The way we travel has completely changed in the last few years- transportation is easier to book than ever, travel packages will cover everything from room and board to activities and finding a place to stay has become a breeze with home share sites like Airbnb. The concept is straightforward: people put their homes (or a single room) on the site to be rented by travelers. It’s often significantly less expensive than a hotel and it gives travelers the chance to connect with locals, stay outside main tourist traps and learn more about the area than what a guidebook would share.
The possibilities are endless: you can stay everywhere from a treehouse in Brazil to a castle in the United Kingdom to a houseboat in Seattle. There are even farms, penthouse suites, mansions and RVs to be found for rent, all over the world! Stays can also vary from a single night to months on end. Airbnb now even offers excursions and activities to book on the site along with your lodging.
Airbnb is a great resource for travelers looking to stay in a unique place while saving money, but it’s also a great option for social people looking to make some extra money as a host. You don’t have to live downtown in a major city to be a successful Airbnb host. People travel everywhere for work, vacation, to visit family or just to explore a new place- don’t count your city out!
Listing your home on Airbnb is not something to take lightly- you are acting as a host and welcoming strangers into your home. There are a lot of factors to consider and plan for so we created a guide so you can start your research and decide if making your home an Airbnb stop is for you!
How to List Your Home on Airbnb
1. Do your research on costs and requirements.
Unfortunately, you cannot just jump on Airbnb and list your home without preparation. Because you are essentially making your home into a hotel, you need to research city, county or even state ordinances on tax requirements, renter regulation, insurance requirements, etc. We’ve compiled a few questions you will need to answer before listing your home on Airbnb.
- Do I have to pay taxes on the revenue? If you rent a home out for less than 15 days a year, you do not have to report it as income to the IRS. But if a stay goes past the two-week limit, the income generated is taxable and needs to be accounted for. Airbnb documents everything with the IRS so you will receive tax papers from them that have also been sent to the IRS- there is no under-the-table activity here!
- Am I renting out a vacation home? If the property is a vacation home, you will need to list it as rental income which is reported differently with the IRS. Rental costs are deductible when visitors are using it, but not if you are using the vacation house for your own personal use.
- Am I allowed to rent out my apartment? If you are placing a room in your apartment on Airbnb or live in a rented house, you will have to check with your landlord first. He or she may have rules regarding sub-letters or short-term visitors. If you live in an apartment building, it would be courteous to talk to your neighbors about your plans since there will be strangers coming and going and possibly using amenities and parking facilities. Annoyed neighbors may complain to the landlord which could impact your own tenancy.
- What kind of insurance do I need? Insurance requirements vary by situation. If you are listing your own home, call your insurance company to see what kind of renter’s insurance it offers- some companies may even require you to purchase the insurance policies hotels and inns use. A long-term stay by visitors (some Airbnb travelers need lodgings for a month or more!) may require a different insurance classification. If you live in a rented apartment or house, absolutely talk to your landlord. Airbnb even offers host protection insurance which covers some damage done during a visitor’s stay. However, you should not depend on this as your sole coverage- talk to your own insurance company as well.
- Do I have to pay a fee to Airbnb? Yes- they have to make money somehow! Airbnb charges a 3 percent fee to process payments, but you may also be charged if you cancel a guest’s stay at the last minute. Airbnb hosts who list excursions and activities are charged a 20 percent service fee.
Before listing your home on Airbnb, research all tax and insurance requirements. Airbnb offers some resources for prepping your home, but ultimately you are responsible for following local laws and adhering to your landlord’s contract.
2. Build a detailed Airbnb profile.
Have you ever booked a hotel or excursion without doing tons of research on the company and location first? Probably not. Do you ever read reviews of a restaurant before dining there? All the time, right? Travelers depend on truthful, detailed profiles and customer reviews to make their decisions on lodging. Building a comprehensive Airbnb profile will sell your home to people searching the site. The more information you provide, the more likely you are to get a booking!
- Make an Airbnb account and set up your listing. Airbnb makes every effort to keep profiles authentic. Guests are required to verify their identities by linking social media profiles or providing photo identification for Airbnb to verify. You may be asked to do the same and absolutely should. Guests want to feel comfortable staying in your home and will if they can see that you are in fact a real person.
- Let no detail go unlisted. Here is where you really get busy- your Airbnb listing should be as detailed and specific as possible. Come up with an eye-catching listing title, list every amenity guests will have access to, describe exactly which areas of your home they are allowed to use and be very clear on parking accommodations. You will be required to post photos and you should post as many as you can to accurately describe the space. Photograph everything the guest will have access to, including any outdoor space and even the front of the building. You also need to disclose if you have pets or kids at home. People with allergies to your animals or who need peace and quiet while in your home will need to know these things before booking!
- Describe your area as if you were a travel agent. What public transportation is available? What restaurants, cafes, coffee shops or food options are nearby? Is there nightlife or entertainment? What kind of neighborhood do you live in? How close are you to major attractions or tourist destinations? Be honest about everything. The best Airbnb listings make it easy for travelers to plan out their trip based on your area. Feel free to list your general neighborhood, but do not list your exact address. Airbnb keeps that private until a guest has actually booked and paid for his or her stay.
- Manage your calendar wisely. Airbnb allows you to regulate your time. You can set check-in and check-out times and block off certain days on the calendar so your home is not available. You can also set stay requirements- such as a minimum stay requirement or a stay maximum. Some travelers need long-term accommodations for work trips but if you don’t feel comfortable with a stay of more than a week, you can set that in your listing. Allowing long-term visitors may also open you up to the risk of attracting squatters (although this is rare).
- Cancellation policies cut both ways. You get to set cancellation policies- would you prefer a guest give you up to a week’s notice of cancellation or are you flexible enough with 24-hour notice? You can set that. On the flip side, you can also be financially penalized by Airbnb for cancelling a booking so be aware of your own requirements as well. If you cancel a listing too close to the booking, you may be required to pay a portion of the refund back to the guest. Take reservations seriously- travelers are planning transportation and events around your commitment to provide lodging.
- Make sure the price is right. Airbnb will suggest rates based on your listing and location but you have control over the rate you set. There are several factors to keep in mind: your home, amenities, your neighborhood, the season, market competition and local events. If your city is hosting the Super Bowl this year, then you can (and should!) increase your rates that week to take advantage of the demand. If you live in a studio apartment half an hour away from the downtown area of a small city, you may not get any bookings for an above-market rate. Be smart and don’t underprice yourself, but don’t try to overcharge travelers either. They are already doing research and exploring all their options in your city- if your price is too high for what they get, they will go somewhere else.
- Leave reviews and build relationships. After their stay, guests have the option to leave a review about everything from the check-in process to the state of your home- and Airbnb users are very honest! Reviews are good- they provide honest feedback and can help improve your rating and boost your listing. As the host, you can also leave your guests reviews and respond to their comments. Don’t squabble over small annoyances like wet towels left on the bathroom floor, but don’t be afraid to mention something big such as breaking house rules. Many hosts have repeat guests so be open to building relationships!
Pro tip: the more prolific you are in your listing, the more information travelers have to make decisions. You are much more likely to get bookings with a well-written and detailed profile.
3. Be an awesome host.
The host can make or break an Airbnb experience. You may be nervous about strangers in your home but picture your guests’ points of view: they may be in a stranger’s house in a city they’ve never been to before. Talk about scary! Do everything you can to make their stay comfortable by following a few guidelines.
- Make sure your home is well-stocked with basic supplies. Think about what you need when you go on a trip: towels, a comfortable bed, air conditioning or heat, a bathroom stocked with necessities and Wi-Fi, just to name a few. Many Airbnb hosts leave helpful packets in guests’ rooms with the Wi-Fi password, brochures or information on the area. Whether you’re renting out an entire house or just a single room and bathroom, try to anticipate what your guests will need. Stock your bathroom with plenty of soap, shampoo and plenty of extra towels. Make sure the bedroom is clean and tidy and the kitchen (if you offer one) is stocked with basic necessities like coffee and granola bars. Some Airbnb listings that are single rooms have coffee makers or kettles in the room with instant coffee or tea. You are not required to provide a stocked kitchen, but if you choose to list that as an amenity, make sure you are prepared!
- Make the check-in process as easy as possible. You can choose to be there when your guests arrive to greet them in person and give them a key (yes, you do have to provide your guests with a key!). If you are busy or want to minimize interaction, many hosts will leave a key in a lockbox or with a neighbor who is guaranteed to be home. Simply provide clear, detailed instructions to your guests before they arrive. Some hosts like to be social and act as guides during a guest’s stay while others prefer to be in the house as little as possible. It’s up to you, but be sure to make your guests comfortable. If they prefer privacy or have busy schedules, don’t be offended if they do not want to spend time with you. It’s not personal, they’re just on vacation!
- Be responsive and available. Airbnb has a convenient app that allows you to message with guests before and during their stay. The more responsive you are to questions and inquiries, the better reviews you get and the higher your listing is posted on Airbnb. You can be penalized by Airbnb for not being responsive to messages. If you feel comfortable with it, you can leave your cell phone number with guests to reach you during their stay if they have questions or get locked out of your house. Remember, you may be the only person your guests know in your city. Be helpful!
- Be prepared for different types of people. Talk to most Airbnb hosts and few actually encounter truly awful guests. That’s not to say they don’t exist, but most travelers are excited about being in a new city or on vacation. That said, you will meet many different types of people. You may have guests you never see because their schedules are packed, you may have guests who are loud or very quiet, guests from different cultures who may act differently than you or guests who never seem to leave the house. Be flexible and open to meeting and learning about new people. Some guests may rely on you for recommendations while others may not ever want to see you.
- Connect with other hosts. Airbnb has an entire community of hosts who trade stories, tips and tricks and ask questions. Reach out to other hosts for advice or read up on trending topics for great advice and been-there-done-that wisdom to help you be a dynamic Airbnb host.
Listing your home on Airbnb could be the start of a great adventure for you. It provides you the chance to meet people from around the world, offer great hospitality and earn money. For some people, hosting through Airbnb is a full-time chance to show off their city while for others it’s an extra source of income and a new use for an empty spare room. Whatever your reasons, Airbnb is an easy-to-use home sharing community that provides new opportunities for making friends and learning about new cultures.
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