Nikki was one of the first hosts on Airbnb to earn Superhost status when the program first rolled out in 2014. She’s maintained that status for 16 consecutive quarters.
How does Nikki do it? She learned hosting from the ground up, starting with a tiny cottage in her own backyard in California. That single listing performed so well that Nikki was inspired to expand into renting out her full house during family vacations.
We sat down with Nikki to get the scoop on how she’s been so successful as a Superhost on Airbnb. Here’s what she had to say.
Why did you start hosting?
Six years ago, I stayed in my first Airbnb in Provence, France and loved it. It was a tiny little studio in the old town of Aix. It served our needs really well, but the hosts hadn’t really put much effort into making it charming or anything. I realized that if I put a bit of money into it, I could make something super special with the little 200-square-foot guest house in my backyard. I assumed it would only get booked rarely, but I was surprised when it got booked right away for a full week.
You got that first booking in your backyard cottage in less than a day. Why do you think it got booked so quickly?
I had cute photos, which is definitely a huge part of getting booked. And I had priced it really low since it was a brand new listing. I do this every time I bring a new listing online. I start with an initial listing price that is only 50‒70% of what the market rate is, until I have at least three reviews (or until I am getting so many booking requests that I can raise the price to market rates). I do this so I can work out the kinks without sacrificing good reviews, and because it is important to get a bunch of reviews as soon as possible so the listing appears higher in search rankings.
Have your expectations of hosting differed from the reality?
I really didn’t have specific expectations or an overall vision as a I got into hosting. It all happened very organically. I took opportunities as I saw them come up, and eventually became really involved with hosting. But I didn’t have a specific income in mind when I started.
Staying booked is key to being successful. How have you created such popular listings?
It all starts with a good space. It has to be clean, that’s the number one thing. I like my spaces open and airy. Very uncluttered, but with design focal points that provide places for your eyes to rest. It also has to be comfortable, especially the beds. I invest in memory foam mattresses, and people love them. It’s really an exercise in empathy. You walk through the space and think about how people will use it, then fit your design concept around that.
Having a good space is one thing, but how do you stand out among all the other great spaces on Airbnb?
Having good photos makes all the difference. Professional photos are a must. I think about what the space is, whether it’s a family space or ideal for a certain type of traveler, and I put that in the title. Write a really good description that’s very detailed and inviting, so that you’re drawing someone into the listing. Describe the beds, the linens, name brands of specific types of soap or amenities you’re providing. This is also where you want to start setting guest expectations. Make sure you include descriptions of your property’s quirks, like if a bedroom has weird doors or anything like that, and mention it several times in the listing. But explain it in such a way that it’s honest and clear, without being a turnoff. You want to attract good fits and provide enough transparency to help your guests select for the property that they want.
How else do you help set guest expectations?
For me, communication is the number one rule of good hosting. Beyond the listing, your direct communication with a guest starts right with that first inquiry. I always ask potential guests a few follow-up questions after every booking request, not to be rude or nosey, but just to make sure that the listing is a good fit for them. Really, you’re starting the process of getting a five-star review at that point.
What strategies do you use to make sure you’re communicating well with guests?
Outsourcing email communications has been a lifesaver. I use a paid service that I load up with pre-written form emails. So when a guest books a listing, they receive an automated welcome email that includes the House Manual and any instructions relevant to the space, such as how to turn on the hot water. It’s too time consuming to compose emails individually and I have no problem sending form emails. It’s a necessary part of hosting. I want to make sure every guest gets the right information with no missing pieces.
What has surprised you most about being a host?
The biggest surprise to me is how wonderful the guests have been. I’ve had maybe five incidents over the years where someone wasn’t happy, but for the most part, people have been so honest and kind and understanding. And on an economic front, I was surprised at the income. I didn’t go into this expecting to do so well, let alone turn it into a career. I’ve focused on the things I really like about hosting and pursued opportunities when I saw them, and it’s turned out really well.
*[If you wish to send Nikki a message regarding her interview, please reply publicly below or via direct message here in the Community Center (by clicking 'Send Message' in her Community Center profile]
THIS is the THING Air bnb MUST adress. I cannot put on this show everytime some one comes to my HOME, may I add, not an investment property. It is an impossible standard and unrealistic. I have recently had inquiries and/ or booked guests ask me for my blue prints of my house, or have some one "tour" it before booking. NO. and Air bnb need to put some restraints on the guests. I think rude or guests who have unrealistic expectations need to have their reviews WEIGHTED for relaism. I recently had a 70 year old cost me hundreds as he blew out my electric panel by overloading it with the pool heater and ac, get in three hours late and my house keeper charged me for that, rent the wrong baby equipment for his little grandson and blame me....then called my housekeeper and pool man servants and said they were not around. IS there any recourse for this obvioously senile man who doesn t understand I am not the Hilton? No, just lots of empathey from Airbnbn staff over th ephone. I recently was kept on the phone by a guest who yet to come that I am dreading who asked me "how many people can stand in the kitchen?" and can you get sheets that have not been washed in Tide? really? ANd if I call Airbnb before the guest gets there and try to warn them I am concerned, there in nothing they will do about it.
I don't think Airbnb understands what it means to treat its hosts with proper "customer service". They certainly do not practice what they expect of us hosts. I had to make a claim (my only one thus far), because guests caused $5K in damages, which included leaving an iron mark on my antique dining table and breaking one of my antique chairs. Airbnb compensated me for the dining room table since that was obvious damage. However, they said the chair was "normal wear and tear", no matter how I disputed that a broken chair is not just normal wear and tear (including the remainder of my claims). Airbnb reimbursed me for $1800, but they were by far the worst insurers I have ever dealt with!! DO NOT BELIEVE AIRBNB's $1M PROTECTION FOR HOSTS--total FALSE ADVERTISING. Best to request a hefty security deposit.
I asked Airbnb to not allow the guests to make any comments, and I agreed I would not comment too. However, I feel badly that these guests may prey on other hosts. Be wary of a couple from Egypt (possibly in their mid-late 50s) with 2 older daughters (maybe in their late 20s or early 30s) with the name of Amir Attaalia who say they are 7th day adventists.
I am sorry for you bad experience and lost your hard to get super host status. I do agree that this was too harsh. A host could have one ot tow cancelations without being pinalized. I have been lucky in my conversations with Aribnb staff, and I was able to hold my superhost status for 13 consecutive quarters, but soon I will lose it because I have not been able to host for a year. I also do not think it is fair to loose it if you have not hosted. Hosts should loose their status if their reviews were not as positive not for not being able to host.
I very much agree with you Eliana! There are so many other reasons to lose a superhost status, but being inactive should not be a reason. Airbnb has become worse every year for hosts and have applied onerous and stricter standards on hosts unnecessarily. We hosts are what keeps Airbnb afloat, yet they treat us with so much disrespect. I half expect to lose my superhost status, because I have temporarily unlisted my home.
Airbnb seems to create policies that work only for them and certainly not for hosts or guests. Now they expect guests to pay a good portion, if not all, the rental amount even half a year in advance -- but they do not give that early rental amount to a host until days after the guests' arrival.
Thank you very much for telling me about your experience.
It seems to me, that part of the situation is, that Airbnb has grown
so much and I have noticed that their phone responses, for instance,
are not as prompt and as well handled as they were three years ago
when I first started. I also understand that they have to have a system
in place in order to handle the volume, but when there is a special situation
like we experienced, there should be some help on their part and should be
All the best to you for the future,
After such a long time being a superhost it seems only right that you receive more understanding than to lose your superhost standing. That certainly is harsh. We have guests who tye up our calender 2 months in advance for a 3 week stay and can cancel 5 days before coming from another country under the moderate cancellation policy and ABB treats that as normal, when obviously the guest from another country would have allready known for a long time they were not coming. This does not seem like fair comparison punishment to me.
A bit harsh Kat ... click on the link! Airbnb are doing a great job and trying to improve and assist us to improve. We can all improve. Cheers
My name is Lizzie and I am the Community Manager here, it is lovely to meet you both.
It is great to hear you would like to know a little more about Nikki's listings. I have just added a link to her Airbnb profile above, but you can also view it here.
Thanks for highlighting this and Rhonda, it would be wonderful to hear if you do stay in her home. 🙂
Hope to speak with you again, soon.
Hi I can see Nikki's profile using the link, but not her properties? Would like a link to her property/s so I can see her photographs? Is that possible please?