With thousands of Short Term Rentals stays under our belts, we’ve had our fair share of learning experiences. From the fabulous to the mediocre to everything in between, we've made notes and corrections along the way and have definitely developed our own preferences and tips to share with other hosts. If you’re looking to increase your STR income and impress your guests, here’s how to do it.
First things first: comply with local laws.
Consider this tip #11 but it really comes before ever beginning to host. Before publishing a listing online, make sure to check your local laws, your HOA/landlord if applicable, and your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance to see if you are allowed to be a STR host–and what restrictions there might be in your neighborhood or area.
This is easily the most important tip we can offer hosts: if you’re not complying with local laws, it’s going to be harder to turn a profit on your property, and it’s likely going to attract a lower caliber of guest than a property that is fully onboard with local regulations would.
It could also potentially mean that you’re left high and dry by your insurance in the event of serious damage to your property. A lot has changed with how Short Term Rentals are perceived over the last several years–cities like New Orleans, Barcelona, and New York have all tightened the clamps on vacation renting, citing issues with investors buying up property and then renting it out to unscrupulous guests, which has the double negative impact of causing tension in neighborhoods and driving up the prices for longterm renters.
These problems are very real and very complex. We cannot stress enough to do your homework in regards to zoning and local laws before even considering turning your property into a STR. If you live in Louisville and would like to learn about our city's rules and regulations, click here.
And now, we get into our tips for hosts… Be considerate of your neighbors.
Guests are important to running your STR, but they come and go–your neighbors will stick around. The neighbors will be the ones dealing with excessive noise or mess, and they’ll be the ones left to express their frustration to both you, any future guests, and even the authorities once problem guests have long checked out and moved on.
Be sure to make guests aware of any rules that can make your neighbors’ lives easier (like quiet hours), and be scrupulous in which guests you accept in the first place. Ultimately, STR's are about building a community–and that includes the one that sticks around over time.
Don’t forget to write your guests a review!
Reviewing your guests serves two purposes: it allows you to provide honest feedback and support the STR community… and it also reminds your guests to come back and review you!
As a new host, reviews are your bread and butter–plenty of guests, especially those newer to Airbnb, are hesitant to book properties with few or no reviews. While it is not a guarantee, reviewing your guests (especially if the review is a good one) is a great way to up the odds that you can tack on another review of your property.
It all starts with clear directions.
Of all our tips for STR hosts, when it comes to dealing with guests, this might be the most important one. Lots of stress and frustration can be mitigated by simply having a smooth start to a guests stay, and if a stay gets off on the wrong foot, it’s often hard to recover the trust of your guests. When providing details of the listing–especially how to get there–err on the side of too much detail. Make your instructions–from how to arrive in your neighborhood to how to get through each gate or door–crystal clear.
Include plenty of photos of your listing.
One dark photo of a messy bed and one of a bathroom is not going to get you many bites, and as STR's grow more popular and more competitive, this host tip is becoming more relevant by the day.
The best listings we have seen include 1 photo of each room and of the outdoor spaces. Make sure that you include one photo of the exterior so your guests can recognize it when they arrive–and if you have a great view, don’t be afraid to show that off.
Photos of activities or attractions in your city that aren’t in any way connected to the property? Absolutely unnecessary.
Set clear expectations for anything out of the ordinary.
Does one of the burners on the stove not work? Does the washer require a specific four-step process to get the door safely open without breaking it and locking your clothes inside (true story)?
Give your guests a step-by-step guide. They’ll appreciate it, you’ll both worry less, and the visit will go more smoothly.
Provide local information.
Tourist maps? Restaurant recommendations from a local? Brochures for local activities?
Your guests will either love it or ignore it (most will love it). There is absolutely no downside to showing off your area–after all, you want them to come back!
One of our properties has a huge mural on the entry wall of all the local breweries surrounding the house. Our guests always compliment it!
Stay in touch.
Everyone has different comfort levels with communication, but one of our suggested host tips is sending one message about 24 hours after check-in, asking how things are going, and one message about 24 hours before check out, to see how their stay was.
This allows the guests an opportunity to address any concerns with the property toward the beginning of the stay (some people are shyer than others and may hesitate to reach out on their own), and also takes the fear or pressure off of the guests.
If the guests are staying for a week or more, you may want to add in another message or two in the middle of the stay to check in again. Feel free to communicate with whatever method you and the guest prefer, but know that using the Airbnb app can come in handy in the event of a dispute–if needed, Airbnb can access the conversation and use it when resolving any issues.
Over the years, we’ve moved more and more toward solely communicating with our hosts through the Airbnb app whenever possible to protect all parties, and recommend that you do as well (it’s also part of Airbnb’s terms and conditions).
If you have a kitchen, stock it.
The difference between supplying one worn frying pan or supplying two frying pans, two pots,
and an array of basic spices isn’t much in terms of financial investment–but it will make an entirely different impression on your guests.
A basic necessity that some forget about: stock salt and pepper - they cost essentially nothing, but it gets very annoying buying them once a week while traveling.
Be sure to add a personal touch to the property.
Many people who rent out entire apartments or homes on listing platforms have never lived in them, and they can be a bit sterile–and we’re continually surprised by the number of hosts who don’t try to make them cozier. You don’t need to throw tons of money into the property or cover every surface with knick-knacks (in fact, please don’t), but a few fun pieces of art for the walls (especially if it’s related to the location that you’re in) and other personal touches can go a long way.
Not only does this help the home feel cozier (more a home, less generic hotel) when the guests are there, it also tends to photograph better–and photographs are what gets guests looking at your property in the first place.
An Short Term Rental isn’t a hotel room.
Ultimately, of all our tips for STR hosts, this is the one that they all tie back into: if guests wanted a hotel room, they would get one.
When a guest chooses a STR, they’re looking for an experience beyond what Best Western or Marriott can provide, and though STR hosting has trended more and more to commercial ventures rather than locals renting out a spare bedroom over the years, the gist of the intent is still the same: to provide a personal, local experience. In fact, as STR prices have risen over the years to reflect the popularity of the service, a personal experience is almost more important now than it was in the past–in some cities, there is less of a price difference between a STR and a hotel than there ever has been!
No, you don’t need to become best friends with your guests, but you do need to constantly keep in mind when designing and promoting your property that your purpose is to offer something more.
Whether that’s an excellent location, local tips, a well-stocked kitchen, or all of the above, your goal as a successful host is to provide a unique, memorable experience that will make guests review you positively on Airbnb, and perhaps even come back one day.