30 Tips For Starting an AirBnB

Shannon Quinn - January 30, 2020

Nowadays, almost everyone has used AirBnB for traveling, or at least heard about it from their friends and family. People love to use AirBnB, because it can often be cheaper than staying in a hotel. You also have a kitchen to cook in, and they are available in locations where a hotel might not exist. Hosting on AirBnB can be an amazing way to bring in some extra income. Whether you are renting a spare bedroom in your house, or allowing people to share a vacation property, most people have been able to completely cover the cost of their mortgage simply by letting other people stay there for a few days at a time. But just like a lot of businesses out there, some first-timers make huge mistakes that will unintentionally scare away potential customers.

First and foremost, sign up for AirBnB. Credit: Shutterstock

30. Sign Up For AirBnB

A lot of you out there might be thinking, “Well, duh!” but you would be surprised how many people sign up to be an AirBnB host without ever being a guest. They are so excited about the idea of making money from their property, that they completely skip trying out the website as a customer. The issue with this is that if you’ve never been a customer, how could you possibly know what people want? That’s kind of like trying to open a coffee shop when you have never been to one before.

Create an AirBnB account. Credit: Shutterstock

Foremost, you need to start by signing up for an AirBnB account, and find a place to rent. It doesn’t have to be super far away. You might even want to rent the accommodations in your local area so that you know what your competition is like. This also gives you the opportunity to build up some reviews, which helps your reputation on the platform. After you have experienced being a guest, you need to sign up for being an AirBnB host.

Be sure to check on your local rental laws. Credit: Burst by Shopify

29. Check Your Local Area Laws

Before you jump into renting your place on AirBnB, make sure you are complying with your local area laws. There are some cities that have forbidden short-term rentals, because far too many investors were buying property with the sole intention of putting them on AirBnB. This is causing problems for communities, because if people are not living there full-time, the town no longer gets tax revenue, and the economy suffers.

Every city has different laws concerning short-term rentals. Credit: Burst by Shopify

You might also be leasing your property, and your landlord strictly forbids subletting. AirBnB counts as subletting, so it could completely go against a legal agreement that you have signed. It’s not worth the risk to break the law, especially if you want to be taken seriously as a business owner. Always try to go by-the-book whenever possible.

28. Check For Other AirBnB Comps In Your Local Area

Before you get started with an AirBnB rental business, search for your town on the website to see if anyone else is renting in your local area. If so, pay attention to how much money they charge. Also check the calendar to see how many bookings they receive on a regular basis. It’s not possible to get a completely accurate estimate, since they could be blocking off dates for personal use. However, if you find that all of the rentals are getting a consistent average, you will be able to get a good idea how often people need an AirBnB in your area. If you live in a major city like New York, you are guaranteed to have bookings almost every night.

How much are other people charging for similar houses in your area? Credit: Shutterstock

If you live in a rural or suburban area, you may discover that no one is offering AirBnB rentals in your town. This could be a very good, or very bad sign. It could be that you live in an area that no one is interested in visiting. Or, you could be very lucky, because you found an untapped market. Ask yourself if there is anything in your local area that gives people a reason to visit. Is there a college, sports stadium, amusement park, national park, or historic landmark? These could all be good reason why someone would want to stay in your home.

Are you looking to rent to fully families of tourists on vacation? Credit: Shutterstock

27. Choose Your Target Market

People from all walks of life use AirBnB. If you live in a big city, you really have no way of predicting who is going to want to stay in your home. They might be a couple on their honeymoon, a family going on vacation, or someone who is in town for a business trip. Depending on where you live, you are going to have a better idea of your target market. For example, people who live in Orlando, Florida and Anaheim, California know that lots of families go to their cities to Disney. This is why many AirBnB hosts have decided to create Disney themed homes, which will help attract guests.

Do you want to rent to travelers on business trips? Credit: Shutterstock

You can also make a conscious decision about what kinds of guests you attract to your AirBnB by the price and attention to detail you give to your home. For example, maybe your local areas have other options for accommodations, but they are motels and one-bedroom rentals in shabby looking homes. So if you choose to present a designer home that looks like something out of a magazine, and you charge more than the local motels, you are more likely to attract a more sophisticated client who is willing to pay more to stay in a nicer place.

Most hotels provide basic amenities to their guests, and so should you. Credit: Burst by Shopify

26. Anticipate The Needs Of Your Guests

When you get getting ready to rent your AirBnB to paying guests, it is always good to try to anticipate people’s needs. Most hotels have a front desk where people can ask for things they have forgotten to bring like a tooth brush, razor, or comb. Some hotels charge for these items, so you don’t have to go above and beyond to give these things to your guests. But it’s always a nice gesture to find some items from the Dollar Tree to make them feel welcome and cared for.

If you have sample-sized cosmetics, you may want to give them to your guests. Credit: Shutterstock

For example, if you live in the middle of nowhere, and the only thing nearby is a national park, you have a pretty good idea that your guests are there to go hiking. So maybe it would be nice to leave water bottles in the fridge, a Brita filter, and some granola bars. If you live near a beach, leaving a small bottle of sunscreen and a pair of dollar store sunglasses is a nice touch, too.

Calculate the potential cost and profit of running an AirBnB business. Credit: Burst by Shopify

25. Do The Math

Before you put the time, money, and energy into running an AirBnB business, you need to do the math to make sure it’s actually worth pursuing. This is especially true if you plan to buy a second property and run it solely as a vacation rental. If you want the rental payments to cover your mortgage, you need to make sure the potential for renting in your area is going to sustain that.

How much will it cost you up-front to run an AirBnB? Credit: Shutterstock

Keep in mind that most AirBnB rentals charge more during holiday weekends. For example, in New Orleans, houses that are normally $150 per night go up to $350 per night on the week of Mardi Gras. And most lake and shore houses charge $500 per night during The 4th of July and Memorial Day. If you happen to live near a sports stadium or other special events, you might be able to charge extra for those, too.

Running an AirBnB business might take you a significant amount of time. Credit: Burst by Shopify

24. Be Prepared to Devote the Time

A lot of people imagine hosting on AirBnB as a really easy way to make money that doesn’t require a lot of time for effort. In reality, it’s far from being passive income. Even if you choose to let people do self-check-in, you still have to spend time communicating with your guests, responding to questions, and potentially showing up to the property if something breaks. If you are not hiring a professional, you will also have to spend time cleaning up after each guest. If you are only renting one bedroom in your home, and you plan to still live in the same house, you will probably need to spend some time with them, too.

Do you have time to run an AirBnB? Credit: Shutterstock

The turnover process can be exhausting for most people, but here are several ways to combat this. One is to raise your prices, and charge a cleaning fee. This way, fewer people will book your place, and you can also be compensated for the time you spend cleaning. You can also require that people book a minimum of 2 to 3 nights, so that you are not forced to do turnover every single day.

Take clear photos of your space for AirBnB. Credit: Shutterstock

23. Provide Clear Photos of The Entire Home

This might sound like common sense to some people, but you absolutely need to provide clear photos on your AirBnB listing. People are looking through several listings at once, and they might only go through three or four photos before they decide if they are going to stay at your home or not. Some listings will show a corner of a room, and it doesn’t give your guests a very good idea of what their bedrooms looks like. Or, they leave out photos of the bathroom or other crucial spaces that they are going to use. Ask yourself what you would want to see before you stayed in a stranger’s home.

If your home has a view, it is good to show it in one image. Credit: Burst by Shopify

AirBnB provides professional photography services on their website to help you get set up with someone that will take great looking pictures for you. According to their site, professional quality photos helps give you 40% more earnings, 24% more bookings, and you can charge 26% more for your nightly prices.

People have a lot of options when looking for accomodations online. Credit: Shutterstock

22. Respond to Customers Quickly

When people are searching for a place to stay, they want to make a decision quickly. So if they message a property owner with a question and don’t hear back from them within a few hours, they are likely to move on to somewhere else. This is why it’s a good idea to use the AirBnB app, and have the messages sync with your phone. You can get notified just like you would a text message.

If you want to book your space, make sure you respond quickly. Credit: Shutterstock

Aside from responding quickly, always be sure to be kinda, and give great customer service. You are making a first impression. If you act rude towards your future guests, this could be enough reason for them to rent with someone else, and you will lose out on your booking.

You might love taking photos, but excess images aren’t necessary.Credit: Burst by Shopify

21. Remove Unnecessary Photos

Some people have the mindset that “more is better”. So when they create an AirBnB image gallery, they want to have dozens of pictures of their place. The reality is that most people are probably looking through multiple listings before they book their trip. So you want to give people the most crucial information through your photographs. Show the front door, the backyard, the kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms, and living room. If you have a coffee machine and washing machine, that’s a great thing to feature as well.

It’s not always necessary to include photos of the street. Credit: Burst by Shopify

Far too many people decide to include random photographs, like a pretty piece of art hanging in their home that they feel proud of. People will see the art once they get there, or you can make a wide-angle shot including the artwork in a picture of the entire room. There is no need to get a close-up.

Most people who rent an AirBnB want to cook. Credit: Kaboom Pics

20. Provide Basic Toiletries and Kitchen tools

If you are going to run an AirBnB business, you need to at least provide your guests with basic toiletries. People usually like to travel with their own shampoo, but it is still a good idea to provide them for your guests, just in case they forget something. It might be a good idea to buy in bulk from places like Costo, because you don’t want to be constantly shopping for your rental. Buy items like large pump shampoo and conditioner, toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, makeup wipes, and anything else that you think might be useful.

Be sure to provide guests with kitchen tools. Credit: Shutterstock

Most people prefer AirBnB over hotel rooms, because they want to have a full kitchen that they can cook in. This helps people save money from going out to eat, and it is especially helpful for people who are vegan or on any other special diet. So you should always provide basic kitchen tools and seasonings like a frying pan, olive oil, salt and pepper, knives, cutlery, and more. Here on Home Addict, we have a list of the 30 Must-Have Kitchen Items For Aspiring Chefs that might give you a good idea of what to provide.

You will have to clean up after every guest. Credit: Shutterstock

19. Have a Cleaning Schedule

When you have multiple guest staying in the same week, you need to be very careful about how you schedule your cleanings. There is a very good reason why hotels want you to check in after 12 or 1pm. The cleaners are still going through the rooms to change the sheets, vacuum, and turn over the area before the next guest comes in. Keep in mind that most people are completely oblivious to this fact. So, even if you ask a guest not to check in until 1PM, plenty of people show up early. Always give yourself a buffer. For example, if you tell them to get there by 1PM, try to get the cleaning done by 12.

Some hosts hire professional cleaners. Credit: Shutterstock

Depending on your situation, you may need to block off the day after someone leaves if you want to get the house cleaned before the next guest comes to visit. This can be a daunting task, and cut down from potential profit. So many people have eventually paid for a cleaning service to come to their AirBnB when there is a frequent turnover.

Compare the value of local hotels. Credit: Burst by Shopify

18. Compare The Value Of Local Hotels

If there is a hotel in your town, you need to ask yourself why someone would want to stay at your home instead. For example, if your local hotel is $160 per night, and you know that they provide 2 double beds and a private bathroom, it’s not very likely that you could earn $200 per night for one bed in a house with a shared bathroom. Yes, this is an extreme example, but you would be surprised to see just how high some people make their listings. Always try to ask yourself how you can provide value to your customers.

Scoping out local hotels is a nice little stay-cation. Credit: Burst by Shopify

Even if you live just a few miles away, consider staying a night at your local hotel. Get the full experience, and enjoy all of the amenities that they offer. Can you provide an equal, or better value for the same price? The prices you can charge will change drastically, depending on where you go. For example, I vacation on Long Beach Island every summer. The cheapest hotel you can find on the island in the summertime is $300 per night. So most AirBnB’s are at least $400 per night, because they are providing an entire house. It’s so expensive, that I need to stay off the island and drive in. But if I were to open an AirBnB there, I have a good idea of the area’s average value.

Don’t put your family photos in a rental. Credit: Shutterstock

17. Remove Personal Items

If you have too many personal items around your AirBnB, it can make some people feel uncomfortable. When they see photographs of your family, bills, and other personal items all over the house, they will immediately feel like they are invading the privacy of someone else’s home. This can be tricky if you are living in the property that you are renting. But if you want to have a successful AirBnB business, try to have a hotel mindset.

If you have kids, remember to put their toys away. Credit: Shutterstock

Hang artwork that isn’t so personal to your family, and try to keep clutter away when guests arrive. You want your guests to feel like this is their home, too, if only for a few nights. This may be more difficult if you are only renting one bedroom, but try to imagine how it would feel if the shoe was on the other foot. Make your house welcoming, and everything should be fine.

Buy a keypad lock for self-check-in. Credit: Amazon

16. Buy a Key Code Padlock

Some people still run their AirBnB the old fashioned way of meeting their guests face-to-face and handing them the key to their house. However, this can cause a lot of issues, because you will have to adjust your schedule to meet up with this person. Even if they give an estimated time or arrival, it is rare for travelers to be perfectly on-time. If they are flying internationally, their flight might get delayed. And if they are driving, they could run into traffic. It can be incredibly frustrating for both parties to meet up.

Old school keys are difficult to hand over to a renter. Credit: Burst by Shopify

This is why so many people prefer self-check in. All you need to do is install a keypad entry lock on the door. Once you have one of these installed, you can wait until their check-in time, and send them a message with the entry code. This makes it totally necessary to meet the person face-to-face. Most guests prefer to do this, because it means that they can show up whenever they want. If you are local to the area, you can change the keypad code after every guest leaves for added security.

Providing maps helps your guests figure out their travel plans. Credit: Burst by Shopify

15. Provide A Map Of Your Location

Sometimes, the location of your house or apartment can be confusing. People might also wonder how far away you are from a local landmark. Guests are not allowed to see your full address until they have already paid for the accommodation, so it can be confusing and stressful sometimes. One great way to explain this ahead of time is to provide a map. You could take a screenshot off of Google Maps, and add a big red X to where your property is.

It’s helpful to show your guests where to find local sites. Credit: Shutterstock

This might also be helpful if finding your house can be confusing. For example, I was recently touring a property that I was considering buying, fixing up, and listing on AirBnB. The front of the house faced a very busy street, and there was no driveway. If you were to put the actual address into a GPS, you would probably drive past the house with no idea of how to get inside. The driveway actually came through the back of the house, and onto a side street. I was afraid that it would be way too confusing for guests, which is one of the reasons why I didn’t buy the house. But if I had, I would have provided some sort of map.

A lot of people drink coffee in the morning. Credit: Burst by Shopify

14. Don’t Forget About Coffee

Some people out there don’t drink coffee, and they never touch the machines that are provided in hotel rooms. But the vast majority of people out there love coffee, and they can’t survive waking up in the morning without it. One of the easiest options for cleanup is to buy a Keurig or a Nespresso machine. This way, you can buy a large box of pods, and your guests can help themselves without a lot of hassle. Some hosts like to give multiple coffee making options to accommodate their guests. However, you should probably steer clear of providing fancy espresso machines. If most people don’t know how to use it, they are likely to break the machine or make a huge mess.

Coffee and tea can be comforting. Credit: Burst by Shopify

Packets of dairy-free creamer and sugar are also helpful, since very few people like drinking black coffee. It’s not necessary to provide milk or dairy creamer, because it is likely to spoil when not enough people use it. Most people go grocery shopping when they are staying in an AirBnB, so they will buy fancy creamers if they really want to.

A scrapbook could provide vital information for your guests. Credit: Burst by Shopify

13. Make a Welcome Scrapbook

Hosts Jay and Ryanne from the Shampoo and Booze podcast recommend creating a welcome scrapbook for their guests. They have several properties in Virginia near Shenandoah National Park, and each of their properties were fixed up over a several-year-long process. So they provide a scrapbook with “before” and “after” photos of their renovations. Most people love watching makeover shows on HGTV, so this is usually a huge “wow” factor, and it gives them even more respect for your home.

A scrapbook is helpful. Credit: Pexels

If you haven’t done a magnificent home makeover, you can still provide a scrapbook with brochures from local areas, takeout menus of places that deliver, and the house rules. You might also have certain appliances that might be tricky, so any instructions on how to use those things could be included in the guidebook.

You can upload videos to YouTube for free. Credit: Shutterstock

12. Consider Creating a Welcome Video

It is not absolutely necessary to make a welcome video. But in some cases, it really helps your guests tremendously. If your driveway is difficult to find, or if there is anything confusing about the situation at all, you might want to provide a video for your guests.

Sending your guest a video can help them with odd circumstances. Credit: Pexels

These videos do not have to be fancy. You could even use your cell phone camera, as long as it is giving the helpful information to your guests. It is possible to create a YouTube video where the link is private, and only accessible to the people who you share the URL with. So once they are ready to check in you could send them the video with the private information.

You will have to pay taxes on your AirBnB income. Credit: Shutterstock

11. Don’t Forget About Taxes

If your AirBnB business really starts booming, you will need to get serious about your taxes. The money you are bringing in from your rental counts as income, so you will be responsible for paying taxes on it. Unlike the money you receive from your employer, you will have to set that money aside to pay when tax time rolls around.

Keep track of your expenses when running an AirBnB. Credit: Shutterstock

In some cases, you may have to register your rental as a genuine business. By running your AirBnB like a true business, you can deduct anything that could be considered a “business expense”. For example, every time you go out to buy toilet paper or coffee, this counts as a business expense for the AirBnB. If you have any questions, consult a local accountant.

Make social media for your AirBnB business. Credit: Burst by Shopify

10. Create Social Media For Your AirBnB

Some people like to give their AirBnB its own social media page. They also encourage their guests to post photos of their stay including their personal hashtag. This serves multiple purposes. Firstly, these photos are like free marketing for your AirBnB business, because all of their followers will see where they stayed, and it might encourage them to check out your listing.

Update your social media for your business. Credit: Burst by Shopify

Secondly, it also helps turn a booking “maybe” into a “yes”. If someone is feeling wary about staying in a stranger’s home, they will immediately feel more comfortable if they see other people who have stayed there through your Instagram hashtag. Social Media also gives you a good place to put any announcements or upgrades to the home.

Don’t exaggerate when you write your listings. Credit: Burst by Shopify

9. Don’t Over-Sell Your Place

Remember that it’s better to under-sell your place and have your guests be pleasantly surprised, instead of over-selling and having people be disappointed. Never present your home as if it’s a luxury accommodation, when it’s actually pretty average. Remember that your guests are going to leave reviews after they leave, and these are crucial for the success of your business. If you hype it up and disappoint people, they might leave a bad review.

Communicate honestly with your guests. Credit: Shutterstock

One of the most common over-selling mistakes is when people provide photos of a nearby lake or river, and they write that the home is “near” a lake. Some people won’t take the time to fully read or understand the listing. So once they see a photo of the lake, they will assume that you live on the water, and be completely disappointed once they arrive and see that you don’t own waterfront property.

Try to design your space before you rent it. Credit: Shutterstock

8. Design Your Space

If you love interior design, you will probably enjoy the idea of decorating an AirBnB. This is especially true if the property is outside of your normal home, because you have a blank canvas to create a space that truly looks like something out of a magazine.

Designing your space can be fun. Credit: Shutterstock

Always give yourself a plan for how you want to decorate a space. Look on Pinterest, magazines, and books to get inspired for the look that you want in a home. When you have taken the time to put a personal touch to a space, people will notice and appreciate it.

The Nautical design is over-the-top. Credit: Shutterstock

7. …But Don’t Over-Design

If you are dedicating a space to AirBnB, you might get excited to show off your interior design skills. That’s amazing, but just be careful not to over-design a space. What we mean by “over designing” is going a bit overboard with a theme.

This has way too many 1960’s colorful flare. Credit: Shutterstock

For example, if you have a vacation rental near the beach, you might want to have some nautical items. But this can very easily go overboard with tacky knick-knacks all over the home.

Have someone on-call to help you. Credit: Burst by Shopify

6. Pick an Emergency Helper or Property Manager

You may not want to let guests stay in your house while you are traveling out of town, because something could potentially go wrong. What if a pipe bursts, and you need to hire a plumber? Or, even worse- what if there is an accident, or someone tries to break in? As the homeowner, it is your responsibility to be there in a crisis. Sometimes, people will ask a friend or neighbor to help in case of emergencies while you are away on vacation for a few days.

You may want to hire a property manager. Credit: Burst by Shopify

However, you shouldn’t take advantage of a friend’s time if you plan to do this long-term. And even if a friend is doing this for you, it’s nice to compensate them in some way. If you are running an AirBnB that is out of state or out of the country, it is absolutely necessary to hire a property manager. Typically, you will pay a property manager 8 to 12% of the total rental price to be on-call while you are away. Other companies ask for a flat $100 per month payment.

If you have a lot of gold and valuables, put them in a safe. Credit: Shutterstock

5. Hide Your Valuables

If your guests are staying in the same home where you personally live, you probably have many valuables around the house. Always make sure you put your valuable items away in a locked room, closet, attic, or a safe. Or, take them with you when you go to stay with a friend or your second home.

Don’t leave your jewelry laying out in the open. Credit: Shutterstock

Incidents of theft are rare with AirBnB, because they require you to enter your personal information when you make an account. AirBnB guarantees up to $1 million in damages to their hosts, and you may also be able to have things covered through your homeowner’s insurance. However, even if you get compensated for stolen goods, you can never replace a sentimental family heirloom. Investopedia has an in-depth guide to insuring your AirBnB.

Be sure to do repairs before you rent your space. Credit: Burst by Shopify

4. Make Sure Your Home is Safe

Aside from being afraid of what your guests might do to your house, you need to worry about what your house might do to them. If there is anything on your property that is potentially dangerous, you could end up getting sued if someone gets hurt. Swing sets, pools, and porches that are falling apart are potential hazards where someone could be seriously injured. The same could be true of slipping rugs, cords that someone may trip over, and so much more.

You may need to hire a handyman to fix problems. Credit: Burst by Shopify

Go through your home and take a serious look at the issues. If you accidentally stub your toe or hit your head on the corner of something all the time, the odds that your guests will do the same is very high. If necessary, consider installing safety features, or fix the issues that you know are a problem. It may seem like a hassle to spend money on repairs before you can make money, but it would be much better than getting sued.

Some people want to have a wedding at an AirBnB. Credit: Burst by Shopify

3. Don’t Allow Parties or Weddings

If you own a house in the country that you are listing on AirBnB, you might get questions from guests asking permission to have a wedding or a large party on your property. While the choice is ultimately up to you, the best advice is to say “no”. The average AirBnB costs a couple hundred dollars per night, while wedding venues charge thousands of dollars. These people are trying to cheap out on the cost of the venue at your expense.

Allowing parties opens up too much potential for disasters. Credit: Burst by Shopify

There are plenty of things that could go wrong. Your septic system may not be able to accommodate 50 to 100 guests who are all using your bathrooms, and you’ll probably get a phone call that the toilet is overflowing. When people are drinking, it’s more likely that things will be broken, and it could potentially increase the likelihood of theft. You might also not have room for parking. There is so much that could go wrong, it’s honestly not worth the risk. If a wedding business is something you are interested in providing, it’s best to have a separate website with higher priced packages.

Podcasts can be an amazing way to learn something new. Credit: Burst by Shopify

2. Listen to AirBnB Podcasts

One of the best ways to get prepared for becoming an AirBnB host is to listen to advice from people who are already running these types of businesses. One of the best AirBnB podcasts is Shampoo and Booze. They now offer videos showing examples of real AirBnB’s and how they could be improved.

You may want to take notes while listening to podcasts. Credit: Burst by Shopify

There are plenty of other podcasts like Vacation Rental Success, which covers all types of vacation rental advice. There are also real estate programs like BiggerPockets, which covers flipping properties, being a landlord, and so much more. Since there are multiple aspects to running an AirBnB, it may be helpful to get multiple vantage points on the industry. These are the experts who have dealt with the highs and lows of renting their home to others, and they would know better than anyone what to expect.

Let your guests stay in your AirBnB before you bring in paying guests. Credit: Burst by Shopify

1. Have Your Friends be “Test Guests”

When you have prepared your AirBnB, you may want to invite your friends to be “test guests” before you make the property available for booking to strangers, because it really helps to have a fresh set of eyes. Choose friends who know how to be honest with you, because it won’t help you to hear that everything is perfect, only to find out later from paying guests that something has done wrong.

Your friends can give you feedback about your AirBnB. Credit: Burst by Shopify

Another benefit to allowing your friends to stay in your home as a “test guest” is that they are likely to tell people they know about your vacation rental. It’s very likely that they would show their Instagram followers that they stayed somewhere beautiful for vacation. Sometimes, word of mouth is one of the best ways to get a business going.