How to Start an Airbnb
Before you start an Airbnb
Calculate how much your Airbnb will earn
Before you start an Airbnb, make sure your earnings match or exceed your expectations.
Airbnb has a calculator here that will give you an income estimate.
Airbnb uses booking data from the last two years for your location. The average nightly rate multiplied by the average occupancy rate equals your estimate.
I ran four of the Airbnb's we manage through the calculator to see how prices compare. It was very close to the average we've made per month over the last two years for one listing. For the other three listings, we made quite a bit more than their estimate. It's an excellent tool to show an average.
Remember, you will make less at the beginning until you have the reviews to speak for your space. The reason Airbnb has become so popular is because of their review system, it gives a guest a good idea of what they can expect when they book a place. Once you become a superhost and have tons of reviews, you will likely make quite a bit more than their estimate.
Check your local laws and HOA
Does your city regulate short-term rentals? Are there taxes you need to pay or permits you need to have? Are you part of a homeowners association (HOA)? Do they allow you to rent the property out as a short term vacation rental?
Search "your city Airbnb laws" or "your city vacation rental regulations" to find the rules and regulations for your city before you start an Airbnb. You will also want to check in with your HOA if the space you are listing on Airbnb is part of one.
Become an Airbnb host
Create your listing
Airbnb has an easy to use onboarding tool to help you create your listing. Start filling out the "list your space tool" in the Airbnb app or website. The site will guide you through entering basic information like location, listing type, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and amenities.
Add photos to your ad. Guests love looking through photos when choosing a place to stay. Stage your home, turn on all the lights and open all the windows to take well-lit photos of each space.. Include some close-ups of details that make your listing unique. If you aren't confident in your photography skills, you can hire a professional photographer through Airbnb. Prices vary depending on the size of your listing and your city.
Make your house rules
House rules are a vital part of any listing. They help your guests understand what's allowed and help you hold guests accountable if they break the rules. Your rules appear on your ad, and any possible guests will see your rules before they book your home.
Airbnb has pre-set rules you can apply with one click, such as restrictions on smoking, pets, or parties. They also have space for you to add more specific rules.
Set your nightly price
Pricing is one of the most critical components of your Airbnb. Charge too much, and you may not get bookings, charge too little, and you may lose out on profits. The first steps are to calculate how much you spend per day maintaining your Airbnb and to do market research.
To calculate how much you spend per day maintaining your Airbnb, add up everything you spend in a month from utilities, taxes, mortgage, and an estimate for supplies. Add up all the monthly expenses and divide by 30. This is how much you'll need to charge to break even.
To do market research:
Look at Airbnbs in the area that offer similar amenities to yours.
Try and find a place that is like yours in quality, location, etc.
Make sure you always search Airbnb with specific dates. If you search without dates entered, you will see the minimum price the listing charges.
Pay attention to the fee breakdown to see the actual nightly rate, not including any fees or taxes.
Remember, when you first start an Airbnb, you will need to discount your listing. You may have to cut prices by up to 30% to attract your first guests. Oncer you have five positive reviews you can charge full price.
This research will help you come up with a base price per night but remember you don't want to charge the same amount every night of the year. Prices should change depending on the season, local events, and days of the week. To maximize profits, you will always need to adjust your prices based on demand. Read this post for more information about different services that help you with dynamic pricing.
Decide who will clean and set your cleaning fee
Cleanliness is crucial to every guest. It would be best if you had a cleaning strategy before you start an Airbnb. Either you will clean or have a cleaner or cleaning company you trust to clean.
The average listing has a cleaning fee between $50-$100, but this varies drastically depending on the property's size and location. Read more here about strategies for choosing an Airbnb cleaning fee.
Make a house manual
Before my wife and I became hosts ourselves, we traveled full-time, running our business on the road and staying in Airbnbs all over the globe. The first thing my wife did when we checked into a new place was to look for "the binder." We knew how important "the binder" was when we started running our first Airbnb.
"The binder" is a house manual full of all the information your guest could need or want when staying at your place. Your house manual should be available online (Airbnb has a place to add your house manual) and displayed in your home in a binder or folder.
Your manual should cover everything from running the dishwasher to where to take out the trash to the best restaurants in your area. Read this post for step-by-step details to create a house manual with everything your guests will need.
Communication is key when hosting an Airbnb. We have found that the best way to get great reviews (and we have over 1,000 positive reviews) is to communicate often with guests.
We send eight messages for each reservation, on top of responding to any additional messages guests send us. This is why I started Host Tools. We spent so much time sending messages to guests and setting calendar alerts to remind us when to message guests. I couldn't find a low-cost service to send messages for us, so I created my own.
For every reservation we send:
- A booking confirmation message
- A message to our cleaners alerting them of a new cleaning
- A message two days before arrival with details about check-in
- A check-up message the day after they arrive
- A check-out message with details the day before they leave
- A reminder message to our cleaner the day of check out
- A message thanking the guest and asking for a review the day after check-out
- A reminder message asking the guest to leave a review if they haven't left one thirteen days later.
You can see why it's necessary to have a service like Host Tools that sends personalized messages for you!
As I mentioned before, my wife and I began managing our first Airbnb while we were traveling the world in 2013. Back then, many people were surprised that we could manage our Airbnb remotely. We found that with the right set-up and automation tools, you can run your Airbnb from anywhere in the world.
Nine years later, we still manage Airbnbs across the country. Automation tools save us time and energy even when our Airbnb is in the same city as us.
Automating will save you time and keep you from making mistakes that lead to missed cleanings or missed profits. Plus, the less time you spend actively managing your Airbnb, the more you are making per hour of your time on your listing.
Get hosting support
Airbnb recently asked us to join the Ambassador community. Ambassadors help new hosts start an Airbnb. That means you can get help setting up your listing directly from us, Tom, the Host Tools developer, and his wife, Jenny!
Sign up with this link, and we can guide you through creating your ad and welcoming your first guest. If you use our link to add your first listing, you will also earn $42 after hosting your first stay.