Thinking of Becoming an Airbnb Host? Here’s How to Do It Right
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Is it safe? Aren’t you worried about people touching your stuff? How will you manage running a rental all by yourself? These are just a few of the many questions I’ve gotten from curious friends when I decided that, after one too many eccentric roommates, I was going to rent out the second room in my swanky Brooklyn apartment on Airbnb. And after doing so for almost three years, I can honestly say it was worth all the time, money and energy — because it is an investment — and you’ll reap the rewards if you do it right. Here’s how to be not just a good Airbnb host, but a great one.
1. Always Be Upfront With Guests
When you’re filling out your host profile, it might be tempting to add a little Photoshop magic to that hole in the wall or use poetic license to your advantage. While my Brooklyn Airbnb wasn’t the nicest apartment ever — it’s an old building that was never renovated, had banging pipes, showcased the world’s smallest bathroom and the shower didn’t drain properly — I priced it out accordingly and was always open about the condition it was in. Not surprisingly, I attracted a lot of budget travelers and backpackers who just wanted a cheap, clean room to retreat to — all of whom gave me stellar reviews in the process.
2. Familiarize Yourself With Local Laws
Most people I know here in New York City who are hosting their rooms and apartments are doing it without letting their landlords know or are actually going against their leases to do it (since it counts as subletting). While many manage to be hosts without having any issues, keep in mind that if your landlord or neighbors find out about it, there may be consequences so it’s worth looking up the local laws so you can have a plan, or even buying your own space if you don’t want to worry about it at all. You can also try finding a landlord who doesn’t mind, though this might prove to be a challenge.
3. Adopt a Business Mindset
If you’re looking to really make money through Airbnb hosting, consider what you can offer to make your listing even more attractive. Maybe it’s providing breakfast and coffee, a free guided walk through your neighborhood or a discount for longer bookings. Within your hosting profile, you’ll be able to turn on the Smart Pricing feature, which lets you set your prices to automatically go up or down based on changes in demand for listings like yours, controlled by settings you can adjust at any time.
4. Remember: Most of Your Guests Will Be Amazing
The biggest benefit I saw after going from having on-the-lease roommates to solely Airbnb guests was just that — the people who stayed with me acted like guests. They didn’t expect me to do their dishes, nor did they come home at 4:00am drunk and throw up on my couch. Many even brought gifts like chocolate or wine from their home countries, which added a fun, cultural component to the experience.
5. Stick up for Yourself
I say this not to scare anyone from hosting, but just to be real: Over the years I’ve had a handful of guests (three, to be exact) I needed to ask to leave. One guy kept bringing random girls back to the apartment — keep in mind, I was also living there, in the other room — while another kept making very disrespectful passes at my girlfriends, and the other took my polite offer to grab a drink to mean he could make advances toward me for the rest of his stay. If someone does something that makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to stand your ground or even get Airbnb involved. While the company can be tough to contact by phone, it’s very responsive on Twitter via @Airbnb so send a direct message if you have any issues. Additionally, make sure you fill out the House Rules section on your host profile so guests know what’s okay — and what’s not — while they’re staying there.
6. Consider Making Minimum-Night Stay Requirements
This is just a personal preference, but it’s worth noting that if you’re letting people book one night only, you’ll be doing a lot of laundry and clean-up more than you need to. You also might miss out on a longer and more lucrative booking simply because a one-night stay overlaps with it, so listing your place with minimum-night stay requirements might work out better for you.
7. Keep All Payments and Messaging Within Airbnb
Airbnb does take a cut of your profit, and while it may be tempting when you get an offer to be paid with cash or otherwise handle the booking one-on-one without the middleman, you’ll be leaving yourself vulnerable. Hosting your place through the service means you’re ensured by Airbnb for up to $1 million in case something happens. It also means there’s an added security benefit since the company vets and knows who is coming into your home. The few times where I experienced any issues with guests, it felt good having a competent customer support department to help me sort things out. If you want even more peace of mind, consider adding a homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy — I ended up getting an inexpensive renter’s policy through State Farm and was able to add on an extra floater policy to protect all my valuables — like my laptop and DSLR camera — when I’m traveling.
8. Use Referral Links to Grow Your Travel Fund
Every Airbnb member — whether a traveler or a host — gets a unique referral link that earns them Airbnb credit whenever they get someone to sign up, typically about $25-$35 if you refer a traveler (once they book a stay for $75 or more) and $75 if you refer someone who becomes a host (once they welcome their first guest). Last summer, my boyfriend and I were planning a trip to the South of France and he decided to rent out his room in Brooklyn while we were out of town. When he welcomed his first guest, I got a $75 credit — plus another $35 when he booked our stay in Cannes. He then told his three roommates his plan and soon enough, all of them wanted to make some extra cash and rent out their rooms as well. As a result, another $225 in Airbnb credit went into our travel pot, allowing us to spend three nights in a fairytale castle in Provence. That’s the magic of Airbnb; you can stay in all sorts of awesome accommodations, from a fabulous Cuban penthouse in Havana to an Argentinian vineyard, and everything in between.
9. Think Twice About Turning on Automatic Booking
Yes, you’ll probably end up getting more bookings if you activate the auto-booking feature, but hear me out. There have been many times over the years when lifestyles just haven’t been a match and I’ve had to deny a booking. I’m a travel writer who likes quiet, so when I had a guest tell me he was a DJ coming to NYC and if I minded if he practiced in the room, I declined the reservation. When I had another guest ask me if I cared if he brought women back to the apartment, I also declined. It’s smart to understand who will be staying with you and the nature of their visit, especially if you’ll be home at the same time.
10. Create a Fridge “Concierge Station”
Write up a document with fun things to see and do in your neighborhood, transportation tips, coupons or maps that might be helpful, and hang them on your fridge. It’ll alleviate any confusion for guests, who can use these things as reference, and save you from having to repeat yourself 1,000 times every time someone stays at your place.
Do you have any Airbnb hosting tips of your own to add? Sound off, below.
Featured image by the author.