How To Start An Airbnb In 2020 – The Ultimate Guide To Becoming A Superhost This Year

How To Start An Airbnb

This guide, on how to start an Airbnb is based on my personal experiences over the last five years.

Along with the insight I have acquired with 100’s of properties that I have been involved with. There are many factors to be considered before 

….listing your property on Airbnb ….as not every property will generate the same amount of profit. 

There are many different factors to consider if it’s going to be a good venture or a total disaster. 

Don’t make your decision based on the success stories you have heard – there are ways to turn it into a more educated decision. 

How to start an Airbnb? It is a four-stage process, where every phase is essential, and you will need to stay on top at all times if you want it to be a profitable business.

  1. Planning
  2. Setup
  3. Operations
  4. Maintenance

Running an Airbnb is all about meeting guest expectations, at all times, and even a small glitch in the process can lead to business failure in a short period.

Here are the key phases and steps of the whole process and a summary of my experience at each step:

How To Start An Airbnb: Phase 1 – Planning

Not every property is suitable for Airbnb; it can be either due to the local regulations, the property itself, financial viability or even the neighbourhood. Airdna market research is as an excellent tool for such purposes.

Plan Your Airbnb

How to start an Airbnb: CHECK AIRBNB REGULATIONS IN YOUR AREA

Before deciding to become an Airbnb host, you need to find out the local regulations in your city. With the exponential growth of Airbnb over the last few years, it has been gaining significant lousy press as well, mainly due to irresponsible hosts.
 
Some cities have laws that restrict your ability to host paying guests for short periods. These laws are often a part of a city’s zoning or administrative codes. 
 
In many cities, you must register, get a permit, or obtain a license before you list your property or accept guests. Certain types of short-term bookings may be prohibited altogether. 
 
Local governments vary greatly in how they enforce these laws. Penalties may include fines or other enforcement.
 
The rules can be confusing, and usually, it’s tough to find out exactly what restrictions apply in different parts of the world.  
 
Use the following button to head over to the Airbnb repository where they put together city-wise regulations collectively in one place. 
 
Note: Regulations mostly apply to hosts who are renting an entire property on Airbnb. Whereas, sharing a room within your primary residence is considered good and generally excluded from rules.

This link not only provides you with the regulatory information in your area but also offers guidance on how to ensure your Airbnb is safe for guests and complies with all the local safety regulations.

I cannot stress enough on how important it is to check every bit of information on this link and make sure you operate your Airbnb per the law and keep it safe for guests. 

How to start an Airbnb: FINANCIAL VIABILITY

If you rent a space in your primary residence, it is a no brainer to list it on Airbnb and generate the extra income without any additional financial burden.

On top of this, many countries offer tax relief for the revenue generated by ‘sharing’ space in your home under schemes similar to ‘Rent a Room Relief‘ we have in the UK.

It becomes a different game altogether when you are renting an entire property on Airbnb.

Rent your holiday home: If you have a ‘holiday home’ and intend to use it periodically – a traditional long term rental won’t work for you, as the tenant needs an assured period and it will not fit with your holiday plans.

It makes perfect sense to let it on Airbnb, and you can block the calendar for the dates you wish to use the property. Financially it is an excellent decision to rent it on Airbnb for the periods you are not going to use it.

Rent your second home: If you own a second property and want to rent it on Airbnb, a detailed financial analysis is needed to see if it can give you higher returns compared to a long term tenancy.

Read more about paying tax on Airbnb income in the UK.

Short Term Airbnb Vs Long Term Rental

Airbnb – Benefits

  • If you are in a good location and property is set up correctly, it can get you dramatically higher returns compared to long term rental.
  • There is no lock-in contract, and you can use the property for personal use whenever you wish.
  • You can inspect the property very frequently during changeovers.
  • Address issues in time – the guest or your cleaning team will let you know of any maintenance issues.
  • The property gets cleaned very frequently, usually a couple of times in a week and will stay in top shape.
  • Less wear and tear – a vast majority of guests will either be visiting the area for tourism or business; they will spend most of the time outside and stay less indoors.
  • You may get additional tax benefits, for example, if you are in Europe and the property meets the conditions to qualify as ‘Furnished Holiday Let’, you can claim back property furnishings on capital allowances along with many more extremely lucrative financial benefits. See this link for tax benefits of Furnished Holiday Let in the UK.

Airbnb – Disadvantages

  • Letting your property on Airbnb is not ‘Real estate’, it is ‘Hospitality’, and unless someone manages it for you, you will need to learn how to meet your expectations.
  • The income from Airbnb can be unstable, you may start on a very high note, but if it doesn’t meet guest expectations consistently or if the property is not looked after well, bookings can dry up very quickly.
  • Short term rental regulations in your area may restrict your ability to rent your property on Airbnb all year around. (Check Airbnb restrictions in your area)
  • More hassle – unless someone else is managing it for you, you will need to keep everything stocked up in the property, arrange cleaning, replace damaged items, pay utility bills etc. regularly.
  • You will need to spend a lot of time messaging guests, send them details on how to get to the property, key handover and answer any queries they may have about the property or local recommendations.
  • Although Airbnb Host Guarantee of up to USD 1M protects the property in the event of damage by a guest, it isn’t easy to claim loss and is always at the discretion of Airbnb.
  • If you have a mortgage on the property, technically you should let the lender know about the change of use, and it doesn’t go down well with most of the big lenders.

Long Term Rental – Benefits

  • Consistent and predictable earning is the number one advantage of traditional renting.
  • You don’t need to furnish a long term rental property.
  • You don’t need to worry about seasonal fluctuations or deal with customers daily and the hassle of arranging, cleaning, etc.
  • The tenant pays utility bills.
  • Almost no admin – once the tenancy agreement is signed, and keys exchanged, you don’t need to worry about advertising or answer any booking enquiries.

Long Term Rental – Disadvantages

  • Traditional rentals generally tend to generate lower earnings than short term holiday rentals.
  • You can’t change your mind and ask tenants to leave, move back in or use the property for something else.
  • Less control over damages – you are at the mercy of the tenant to keep you informed of any issues, which if left unattended may snowball into a disaster with time.
  • If you get a problematic tenant or one that falls into difficulty and doesn’t pay rent, the law often protects the tenants, and it can take time and money to get them out and retrieve the lost income. 
Check Airbnb Sustainability

How to start an Airbnb: SUITABILITY

Not every property is suitable for Airbnb. An unsuitable property will get bookings in the beginning, but it won’t last long, and will gradually come to a halt as the crushing factors start adding up.

Key Factors:

  • Exteriors

One of the most prominent mistakes people make when creating an Airbnb listing is not to add photos of the property’s exteriors. 

No matter how beautiful the interiors of your property are, people get a sense of safety and security when they see how it looks from the outside. A shoddy building on a patchy road is not going to go well with your guests.  

  • Interiors

    It doesn’t have to look like a posh hotel. As long as the place looks clean, fresh with plenty of natural light, you will be okay. Note, amenities within the property is a separate topic.

  • Accessibility

    Entry to the property should be via a well-lit easily accessible path, step-free or wheelchair accessible is even better. 

You will face difficulties if entry is via a standard door to the building and other residents will not be pleased with you putting a lockbox near the entrance of the building. If the building has a reception service at the door and the building rules are not Airbnb friendly – you will run into trouble from day one.

  • Key handover

    If it is the main door property, you can put a lockbox somewhere close to the entrance, or you can use a smart lock.

It gets complicated when there are other residents in the building, and the entry is through an ordinary door or a reception area. Think about where you will place the keys or lockbox for a guest to collect. If nothing else works, you can manually pass the keys to guests or speak to a nearby shop owner or friendly neighbour. You can use one of the vital handover service providers.

  • Sensitive Neighbors

    Let’s accept the fact that an Airbnb in a residential area is an inconvenience to neighbours as not all your guests are going to be respectful to the house rules. 

A lesser-known tool by Airbnb enables anyone to complain about a neighbour they think is an Airbnb host, and his guests are causing inconvenience to others.

  • Safety

    It has to be fire safe; there should be a carbon monoxide alarm (CO) in the kitchen and near any other combustion-based appliance in the property. A fire alarm is a must too.

I have a had a guest who almost brought one of my listings in LA downtown to a grinding halt when she complained to Airbnb about someone smoking weed outside the building. People should feel safe during the stay else it won’t be long before your booking calendar starts looking empty.

Things will not always be in your control, but as long as you can explain and it doesn’t happen too often – you will be fine.

  • Privacy

    Bedrooms should have dark curtains, the bathroom should have tinted glass, and the guest should be able to get on with the confidentiality promised in the listing.

  • Cleanliness

    The path leading to the property entrance should be clutter-free clean. Interiors should be immaculate and free of any odour, dust, damp or bugs. If a guest reports bugs in the property, Airbnb can shut it down almost immediately without any remorse.

  • Noise levels

    Make sure noise levels in the property stay within reasonable limits for guests to relax and have a good sleep.

    Majority of Airbnb’s are in the busiest part of a city, where noise is the most frequent complaint and is often overlooked by less experienced hosts.

Noise can be from a loud neighbour, street noise, a restaurant or pub nearby, construction in the area or pets. 

It may be out of your control at times, but as long as you mention it clearly and warn the guest (under house rules section of your listing), you will be fine. 

  • Proximity

    It is essential to be within a reasonable distance from public transport, train station or airport. If you are in a remote part, plan to provide pickup from the nearest public transport. 

  • Convenience

    Guest should be able to come in or go out of the property at their convenience. A supermarket and pharmacy shop within walking distance or at a short drive is highly desirable.

Avoid a property if it is on the third floor, and there is no lift. People always overpack, and they will not like dragging their heavy suitcases over several flights of stairs. 

Even if you warn them of ‘no lift’ before booking, people forget such warnings and eventually leave a scorching review about the experience of having to drag luggage up and down the stairs in your Airbnb.

How to start an Airbnb: IDENTIFYING THE PROCESSES

  • Key handover

    You need to think about how you will pass the keys to the guests. A lockbox or smart lock is usually the most convenient, but it’s not always possible to install them due to building restrictions etc.

    An alternative method is to either pass the keys manually or use a key exchange service such as KeyNest.

  • Cleaning

    Think of who is going to clean the property after each guest, how long will it take to clean up space, is it easy to find cleaners in your area?

    Who is going to collect the dirty laundry and deliver fresh at each turnover? Try to work out the cost of cleaning and laundry separately.

    You can use a service like GetProperly to find cleaners in your area.

  • Maintenance

    Plan for situations when things may go wrong; if guests locks themselves out; if the AC or the boiler stop working – you need to prearrange a handyman and a locksmith for situations like this.

    Train your cleaning team to keep an eye on crucial things on the property so that they can inform you on time. 

Make sure you thoroughly inspect the property every six months.

  • Guest Check in/Check out

    Identify the check in/check out procedures;  there are several pertinent questions you need to ask yourself such as:

    • How  will the guest collect the keys?
    • Where do you want the guest to leave the keys on check out? (tip: always ask them to leave the keys back at the same place they picked them from)
    • What will be the check in and check out times? 
    • Do you want the guest to wash the dishes or leave them in the dishwasher? 
    • Do you want them to strip off sheets and covers and leave in a corner?

There are pros and cons of each, for example, asking the guest to strip off sheets will save you effort when cleaning, but at the same time, it will make it very difficult for you to see any damage to the sheets.

  • Property Availability

    Under the ‘Availability’ settings, you can set four key timings directly impacting your operations: 

Property Availability
    1. Advance Notice – This is to avoid last-minute surprise bookings; you can set how much notice you want before a guest arrives.
    2. The second option is to set the latest time in the day that a guest can place a last-minute booking.
    3. Preparation time –  here you can set if you want Airbnb to block your calendar for 1 or 2 days after each booking to let you prepare it for the next guest.
    4. The most important setting is the ‘Booking window’, where you can set how much in advance you want to keep the calendar open for bookings. 

You can choose to open ‘All future dates’ which I don’t recommend. ‘Dates unavailable by default’ is advisable if you rent the property only for a certain period and you can open the calendar for specific days.

If you intend to use the property for the long term, I recommend setting it to rolling 6 or 9 months in the future.

  • Communication Strategy: As soon as the bookings start coming in, you will need message templates for various stages of the bookings such as:
    • Booking confirmation
    • Check in instructions
    • First-morning message
    • Check out message
    • Early Check in standard Response
    • Late Check out standard
    • Discount request
    • Response to any other common query unique to your property

See my Airbnb blog posts for message templates.

  • Pricing Strategy:  To find the right price point for your property, search the Airbnb website and see how much the hosts are charging for similar properties in your area.

    This will give you a starting point, and for such properties, let’s say you notice people are charging an average of $100 per night in the area. 

From here, there are three types of pricing models you can choose from for your property:

➤ Static Pricing is one standard price for each bookable night. Hosts usually set this manually, based on the local knowledge they have about the demand in the area, so you can set $100 for each night and increase on weekends or for popular days.

Static pricing is generally a bad idea because, on the days when demand is very high, and you could potentially charge higher, you will sell it for $100 per night. 

..and on the days when demand is low, you won’t get any booking at all, whereas you could sell it for $80 per night.

➤ Airbnb Smart Pricing is a tool you can choose to opt-in, and it will tell you the price for each night based on their calculations.

It uses minimum, maximum and base price that you have set in your price settings.

You will notice that it will suggest the prices way cheaper than anyone in the area. It has a long way to go, so not recommended!

➤ Dynamic Pricing is a sophisticated pricing strategy similar to what the Hotel and Airline industry use, it calculates the price for each day of the year individually based on the local demand, occupancy levels, past data, etc.

For this, you will need to use third-party service providers such as PriceLabsBeyond Pricing or usewheelhouse.

Dynamic pricing is the best option to go for, and tools like pricelabs can do so much more than just pricing as it is a revenue management system; if used correctly it can increase your profit considerably.

  • Payments: Airbnb releases the amount 24 hours after the guest check-in, and in the majority of the countries it reaches the same day.

    You can set the Airbnb payment method under Profile> Settings> Payments & Payouts, under this you can:

    • Add multiple payout methods, but the one which you mark as default is used by Airbnb for Payouts. 
    • Set a minimum payout amount for each payout method if you want.
    • Set payout routing to split payouts into different payment methods. It can be handy if you have multiple properties, you can map them to different payouts methods.
  • Contingency Plan: Think of who is going to respond to guests and look after the property when you are on holiday or busy?

    Do you have a friend or family member nearby to support you if a situation arises?

How To Start An Airbnb: Phase 2 – Setup

how to start an airbnb

How to start an Airbnb: FURNISH THE PROPERTY

Quality

I was once involved in a property where the owner just wanted to earn from the property but was utterly oblivious to the fact that it needed urgent improvements to bring it out from the 20th century.

From rusty door hinges, creaking floorboards to outdated furniture and kitchen – the property had all the ingredients for a 3-star review every time, and I think deep down the owner knew it as well, but as long as things were working for him, he didn’t care.

Eventually, it caught up, the listing was shut down by Airbnb for bad reviews, and it was empty for several months in the peak summer season.

Do not buy substandard furnishings; reviews drive the entire Airbnb ecosystem and only well looked after properties last for a long time.

List of things to provide 

I will be writing a separate post for a complete list of items you should buy for a standard Airbnb property. But in summary, must-have items are: 

  • BathroomToilet Roll, Hand Wash, Shampoo, Body Wash, Hand Towel, Hot Water
  • Kitchen – Toaster, Kettle, Tea Bags & Instant Coffee (individual packs), Sugar, Salt, Pepper, Knife, Oil, Cutlery, Refrigerator, Stove
  • Bedrooms – Comfortable mattress, Mattress protector, Two pillows Per Person, Room Darkening Shades, Duvet or Blanket
  • Miscellaneous – WiFi, Fire Alarm, Carbon Monoxide (CO) Alarm
Tip: Provide white bed linen and towels; for two reasons, one it shows the property professionally managed and secondly it is easier to take stains off from white fabric, you can bleach it.

How to start an Airbnb: GET PHOTOGRAPHS

Once the property ready, the next step is to get a photographer to take beautiful shots of the property. 

Good looking pictures are essential to bookings, but make sure photos don’t look better than the actual place in reality.

You don’t necessarily need to hire a professional photographer for this if you have a decent camera, or even your smartphone can do the job very nicely. 

You can refer the Airbnb tips for taking great photos of a property.

It should look clean and welcoming – show the amenities guest will be able to use, open window curtains, prepare the beds and don’t forget to close the toilet seat when it comes to the bathroom.

Photo resolution plays a crucial role in Airbnb search ranking; get the images taken in the highest possible resolution, and upload them on Airbnb without resolution loss.

I will write a separate article on the search ranking; subscribe to my newsletter to know how photos impact your search Airbnb search ranking.

 

How to start an Airbnb: CREATE AIRBNB LISTING

You have planned everything; property is set up, and photos are ready; the next step is to start creating your property listing on Airbnb. 

To create an Airbnb profile, you will need:

  • Access to a mobile phone
  • Email address
  • Driving License or Passport
It is best to use a computer when creating the Airbnb profile and listing as not all options are available on mobile or tablet version of Airbnb.

I will write a separate article on how to create an Airbnb listing, subscribe to my newsletter to know how to create an Airbnb listing like a Pro.

How to start an Airbnb: SETUP KEY HANDOVER PROCESS

Setup the key-handover process, the four most common options are:

  • Manually pass on the keys – this option makes sense if you live closeby. Bear in mind, most travellers don’t like this option and prefer self-check-in properties.
  • Install a lockbox near the property – this is the cheapest and probably the best solution, as long as you can install it somewhere near the entrance. Masterlock is the most popular lockbox brand.
  • Smart locks, they don’t need a key, guest can open them using a code or a phone app.
  • A key handover service provider, such as KeyNest.

How to start an Airbnb: GET HOME EMERGENCY COVER

Dealing with unexpected phone calls and maintenance issues is the most considerable inconvenience with short term rentals. 

The threat of that midnight phone call is often the most significant deterrence for individuals and families looking to start renting on Airbnb. 

For peace of mind, get landlord emergency cover which covers essential items such as AC, boiler, washing machine, dishwasher, hob, stove, oven or any plumbing issues in your property. 

Such covers are not very expensive, and all you will need to do is pass the helpline number to your guests.

How to start an Airbnb: ENSURE PROPERTY IS SAFE

No matter how small or big your property is, fire safety is not something to be overlooked. 

Make sure it is compliant with all the local regulations and make sure you have these items in the property and easily accessible to guests:

How to start an Airbnb: SETUP CLEANING TEAM

Vacation rental hosts are held to very high standards of service and quality, and cleanliness is one of the most important standards that the hosts are required to meet.  

You can get away with everything else but not cleanliness. It is the single most crucial factor on how to start an Airbnb which can make or break your Airbnb business.

Broadly, your cleaning team should take care of several services, including:

  • Make the beds
  • Clean and put away the dishes
  • Sweep and mop floors
  • Vacuum carpets and rugs
  • Clean toilets, bathtubs, and showers
  • Take out the trash
  • Wipe counter tops, door handles, and light switches
  • Check for damages and report low inventory
  • Keep tabs on toiletries and supplies
Along with this, you should schedule periodic deep cleaning at least once every year. 

It’s best to keep the same cleaning team to do both regular and deep cleaning because they will already be familiar with your property and its unique requirements.

DEEP CLEANING services can include:

  • Wiping baseboards
  • Cleaning under the oven and refrigerator
  • Shampooing carpets
  • Cleaning cabinets
  • Cleaning kitchen appliances such as toaster, coffee maker, kettle etc.
  • Clean closet corners
It is best to sign a written contract with the cleaning team, clearly stating their responsibilities.

How to start an Airbnb: LINEN SERVICE

During every changeover, dirty laundry has to go for washing, and a fresh one should come for the cleaners to setup. 

It is best if your cleaning team does laundry too, else check with a launderette 
if they provide laundry services along with pickup and drop.

The cleaning and laundry team need to work very closely. Cleaning cannot finish without fresh laundry, and dirty laundry has to go at the same time a fresh one is delivered.

How to start an Airbnb: ON-CALL HANDYMAN & LOCKSMITH

Leave contact details for handyman and locksmith in the property, so that the guests can reach out to them directly if you are not available or during odd hours in case of an emergency.

How to start an Airbnb: PREPARE CLEANING CHECKLIST

Whether you hire a professional vacation rental cleaning crew or do it yourself, to maintain a certain standard of cleanliness, you need to have a checklist to follow during each changeover.

Write down exactly what needs to be wiped in each room, how the pillows should be set up, the kitchen appliances to be washed and to keep a tab on toiletries and supplies.

Here is the my advice on the Airbnb cleaning checklist you can follow.

How to start an Airbnb: SETUP PAYMENT PROCESS

Streamlining the process of receiving and sending payment right from the beginning will make accounting 100 times more manageable for you. 

I recommend keeping a separate account for your Airbnb business. 

Set up this account in your Airbnb payout methods to receive payments from Airbnb and pay all the utility bills, cleaning and laundry bills from the same account.

I pay cleaners and the laundry team every week; all utility bills are on direct debit from the same account, and Airbnb pays in the same account. 

At any point, I can log in and see how much money I am making without having to reconcile anything.

How To Start An Airbnb: Phase 3 – Operations

how to start an airbnb

COMMUNICATION STRATEGY

The most frequently asked question on how to start an airbnb? It’s all about providing the right information at the right time, and there is a fine line between over and under communication.
 
You need to identify the stages at which you will send messages to your guests and the information that each message will include.
 
Don’t communicate with guests outside Airbnb unless it’s an emergency; the best option is the Airbnb messaging. 
 
Every time you send a message, Airbnb automatically sends it to the guests’ email, phone app and text message. Unless a guest has a strong reason, don’t send them direct email or messages outside Airbnb.

Purpose

It is okay to send extra information as long as it is posted at the right time. Purpose of your communication strategy should be to:
  • Provide all the necessary information a guest needs to stay at your Airbnb.
  • Reduce guest queries.
  • Make the guest feel you are around and accessible.
The stages I recommend when you should send a message to the guest and keep appropriate templates as ‘Saved Messages’:

Keep your ‘Saved Messages’ ready

Experienced Airbnb hosts know how important it is to save time on every interaction with their guests and keeping it helpful and timely at the same time. 

To let hosts answer in a faster and more efficient way to commonly asked questions, Airbnb introduced a ‘Saved Messages‘ functionality. 

Saved messages can be accessed quickly, and you can respond to frequently asked questions very efficiently. Check my tutorial on how to save time sending messages to guests on Airbnb

  • Booking Enquiry – Even if you keep ‘Instant Booking’ on for your Airbnb, you will still receive occasional queries from guests asking about things mentioned in your listing description.

    Try to make things more precise in your report to reduce such questions further.

Then, I answer the most frequently asked questions (and you should keep the answers saved), such as:

    • Can we check in early or at least drop our luggage off?
    • Can we check out late on the day?
    • How far away are you from X?
    • What amenities do you have?
    • Can you recommend a good restaurant and attractions in the area?
    • Can you accommodate more guests than the listing states?
  • Booking Confirmation – Include these reservations details in the confirmation message:

    • Mention ‘booking is confirmed.’
    • Reservation start date
    • The number of nights
    • Number of people
    • Address of the property so they can plan better
    • When they should expect detailed check-in instructions from you and how to get the keys, etc.
  • Check-in Instructionsinclude the following details in this message:

    • Check-in date
    • Check-in start time (and check-in end time if applicable)
    • Address of the property
    • How to collect the keys of the property
    • Contact number they can use if any difficulty in finding the place
    • Ask them to message you on Airbnb if they need anything during the stay and give a contact number they can call for urgent situations like lockouts, etc.
    • Contact number for local emergency services, i.e. fire, police and hospital
    • Detailed driving or walking instructions from two nearest public transport places
    • Share a google maps link to your property
    • Tell them if tap water is safe for drinking or point them to the water filter system
    • Remind them of the house rules
    • Fire exit plan
  • First Morning – This is just a courtesy message asking if they have settled alright and remind them that you are around if they need anything.

    People appreciate this message and you checking in on them — no need to include any information in this message. 

Skip this message for one night bookings.

  • Check out Instructions – This is also a courtesy message and should have the following details: 

    • Remind them of the check out time
    • Where to leave the keys
    • Check out procedure, if you want them to wash the dishes before they go etc.

For one night bookings, send this message in the morning.

  • Review Reminder (optional)Some hosts like to remind the guests about writing a review.

I don’t send this message, and there is no need for it in my opinion if there was an issue during the stay which you want the guest to ignore in the review.

Airbnb automatically keeps reminding guests about writing a review for 14 days which suffices the need for this message.

  • Write a guest review – Don’t write a review immediately after guest checks out, it is best practice to wait at least 24 hours after the checkout.

    This is to protect you against damages the guest may have done to the property which was not visible on the first look but took you (or the next guest) a while to identify.

    If you have written a review already, you even be able to complain to Airbnb or ask for a deposit.

So that, in a nutshell, this is my complete Airbnb Communication Strategy. I perfected it over the years and finally perfecting this trade 🙂

Arrange Cleaning – Whether you are going to use a professional cleaning agency or clean it yourself. Keep these keys points are:

  • 30% of reservations on Airbnb are made within the last 24 hours, make sure your property is always ready for guest. Schedule cleaning the same day a guest checks out.
  • If you don’t have an immediate reservation, ask the cleaning team to set up the property for a maximum number of guests your unit can accommodate.

    It will save you from last-minute running around with extra sheets and towels if someone books it last minute.

  • Purchase three sets of towels, sheets, covers etc. One is always in use, and the other one goes for washing and third stays in reserve for contingency.
  • Keep cleaning supplies stocked in the property and accessible to guests when needed if you want you can put a combination lock over the storage to prevent unauthorised use.
  • Make sure you have a cleaning checklist and keep reminding your cleaning team about the steps to follow, plan a monthly inspection if you can to maintain excellent standards.
  • If you get a review comment about cleanliness, make sure you pass it on to cleaners.
  • If different providers do cleaning and laundry, make sure they work together well and communicate.
  • Make sure dirty/wet laundry is never left in the property overnight.

Manage check-in/check out 

You will often get a request from guests asking for early check-in or late check out. 

It is perfectly okay to deny such offers if you don’t want to, but I recommend you should sincerely try to accommodate such requests. 

It makes it a hundred times more convenient for the guest, and there is a good chance they will be more respectful to your property and kind in the review.

For guests asking for early check-in, let them drop luggage anytime after the previous guest leaves, and they can come back after check-in start time.

For late check-out requests, ask them to leave the luggage behind and let them come back and pick it up before the next guest arrives (i.e. check-in time). 

Strictly ask them not to use the facilities in the property when they come back to pick up the luggage. They will try to use the toilet and grab a glass of water before they finally depart, so be aware.

NEVER let previous guest check-out late, and next guest checks in early on the same day and always give priority to the incoming guest. 

It’s perfectly okay to decline early check-in/late check-out requests if you don’t want the hassle.

TROUBLESHOOTING

My strongest advice on how to start an Airbnb? It lies in how well you are prepared when things don’t go as per the plan.

Unfortunately, things go wrong at times and may be due to problems with the guests, hosts or the property itself.

Half the battle is won if you know how to handle difficult situations in advance.

Effective communication

Tell the guest how to report any problems. They should know how to reach you as well as Airbnb or the local authorities in case of emergencies.

Provide numbers, names and email addresses (if relevant) in your welcome guide and ensure that your guests have your contact details (and know the best way to reach you in an emergency). 

Key Emergency Response Stages:

1. Guest notifies you of the problem: It’s probably a habit to check your messages regularly anyway, so it shouldn’t take long for you to become aware of any issues. 

If checking messages frequently is not convenient for you, set reminders to do so every so often (a few times a day) so you can be on-call for anything your guest may need.

2. Understand what your guests needs: Your guests are on holiday and out of their comfort zone, so it’s your place as a host to be the understanding, helping hand when they require.

3. Solve their needs ASAP: It’s never nice being locked out or not being able to get into where you’re meant to be staying, especially in an emergency. Put yourself in your guests’ shoes and try to solve their problems as soon as possible.

4. Understand what happened: Nine out of ten times it’s a mistake or an accident. Nobody intends to get themselves into an emergency. 

Try to be understanding and see if there’s a way to solve the problem as soon as possible.

5. Prevent future problems: Make a note of how the situation happened and how it is resolved – it could help in preventing future problems. 

Think about all the possible solutions considered and what worked so you can be better prepared.

6. Compensate the guest if needed: If there’s been a disruption to your guests’ rental, then compensation may be in order. An apology should always be the first course of action, but it may take more to make up for any problems.

Here are some of the most common situations and quick actions on how I deal with them.

BEFORE STAY
  • I did not receive the check-in instructions, and I am at the door: 

Ask the guest if they have access to the internet?

If yes, get them to open the Airbnb app or their email and find the check-in instructions you sent them. 

Otherwise, they may mention in the review that you never sent them the check-in instructions and that they had to call you to get in.  

Yes, it’s an unfair world, and that’s why find your check-in instructions first and then lead them to access to the flat.

If they don’t have internet access, lead them to access the flat, but make sure you chase up with them to find your check-in instructions which also contain house rules and other emergency information they should keep handy during the stay.

Additionally, you want to make sure they accept that it was their mistake to not to look for your messages before arrival.  

  • I can’t open the lockbox

Always try to send a photo of the location of the lockbox with the whole property in the picture. 

Highlight the lockbox in the photo to make it easier for the guest to locate it.

Still, some guests will struggle to find it or open it, but there is nothing much you can do.

If the language barrier is huge, ask the guest to pass on the phone to someone passing by so you can guide them.

  • I want to cancel; please refund

Sometimes you may receive guest messages, just a few days or even hours before arrival,  requesting cancellation of their reservation. 

“Never-ever cancel a booking on behalf of a guest. Ask them to speak to the customer services, and inform them that Airbnb may resent such actions and review further requests of reservation.

Sometimes a guest has a genuine reason and if you feel convinced enough and want to help them get away with this cancellation with 100% refund

… you can call Airbnb customer services, explain to them the situation and they will cancel the booking, with full refund to the guest irrespective of the Airbnb cancellation policy and no penalty to you for being so understanding towards a guest situation. 

Note – calling Airbnb is the key; if you cancel a booking from the website or phone app, you will be in trouble.

DURING STAY
  • The smart lock code doesn’t work

With smart locks, it’s best to have a physical key as a backup plan in case your guests aren’t the best with technology. Most intelligent lock models come with a key or two as standard.

Most smart locks have features to allow the host to change the code remotely, which should be the first attempt at a solution. 

Speak to your guest, have them try the old system and replace it if it doesn’t work while they’re on the phone. 

Keep them on the line while they try the new one to ensure the problem is solved.

  • The door won’t open

If you’ve got a problematic door and there’s a trick to getting it open, tell your guests in advance. 

Let them know if the door will be double locked or there’s more than one key needed – have them be aware of all the possible options before they start to panic and contact you.

If you think the guest isn’t trying the right way, in my experience, give them 10 minutes, and they are likely to work it out. 

In the worst case, you will have to get someone there to help them, or you can even ask the guest to request a passer-by to help unlock the door with the keys they have.

  • Something isn’t working

The shower isn’t working, there’s no heat, or the main door won’t lock. 

Whatever the issue, you need to let your guest know that you are going to deal with the problem right away. Make sure to say sorry first and then move on to fixing it.

And this is where the landlord’s insurance or the on-call handyman will come handy.

 Keep the guest in the loop at each step until the problem is fixed and tell the guest that this is not the kind of experience you aspire to provide and be genuinely apologetic about it.

If it is something which can wait or can’t be handled straight away, check if the guest is 100% okay with it or else offer to provide a partial refund for the inconvenience caused.

  • Partying Guests
If your property is in a tourist destination, you can expect that at least some of your guests will be looking to party. 
 
While you are probably already taking as many precautions as possible to keep the boozers out of your place, partying guests is one of the most common Airbnb problems.
 
If you find that your guests are turning your place into a frat house, you should get them out as soon as possible by calling Airbnb and asking them to cancel the booking. 
 
Make sure that you document everything that is occurring if you have to get the police or Airbnb involved for a full investigation.
 
If the problem is less severe, you can try letting them know that your neighbourhood is residential and they have to keep the noise down. 
 
However, if this approach doesn’t work after one attempt, it’s time for them to go.
  • The place isn’t what I expected

There can be two reasons for such a reaction

    • Photos on your listing are way better than the actual place
    • Lack of detail in your listing

It is imperative to describe what you have in the property for the guests to use. Mention as much detail as possible in the ‘Guest access’ section of your listing. See my listing as an example.

If the guest complains that the place isn’t what they expected, first check if it was the lack of clarity in your listing description for the guest to assume things. 

If it is mentioned, then point the guest to the details of your listing nicely. 

They will understand, otherwise, offer to refund the guest for the inconvenience caused due to lack of clarity on the listing. 

Nonetheless, if they want to cancel, speak to Airbnb and explain the situation and they will help you sort it out.

But at the back of it, don’t forget to update the listing, so it doesn’t happen again.

  • I am locked out

A key emergency can happen anytime, especially if you have a smart lock; technical issues may arise and having a back-up key somewhere close by to the property, ideally in a separate lockbox, can easily dissolve the situation. 

But, in the case of an emergency when nothing else works, the on-call locksmith should come to the rescue; keep his phone number easily accessible. 

If it was a guest mistake, you could charge the guest for the emergency callout.

AFTER THE GUEST LEAVES

  • Misplaced/Stolen Household Items

Towels, decorative items and toilet supplies are most likely to go missing. And when they do, first ask the guest politely like, “We can’t find a towel? 

Do you know where it can be?” Or “Sorry, we can’t find the shampoo bottle. Do you know where did you leave them?” 

Look everywhere before you make any accusations. 

If you’re pretty sure that it’s not going to be found, you can quickly charge them for the missing expensive items. 

If the thing is not of high value, you might want to mention it to guests without charging them. It is probably the best option to save your time and nerves. 

To avoid having valuables or extra supplies to go missing, put locks on your storage places.

  • Bad Review

Unfortunately, some guests leave bad reviews, and they won’t mention a thing during the stay to allow you to correct things. 

A good-hearted ‘sorry’ can always do the trick, but if it doesn’t stay calm, then you can tell your side of the story as a  public response to the guest review. 

Respond to all the reviews politely. This will show your future guests that you are a caring and respectful Airbnb host.

In certain scenarios, it may be possible to remove a bad Airbnb review.
  • Damaged Items

Not every traveller is going to treat your Airbnb with as much respect as you do. If you notice unreasonable damage to the property.

For example, if a guest knocks over a bottle of nail polish onto your sofa or if they drop something that makes a hole in the floorboards. 

It’s not unusual for guests to contact a host the minute they break or damage something – notifying them of what has taken place and offering to pay. 

But what should you do if that doesn’t happen or if the amount they offer to pay is not enough to cover the damage?

First of all, always communicate issues with guests using the Airbnb platform. This will help Airbnb track what is going on between both parties. 

Start by getting in touch with your guest and politely ask what happened and if they are willing to pay for the damages. 

This could lead to a resolution that both parties can be happy with.

If this fails, head over to the Airbnb resolution centre to lodge an official complaint

How To Start Airbnb: Phase 4 – Maintenance

Regular Cleaning Checks

Most important thing is to have an Airbnb cleaning checklist on how to start an airbnb.

Whether you have contracted a cleaning company, or you do it yourself, periodic checks to look after specific aspects of cleaning with frequent changeover is vital, before the dust starts to accumulate in those hideous parts of your property.

The most common things to go over in this phase are:

  • Closets: Dust shelves, hangers, wipe down baseboards.
  • Living Room: Dust fan, blinds, clean windows, tidy display items. 
  • Bedrooms: Dust fan, blinds, clean windows, under the beds, tidy display items, wash mattress protector.
  • Bathroom: Dust counters and shelves, wipe down counters, faucets and sinks. Wash mirrors & windows, unclog drains, scrub the toilet and bathtub.
  • Kitchen: Dust counters and shelves, wipe down counters, faucets and sinks. Wash towels and mats. Wipeout microwave and clean the dishwasher.
  • Entryway: Dust the shelves and tabletops. Wipe down baseboards, tidy storage and displays.
  • All rooms: Freshen with flowers or scented candles.
  • Dining Room: Dust table, chairs and bar. Wipe down baseboards, clean windows.

Keep Supplies Topped Up

Do a regular check on supplies and don’t always rely on your cleaning team to tell you about a shortage, you will be surprised how quickly some items get consumed.  This is the basic of how to start an airbnb.

For my busiest properties, I ask my cleaners to purchase cleaning stuff they need and send me the original receipt, and this keeps things simple and convenient for cleaners and me.

Some items I recommend you should keep a tab on at least once every two months are:

Improvement Based On Guest Reviews

Reviews serve an essential purpose: to inform. For the first six months, always listen to guest reviews, especially the negative ones and try to improve on the points the guests frequently mention. 

Though it hits hard when a negative review comes about you or the listing, this is business and customers will be ruthless if they don’t get what was promised. 

When it happens, be graceful in your response and understand that your reaction will determine how you’re perceived from then on.

Thank the guest for the review, and let them know you appreciate their advice on how to improve.

These are my suggestions on how to start an Airbnb and becoming an Airbnb superhost the fastest in the year 2020. Please feel free to comment below or message me if I have missed anything.

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