I have noticed a lot of new hosts asking questions recently, so I thought I would start a thread where we can all share our tips to help out the community. I have learned a lot over time and there are definitely things I wish I would have known going in. Some of this guidance is based on mistakes I made. Please feel free to chime in!
1. Start with shorter stays. The turnover is more rigorous but this helps with two things-- reviews and making sure your place is not damaged. It also helps you to get more practice flexing your "hosting muscles." As I said in another thread, some guests target new listings and do crazy things because you don't have experience. Better to have this person in and out than spend months in dispute. Also, be mindful of landlord/tenant laws in your area that may kick in on stays over a certain length of time.
2. Check the space between each guest, even if you have a cleaning service. This is imperative when you start hosting. You can not only help your peace of mind, but you can also see what sorts of norms and habits people have. That can definitely give you a baseline to know if things are amiss in the future.
3. Make your decisions upfront. Decide early if you are open to hosting pets, children, families, etc and stick to it. You can change your rules over time but be solid in what you want, and clear about expectations, from the beginning. Don't make exceptions to get bookings though it can be tempting. Wait until you have hosted several stays over a period of time to really evaluate if you are ready to change your policies.
4. Leave house rules in multiple places. Post them in your listing, leave copies in a "house guide", explain them in person if you can. I have found that most guests need at least three cordial but gentle touchpoints to actually read and understand the rules. The vast majority do not read them on Airbnb.
5. Be careful about the capacity of your listing. Especially early in hosting. Again it can be tempting to allow more guests than you would like to get extra money. Many guests will not "count" their kids, friends, hookup, grandkid, etc as an extra person and will often try to get away with bringing more people to the space than they have booked. Ask after you get a booking and the day you send check-in instructions to verify guest counts. DO NOT allow parties. Seriously. If you are new you need some time to get the hang of hosting before taking that on. Remember that extra guests may require extra cleaning, may do more wear and tear to your space, may take more showers when you are trying to sleep if you homeshare, may use more towels, linens, dishes that need cleaning, so plan accordingly. Don't give the impression that your space holds more than your listed capacity by mentioning things like air mattresses or sofas unless you want people to try and use them by bringing extra folks.
6. Always be as polite and kind as possible, even when people are difficult. But be firm. Stick to your rules about your space. Don't be afraid to say "I am sorry this doesn't seem to be working out. Let me call Airbnb and see if they can connect you with a more suitable stay" if you need to.
7. Leave fair reviews. I recently had an inquiry for a guest with a 3 in one category but glowing reviews from 5 hosts. Now how does that happen? You can always ask for help here on how you word your review but you absolutely need to be honest and mention whatever the issue was (if there was one.) That can be a real hurdle to a new host who is trying to build up their own reviews, but it is super important. This community is really good about helping without too much snark 🙂
8. Understand that your space needs to be cleaner than the average home. We actually have a cleaning service who does our primary house and they would not past muster for Airbnb. In our space we have a cleaner and we go BEHIND her and clean for an extra hour or so each and every time just to make sure she didn't miss anything. Our primary house is not as spotless as our Airbnb cottage and no one would say our primary house is dirty. 🙂 Its just a different level.
9. Watch your payouts. Airbnb has bugs from time to time and it will take persistence to resolve payout issues if one gets missed. We just went through three months of haggling and over 2 dozen calls to support to get a payment we were owed. If a guest alerts you to a problem with a payment or Airbnb cancels the reservation due to a payment issue, its very likely you will have a hard road ahead to collect on the stay so keep that in mind if the guest asks to re-book.
10. Be realistic. Not everyone is a serial killer and not everyone is a saint. Start from a "trust but verify" point of view with guests and give them the benefit of the doubt in most cases.
Bumping this thread and adding 2 tips:
Don't open your calendar too far into the future. Firstly because, hey, a pandemic can happen and your plans can fly out the window but you are still committed to guest stays AND because your rates may go up. We had a guest recently book at an old rate for what could have been a very difficult stay. It would not have been enough to cover what we needed. Thankfully it worked out okay but it did draw attention to not opening up your calendar super far in advance.
Go with the highest rate you think is reasonable. I know you want to get as many guests as possible but cheap rates often equal poor guests. If you don't value your space appropriately, they won't either. Many hosts start with a low introductory rate to test the waters. Sounds good but honestly, in our case it was a big mistake. You would be surprised at how much more demanding people are at $50 a night than they are at $120. I am not sure why-- perhaps one of my fellow hosts is a psychologist and can speak to this! It took us much longer to meet our hosting goals at a low rate and it was JUST as much work.
About reasonable prices there are nuances. Yes, guests who are only looking for freebies are usually less adequate, I agree. And selling a Villa / cottage too cheap probably does not make sense given the costs.
I have a small apartment and in a difficult period of business this is a different case, because in a resort city prices can be 100 euros per night in August and 30 euros in November, and to sit with a crown on my head and keep a high price it will be stupid, given that this is my main income.
Thank you for the beautiful list!
I can add that the most important thing is to determine the target portrait of your guest. It takes thought and mental work and time, but this is the most important thing. Everything depends on it, from the design to the minimum length of stay. Who do you want to see as your guest? Couple with children, business trips, romantic couple, young people who love computer games, etc. Initially, all hosts want to make it universal, so that it is suitable for everyone, but this does not work optimally. The better you define your target audience, the more suitable you can make accommodation for them and attract the guests you want to see.
Another important nuance is clean . I see here in the topics that there is sometimes confusion, because what is "clean" for you, your personal home, is absolutely not equal to the concept of "clean" when you receive a guest for money.
@Anna9170 Well said and so true. There are so many listings I read when the host is complaining of problem guests and parties, that just read like a real estate ad, extolling all the virtues of the listing (and none of the warts) impersonally. So they are trying to appeal to everyone and don't even give the guests any sense that this is someone's home that they care deeply about.
I think one of the reasons I've really had no problem guests in 3 and a half years of hosting my home-share is that from the start, I put in wording to attract the type of guests that would appreciate what I have on offer and be a good fit for me to share space with. I say it's a good place for someone who wants a quiet tropical vacation, a 20 minute walk from town and the beach, a quiet place to come home to, away from the hustle and bustle and noise of the centro. Also that it would suit guests who want to read, work on their art or writing or yoga practice. And those have been exactly the type of guests who have booked.
I just can't envision some party animal showing up with a bag full of art supplies and a yoga mat. And while all my guests haven't been the creative types, the ones who aren't have been outdoorsy (a 20 minute walk to town is no big deal for them, and they enjoy the exercise), go for runs or walks or sailing or surfing lessons, and while most of my guests will stay in town late one night of a week or 2 week booking to check out the night life, that's usually enough for them, and they don't stumble home drunk at 3AM, either, aside from only one guest who did.
@Sarah977 I think it's like a Dating site to some extent 😂, the more honest and clear you write about yourself, the more likely you are to meet a like-minded person.
So I will say again - don't try to make everyone love you, it's useless! Hosts are afraid that a clear position will scare off some potential guests, but this is great! You will be visited by those who are on the same wavelength with you, and this is the key to successful work and healthy nerves.
My advice would be to treat it also like any new job- there is a huge learning curve you would naturally have to get over if you want to succeed.
Common sense is not that common, so try to make everything as fool proof as possible. If any issue pops up more than 2x address it in the house manual, put a note to explain how it’s used, send it in a private message as an FYI and explain it and have them repeat it back to you if you greet them at check in. We have a manual door (pull handle down, keep in this position and pull towards you) that just too many people could not open- it was not damaged or anything of the sort, just too many people did not know how to open it. SMH.
Before or after reservation (If IB) is confirmed, confirm anything you think might be deal breakers even if noted in the listing, check in time and guests staying. Eg.
Closest Underground station is 15 mins walk or 5 mins by bus, all rooms are only accessible by stairs and we have no flexibility when it comes to check in time. You have booked to stay
check in: xxxxxx
check out Xxxxxx
Guest total: 1 adult , is this yourself only
Please could you confirm this is fine as to approve your stay on my end.
Finally- and this is a BIG one- you might realise this (STR) is not for you and that’s fine. So, when starting please keep your window to as small a time frame as possible, it’s only logical.
Good luck 😉
@Yadira22 Yes! Great advice.
It boggles my mind when I see posts from new hosts with long term reservations, especially in the US. In states like California where occupancy laws are very pro-tenant, hosts run huge legal risks by accepting reservations over 28 days. I think a lot of people just don't understand that they may have to evict a squatter after that! If you didn't like them as a guest, how are you going to feel after you have to go through months of legal proceedings and thousands of dollars to get them out of your space?
The length of a reservation is definitely something to think about for new hosts who may be uneasy/nervous about hosting complete strangers. There have been a few guests who I didn't really like. Nothing bad but we just didn't mix well. What keeps me from losing it is thinking, they'll be gone in 2 days. But that's why I love short term - Imagine if it was a long term tenant, I'd be stuck with them!
@Emilia42 another great point. Understand that you might not like every guest, but that doesn't mean they are a bad guest. Some people just aren't a great personality fit. Sometimes you have to separate your own values and quirks from those you are hosting. It's a fine balance between keeping your boundaries and being objective. As a new host, it takes some time to learn that. Best that you aren't "stuck" with these folks longer than you want to be!
@Laura2592 I think a lot of new hosts, if they haven't had experience as landlords before, are simply thinking about filling the space and that the length of the booking is something sort of immaterial. Whereas doing STRs as opposed to LTRs is a totally different ballgame.
Aside from the fact that I've never wanted a full-time roommate in my home-share, or questions of landlord/tenant laws, I wouldn't even consider a long-term reservation through Airbnb, because the platform isn't really set up for that. An Airbnb host just can't ask of guests the same things that a landlord would normally ask of tenants in order to protect themselves and their home, like first and last month's rent, a hefty security deposit in cash, references, employment history, etc.
@Sarah977 I agree. And it doesn't help that Airbnb is constantly offering suggestions to "Host longer stays! We have seen that travelers in your area may be interested in booking for 30 days or more. Set your monthly discount."
Maybe the number one thing that new hosts need to realize is that Airbnb is very much a hands-off platform. If you can settle disputes without involving them, they are happy. I learned this the first time I had a really messy guest who did not accurately portray the size of her party. I was shocked at the advice I was given by the CSR which was basically "well, there's not really anything we can do. Best to handle it on your own." If you go in knowing you really need to be ready to mediate any issues yourself you are much better equipped than I was. And that includes understanding that a LTR gone wrong can be a very egregious and costly error for a number of legal reasons.
@Laura2592 As per usual, Airbnb put the cart before the horse. If they wanted to encourage long-term stays, they needed to create different parameters for those, beyond the long term stay cancellation policy. And as I understand it from posts I've read here, Airbnb really only guarantees the first payment on long term bookings. If a guest's payment method fails for the second or third month, it's "Sorry, but we were unable to collect payment", and the host is left holding the bag as far as getting the now-tenant out.
On top of the list above will suggest you standardise messages
1. Inquiry email
-Listing deal breakers
-Check in/out dates
-Arrival time if close to check in date or approximation
-Ensure entire listing has been read and guests agree to follow all rules listed in ad.
2. Reservation confirmation email (I send this after the free cancellation period is over)
-Reservation dates and guest list
-Address (directions- links, maps and hints)
-Check in information with arrival time, eg. as to ensure host is present for time of arrival please send a message at least 30 mins prior to arrival, otherwise you will be made to wait during this time
-Check out information
-Guide book and house manual can be found in xxx
-Luggage holding services if not available to hold them before check in time
3. Day after arrival
Ask if everything is fine and reminder to contact you if they have any questions/concerns.
4. Day before Check out
Check out instructions
Check out time and date
5. After check out
Grattitude email and wish them a safe travel onwards or back home.
Combined these help save you alot of time and keeps communication very clean, easy to follow and concise. Thanks