I will always rent out my house on AirBnB when I’m out of town because it’s such an easy way to cover the cost of the trip. No matter how dirty things are when you get home, you can scrub things down and clean them well. If things break, guests will usually pay to replace them, and I keep my valuables and important breakables safely hidden/locked away. AirBnB takes the guest’s money up front when they book and directly deposits into my account the day after they check in, protecting us both. AirBnB does a great job marketing. They also do a great job with conflict resolution. See AirBnB’s insurance policy for more details on how they help protect their hosts.
Before you host
- What are your goals? Renting only when you’re out or when a specific event is coming to town and you’ll be able to charge a premium, earning a steady stream of extra side income, or becoming a full-time host? The amount of initial capital invested depends entirely on your goals. If you are only renting for a weekend when you will be out of town, don’t buy a bunch of new items.
- Have realistic time expectations. Establishing and maintaining the ad, talking to your potential guests, managing your calendar, cleaning before and after guests, and helping guests during their stay can take a lot of time.
- Make sure your space is safe for both you and guests. Do you have a lock on your bedroom door if you’re renting out a room? Do you have a space where you can lock any valuables? Is the space clutter-free or are there any safety hazards?
- Be aware of other people impacted. If you have a landlord, double check that you’re allowed to rent out. Make sure any roommates are aware. Be conscious of neighbors, who WILL notice.
- After 30 days, guests have squatter rights. I don’t recommend any long term guests. My minimum is 4 nights and my maximum is 9 nights so that the longest I would have to deal with a bad guest is a week.
Always treat your guests how you would like to be treated.
Be clear and accurate in your listing and description! Honesty is key. If you are unclear in your listing, it can lead to false expectations and guests being disappointed. Remember to always update photos when you make changes to the space. If you only list occasionally, double check all your photos and reread your listing before opening your calendar.
If you get the same questions frequently, update your listing to address them. When I started, I regularly got questions about how far my house was to certain beaches and sporting venues. I added driving times for all of them into the “Getting Around” section so that guests don’t have to ask before booking.
Contact your guest a few days before booking to establish how they will get access to the house and ask if they have any questions or concerns. Follow up with them throughout their trip.
Keep key information (house rules, wifi code, etc.) in an easy-to-access place. I have a binder in the kitchen that lists all the house details and then has coupons for local museums and attractions. It helps guests feel welcome.
Consider offering breakfast if it makes sense based on how you’re renting the house out (renting one room vs. if you are leaving for a trip). I have a basket of snacks for guests and keep a couple drinks in the fridge to help make guests feel welcome. I also keep coloring books and crayons for kids.
Be flexible with check in and check out. Invest in a code lock for your front door and update it in between guests. It allows for easy access to the property, ensures no keys will be lost, and is easy and convenient for both your guests and you. Most locks allow multiple access codes. I prefer flexible self-check-in for my guests so that both they and I have maximum convenience, but you can still meet guests before letting them in. Many guests prefer to be greeted at the door.
Guests want to stay in places that are clean and clutter-free. Make sure they have clean sheets and a clean bathroom to use. Have extra towels! (A complete set for guests.) I like white because they can be bleached. Don’t be afraid to decorate for the holidays.
Keep the basics around (and filled). Coffee, tea, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hand soap, toilet paper, paper towels, dish soap, and laundry detergent if you allow guests to use your washing machine.
Keep a gift basket of extra items for your guests in case they forget something. The dollar store is great for filling the basket. Toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors, cotton balls, Q-tips, lotion, hand sanitizer, combs, hair ties and bobby pins are all items I keep in a basket in each bathroom. I also have a small first aid kit in the main closet.