Shunning mass tourism sites, travelers are more frequently turning to small cities, rural communities and national parks. That has big, broad implications for the future of travel and might outlast the pandemic itself.
Suddenly, everything — from a spare room in your McMansion to a patch of grass by the pond — can be an Airbnb.
This presents an opportunity for many people to earn additional income by renting out properties in newly popular areas. From March 2020 through March 2021, new hosts with only one listing have made more than $1.2 billion, Airbnb estimates. The Escape Home spoke with Airbnb, as well as some of the platform’s Superhosts to get advice on how to best turn your property into an Airbnb.
Rule 1: Pamper your guests.
Lauren Spear and her partner Michael Goesele now have the playbook on being Airbnb superhosts. They have two listings, one in the Catskills in upstate New York and one in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, N.Y. Since Covid-19 hit, their properties have become more popular, especially the Highland Bungalow, a fully renovated 1950s cabin.
“We realized there was a desire for what we built,” Spear said. “And Covid hit and there was a market for it. … we happened to have found a sweet spot. People long to get out of the city.”
Taking a cue from Airbnb’s tips, their listing for the Catskills bungalow emphasizes its “lake views, fire pit, and BBQ summer life you’re craving, or the hot cider filled cozy nights around the stove.”
They provide all the modern conveniences guests could expect. The homes are equipped with upgraded high-speed internet, work stations and a monitor for “a reliable and peaceful work away-from-home experience.”
“Our homes are self-sufficient,” Spear said. “We supply everything. It’s all-inclusive.”
Their guests also get water, wine and individually packed food snacks.
“It’s more than about getting away. It’s truly decompressing,” she said. “It’s more of a hospitality model.”
Look at the short-term benefits
Sarah Slomovic, who has two Airbnbs in Houston, echoed that sentiment. She (nervously) switched from long-term rentals to Airbnb about four years ago, finding that the former was causing her property to depreciate; people just didn’t take care of it. Now, she said she can’t imagine life without the platform.
“Really I just sing Airbnb praises, not only for the fact that it gives me an opportunity to be able to do something that I love and to earn a great income doing it as well, and the joy of it, it’s so much fun,” said Slomovic, who lives near a hospital and hosts many patients and their families. “It gave me the opportunity to take care of people who really needed a home away from home … people that really just needed a safe place to go and a happy place to go and a clean place to go, and I could provide that.
You might become a 24-7 concierge service
Heidi Lamar has two properties in Scottsdale, Arizona, and one in Toronto. Because she had lived in one of the homes, it has furniture, fixtures and finishes that are luxury instead of generic — something guests appreciate. But all are furnished. Lamar said her properties are well-equipped, but usually guests have requests. Sometimes it’s someone’s husband’s birthday and the spouse wants a recommendation for a place to celebrate. She owns Spa Lamar, so sometimes guests ask if they can get a treatment at a. discount. One home is pet-friendly, so guests ask about the best dog park nearby.
“The answer is almost always ‘yes and yes,’” she said. “My focus has been simple, I always try to think like the guest.”
At least once a year, she and her husband stay in each of the properties to see what they can improve.
“We always find little details that make the experience even better,” she said. “I worked hard to earn my Superhost badge, and I have worked even harder every year since to keep it.”
To be sure hosting isn’t for everyone.
“You have to be a good communicator,” Slomovic said. And you have to be willing to answer the questions before they happen because people do feel insecure in the world right now.”
If you think you can handle that, she says go for it.
“It truly is the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my entire life,” Slomovic added. “Not only is it financially beneficial but it’s just so mentally beneficial, it just feels like great karma, being able to take care of people and give them a safe place and exceed their expectations.”
Also note, Airbnb laws vary widely by locality. We have written in the past on these oft-changing laws, getting to know your neighbors and staying in compliance.
We asked Airbnb for the step-by-step to get you started:
Create your listing. Include the basics such as the location of the property, the type of property it is, and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms it has. Embrace your flaws (retro appliances, limited parking) and remember, mattresses matter, don’t be shy to flaunt a good brand, along with other quality items — think eucalyptus sheets, plush towels, a fancy hair dryer.
Take appealing photos. Photos are important to potential guests so take plenty of them. Natural light trumps Photoshop, according to Slomovic, who added that it’s important the photos be realistic, or else guests really will expect everything to be picture-perfect.
Think carefully about your listing title and description. Consider what makes the property unique, such as a great view or swimming pool.
Organize the logistics. It’s important to review local laws (we told you so) because some cities have rules covering home sharing, such as special taxes and the number of nights you can rent out your property.
Select a nightly rate. The host has the discretion to come up with any rate. Search comparable listings in your city or neighborhood to get an idea of what others are charging. Also, Airbnb has pricing tools to help you decide on the rate. When it comes to setting a price for your listing, Slomovic said the key is to not underprice yourself, but instead give your guests more. “If you charge nothing then maybe one space isn’t treated as well as it should,” she said. “I provide breakfast, take requests. I make sure everything is ready for them when they get here, and there’s no excuse for not doing that. Amazon Prime delivers, it’s so easy for me to make it easy for guests, so I try to give them excellent value for money.”
Prepare the property. Clean each room guests can enter. Make sure you have enough essential supplies such as soap, shampoo, toilet paper, linens and towels. Going above and beyond — think a fancy coffee station or luxury products like facial treatments — can make all the difference.
Store your valuables. Store jewelry, passports and other important items in a secure place or leave them with family and friends. Owner’s closets or no-access sections might help.
Give your guests an extra touch with smart design. Airbnb offers resources to help hosts design their spaces with comfort and ease in mind “to balance out the unique personality of a space and practical needs for the guests.” Other hosts and superhosts, the most experienced and top-rated hosts, share their design choices through Airbnb.
Set up your calendar. Decide if you want to host year-round or just occasionally, such as when you are on vacation. Beyond that, Slomovic said it’s important to set up your parameters for booking accordingly: “Don’t let people come in for just a Saturday night if you have a large home because what you’re going to get is the 500 high school kids who book for one person and you’re going to have a lot of trouble that way.” Her listings have a four-night minimum for stays that fall over the weekend, and a one-night minimum for weekday visits.