Ten hacks to help you survive - and thrive - as an Airbnb host.

Tempted, yet apprehensive, to rent out your place on Airbnb? We asked Airbnb Superhost Humphrey Bowles, who founded insuretech company GUARDHOG, to share his top ten tips on how to survive – and thrive - as an Airbnb host.


Before co-founding GUARDHOG, Humphrey was part of the team that grew peer-to-peer accommodation sharing platform onefinestay. He now provides insurance cover through over 50 sharing economy businesses protecting both home sharing property owners and their guests. HOSTCOVER from GUARDHOG seamlessly replaces the parts of a normal home insurance policy that are invalidated when you share your home, and can be bought only for the nights you need it. In other words, only when you have guests to stay. Humphrey frequently lets out his own home through Airbnb; learn from his lessons:

1. CREATE AN ENGAGING PROFILE

This is the first thing your guests see – so use it to showcase you and your home. Your profile picture should be of you (not your dog), because you need to look like the kind of host a guest would want to stay with. And keep it short. 150 words is more than enough to tell people who you are and what you love. Photos make or break your profile, they give guests an idea of the size, layout and style of your home. So, take your time and get them right. Or even better, ask a professional to take them for you. And be honest. We mention the sloping roof over the bed and the steep-ish stairs, because nobody likes surprises when they turn up.

2. CHARGE LESS THAN MARKET RATE AT FIRST

When you’re just starting out do your research and check out what other similar homes in your neighbourhood are being charged out for. Then, discount what 'you hope for' by 15%. It pays off (literally) to charge less than the full market rate to begin with; you don’t have any reviews, you haven’t hosted before and so you need to give guests an incentive to stay, a reason to trust you so they write your first glowing review.

3. SET THE 'RIGHT' EXPECTATION

The price of your home sets the bar. The lower the price, the more handsfree a host you can be. The higher the price the more guests will expect from their stay – an experience more akin to a boutique five-star onefinestay service. We go for a low price, and then let the guests fit in and around our busy young family (think 18-month old toddler, small terrier, and two business start-ups). We give our guests a great place to stay and an affordable price. We could charge more, but doing so would increase expectations that we might not meet. With our lower price, everyone wins.

4. UNDERSTAND BOOKING WINDOWS TO MAXIMISE OCCUPANCY

Eighty per cent of our guests book three months before arrival, with 20% booking in the final two weeks. To help maximise your occupancy, we recommend opening your calendar for bookings between two and four months before the arrival date. Update your calendar frequently to show your availability, and include any fun local events. Avoid cancelling guest bookings, unless there is a real emergency. Airbnb is a bit like a search engine. The more active and responsive you are, the higher you will rank in searches, and the easier it will be for guests to find and see your listing. Airbnb does penalise you if you cancel bookings unless there are exceptional circumstances.

5. COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY FOR FIVE STAR REVIEWS

Respond to every single message, even if your home isn’t available or you’ve decided against a guest staying – we’ve all done it. Aim to respond within 24 hours. The quicker you reply, the better your occupancy will be. Send guests an email a few days before they arrive to answer any questions they may have. And email them after they check out to see if there’s anything you could have done to improve their experience. It will make you look super helpful, and most issues are fairly easy to resolve – so it might nip any complaints in the bud before they’re aired online.

6. MANAGE YOUR CHECK-IN PROCESS

Stipulate clearly your preferred check-in times. Nobody expects you to check them in at 2 a.m, but be flexible enough so that guests coming from other countries with tricky flights will still be able to stay in your home. And expect and plan for guests to turn up late. It happens all the time, so don’t book those theatre tickets for a check-in day.

7. KEEP YOUR PROPERTY SECURE

It’s important to give easy access to your home and that can mean giving out several sets of keys. But keys go missing and don’t get returned. If you’re not around, we suggest installing a Lockstate smart lock so you can create unique access codes for all your guests. For security, a code is much better than a key. You can’t lose the code and once it expires, it will not open the door. Another alternative is Key Nest.

8. PROTECT YOURSELF FINANCIALLY

Take a deposit from your guests. It helps cover low levels of damage and breakages. And for the bigger risks, make sure you have proper insurance in place (those lost keys I mentioned earlier – if there’s no sign of forced entry the insurance company will assume that keys were used and will not pay up). Airbnb recommends that you have your own insurance in place too (because their guarantee is not a substitute for insurance). So, check with your current home insurer to see if you’re properly covered (most people aren’t). And if you’re not, then GUARDHOG’s on-demand insurance can protect you when you have guests.

9. KNOW YOUR LEGAL OBLIGATIONS

As a host you are required to arrange an annual safety gas check (by a gas safe registered engineer) for all gas appliances that you own and provide for guest use.

10. MONITOR & RESPOND TO WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT YOU ONLINE

Word of mouth is an influential marketing tool. Never underestimate the importance of a good (or bad) online review. It can mean the difference between a full home and an empty one. Check new guest reviews, monitor social media, respond quickly to any questions or issues and take on board guests’ feedback.

And finally, if that all looks like too much work but you’re still keen to host, opt for hands-free hosting with Airbnb management companies such as Hostmaker, Lavanda and Air Peace of Mind. These professional experts take the hassle out of hosting.

April 2017