Summer is finally here! As millions of Americans get ready to travel, it’s important for short-term rental providers to be ready to offer a five-star experience. This week, The Escape Home chatted with Christine Vanderkaap, an Airbnb superhost with properties in Austin, Texas. She shares some of her top tips — and what she looks for when booking stays for herself.  

Don’t assign your guests chores. Photo: Sven Brandsma 

Don’t make guests take out the trash — or other menial tasks.

That is the most crucial thing — I treat guests the way I want to be treated on vacation. And my favorite thing is- because guests literally will be like ‘I don’t see any checkout instructions, do you want me to take out the trash or do anything?’ and it just makes me so happy to be like  ‘hey this is your vacation don’t lift a finger make sure you have all of your belongings and have a safe trip home.’ I looked at an Airbnb once and the listing said “‘we don’t charge a cleaning fee — it’s cheaper for you but you have to clean it before you leave.” First of all, I don’t want to clean on vacation, but second of all, how gross is this place going to be if it’s not cleaned professionally? This is a huge debate within the Airbnb community about the policy — do we clean or do we have guests clean — it’s very dividing. 

Have a generous refund policy.

For example, I just had a guest who wrote to me to say the air conditioning was dripping — there was a heatwave so it was probably overworked — but it dripped on some of her stuff. And immediately I refunded her $50 to apologize. I will get a good review because I was that generous. I read on this forum once that a woman who runs an Airbnb said the water had stopped working while guests were there, but they got a plumber out to fix it the next day and she didn’t want to refund the whole night — but they didn’t have water. I just don’t see why you wouldn’t refund the whole night to ensure that the guest is still happy enough to give you a good review. Realistically, one bad review can’t bring down your Airbnb but it can lose you a lot of bookings, which means money. So what’s $50 or $100 to ensure you get a good review? I always see it as the cost of doing business.

Use a secondary pricing system. 

I use PriceLabs, which sets the prices for, VRBO and Airbnb, the three sites that I’m on. It’s just much better at managing the prices around specific holidays or festivals than Airbnb’s built-in pricing tool. I’ve tried a few different pricing platforms, but PriceLabs is the most comprehensive and easy. It’s not free but it’s worth it. 

Allowing pets in your short-term rental can boost profits. Photo: Wade Austin Ellis 

Allow pets.

I feel like I get a lot — most of my guests actually, I would say 80%  — of guests with pets, because most Airbnbs don’t allow pets. Out of dozens of experiences, I’ve only had one minor mishap where a dog chewed the corner of a rug. I’m one of the highest-earning Airbnbs in the area, and the fact that I get many guests with pets makes me think that I’ve made thousands and thousands of dollars at the cost of one small incident. I think people are just scared that pets are going to cause a lot more damage than they do. Plus, I love pets, and people with pets love me because I provide dogs bows, blankets and treats; I make it a whole experience for them. 

Stay in your Airbnb. 

It’s the same as if you’re designing clothes — wear them before you put them on the market. You want to make sure everything is comfortable and everything is working right. I feel like nine out 10 people will not tell you that there is something wrong when there is. I feel like if there is something that’s slightly off, people will still leave a good review but might not return. I really value having repeat clients, so it’s important for me to figure out those little things. I recommend that hosts stay overnight, have a shower, utilize things, have your cleaner come as normal — set it up as if it’s a normal guest — every few months.  

Vanderkaap provides guests with local welcome beverages and bikes to use.

What she looks for when booking an Airbnb. 

Most of the time I look at the pictures first, and I don’t really book anything that has less than 4.7 stars. I will also read reviews and find the ones where people say ‘it was one of the best Airbnbs I’ve stayed in,’ or something of that nature. I understand that people travel differently and sometimes you’re just exploring the city and barely spending any time in the accommodation, but I feel like Airbnbs can be a huge part of your vacation, where they are experiences in and of themselves. I want something that I can’t get in a hotel. 

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