10 Tips for Renting Out Your Home on Airbnb

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Hosting your home on Airbnb can feel a bit daunting – at least, it did for us before we started doing it nearly 10 years ago. I wrote a whole post on our routine to get ready for a guest, but I also wanted to share a set of Airbnb host tips, especially if you’re new to hosting. These are things that are helpful to us to keep things streamlined and smooth, so it’s not more headache than it’s worth. (And if you haven’t stayed before, you can use this link to get $40 off your first stay!)
I always get so many questions about hosting, especially with kids – do we put away our stuff? Have a locked closet? Have different sheets? What are our Airbnb house rules? Hopefully these tips will help minimize anxiety about having others in your home, and let you focus on the income that supports your own travel!

1. VET YOUR GUESTS. The only times we’ve ever had (minor) issues with guests are the very few times we’ve accepted guests who didn’t fall into our predetermined criteria. For us personally, that means we typically only accept families, or the occasional business travelers. We’ve had good experiences with a extended family groups.
But friend groups? Hard pass. There have been one or two times when we’ve accepted them because it was for a longer stay and we were worried we wouldn’t have other guests. We should’ve stuck to our guns. So figure out where your comfort zone lies and stick to it.

2. HAVE A LOCKED SPACE, and PHOTOGRAPH YOUR HOME. How big this space is will be dependent on what you need to store. We don’t have many valuables so we have a very small locked area for paperwork (tax docs, etc.), and we take my violin over to a trusted neighbor’s house. If you have more valuables, you may want to consider locking a closet or perhaps even a whole room if you’re really concerned. Regardless, having that separate space, no matter how small, will give you peace of mind.

Also, Airbnb has a $1 million host guarantee. We’ve found for the slight issues we have that didn’t involve actual stuff being damaged (e.g., someone left a pack of cigarettes and smoked outside our house, despite our very clear no-smoking rules – details below), Airbnb was pretty much useless. However, another time when a minor cord was damaged, we had no issues submitting a claim and they took care of everything very promptly.

Because of this, we feel comfortable leaving out things like our TV/DVD player, desktop computer, etc. We don’t have anything fancy or brand new when it comes to those items, so we wouldn’t be heartbroken if they had to be replaced, and we’d trust Airbnb to take care of it.

We do take pictures of our home before leaving, so it’s clear what belongings were there and what condition they were in. We’ve NEVER needed to use those, but it’s nice for peace of mind should anything ever come up.

3. PACK UP SPECIAL ITEMS, BUT NOT YOUR WHOLE HOUSE. Items don’t have to be expensive to be special. We have a couple of plastic bins in which our kids can put any special stuffed animals, LEGO creations, or play jewelry. It helps them feel better knowing another kid won’t accidentally break something that’s important to them.

That said, you do NOT have to pack away your entire house. For the most part, we leave our clothes in closets and drawers. We sometimes clear out some space for guests, but not a ton, and not always, and no one has ever complained. When we were gone for a long time, we had a bathroom cabinet labeled for guests, but on normal, short trips, we don’t bother.

And figure out what is actually special or valuable to you – will you be devastated if an heirloom sofa gets a stain on it? Or are you willing to trust the host guarantee with your $150 Walmart couch? We figure, people aren’t going to care one whit about my $10 Target t-shirt or basic sewing machine or whatnot. We leave the kids’ craft supplies in that area of the playroom, and just ask guests to replenish anything they’ve used heavily (but are fine with them using things sparingly).

 
4. HAVE SEPARATE SHEETS AND COOKWARE. It will make your life infinitely easier if you have guest sheets separate from your own. We set our personal ones aside in a bin under the bed and leave a note for the cleaners to put those on before we return. Then they’re for sure clean and ready to go, and stay nice and fresh.
We also recently purchased a second set of inexpensive nonstick cookware. We’re vegetarian and don’t like folks to cook meat on our pots and pans. We also have a nice set that we don’t necessarily want them to scratch up if used improperly. So instead of being anal about telling them what to use and how they can use it, we spent $50 and got a whole set of nonstick cookware just for guests. It’s perfectly functional and actually works really well, but it’s not our beloved wedding set.
Same with knives – we actually had 2 of my favorite chef’s knife and had left one out, which one of the guests chipped on the blade. Not sure how it happened, but that kind of thing just does on (rare) occasion. It’s still perfectly functional, but just not quite as nice, so I’m glad we didn’t leave out our whole set of favorite knives.
5. HIRE CLEANERS. Speaking of cleaners, hire them. I know some people clean their own places – we were those people for many years. But I am one of those people who really appreciates a SPOTLESS Airbnb rental, so it caused so much stress to completely scrub everything super thoroughly while also preparing to leave on a trip. Then when we returned, we’d again have to thoroughly scrub and sanitize before we felt comfortable settling into our home, even if we were exhausted from traveling. It was just too much.
Now we very happily pay cleaners to come after we leave, in between guests, and before we return, and they do a better job than we ever could. Airbnb makes it very easy to build in the price of cleaning, and that is something I will happily outsource. Just remember that the Airbnb fees get removed from your income, so factor that into all your costs.
We have a checklist for them (although they’re very thorough, anyway), and also list out each date of cleaning and which beds need to be made up each time. That way, there’s no washing of unnecessary sheets or making up extra beds.
6. MAKE YOUR AIRBNB HOUSE RULES CRYSTAL CLEAR. You want no smokers? Detail in your listing what exactly that means. Can they smoke outside? Away from your home? Or absolutely 100% no smokers at all? That’s what our rule is – we don’t want anyone even with smoke on their clothing staying in our home and sleeping in our beds, especially with kids. So we repeat that about 5,000 times in our listing. Annoying, probably, but you’d be surprised what people can miss (or conveniently ignore).
In addition to having it in the listing, we also make that clear when messaging with the guest after they make the booking. Food is another one that can sometimes be unclear – can guests use your salt and olive oil? Or anything in the pantry? Or nothing at all? It’s easier to communicate this in advance than to be frustrated later.
So figure out if you have a hill to die on, and communicate it – repeatedly.
7. CREATE A HOUSE MANUAL. On the subject of communication, make sure you put together a house manual. Include things like how to run the dishwasher/oven/washing machine, which doors and windows to lock, the WiFi password, and checkout requirements (take out trash, run the dishwasher, strip the beds, etc.). We also like to include a list of things to do in the area, restaurants, and grocery stores. This should also include those same Airbnb house rules that were in your listing, as well.
8. SET OUT TOILETRIES. Guests will inevitably forget something or the other (and Airbnb actually now requires that you provide basics such as soap and a hair dryer and such). If you don’t want folks rifling through your personal cabinets (which we don’t), then leave a nice basket on the counter with the things they’ll need – washcloths, mini soap/shampoo/conditioner/mouthwash (if we have some from hotels, we’ll put them in there), maybe a spare toothbrush, a hair dryer, etc. It makes things easier for everyone if the stuff they need is in plain sight.
Oh, and it’s always nice to leave a little treat or special drink for your guests, as well! We set out a simple bottle of Trader Joe’s sparkling cider and maybe some chocolate and call it good.
9. BE RESPONSIVE. Both before the guests arrive and while they’re there, do your best to be responsive. That doesn’t mean you have to be online 24/7, as guests understand that you sometimes need to sleep or don’t have service. But as much as possible, try to respond quickly to resolve any issues. It shoes that you’re professional and care about their experience. Then once they check in, be sure to message them and make sure they’re settling in all right. And if you can, have someone on the ground who can respond to any emergencies for you should they happen.

10. MAKE IT SIMPLE. Keep check in simple with an electronic door lock with a pass code (or just a lockbox with a key). Spell everything out in the house manual – even the simplest of things. If they need airbeds, set them out in the room so they don’t have to search through closets. As much as possible, keep everything as simple, straightforward, and streamlined as possible.

One final note – be sure to check the rules and regulations in your city/state, as some don’t actually allow you to rent out your home. Make sure you’re familiar with what is legal in your area!

What did I miss? Have you hosted on Airbnb, and if so, what has been helpful to you?

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