How To Be an Airbnb Hero Host

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Would you be willing to chase down an intruder with a machete for a guest? At 1 o’clock in the morning while your guest holds up the flashlight app on their cell phone?

Would you charge into a forest of a backyard bushwhacking and hacking through knee-high grasses with a machete as long as your leg? Would you bang it against all the trees, the metal clanging off the trunks and yell into the darkness?

On my last night of a month-long stay a man followed me all the way home on my ten-minute walk from the store. It was terrifying.

I had taken to midnight walks when it would cool off by even just a few degrees. The canícula is the hottest 40 days of the year. Your whole body feels like melting wax or Sarah Connor’s nuclear nightmare from Terminator 2.

By the time I got “home” I was panicked and not thinking straight. I had no idea what to do. I texted my Airbnb host, a functional stranger, and he handled it with an urgency I am grateful for to this day. He called the police and talked with them when they arrived around 2am. He filed the report. I was able to get a precious few hours of sleep before a two-hour flight and a three-hour bus ride the next day.

Would you be willing to slay dragons for your foolish guests who go meandering in the middle of the night?

Great news! You don’t have to say yes to be a hero of a host. You don’t even have to rank as a Superhost to be a great host who consistently gets great reviews. And you don’t have to have a luxury suite to get luxury recommendations.

I’ve been an Airbnb guest in multiple countries and different-sized cities and I’d like to share some tips for your consideration. They just might improve your rankings and inspire your guests to leave rave reviews. No vigilante violence required!

Whether you’re renting out a room in your house, an ADU on your property or a property you manage remotely, there are a few simple things you can do to ensure that your guests feel like they’re getting all the benefits of staying in a hotel without paying hotel prices. This is, after all, the appeal of Airbnb. And it is the best way to motivate your guests to take the time to leave you glowing reviews. This is key in maintaining a steady stream of satisfied guests — we guests look at the pictures and we read the reviews. Price and location are pretty fixed based on what you offer and where your property is. So guests choosing between your property and a similarly priced property in the same location will come down to photos and reviews. So potentially 50% of your advertising to prospective guests can come from previous guests.

Ask yourself how often you fill out customer satisfaction surveys online. How pleasantly surprised do you actually have to be to take the time to go to a website, fill out a form, complete the damn thing and submit it? How happy do you have to be to take the time to write something in your own words rather than just ranking and checking boxes?

Human nature and a busy world mean you have to compete for attention in business. For glowing Airbnb reviews you need to do everything that guests expect and surprise them. A surprise can be fresh flowers in a vase, a bottle of wine or a bowl of local in-season fruit. It can even be a handwritten note card from a local artist simply saying Welcome to our home, and reiterating that you are available for anything they might need, regardless of how different your guests will be.

There are ways to word your property description to attract the best fit, no matter what kind of property you have. But the key is honesty and accuracy. If you want to gamble on bait-and-switch, remember that deceptive photos might generate short-term income but that model isn’t sustainable. Every step you perceive as “extra” or “unnecessary” might be just what your last guest needs to write a review that reassures your next guest that your rental will be worth their money. You don’t need to roll towels into the shape of swans kissing either.

Let’s Start With the Basics

Before we go room-by-room together, have you ever stayed in your own rental property? If not, do it. You are your own best research. Don’t just walk through and do a macro-level overview. Take a packed bag and see if you have a convenient place to store and access luggage. Is there a place to hang your coat? Is there an umbrella by the door for rainy days? Read a book. Do you have task lights in each room or just one creepy bare bulb? Spend the night there. If you live on-site, would your guests have sufficient privacy from you and any noise you and your household generate? Are the pillows new and comfortable or are they your dingy hand-me-downs? Are there enough extra blankets if it gets cold? Is there a fan or working AC if it gets hot? Sufficient outlets for charging phones, laptops and cameras? Check them to make sure they work.

And for an unexpected bonus, offer your international guests universal adapters — available upon request. You might want to make this a request-only option to ensure the likelihood that you get them back. Have two-three available and add a line in the form about guests being charged a replacement fee for each if they’re gone after departure. Adapters and chargers are easy to accidentally pack, as well as, unfortunately, to steal.

Alright. Let’s go room-to-room.

The Living Room/General Area

Access the internet. Is your router close enough to the property? Do you have a complex alphanumeric password that can be simplified without compromising security? Watch TV on the couch. Are you comfortable? Do you have an ottoman guests will feel comfortable putting their feet on? Or a coffee table you don’t want ruined? Lamps on the end tables? Do the remotes have new batteries? Is it intuitive how to access Netflix or Hulu or use Roku? Or would a guest only be able to navigate TV after a convoluted tutorial from you?

A lot of Airbnbs have this information on a one-page laminated printout. They’re usually on the wall by the front door or laid out on the dining room table.

And a word about decorating that applies to all rooms. Unless you’re a professional interior designer, less is typically more. This is not where you want to invest the most time or money. Simple and matching will go a long way to looking fully furnished and hospitable. Matching end tables, matching lamps, understated artwork and a couple of coffee table books, preferably about your area, should be sufficient.

The Kitchen

If you have a kitchen/ette, try preparing a meal there to get a good working sense of it. If this is something you offer as an amenity, some guests will choose it specifically because they want to be able to prepare their own meals for any number of reasons — none of which they want to explain to you when they have to ask for a vegetable peeler or colander or dish towels or bottle opener (have one for beer and wine both). Whether it’s a short- or a long-term stay this can be infuriating if your guest goes to make their first meal and finds the kitchen ill- or under-equipped. Take the time to explain on your profile what the property does and does not have. If you have more of a bachelor pad with just a microwave and only a tv-dinner-sized amount of counter space, specify that in your description. You can be straightforward and say, great for reheating and eating leftovers but not a fully-equipped kitchen.

Remember, you want happy customers. That doesn’t mean you have to appeal to everyone. For example, if you have a more minimalist accommodation, a.) reflect that in the rental price, b.) remember that what is a downside for some is a selling point for others. Travelers looking to minimize costs do not necessarily want a full kitchen. They might need a place to crash during a work conference and only want a mini-fridge and a microwave.

Have a Brita filter on the kitchen sink or a pitcher in the fridge. If you know for certain that your tap water is safe to drink put a note above the sink stating that. Water quality varies so widely around the world that even residents of the same cities have different opinions about drinking from the tap. Eliminate the guesswork and offer this simple amenity. Change the filter as recommended. Don’t skimp on that.

The Bedroom(s)

It should go without saying that you offer clean blankets, pillows and sheets but I have found that unfortunately not all hosts prioritize this.

And always use mattress covers! Yes, we know other people have slept in these beds. But we don’t need to see their drool stains or worse. A mattress cover is a relatively inexpensive commitment to decorum that reassures your guests everything they touch is clean because it’s washable. That being said, make sure you wash them between guests. It’s cheaper than buying new mattresses.

If your property is in Europe or you offer European-style bedding, note in your property description that duvet covers are removed and washed between each guest. Americans are often confused by this and the reassurance eliminates their compulsion to ask while increasing their likelihood of leaving a good review about the cleanliness of your property.

Matching nightstands on either side of the bed is a nice touch if it’s in your budget. As are matching lamps. If not, that’s ok too. Just make sure they’re clean with no jagged edges. If you don’t have electrical outlets on both sides of the bed make sure that the outlets you do have are accessible and working. Test them between guests.

The Bathroom(s)

Cleanliness and hygiene cannot be overdone in bathrooms. Take a shower in every shower you offer. Take a bath if you offer bathtubs. Is the water hot enough? Does it have to run for a period of time before it warms up? Does it drain? Are the tiles clean?

Offer at least two towels and two washcloths per guest per week, preferably matching towels. That doesn’t make them any cleaner but it’s a hotel-elegant touch that guests won’t necessarily notice if you do. But it can look kind of cheap and thrown together if you don’t.

If you offer extended stays have a system in place to replace towels at least weekly, if not more. Whether your guests are traveling for business or pleasure do not make household laundry their chore unless you offer a washer and dryer.

If you do not have a bathroom counter and just a standalone sink consider putting an over-the-toilet organizer in the bathrooms. Guests need a place to put their makeup bags, shaving kits, toothbrushes, blow dryers and curling irons somewhere clean and convenient. Shuffling bathroom items back and forth from suitcases can be frustrating.

Whether you have a counter or a shelf unit, keep a jar of qtips filled and two rolls of extra toilet paper available. And a box of kleenex in the living room and bedroom(s) are nice touches too.

So there you have it. Unless your rental price is below-market try not to treat your rental property like a pre-garage sale. If you think your sheets are too thread-bare or your towels are too dingy — don’t put them in your rental property for paying customers. This is true throughout the house — couch pillows, cutlery, chipped dishes or mismatched glasses, mildew-y shower curtains, rugs, etc. If you think a household item has outlived its usefulness or cleanliness, donate it, recycle it or throw it out.

Within your own budget do your loving best to create a home away from home for your guests. Ask for a review indirectly. I had hosts repeatedly send aggressively courteous messages requesting I review their home. They unloaded personal details on me about how this is their livelihood, etc. It absolutely rubbed me the wrong way but guess what. I did it anyway and let them a rave review because they had gone above and beyond.

Do not burden your guests with requests or guilt-trip them about money or beg them for reviews. Just conclude your listing description with a friendly request: We have a guest book at the residence for people to sign and tell us where you’re from. If you’re so inclined, please take a moment to sign it and share your recommendations with future guests. If you enjoyed your stay here please take a moment to review your experience on our Airbnb listing. Thank you!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Airbnb Hero Hosting as well as How to Be a Great Airbnb Guest — and feel free to share your favorites or your favorite horror stories!

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