A note to new Hosts:
You might skeptical to join the “dance” of Airbnb hosting. It is indeed a big decision, we all went through it.
Start by making a listing and not publishing it yet. Just create an account, add the photos you shot from your phone, spend an afternoon with a glass of wine and add nice descriptions and information in your listing.
Take your time, and when you feel like it just publish it and go live. Experiment with prices, photos and texts, start talking with potential guests.
Remember, you are not obliged to accept anyone unless you want to (don’t enable instant- booking). See how it goes, get a feeling of it, and when you feel ready, accept your first guest.
Now you are officially a member of the Airbnb hosts family, now keep reading:
- Build a complete listing, fill in all the available information and be honest, you will probably hurt your future reviews if you lie. My experience shows that most guests won’t bother to read all the stuff you included in the listing description. It doesn’t matter, it is certain that at some point you will have some dispute with a guest. A complete and truthful listing will help you out and remember, Airbnb takes care if its hosts, they will take your side if you are honest, polite and mean business.
- Get verified. If you are into serious business, provide as many verifications as you can (Facebook, LinkedIN, Google, passports etc). I think you can have as many as 7. Show your guests that you are a real person and not a scam.
- Fill in your profile, have a friendly picture (not one after a metal concert) and write a couple of nice and true things about yourself. A lot of people chose pictures where they are with their significant other, I guess it makes them look friendlier? – that could work too.
- Underpromise and overperform (warn guest about flaws/quirks of your space, then let them be happy with how awesome it is)
Giving your listing a name
- Have a competitive and descriptive title mention other selling facts, ie. “close to Subway station”.
- Mention upcoming events in title, OR NOT? The title of your listing will appear to your potential guests who are searching accommodation with criteria that fit your house. This will make your listing distinguish between the 3-4 other listings that fit the search results.
- Keep in mind that within Airbnb website you cannot search keywords, only location. On the other hand, Airbnb website is monitored by Google (and other similar search engines) and your listing’s title is now a new page in their search results. I believe – with my limited SEO knowledge – that a static title, which would be search friendly, with keywords such as “Downtown Paris Apartment” will at some point make you appear in the search results in the main search engines and will give you more bookings than a seasonal title, which in most cases will not have enough time to be indexed and give you google hits for the upcoming concert in the area. [this point is up to debate, I’d love to hear some comments on this]
- (Beginners) Take pictures with your cellphone today. Don’t wait for the perfect ones to launch your listing. You will have plenty of time to redo the photographs but don’t lose that extra week of potential income waiting on the perfect shots.
- Upload many and nice pictures I have an average of 20 per listing, and they were all shot with a good camera and underwent some light editing. Current mobile phones also get great pictures but well, I went all the way.
- Always consider Airbnb's Photography service (fee applies) which gets the job done and provides of an extra verification for your profile.
- Photoshoot tips:
- Light: make sure your photos are well lit; put lights on and open curtains; don't aim the camera at the window. Dark photos won't do your rooms justice.
- Probably the best time to shoot is before noon and early in the afternoon (depending on where you are on earth) but too much outside light will make your inside look dark. Keep the strongest light-source behind you when shooting and experiment away!
- Beds and sofas: smooth and tidy. If the bed doesn't look tidy, I don't book a property as I don't have faith in hosts to take care of other aspects of their listing.
- WC: put the seats and lids down!
- Tidy: and remove personal possessions from guests' spaces to make your rooms look welcoming.
- Extras: only put flowers and fruit etc. in photos if they're going to be there for every guest.
- Outside: include a photo of the outside of your building, unless you feel it compromises your security.
- General view: include a pic of your street or surroundings. Chose a time of day when the sun is shining on the scene, and your house isn't in the shade, and chose a time of year when the countryside looks green, if this applies.
- Views: I love to see what the view is from my room; label the photo to say which part of the property you get the view from.
- Local attractions: say in your listing how far away this is. If you show a beach photo, for example, is this the beach that your listing says is 2 minutes away?
- Accuracy: obviously make sure your photos give an accurate picture of your listing, and update them as and when you make changes. Remove duplicates.
- Access: only include photos of spaces that guests have access to. It just leads to misunderstandings if you show a kitchen or sitting room to which they don't have access.
- Grouping: I like to see the interior shots first, then outside, then neighbourhood and attractions.
- The choice of the number one photo is personal and depends on what you think the wow factor of your listing is. I always fall for a good view from the veranda as the primary picture
- After lightly editing your pictures, you can go ahead and edit them heavily – or not? Everyone does it, you could too.
- A wide-angle lens and HDR effects will help.
- Fill in the pictures titles - have the potential guests spend more time on your listing. Check your main (first) picture, how it appears on multiple devices. It might be a great picture by its self but when cropped by the Airbnb layout it may appear worse. Manually crop it or change it. Also, I think 3:4 landscape ratio is the best for Airbnb, it appears well in most devices (except android app that allows portrait view 4:3) Label your photos: this is a chance to tell your guests a little more about your listing. Does the balcony belong to the Private Room? - Enough photos: Guests will want to see fewer photos if they are just staying the night, but more photos if they are planning to stay longer, or if they are coming out of their way to visit you, or if they are paying a lot of money for an up-market property. I've seen a post that suggests that you don't usually need more than about 20 photos.
- Add a picture of a map of the area and one with subway/train/public transportation instructions – I fount it’s very helpful for the guests
- When starting, have a competitive price, easy and simple, check what is offered in your neighborhood and, if possible, beat the price of the similar listings that are your competition.
- Use the extra charge per person option, have a lower price for 1 person then gradually increase for added guests. Will make your pricing fairer.
- Opposite to the previous point, at some point you will figure out the perfect price for your listing. Try to keep high, to attract better guests and at the same time be competitive. There’s an old Greek saying that roughly translates as: “Low prices attract the towel thieves”
- Start low. The lower (but fair) the price, the more bookings, the faster you register more trips, the faster you get reviews, the faster you look like a cool host on search results.
- Get your first 3 5-star reviews as fast as possible. Stars will appear in your listing after the first 3 trips. And it’s nice to have 5 shiny starts next to your title. Start with reasonable standards. Cheap cleaning fee, friendly cancelation policy, loose house rules etc. Increase accordingly.
- Find a way to afford 1-night stays. Probably are not worth it as much as long stays but having your place available for one night will increase your impressions on search results, your reviews and your income
- DON’T rely on Airbnb’s price and discount recommendations. Check them but don’t always follow them. I don’t know what their criteria are but I’ve seen people whining that the suggestion is too low. It’s a suggestion, ignore it and go on with your favorite price.
- Make sure you offer the basic amenities (I found that spending 30$ on a steam iron and a hair blower was worth it)
- Get as many "tickable amenities" as possible, available (ie. a CO detector might cost $6, its probably worth ticking). Get fire extinguishers and always tell the guests where they are during check ins – better safe than sorry. Ok, maybe don’t overdo it on the tickable amenities, or at least don’t hold back your listing’s launch because of them. Place an order on a reasonable priced on Amazon or Ebay, and install it as soon as it’s there.
- Probably worth getting the business ready title if you are in a city center or business busy area (recently got it on one of my listing, can’t say how much it was worth it yet).
- Sleep in the room that you will be offering. You’ll notice things when you try to experience the house like a guest would
- Be aware that you are running a business. Educate yourself on all necessary permits and implement them.
- Study in depth all the Airbnb rules and regulations, particularly about cancellations. Have their phone number handy in case you need help beyond what's available in the help section. They are extremely helpful and have helped me out every time I needed something.
- (Beginners) Ask for references. Connect your Facebook account, see which ones of your friends have Airbnb accounts and ask them to write a couple of nice things about you. They will fill in the spot until you get some solid reviews, a nice way to show that you have a good and reliable personality and at the same time shows that you mean business.
- Be a good host! Airbnb works with ratings, the more 5star ratings you get the more Airbnb algorithm will like you. Good and many reviews will also attract a potential guest.
- Don’t cancel confirmed reservations. It does hurt your host rating heavily.
- Maybe you missed it so ill stress it out: DON’T CANCEL CONFIRMED RESERVATIONS!!! If for some reason you have to, talk to the guest, explain the situation, ask them to cancel on their end. Beg them or bribe them. Offer free stay on their next booking. DON’T CANCEL. If it all fails, call Airbnb, explain them why you cannot accept the guest and hope that they will understand and cancel the reservation – penalty free.
- Reply ASAP. Counts greatly towards your appearance in search results as you are convincing Airbnb that you are an active host. Besides that, I have found that replying within 4-5 minutes to a message surprises the guest and increases their liking towards you as well. Even if you don’t have something to say to your guest, write a quick “Thank you for your interest, I am driving at the moment, I will come back to you with more info ASAP” within less than an hour of the original message.
- THEY NEVER READ THE DESCRIPTIONS!!! Ok, I am exaggerating but be prepared for a big percentage of people just ignoring everything you wrote and either ask you, or just book and come expecting different things. Keep the important info high in your description texts and hope for the best.
- SPAM: You might get some fake messages from people advertising their business or other crap – ie. Use our concierge service, use our taxi service etc – although you might not be interested in those offers, do answer fast with a “thank you”, Airbnb will consider them as unanswered guest messages if you don’t answer
- Get wish-listed. Not really under your control, but ask friends and guests to add you to their wish-lists.
- Reach Superhost status, it is supposed to place you under better order on search results, plus gives you a nice badge on your picture, guest have the option to search only Superhost listings. There is a special page on your profile (Stats on desktop and Performance on mobile) that tells you how close you are to being a Superhost.
- Allow Instant-Book. It is supposed to increase your search result rankings. I also believe it makes you stand out in the map view with a nice thunder icon, attracting clicks from guests.
- Make friends with other hosts in the area. If you are booked or have an emergency, recommend their space. It is short-sighted to view every host as your competition, and bonding with other hosts is good for the whole community. Hosts will return the favor, and your guests will be impressed that you are willing to help when you have no financial incentive to help.
Some geek stuff here if you want to overdo it, if not, skip the next section below
- Keep in mind that mobile apps and desktop clients have different features and you won’t find identical functionality on both. You’ll have to work on both of them to fully access the features.
- Don’t pay too much attention to Airbnb’s statistics like Views, booking percentages etc. I have found that they are wrong (if not impossible) in many cases. They show different numbers in mobile and desktop clients by the way. Superhost’s stats, on the other hand are accurate, they are your definite criteria to become and remain a Superhost.
- According to several posts/blogs around the web, regularly (daily) updating your calendar will make the Airbnb algorithm believe you are an active host and award you a better position (select a random date, block it, then re-enable it). Same thing is rumoredto happen if you log in every day and if you daily update the texts of your listings. I don’t know if there’s an official Airbnb confirmation on this but, well, it’s probably worth a couple of minutes of your day.
- Be active on the community forums. Again, getting thumbs-ups is supposed to increase how much the Airbnb algorithm likes you.
- Look for your listings on the map regularly. I have found out that people sometimes cannot find my listings even in areas/searches when no other listing is available. I try to produce specific searches that would force Airbnb to find my listings and after a couple of times they usually appear to my friends too. That probably is my own idea/conspiracy theory but I’m just adding it here towards the end of the list.
- Have people regularly visiting your listings by sharing them your direct links (like mines at the end of the post, under my signature) just to let Airbnb know that we are regularly checking. You can get the links by clicking the preview button on your listing management page.
- Promote your listing through Google or Facebook. A cheap, well targeted google or Facebook campaign might get you some fast customers. The return of the investment will be immediate. You can also use more SEO tools, set up a website with unique links to your listings, spam your friends on FB, pay for some clicks probably, I don’t know if it’s worth it and I won’t and get into more detail. An update here: I wouldn’t go for Facebook ads, they look like spam to me, I’m going to go for straightforward google AdWords from now on, promoting my listings when someone searchers for “apartment in XXXX city center”.
- You can also register with other similar sites competitive to Airbnb. The tools are provided to you in order to migrate listings and sync calendars but I have found that Airbnb is the easiest to use and probably attracts the coolest and politest guests of all.
- Reach out to companies that will do the work for you. You can always outsource part of the business. Have a company run the online listings, have them do the cleaning or the check-ins/check-outs or have them manage the property altogether. Will lower your income but will save you the hustle.
- Get Insured. Especially if your place has a pool, or accident prone facilities. Get in touch with an insurance agent and ask them for a plan to insure potential accidents for guests in your house. Might save you -literally- a fortune.
Check in & beyond
- Try to be present during check ins, a friendly face and warm welcome works great towards getting those stars.
- Don't let guests in early if your home is not yet clean--no matter how much they beg or say they don't care, they DO care. You only get that first chance to make a good impression.
- Find a way to offer 24h self-check-in (if possible). Combination key-safes go for $15-30 online. This will increase your income as many people might be arriving after midnight. This also relieves the guests from the anxiety to be on time to meet you. Some people prefer it anyway, they don’t want close contact with the host. Give them the option but don’t overdo it and be lazy about welcoming them. (see below)
- It’s recommended to send a quick message to the guests during their first days of their stay and ask them if everything is ok and up to their standards. It makes them know you are thinking of them and might give you the heads-up to repair something that isn’t working during their stay and that they wouldn’t bother you about it unless you asked (i.e. the sink is leaking). Repairing something during their stay might be the extra star in your review. You will fix it anyway later.
- If you need to enter the space while it’s occupied and they are absent, ALWAYS ASK for their permission. (i.e. I’ll get you the blankets you asked me, is it ok if I open the door and leave them inside? Or do you want me to leave them outside?)
- Always ask every guest at the end of their trip how your house/room and the experience could be improved for the next guest. Then do whatever they suggest if it is within your power.
- If you feel like it and you think that the guest will react nice to it, politely ask for a good, 5star review.
- You will at some point rent out to a guest that won’t be perfect. Keep in mind that it is YOUR house and YOUR rules.
- Always be polite and try to resolve any issue with the guest first but if you can’t handle it you can always call Airbnb. I have found that they would take the host’s side most of the time. (provided that your request is reasonable)
- Keep in mind that there are some refund-hunters out there. They will use the slightest opportunity to whine about something that was not as described and ask for a discount or a refund. Depending on the situation, see what is your best way out, either refund them, or stand on your initial position. If you think you are in the right side of the argument, try to keep your communication within the Airbnb chat and as a last resort call them.
- Listen to feedback, but don't try to be all things to all people. Keep the experience fun.
In every occasion that you feel like you need to pick up the phone and talk to someone in charge, the bible to contacting airbnb is here: Dave & Deb's Community Guide.