When you think of how Airbnb has turned an entire industry on its head, it’s pretty amazing. Just 11 years ago, it was two roommates in San Francisco looking to help pay their rent by offering short-term rentals of their air mattress. The company that was initially called Airbedandbreakfast.com, today has more than 4 million active listings in almost 200 Countries and employ close to 13,000 staff.
That one simple idea and a lot of determination have made it so individual owners can make use of otherwise empty properties, and opened up vacation home affordability to many more families.
Of course, like any developing enterprise, there is bound to be learning curves and problems that creep up along the way. In the case of a distributed model like Airbnb, with millions of owner-operators, those issues need to be sorted out by each Host as they join the network.
With that in mind, we’ve compiled our list of the biggest problems owners face when renting their properties on Airbnb and some solutions to shorten your learning curve.
The “Getting Bookings” Problem
In the early days of Airbnb, it was enough to be listed on the platform. The idea was revolutionizing the way people thought about booking a vacation. Those who were willing to offer up their homes in those nascent years were rewarded with quick bookings.
Today you need to consider how to maximize your property’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization) on the platform. How are you going to get your listing to the top of the search results? Here are a few tactics to improve your ranking.
Manage Your Calendar
By continually keeping your calendar active, you signal to Airbnb’s algorithms that you are engaged and ready to go. The company has even stated as such:
“Hosts who don’t let their calendar get a month or more out of date are 70% more likely to get booked.” – Airbnb
Of course, if you’ve already set your availability months in advance, how do you prod the algorithm to pay attention to your listing? A great workaround is to block out dates and then reactivate them again shortly after. It tells the system that you’re there and engaging.
When you get started on Airbnb, the platform will suggest an appropriate price for your accommodation. This assessment is arrived at based on the location, amenities, and the local competition. As a new Host, you want to come in a little below the market valuation as you build up your credentials. However, even as you become more established, you need to stay on top of the rates for your rental and optimize accordingly. There are now a few digital services that you can sign up for to keep your pricing current and competitive through changing seasons and events. Beyond Pricing is a great option that works for both the Vancouver and Whistler markets.
Prevent Stale Listings
When you are marketing your property, try to include any key terms that potential guests may be searching for. For example, including any significant landmarks, tourist attractions, or popular local events in the title and listing copy will help you get a higher ranking with tourists looking for these specifics. Also, consider setting your minimum stay for single-night bookings. This adjustment allows your listing to turn up in the most extensive range of search parameters and allows for increased reviews on your property. All of which add to your SEO credentials on the platform.
Activate Instant Book
For a long time, many Hosts were reluctant to engage this option. It means you are willing to accept anyone without prior screening of their guest profile. However, as the popularity and competition have increased, opening yourself up to guests who need to book quickly can help your search rankings significantly.
Don’t Renege on a Deal
If at all possible, once you’ve committed to a booking, don’t cancel it. Canceling bookings are a surefire way to knock your listing down the search results. As a Hotel-Collective, Airbnb only works if guests can rely on their reservations, so anyone hindering that reputation will quickly find themselves persona non grata.
Photogenic is a Skill
Having a professional photographer come and capture your property can turn your listing from forgotten to search darling pretty quickly. Airbnb says that Hosts with professional photos earn 40% more, get 24% more bookings, and can charge a 26% higher monthly price. And, to back it up, they even provide professional photographic services in select cities and deduct the cost from future bookings.
Become a Superhost
The Best way to rank your property in Airbnb’s search algorithm is to become a Superhost. Every three months, the Airbnb system scans all its Hosts looking for those who have met the Superhost criteria, elevating them to a new level of distinction within the platform. To become a Superhost, you need to:
- maintain a 4.8 or higher average overall rating based on reviews from your Airbnb guests in the past year
- have completed at least ten stays in the past year or 100 nights over at least three completed visits
- respond to 90% of new messages within 24 hours, and cancel less than 1% of the time, not including extenuating circumstances.
As a Superhost ourselves, we can attest to the bump in prominence that comes with the designation. And, our clients appreciate what that means for their rental vacation properties.
The “Overly Inquisitive Guest” Problem
Much as Airbnb fits into the idea of a sharing economy, don’t fool yourself about what your guests will expect of you as a Host. In many ways, you’ve become a franchisee of a very successful Hotel chain. When someone selects your listing, they are expecting a certain level of service and professionalism. There is a reason many hotels still employ a concierge; tourists are looking for information regularly. If you’re hoping to get away with the most minimal of interactions, you are likely to be disappointed.
One of the best ways to solve this problem is to prepare your responses in advance and provide them before you’ve been asked. It should go without saying that you will want to include many of the local details in your posting, but a supplemental series of emails for all guests can go along way to anticipating your guests’ needs. We suggest this series of three emails once a guest has made a booking.
- Local tourist FAQ – (Can be sent within the first week of the booking.) This email is a listing of tourist attractions, great restaurants, local hot spots, and possibly things to do with the kids.
- About the Rental – (Should be sent when the booking is a week out.) This email details what they can expect in the rental and answers questions before they ask them. Do any of the kitchen items need explaining? Are there extra blankets available in the closet? How should they best reach you in the event of a problem? Is there a fold-down cot? Also, things like how to access the WiFi and the location of the thermostat are great in this email.
- Checking In – (Usually sent the day before check-in.) This email should detail how the process works, including reconfirming what time the rental will be available, how to access the unit and any details regarding the check-out process.
By having these emails ready to go, you can quickly adapt them for each guest, and answer many of their questions before they even occur to them. We’ve also found, it goes a long way in securing positive reviews for your property.
The “Missing Items” Problem
While we advise all the property owners that we work with not to leave personal items in the rental, or at least to lock them in a closet, this doesn’t completely prevent some things from walking off. You will need to leave sheets and towels, as well as kitchen utensils, and fun activities and games in the space for your guests. And, sometimes, they disappear.
In the event you have noticed a missing item, you can send your guest a message of inquiry. Try to do it, assuming the best. “We can’t seem to find one of the towels, do you know where you might have left it?” or, “a book is missing from the self, do you recall where you had it last?” Often when a guest leaves with something from the property, it’s done inadvertently. You are, of course, able to charge them to replace the item, but often it’s best to write it off and move on. Although we can’t stress enough how important it is to ensure you don’t leave personal items of value, unsecured, in the rental. Towels and books can be replaced inexpensively, jewelry and family heirlooms not so readily.
The “Insurance” Problem
Things will inevitably get damaged. One of the biggest hurdles Airbnb had to overcome while it was taking off was that sometimes bad things happen. Despite all your best efforts, the possibility of a guest having an accident or some form of property damage is a real possibility.
To solve this problem, Airbnb has added basic insurance that protects all of their Hosts. Although, it’s critical to realize that this is not a blanket coverage for all situations and that it doesn’t absolve you from ensuring you have proper coverage independently.
The Airbnb Host Protection Insurance program provides primary liability coverage of up to $1 million (USD) per occurrence, in the event of third-party claims of bodily injury or property damage.
The program covers certain property damage in common areas of a property outside of the listing itself (for example: a building lobby). Landlords and homeowner associations are also covered in certain cases when claims are filed against them due to a guest suffering an injury during a stay or if a guest damages building property.
When you sign up to be a Host, you must understand that you are now using the property as a business. You will want to discuss this with your Homeowner Insurance provider to see how you may need to adjust your coverage. The Host Protection Insurance is an excellent addition from Airbnb, but don’t assume that you have the coverage you need to protect your investment without speaking to your insurance agent.
The “Bad Review” Problem
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you end up with a bad review. If the internet goes out on a guest and the utility can seem to get it back up, or the water heater has a malfunction, and there is no hot shower available, you are likely not going to appreciate the review you get as a result.
If anything like this happens, the best way to solve the problem is to apologize honestly. You can’t do anything to make the past situation right, but by responding to the negative review on Airbnb with a simple, “I’m sorry you had to deal with this” can go a long way to reassuring potential future guests that you are the sort of Host who takes their guest’s concerns seriously.
The “Turnover” Problem
In between every guest that stays at your rental property, you will need to do a thorough cleaning. Nothing tarnishes your listing quite like guests showing up to find a dirty unit. The problem is if operating an Airbnb isn’t your full-time job getting to clean the place between renters can cause you undue stress.
The quick solution to this problem is to hire a cleaning company to do the turnover for you. If you have several rentals, run through Airbnb, you can often negotiate a discounted rate for the volume of business you will be generating for the company.
The “Management” Problem
You may want to use your vacation home to earn some money when you’re not using it, or you might feel like you can make more money from your investment properties by using them as short-term rentals then by having long-term tenants. However, knowing this doesn’t mean you want to operate a hotel-like business and worry about cleaning, guest rating, SEO for your listing, or chasing down lost books.
The good news is that managing vacation and investment properties for owners is precisely what we do. Bolld Property Management has been working in the Lower Mainland and Whistler for many years now. And, we know how to get maximum value for property owners. Our size and scale allow us to keep fees low, and our clients take advantage of our Airbnb Superhost status. If running a rental business is becoming a problem, let us show you how we can help make it simple.
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