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How to Get Started on Airbnb

Published by Jasper Ribbers in the blog Jasper Ribbers's blog.

Airbnb hosting seems straight forward and uncomplicated. Just create a listing and you’re ready to go. Pretty simple right? It is, but I hear a lot of hosts complain that they don’t get bookings after creating their listing. They wait a few weeks and then they give up or try a different platform.

In order to actually get bookings quickly and build a reputation that will guarantee long-term success on the platform, you need to do things right from the start. The best way to understand what attractive listings look like, is to put yourself in the position of an Airbnb guest.

Ask yourself this question: if you were an Airbnb guest, would you book your own space? What do you look at when searching for a place to stay on Airbnb? If you’ve never stayed at an Airbnb, go on the platform and imagine that you are looking for a place. Go through the experience, that will teach you a lot about what Airbnb guests are looking for.

Here’s a number of things that you’ll notice when doing this exercise.

Pictures

Have you ever booked a hotel room online? What was the first thing you looked at? Let me guess: the pictures. That’s what Airbnb users will look at as well. If your pictures aren’t good, no-one will book your space.

So how do you get great pictures? Apply for the Airbnb photographer if you haven’t yet. It’s a free service, so really a no-brainer. It may take a few weeks for the photographer to show up though. In the mean time, put up some of your own pictures. Don’t use your iPhone, use a good camera if you have one. If not, borrow one from someone else.

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Make sure your space is tidy and spotless when taking pictures. No-one wants to stay at a dirty or messy place. Open all curtains and turn on all lights and pick a sunny day if possible. Plenty of light (preferably natural light) will make your pictures look much better.

Finally, add pictures of every space and make sure the pictures cover the entire surface. This often requires multiple pictures per room.

Description

The key to a good description is to write about an experience, not about facts. Instead of just stating the different amenities and aspects of your space, take the reader on a mini-adventure through your house.

Describe what it feels like to be in your house. What do you like about it yourself? What is it about your space that makes you feel good and why did you rent or buy it in the first place? It’s those very reasons that makes your space attractive to others.

Here’s an example. Instead of simply stating “the house has a balcony,” you could also write “after a long day of sightseeing, the balcony offers a perfect spot to enjoy the afternoon sun while sipping on your favorite drink.” See the difference?

Also make sure you include as many details as possible. Your guests want to know everything about your space and you never know what it is exactly that they are looking for. Don’t just describe your house, also talk about the neighborhood. What are the highlights and your personal favorites. Add information about public transportation options too.

Last but not least, be accurate. Your guests will base their expectation of their stay on your listing. Everything that you mention should be in working condition and available for your guests’ use. Don’t oversell your place and even mention reasons why your guests might not like your place.

For example, my neighborhood is very lively and vibrant. On the one hand, this is what makes it attractive. However, for light sleepers it may not be ideal. I mention this in my description to prevent disappointment. This is a great way to prevent negative reviews.

Communication

Communicating well with your guests is critical to your success. The main difference between a hotel and an Airbnb is that your guests rely on you as a host to make sure they have a good experience. There is no 24-hour reception or concierge service.

You have to be very responsive to inquiries and messages. Your average response time is shown on your listing and it should be “within an hour.” Airbnb guests often make several inquires at the same time, so being the first one to respond significantly increases your chances of securing a booking.

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In addition, Airbnb prefers to show listings of responsive hosts to their users, for obvious reasons. That’s why they take the response time into account when determining which listings to show in the search results.

After the booking has been made, you should send your guests a guidebook as soon as you can. The guidebook should contain information about your house, directions, contact information and information regarding your neighborhood.

Guest experience

In the end, this is what being a good host is all about. A happy guest means a happy host. A great guest experience starts with making sure your home is spotless. One little hair left around by a former guest can ruin the experience of the next guests. Don’t economize on cleaning, hire a professional or do a really thorough job if you decide to clean yourself.

Build a relationship with your guests. Have a conversation with them when they arrive, show them around your neighborhood or offer them a cup of tea. It’s the personal attention that attracts people to Airbnb.

When first starting out, go the extra mile. Treat your guests like kings. Offer something that they don’t expect, a welcome package with a few drinks or snacks or a voucher to a local activity. This will guarantee a stellar review, which will attract many more guests in the future.

About the author

Jasper is the co-author of the best selling book Get Paid For Your Pad - how to maximize income from your Airbnb listing. He also runs a blog and a podcast under the same name. He has been renting out his apartment in Amsterdam for three years, using the proceeds to travel the world full-time.
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