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How to Be an Airbnb Host

Last updated: November 19, 2019
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Hosting an Airbnb rental can be a fantastic way to bring in additional income whether you own a rental home or just have a spare room.

No matter what space you offer, the tenets of being a good host are the same. It’s about listing your property accurately, setting good rules, then communicating well, and being responsible.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the process of becoming a new Airbnb host and give you some guidance on how best to list, deal with guests, and more.

Before You Get Started

Airbnb makes it so easy to get set up, that it’s tempting to just load up some photos, post available dates, and get renting. There are a few things you should do before you get started on Airbnb.

Understand the Time Commitment

One of the most important things to understand is the time commitment it takes to become an Airbnb host. This isn’t just dropping off the key for the house. You have to set available dates by maintaining a calendar, attract potential guests, communicate with renters, deal with repairs, make sure the house is clean for every guest, etc. There is laundry to do to ensure fresh sheets and towels are available, supplies like toilet paper to stock up on, and so on.

You can charge a cleaning fee to the renter and offload some of that clean-up work, but that might cut into your ability to make money and could turn off potential guests who are surprised by a fee they weren’t expecting.

Make Sure Your Home Has Proper Amenities

If you want to get positive reviews, it helps to have some basic amenities in your rental. Not every listing needs a hot tub, but many renters will expect Wi-Fi in an Airbnb rental, plus a clean, working bathroom and kitchen.

Again, you don’t need to be extravagant. But hit the essentials.

Get Permission

If you have a landlord, we strongly suggest getting permission before you rent your place to Airbnb guests. Some landlords have explicit language in the lease that prevents short-term rentals or subletting, and you can lose your security deposit or be threatened with eviction. Understand your lease, see if there are local laws regulating short-term rentals, and be safe — It’s better to check with your landlord and get permission.

Research Insurance

Airbnb has a $1 million insurance policy for all owners to protect you. Airbnb’s policy has protection for property damage and liability insurance if someone were to get injured in your home. Still, it never hurts to talk to an insurance agent and see if you want to be more protected.

Signing Up as a New Host

Signing up as a new Airbnb host is a relatively simple process. Before you book your first guest, you’ll need to do a few quick things to get started.

Create a Listing

On the Airbnb homepage, you can find “Host a home” in the top right-hand corner, which will allow you to start the process.

On the next page, you enter your location, the number of guests you can handle, and if you’re renting a spare room or an entire home. Instantly, you’ll get an estimate of what you can earn per month renting out your place.

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If you want to continue, click “Get Started.” This will give you the chance to log in to an existing account via Facebook or Google or the email and password you provided to Airbnb. If you don’t have an account, at the bottom of the pop-up box you’ll see a link to “Sign Up.”

From there, Airbnb will walk you through a simple multiple-choice process that lets you describe exactly what kind of space you’re listing. You pick the space type, property type, and also let them know if the space will be a dedicated guest space or if you also keep your stuff there.

Airbnb will also ask if you are listing it privately or as part of a company.

From there, you’ll get into the particulars of your home. You’ll let them know how many bedrooms and baths you have, how many your space can sleep, the exact location, amenities, and anything else you want them to know.

Now it’s time to set the scene.

Upload Photos, Set House Rules and Dates

Once you’ve gotten the basic information for your listing, it’s time to bring your listing to life. You should give your listing a captivating title to draw in potential renters. “Two-bedroom house San Francisco” isn’t that grabby. “Stunning private home with view of Golden Gate Bridge” does a bit more to draw someone in.

Airbnb also requires some photos so users can get a sense of the place. This is something we recommend doing well — great photos can be the difference between renting a space and not renting it. Investing in a photographer to stage and take some shots can pay off in the long term.

Lastly, you’ll need to set house rules and pick available dates. House rules can govern if you allow pets, what amount of noise you’ll permit, whether or not guests can use the laundry, etc. Be thoughtful and set good rules here; it’ll make the process less painful later.

When it comes to dates: Plan ahead. It’s tempting to just say the space is always available, then check when people actually book, but that’s a good way to annoy a lot of potential renters. Sit down with a calendar, pick dates that work for you, and commit to those dates.

Airbnb allows instant booking, too, which many users prefer. You can only allow that if you’re comfortable with the dates you’ve set, otherwise you may be forced to cancel and pay a fee to Airbnb.

Rates and Fees

When it comes to picking a nightly rate for your rental, we encourage you to do your research. Airbnb will make a recommendation based on other properties in the area, but it never hurts to look around yourself and see what people are renting for in your neighborhood.

It also helps to research when periods of high demand are. If you live in New Orleans, you shouldn’t be setting the same price during Mardi Gras as you would during other periods.

There will also be fees. Airbnb charges hosts 3% per booking, which we suggest you bake into your listing price. Many cities also have a Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), which varies between 9% and 18% depending on where you live. When trying to calculate your income, make sure to include these fees.

Also, again, you may want to look into getting additional insurance. Airbnb has host protection insurance, but you may want additional coverage, especially if you have a pool or amenity where an injury might occur.

Working With Guests

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Before, during, and after check-in, the key to a successful Airbnb hosting experience is communication. Responding to guests quickly will let them know you are responsible and attentive and can solve many issues before they arise.

Airbnb allows secure communication through the site, and we encourage you to make sure it’s linked with your email and you’re checking it regularly. Some hosts provide a phone number for easier communication with guests, but only do what is comfortable for you.

Be firm with your rules, and set clear expectations, but also do your best to be accommodating. Most renters just want to feel safe, get checked in quickly and easily, and have a comfortable place to stay. There will be difficult people, of course, and in those instances it’s often best to let Airbnb’s customer service handle problems.

Reviews and Feedback

One last bit of advice: Take feedback earnestly. Most guests will leave positive reviews if you’re taking care of your end of the bargain. If someone offers earnest feedback, don’t take it the wrong way. A bad shower head can be replaced easily. More clear instructions on how to connect to Wi-Fi is an easy fix.

Most issues can be worked out with good communication and a commitment to being a responsible host. Take it seriously and you’ll do great.

Becoming a Great Airbnb Host

The key to being a good Airbnb host is keeping a clean place, communicating well, and staying on top of things. When it comes to customer satisfaction, being attentive and thoughtful goes a long way. Airbnb rentals can be a smart way to make extra money, so go out there and make it happen.

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