Airbnb is the perfect outlet for first-time vacation rental owners – it’s user-friendly and extremely popular. It’s also extremely easy to get started with. Airbnb rental management operations are a dime a dozen though – you’ll have to stand out to beat the competition.
If you want to be successful, you can’t just throw your listing up without some guidance. There’s a ton of properties out there available to rent, so you need to stand out. You need to prepare your property and yourself before you start working on your listing.
This guide will turn your empty property into a bustling, successful Airbnb rental management operation of your own!
Just follow along and let us help you get prepared..
I. Prepare Your Property
Ship Shape: Airbnb has standards!
Repairs & Restoration
Before you begin anything else, your property needs to be structurally sound and compliant with local fire code. If you’re all set there, let’s continue on.
Where to start? First, let’s make a list of key areas to repair/improve. This is stuff that may or may not require some money, depending on your level of involvement. It’s also stuff that’ll make a drastic difference in your property’s rentability:
Yes, this is a given, but it can be a little more involved than just picking up garbage. There’s no faster way to restore the original beauty of a property than power washing. Patios, brick paths, cement fixtures and driveways, vinyl siding, shingles – virtually everything can be power washed. Don’t overdo it and blast holes in the side of your house, the power can be adjusted.
This goes for both the interior and the exterior. Try not to go too crazy with the colors. For the interior, white is always going to work – it gives a sense of spaciousness. If you must go with a color, light pastels will still stay in the bounds of general expectations.
Obviously, this is an aesthetic boost before anything else, but there’s a bit more to it. If your walls are peeling or cracking, guests are going to get the impression that you don’t care. That may influence their decisions when it comes to cleaning up after themselves and treating your property with respect.
Restoring your property’s wooden floorboards can be done on the cheap if you’re ready to put the work in. There’s plenty of tutorials like this out there that’ll walk you through the process. The floors are the second biggest interior feature – restoring them will breathe new life into your property.
If you have some ugly carpeting covering the floors, take a peak underneath by pulling up a corner. A sheetrock knife can help with this (and later for cutting the whole thing out). If you’ve got wooden floorboards down there, don’t hesitate in ripping out the carpet.
If it’s cement, you can either make arrangements to put in some nice decorative tile floors or have wooden floorboards put in. Another option is to rent a steam cleaner and try to make the most of the carpet.
Something to keep in mind: most of the decorative floor tiling you’ll find only has a thin clear coat over it that’ll scrape and chip easily. If you’re putting tiles in an area with lots of traffic, take extra care in choosing a durable option.
If your place is overgrown with vines and vegetation, or just bland and colorless, get it taken care of. It’s not terribly expensive and it can make a world of difference. A flower bed on a lawn that’s been freshly trimmed and edged can probably make any property appealing. Also, everyone likes bird baths.
Cockroaches, ants, ticks, and other bugs can be a plague upon your Airbnb rental property. You can minimize the amount of mosquitos by draining any points on your property that have standing water (puddles, ponds, leaks, storm drains). Wherever possible, ensure there’s proper drainage so they won’t have a chance to reproduce there in the future.
Does your property have a dedicated septic tank? If so, can you recall the last time it was serviced? Get it done. You don’t wanna play around when feces is in the equation.
Your toilets and drains need to flow unimpeded. There’s a lot of liquid chemical products out there meant just for this, but don’t get too carried away with it. They are not meant for frequent use – they can damage your pipes and any seals if you keep pouring it down.
If you find the flow is not restored after the first use, consider the possibility of a physical blockage – try a good old fashioned flange pump, or purchase a toilet snake. When it doubt, just call a professional.
This technically falls under the fire code requirements, but it needs to be reiterated. Does the circuit breaker flip and shut off power every time you turn the microwave on whilst watching the TV? That’s a huge inconvenience for guests. It’s likely an overloaded circuit – this is something that only a professional should be handling.
If you’re the handy type, you’ll be able to check most of this stuff off unassisted. Any money that you can save here can be used to improve your property’s furnishings.
Redecoration: appearances are everything.
The word ‘redecoration’ invokes thoughts of massive bills for sofa sets and hardwood headboards. It doesn’t have to be bank-breaking though. There’s plenty of awesome DIY tutorials out there for budget redecoration – in fact, there’s entire sites dedicated to it. When in doubt, check ask on one of the many helpful DIY communities on Reddit.
You can also get a lot of great ideas just strolling around Home Depot. Just resist filling up your cart without checking things against your budget first. If you’re not feeling too creative, there’s always the old standby for easy home furnishing: Ikea.
The important thing to remember is this: pick a theme and run with it. Take a gander at this list and see which ones strike your fancy. The top three (modern, contemporary, and minimal) are also the ones with the most universal appeal. That’s important for a rental property.
Going with something niche, like 21st century grandma’s house style, could risk your ability to maintain steady bookings. Then again, if you do it right, you may have a constant flow of cute grannies who like your tea set. Use discretion.
To help divide your work into something manageable, take a room-by-room approach. Set a realistic budget for each. Do your research – if you go spending half your budget on a custom-built wooden bed frame, you’ll struggle to finish the room. If you price things out beforehand, you’ll save a lot of headaches.
Property Management Rolodex
If you’re not the hands-on type, you’re going to need a few phone numbers close by:
- House cleaners (they should already be on your regular maintenance plan)
- Gardener / Landscaper (they should already be on your regular maintenance plan)
- Pool Company (they should already be on your regular maintenance plan)
A couple of these numbers are not applicable to all properties. It’s recommended that you contact a cleaning company beforehand and ensure that they will be able to perform same-day services. This will enable you to keep a tight booking schedule.
II. Research the Competition, Run the Numbers
This is where things get really interesting! Or, if you hate math, here’s where things get really boring and tedious!
Unfortunately, if you want to make Airbnb rental management your career, you need to take a calculated approach. You’re going to do some research, make some projections, and use them to adjust your strategy (in the next step).
Your success is on the line here, but no pressure!
How to calculate your Airbnb rates
There’s a few ways you can approach this – we will take a combined approach. You’re not looking for a flat rate unless you live in perpetual summer. You will have a range based on seasonal peaks of vacation rental demands.
One such way to get this data is to use an Airbnb calculator. The other is to simply go on Airbnb and search for properties that match your own’s specifications.
The latter will give you a chance to make a more qualitative assessment. That is to say, if your furnishings and amenities are much higher quality than the other similar locations in your area, you’ll be able to command a higher rate and fill a void.
- Location Rate Calculator – this will give you a general price range for your property’s area. You can filter the results to match your property’s specifications for a more accurate range.
- Direct Research – This is just a link to Airbnb. Search your area and take a closer look at the nearby similar properties. Take note of their furnishings, amenities, and availabilities. Weigh all of this against your own and make any rate adjustments.
If you’re going higher than the average, leave the possibility of backing down open. This is how you will remain competitive in your early days, and will allow you to build a strong base of positive reviews.
How to calculate your rental property’s ROI
This is not an exact science – the best you can do is come close. There’s a lot of untamed factors that come with Airbnb property management. Bookings are tied to economic conditions, seasonal traffic, local competition – it’s a business of fluctuations.
If we get a nice conservative number and manage your expectations, your definition of success will be rational. You’ll be entering the business with a lower chance of failure when it comes to meeting your expectations. Your chances of superseding your estimated profit margin will also be higher.
Here’s a very basic formula for your profit estimate:
(Average monthly rate – Airbnb host service fee) – (maintenance + services + amenities)
That doesn’t tell you anything does it. Sorry, it’s not actually easy to do this – luckily there’s a free spreadsheet / calculator here that’ll get you all sorted out.
III. Create the Perfect Listing
If you’ve taken care with your property décor and paid close attention to your location’s rental market on Airbnb, you’ll find success. But there’s one more critical step before you go live, so don’t start slacking yet.
Your property listing is arguably the most important piece of the puzzle here. With a standard long-term rental, potential guests will come see the property before making a decision. With vacation rentals, bookings are made based on the listing alone. Everything the customer sees and knows about your property is whatever you put on your listing.
Let’s take a look at a few simple things you can do to ensure your listing has maximum appeal.
Before you do anything else, you absolutely have to have a set of great photos for your property. If you’ve taken care of your landscaping and furnishings, this shouldn’t be such a difficult task. If you don’t have a DSLR camera, I bet you have a friend with one.
But don’t call them just yet. Having a professional come to take photos of your property is a very sound investment. It could run you a couple hundred dollars, but it will absolutely help you stand out.
The first thing anyone sees of your property is your photos. They’re the deciding factor in every booking choice. Search for a local real estate photographer if possible. Someone experienced will know exactly which lenses and lighting to use to sell your property. Your friend with a Canon Rebel might not – best to get them done right.
The Anatomy of a Perfect Listing
A. The main photo highlights the property’s best features. This is what people will first be exposed to in the search results, so make it a good one. In this case, it’s the living room of the house – the outside is unremarkable (apart from the bright paint job).
B. Titles are limited to 50 characters – economy of words is important. This title highlights some important features: property type, capacity, and location appeal.
Anyone searching would immediately know if this property is suitable for their vacation plans.
C. This host has done their homework (please excuse the example image is displaying pesos – the nightly price is $80 USD). After researching their area, similar properties were fetching as much or more. With their property booked solid for the next month and a half, we can assume the price is right.
D. This host has gone above and beyond to ensure their property is flawlessly clean before guests arrive. They’ve made certain every booking has a warm welcome. Finally, they’ve installed self-check in locks for guest convenience.
Airbnb rewards these efforts by placing them at the head of your profile. If you make the extra effort, your listing will be that much more appealing.
E. The summary is limited to 500 characters. Its important because all of the text below it is hidden when the page is first loaded. You have to be concise here – what makes your property unique? What are its defining features?
This listing’s summary highlights the property’s important features without going too deep into details. Potential guests will be exposed to the amenities in a separate area of the listing – don’t get too hung up on listing those here. Especially since they can all be found at various other competing properties.
If there were a rental property next door that had the same amenities, number of rooms, and price, how would you sell yours?
This example summary also makes note of important tourist attractions in the area. If you have popular attractions around your property, sell them like they’re your own.
F. This text area doesn’t have a character limit. Describe your property’s most immediate surroundings and available public facilities (train stations, parks, gyms, etc). Make note of any bonus features that don’t fit on your amenities list. This listing takes the opportunity to describe a storage shed and available beach equipment.
The seller has also made sure to format their description. Nobody wants to read a big wall of text (sorry about this article’s length, by the way). While Airbnb is limited in its text formatting features, organized lists and line breaks can do wonders.
Be a host, not a tour guide
G. Here’s something that could be a deal-breaker for some people. When you’re creating your listing, you have three options for host interaction to select from:
- Planning to socialize with my guests
- I will give my guests space but am available when needed
- Won’t be available in person
The first option is perfectly fine if you’re selling it properly, but be careful. Unless you’ve outlined your purpose in interacting with the guests, it’s a hard sell. It’s not your vacation, so you’d better provide something that’ll contribute to your guest’s experience other than hanging around.
This host has made themselves available without interfering with anyone’s vacation – option two. This is the safest option: don’t annoy your guests, but don’t leave them to fend for themselves.
H. If you’ve read the beginner’s guide to vacation property management then you know the importance of listing your local facilities to fill out your listing. However, the example listing here sits in the heart of a major tourist area – so that’s what they focus on.
But, rather than just list a bunch of places that people usually go to, they give you ideas. It’s a description of a perfect vacation – and you can have it all if you rent this property.
I. The hosts have included a little information about their occupations. It makes the advertisement a little warmer and encourages communication. Their profile picture is a happy couple smiling at the camera. They sound like interesting, personable people – they look like perfect hosts.
Try to look the part!
J. To re-iterate the importance of communication, we have this badge of honor. Respond to your inquiries, make yourself available. Airbnb highlights these things for potential guests to see – and they’re most certainly considered before booking.
IV. Build Your Reputation
What makes a perfect host? That’s a tough question – everyone has their own strengths to play off of. Your property, location, and personality will provide you with different opportunities to impress your guests.
However, we can give you some general advice that’ll ensure your bookings will feel encouraged to recommend your services later. Here’s a few things to consider when it comes to providing an excellent experience for your guests:
Communicate with your guests, make yourself available
For the third time, communication is being emphasized. It’s really that important. Keep your phone close so you can answer guest inquiries quickly. Be cordial, maintain a friendly tone…regardless of the message content. Your speed and professionalism here will be the final thumbs up a customer needs to make their booking.
You should provide your guests with your personal line and ensure that you’ll be available for them if anything is needed. We understand that not everyone can do that, so strive to have a responsible contact available for your guests in your place.
If your guest can’t figure out how to open the garage door to park their car, they can’t call 911 for that – it’s gotta be someone familiar with the house. And, as stupid as it sounds, that might end up being a bad review for you if it’s not taken care of.
Be available for this stuff and know who to call for short-notice maintenance/cleaning.
A warm welcome with a quick getaway
Check in: make them feel welcome without being overbearing or disrupting their plans. Keep in mind that your guests have just been traveling – don’t get in the way of them putting their feet up.
The best way to do this is a welcome package. Leave a friendly note expressing your appreciation that includes your contact information. Also mention any pertinent details regarding use of the house (which knobs in the shower are for hot/cold water?).
A map and/or suggestions of local attractions and facilities is extremely helpful. Finally, many hosts choose to include a small, thoughtful gift. This is always a plus.
Check out: Make it easy. Don’t have them running around to lock all the doors, pile the used bedding by the washing machine, or doing their own dishes. That’s on you. Just have them put the key in a dropbox or lock it inside and carry on.
There’s one more thing to consider here. Keyless lock systems are becoming extremely popular with Airbnb rental management businesses now. It’s convenient for guests, and it’s convenient for you. Not everyone has the time or resources to act as a concierge for every booking, and hiding keys can be a security risk. Having the guest come to you to pick up the key is an inconvenience.
Don’t overdo it, get out of the way
The absolute worst thing you can do as a host is to insert yourself into someone else’s vacation. That probably sounds funny to have to mention that, but it’s a real issue. It’s something you’ll see on poorly rated property reviews from time to time.
If the host has no concept of the boundaries of their role, it doesn’t matter how pretty the house is. That place is not suitable anymore. Just let them do their own thing, if they want you to plan their vacation, they’ll ask you.
Solicit reviews (gently!)
The grand finale! You’ve been the perfect host and your guests had a great time. But does that guarantee a positive review? No, unfortunately. Sometimes people need a little prodding. The best way to do this is with a follow-up email.
Don’t do this:
Have some tact. You don’t want to ask flat out, you want to encourage them to leave a review. The best way to do this is to bundle the request with a letter of thanks:
Something along those lines will be perceived as thoughtful, rather than pushy. There’s no blatant suggestion for customers to leave good reviews – simply to tell of their experience. You’ve made it known that you would like to know what they thought.
If you’ve done your job properly, it’ll all be good!
V. Streamline Your Business
Airbnb rental management software
By this point, you should be familiar with the work that goes into hosting a property on Airbnb. It’s not back-breaking work, but there’s no shortage of it and the competition is extremely high. It requires constant attention and swift action to continue securing bookings. A single busy property can be quite a handful, let alone two. Airbnb rental management software will help you take control of and improve your business.
Guest inquiries, booking instructions, rental agreements, and follow-up emails can be handled with ease. Tokeet uses a set of user-made triggers and message templates to completely automate your communications. You can even automate messages to be sent to cleaning staff in the event of a check-out.
If you ever plan on expanding your business, the software option becomes a necessity. Listing multiple properties on multiple channels is a nightmare to manage without it.
A sophisticated channel manager will synchronize all of your channels, properties, communications, and bookings into a single central interface. This is how larger rental management companies are able to keep track of so many properties. It’s also how smaller Airbnb rental management operations like yours are able to maintain their success.
You can learn more about Airbnb management software here!
And there you have it – a roadmap to success. If you stick to these steps, you’ll be putting your best foot forward. Not all first-time Airbnb rental management endeavors result in profitability and happiness. In fact, most end up with booking activity somewhere between dismal and middling.
They weren’t armed with the same information you have.
Here’s a quick way to test your newly acquired Airbnb rental management knowledge: find a successful Airbnb listing and a poor one. You can do this by checking reviews and booking calendars. Pick apart each listing and see if you can see exactly where they failed or succeeded.
It’s pretty easy to see now, right? Now go forth and start listing with confidence!
And, for anyone interested in where to go after their Airbnb property is up and running, keep this in mind:
You can find more booking channels here!