How to Make Your House More Airbnb-able
If you're interested in dipping your toes into the house-share economy, you'll need to know what renters are looking for. Sites like Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, Kid and Coe and FlipKey allow you to list your house, apartment or just a room to travelers looking for an alternative to hotels. Follow our tips to make your place stand out in the crowd.
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Check Local Laws
First and foremost, you want to be on the right side of the law when it comes to short-term rentals. Always make sure to check any local ordinances or regulations regarding temporary rentals. Several big city markets saw a huge surge of apartment sharing when AirBnB first launched. However, New York, for example, has really strict hotel laws making it illegal to rent an entire home in a multi-dwelling building for less than 30 days. So do your due diligence to ensure you’re in the clear.
Take Great Shots
Beautiful photography may very well be the make-or-break for your home rental. Some rental services offer professional photography in certain markets. If it’s offered in your market, take advantage! If that’s not an option for you, there are some things you can do to make your photos drool-worthy. Start by using a good camera. Some smartphone cameras may not cut it if the resolution isn’t high enough. You’ll want to snap horizontal pics from or toward a corner of each room for the best viewing. Light your space well, taking photos ideally on a bright day. The more pictures, the better. Be sure to highlight any unique features like a jacuzzi bath, a cozy fireplace or a killer backyard.
Make It Spotless
Clean each room like you’ve got an open house scheduled or your mother is coming over. Your guests will notice anything short of a hotel-style cleaning. So all dust should be banished, floors swept or vacuumed, your linens and towels should be spotless. The areas you want to especially focus on are the kitchen, bathroom and beds. The cleaning can be the most arduous part of renting, so many hosts use a cleaning service to make sure the job is professionally done. You can either build the cost of the cleaning into the rental price, or have a separate charge for cleaning fees.
Stage It Like a Pro
Before you take your pictures you want to think like a real estate agent. They know that a well-staged home will always sell faster. Reduce any clutter that may be in the space. Sometimes it’s hard to see your own clutter, so once you’ve given it your all, take a test picture. You’ll be able to spot things you might’ve overlooked in person. Arrange your furniture so it’s not pressed up against the walls, if possible, to showcase the space available in the room. Art, decorative pillows and throws, a fire in the fireplace, some magazines on the coffee table and fresh flowers can make your place look inviting and polished.
Set the Right Price
The price of your rental is so important to your listing. On most rental sites, the pricing is left entirely up to you, so how do you know how to price it? Start by considering what you have to offer. Is it a whole home that can sleep eight, or just a one-person share? Are you close to desirable amenities like airports, a hot downtown scene or a ski area? Take a look at homes being rented in your area and base your price on those. Keep in mind that newer hosts without lots of stellar reviews are sometimes seen as less desirable, so you may need to start out at a lower price point than you’d ultimately like. Sites like AirBnB also offer pricing tools that can help you adjust your prices to maximize your income.
Keep It Secure But Easy to Access
Easily getting in and out of your home will be a key consideration for any guests. Depending on whether you’re renting a whole house, an apartment or a room in your home, you want to ensure that your guests feel safe and secure. Many hosts use lockboxes that work with combinations that are shared once the home is booked and paid for. In more remote areas, a hidden key or an open door may be feasible. However, the newest entry system — and perhaps easiest and most secure — is electronic, keyless locks. You can program a new code for each stay and never worry about lost keys.
Make a House Book
The House Book is the ultimate guide to your home. Usually it's a binder that can include basic information that's nice to have quickly at hand like the owner’s contact info, the home’s address (in case of emergencies or takeout deliveries), special instructions, like how to operate your hot tub, wifi passwords, or what to do with garbage or recycling. Great house books also include recommendations for restaurants, local spots that may be of interest to your guests and any interesting historical tidbits about your home or neighborhood.
Be a Good Host
Maybe this is the point at which you truly want to consider what’s involved in being a host for an income property. There is often a lot of communication needed between the hosts and guests. You’ll even have to respond to a significant amount of messages from potential guests who may ultimately not end up renting from you. Being courteous (brief is totally fine!) is just as important as being quick to respond. Most rental sites work well because both guests and hosts can review each other as well as the home. Response time to emails can be an important factor in whether or not someone will choose your home. Take too long, and they very well may go with the home and a host that was quick to answer questions.
Pick the Right Furniture
The furniture in your rental should reflect your personal style and make sense for the kind of home you have. There are no real rules for what type of furniture to have, only that it should be attractive and in good condition: no rips or tears, clean and well-kept. If you have a cabin in the woods guests may be looking for a lodge-y feel. If you’ve got a modern home, maybe some midcentury pieces that match the vibe. Your best bet — regardless of your personal style — is furniture that can handle lots of traffic. Damage does happen in a rental, so having durable materials, and easily replaceable items are a good idea. If an heirloom rocking chair from grandma is too precious to ever replace, don’t leave it in your rental.
Luxurious bedding can make an average listing feel like a must-rent. Of course, top-of-the-line bedding can be pricey, but having high-thread-count sheets, deliciously comfortable pillows and plush duvets will make your guests feel like they’re staying in a luxury hotel, only better. After all, sleeping away from home is why they’re staying with you in the first place, so make the sleep experience extra comfortable. If you’ve got a cold-weather rental, be sure that extra blankets are available in all the bedrooms.
Stock a Killer Kitchen
One of the biggest benefits of staying in a person’s home instead of a hotel is that houses have real kitchens. In fact, for families or big groups, being able to cook meals at their rental may be one of the main reasons they choose a share over a hotel. Make sure your kitchen is fully equipped. Loads of dishes and glasses, a plethora of flatware, and all the cooking tools you would personally use need to be in your rental kitchen. Think everything from peelers to salad spinners to storage containers and every pot and pan in between. A killer kitchen with modern appliances will add dollars to your bottom line.
Make Your Bathroom Shine
Even though they’re renting someone’s home, most guests want to feel like they’re getting a hotel-quality bathroom. Spotlessness is the main requirement, but on top of that you should provide plenty of towels, a supply of products (that are clearly designated for guest use) like shampoos, conditioners, soaps, lotions, a hair dryer and some basic first aid. The ultimate perk for your bathroom is providing guest robes and slippers. It’s such a nice added bonus that travelers rarely pack for themselves. It’s little touches like this that will get you the best reviews.
Decide on Your Electronic Style
There are two basic types of guests: ones who want to get away from it all, and ones who never want to feel disconnected. Your rental can meet either need and still be really successful. Just make sure to note in your listing what is available at your place. In most urban areas, it’s probably a pretty good bet that your guests will want to have access to wifi. If you’ve got a great media set-up with a big TV and sound system, make sure to list that. Guests that are looking for serene spots where they can read books and escape work emails will also want to know if your home is distraction-free. Cell phone reception in remote locations can be tricky, so having access to a landline may be necessary for emergencies.
Are You Kid- or Pet-Friendly?
A giant perk of home shares is that they can be much more accommodating to a family with kids or guests with pets (or both!). Homes that are particularly kid- and pet-friendly are in high demand, so consider whether your spot could be just the place for dog lovers with a couple of kids. Having toys to play with, a bathroom step stool, or non-breakable dishware can be a parent’s dream. If you’ve got furniture a pooch would love to cuddle up on, and a basket of dog toys, list it! Just be very clear in your listing: renters with allergies will appreciate it.
The Little Things
It truly is the little details that will make your home a desirable rental. Have a shelf lined with books that your guests are free to read during their stay. Art books, local history, light fiction and cookbooks are all good choices. If you don’t have a big collection personally, hit up the local used booked store, thrift store or library sale. Games, cards, sports equipment and grills make a vacation rental really feel like home (only a little better). Finally, you can make your rental the hottest on the market by leaving a bottle of wine and some snacks as a welcome gift. Your investment in little perks like this will land you top-notch host reviews and will fill up your booking calendar in no time.