Used to be that when you saw a mess of different people coming out of the same house or apartment every couple of days there was a good chance some illicit business was going on.
Now it’s more likely to be an Airbnb rental.
There are other short-term rental platforms, but with its huge growth and accessibility to renters and owners alike, Airbnb has become an attractive option for anyone who’s looked around their home and figured that renting their own digs temporarily would pay for a pretty decent vacation.
For all the minutiae, fine print, and to find comparables in order to set an appropriate guest fee, Airbnb.com is your primary resource. Spending some quality on the site will also help you determine if, after laying out the company’s fee and any additional costs, there’s enough left over for that trip to Paris you’re planning.
Granted, you may be squeamish about a stranger inhabiting your space, and fair enough, it does involve a leap of faith. But while bad things do happen to good Airbnb rentals, large-scale orgies, long-term squatters and wanton destruction are pretty rare.
In fact some guests may have more reservations about the reservation they’ve made with you than you do. So, from listing to booking through the actual rental, the key is to make them as comfortable as possible. To do that you need to start by looking at your home as if you’re seeing it for the first time.
Even a casual viewer of real estate porn like Love It or List It has seen shy-making, on camera evidence that you can get used to just about anything after living with it for a while. You know, ‘But the bathroom stall in the corner of the kitchen is really convenient’ or ‘I think the black walls and ceiling make the nursery cozy’.
Prepping your space properly is time-consuming, but the more effort you put in the better the chances of favourable reviews and more business.
Your personal stuff should be out of sight and out of mind. A spare room with a lock on the door is ideal. Failing that, stuffing your bits in a closet, drawers or storage bins will do. If those spaces have discreet locking mechanisms (i.e. no massive padlocks, beware of dog or hazardous material signs) they define, for guests, where you footprint ends and theirs can begin. The more space you can provide them for storage, the better.
With the photos and overall tone of your listing you’re creating expectations. So it's best for the details to be accurate or, at the very least, realistic. To evoke Evoking a positive response in potential guests you must imply means implying your space is a great spot to live in, without making it appear overly lived in.
Slightly downplaying negatives is forgivable. Outright hiding them isn’t. Include photos of every room. If you’re listing a 2-bed, 2-bath apartment and all you show online is a picture of the kitchen, people are going to wonder if all that’s left to see is a gymnasium grade shower stall with a separate water closet and a shabby 8’x8’ room with bunk beds. Meaning you’re not even going to make enough money to take a Greyhound to Paris, Ontario.
On the other hand, catching your mudroom or den in shots of the living area or kitchen will provide a better sense of the flow and feel of the place. Stark, blank space is better than cluttered and cramped, but only marginally. The things that make your house a home – books on a table, plants, well placed art, photos and knick knacks caught in the background add warmth and depth. Your extensive collection of vintage ceramic clown figurines, however, doesn’t. There’s a fine line between displaying personality and creeping people out.
Before taking photos de-clutter and clean everything. Your ad should show that you care about your home and anyone who rents it , while laying out what’s on offer on site and nearby. You’ll explain that in your listing, but should provide more detail after booking and during your guest’s stay. Basically, you’ll need to create a user manual for your home, everything in it, the surrounding neighbourhood and, to some extent, the city or town itself – one that explains how everything from your washing machine to local transit works. Personal recommendations for restaurants, local must see/do’s and where to buy essentials also add value.
You want to hook guests on the space in your ad, as well as detail the general process of checking in and out. Where the keys are, Wi-Fi network/password details and the like can wait until they’re on their way. Bear in mind that while they’re in residence, someone – you, a friend, or neighbour – has to be available to guests in case something goes south. There’s nothing worse than not being able to reach the host when the basement is filling with water. Or even worse, when the router is pooched and guests can’t share shots of the water rising on Instagram without dipping into their own reserve of data.
If possible, upgrade your entryway. Take it from someone who managed to lock themselves out of their rental and into a walled-in courtyard on Christmas Day… A lock box with spare keys, or better yet a touch screen lock you can reprogram with multiple entry codes over Wi Fi will save time and hassle, enhance your home and your guest’s security, and make checking in and out far more automatic.
You also might want to invest in a RING-type doorbell. Is it slightly creepy? Sure. But it’ll tip you off if the couple that booked your home turns out to be a party of ten arriving in a moving van that’s soon to be leaving full of your valuables. Beyond that, allowing guests temporary access to it via their own devices increases their security.
Before the big day does arrive, re-de-clutter and clean everything again, inside and out and within an inch of its life. One sure way to get a lousy review is to post pictures that say, ‘welcome, we hope you enjoy your stay’ and leave guests with a reality that screams, ‘don’t get too comfortable – the rats bite’.
What you do want to leave are all the bits you’d expect at a hotel – toilet tissue, Kleenex, soap, shampoo and plenty of it. Better still; provide things you wouldn’t find at a hotel including quality cooking and eating utensils and at least two decent wine glasses.
If you’ve got that down, and you and your home are a pleasure to deal with, you’ll attract business. That said extra touches (umbrellas, a few beers in the fridge, a bottle of wine, coffee, basic foodstuffs, spices – the more the merrier) will likely result in even better reviews, more recommendations.
Admittedly this can be a time consuming process, but it’s worth it on more than one level. Even a few rentals per year will add substantially to your own travel budget. Beyond that, after going through the process of prepping your space with a stranger’s needs, safety and comfort in mind, you’ll likely find that your home is safer, more relaxing, and more functional for you..