We were Airbnb hosts for one year and had a truly great experience doing it. Unfortunately for us, there is now a lot of red tape surrounding operating an Airbnb (additional fees, permitting, inspections) and it just wasn’t worth it to us to host anymore. That being said, it was a great experience (and extra income generator) for us and I’m happy to share what we learned through it.
1. If you can make check-in happen without your having to be there, you’re both better off.
One thing we learned really quickly is that people’s travel plans are not nailed down as to when they’ll check in. We had set up our listing where we met with people individually and gave them a key. We set a check-in window from 4:00 PM – midnight, but quickly learned that people often expect a bit more flexibility, especially if they have flown in and want to drop their bags off. I understand this, and knowing it now, I think we would have coordinated a lockbox instead of in-person meeting. That being said, it is nice to meet the people staying at your place in-person and to show them where the obvious amenities are.
2. This is your chance to show off your local favorites
We included a full guidebook of our favorite local things to do (restaurants, cocktail bars, coffee shops, walking trails, the list goes on and on). With the Green Bay Packers larger than life presence here in the area, many people who visit primarily see the stadium district and little else. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but we wanted to make sure that people saw some of the amazing locally owned (non-chain) restaurants, breweries, coffee shops and retailers while they were here, too. We also made a point of uploading our favorite things to do onto the Airbnb web guidebook option – so that people could start planning their trip while using that resource long before they checked in and saw our physical guide book. We offered to guests that they could contact us if they wanted suggestions for places to go – some did and some did not.
3. Small touches go a long way for earning positive reviews
You do make less money in the long run if you go above and beyond on your amenities, but it definitely helps to make people feel more at home than they would in a hotel. I included fresh fruit and local pastries for breakfast for our guests, locally roasted coffee, chocolates from a local chocolate shop and a local postcard. I also had a chalkboard where I would write the guests’ names and draw a message welcoming them. Often times, guests would draw back a thank you drawing or leave a card thanking us in return. It was really sweet. I paid attention to things noted in the reservation requests, too – one time a woman shared that she was booking this as a birthday present for her husband, so I had a birthday balloon attached to the breakfast basket when they checked in (they LOVED that!). I also left out comfortable touches that I know would make me comfortable, like adult coloring books, board games, crossword puzzles and local books and magazines about the area.
4. Invest in all white linens and towels for your guests to use
I don’t know what it is about white towels and sheets, but they just look/seem so much fresher and cleaner than colored ones (in my opinion). It might be because it reminds you of a hotel? I stocked up on all fresh pillows, white towels, sheets, washcloths, hand towels, etc. exclusively for guest use and bleached them in between visits. It gave the Airbnb a polished look and I think met guests’ expectations for cleanliness. A lot of people had said “you had strangers sleeping in your bed??” in disgust. Well, yeah, that’s sort of how this works. But we didn’t sleep in the same sheets! That’s where the difference lies in my opinion. If you’re a germaphobe, this might not be for you. Be sure to leave a laundry basket in an obvious place, too. Most guests will drop all of their towels in for you before they leave if you make it obvious for them.
5. Guests won’t drink your tap water
This one really surprised me, but we quickly learned that we would often find our recyclable bin filled with plastic water bottles and often extra ones left in the fridge. We have really good quality tap drinking water in Wisconsin (I’ve lived in New Jersey where I had to drink filtered water, for example) and I think nothing of drinking unfiltered water straight from the tap. Many people will assume that your water is not good though and won’t even try it. You can accommodate this by having an on-faucet filter, a Brita or water filter bottle in your refrigerator, or just keep in stock plastic water bottles for guests. I hate the plastic involved, but if you realize through habit that they’ll use them – accommodate that need for them.
6. People are very respectful of your space
We rented our Airbnb as an Entire Place listing and would stay with family for the night or two. Rather than locking up different areas of the apartment, I put up cute hand drawn signs on closets or areas that were off limits that just said, “Private, thank you!”. Nothing harsh like a “DO NOT ENTER” sign. This made it super clear that people were completely able to use our coat closet, laundry, all the amenities of our kitchen, etc. I look at it this way – one of the major reasons I stay in Airbnb when I travel is because I like having access to laundry and a full kitchen. Why on earth can’t someone use my cookware or my washing machine? People responded well saying that they appreciated free range of the kitchen and the convenience of laundry.
7. One night stays aren’t worth your time spent cleaning
Originally we allowed for one night stays, but quickly realized that one night is too short and anything over three nights is too long (especially if this is your primary residence you are temporarily not staying in). We thoroughly cleaned top to bottom before guests arrived and the work of cleaning and laundry was simply not worth it for a one night stay. If I were to do it again, I’d have a two night minimum on our property. You need to know the dynamics and pricing of your market though. In Green Bay, we have a distinct shortage of affordable places to stay during home games and you can easily mandate a two night minimum and charge between $150-$200 per night, only because that is affordable compared to area hotels. Research what other properties go for in your market and realize that you may need to list lower until you build up some credibility through good reviews.