Short term vacation rentals have revolutionized the travel industry. No longer are travelers relegated to cramped hotel rooms and unpleasant 7:00 am housekeeping wake-up calls when they leave home. The idea of vacation rentals has been around for over 20 years, but the common practice did not gain much traction until 2010 when AirBnB took the world by storm with its home-sharing/hosting website.
Now travelers have their pick of privately owned small studio lofts in Paris, France, and ski chalets in Whistler, Canada hosted by everyday folks who have a knack for hospitality and extra space. This symbiotic relationship between traveler and host has lead to the explosion of hosting for Airbnb as an industry, a little side income for the host and a comfy place to stay for the guest.
Hosting for AirBnB isn’t as simple as having an extra bedroom or second home and simply changing the sheets and putting a key under the doormat. If only, right?
It is an endeavor that deserves careful thought and planning. Hosts should carefully weigh risk versus reward and all the pros and cons before leaping to list a space on AirBnB.
While AirBnB provides plenty of resources for prospective hosts in understanding bookings, policies, rules/guidelines, and pricing there are a few considerations that need to be made outside of the website.
One of the first decisions to make before listing is whether or not to host the property solo or use a property management and cleaning company. Hosting on AirBnB is a lifestyle and requires a readily available cleaning crew and caretaker to attend to the guest’s needs.
Some people feel comfortable with a Do It Yourself approach to hosting, while others may want to cringe at the idea of having to replace chirpy smoke alarm batteries for disgruntled guests at 3 am.
Whatever the case, there are pros and cons to every route and it is truly up to the individual to decide what is best for them.
The benefits of using a property management firm are obvious as they are the ones who deal with the drawbacks of hosting. In this case, the host shifts to merely the “owner” and the “host” becomes the property management company. The hosting aspect would go to the manager who would be a professional who would (hopefully) be trained in managing the good and the bad aspects of short-term vacation rentals.
All complaints and maintenance issues would go directly through them, leaving the owner out of the “oops the toilet clogged” debacle. All petty complaints would go through a 3rd party and would not be something that an owner would need to assuage.
As with most things in life, there are tradeoffs. While the negative aspects of hosting can be deferred to a 3rd party, this also means that the more positive aspects are also missed out on.
The person to person relationships and personal touches that make an AirBnB pop tend to fade into the oblivion of good-not-great rentals when managed by a larger company. Another drawback of using a property management firm is that, yes, it does eat into profits to pay someone to manage the business end of hosting for AirBnB. While all the responsibilities of being “on-call” for guest’s needs would be lifted, prospective hosts/owners need to be aware that this is not a blank cheque that relieves the owner of all responsibilities when it comes to the issues and maintenance of the property.
In the end, it is up to the individual prospective host to decide what is best for them and what would work best for their lifestyle. AirBnB users on both ends depend heavily on the blind review process so prospective hosts need to be honest with themselves about how much commitment they are willing to take on.
Whatever the case, hosts need to be friendly, responsive, organized, and honest about the listing and committed to providing a positive experience for the guests. Whatever that means for the owner in choosing a property manager or going it solo those qualities need to be a priority in hosting for AirBnB. In short, the host needs to be prepared to enter the hospitality industry however unofficial a 2nd home feels next to a Holiday Inn.
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Getting a prospective short term vacation rental space ready for guests is another aspect that demands the time and attention of the host. There are all kinds of homes listed on AirBnB ranging from quirky to luxury, middle of the road IKEA furnishings to an interior designer’s paradise. All avenues of design have a specific place in the arena of hospitality. No matter the vibe, there are givens that should be included in any AirBnB space no matter what.
Every home should be up to code, clean, and secure. Do not be one of those horror stories of double booking guests in the same place with the added treat of stray hairs in the shower. Being successful in the AirBnB world means not cutting corners or being hands-off.
Be fastidious about keeping the property clean with thorough laundering between guests. Check on all linens, dishes, towels, and silverware to make sure everything is properly maintained and well-stocked. Nothing says “3 stars” like crumbs in drawers and bent cutlery.
Keep the property stocked with a few kitchen essentials. Dishes, basic cookware, cutlery, spatulas, bottle opener, etc. Give guests the option to prepare basic meals at home. Keep coffee makers simple and straightforward. As tempting as those sleek hissing pod systems can be, the truth is they are expensive and quirky. There is a real risk of leaving guests stranded for their morning coffee. Keep it simple with a classic coffee pot, with a French press under the cupboard for backup.
Bathrooms are pretty straightforward as long as they are clean and well-stocked with towels and toilet paper. AirBnB hosts can decide whether or not they want to provide basic toiletries for their guests. It is not required but certainly appreciated. Providing extra cotton balls, emery boards, q-tips, and travel-size toothpaste is a thoughtful extra that will help guests feel taken care of.
Bedrooms should be cozy and welcoming. Have them stocked with fresh, clean, and seasonally appropriate linens. Bedside lamps with USB chargers are always a nice plus. Blackout curtains are also appreciated by guests, especially those with children. Who wants to wake up at 5 am on a vacation?
Furnishings throughout the property should be simple. Clocks, extra books, and magazines are always appreciated. Keep the place as depersonalized as possible. Neutral artwork and no clutter.
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It is also a good idea to have a “welcome binder” for guests with house rules, check out instructions, WiFi information, and a guide with local tips.
Try to not have crazy checkout instructions. Many guests have a flight to catch and early morning rushes to strip beds, take out the trash, or wash dishes on top of packing up puts a damper on the whole experience. Use reason and empathy when planning check out instructions. AirBnB has a cleaning fee feature that guests have already paid for, do not double the guest’s responsibility.
Either build in a higher cleaning fee or simply ask guests to leave the place tidy when leaving. Don’t be that place that charges $1.00 for every unwashed dish. That is a surefire way to have guests move on to the next listing. If there is a concern about a property being trashed, then mention a security deposit or additional cleaning fees if the place is extra gross. Nickel and diming respectful guests who happened to forget a coffee mug is the exact opposite of being hospitable.
Unless the property is in an extremely remote location, far away from a corner store, hosts should consider a cap on disposable goods like paper towels, toilet paper, and soaps that will be provided. Thankfully, a few travel-sized soaps will be enough to see the guest through arrival until an opportunity to get to a store should they need more. The welcome binder is a great place to tell guests where to buy extra soaps and toilet paper if needed.
Hosting for AirBnB is a lifestyle and an investment.
Prospective hosts need to be aware of the fact that they will be entering the hospitality and tourism industry however “unofficially”. This is not a “set it and forget it” kind of deal. Being a host involves building up a rapport with guests with positive reviews, Superhost badges, and sparkling clean recognition on the website. This can be a very fulfilling way to earn income but it takes some considerations and attention to detail. Be friendly, organized, and dedicated to providing a high-quality guest experience. Most guests are not looking for a Shangri-La experience, but they do want to feel taken care of. Striking that balance depends on the individual host, property, and price point.
Short term vacation rentals have opened up a whole new world for travelers and people with spaces to spare. It is an ingenious way of connecting people and providing an experience outside of the hotel grind. AirBnB is a bit more personal, but also private. Guests have separate living spaces and no longer have to reckon with shared walls and weak coffee. Hosts can earn extra income as well as dabble in the world of hospitality without having to buy and run a hotel. When done properly it can be a win-win situation that is well worth pursuing.
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