Tips to Airbnb Success | Lessons Learned Managing Multiple Properties

DIY PROJECT

Ispydiyabode4You 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
Ispydiyabode14Maximize 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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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Be Proactive
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! 

ispydiyabode32My 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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COMMENTS


  1. Heather says:

    I wish people would think twice before staying at Airbnb. I live in NYC and we had 5 airbnb’s just on our floor. All owned by the same person. We pay a LOT of money and went through a very rigorous background check to live here. It takes available apartments out of the rental pool for people who actually work/live in the city and it drives up rents artificially. It ruins the community for people who actually live here – no I don’t have extra towels and no I’m not taking the next elevator because you don’t like my dog. And no I don’t want drugs, hookers and parties next door either. Sure lots of nice, normal people stay but the negative impact is left long after you “check out”. Just about every airbnb in NYC (and most big cities) is illegal. Cities all around the world are dealing with negative impacts from airbnb. Just look at Barcelona, Florence, La Jolla and NYC. Please stay at a hotel.

    1. Jenni says:

      I hear what you are staying, I lived in NYC for 8 years and would have been annoyed if my building had apartment being rented, which is why I think it’s illegal. But for a city like Milwaukee, where we are working to bring people into the city and make it a destination, there is currently not as much negative impact. While that could change in the future if there are too many in a neighborhood, we check in regularly with our neighbors, and they are happy that we are taking rundown houses on the block, completely renovating and giving the home a new life.

  2. Paige Flamm says:

    This is super interesting to me. I know in Utah where we live the cost of AirBNBs have gone up so much that it’s almost not a novel and cost effective option like it once was. I guess the benefit is getting to stay in some cool and updated homes, but from what we’ve seen, if we want to travel, it’s actually become cheaper for us to stay in hotels recently.

    Paige
    http://thehappyflammily.com

    1. Jenni says:

      Interesting! All of our housed hold up to 6 people, so we are seeing a lot of family travel that want to be together instead of in separate hotel rooms.

  3. KatieV says:

    So interesting and informative. (Also, I think the NYC commenter isn’t very helpful here. Some communities are oversaturated with Airbnbs, but that obviously isn’t the case for the Yolos’ area. 🙂

  4. Monique says:

    Last year when we sold our home we moved our things into storage and didn’t buy a new home right away. Instead we packed up some backpacks and took our four kids on the road for a few months, and we stayed almost exclusively in Airbnbs. Getting to live like a local in so many different places and befriending our hosts and the neighbors in each city was such a gift. We’ve since settled down again and purchased a new home, but next time the itch comes to break out the backpacks we might need to try Milwaukee. What you’re doing is beautiful work! Thanks for the peek into the nitty gritty of hosting. Our experience with Airbnb was so positive we often talk about making our corner of the world welcoming for guests too.

    1. Jenni says:

      Glad you have had such wonderful experiences! We love staying in Airbnbs in most cities we travel to also. Especially if we are staying a while, you really feel like a local instead of a guest in a city 🙂

  5. Tricia says:

    I AirBnB’d my home in Denver and it was easy in someways but super mentally taxing (are they ok, why aren’t they messaging me back, etc.) The only thing they ever broke though was wine glasses. I went through a couple dozen, thank you IKEA!

    1. Jenni says:

      I hear you! It’s definitely tough when you feel like you need to be “on call” 24/7. That’s why we *try* to think of everything to cut down on communication!

  6. Dani says:

    Great post! Im sorry about that rant-er above. I’d love to have an AirBnB one day, and just love watching your process! Thanks for sharing. How smart to set these up before baby, too. You guys make an amazing team and are so inspiring!

  7. Devon Hillman says:

    Thank you for this post! You and Mr Yolo are awesome! I love the proactive part of this post. Being able to get into an airbnb and fix anything at anytime that a renter won’t think twice about is a huge pro. Do yall keep any pet friendly amenities at the airbnbs?

    1. Jenni says:

      In the two Airbnbs we have now, we allow pets, because we lived in them with dogs and have fenced in backyards, but we do not have anything additional at the house for dogs.

  8. Suzanne says:

    We have had an AirBnB for a little over 3 years and I wholeheartedly agree with everything you have stated here! My only other suggestion for folks that I found helpful would be to keep linens white. I used to put really pretty, colorful towels in the bathrooms but they just kept getting ruined by makeup/prescription stuff that people use. It felt like such a waste to have to get rid of a perfectly good towel or pillow case that just looked bad and could no longer be used. We are currently fixing up a house for our second AirBnB and your stories on Instagram have been an inspiration. Thanks!

    1. Jenni says:

      YES! Such a great tip, we are in the process of switching out all our our printed towels for white towels so we can do a bleach load and get rid of any makeup stains! Also make sure to have a bunch of washcloths so people wash their faced with that instead of towels!

  9. Ashley - The Gold Hive says:

    Hi! As someone who gets tons of Instagram DMs asking for long answers/resources/thoughtful replies or just any kind of response, I’m curious how you’re managing the process of not answering DMs. Are you ignoring them? Telling people your inbox is closed? Telling people to go to the blog?
    Thanks for encouraging people to go to our blogs where we spend so much time and energy sharing free info!

    1. Jenni says:

      Hi Ashley! Great question, it’s really a mix. I try to mention pretty often that I am not answering long form, and have seen less come through. But I am planning on creating a story with links to posts with sources so I can direct people there. Or encourage people to leave comments on my IG posts so I can answer questions there for more people to read

  10. Dianne says:

    Thank you for this great post!!! I have a vacation rental on my property behind my home so I’m very involved in all aspects including greeting guests and cleaning it myself most of the time. I’ve just discovered a couple of tips from you!

    Today’s post by my100yearoldhome who just -reno’d and opened an Airbnb in Waco Texas shows that she is providing dark gray washrags embroidered with ‘Make-Up’ on each one. Brilliant. I’ve lost more towels/washrags due to make-up. tanning lotion and who know what?

    I’m most interested in your saved prewritten messages to your guests…..that’s something I haven’t done and need to work on.

    Thank you so much!!

  11. Judy says:

    Thanks for all the great info! I currently clean for 4 AirBnB homes. We use a laundry service, which is awesome for me! One home, which sleeps up to 16 people, doesn’t use a laundry service and this takes up a huge chunk of time to get done. People tend to use every towel! Thanks for all the great tips!

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