As a new airbnb host, you will likely make a ton of mistakes. Mistakes aren’t always a bad thing, however, and can often lead to learning how best to modify your protocols and overall strategy. Your goal should simply be to minimize these mistakes, and learning from established hosts is one of the best ways to accomplish this. The following article outlines a list of the most common mistakes hosts make within in the following areas:
- Listing set up, management, and tools
- Developing local connections and your team
- Marketing and furnishings
Underpricing is the most commonly cited mistake AirBnb hosts tend to make. You should strive to sell an experience for a unique vacation, not discounted lodging, and thus price yourself as such. Most hosts report that as you increase your price, the amount of issues you have with your guests decreases. Guests that pay more actually complain less, which may seem counterintuitive.
You will want to use a pricing tool like Pricelabs to set a smart variable pricing, and to make sure that your low and high are appropriate to maximize revenue. Also, avoid using AirBnB’s ‘smart pricing’ tool, as it is widely reported to underprice listings. You should be VERY careful not to launch at a lower price than you intend, or you may become stuck with below-market reservations. I recommend pricing at $25k/night as a placeholder while setting up until you get your smart pricing tool enabled.
Min stay: One night
The easiest way to encourage unauthorized parties, troublesome guests, and issues is to have a one night minimum. Depending on your property, you should have anywhere from a two-night to a seven-night minimum – unless you are a running a long term only rental.
My preference is to keep a longer min stay (4+ nights) outside of 60 days, and decrease the min stay to two nights as the dates approach.
This way, if someone books outside of a normal booking window, it’s a highly desired reservation. As the dates approach, your min stay requirements should be lowered to try and increase occupancy.
Not taking Professional Photos
Paying a professional photographer to photograph your AirBnB is the single highest return expense you can invest in when setting up your rental. For anywhere from $100-$300 up front, you can expect to earn thousands of dollars (sometimes tens of thousands) more per year in revenue.
You are, in fact, marketing a house, and customers will convert more often and pay more when goods are marketed well. Homes being sold (or rented) with professional photos consistently outperform those without. Give your listing the professional look it needs with this simple step.
Not realizing that refunds are cheaper than bad reviews
Reviews are incredibly important on AirBnb. Before the Summer 2022 update, research showed that a listing’s review score was the most important factor influencing its ranking on AirBnB. This still seems to be the case way after the update.
Early on in your rental journey, guests are going to find things to complain about. Some of these complaints will be totally valid (the dishwasher doesn’t work), and some may seem questionable (super nit-picky about everything). Especially early on, you should be quick to open your wallet and issue refunds for valid issues, tending towards believing and refunding the guest in the more questionable scenarios. You can make a judgment call about how much to refund, but know that a refund of a few hundred dollars is MUCH cheaper than an early bad review on a property. As you become more established, you should be more conservative when issuing refunds in highly questionable scenarios.
Using Poor Quality Furnishings
Starting an AirBnB is expensive, and most of that is just acquiring the property. The path for most new AirBnB hosts – including my own – is to furnish your first unit with anything you can get your hands on as cheaply as possible. For me, this essentially meant donating all the cheap IKEA furniture I had acquired through my various apartment moves to my airbnb, and filling in the gaps. This often results in a property that feels haphazardly put together.
I’ll never forget a review that mentioned that: “everything in the house seemed like an afterthought compared to the game room”. There was a lot of truth in this harsh criticism. In my second AirBnB, I contracted a friend to build custom wood and resin furniture for much of the house. Having nicer furniture also helps you to market your AirBnB with photos, and allows for higher average daily rates than the same house with poorer furnishings.
Not Setting Clear Rules and Expectations for Guests
House rules are your property specific terms in the rental agreement between you and your AirBnB guests. You need to be incredibly clear on things like quiet hours, occupancy limits, and any other specifics you may have. This will allow you to enforce policies, and prevent your AirBnB from disturbing neighboring homes. This also helps to prevent troublesome guests in the first place. If you have strict and clear rules – and fees or consequences listed for breaking those rules – then people planning on behaving poorly may choose a less ‘strict’ competitor.
Not having a Robust Ground Team
Many AirBnB hosts start renting with a minimally-built ground team. I started with a husband and wife cleaner and landscaper as the sole contractors for my remotely-managed AirBnB. When they decided to move away at the end of the Summer, I was scrambling to find replacements, especially since my first Airbnb was in a relatively remote mountain town.
After that experience, I vowed to always have 3-4 contractors on call for the main two categories of cleaning and repair work. If you keep rotating cast of contractors on hand, you will experience less emergencies and scrambling than if you rely too heavily on any one person or business. Cover your business by backfilling this roster when turnover occurs.
Failing to understand projections and financials before they start
I’ve often seen hosts that really want to get into AirBnB and often have a specific locations in mind (MIAMI!!!!), but have no understanding of the basics of how analyzing and underwriting a potential AirBnB investment. Before you purchase a house for AirBnB, you should become intimately familiar with its financial projections for multiple scenarios – short-term rental and long-term rental.
Not being licensed or understanding HOA risk
AirBnB investing involves navigating through various sources of risk – one of the biggest being Regulatory risk. Regulatory risk exists on various levels – national, state, city/town, or neighborhood, and down to individual buildings and Homeowner’s Associations.
Location matters in real estate, and it is a critical factor in your ability to legally operate your rental. Anyone wanting to properly protect their hard work and investments will need to be properly licensed from day one, and know the licensing requirements and local trajectory. Buying in a HOA managed area isn’t by itself a terrible idea for an AirBnB host, but if there aren’t specific provisions carved out to allow short-term rentals, then the HOA can be a massive liability.
Not befriending your neighbors before starting
Your direct neighbors at your AirBnB rental properties can either be your biggest nightmare or one of your greatest assets. This depends entirely on how you approach them. Almost all neighbors are going to have some concerns when learning that an AirBnb is going to be next to them, and these concerns are exacerbated when they are allowed to run wild. By meeting, befriending, and even potentially hiring your neighbors, you are avoiding potentially huge headaches down the road.
When I was building my second AirBnb, a small house and geodome ADU, one of my neighbors started ‘kicking up dust’ to the property owner’s association. I ended up walking the concerned neighbor through my property and my operating strategy and was able to aleve many of her initial concerns and clear up misunderstandings.
Starting an airbnb as a new investor can seem daunting. Between financial management, operations, contractor management and more, there are plenty of things you can make mistakes on. By learning from the most common mistakes of new hosts, you can minimize the little things you could do wrong without the proper experience or knowledge and set your short-term rental business up for success!