This post is four of a six-part series. I am assuming that you already know you want to be an Airbnb host and that you have properly prepared both your physical Airbnb space and your Airbnb hosting abilities.
You always remember your first.
I still remember my first Airbnb guest, Niklas, the doctor from Germany. I was nervous.
What was I missing?
What would he want that I don’t have?
Does he want to interact with me?
Will he think I’m cool?
Looking back on that experience, I was such a rookie, but Niklas was nice:
My hosting evolved over the years until I perfected every type of guest I may come in contact with. I also learned how to deal with some uncomfortable situations.
As a brand new listing, you want to follow my new Airbnb listing calendar strategy. It allows you to receive three quick, positive reviews at which point the stars show up in search results giving FPGs assurance of your good hosting abilities.
This part is not to be understated. Here is an email from a host who followed this strategy perfectly:
The first question your guest will have is: what’s the wifi password?
Ensure this has already been communicated in the digital guidebook. Go above and beyond by testing your internet at www.fast.com in all areas of the house. You have control of this so get it figured out right away. Potentially, you’ll need to purchase a wifi extender. This is especially important if you require an application for the front door where the guest needs an internet connection. Ensure they can connect just outside your front door so they don’t have to use their data.
Before arrival, you need to let the guest know who they are to contact for general questions and emergencies whether that be through the Airbnb application, via a messaging service, or phone call. Do not give the guest more than two contacts. Do not have them call directly the utility provider unless absolutely necessary.
We do this a few days before check-in because if the guest does not hear from you around 72-hours before check-in, I find they often message. To eliminate this unnecessary message, send your check-in message 4-days prior to check-in.
Help your guest avoid scammers and enable your guest to start their vacation quickly by telling them the best ways to get to your home from the airport. Include both cheap and expensive options, but be detailed. Ideally, you can get a discount code to your guest for a local taxi service or ride-share company.
If you live anywhere in a less-then-super-straightforward area, ensure your directions to your front door are rock solid. We do this by having a friend unfamiliar with the property do a check-in as if they’re a guest and provide detailed feedback.
Providing the address sometimes is not enough. In Almaty, Kazakhstan the host gave me the address, but not directions to the front door. The address they gave me was easy to find, but it had a shopping mall on the ground floor and I could not figure out who to get up. How was I supposed to know I need to go through this dark and sketchy alleyway:
If your guests may drive, provide parking instructions whether that’s to the dedicated parking spot or to the nearest parking garage. Remind your guest to never leave valuables in their car!
If you need or prefer to use physical keys, ensure you have one pair per guest. I recommend you not put your address on the keys in case the guest loses them.
If you insist on a live check-in, use the guest interaction as a guide to your live interaction with the guest. If the guest only booked and did not send any messages, they probably don’t want a live check-in so if you do this, make it quick. On the other hand, if the guest has asked some questions about the area (what subway station to get off at, local recommendations, parking info, etc.) then they would probably welcome a live check-in and you can take a bit of extra time providing more recommendations or details as to the area.
During The Reservation
Especially if you are a new host, you need to be more familiar with your home than your guest. Know how to answer all of the following questions in as straight forward a way as possible:
- The location of the fuse box
- How to operate appliances
- The TV, washer and dryer, coffee maker, oven and microwave, A/C, etc.
- How to get hot water from the shower
- Sometimes it’s not very straightforward
- How to connect to and reset the internet
- Where is the router?
- How to dispose of garbage and recycling correctly
Better is to include this information in your digital guidebook so that your guest doesn’t even have to reach out to you and wait for you to respond.
Cleaning is going to be your number one complaint so it should be highly focused from the start. Do not hire budget cleaners. Hire local cleaners who own the cleaning company. Generally, you’ll have a poor experience when you go with one of the larger cleaning companies with many employees. If you do, the same employee should clean your home as often as possible. This lets the employee get in a groove with your space, they will notice if something is broken or missing, and it reduces your risk by having fewer random people in your home.
This is important. I’ve dealt with some serious issues directly or indirectly due to bad cleaners, including theft from prior cleaners who still had access to the home or knew how to get in.
Some common complaints you will receive are:
- Dirty or stained linens
- Hairs found in the bathroom or on bed
- Bad odors
- Cookware and silverware not cleaned
I mentioned the digital guidebook that you should be providing to your guest above as a troubleshoot type item. However, it can add to the guest experience in another way: recommendations.
I recommend you provide the following unique recommendations to your guest that will add to their experience:
- 3 restaurants
- Make note of your price point and make relevant suggestions. In other words, don’t recommend a 5-star restaurant to a big family renting your budget Airbnb. If you live in Chinatown, ensure one of your recommendations is for killer Chinese food. Or, if you city is known for something like Chicago is for deep dish pizza, include a recommendation.
- 3 bars
- Speakeasy, jazz clubs, neighborhood bar, etc.
- 1 park or beach
- 2 cafes
- Not Starbuck’s or chains, ideally
- 1 grocery store
- Possibly two if you have organic or ethnic guests
The idea with recommendations is to provide unique recommendations that will add to the guest’s experience. If the guest can find your recommendation with a quick online search, it’s probably not a good recommendation. Do not oversupply recommendations. If you did a good job the guest will ask for more.
If you have done anything really messed up to the guest upon their reservation, luckily, you can redeem yourself with a good check-out. Reviews are largely based on the final experiences a guest had in your space so ensure you make the check-out pleasant.
As an Airbnb guest of over 800 nights, I hate it when the host insists on coming over to check me out. I’m stressed on my day and am probably running late. I’ve left things behind a couple of times because the host coming over interrupted my own packing process. The last thing I want is a pleasant chat with my host when I’m rushing to the airport. It’s even worse when the host wants to do an inventory check of everything to ensure I didn’t steal or break anything. Don’t do this.
Instead, send the guest a message 18 hours before check-out (around 5pm the day prior) reminding the guest of the check-out time and adding in any specific check-out instructions.
Do not make the guest do much upon check-out. Do not make them empty the trash, do the washer or dishwasher, add chlorine to the pool, don’t make them turn off the water valves or really anything. I tell my guest to refill the ice cube trays and clean the lint tray in the dyer if they used it. And, to leave the keys on the counter near the door. That’s it.
You might consider offering directions to each airport and telling the guest how long it will take at which times of the day.
This is the easy part. Assuming the guest didn’t forget or break anything, all you should do is send a message to them (hopefully you have this part automated if not then read my post for how to setup your Airbnb systems).
The message should thank them for leaving the place in good shape. No matter how they left your home, you send this message because you want a 5-star review. You also let the guest know that they can expect a 5-star review from you.
Two days later, as an indirect review reminder, send one more message. This time offer them a ‘friends and family discount’. Simply tell them they were wonderful to host and if they or their friends ever come to this city to claim X deal from you. I give them a 5th night free or a 15% discount for any days between Sunday and Thursday.
I do not send a review reminder because I have found that often times the guest is not leaving a review because they do not feel you deserved a 5-star review nor do they want to leave you a negative review. If you remind them to leave a review, all too often you will receive a less-than-glowing review.
If the guest left something behind, send it back to them. I normally do not charge the guest if it’s less than $25.
If the guest broke something and did not tell you about it, I apply a $50 threshold to this as I prefer 5-star reviews over collecting small fee’s. Worth these expected costs into your nightly rate. If the item was major, try to wait until after the review to make a claim if you think the guest will hit you with a negative review because of it.
To be a good host, you need to be a guest. I suggest you stay as an Airbnb guest at least a couple times per year as this will prove invaluable to you. Maybe even do a staycation in your own neighborhood to scout the competition!
The whole idea is to get your guest acclimated as quickly as possible so they can start enjoying their time in your city. And, when things go wrong, give your guest the tools to troubleshoot themselves as they would prefer to fix the problem rather than wait on someone else.
Why are you making the decision to become an Airbnb host? Tell me in the comments.