There is no way to sugar coat it. Guests don’t read the house manual provided online, and often they ignore the house rules section, too. The number one way to combat this is to have instructions in a guidebook at your house (and posted notices as necessary). Hopefully that gets the point across to the guests who are harder to communicate with than an alien from outer space.
Guidebook (aka the Green Binder)
I keep a green binder in a basket of snacks (ok, bait) directly on the kitchen counter. You can see the basket immediately when you walk into the front door. It’s actually the only thing even on the counter, so there’s no excuse for missing it.
The number one way to always get people to open the guidebook is to put the wifi password in it. This is the only thing people will go out of their way to look for. If I get a message asking me for the wifi password, I tell them to look in the binder (and am slightly annoyed because they obviously haven’t and it’s right there). Don’t put the password on the first page if you have more than one, or they’ll simply grab the password and close the book again.
For the first page, I put in a note about how to contact me if needed. Then I remind them of the house rules. Short, sweet, to the point.
We hope you enjoy your stay.
If you need anything, I can be reached at PHONE NUMBER.
- Kristine and Jameson
*Photo of me and Jameson so they recognize me if I’m coming and going*
Reminder of House Rules:
-NO SMOKING ANYWHERE ON THE PROPERTY
-NO HEAVY DRINKING/DRUGS in the house (A couple of alcoholic drinks are fine)
-No outside/unconfirmed guests
-NO PARTIES allowed
-Tidy up after yourselves so I can keep the cleaning fee low
-Respect the house as you would your own
-While outside, please keep voices and TV volume down after 10pm so we don't disturb neighbors
Any damages will be billed through AirBNB’s Resolution Center
If guests forget the rules, I resend them the house rules through the AirBNB app. AirBNB will allow you to terminate a guest’s stay early if they are not following the house rules, although you have to refund them for missed nights. Nine times out of ten, all contact from my guests to me is done through the AirBNB messaging system, and I like it that way. Even if they text me, AirBNB’s messaging system is usually how I respond so that there is a record of it if needed within the site. Additionally, I reach out the day of check in through AirBNB’s site to ensure they’re a “Yes, everything is fine” from their end, whether or not I’m home.
House Basics for All
The next page is all the house basics. Again, short, sweet, and to the point. I keep page 2 to the things everyone generally needs to know.
During your stay:
To lock, just press the lock button once.
Wifi Name: NAME
Coffee/tea is in the cabinet. Creamer is in the fridge.
The rest of the food is private. You will be billed if you eat/drink it.
The baskets in the bathrooms have extra supplies in case you forgot anything, free to use.
The soaps in the shower are also free to use.
White towels (hall closet) are ok for pool and bathroom use.
All white towels and sheets are washed with hot water and bleach.
In case you need them, cleaning supplies are in the hall closet.
Laundry machine and laundry detergent are in the garage.
Beach supplies (chairs, toys and towels) are on the shelf in the garage.
Please keep sandy beach items in the garage.
Yes, locking the doors is something guests need a reminder of. They frequently think it is ok to leave doors unlocked. Then comes the wifi password. I bold the note about food, because some of my past guests have come in thinking my kitchen is a smorgasbord. This note means I will at least be able to charge them for anything eaten. I don’t actively enforce for little things, but I would if they ate a substantial amount of food. I used to get questions about what supplies can be used where (and if there is an extra cost), so I elaborate a bit to clear it up and prevent questions.
House Basics for Some
Next, a page about the pool. Guests who don’t intend to use it clearly know they can skip the page.
CHILDREN MUST BE SUPERVISED AT ALL TIMES.
White towels are OK for pool use.
Please turn on the water filter so that the water is circulating while you are swimming. Pool controls are at the exterior back of the house near the grill/dining table. Note the yellow circle clock; flip the silver switch directly next to it! (It automatically comes on in the afternoon and turns off at night.)
If the solar blanket is on it:
It keeps the pool up to 10 degrees warmer.
Just roll it up by cranking the wheel.
Then push the rolled blanket three feet back toward the wall.
Please be careful NOT to dump any leaves/debris into the pool.
Please leave the blanket on if you are not swimming.
Again, it’s short, sweet, and to the point.
Page 4 is the living room TV instructions. I have a really modern TV and some people aren’t as tech savvy when it comes to figuring out how to work it. I actually have a diagram of my remote with arrows showing the buttons to push. Then I have the channel list with the title “Channels for Antenna TV (As stated in the ad, THERE IS NO CABLE)” and also have a note “Occasionally the stations cut out or don’t work. In this case, please find another channel or use the internet streaming content.” I never get questions or complaints.
Page 5 is an instruction manual for the Internet Streaming Content. I do NOT provide any passwords. I list out how to access each app and state that it is already logged in and so guests should not have any issues. Then I note to contact me if they have any trouble or need me to log in. Most tech-savvy guests don’t need this information, so putting only this on the page alone ensures they don’t miss important stuff if they skip reading the rest.
When the Stay is Over
I’ve learned to make my instructions for leaving very specific to ensure that people leave the house in a way that makes it easiest for me to clean it. Do NOT assume they will leave it the way they found it! The more specific you are, the less room there is for error.
When you leave:
- Do any tidying up: Furniture returned to its place, pool toys back in the box (leave swan in pool), dirty dishes in the dishwasher, etc. Please put things back where you found them.
- Please take out your trash. Trash should be placed in the large black bin in front of the garage. Recycling should be placed in the large blue bin in front of the garage.
- Simply leave your beds UNMADE so I know which sheets/bedding to wash. Please do NOT strip the beds.
- Leave all used towels ON TOP OF the washing machine/dryer. Please do NOT start a load and leave unattended.
- Turn off all the fans, lights and electronics.
- Please put the a/c at 82 degrees.
- MAKE SURE TO LOCK THE DOORS.
Yes, people need to be told to put things back where they found them and reminded of things to put away in very specific terms. Yes, people need to be told to take the trash out. They still sometimes forget. These two bullets save me a ton of time and energy.
I found that when people were asked to strip beds, pillows and comforters ended up on the floor and the colored sheets ended up mixed with (sometimes-wet) white towels and white sheets in no particular order (sometimes on the garage floor). Other times, sheets were thrown in a corner in the hallway and still had to be separated out and walked to the garage. Additionally, some took off the mattress protectors, which don’t need to be washed every time. It’s far easier for me to pile pillows and comforters on the desk/drawers and strip the beds myself when I’m ready to wash the sheets, so I ask that they be left on the bed. However, sometimes guests make the beds, so then I don’t know which to wash and end up washing them all rather than risking a nightmare for the next guest. This led to very specific instructions that I’ve found work well.
Gathering towels is a pain, and often I miss them if someone had one drying outside or hanging in the shower. Now I ask that all towels be gathered on the laundry machine in the garage. This ensures that I can get home and start a load of laundry quickly. I still do a walk-through to check for any other towels (and usually find one or two), and then I pull any white sheets if there’s still room in the machine. The note about not starting laundry is more a precaution. I had one guest start laundry and leave (maybe my 30th group; they were trying to be helpful), but it just sat in the machine 38 hours because I was out of town and had to be rerun. The situation felt like a waste of resources, so I added the line to prevent it in the future.
The reminder about turning off the lights and fans decreased and the number of times the fans have been left on dramatically. I ask that the a/c temperature be turned up (even though eco-mode will kick on) to waste less resources, and also to signal to me that my guests have left. (The Nest lets me check the temperature remotely.) The “lock the doors” is obvious but was often forgotten. Finally, the note about what the cleaning fee covers (added in after about 6 months) has really made my life easier.
Guests are far better about cleaning up after themselves. Coincidence? I think not. (I do wash the floors as well, but leaving that out encourages them to clean up spills.)
I don’t usually bill guests for towels unless there is other damage in the house (they’re just a cost of business), but I’ve found that I’ve had less towels stained beyond salvage since adding the note. I have replaced plenty of towels due to makeup, food, dirt, etc.
The Final Note
On to the last page, another late addition...
I kept getting northerners who knocked my cleanliness score down because they found a dead bug. I get it, they’re creepy, but anyone who has lived in Florida knows bugs often get in unless you have a new build. (Especially when guests just prop the doors open... Really can’t help you there!) Since adding in this notice, I’ve stopped getting knocked down stars for cleanliness from guests finding one or two dead bugs now. You might consider a similar notice if you have a recurring situation that is outside of your control.
The rest of the binder has brochures, coupons, maps, and lists of my favorite restaurants and beaches. I don’t get many questions when guests are here because I am thorough, specific, and force them to check the guidebook for the wifi password if luring them in with bait doesn’t work. I have part of this information in my house manual so that I can follow up on AirBNB if they don’t do things, but I’m sure no one looks at it online.
I try to keep these at a minimum for multiple reasons. First, I live there, and who wants to walk around seeing notices all the time? Second, guests “live” there, and who wants to walk around seeing notices all the time? It’s far more comfortable to keep it relaxed. However, there are certain things that are “guest specific” and that not everyone needs to read, but when a guest needs to read it, it’s really important.
First, my fish tank. Some of my guests don’t even notice it, and others walk over and want to start touching it. Someone once turned my tank off. Hellooooo, you can kill the fish! So, taped directly to the top of the fish tank:
Everything is automatic. Please don’t touch.
Second, some guests don’t use the pool and others use it only when the filter is on anyway. If a guest has to turn a filter on, they may think they have to turn it off as well. Not the case! In fact, turning it off too early means the water might not filter or circulate enough, and touching anything else might mess up the pool system. The switch they need to flip has an arrow on it that points in the direction they should flip it, and taped directly below is the following:
Those are my only posted notices. I’ve been to AirBNBs where they post notices everywhere, and ultimately I tuned them all out. (In retrospect, I feel kind of bad about it as a fellow host.) Make sure you are only posting the important (and potentially the guest specific) things.
I have a blank journal that I ask guests to write in before they go. I taped the following to the cover:
before you go!
(Name, date, where you are from,
and a fun memory from your trip)
We hope you enjoyed
staying with us!
-Kristine and Jameson
Not everyone signs our guestbook, but it is fun to look back on our visitors. Often we get thoughtful notes, and our repeat guests have enjoyed looking over their notes from the last trip!
The more specific I am, the more likely it is that guests will do what’s expected of them. The ones who miss usually don’t miss more than enough to be an annoyance that results in an extra half hour of cleaning or moving things.