The Beginner's Total Airbnb Hosting Guide

By: , Contributor

Published on: Dec 26, 2019

Get all your Airbnb questions answered and start hosting the right way to make quick cash.

If you're thinking of becoming an Airbnb host in the coming year, you're certainly not alone. In fact, this Airbnb hosting guide is designed for beginner Airbnb hosts just like you!

According to a recent report from Clever, about 4 of every 5 homeowners think renting out their home or part of their home on Airbnb would be a "good way to make money from the property." That is great news for all the potential Airbnb "guests" out there, but it could mean serious competition for you as a new Airbnb host. This Airbnb hosting guide could go a long way toward giving you a leg up on that competition.

The Airbnb hosting guide FAQ

Most Airbnb hosts have a lot of questions they want to be answered before they ever get started setting house rules or selecting what amenities to spotlight in their listings. We'll begin this Airbnb hosting guide by answering the following common questions so you will know upfront whether Airbnb is the right strategy for you:

  • How and when do I get paid?
  • Is this really safe?
  • Will I make more money than a "regular" landlord?

How and when do I get paid?

Airbnb actually releases your money about a day after your guest is scheduled to arrive. The platform charges the guest prior to their arrival to ensure you are paid on time and do not have to deal with money directly. You and your guest can dedicate your energy to making sure they have the best Airbnb stay possible.

Is this really safe?

There are a lot of studies out there dealing with whether guests are safe and feel safe while staying in Airbnb units, but there are far fewer studies dealing with how hosts remain safe and protect their properties.

Airbnb addresses this topic in its overview of "trust & safety," where it notes the platform scores guests for risk using "predictive analytics and machine learning to instantly evaluate hundreds of [danger] signals" and also conducts watchlist and background checks on both hosts and guests. They emphasize that the best way to protect yourself is to conduct all payment transactions and communicate directly through the Airbnb website.

Will I make more money than a "regular" landlord?

If you're planning to convert a "traditional" rental with a fixed lease and fixed rental rate to an Airbnb, then the answer to this question is "Probably." However, there are many unique factors that will go into your Airbnb income, including:

  • The degree of demand in your area for Airbnb units
  • The caliber of your listing
  • The type of property you are renting
  • How you work with your customers

Airbnb hosts generally report generating more income from their Airbnb rental units than they would if those properties were rented via traditional leases when they are occupied at least 15 days of each month at competitive rates. They also report less wear and tear on the properties overall since most guests do not use the kitchens or living areas heavily. However, this data is not the result of a scientific survey, and your Airbnb income will depend on your proficiency as a host. (That's why you need this Airbnb hosting guide!)

If you plan to rent out a portion of the home you live in presently, then it will be difficult to draw a direct comparison between your Airbnb income and "regular" landlord income because you will not be letting an entire property. Whether you let part or all of a property, however, using the smart pricing feature on Airbnb listings will help you create competitive listings and rates for your short-term rental.

How to get started as an Airbnb host

So, you've made the decision to be an Airbnb host. Now, it's time to jump in with both feet. The first thing to do is go online to Airbnb.com and get started. You will do this by clicking the red "Get Started" button in the upper right-hand corner of the screen and answering a series of questions about the property you want to Airbnb.

You will provide information about:

  • Building type
  • Number of guests you can accommodate
  • Sleeping arrangements
  • Location
  • Safety amenities
  • Basic amenities you plan to provide

Then Airbnb will run a background check on you. Once you are approved to host, you are ready to create your listing.

Creating a great Airbnb listing

Your Airbnb listing will play as important a role in your success as an Airbnb host as does the property itself. After all, if no one ever wants to stay in your property because your listing doesn't make it look like a safe, attractive place to stay, then no one will ever know how wonderful it is. Here are 4 tips for creating compelling Airbnb listings:

  1. Remember, guests will judge your property by its listing
  2. Always be honest with your guests
  3. Get good pictures, and use the best one upfront
  4. Spend time on the title and summary

1. Remember, guests will judge your property by its listing.

You're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but your potential guests will judge your Airbnb rental by its listing. That means you must not only get great pictures for your listing (more on that in a minute), but you must also write compelling headlines, subtitles, and captions, because most people do not read much of anything word-for-word.

2. Always be honest with your guests.

When you take on the role of an Airbnb host, you should expect your guests to demand a certain level of quality and service. Many will have decided to stay with you instead of a hotel, so they will likely expect a similar degree of cleanliness and comfort from you that they would expect there.

That being said, most guests do understand that someone's home is not the same as a hotel! They know sometimes there are minor issues in a personal property that would not occur in a large hospitality operation. As long as you are honest with your guests about what to expect, including setting house rules and making note of anything unusual, then you will generally find your guests happy to accept a few small, unusual features. Some people will even find the little eccentricities of a place to be an added bonus!

3. Get good pictures, and use the best one upfront.

Your guests' first impression of your Airbnb should be the very best impression possible. This means you need the best picture possible for the first image in your listing. While you may use more generic, less striking pictures for the following images, the first image should be extremely visually appealing, showcase something particularly noteworthy about the property (reference this in the headline also), and avoid the generic "front-yard" or "bedroom" shots unless these are the high points of the property.

4. Spend time on the title and summary.

Both the title and summary of your listing have character counts, so you must keep them brief and to the point. That said, don't allow yourself to lapse into believing that it doesn't matter what you say in these positions. The title and summary are the most important part of your listing.

Think about what would make your target audience (the guests you want) want to stay in your Airbnb property? Then, grab their attention by making that a central focus in your title and summary.

Awesome Airbnb amenities and experiences

Airbnb hosts can become "Superhosts" if they have a lot of really great reviews and also have a lot of activity in their rentals. Superhosts are designated as such on the site (many guests will only stay with Superhosts) and also may have better positions in search results than other hosts.

Matt Bray, a Superhost with properties in the Philadelphia area, recommends taking some time to think and ask yourself what your guests would appreciate in your rental. "Understand who typically will (and does) book your property, and provide the best possible experience for them," he said.

That doesn't necessarily mean you have to spend a fortune on decor or expensive snacks. Instead, think about the simple things that will make a big difference. For example, "If your property is near business hubs, make sure you have top-of-the-line Wi-Fi and a desk," Bray recommended.

Bray also said he makes a point of familiarizing himself with the local events calendar in case certain times of year might bring in people with specific preferences because of local events. Furthermore, local knowledge helps with smart pricing. "You can get more nightly revenue around big activities and holidays," Bray said.

About those reviews

Once your guests have had an amazing stay, do not be afraid to ask for reviews. While five-star reviews are, of course, the most desirable, Bray emphasized you must read and respond to all reviews to build up your hosting "chops" over time.

"High ratings are critical to success, [but] you can learn a lot from your mistakes and the mistakes of others," Bray said. He also recommended reading reviews of similar properties to get ideas for improving your own Airbnb and keeping ahead of potential problems.

Remember, at Airbnb you can review your guests as well. This is a service both to the guests, who may not realize if they committed an error while staying at your home, and to other hosts. For example, if guests have a recurring tendency to cancel confirmed reservations, you may not want to reserve your property for them on a weekend when you know there will be high demand from others who may be more likely to actually show up for their stay.

"It is critical to always be thinking how to improve the experience," Bray said. That holds true for both yourself, as a host, and your guests.

Tips and tricks for the best Airbnb hosting experience possible

Listing your property is probably the easiest part of the Airbnb process, so don't think you can kick back once you've taken a few good listing pictures. There's a lot more to this Airbnb hosting guide than just how to write good listing headlines and solicit positive reviews.

Here are a few other items responsible Airbnb hosts will check in with themselves about regularly to make sure they are providing and participating in the best Airbnb experience possible:

  • Am I abiding by all local regulations and laws regarding short-term rentals?
  • Am I within the terms of my lease (if applicable) and/or the covenants imposed by my homeowner's association (if applicable)?
  • Am I handling all correspondence with guests in the safest, most responsible way possible, including limiting correspondence to the Airbnb platform, setting house rules, and asking for and providing reviews?
  • Have I checked my pricing policies lately using the smart pricing feature to make sure I'm optimizing my income and bookings?
  • Do I track my Airbnb's performance to determine what guests like and dislike as well as how much money I'm spending on upkeep and maintenance?
  • Do I have a minimum-night-stay requirement, and should my current policy on this be adjusted?
  • Do I offer some basic amenities and services like Wi-Fi, a local travel guide, coupons, and a "concierge station" with free or priced food and beverages?
  • Is my listing fully up to date?
  • Are there any negative reviews of my property that I need to address, and are the issues cited something I should correct or adjust?

Figuring out how to become a successful Airbnb host can feel overwhelming, but following the tips in this Airbnb hosting guide will help you create the best Airbnb experience possible for yourself as well as your lucky guests. With some careful attention to some fairly basic details, you can soon be on your way to Airbnb Superhost status yourself.

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