Top 10 tips for first-time Airbnb hosts

LUKE HOPEWELL
Last updated 07:03 19/02/2014
Airbnb Landscape

AIRBNB: This crowdsourced accommodation platform allows ordinary people to put up their places, spaces and spare rooms for other users to stay in.

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Airbnb is a great way to nab some spare cash for the nights you're not using your place or if you have a spare room, but how can you make hosting easier?

Here are 10 tips to make your first time as easy as possible.

Airbnb is a crowdsourced accommodation platform that allows ordinary people to put up their places, spaces and spare rooms for other users to stay in.

You can put up a whole apartment, house or just a spare room. Guests book and pay hosts a nightly fee set up in advance.

Airbnb found through some research recently that the average guest spends approximately A$2684 ($3006) per trip in the city of Sydney (where our story takes place), with local hosts earning roughly A$4266 ($4778.86) per annum.

It's definitely an attractive way to turn your place into a money spinner when you're not there.

Those are the basics. Based on my own experiences, here's how to be the host with the most. These tips are universal and apply to whichver country you decide to be a host in!

Communicate

Airbnb is a platform where clear lines of communication are of paramount importance. Airbnb search rankings take into account your reply time to ensure a good experience for guests when booking, so make sure you reply quickly - ideally within an hour of a potential guest making contact.

That way, your profile will show you're a good talker and that will increase trust.

If you don't stay in touch as often as you should, Airbnb takes action against your listing and takes it down, costing you time and potential guest money. Make sure you stay chatty!

Detail

Airbnb isn't a meat market of houses and spare rooms. It's a luxury service that adds a whole new spin on travel. As a result, experience and therefore price and the worth of an apartment can fluctuate from street to street rather than suburb to suburb.

When setting up your profile, give Airbnb as much information as you possibly can. Fill out every one of the fields with friendly, conversational detail so that your listing doesn't come across like some Craigslist dungeon where guests will wake up in a bath of ice.

By doing this, you'll give Airbnb's system a better idea of how much you should charge per night for your place. More detail might mean a higher recommended listing rate, which is only going to help your bottom line in the long run.

Price

Speaking of price, you have to decide what you want your place to be worth. There are a few different strategies here, but the best thing to do to get started is research. Know your neighbourhood.

Check out other listings on Airbnb and make a quick note of pros and cons when it comes to your space versus theirs.

Is yours bigger? Does it have more rooms? Is it prettier? Is it more modern? Do you have amenities like Wi-Fi or a coffee maker that they don't have? Once you've done that, decide on your price against what the market can bear.

Airbnb will recommend a list price for you, but sometimes you might want to charge more or less depending on circumstances.

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You'll have to decide if you want to list your place slightly cheaper than the suggested average or more expensive. Remember: too cheap a price attracts too cheap a guest, and a more inflated price will have guests expecting to get what they paid for. Price wisely.

Once you've set your price, Airbnb will give you the option of charging extras like cleaning fees, security deposits and weekend rates. Make sure you at least put down a cleaning fee, because if you have to be scrubbing and making your place sparkle, you want to make it worth your time.

Photos

A picture always tells a thousand words, so have as many as possible. Think outside the box and get creative. Don't just upload one photo like some bargain-basement real estate agent.

This is your home and you want to make it look as attractive as possible to a potential guest.

So don't just take one shot of the central living space and call it a day. Get two angles of every room to give guests a virtual walk-around of what they can expect to be experiencing.

Also take good photos of the front of your building, notable places near your residence like a beach or landmark, as well as any extra amenities on offer, such as a photo of your Wi-Fi router to illustrate the internet availability or a coffee machine guests can use.

Side-note: don't have a coffee machine? You'd be surprised how far free Java can go to seal the deal. There are always sweet deals around so do a bit of research and pick one up. That way, people get free coffee and you get sweet guest action.

If you're not a competent photographer, don't worry: Airbnb works with a network of freelance photographers that can come to your place and take professional photos free of charge. Get in touch with Airbnb if you want that to happen.

Clean

This would seem like an obvious one, but it bears repeating. Hotel rooms are always super-tidy because of the dedicated cleaning staff, but presumably, all you have is your two hands.

A good rule of thumb to follow before you hand over the keys is to clean the place to a standard that you feel is equivalent to a hotel room. That way people won't be grossed out staying with you and you'll get sweet reviews.

Safety

Airbnb is founded on trust. Hosts trust guests and vice versa. Profiles are set up to ensure that people are who they say they are, and a community review system is in place to weed out the bad guests and hosts.

ID is verified offline by Airbnb, profiles are clearly laid out and Facebook integration with the service is encouraged so people can see that others know you enough to friend you.

Airbnb handles all the money changing hands so nobody can screw anyone else. Once a guest makes a booking and the hosts confirm (hosts are given a right to refuse someone staying just if you don't like the look of them), money is paid to Airbnb.

The service holds onto it until 24 hours after the guest has checked in, when it then passes it onto the host via PayPal or bank transfer.

To make you feel even safer, hosts are covered by the Host Guarantee, which sees you insured for up to $100,000. It's free insurance, underwritten by Lloyd's of London.

The Host Guarantee doesn't cover cash and securities, collectibles, rare artwork, jewellery, pets or personal liability. Make sure to clear your house of anything you wouldn't want lifted by someone staying with you. (In my case, that was a whole heap of gadgets for future review.)

Personalise

Add a few nice touches to your place to make it personal. This is a house or a room, not just a cookie cutter-shaped hotel experience. Put some breakfast in the fridge for the next day.

Maybe ask them if they like a certain beer or wine and furnish the place with a six pack or bottle of said beverage?

Write A Welcome Guide

Don't assume that a guest knows everything about the neighbourhood they have checked into just because they read your listing.

Sure, they have access to Google, but you actually live there. Tell them about the place in a Welcome Guide that you email to them or print out to keep in the house.

Make sure to include any quirks about the house, rules you want them to follow and places where they can go in your neighbourhood.

I live in Darlinghurst, Sydney, so I was able to include some suggestions about cafès in the neighbourhood, nightlife around the area, and cool landmarks to visit.

Keep Communicating

Make sure to tell your guests that you or someone who can help if something goes wrong is available should the unforeseen happen.

My first guest didn't know how to work my fan, so I was able to talk him through it. It adds a layer of comfort for the guest knowing they can call or text someone if something goes wrong.

Review

At the end of the experience, the guest hands your keys back and you part ways. After that, it's their job to review you and your place, and your job to review them.

You leave a public-facing review with your honest thoughts and opinions, before giving an anonymous review to Airbnb about any concerns you had with the guest that they can look out for in the future.

What are your best Airbnb tips, either as a host or a guest? Tell us in the comments.

- Lifehacker

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