this very 1 sided. I had a very harassing message sent to me from a guest, regarding a cancellation fee that was charged by AirBnb. Seems like a double standard for them to charge and expect hosts to not. Our property offers a 100% refund on all cancellations- interesting how the guest was misled to believe it was me charging the fee.
@Barb-and-Mark1 Well, it's not that Airbnb charges a cancellation fee to guests, it's that they don't refund the service fee if the reservation isn't cancelled within 48 hours. And that information is fully available to guests if they would only bother to read it, it's not that the guest was misled, they just didn't fully read the cancellation policy. But I know some don't, and other hosts, like you, get some irate message from the guest who thinks it has something to do with the host. In that case, it's best to simply tell the guest "Airbnb service fees and reimbursement have nothing to do with the host. The policy regarding the service fee on a cancellation is fully explained under the cancellation policy, so you'll have to take that up with airbnb, as hosts never get that fee, Airbnb does."