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.
Read through all of the Hosting Help articles on the website. If anything isn't clear, ask for clarification here on the forum.
Make sure you understand the difference between an Inquiry and a Booking Request and how to handle each.
Check all your settings before going live with your listing. Many features are turned on by default for a new listing, like IB and discounts. Don't get caught out because you didn't make sure you had everything set to your preferences.
* The saying: “Don’t bite off more than you can chew” is absolutely a reality with hosting.
(Eg: The cohort number, requests by a guest - outside your listing house rules, or capabilities > keep to what you can do well.)
* “Makeshift” never will give you a good review..... never!
Be realistic about your listing.
Who are you targeting?
You can’t be everything to everyone.
(Eg: If you add extra people, they may have wanted it, then you allowed it... but now your space will feel crowded when they write a review.)
* ALWAYS use the Airbnb Message board.... ALWAYS! !
That includes recounting a conversation, or add screen shots of texts messages or chats on WhatsApp, sent to you by a guest.
Keep your side of the story documented.
***** But never forget The Three Fs:
Friendly - always be polite and professional, but you are not a charity
Fair - no discrimination ever; be flexible where appropriate
Firm - about your capabilities; and always on your house rules etc. ( You bend or break them, a guest will too)
After Airbnb's Extenuating Circumstances scam (and it is a scam) that's suddenly left tens of thousands of existing hosts with zero income, the very best advice anyone can give to potential new hosts is, "Run like the wind and don't even think about it"
Be sure to check with your local government agencies about what permits are required! I operated for over a year with a "Temporary Tourist Rooming Permit" from the Brown County Health Department, thinking I was totally good to go. One day I got a letter from the City of Green Bay saying I was operating in violation of their license requirements and was subject to fines. Turns out, I need separate licenses from the city, county, and state to legally operate. There was a lot of paperwork and stress; luckily I got everything filed in time to avoid being shut down or getting fines. We are licensed and inspected the same as hotels are here, and in a lot of other places as well.
Have extras of everything, and be prepared to do minor maintenance on a regular basis. People will scuff the walls and chip off paint; be prepared to touch it up quickly and don't let it bother you. When I first started I would get super stressed about tiny accidental wear-and-tear damages. Now I touch them up and go on. With people in and out who have various levels of respect for property, you can't get worked up over every ding.
Watch out for bargain hunters. People who ask for deep discounts or for exceptions to your house rules tend to not respect your property and, ironically, will usually leave less than stellar reviews. If someone is asking for all sorts of special treatment, that's usually a red flag.
My advice would be "don't be under pressure to accept guests".
Yes, a number of us do need the money, but if you are genuinely uncomfortable with accepting to host a particular guest, it's okay. It doesn't matter how much the money is, it cannot buy your peace of mind.
All the best with your hosting adventure.