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Things I've learned

I’d just like to take a moment and share 10 things I’ve learned after a year and a half of hosting. Feel free to share your own tips if you have them.

  1. Always Use White Sheets - I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had guests ruin dyed sheets. They are just too easy to bleach with personal care products. Taking stains out is much much easier with bleach.

  2. Don’t Buy Cheap Sheets - Microfiber and Jersey feel nice, but won’t last more than a couple of washes before they start to pill. Cheap cotton sheets look bad and feel like sand paper a few washes. The best sheets are $50-$70 and come from BB&B or Target.

  3. Use Form Letters - I used to write each guest a personal note when they booked. I saved myself a lot of trouble by using a form letter and just formatting key parts of the letter to match the description of their trip.

  4. Always Follow Up & Review Immediately - I was advised before to wait until the last possible minute to review. I think that tactic is a mistake. I’ve gotten much better results by contacting guests immediately after they leave to tell them how great they were, then immediately reviewing and letting the guest know I wrote them a good review.

  5. Automate Everything - We used keys at first, but as soon as I got August up and running everyone was better off. The system will automatically send door codes for the keypad to guests. and if they get locked out, everything can be adjusted or unlocked remotely, it also tells you who is coming and going and when. It is worth the $350 price tag.

  6. Never Get Angry - Only about 1% of guests are bad. Keep that in mind if you find yourself with a bad guest. Calmly handle the guest, be firm, tell them what you expect, apologize if it’s something you did, even if that’s unfair. Channel your inner diplomat and move-on. More often than not using this strategy will turn a potential bad guest into a good one.

  7. Forbid Early Check-In - Even with automatic door locks, wi-fi cameras, and good communication, it is nearly impossible to facilitate early check-in on a regular basis without a few screw-ups. I usually tell guests to book the day before if they want a morning arrival. I always offer to hold their bags for them as an alternative (I have this written into the rules). Under no circumstances should your schedule be held hostage for the sake of customer service.

  8. Make A Routine - It is so easy to forget things as you are cleaning up and preparing the room. I keep a list of every to-do and go through the check-list upon completion. It really puts my mind at ease being able to look back at the completed list and know for sure everything was done.

  9. Always Ask for Advice - I can’t tell you how often my guests have given me ideas for great new features when I ask. It’s a great way to avoid issues, add value, and show guests you care. Often times they will inadvertently point out damage that needs to be repaired.

  10. Professional Photography - This really does improve both the number of hits your place gets as well as improving the quality of guests who book. I went from an average of 500 views a week to 1500 views per week. The automatic booking rates also rose from $26 per night to $39 per night in the winter and from $34 per night to $55 per night in the summer.

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Thanks for the Lessons Learned. I think all are valid points and should especially help those just starting out.

I suspect that some of your items will have us revisiting some of the Great Debate Topics from this Forum (i.e. whites sheets, microfiber, when to leave a review, early checkin) :grimacing::weary:

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Thanks! That’s exactly who I wrote this for.

No doubt some people are going to disagree with a few of these. I’m open to criticism.

I am a host, but I also travel using Airbnb. As a resent guest in 2 separate in-home rentals this past week I was reminded about the little things I do that I wish my hosts had done:

  1. Leave lights on - I arrived in the dark and couldn’t see house numbers, worried that I had the wrong house, and was concerned that I was waking up the household in spite of a stated 10 pm arrival being confirmed by the host.
  2. Have tissues and paper cups in the bathroom. Really dislike having to cup my hands to drink while brushing teeth and having to use toilet paper as a tissue.
  3. Please understand when arrival isn’t right on the dot or provide self-check in - I’m from a rural area and found I hadn’t factored in city traffic. It is hard to text when white-knuckling it in traffic.
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Interesting and you have a couple of things that I don’t do and probably won’t add:

Paper cups are wasteful. I leave one coffee cup and one drinking cup in the room, but not the bathroom. If a guest can’t walk over (15 ft away) and get it they will have to make do. Also with tissues I have a box in the bedroom, 10 ft away. The bathroom is small and if I add tissues and paper cups space becomes more limited. I could put a small box of tissues on the back of the toilet bowl but it seems redundant. Still, thanks for mentioning these things. No guest has but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t like them as well.

Learning to use the speech to text function can be helpful. As I age I like it better and better.

I have lights that come on automatically at dusk, but I take great pride in my led house numbers.

I ordered mine from this guy and I love them. I did make a modification to what he sent because I didn’t like the cool white LEDs. I added an amber tint theater gel and a piece of plexiglass on the front. I makes my numbers hard to read in the day but they are perfect at night. For daytime I have other numbers on my home and painted on the curb.

fyi, I thought the listing was too much and cheesy but I love my sign.

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I started using this with Google search and now I can’t live without it.

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All good suggestions though I don’t do all of them. I stopped asking guests for suggestions after 4 years because all the useful ones had been made and the newer ones were like: get rid of that ugly lamp/sofa/glasses which other guests liked. Certainly got a lot of good tips from them in the first couple of years.

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One thing I have that I’m so glad a superhost staying with me suggested…I keep black face clothes rolled in a simple but cute pyramid on a tray near the sink for make up removal. I ask my guests to use them for make up or anything that may stain my white towels. I subtly remind them I will charge $20 per stained, damaged or missing towel. I also set out one folded bath towel, hand towel and wash cloth for each person. I tell them if they need more, they are in the bottom drawer. Most never take more (short stays). I also have a nice laundry basket and ask them to put all used towels in there. Some even strip the bed! Which Id never meant but appreciate. I don’t outwardly ask for suggestions because most people say I’ve thought of everything! The few suggestions were pretty stupid. The most annoying was this one guy who complained because he kept banging his foot and leg on the corner of the footpost so he told me the bed was too big for the room. Ummmm, no…I had a decorating business when I lived in NY. I think I have a basic spatial understanding.

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#1 is a good one. I got one of those Mr. Beams flood lights that automatically turns on with motion to light the pathway to the door. There is a motion sensor setting on the hallway light in the entryway as well.

I hadn’t thought of #2. I’ll have to look into that.

For #3 I always tell my guests that check-in time is a no issue for our space.

It’s true. Wash cloths getting wrecked by makeup removal is a big problem. I spend at least a hundred bucks per year on that. I just chalk it up as a cost of doing business.

Where are you getting your black face cloths? I had no idea they made reusable ones. Do you have a product link you could share?

Lots of good tips here. Love the black face cloths!
I suggest listing nearby places to visit and useful things like local supermarkets on Bimble. I stayed in an AirBnB recently and the owner had attached her lists to her posting and then didn’t need to leave any info in the house itself. So convenient!

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I wasn’t familiar with Bimble but checked it out. It’s a good suggestion but I think its worth having a hard copy available for those not so inet oriented. I have had many guests who are not inet savvy and are very grateful for the binder I provide with suggestions. I also find that no one ever mentions the AirBnB places part of the listing where I also have documented similar.

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I use outdoor light bulbs that turn on automatically at night and off at dawn.

I also send pics of the house, lockbox and gate to every single guest so they know what the house looks like. out of hundreds of guests only 2 had problems, but I guess they didn’t know english that well because one was waiting for me to give her the key (didn’t understand the concept of lockbox although i sent a pic) and another dude couldn’t find the street (hello, there’s this thing called google maps, or if you arrive from a foreign country and don’t have a sim card yet, there’s this thing called a taxi, or uber or gps to hire in your rental car). and he was in his 30s, not a retired dude technologically challenged.

I’d like to ask the OP what does she mean by professional photography. Did you pay those people sent by Airbnb to take pics? My bf is a good photographer - spends his money on cameras and lenses and always carries kg worth of equipment everywhere he goes - so I personally asked him to take pics of the rental house.

Also, those paper cups… i admit it’s a waste. they are biodegradable though, right? perhaps immaculate glasses, like in hotels, would be less wasteful. but as others have said, I don’t have countertop. I’d have to a) leave them in the bedroom or b)mount a shelf specifically for them.

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The Professional Photography I’m referring to is the one provided by Airbnb. But really, it could be any professional photographer doing it. It’s definitely worth it. They do the post production too. Even though your boyfriend is a photographer, I’d still try the service. The results are impressive.

Well, I’m glad it worked for you. I’ve seen some posts on this very forum about this subject and some people even posted some of these picture taken and they didn’t impress me a bit! Needless to say the posters were not impressed either, that’s why they posted them.
My bf takes pretty good pics and he processes them. Im happy with that. I personally am not going to do it.

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I like all your lessons learned except for #5. This is an absolute no-go. Automate nothing at all.

Airbnb is about hospitality, the personal touch, not automation. If you cannot be there to personally welcome guests, or have a friend or employee do the welcoming in person, forget it. Don’t do it. Leave Airbnb to people really passionate about it.

IMO, Airbnb is about convenience, especially when you are renting an entire place. When I travel, I specifically search for self check in, and in the rare situation when that isn’t available, I look for flexible check in times. I don’t want to have to arrive within a narrow window of time just to have my host greet me at the door.

Even though I’m not onsite, my welcome does have “the personal touch.” My guests receive personalized messages (also automated!) three days before and the morning of check in, I leave a personalized welcome letter on the dining room table, and I follow up the next morning with another automated message inquiring as to how their first night was. My guests usually have no idea that they are receiving the same messages as all my other guests, based on the responses I receive.

A huge plus for me with automating things is that I’m much less likely to forget to send check in instructions. I also think that my messaging plays a huge role in being consistently (and highly) reviewed by my guests.

Obviously, in-person hospitality is a more important (if not essential) part of hosting someone in your own home, but there are plenty of passionate offsite hosts who are running successful businesses and providing great experiences for their guests.

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While I’ve been a host for a nbr of years (inherited family summer rental cottages), I first stayed at an Airbnb in NC on my trip from FL to MA for summer of 2018. It was a nice little 2-bedrm cottage in somewhat rural area but ideal location for overnight after visiting friend for dinner so we arrived around 9:30. They had a push button lock so that was fine for self check-in BUT:

  1. i would have liked better clues on where it was as the mailbox was hard to see in dark, and my GPS put location as 1/4 mile further down road. Had they said "look for large sign with XYZ (don’t remember it) on left and if you see it, you’ve just past the cottage’
  2. The pix of cottage didn’t include any from back left outside which would have made the hidden step due to split level deck obvious. They had some outside lights but was still a bit dark there so when I can around that way as second way to get to door, I tripped, fell and ruined a pair of pants.
  3. there was NO clue that two of the light switches were in unusual places and NO lights on inside so had to use flashlight to locate switches inside door.
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You have a great can-do attitude, it seems.
One thing I add that saves on stains is inexpensive facial wipes. People really use them and it prevents makeup stains.

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I think there’s room for both types of hosting on Airbnb. Not every guest likes to socialize. For many it’s just about having a nice place to stay with an accommodating host. I even go out of my way in my listing to say that I prefer not to interact with guests.

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