How to start an Airbnb
Learn what you need, how to price your rental and how to receive 5-star reviews
If you are a savvy traveler, you have probably stayed at an airbnb, but have you ever thought about being an airbnb host? You can earn passive income by renting out a room in your home that you don’t currently use, and in this post I’m going to show you how to get started. Note: this post contains affiliate links to products I love and use personally. Please see my affiliate disclaimer for more information.
When we first moved into our house and saw the mother-in-law suite in the basement, we talked about starting an airbnb. We talked about it for months. It was always, “what if…” or “when we…” And then one Saturday about a year later, Nate turned to me and said, we are listing our basement apartment on Airbnb tomorrow. And that was it.
We set a deadline and within 48 hours, we had our airbnb listed and received our first request within the next couple days. Our first month as Airbnb hosts, we were able to cover our mortgage.
How to get started as an Airbnb Host
Set a deadline for yourself and make it SOON
Not setting a deadline immediately, lost us tens of thousands of dollars. We lived in that house an entire year and a half before renting our extra space out on Airbnb. Considering we made $8,000+ in our first 5 months as hosts, we know we missed out big time. I wish we had signed up as hosts much sooner.
We set a deadline which gave us 2 days to get ready, which gave us enough time to clean out all the stuff we had stored down there, clean it, take pictures and get it fully stocked for our first guests.
Prep, clean and stock the space
Set up your guest room or apartment so it’s ready to receive guests.
You will need:
Bed with clean blanket and sheets. (Pro host tip: always have extra clean sheets and towels on hand because it makes turnover between guests so much easier).
Clean Towels and wash cloths
Take out menus
Map of the city
Taxi numbers (incase you have the one weirdo without an Uber account), and bus/train/subway schedule
Coffee Maker and Coffee (trust me, I just stayed at a super fancy hotel that didn’t have coffee in my room and it ruined the experience. Coffee = life.
Toiletries - I always purchased mini toiletries and replaced them fresh for each guest, but you can have fullsized shampoo, conditioner and body wash that you leave in there for all guest to use (personally, I don’t like touching something that another person touched while they were naked, but that’s juts me).
A private bathroom is ideal, but I have 2 separate friends who had a shared bathroom with their guests and they were always fully booked. If it doesn’t bother you to share a bathroom with strangers and you disclose it in your ad, you will be fine.
Extra toilet paper, kleenex and paper towels
Plunger. There is nothing more embarrassing than having to ask your host for a plunger, so just be cool and leave one for them in their space.
Do you need a kitchen?
No, you do not need a kitchen to rent out your space on Airbnb. Many people who book through Airbnb are willing to book a place with out a kitchen, but you can charge more if you have a kitchen and a private bathroom because you can list it as an “entire place” on Airbnb. If you don’t want to spend $10K+ to install an entire kitchen in your extra space, you could invest in a compact kitchen like this. Which would pay for itself with your first booking or two as you would be able to charge a little more. One thing I learned is that people like having a kitchen, but rarely actually use it.
If you have a kitchen, make sure you stock it with everything you need for it (pots, pans, silverware, tablewear, mugs, cups, knives, etc)
Take GOOD pictures
Use your Phone and Edit them!
When we first listed our space, I took pictures with my iPhone which was able to get a nice wide angle and then I just edited them in Instagram to brighten them. Even though the space is nice and light in real life, it didn’t transfer in the photos, which is why editing them was important.
You could also hire a professional real estate photographer to take pictures for you
Real Estate photography is insanely inexpensive for the value they bring. You could hire a professional real estate photographer for less than $200. Just ask your mom friend’s Pam, who is a realtor, who she uses. Once we’d been a superhost for a year straight, Airbnb actually offered to pay for professional pictures for us, which was awesome! They want their best hosts to be successful.
Think about privacy
Privacy for both you and the guest. Have you ever stayed at an Airbnb where you had to share part of the space? It’s awkward, but it’s often inevitable.
In our Airbnb, we had an almost completely private space, except for our laundry room. We had to go downstairs and through their space to do laundry. In order to avoid this at all costs, we left a full day between guests so we could catch up on laundry and get it done when guests were not around. For those times we had longer term guests (a week or more), we had a note on the laundry room door letting them know they are welcome to use the laundry room, but that we do laundry every Thursday, so they could expect to see us on those days. More often than not, we would communicate with our guest to see if there was a day they would be out and we would work around their schedule to respect their privacy and avoid any awkward conversations.
Privacy + Safety
We have kids, so safety was also important. We put a lock on the door to the basement so our guests couldn’t come into our home. While Airbnb has certain features that allows you to regulate who rents from you (ex. We only allowed verified guests who had previous reviews stay with us), we still wanted to be as safe as possible. We have never had any issues or need for that lock, but it helps us stay safer at night.
Once you are set up in your room and have taken nice, bright and appealing pictures, it’s time to sign up on Airbnb.
Here are some tips to help you be as successful as possible:
Have at least 12 photos. We had 20 photos. Several pictures of each room showing the angles so there were no surprises. Guests don’t care if the space is the nicest, they just want to get what they expected. We also added pictures of attractions near us, both touristy and scenic.
Have clear house rules. There will be an option to have house rules, and make sure you write them clearly there. Also have those printed out and in your welcome center for your airbnb guests when they arrive at your place.
Be honest about everything. Again, guests just want to know what to expect. Our Airbnb is in our basement (which they could tell from photos), but it also meant they would hear my kids shouting and running around upstairs. We disclosed, “We are home during the day with our two young kids, so please excuse the pitter patter from above. We’re just busy having fun.” We never received any complaints about the noise our kids made (and my daughter went through a phase of singing “Let it go” at the top of her lungs at 5:00am which you can definitely hear from the guest room downstairs). We did however get thank you notes mentioning how sweet it was hearing the “pitter patter” from above. Being honest also helped weed out high maintenance guests.
How to set pricing
I could do an entire post on this, but I’m going to quickly share how we started off with a bang!
When we first listed our Airbnb, I did research on the other Airbnb’s in our and priced our unit as about $10-$15 below the cheapest Airbnb in the area. This allowed us to get bookings right away. Not only that, but because our place was so cheap, but our service was so high, everyone rated us with 5 Stars! Once we had 5 or 6 5-Star reviews, we set our pricing to “Smart Pricing” which Airbnb sets for you based on their algorithm analyzing the demand in the area at any given time (weekends are higher, holidays are even higher, etc). This kept us competitive and booked most of the time.
Have friends stay with you
Another tip when you first get started is to have friends who are already Airbnb users come stay with you. We had our friends officially book with us (which we paid them back for). They were able to give us honest feedback as they did a live run through of their experience. This was so helpful, because there were things we forgot or didn’t think about and they helped us refine our process before we started. Second, we got 5-star reviews off the bat! This helped us show up in searches better and gave us credibility to other potential guests.
Want to see what Airbnb hosting is all about? Sign up here! It’s free to join, you have nothing to lose!
What else do you want to know about Airbnb hosting?
I am going to be creating more resources to building a successful Airbnb business over the next several months. Is there anything specific you want to know?