The Airbnb Ambassador & Super Host Coach, “A-Coach,” sat in his office when the phone rang. It was on the Airbnb business line, and he picked it up.
“Good morning, A-Coach here. How may I help you?”
“Hi, this is Doretta. I was planning my first Airbnb and came across your Facebook group. I went through your comments about how to avoid host mistakes. Frankly, it freaked me out so much I wanted to talk to you to learn more BEFORE I open for business.”
“I am glad you did Doretta. Let me set your mind at ease. The job of the host is not that hard. What I mean by mistakes are the things you might do at the beginning that postpone all the fun and benefits of hosting. My goal is to have you get great reviews on day one.”
Mistake #1: Listing accuracy is essential for Airbnb host success
“This is the most common mistake.
“Guests find you by searching the Airbnb site. They notice your photos and your descriptions of the lodging, location, and experiences. Suppose they like what they see, and they book. When they get to your place, and it does not match what your listing says, you will receive an unfavorable, if not scathing, review. Since Airbnb reviews are public, now the world knows. An insinuation that the host falsified the listing would be the worst kind of review EVER. You may never recover from this lousy advertising. Just don’t do it!
“I am not saying that a host is intentionally dishonest. Sometimes it is a simple mistake. For instance, you display a beautiful photo of your pool. But in the winter, you do not heat it, so it is not available. Be sure to take the picture down in the cold months and repost it when warmer weather returns.
Critical areas to be upfront about your listing:
- Accurate description of the location such as
- Distance from the airport
- Walking distance from bus stops
- Distance to shopping, restaurants, and the terrane
- Authentic photos of your property
- How to recognize the drive or parking area
- Actual images of all public spaces (e.g., bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, coffee/tea bar)
- Provide links to detailed house rules
- Arrival and departure times
- Number of guests allowed
- Statements about rules for identification, Airbnb background checks, pricing for additional guests, pets, noise limits, smoking, drugs, and anything else you are uncomfortable with. It is your property, and you get to set the rules.
“Doretta, having hard-copy rules available when a guest arrives is NOT a good practice. They should have the opportunity to read and agree BEFORE they come. They also should be given a chance to read and stop the reservation.
“Doretta, your photos are the reason people want to book your place. 67% of customers say the quality of the image is essential for them to select and book a vacation rental.
Airbnb provides excellent support articles on how to take great photos of your listing. In this article, they recommend:
- Set the scene: make sure space is clean and clutter-free
- Shoot in daylight: open drapes and blinds
- Use landscape format: they showcase your space better
- Upload the right resolution: at least 1024px x 683px
- Show off unique amenities: outdoor dining, gardens, backyard BBQ, pool
- Highlight accessibility features: Walk-in shower, wide doorways, step-free floors, grab rails
“If you are not feeling creative photo juices, hire a professional! The cost is usually under $100. Earn up to 40% more with professional photos of your listing. I believe that the professionals not only shoot better but also are much better at staging the scene.
“Doretta, public reviews are my favorite topic. Public reviews drive much of the world’s commerce. Airbnb is no different. Hosts review guests. Guests review hosts.
“Reviews are everything! 91% of 18–34-year old’s trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and 93% of consumers say that online reviews influence their purchase decisions.
“When potential guests come to your listing, they all follow the same routine.
- Is the location fit for my trip’s purpose?
- Are the photos inviting?
- Are the reviews positive?
“Take advantage of reviews. Start by providing timely and honest reviews for your guests. Set high expectations at the beginning. Communicate. Go beyond the normal. Yes, ask guests for great reviews because you have delivered on your promises and EXCEED EXPECTATIONS.
“And lastly, guest reviews are a gift! Use them as a competitive advantage. Read all of them and listen to what your guests say. Continuous improvement should drive everything you do.
“Doretta, are you familiar with the law of abundance? It has many interpretations. In the hospitality business, it is essential for long-term success. It is not a religious concept but an attitude for life. If you think that everyone coming to stay in your place is out to steal from you, it will happen. If you believe that every person who visits you has already made that choice because they believe what you created in your listing and want to experience your promises, they will.
“Not going the extra mile will limit what you receive in return for your efforts and investment. When a guest walks through the door, share your home as you would your closest friend. Give them the most comfortable bed you can afford, and they will write about it in their review. I recommend memory foam mattresses. If they have never slept on memory foam, the difference will make the difference. Go out of your way to provide more amenities than they expect. Provide extra free water in their room. Hotels don’t do that! Provide guests with energy bars, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, luxurious white bedding, free coffee and tea bar, luxury towels, and umbrellas for the rain. They will be so delighted with all your EXTRAS. They will tell others in the reviews they write.
“Will this cost you a little more, sure. But abundance will follow with fantastic reviews that bring in more guests, higher nightly rates, higher occupancy rates, Superhost ratings, and greater earnings.
“I never thought of it that way. Initially, my mind and pocketbook said don’t spend more than the basics. Now I see that I should go way beyond the expectations and the competition, and they will reward me many times over with their words in reviews.
Mistake #5: With no pricing strategy in place, you are missing out on profits
Doretta said, “my biggest concern is setting the pricing right. It just seems so confusing when I am starting. I don’t want it to be too high that no one comes or too low that I am losing money.”
A-Coach said, “I must admit, it is a challenge when you are first starting with no history.
A savvy pricing strategy is a key to success in the hospitality business.
“Price is a crucial factor in whether a guest chooses you or another place. Remember, for the guest; the per-night price is not the only charge. There is the guest service fee (an Airbnb charge of 14%), cleaning fee, additional guest fees, and hospitality taxes in your area.
To create a pricing strategy, YOU MUST do a little market research on your own. Check out the competition. Make sure you compare apples to apples.
- Your property type (entire home, private home, private bath)
- The number of beds/bedrooms provided
- The number of guests you can accommodate
- Guest amenities (i.e., hot tub, steam room, pool, breakfast, bikes, beach towels)
- Consider your location
Suppose you are just starting, price lower than the competition, and attract more guests to get those all-important reviews. As we said above, reviews are everything. When you have a stack of great reviews and a Superhost designation, people are willing to spend more for the proven, professional experience.
Let Airbnb’s Smart Pricing take the guesswork out of setting a price
Once you have the reviews and your routines down, you can set Airbnb’s Smart Pricing ON. This tool looks at several factors and picks what price to offer guests. Factors such as:
- Lead time: As a check-in date approaches
- Local popularity: The number of people searching for homestays in your area, including special events (concerts, beach volleyball tournaments, Comicon)
- Seasonality: Predictable seasonal changes in demand for your area
- Listing popularity: How many views and bookings your listing receives
- Review history: Your number of positive reviews from successful stays
Suggestion. Don’t use Smart Pricing when you are just starting. Use your competition as a guide and then charge less.
If you are getting close to the weekend and need booking? Turn on Smart Pricing. It will adjust to a price that encourages booking.
“Now, Doretta, pay attention to this next concept because there is no cost other than your time. Guest communication is all on you, and it can make all the difference.
“When you are in the hospitality business, it always comes down to communication. Airbnb guests are not the same as hotel guests. Hotels are impersonal to a great extent. When guests book Airbnb, research tells us that guests appreciate all kinds of personal communication.
- When they come to your site listing and have a question, they are ready to be impressed by an immediate response.
- When they have clicked the book button, a message that shows that you are happy they will be staying with you, door code, parking instructions, finding their room, and anything else of importance to make the visit to a new place less intimidating.
- A follow-up message asking for their estimated arrival time so that you can greet them or put the doggies in a safe place.
- Continuing short messages to make sure everything is okay with them.
- Message before their departure reminding them that check out is 11:00 AM and that there is no need to make the room perfect and leave a review because you want to know what to improve on.
A best practice is to let your guest know you are there for them.
Communications is one of the more essential review categories. Anticipating questions and quickly communicating are the keys to excellent communication.
“I like to talk, and after what you said, I should not have any fear of communicating with my guests.
Mistake #7: Not exclusively using the Airbnb messaging app
“Airbnb has a convenient app that lets hosts do so much.
- Communicate with your guests
- Check your room availability
- Answer your inbox
- Read Airbnb guidebooks
- Check your Superhost progress
- Host an Experience
- Update your profile
- Manage your account settings
- Get help
- Explore hosting resources
- Visit the Airbnb community forum
- Get gift cards
- Refer a host
“Airbnb’s platform is complete. Airbnb wants every host and every guest to use the app. That way, all conversations are recorded. If you ever need to use Airbnb’s exceptional support desk to manage a guest problem, SUPPORT will not help if the guest communication is not in the app. I always have my phone and app with me.”
Mistake #8: Do not underestimate the demands of the hospitality business
“Another mistake made by hosts on Airbnb is underestimating the commitment, attention to detail, organization, and effort required. Of course, the more properties you rent out, the more work you have. But even if you only list an apartment or a single room, there are things you must be ready for.
“Hospitality includes continuous cleanliness, replacing amenities (e.g., toilet paper, coffee capsules, communications, check-in and check-outs, maintenance, and constantly being ready for the unexpected.
“If you underestimate the workload and don’t keep up with any of the tasks, your business will be below the standard expected by the guest. Underestimating can seriously damage the reputation of your rental and lead to negative reviews, a decline in bookings, and a decrease in revenue.
“Therefore, it is essential to plan and organize. Having a list of chores for each guest turnover is a good start. It also helps if you outsource the duties. Prioritize the tasks and state approximate times to complete them.
“Do not forget the super clean chores. The window blinds may not need dusting for every turnover but leave time to do the blinds weekly. Other schedule super cleanings are carpet shampoo, baseboards, heating, AC ducts, windows, gardening, kitchen mopping, bathroom floors, shower grout, and maintenance or repairs.
“Now, here is a mistake common with hosting. Many people in our class have never checked the laws. With the popularity of short-term rentals, many communities have enacted restrictions. Every host should check their city’s municipal code requirements. Check with the association if you live in a gated community and are subject to homeowners’ association (HOA) rules and regulations. Many HOA does not allow short-term renting.
Why you should know the difference between Long-term vs. short-term renting
“Most states have laws distinguishing between lease terms exceeding 30 days (standard rentals) and 29 days or less (“short-term rentals”). Not only are the regulations different, but there are also tax consequences. So, check with your tax advisor on how this decision might affect you.
“Just as each state differs on regulations, so do cities. If you have multiple properties, know the rules for each governing body. Many cities impose a hospitality tax on hotels, motels, and short-term rentals. Airbnb makes this easy for you. Just register your listing with the town authorities, tell Airbnb to collect the local tax from your guests, and Airbnb deposits it with the City Treasures.
“If you have a long-term lease on a property, you may have other considerations and think of sub-leasing (rental arbitrage). Before you do anything, check the details of your lease to see if your landlord even allows it.
“Not knowing about the legislative situation in your area regarding renting out on Airbnb can be a colossal mistake for hosts. So be sure to take taxes, licenses, and laws into consideration. Not doing this opens you up to a hefty fine!
“I recommend to all my students and clients; you must feel secure in your property. The hospitality business is a business that depends on TRUST and is a fundamental part of renting through Airbnb. However, you should take the necessary security measures to protect your property and the well-being of your guests and yourself.
“There are many ways you can increase security with Airbnb.
- Airbnb verified. Verified identification confirms that an Airbnb user’s online identity is consistent with their offline identification (legal name and address, government ID. headshot photo). Your booking rules should say that ALL guests MUST be AIRBNB VERIFIED.
- Photo ID. Insist all your guests have an Airbnb photo ID. The photo allows you to compare the person coming through your door with the Airbnb app.
- Guest Reviews. Insist that the guests you accept have an Airbnb history of good reviews.
- House Rules. As a guest requirement, state the guest must read and accept your house rules. Your rules should include anything that will give you a sense of safety. Rules include no smoking, no drugs, vaping, no guests not on the reservation, noise restrictions, use of secure spaces, no food in their room, no alcohol, no firearms, etc.
- Home safety. Hosts should install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, a first aid kit, and emergency phone numbers.
- Liability insurance. Consider adding insurance to protect you and your estate if a guest is hurt or sues you. This insurance is in addition to Airbnb host protection of $1 Million.
- Use security applications.
- Remote Lock on the entry door removes the threat that a guest will copy an entry key.
- Noise detectors to warn you if things get out of hand.
- Front door security camera.
- Locks on non-public areas. If you have rental stores or rooms you do not want guests to use, put a sign saying PRIVATE AREA and a lock on the entry.
“So, Doretta, does that answer all your questions? Now that you know implementing procedures should give you peace of mind.
“There is a lot to learn when you are just starting. Use this blog to guide you. If you need more help, look at the Airbnb support articles. Still not making sense, call the excellent Airbnb support desk.”