This blog is third of a six post series.
Now that your space is in order both online and offline, you have a whole new set of decisions to focus on.
Don’t fret. You don’t have to implement any of the below. Just kidding, you do. But, I don’t think you’d be reading this if you didn’t want to.
I know you want to be in the top 10% of hosts. What does that mean outside of the time, energy, and monetary investment you are experiencing now?
It means that when the slow season hits, you will the least affected. You see, the best hosts don’t really experience a slow season in the way most do. Slow season for the hosts in the top 10% in their market looks like this:
- Slight decrease to the nightly rate
- Slight decrease to occupancy
Slow season for the majority of hosts means plummeting of occupancy down to 20% with a lowered nightly rate.
The Airbnb slow season for top 10% hosts looks A LOT different than the rest. Strive for top 10%. Click To Tweet
Take solace in the fact that I highly value both my time and energy. I am not telling you anything that you don’t need to know. This is why my writing style is no-fluff as evidenced by the numerous times this was mentioned by reviewers of my Airbnb book.
Let’s get to it.
You are going to learn the following in this guide:
- How to automate many aspects of your hosting duties
- How to further optimize both your online listing and the guest experience
- How to protect yourself from bad Future Potential Guests (FPGs)
- How to maximize your revenue potential
Understand That Guests Do Not Read
This is something you’re going to learn for yourself very quickly, but I feel if I set your expectations early, you will be less frustrated when you experience it.
Don’t do what most hosts do and repeat yourself by adding more text. Counterintuitively, this worsens the problem. Respect your guest’s attention at all times.
The way to combat these non-reading guests is to put a phrase somewhere towards the end of your listing text and request the guest to type the secret word or phrase with their initial request. For additional details, read my very first blog post. It contains a strategy to ensure any inquiring Airbnb guest has read your full listing text.
To combat unscrupulous Airbnb guest's, add a secret word to your listing and ask them to type it in their inquiry. Click To Tweet
Create A Floor Plan
If you rent anything besides a room, I strongly suggest creating a floor plan. This perfectly sets you guest expectations. Mismanaged expectations result in negative reviews.
You have two options. The first option is free and can be created at FloorPlanner.com.
Or, you can purchase a custom, hand-drawn floor plan that matches exactly your Airbnb listing from my website. I have these on all of my listings.
Automate Your Messages
The reservation process, as you’ll soon find out, is consistent. That means you’ll end up saying the same things over and over again. This does not add to the guest experience, in fact, it decreases the guest experience because they have to ask you these basic questions and wait for your response.
Instead, you can fully automate this part of your hosting.
I use and highly recommend Smartbnb. Though it’s not a full-service PMS, if you are a host with just a few properties, this is very sufficient. You can read my full Smartbnb review or watch my Smartbnb video tutorials.
A third way is AvivaIQ which is a basic service that deals exclusively with sending out automated messages. It’s not as robust as the others, but it is free.
How To Identify Bad Guests Before They Book
If you want to minimize your headaches then you need to quickly become an expert at spotting unworthy guests. It’s quite easy to do and comes down to two things:
- Content of message
- Completion of profile
If the profile is incomplete, you simply ask the guest to complete it and tell them why you want them to do this. An incomplete profile is one without a photo, without text, without a verified ID, etc.
If the content of the message is suspect, deny, deny, deny. A suspect message is curt, contains many spelling and grammar errors, or is overly wordy.
I’ve been responsible for thousands of reservations and have noticed a very clear pattern between guest quality and guest profile/message completeness.
My last guest issue was August 2018 which was 100% preventable based on my strategy linked to below. I even told the guest I would check on him because I had a bad feeling. Unfortunately, I manage all my properties remotely and cannot go check myself. Additionally, the host was gone, as was the cleaner, and the downstairs neighbor. So I crossed my fingers and the guest trashed my house. Luckily, Airbnb paid out as the damage was quite obvious. Needless to say, you want to avoid these issues.
After 1000's of reservations there is a very clear correlation between bad Airbnb guests and incomplete profiles. Click To Tweet
Identify Parties Before They Happen
There is an ever-present risk of guests throwing parties, or simply being loud after a night of drinking. First, you should be friends with your neighbor and let them know what you’re doing and why. Most people are ok with Airbnb, though I’ve come into contact with a few unreasonable neighbors who just seemed unwilling to cooperate. That’s when you hire the mafia to take care of them. Kidding.
Even though Airbnb rentals are no more subject to party animals than the occasional party thrown by a long term renter, you still want to minimize this risk.
Even good guests are allowed to get rowdy sometimes. But, we have a secondary line of defense for these instances. They’re called noise monitors. They record either noise in the form of decibel levels or the number of devices connected to the wifi network. Either way, they are designed to pre-emptively alert you to an impending party.
I have used and wrote up a review of both NoiseAware and Party Squasher noise monitoring devices. Just keep in mind that if you install these devices, you must let the guest know beforehand in the house rules section. I have the verbiage you can use in your Airbnb listing in the linked blog post.
Tell you Airbnb host friend to get a noise monitor to identify parties before they happen. Click To Tweet
Create A Digital Guidebook
One of the best things you can do to increase guest satisfaction and automate your time in answering common guest questions is to create a digital guidebook. This is a webpage (preferable) or application that contains relevant information the guest needs for check-in and while at your property.
This is so important because of timing. If the guest books a month in advance, you do not want to send them check-in, wifi, and parking information upon reservation confirmation. At this point in time, the information is irrelevant.
This is doubly true if you have a really important house rule they must follow. If you tell them a month before check-in, they will forget. Instead, this should be communicated near the actual check-in date.
Manage Your Nightly Rate And Calendar With A Third-Party Pricing Partner
When it comes to pricing your Airbnb listing, you have a few options.
First Option: You can set it and forget it. One price for the entire year.
Second Option: You can use Airbnb’s Smart Pricing built directly into the platform.
Third Option: You can manually adjust your prices to account for weekends, seasonality, events, etc.
Fourth Option: You can connect to a third-party pricing partner and automate most of it.
I recommend you do the fourth option. And I recommend you use PriceLabs. In addition to being available worldwide, they are the best.
I’ve used them for the past two years with much success. You can read my PriceLabs review and tutorial. As this tool can seem difficult, I’ve created a few PriceLabs videos on my weekly calendar monitoring strategy (takes about 45 seconds for four listings) and explanation of the customizations.
A quick disclaimer: none of these tools are perfect, but neither are you. Many hosts insist on manually pricing their listing because they know their market better than anyone else. While this is true, the process of doing this will take many dozens of hours in the year. It’s simply not worth it. Plus, you’re human. You will make mistakes.
Intelligent Pricing Tools like PriceLabs aren't perfect. But, neither are you. #automate Click To Tweet
I opt to automate this process and keep my eye on occupancy to adjust my base price within Pricelabs which affects the entire available calendar.
If you manually price your listing then you have to manually reprice your listing. It’s not a wise use of your time.
The first step is to sign up for PriceLabs. Dig around a bit, then use me as a resource to further refine your process. Click the link above for a 30-day trial plus $10 off your first bill.
Bonus Read: Let’s Talk About Airbnb Revenue Management
This article focuses on a strategy you can use to keep an eye on your occupancy which ultimately affects your price. Do not….I repeat, do not….I repeat again, do not focus on views. You do not care about views. You do care about occupancy. I get questions daily about a drop in views, but their calendar is healthy. Please, for my sanity, ignore your views and focus on your occupancy rate.
Respond To Guest Reviews
As you found this article, you’re going to be an awesome host who receives lengthy Airbnb reviews (the length of the review does affect your search rank).
But, we learned above that guests don’t read. That means they’re going to miss out on the praise from prior guests. Bummer.
Not so fast!
You’re going to respond to reviews by calling out one highlight the guest mentioned in their review. That way, you’re creating a cliff notes summary for the FPG to quickly scan. Like this:
Additionally, if you respond to positive reviews, then you can also respond to the negative review you will eventually receive without calling added attention to it.
Read my article with a bit more explanation on the strategy of how to respond to Airbnb reviews. After you get a few reviews, then I want you to highlight one in your photos. I explain the process of how best to do this on the OptimizeMyBnb YouTube channel.
Bonus Read: How To Write A Proper Airbnb Review Edit
How Many Vacation Rental Platforms Should You List On?
One. Maybe, two. It’s counterintuitive, right?
But, think about it. If you list on five vacation rental platforms, that means you need to find tools that integrate with five vacation rental platforms and you need to create five accounts and do everything five times.
What that means is you will be a mediocre host on five platforms rather than an epic host on one platform.
Click To Tweet
The argument to list on a second platform is if your area is niche. If it is a family retreat vacation, a spiritual yoga thing, a destination for chef’s, etc. then you may consider listing on the vacation rental platform that these folks use.
If you simply want to list on another big site like booking.com, then I suggest you only open your calendar on the second platform to the next 30 days only. You don’t need a booking on an alternate platform three months out. Just use it as a sort of extra insurance for unbooked and near-term days that are increasingly less likely to be booked the closer they get.
You can also consider creating your own website. This is very individual. Only do this if you know it will be of benefit. If you are simply wondering if this would be a good idea, do not do it. Creating a website takes time and money and, most of the time, it’s not worth it. If you do decide to go this route, have a look at Lodgify who makes the process easy and quick.
If you do create a website, writing blog posts relevant to your area can bring you web traffic and extra bonus bookings from folks researching your area, not necessarily booking a home.
Should You Accept Pets?
Ultimately, this is a personal decision. But, consider the upside. Many guests travel with their pets. Not many hosts allow pets. If you’re a host who allows pets, you are widening the pool of FPGs.
I find that listings which allow pets have a higher occupancy because of the severely restricted amount of listings that accept pets.
Airbnb listings that accept pets have higher occupancy rates. Click To Tweet
If you accept pets, there are protective measures you can and should take. If you are considering allowing pets into your Airbnb, be sure you read my article about how to screen for bad Airbnb guests and read my article specifically dedicated to pet-friendly Airbnb hosts.
Should You Allow Events At Your Space?
Similarly to your decision as to whether or not to allow pets, it is a personal choice as to whether or not you allow events. But, before you go with the almost automatic ‘no’ response on Airbnb, consider the following.
In addition to widening the pool of available FPGs, there are other benefits. Most events are professional operations. This means they are going to be extremely careful with your stuff. They’ve done this before and have processes around making the experience as smooth as possible for you (ie replacing any moved furniture).
They will pay a higher rate and they will not sleep in your space. Many events are held mid-day. Sometimes it can be an evening event, but they never sleep in your space except in the case of some company off-sites which are not really events anyways. They are meetings.
Keep in mind that you will have additional folks in your home above your max occupancy, typically.
If you’re at least open to this idea and want to learn more, please read my blog post on making your Airbnb listing event ready.
Consider Getting Extra Airbnb Insurance
Airbnb does have their own insurance and I’ve had many interactions with them from a $50 broken lockbox in 2013 to a $6,000 cracked marble table in 2017. All but one of the cases have been reimbursed.
As a side note, I no longer and recommend that you never submit a claim for less than $100. To nickel-and-dime your guest at the expense of your reviews is a bad idea. And, you better understand that Airbnb is around to make a profit. They keep records of all the interactions you have with the company. If you start making $50 claims every other week, you will simply be blanketed denied. Save Airbnb insurance for large claims.
Even better, consider getting third-party Airbnb insurance. I’ve researched many of the top providers and I recommend (though I have never used) Proper Insure. I recommend them based on my research of many companies and interaction with Darren Pettyjohn, the co-founder. We had an extensive question and answer session relevant to any vacation rental owner.
You may also want to learn more about Airbnb’s host insurance.
What Do You Do When The Bookings Stop?
Airbnb reservations come in waves. It seems you either have them or you do not. Again, luckily, you found me. This is what I do. I make the slow season go away.
As this part is not immediately urgent to you as a new host, you can come back to these articles as needed. And, be sure to check back on my blog regularly as I post weekly. You can also follow OptimizeMyBnb on Instagram where I do video’s almost daily of my thoughts and strategies during live optimizations.
Additionally, you have video content on the OptimizeMyBnb YouTube channel. Just like with your “real” job, you should be enriching and expanding your Airbnb knowledge on a regular basis.
Here are some of the relevant posts with general and advanced-level Airbnb optimization hosting strategies:
- Is It Time To Re-Optimize Your Airbnb Listing?
- After you create your optimized listing, you should re-optimize as needed or every few months. This guide shows you the ways you can do just that.
- 9 Strategies For Airbnb Slow Season
- If you plan for the slow season, then you limit its effect. This guide provides strategies you can implement year-round.
If you plan for the Airbnb slow season, then you limit its effect. Click To Tweet
The following three posts are either more advanced or more obscure ways to optimize your listing for the highest possible search rank:
- 5 Unconventional Ways To Increase Your Airbnb Search Rank, Part I
- 5 Unconventional Ways To Increase Your Airbnb Search Rank, Part II
- 5 Unconventional Ways To Increase Your Airbnb Search Rank, Part III
It’s a bit more complicated than you thought, right? It’s like poker. You can learn to play in 5 minutes, but you can spend a lifetime improving to master the sport.
I’ve provided you with an information overload. It is my hope that you will save this post and refer back to it. You do not need to take everything in at once, nor should you.
If it doesn’t immediately make sense, then wait until it does. Trying to cram extra information into your head when your brain doesn’t yet understand it’s usefulness is like trying to understand a foreign language with no practice. Your brain does not recognize the new sounds and deems it unnecessary. You forget it as soon as you heard it. No different from the information in this post. Take it slow.
I’m going to leave you with a few more relevant blog posts that didn’t quite fit in above, but are nevertheless just as important.
- 5 Tips to 5-Star Airbnb Reviews
- Set expectations, send a relevant check-in message, integrate your guest, address issues promptly, send an optimized check-out message flow
- How to Automate 80% of Your Airbnb Messages
- Discusses the nine messages I send to all of my guests. Automating those messages so that you can increase the guest experience while decreasing your involvement.
- How + When to Add Neighborhood Photos
- There is a right way to do this and it’s powerful. I believe this is one of the larger reasons responsible for my extremely high year-round occupancy rates.
- How To Put Your Airbnb On Autopilot
- This is basically a summary of my Elevate Host premium product for purchase at $650. It’s my strategy that I use for all the listings I manage.
Phew. How was that? Any questions, please leave them in the comments below for the good of the community. I will respond as rapidly as possible.