Getting involved in the Airbnb industry sounds like easy money. You already have the rental units, and now all you have to do is keep them clean, post some pictures, and you have a business, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
As Airbnb has grown, so have customer expectations. Though the company was originally named for the air mattresses guests slept on in strangers’ living rooms, customers now look for rentals more reminiscent of boutique hotels. These guests don’t just want comfort; many also seek luxury.
Know your customers
I recently stayed at an Airbnb that got a startling mix of positive and negative reviews. I could see why; the place was a dimly lit apartment with an array of quirky knick-knacks that gave it a cluttered aesthetic. While young backpackers would have thought the place stylish and cool, classy couples perceived it as dingy and sloppy. Because my host hadn’t made it clear that his property was a hipster basement rather than a chic flat, he didn’t draw from the right pool of customers.
Few Airbnb rentals will please all guests, and that’s normal. It’s up to you, as the host, to determine the balance between quirkiness and universal appeal. Emphasizing character doesn’t always work–particularly when a range of personalities stay in your units. But when a city draws a niche crowd–like nature lovers, backpackers, or sports aficionados–creatively designing your rentals to appeal to that particular crowd makes it more interesting and memorable for guests.
Automate tedious tasks
If you’ve ever been an Airbnb guest, you’ve probably fantasized about an Airbnb feature that automates the most complex parts of your vacation planning. On the manager side, too, outsourcing some of the more tedious tasks to AI could make the job a lot easier.
Companies like Guesty and Beyond Pricing are already automating some of the more boring aspects of property management. Guesty, for example, provides a platform that automates guest messaging and management tasks, and syncs calendars for multiple listings from various booking channels. And Beyond Pricing and other automated pricing tools use algorithms to adjust rental prices according to seasons, holidays, or day of the week. As a budding property manager, automating some of the labor can eliminate the need to manually adjust prices, log in and out of different accounts, and juggle several different rental calendars.
Create a strategic listing
A listing’s pictures are perhaps the most important factor in getting a customer to opt for your place over someone else’s. Just as with images on a company website, photographs on an Airbnb listing reinforce your personal brand as a business manager and attract the most relevant customers. Airbnb has a complementary photography service that you can take advantage of to ensure your listing looks attractive and professional.
Since we live in an age where pictures are often more important than words, you should also be sure your listing conveys useful information without rambling. While you’re probably excited to market all the cool features of your rental, limit your description to the unit’s most compelling features so that viewers aren’t discouraged by big chunks of text. Proofread your description, and make it easily readable by breaking up paragraphs and long sentences.
Anticipate and prepare
Anticipating problems before they occur makes the experience pleasant for the guest and easier for you.
As a frequent Airbnb guest, I’m sometimes frustrated with how much effort I have to put into coordinating key exchange. Key exchange can easily become complicated, such as when a guest has a delayed flight and the manager lives in a different city. Services like Keycafe can make this process run more smoothly; it lets local coffee shops and other establishments serve as a front desk for key exchange. And Lockitron, which lets you unlock the door through a mobile app, allows you to send guests the “key” through your mobile device.
Guests also commonly complain about odor or dust, and this can be particularly overwhelming when you’re dealing with several different listings. Professional housekeeping services remove the logistical stress of cleaning–especially when they have an app that allows for easy scheduling.
Additional companies are emerging to help Airbnb managers deal with bigger-than-usual guest messes–like smashed windows, broken furniture, and even bug infestations. Slice, in particular, offers cheap Airbnb insurance and allows hosts to make claims through its app.
Running an Airbnb business isn’t easy, but familiarizing yourself with customer tastes and preferences, outsourcing or automating some of the tasks, and anticipating guests’ needs makes the rental process smoother. All of this can lighten your load as a manager while making the rental experience more pleasant for your guests. To make things even easier for your guests, keep a binder on the bedside table that contains FAQs, recommendations for local attractions, and, of course, that elusive wifi password!
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.