How To Run A Successful Airbnb
Have you been thinking about renting out a room in your home on Airbnb? Thinking it might be a nice, simple way to make a little extra money?
I’ve been operating Airbnb out of my house for just over a year now and for the most part, it’s been a great experience and has helped me pay bills and have a little extra spending money.
I became a SuperHost (which basically means you respond quickly to requests and you have a certain percentage of 5-star reviews in a certain amount of time) after only a few months. Being a super host comes with a few benefits.
Below you will find all the steps that I took to become a SuperHost in my first 3 months.
Airbnb Business Tips & Legal
This category has 4 simple suggestions – strong suggestions.
- Make sure your local municipality allows for room sharing.
- Get insured. Airbnb has some insurance coverage but it doesn’t cover everything.
- If you rent, get landlords permission.
- Keep track of all expenses and income, you do need to report it to your local tax agency.
Airbnb uses reviews of both parties (the host and the guest) to help users (hosts and guests) make decisions. As a guest you probably want to get good reviews so that you won’t have a problem staying anywhere and as hosts you want to have good reviews so that people can trust your place is a good option.
When entering your description keep in mind anything that makes your room special. Are you near certain venues? Near the airport? Quiet residential neighbourhood? Out in the boonies? What kind of people would book your listing? What would they be coming to your neck of the woods to do?
I am located in a residential suburb outside Toronto. In my experience, I find that I get a few business travelers who are here either for conferences or training. There are a lot of large businesses near me and centers for training. A few times people were just passing through on a longer journey and only needed one night.
Last summer I did have a number of people here from overseas. They were on vacation to see Toronto but also wanted to go to Niagara Falls, which is about an hours drive from here and is a huge tourist destination. I am close enough to the city for people to go that way…and close enough to Niagara Falls for a day trip.
Security Cameras. Apparently if you have any security cameras in the common areas of your home (not bedrooms and bathrooms) you have to have it on your listing description.\
Your profile. Be sure to use a clear, normal, professional looking photo for your own profile. Guests want to see who they will be staying with.
Be sure to use Airbnb to look at other listings near you. This will give you an idea of the quality (or lack of) of each room, the way it looks, the rules, the reviews and most importantly the prices.
You can use the competition’s prices to determine your price.
If their price is $40/night for a basic, blah looking room and yours is very nice and comes with a private bath, then you can probably charge $50/night.
I always charge $1 less than a more rounded number (ie: $49 or $44 instead of $50 or $45). I’m not exactly sure if this helps but hey…my background is in marketing so I think it might help. LOL
I personally do NOT use this because of my particular situation but if I didn’t live in the unit I was renting out I would definitely use it.
I want to be able to see reviews, and have a conversation with someone before they book. I want to feel comfortable with who will be staying in my home with me.
I have a male friend down the street who also does Airbnb and he has Instant Book turned on. He’s had more bookings than me, but he’s also had more issues.
So choose wisely on this one.
Be sure to add an appropriate security deposit for your listing. If someone spills red wine on your cream coloured carpet, it could cost a lot to clean or replace. Note: one of my rules is no food in the bedrooms.
Feel free to charge extra money for extra bodies. I don’t do this in my case because the room only has a queen bed and no more than 2 could sleep there. If parents came with a single child, I’d allow it for no charge.
If you have a full unit/condo/apartment/house that you’re renting, you may want to charge more for extra people because you’ll have extra water running, extra electricity, extra clean up and well….because you can. Consider the groups alternative. Six or eight people in a hotel would cost multiple rooms so they are still getting a deal at $10 or $20 for extra peeps.
Eating. Where can guests eat and where do you want them to NOT eat. My rule is no eating in the bedroom. The bedding is all off white and the carpets are cream so any spills will not be hidden easily. Only water is allowed in the room. If they want to eat, I have a kitchen and dining area they are allowed to use for eating.
Clean up. If guests use your kitchen, what are your expectations for cleaning up after themselves. I had a guest who cooked at least once a day and very often she left her dirty dishes. On occasion she would clean them, but just leave them out on the counter to dry. Once she left the sink and the entire counter covered with clean but wet dishes. I’ve since changed my rules to include dry and put away dishes.
Common areas. If you only rent a room, do you want your guests hanging out in your living room watching tv? It’s ok if you do…that’s partly what Airbnb is about – getting to know people, having them live an experience as opposed to just a room rental. But…if this doesn’t make you comfortable, be sure to have that in the rules.
Key access. I haven’t seen this one recommended by too many other Airbnb hosts. I have a lockbox outside my front door attached to the handle. There is a front door key in it. I insist that the key never leave the property (too easy for someone to take and get a copy made).
Extra guests. One time I approved a request from a middle aged woman who gave me the impression it was just her that would be staying. She arrived late at night and I let her in, showed her the room and then she said she had to go get her stuff from the car. I said goodnight, asked her to be sure to lock the door and went to bed.
The next morning I wake up to see her and this big, scary looking dude coming down the stairs. It really freaked me out so from now on I asked about every person who will be staying. If this is in your rules and they break the rules, you will have more power with Airbnb if any situations arise.
Parties. Will you allow your guests to have visitors? Gatherings?
Pets. Will you allow your guests to bring their pets?
Kids. Is your space kid friendly? Do you want to allow babies? Toddlers?
Quiet hours. Is there a time when you want your guests to be quiet?
Laundry. Are guests allowed to use your laundry machines?
Your Airbnb Space
Spend some money. When I first decided to rent out a room in my home it had dark blue painted trim, puke coloured walls and an 80’s style wallpaper trim around the top of each wall. It was hideous and also the way it was when I moved in. I didn’t sleep in that room, so it wasn’t a priority for me to update it.
Once I decided to rent it out on Airbnb, I sunk a little money into it. I stripped the wallpaper, painted all the trim a cloud white and the walls a beautiful soft blue. I choose the particular blue because it was pretty but not too girly and I felt it would appeal to both men and women alike. All the paint cost about $100 and it took me about 20 hours of my own labour.
Decorate. Put a little effort into decorating. Try to make things match. I already had a really nice bedroom set in there that I wasn’t using along with an off-white sheet set and comforter set (IKEA) that I also wasn’t using so it matched nicely with the soft blue walls. I spent about an hour in HomeSense looking for artwork that would completely compliment the walls and the bedding. I spend about $75 on art.
Use a mattress pad with a plastic underside. This will protect from any type of accidents on the bed.
Remove personal items. This is just my personal preference. When I stay at an Airbnb I don’t want to see your family pics on the walls or your personal items in a private bath (shared bath is different). Remove these things and make the room feel like a comfortable hotel suite as much as you can with only items that are intentionally meant to be there. I believe this will make it more enjoyable for most guests.
Other Airbnb hosts may and experts may disagree on this. Some think it’s better to have some of your personal things around. It lends to the whole “experience” of Airbnb. so this is really just a personal decision.
Clean the room thoroughly. Make sure the room is as clean as you can get it. Airbnb works in large part on reviews. Having a bad review will not help get you more guests. You want to avoid that at (almost) all costs. If you hate cleaning ,especially cleaning up after strangers, charge a cleaning fee (see below) and pay someone else to do it.
I stayed in an Airbnb once and the place looked like it only had a light surface clean. There were major dust bunnies in the corners, inside the drawers was crumbs and dirt and the bed sheets were just thrown on. Needless to say they didn’t get a great review from me.
Take great pictures. Put a little effort into taking great pictures. Always take pictures in the morning if possible. Make sure the room is spotless, sheets are pulled and without wrinkles, pillows are fluffed and decor is perfect. Open all curtain coverings and turn on all the lights.
Take a picture from every corner of the space. If you have a shared space with common areas (like kitchen, living area), take pictures of that as well. If possible include a picture of the outside of the house as well. This can give the guests a feeling for the neighbourhood as well as help them to identify your home when they first arrive.
Print a welcome letter & rules list. In the letter, welcome the guests to your home, give them instructions for things like cable tv, wifi passwords, local transit access, taxi numbers and driving instructions to local highways.
Also have a repeated list of rules (you should already have these on the list – see below) printed off incase they didn’t take the time to read them on the site.
Put coasters on night tables. If you have decent wood furniture make it really easy for people to use coasters for their drinks. I’ve had people cause water stains on my furniture. I leave them right on the night side tables. I may even put a small printed tent card on each table beside the coaster so that people will get the hint. 😉
Include a desk and chair in the room. By including a desk and chair (and wifi) you can list your room as friendly for business travellers. This will help you get more guests.
Provide basic toiletries. Have basics in bathroom such as body wash, cotton balls, Q-tips, Kleenex, etc – it’s always nice to have a small stash of other items such as travel sized toothpaste/toothbrushes, razors…not that i’ve ever had someone ask me …but if they did I could definitely offer.
Provide clean quality linens. Be sure to have clean and preferably fluffy towels in the room/bathroom and good quality sheets on the bed. I stayed in an Airbnb that had cheap ass, old sheets and it was kinda gross.
You don’t have to spend a lot on this. I always use white for towels so that I can see how dirty they become after each guest. Usually I pick up a matching set here and there at Value Village or a local thrift shop for a couple bucks. It’s not hard to find newer towels that are still soft at thrift shops. They don’t have to all match, as long as they aren’t too scratchy and old looking. Get some bleach!
Get a lockbox or combination door lock. For both shared and entire spaces you can use a lockbox to allow your guests to get in and out without you being there. They have lockboxes where they are controlled by Wifi and you can control them on your phone.
Even better you can get a Smart Lock (may need professional installation) that also connect to wifi and have an app. This can allow you to assigned various passocodes for each guest – great for if you have more than one room being rented.
Basic lockboxes start at around $25.
Smart lock start at around $200.
Get a safe. Or a locking doorknob on a closet and keep your valuables in there. (jewelry, watches, extra money, passports, etc)…cause you’d rather be safe than sorry.
Be A Great Airbnb Host
Being a great host will generate great reviews. Great reviews will get you more bookings.
Have a welcome letter. I created this simple letter which I print off and leave in the room. I also include a printed copy of the rules as well. I include wifi password, taxi number, an app suggestion for transit, my personal cell phone and a few other items.
Be responsive. One of the biggest things you can do to become a SuperHost is to respond quickly to requests. I’m always connected with my phone (install the Airbnb app) so I can usually respond within the hour. In order to become a SuperHost, Airbnb expects you to respond within 24 hours but the sooner the better.
Coffee anyone? Have a coffee machine and tea readily available. This is just a simple, low cost addition you can offer people. I also have a few travel cups (Starbucks $1 refillable cups) that are available if they want to grab a coffee and leave.
Filtered water. I have a water filter in my kitchen and I fill up a glass bottle of it along with a couple drinking glasses to leave by the bed (WITH THE COASTERS – ha). This is just a nice touch I think.
Be thoughtful. When my ex and I rented a condo in old downtown Montreal for our quick 3 day honeymoon, the hosts left a little gift basket with a bottle of wine and a few small goodies in it with a personal, handwritten note congratulating us on our wedding. This was a really nice touch.
Have a guestbook. One of the most enjoyable things about having an Airbnb listing is the interesting people you’ll meet. I’ve had people come from all over Europe, the Middle East and the US. I thought it would be nice to have a guestbook with a pen in the room. It’s always nice to go back and read messages from pasts guests.
Give a tour. If I am home (and I almost always am) I always give my guests a tour of the room, bathroom and kitchen. I point out various aspects of the room and remind them of any specific rules I think are important.
Selecting Guest/Accepting Reservations
I personally don’t accept anyone without at least 1 review, unless I have a really great conversation with them and then I go with my gut. If my gut gives me any indication of concern, I deny the request. I don’t need the money that bad that I would risk having a bad guest or put myself in an unsafe situation.
If you are comfortable having Instant Booking turned on, go for it. You’ll get more bookings, but I personally don’t because its a room share in my house which I live in with my family.
Extra Tips For A Successful Airbnb
A few extra tips I’ve learned from a very successful Airbnb’er who has 20+ properties across the city of Toronto.
- If you have a couple days in between bookings and it’s within the next 2 weeks, drop your prices ..it’s better to get less and have a booking than to get $0. Remember you’ll still get the cleaning fee even for a one night stay.
- Add a cleaning fee of at least $20 for a basic room, $25-30 for room with bathroom and around $40+ for small condos and upwards depending on the size of the space.
- Leave a small gift for your guests. If you’re renting a room, something that has a value of $2-4 is idea (fancy chocolate or candies), if you’re renting an entire house a decent value for a gift would be $7-12 (bottle of wine, gift card for local shop).
So there you have it…everything I have learned and done to become a SuperHost, make some pretty decent money from the spare bedroom in my suburban home.
I will continue to update this post as I learn more.
Now It’s Your Turn
Tell me in the comments below about your Airbnb experience. Are you just getting started? Do you have some tips to add? Looking forward to hearing your stories and suggestions.
About the Author
Tracy is a long time entrepreneur and digital marketer. She blogs about things she's learned in life...everything from making money, saving money, having fun, doing interesting things, how to's and a lot more. She lives in Mississauga with her daughter. She loves travelling, blogging, marketing, reading and occasionally gardening.