Teachers need side hustles. Frequent international travelers do too. For over a year now mine has been Airbnb and I’d like to share some learned lessons & tips with you!
My Airbnb is a mother-in-law apartment in my hometown: Missoula, Montana.
You can see it here.
I worked with my mother initially and now partner with my uncle. Having someone physically nearby is essential for last-minute things but I do majority of the managing remotely all the way from Spain. My friend Shaun helps tremendously by doing most of the cleaning — I think finding a reliable hand for cleaning is the first KEY to success.
When considering how to build or select a listing:
- Participate in your market – Before opening, I think it is a very important note that I had spent significant amounts of time (probably 100+ nights) in dozens of Airbnb/VRBO listings, hotels and hostels all over the globe for a few years. Extensive experience as a guest was essential to anticipating guests’ needs and setting up a successful listing.
I often diversify accommodations while traveling. Rotating through hostels in expensive locations (save your money for upgraded meals, foodies!) , hotels to recover (zzz’s) from bunkbed life and Airbnbs (when traveling in groups especially) helps me see different sides of the travel spectrum — from gritty to glam — plus keeps things interesting!
- Showcase Your Location – access to public transit and parking are as essential as proximity. Where can people go from the listing and how can they get there? Any area can be interesting to a visitor so noting special area features such as cafes, parks and grocery stores is a means to both showcasing your spot and providing a memorable and easy visitor experience.
As a traveler, I’m willing to stay in the periphery if a host does a good job of outlining the perks of their local area. This is often a great way to both save money and have a slightly more genuine visitor experience (you just can’t beat local tips!) especially in a city with ample tourism.
- Meet Experience Expectations -Recognizing guests’ expectations is vital. The people who stay with me are most likely coming to Montana to see the mountains and taste the local cuisine. A luxury hotel can offer them modern design features, marble countertops, and jetted bathtubs. My place is unique because it has those authentic and homey touches which one expects when visiting MT. I wouldn’t necessarily live in the type of interior I designed for this listing (my taste is more minimal, less woodsy) but it adds to the guest experience to see decorative antlers, local art and cozy finishings. I’d be mistaken to design for myself in a review-based setting; guests’ expectations that must be priority.
I stay in Airbnbs instead of hotels because I want to feel the unique aspects of the culture in a real, homey way. My mission as a host must be to provide such a thing for my guests.
Our reviews reflect how well we understand/value guests‘ wants/needs.
- Adapt Your Space – We don’t have a kitchen. Putting in a kitchen would be $$$. Instead of doing this, I opted to make due with the space as it and it really hasn’t been a problem. By providing a sink, fridge/freezer, microwave, toaster, coffee and tea makers and a hot plate as well as basic cups, plates, pans, and cutlery our guests are able to have a meal comfortably but also encouraged to dine locally.
- Be a Guide – It’s your job to make sure these guests have a great time in your locality! Don’t make them rely on the internet. Providing a curated guide to the best eats, sports, entertainment options and nightlife spots is a sure way to boost guests’ time in your town and influence both their likelihood of return and your review credibility. Having both an online copy and a book in house it a good way to guarantee your recommendations get into guests’ hands.
I’ve held onto stellar host recommendations from Paris to Lisbon for years — returning to visit great restaurants and shops. There’s a plethora of information on the internet and it’s completely overwhelming. We’ve all been tired travelers lost in the Google Maps abyss. Save your guests, be generous in sharing the best your city has to offer.
- The Beds Need to be Comfy – this isn’t a hostel and the IKEA sofa bed isn’t comfortable. But… adding a memory foam mattress pad to a pull-out sofa bed can increase comfort substantially. Spend a night or two in each of your beds and make sure they make the cut. How is the lighting? The sound? Is the linen smelling clean and feeling cosy? Making minor adjustments such as plush bedding and throw pillows or blankets, table side/desktop lighting can make a big difference without over-stressing the budget.
- We went a whole year with iPhone images but recently Chad took amazing new photos which seriously improved the listing. I love getting friends and family on board for these things. I’m proud to lead a successful team effort. Do you know artists? Bakers? Woodworkers? Painters? Getting them involved (and always getting them paid for their work!) is both fun and practical. You don’t have to build this thing alone.
- Price Adjust to Your Needs – In the beginning the goal was review-earning. We priced low and maximized bookings. We provided homemade scones for the morning and a variety of teas from a local shop. Our reviews reflect our efforts. Now that we’ve gained traction we are able to increase the nightly rate and save on wear-and-tear.
The learning doesn’t stop in a first business venture. We’re growing and adapting our listing to be better for guests and run more smoothly. I will update this post as I go.
Do you have an Airbnb? Are you interested in starting one of your own? Tell me about it in the comments below!