Ever wondered, “How do I rent my room on Airbnb?” If so, you’re one step ahead of where I was just a week ago!
Honestly, I had never given it much thought until this past weekend when I decided to give it a shot and become an Airbnb host.
If you’re a faithful reader of this blog, you’ll know that I bought my home in 2013. Go here if you’d like to read more about how buying a home changed my life.
For much of the past four years I have been renting my three spare bedrooms to long-term roommates who stayed for anywhere from two months to nearly two years. Believe it or not I’ve had TEN(!) roommates (and two roommate dogs) in four years, and am fortunate to say that I’m good friends with all of them.
How to Become an Airbnb Host
My last three roommates moved out in June and July, so I’ve had an empty house for a couple of weeks. I’ve been planning a big bathroom remodeling project for some time now, and so have passed on taking other long-term tenants until I finish that. As home projects tend to go, the start of this one got delayed by a couple of weeks.
In meantime, by total coincidence, I met a person in town who is in the same situation as me. Tenants occupied her rental property for the past four years. When they recently moved out, she decided to give Airbnb a try.
She listed the house last Thursday morning; by the afternoon she had booked a renter for that night! I was amazed by how quickly she got her first Airbnb booking. Even more amazingly, she didn’t even have a bed for the person to sleep on and was scrambling to get one delivered before her guests arrived. Since you’re wondering, yes, she got the bed and all worked out in the end.
After hearing her story, the wheels in my head started turning. Is it really that easy to get renters? I would soon find out that the answer is YES times 5, which is the number of bookings I got within 48 hours! Before I get into that story, a little overview of my Airbnb history.
Airbnb Renter Advice
Before becoming a host, I was a renter several times and always had a wonderful experience. There are several big advantages to renting from a local over staying at a hotel.
First, it’s an awesome way to learn about the city you are visiting. I’ve stayed with hosts who went out of their way to make my stay a fantastic one; stocking the fridge and pantry, or just giving insightful tips on the best spots to go in town.
The second reason to stay with someone else is that it’s (usually) much more affordable, and you typically get a lot more space than you would in a tiny hotel room. Sure, I know, this is not always the case. Some Airbnb stops are literally an air mattress on the floor of a cramped studio apartment. Still, the opportunity for a great deal is much more likely when renting directly from the owner.
A third great reason, depending on your level of social ease, is the opportunity to meet new people and have someone to talk with while you’re traveling. And if the thought of sharing space and talking with strangers makes you nauseous, then rent an entire place where you can have all the privacy you want.
How to Be a Great Airbnb Host
I can’t claim the title of world’s greatest host after only three bookings, but hey, I have gotten five stars from everyone so far!
Being a renter first provided me with some great insights into how to host on Airbnb. Here is the short story of my hosting experience thus far and the little bit of wisdom I can offer before you start hosting.
Listing a Room on Airbnb
Creating a listing is very simple and takes fewer than 10 minutes. Here is how I did it.
To get started I simply snapped a couple photos of my two available rooms, the bathroom, fenced-in back yard, and the front porch. My offering is for the two upstairs bedrooms and bathroom, while I live downstairs and have my own bathroom off the master.
If you’re interested in seeing, here are the photos I initially posted on my account.
You’ll notice that the rooms are pretty plain. I didn’t even need to put sheets on the beds before I started getting bookings. Now it’s possible, even probable, that prettying-up your photos will help you get bookings, especially if you’re in a particularly competitive neighborhood.
If you read my most recent post, Blog Today – Getting Started Tips for New Bloggers, you’ll start to notice the philosophy I recommend living by: get the minimum viable product out there!
That means if a photo of your space as is will get you a booking, then post it now! You can always go back and take better or more photos later. I didn’t show any of the common spaces – kitchen, dining, or living room – because, frankly they were a mess at the time. To my point though, they were not necessary components of the minimum viable product.
Writing a Description for an Airbnb Room
I am not a master of short form writing (did my blog give that away yet?), so when it came time to write my description I wanted to measure every word carefully. You have limited space to sell your place. You need to convey why it is fantastic and convince your potential guests why they should stay with you.
It’s important to note that what you write is also a reflection of you! Be funny, and people will think you’re funny. Be creepy, and people will know that you’re creepy! I aim for somewhere in the middle of casual-professional, but who keeps a clean nose and a clean house.
Not sure if I achieved that with this description, but here it is in full. My initial description that helped me land five bookings in 48 hours:
Airbnb Title: Quaint Merion/German Village Home – Pets Welcome!
Description: Best Location in Columbus! In the heart of Merion Village, 1 block from a grocery store, and 5 blocks to German Village – Columbus’ premiere neighborhood, with brick streets, cafes, boutiques, and the best restaurants in the city. You have the entire upstairs. 2 bedrooms with 1 queen, 1 full bed, couch, desks, closet space, etc and a private bathroom. Linens, towels provided. You also have access to the kitchen, living, & dining room, garage, front porch for relaxation, and a fenced backyard!
But it doesn’t end there because Airbnb gives you several other categories into which you can enter descriptions:
Guest Access: Fully fenced back yard for dogs, kids etc
Guest interaction: I am available via cell phone, email, etc. I love sharing tips on what to do in Columbus. Whatever I can do to make your stay perfect!
Neighborhood Overview: Very quiet, friendly neighborhood. Excellent walkability! Great place to stroll and look at pretty flower gardens. Nice mix of young couples, families, retirees. 7 minutes to downtown, 12 minutes to campus, 20 to airport, quick access to highways I-71, Route 315, I-70, and 670.
Getting Around: Car is ideal. Bus stops are 2-3 blocks away. Bike sharing station only 4 blocks away.
You’ll notice from my title that I labeled mine as a pet friendly home. There is also check box for this under the “House Rules” section, but I wanted to advertise this feature upfront.
Since pet friendly homes are rare, this is one of the ways I make my listing stand out. While I don’t have my own pets, I’m lucky enough to have a fenced in backyard. Two of my first five guests brought their dogs along – see Laura playing with our first four-legged guest below!
What unique features about your home or apartment can you emphasize to bring more eyes to your listing?
Unique features will go a long way in helping you book, but the most important piece is how you allow guests to book.
Airbnb Instant Book – How to Get More Reservations
The key to getting more bookings, more quickly is to turn on the “instant book” feature. This allows people to book your place without any back and forth dialogue beforehand. It absolutely increases the number of requests you get (Airbnb says it’s a factor of two, but I suspect it may be even higher).
Since I work from home, I can have the rooms ready at a moment’s notice. You might think that instant bookings are not feasible given your lifestyle or living situation. Let me suggest a few ways that you can “instant book proof” your home.
First, get multiple (at least 2, maybe 3) sets of bedsheets, towels, etc. Whatever it is you say you’ll provide your guests. Have one always on the bed, ready to go. Have a clean second set in waiting, so that as soon as one guest leaves you can strip the bed and throw the new sheets on, even if you don’t yet have a guest scheduled.
I was not prepared for this. I had a guest from Friday – Sunday, which coincided with me being out of town. Since I did not have another renter scheduled until the following weekend, I took my sweet time on Monday with cleaning up the bedroom and bathroom after my guests left.
To my surprise, at 5 pm on Monday afternoon I had another booking. For Monday. At 5 pm! A couple of traveling businessmen had driven into town that morning, had meetings all day, and booked their Airbnb rooms as soon as the work day ended. They were at my house within an hour!
That was a frantic hour of rushing to get a second set of sheets and towels for them, which I had not yet bought, since the ones I had used for the previous guest were not clean! Is this starting to sound like a familiar story? When I got home from the store with new linens in hand, my guests were walking up to my front porch!
Welcoming Your Airbnb Guests
This leads to my second tip: provide a way for your guests to access the home without you.
There are several ways you can do this. For me, the old-fashioned hideaway key does the trick. You might have an access code to your apartment or garage, or some other method that will let people in. Set this up and let your guests know that this is an option.
Airbnb makes it very simple to share information with your guests. You can have a house manual and your WIFI password automatically shared via the app after they book.
I also recommended that you welcome your guests with a nice little treat, even just a couple of cold water bottles waiting in the fridge. These small gestures can go a long way!
Setting Your Airbnb Booking Policies
There are several other factors besides instant book that will help you secure more bookings.
First, you have flexibility with the cancellation policy. How close to the reservation date will you allow someone to cancel and still receive their full refund? I started with the most liberal policy, then moved to the strictest after my first couple bookings.
You can also set requirements for trip length, limiting guests to both minimum and maximum stays. This includes a nice feature that allows you to set weekend minimums (Friday and Saturday), while allowing single night stays during the week.
Related to instant book is a feature where you determine how much notice you require. For instance, you could turn the instant book feature on, but require renters to book at least 7 days before their stay.
Finally, determining your price is the last step!
Setting Your Airbnb Rental Price
How high can I price my room? How low is too low? It can be a little tricky figuring out how to price your place when you’ve never rented it before.
As you might have guessed, Airbnb has a few simple tools to help with this.
First, Airbnb will give you a suggested price based on your location, amenities, density of other hosts in your neighborhood, etc. For me, this was $55 per night. They also have a feature which allows you to give a discount to lure your first booking – I think it was 15%.
After my first, second, and third bookings occurred in a span of 18 hours, I decided to play with price a bit.
I started by turning on the Smart Pricing feature. This tool is wicked cool, and works similarly to Uber’s surge pricing feature. You set a range – in my case, $60 to $150 – and when demand goes up on a certain date, Airbnb will automatically increase your price. This is an especially awesome feature in a place like Columbus, where on seven or eight Saturday’s every fall the demand for rooms sky rockets.
Finally, I adjusted my price one more time. On Tuesday, I increased my minimum to $75 per night. On Wednesday, I got a booking for the next night.
In summary, if you can provide something unique with your space, like being pet friendly, and allow instant bookings on short notice, people will have a much higher tolerance on price.
Welp, that’s it! My first week of hosting on Airbnb in a 2200-word nutshell!
Leave a comment with your own Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, CouchSurfing experiences below. What other tips do you have for newbies?