It’s not as easy as you think it is.
It’s important to know that hosting isn’t a side gig that you can casually set-up and forget about. It requires time and effort, and it’s not as passive as most people think it is. Even though you can set your listing to auto-accept bookings, there are still many things to manage both on the front end like responding to guest inquiries in a timely manner, checking guests in, etc., and on the back end like cleaning the space, restocking supplies, etc.
For starters, you have to be available to host when your guests are visiting. If a guest arrives late at night or early in the morning, who will be there to let them in? If they have any questions during their stay, who will they contact? You also need to be prepared for unexpected situations like when guests show up earlier than expected or they accidentally spill something on your couch cushion. As an Airbnb host, you have to exercise patience and problem solve any issues that arise with your property or with the guests.
While hosting does bring in extra money into your bank account every month (which is awesome), it does require quite a bit of work from start-to-finish. Just as Airbnb has certain expectations for hosts (eg: respond within 24 hours of receiving a guest inquiry), hosts should have certain expectations for what hosting entails so that they’re fully aware of what it takes before diving into this business opportunity head-first.
There’s endless upkeep involved.
As with any job, being an Airbnb host requires a lot of upkeep. It’s not enough to dust the furniture and change the sheets–you should be constantly re-evaluating your listing to make sure that you’re staying on top of current trends. While it may seem like a small thing, doing something as simple as changing the color scheme of your kitchen towels can give your listing a whole new appeal.
Another important aspect of upkeep is keeping up with technology. If you aren’t using Wi-Fi or have an older model TV, guests will notice and will likely be less inclined to stay at your space again in the future. Keep up with technology trends by going over Airbnb’s website often as well as checking out sites such as Thrillist (http://www.thrillist.com).
Finally, don’t forget that things don’t always go as expected! That’s why it’s always good to have a plan B for when things go wrong: for example, if one night someone has booked your Airbnb but then backs out at the last minute because they’ve gotten sick or their dog ate all their money … what would you do?
Expect the unexpected.
Regardless of how well you plan, there will be times when something unexpected happens or fails. You need to be prepared for that. Here are some specific things you can do to make sure your Airbnb is equipped to deal with the unexpected:
- Weather issues — If there’s a storm forecasted, it doesn’t hurt to move your reservations around so that a family without a car isn’t stuck in an isolated location during the storm.
- Equipment failures — Know who you need to call if your air conditioning breaks down on a 100°F day (and make sure they have 24-hour availability). Make sure all of your fire extinguishers and smoke detectors are in working order. Show guests how to use the grill and where the first aid kit is located (and make sure it is stocked!).
- New laws and regulations — Laws vary by city, state and country, so make sure you know what rules apply when renting out an Airbnb. For example, some cities require that hosts carry additional insurance or register as businesses.
You’ll probably get a lot of last-minute inquiries.
If you’ve been considering the idea of renting out your home on Airbnb, we encourage you to give it a try. Once the idea of letting people stay in your home for free is in your head, it’s easy to think that hosting on Airbnb would be a great way to supplement our income and treat us to some much-needed travel. But even as we’re thinking about this, we’ll also tell you that there are certain things you need to keep in mind about hosting on Airbnb. It’s important that you do what’s best for you and your family in terms of money, time commitment and personal needs. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions when it comes to Airbnb.
- Don’t put your entire month into one calendar day or request window
There are thousands of places around the world—most of them not very nice—where you can stay for free over the course of a month if all you have is a calendar with empty slots or an infinite number of days allotted to requests. Don’t let yourself get caught up in this fantasy: hosts who have good practices run themselves ragged trying to manage their calendars better than they were two years ago. They ask themselves questions like “Do I really want 30 people staying at my place during my weekend?” “Should I cancel these requests at 7am yesterday?”, “Will this person actually show up? Should I change my sign?”.
- Bookings will probably come late (6+ hours)
A recent study found that 5% percent of all guest reservations were made more than 24 hours before check-in, meaning there are plenty of last minute bookings flying through and often ending up being cancelled just before arrival because hosts haven’t had enough time to prepare their apartments adequately and find things that go missing during guests’ stay (or worse). You’ll have little control over whether or not someone will book late when they click “accept” without seeing anything else first; only rare cases are booked last minute
You’ll need to figure out your own rules and policies.
- Make sure your family is on board. If you live with others, communicate your plans to them so that everyone has a clear idea of what’s happening and how it will affect the household.
- Figure out practical details. You’ll need to be clear about what kinds of behavior are okay in your home and what’s off limits—for example, pets, children, smoking, and extra guests. Also consider how you’ll communicate with guests (would an app like Marco Polo work?), where they can park, who will let them in when they arrive, and more. Set up a schedule for cleaning the space between guests; this might mean dedicating yourself to cleanup duties every morning at 9 a.m., or hiring a professional cleaner to do it for you after each guest checks out (this is often worth it if you’re not good at keeping things tidy). Determine whether you’ll manage bookings yourself or have someone else help you (some hosts hire virtual assistants), and decide who will handle complaints or issues that arise during the rental period.
- Be transparent about what’s included in the rental price. Your rules should be clearly communicated to prospective guests so there are no surprises later on!
You’ll have to deal with cancellations (and bad reviews).
We’ll get to all the details later, but here’s a list of things we consider when it comes to how flexible you can be with cancellations:
- If you’re in a city where people can cancel at any time and many do, your cancellation policy needs to be very clear. You’ll have to say it on your listing, after all.
- If you’re in a rural location, or even one that has higher rental demand than supply (like Canada), then you might have different needs than an urban host. We let cancellations roll over once they are more than 30 days old, but this is something that takes into account the housing market conditions in where we live.
- We ask that guests provide us with proof before they cancel as well if possible. Anything like emails and texts are great proof of cancellation, especially since some hosts have had guests try to cancel without giving notice whatsoever. We’ve had guests claim that they not only cancelled their Airbnb reservation on their phone for another host running the Airbnb service (which is against Airbnb policies), but also left negative reviews about those hosts online and even posted photos of their rooms from other listings! If you want the best reviews possible as an Airbnb host, don’t leave bad ones behind!
Cleaning is an art form.
Cleaning, it turns out, is an art form. Cleaning isn’t just sweeping and scrubbing, and even the act of scrubbing isn’t as simple as it might seem. Be sure to have the right equipment and cleaning supplies for each task that you undertake. Most importantly, set up a structured routine and stick to it. This means paying strong attention to detail; make sure that you wash shower curtains properly so they don’t start looking dingy over time!
Laundry is an ongoing job at this point, but I’ve also learned how important it is to keep things clean on a daily basis so that it doesn’t become overwhelming in the long run.
Prepare for complaints/discomfort over things that are out of your control.
Airbnb hosts are generally responsible for their property, so complaints about weather, traffic noise, and construction could be directed at you. It’s in your best interest to provide guests with recommendations on how to avoid or deal with these issues, and it’s best to be honest if they ask. If there are noisy neighbors across the street whose schedules or habits you don’t know very well, let your guests know that they can call the police if they feel uncomfortable.
If a freak storm damages your home while guests are staying with you, a good insurance policy will cover repairs and alternative lodging. If you live in an area where storms happen frequently, it’d be wise to have an emergency plan for guests (and yourself).
You should also consider the more common inconveniences that could arise from weather: insulation not being sufficient for cold snaps or heat waves; lack of air conditioning; power outages caused by high winds; flooding; etc. If your house doesn’t have central heating, make sure that your guest room is well-insulated and equipped with space heaters or fans as needed. Don’t skimp on the extra blankets either—you don’t want someone writing a review claiming that they couldn’t sleep because of being too hot or cold!
To ease frustrations about construction in the neighborhood waking them up early, offer earplugs along with toiletries and other amenities in their room. Construction workers can sometimes get loud when hammering away outside (especially when power-washing) —best not risk a bad review by doing nothing!
A handful of guests will be difficult to deal with.
A handful of guests will be difficult to deal with, and it’s likely that you’ll have a few confrontations (or at least uncomfortable exchanges) over the course of your hosting career. These situations may seem personal, but they’re not. People who travel often—particularly those who make their living traveling—have different standards than most people. It’s impossible to please everyone all the time, especially when you’re working in an industry that is largely unregulated and which has minimal accountability from the big players in the space.
Take a deep breath before responding to complaints or negative reviews, and try not to take these things personally. If a guest has truly crossed a line, or if you have reason to believe that they are dangerous or dishonest, contact Airbnb immediately for assistance handling the situation.
Being an Airbnb host is more work than you might think, but could be lucrative if you set yourself up for success.
For those unfamiliar with the lodging platform, Airbnb’s main appeal is offering a home away from home. While hotels focus more on the amenities and experiences that come along with staying in the city, people often turn to Airbnb for a more private and customized stay. There are hosts who offer shared rooms or their entire homes, as well as unique stays like tree houses and yachts.
Before becoming a host, you’ll have to ask yourself if you’re ready to make this commitment to your guest.
The amount of time you put into hosting can vary depending on how often your space is booked and if you opt for self-management or use Airbnb’s professional management service. If you decide to manage your space yourself, being an effective host means being able to communicate with your guests in a timely manner and keeping up with housekeeping duties like cleaning between guests and replacing consumables like shampoo and toilet paper—all while keeping up with your own personal schedule.