2 years ago I began my family business and Airbnb adventure by listing my cabin in Bear Lake Utah as available to rent. I now own multiple properties and manage multiple more for others in the area.
I've now gone through the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. I've had some amazing experiences meeting people from all over the world, I've had some horrible headaches caused for me by guests. I've loved Airbnb and I've hated Airbnb. I've endured crazy winters and dreamy summers. I've been a Superhost, lost it, and got it back again. I've gotten stellar amazing reviews and I've gotten straight rotten ones. Among all of that this is what I've learned and what I would tell myself if I was starting again:
1. Document everything: Before, During, After
Before - Take pictures in high definition of every square inch of your house. Literally, break your room up into quadrants and classify each quadrant. Specific details you will look back on later, paint chips, holes, wear and tear, it will give you a base-line to compare damage to. Additionally, create a google spreadsheet of every item in your home, where you got it from, a link for a replacement, a picture of the receipt if you have it. Categorize items by room.
During - Some people oppose to this, but get video surveillance for your property; both inside and out. I have one internal camera in the main living room by the front door, and two outside watching my back deck and front door. This becomes particularly valuable in disputes. You have proof besides photos of dog hair that "could of been there when they arrived" (for no pet policies), or threw a party that got out of hand, or heaven forbid, walked out the front door with some of your stuff. Always make sure you disclose that your property is under video surveillance to abide by Airbnb's Terms & Conditions. My favorite is the Nest Cam for Outdoors, the 10-day playback subscription has paid for itself time and time again as a burden of proof.
After - I have created something I call my "100 Point Checklist". I have well over 100 items to check throughout my property after my guest leaves. Some of the key things on my list: count the towels, check each wall for holes/nicks, check the HDMI inputs on the TV, document any new scratches in the wood floor, check each comforter for stains, check couches for stains/things that got underneath, check all windows, check the carpet by room for stains, and many many more. This allows you to truly document the wear and tear in your property vs the damage and plan accordingly to address each.
2. Automate Your Property
While some hosts enjoy the thrill of spending time with their guests. I have found 95% of guests do not want/require the interaction. In these cases, I have automated my check in process. This also helps me as I now have multiple properties (multiple forms of income) that are difficult to be in multiple places at once. Key things to automate: Heater/AC & Front Door. Everything else is extra and not really needed. My favorite smart home integration is through Vera Controllers and connecting Nest Thermostats and the Kwikset 916 front door lock into the system. I LOVE the Kwikset 916, it has a touchpad that you can change the code to the last 4 digits of the guest's phone number and let them remotely access the property, while still maintaining security.
3. Always Be the Bigger Person
I learned this lesson the hard way. You will have demanding people, you will have rude people, you will host straight horribly demeaning people. They will yell, they will curse you, they will demand refunds for largely unsubstantiated claims and for events that are sometimes out of your control. I once had someone trash my property, he refused to be responsible and was so rude. I let my anger get the better of me and told him what I really thought of him through the messenger. It didn't make me feel any better, plus Airbnb decided not to award my claim case because of it. Always take a second step back, breath, then address the situation. It always ends better.
4. Be Quick to Apologize, Then Quickly Go Above and Beyond
I once had a booking where I just couldn't get it turned around and clean in time. I was 2 hours late for check-in. Amongst hundreds of bookings, things like this will happen eventually. If I was in my guest's shoes I would be furious. I quickly apologized, got them into my property and situated and quickly called the local pizza shop (which in Bear Lake is phenomenal). I had them hand deliver some gift card to my guest and told them pizza was on me. What could have turned into a disastrous review, became one of my most glowing review that has netted me MANY additional bookings!
5. ALWAYS Ask For Reviews & Feedback
Here is the exact message I send to every guest after they check-out, "I work very had for 5-Star reviews as they help my business a lot. This property is my small family business and a review goes a long way for us! If you enjoyed your stay, and wouldn't mind could you please write us a review about your favorite parts of our property? Also, if you had anything go wrong or suggestions on how we could improve would you please send them to me in this messenger as we welcome your feedback and love to improve". This magic message has brought me more 5-Star reviews than any other property in our area. It also serves as a release for guests to get the negative stuff off their chest before they put it in a review. I've phrased it to seem like I genuinely want their feedback, which I do, and have learned some of my most valuable ideas to make my property stand out from this feedback from my guests.
6. Don't Respond, Instead Start the Conversation
So many hosts try to keep their status by being "quick to respond". Tell them the information before they ask for it, be good at communicating everything they will need to know. You will get better at this over time. Remember, 80% of messages you need to send on Airbnb can be pre-written and sent at the opportune moment. Some examples: Directions, Check-in Instructions, How is Your Stay Going?, Check-out Instructions, Review Request.
7. Forge Local Partnerships
Areas are dubbed the term "communities" for a reason. It denotes the ability to help each other out. Take time to create a recommended list of "things to do" or "my favorites to visit" then go to the people on that list and let them know what you are doing, that you will have guests you'd like to send to them. Ask for exclusive discounts or partnerships. Not only can this turn into a second form of income from the referrals, it makes your guest feel special and well taken care of!
8. Take a Trip Yourself
Get out and go somewhere. Book someone else's Airbnb, take note of their style, and how they do things. Pay attention to what it feels like to be a guest. Nothing is better for putting yourself in your guests shoes than by being one yourself.
9. Always Follow-Up With Guests
When someone sends you a request, they are likely looking at multiple other properties similar to yours. They send multiple hosts requests, they get excited about their trip but then they wait to hear back from all the hosts, plus get feedback from those taking the trip with them. If you have approved someone to book, and they haven't responded in 2-3 days reach out with a special offer and knock off 5% off the price. Everyone likes scoring a deal, help your guests feel like you will make it worth their while to stay with you. This isn't a hard statistic, but I would guess this tip has netted me at least 15% more bookings.
10. Be Grateful
It is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle, it is easy to get frustrated with bad guests, it is easy to get overwhelmed by all the things to do with your property and life. Take a second, step back and find some gratitude for the opportunity to rub shoulders with diverse people in your life. Take a second to find gratitude for the extra income your property provides. Take a second and be grateful for the things that make your life great! It will really help you enjoy the journey, and love what you do!
This was mainly for me as I look back on my journey. However, I hope it has some value to someone out there!
I recommend you double check the tax situation. In my city and every airbnb city I have stayed in (at least in the U.S.) local governments collect the tax directly from airbnb, who pays it on your behalf.
When guests book, airbnb adds the nightly rate, cleaning fee, their service fee and local tax for a total amount to charge the guest. You as the host should never have to think about the fees collected from the guest in any way. All I do is see money flow into my account -- nightly rate plus cleaning fee minus a very reasonable service fee to me as host (something like 3%). Works for me!
Perhaps yours is a unique situation but I do believe that airbnb is willing to collect and submit all local taxes. Perhaps your local government passed a policy without reaching out to airbnb -- is that possible? It could be as simple as that. Perhaps you can be the person to connect airbnb government relations with your local planning department to make that happen. Good luck!
Dear Heather, we are not in the USA we are former Dutch colonies. There is no tax arrangement between AIRBNB and our government. The minister for economy and tourist affairs used the conversation with AIRBNB to boost this election campaign but they have never followed up on it, so now we have the situation that the government collects the tax from us while we cannot collect it from the guest unless the guest shows some sort of generosity. I already reached out to that specifiec Minister and he admitted that the job is not done.
The 3 percent you are talking about is not correct, it is more. I don't really mind the percentage I am more worried if there is anything left after all these costs.
When I started hosting in 2014 Amsterdam didn't yet have the agreement (let's call it arm twisting haha!) with Airbnb to collect the tourist tax of then 5.5% (now 5%), so it had to be calculated into the rental price.
You could consider including this right up in the summary text and maybe again down in the listing like a company would do.
"Prices are already incl. X% local tourist tax".
Dear Andrea I will do that again! This will mean an increase of the room price. I did that once and the resevations stopped. It is a difficult time I assume! will keep on trying. thank you for your feedback!
Dear Lisa I didn’t even know that when you suffer damage and you charge this to the guest through you deposit collected by AIRBNB that it affects your status! To be honest the only time I a placed a charge is when there were items stolen from the car of my guests including my towels and all the keys. That resulted in changing locks and replacing the towels. All the other damages that have been caused at my property ranging from driving into a closed gate, breaking keys into a lock or clogging my sewer system, I never claimed or charged. Every time a guest leaves I do a complete scan of the place as if I would have to live in it myself. And still I could get bad reviews because there are guests who “expect champagne for the price of beer” like one fellow host from Amsterdam, wrote to me, although fortunately that is the past. Lately I have received very kind reviews although that hasn’t stopped AIRBNB of sending me a message that my points 4.3 are too low and my listing would be suspended. That made me very upset and I called the contact person. right now they are sending questions and we are in the middle of that process. To be honest I answered all the questions affirmative that is: the suggestions they made to encourage my improvement and there is nothing else to improve. I am already given way more than that the guests are paying for. Every time I open up the door to the apartment for the guests to enter I see the surprise on their faces! That makes you want ot go on and open up your place for others to enjoy.
All great points. We like idea of the checklist to review inventory and taking pictures of all items and receipts. Very informative. Jennie & Mairon
Ever considered getting the Roomba 650 or 880 robotic vacuums for the cleaning process? I own other devices from Nest but I'd love to strengthen my arsenal!