Tips to Airbnb Success | Lessons Learned Managing Multiple Properties
You have been following along with our Airbnb adventures, and we love to hear that you are interested in what it takes to set up one (or four!). So, I thought I would share a bunch of shortcuts and lessons I learned in the Summer of 2019 when we went from one Airbnb house (the house I renovated for the HGTV pilot – head HERE for before & after pics and sources) to two houses (the house Mr. Yolo renovated before we got married). Once we established a routine with the first house, we were hooked. With the addition of the DIY Duplex, we will be managing four Airbnb properties in 2020, which would be SUPER overwhelming without the troubleshooting we did in Summer 2019.
There are so many things to consider if you’re looking to operate an Airbnb as a lucrative business. Now that we’ve gained experience opening up multiple renos to Airbnb renters, we’ve learned so many shortcuts and lessons that we want to share to help you run your own successful Airbnb.
Our Top Lessons Learned
Maximize your cleaning crew’s time
Hiring out the cleaning after a guest leaves is a complete necessity for us. We have such a quick turnover between guests, especially in our busy season, that it’s well worth it to have professionals responsible for cleaning in the most efficient way. We found our cleaner through word of mouth, so make sure to ask around for a crew that is reliable and great with communication.
A great trick I learned is to give our cleaners a checklist. This helps them know everything they need to do in a short period of time. We aim for consistency in setting up our Airbnb for each guest, down to how towels are folded and beds are made. In the cleaning checklist, we even include photos to show them how everything should look. The little details make all the difference!
We’ve also learned the importance of stocking multiple sets of linens that need to be washed to help speed up the cleaning process. While the cleaners are at the property during guest changeovers, they need to wash sheets and towels. We found having two sets of sheets and towels per bed and bathroom was extremely helpful. This way, while one set is in the wash, our cleaning team can make the beds and put out the other set of towels and washcloths. We keep the sheets in plastic bins under the beds labeled in each room to help this process. Then when the laundry is done, the cleaners put those linens in the appropriate bins.
Build-in more turnaround time between guests
Initially, we had checkout time at noon and check-in at 2 pm. We quickly discovered two hours was not enough time for our cleaning crew to do the laundry, clean, and prep for our next guests.
So, mid-summer, we changed check-out to 10 am and check-in at 2 pm. This gave us four hours, double the amount we were used to having to do a changeover. It relieved so much stress, and we’ve received no complaints from guests. If someone checks out early, we send those arriving a note that they can come earlier!
Remove Sentimental or Valuable item from the property
Items in an Airbnb are bound to get damaged or broken from time to time. I learned quickly not to have any personal, sentimental, or valuable items in the house. I get asked all the time about what I do if something gets broken or taken, and honestly, I don’t do anything and look at it as the cost of doing business. Virtually all of the decorative items in our Airbnb properties are thrifted from my fave local shops or Goodwill. The glasses and plates are inexpensive from IKEA. Some of the art and larger decor is from Target. If anything gets broken or damaged, all of these items are easily replaceable.
We allow families, kids and dogs in the house, and accidents happen, people accidentally pack things from the house, and you just have to detach yourself from the stuff. With the property as a whole, I try not to have a big, sentimental attachment to it. For me, the joy is in renovating and designing a house, and then I want others to enjoy it! You have to remove yourself from the house and be at peace with people using it and making memories in your space.
Sidenote: You can report major spills or damage to Airbnb. Make sure to have before photos of everything so you can prove that a guest destroyed it.
Personal touches make all the difference
I think one of the reasons we get great online reviews is that we go above and beyond with the little personal touches.
Obviously, decorating is my jam, so that’s my favorite way to show my guests some love. An inexpensive Goodwill or thrift store run can elevate the space from an Airbnb to a home where people are excited to stay. We also love bringing warmth and life into each space with faux branches, greenery, and succulents.
We have everything on hand that our guests may need, including toiletries such as soap, shampoo + conditioner, body wash, lotion, face wash — even toothpaste. We want them to feel right at home. I LOVE using Public Goods because the products are great, the packaging is so clean (feels like a hotel) and they have refill pouches so I don’t have to buy new containers all the time.
We also have a coffee maker and leave coffee beans from our favorite local coffee shops, Colectivo and Anodyne. A small basket with creamer, tea, coffee, stir sticks sits on the counter, serving as a sweet coffee station.
Our Airbnbs host quite a few wedding and bachelorette parties. When we know there’s a celebration of any kind we leave a bottle of champagne for them! Also if guests are staying over Christmas, we put up decorations so it feels like a home away from home.
I know some people like to leave chocolate, but since we allow dogs, we stay away from anything that could make them sick!
Create efficiencies in your process
Running an Airbnb requires a lot of communication between you and your renters. To save time, we create and save templates with our common messages and responses. Of course, I always personalize the messages, but the general details typically stay the same. This saves me a ton of time!
I have a deep love of laminating. So naturally, I have a ‘House Manual’ laminated sheet I can use over and over that give guests directions and tell them about the house. These information sheets include where the laundry is located, recommendations for local coffee shops, restaurants and shopping in the neighborhood, the WiFi password — any helpful details or information they’ll need during their stay.
You can also upload the ‘House Manual’ to Airbnb, so your guests can have all the info before they come, which can cut down on the back and forth questions.
You’re going to have times when everything doesn’t go as planned. Once, a skunk got into the basement of one of our properties while guests were there (and sprayed!). Another time an alarm in the basement went off in the middle of the night, and Mr. Yolo had to run over.
The best thing you can do is be proactive. Take care of an issue right away, and tell your guests that you’re sorry for the inconvenience. When that alarm went off, we dropped a gift card to our local coffee shop with our guests the next morning. A handwritten note and caffeine makes everything ok!
It’s also important that you’re proactive each time you’re in the home between guests so you can address issues to maintain the property’s value. Did you know opening up a home as an Airbnb property can actually be less wear and tear on a house than renting it? It’s because you can be proactive! Once or twice per week, the home is professionally cleaned top-to-bottom (way more than most average homes!). And, unlike a rental, you can consistently see what needs to be fixed or maintained throughout the year.
Also, If something goes really wrong, offer to reimburse part of the stay. Honestly, the money you will lose is way better than a bad review!
My overall advice
I hear a lot of people say, “Oh, I can just throw my place up on Airbnb to make some cash,” and it drives me crazy!
To be a successful Airbnb, it takes a chunk of money upfront and quite a bit of work. I have found that expectations are different in each city, and sometimes it’s understood that you are staying at someone’s current home. But more and more, people are expecting a property that is not being lived in. This means all personal items need to be cleared out, you need to make space in the closets for guest’s items, and you need to invest in multiple sets of all new linens, towels, blankets, etc. Make sure the kitchen is well stocked for the number of guests your house will host (not everyone will cook, but you should be ready for the ones who will!).
Even though there can be a lot of start-up expenses, we found that it can pay off! But be prepared for the work that comes along with keeping your guests happy and your property maintained.
And good luck! It’s a wonderful adventure and a great way to bring in extra income!
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