Insider tips from Airbnb Superhosts on how to launch the perfect rental

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More than 2 million people check into an Airbnb every night, so chances are you’ve been an Airbnb guest. Home rentals have become many families’ first choice for travel accommodation. However, you may have considered becoming an Airbnb host as well. What are the questions you should ask before getting into the short-term rental game?

I have been an Airbnb host in the U.K. since 2010 and in the U.S. since 2015. Currently, I’m a 12-time Superhost (by meeting a set of criteria set by Airbnb, such as a 4.8-star average) and am often asked questions about how to start an Airbnb. Danny Rusteen, former Airbnb employee, owner of and Airbnb Superhost spoke to TPG to add his top tips for new hosts. Here are a few things to consider before you welcome your first guest.

Stay with an experienced Airbnb Superhost if available.

Set goals and what you want to get out of it

Are you looking to rent a spare room, your entire apartment or home while traveling, or turn an investment property into an Airbnb or short-term rental?

Airbnb now has Airbnb Plus (vetted listings with a 100-point inspection process), Airbnb Luxe (high-end listings averaging $2,000/night) and differentiators such as its Superhost program. Airbnb famously started as renting airbeds and continues to have shared and hosted accommodation.

It’s essential to clearly define what you hope to achieve from being an Airbnb host because it is a business that varies widely. Being an Airbnb host who rents out an extra room five times a year looks different than a fulltime host who earns $50k a year from an investment property in a hot area and maintains an Airbnb Plus listing. You have to consider the tax consequences as well.

What is your risk tolerance?

Danny says that it’s not uncommon to earn 500% more by renting your home on Airbnb than renting it the traditional way. However, with reward comes risk.

How do you feel about having strangers in your home or investment property? Even with additional safety procedures in place, it is not fool-proof. Recently a house party held at an Airbnb in Orinda, California, turned deadly, which prompted Airbnb to ban party houses.

Related: The best travel rewards credit cards for Airbnb

Does your building allow Airbnb?

Many co-op or condo buildings have banned short-term rentals. Before you draft a listing, make sure your building or neighborhood association allows short-term rentals. You will also need to increase your fire safety and do other things to make your Airbnb is safe for guests.

Check local laws

You also need to check that your unit is allowed under any local and state laws. In my hometown of Portland, Maine, a limited number of permits for Airbnbs are issued per year. Cities such as Jersey City, New Jersey, and New York City have passed restrictions on short-term rentals. Airbnb worked with regulators in Hawaii to hand over hosts’ information to the Department of Taxation.

Related: Tips for families Using Airbnb

Stay in a few Airbnbs by Superhosts

Some of the best tips I’ve picked up as a host have come from staying with other Superhosts. I changed my entire messaging protocol after staying with amazing hosts in Florence, Italy. Danny lives in Airbnbs (almost 1,000 nights so far) and critiques them on his site to point out how hosts can improve their listings.

Airbnb balcony in Lisbon
My son and I at an Airbnb in Lisbon. (Photo by Yulia Soloveva)

Related: 12 tips to score the perfect Airbnb

Ask yourself whether you want to be in customer service (and, are you good at it?)

Danny says the most successful hosts are the best at customer service and troubleshooting guest complaints no matter how bizarre or tiring.

“When the guest asks for a few rolls of paper towels (like mine did yesterday), how would you handle that?” Danny told TPG. “If you’d ridicule them for such a stupid request, then you’d not make a good Airbnb host because you have to deal with guests.”

I’ve had guests ask everything from a nightlight in the bathroom to an air conditioner installed in Maine when it was 45 degrees.

Photo courtesy of Airbnb

Work out your expenses

It’s easy to hear tales of how much an Airbnb host can earn, but you need to be realistic about the costs that go into it. Furnishing your rental or room, all bills and internet, higher wear and tear, taxes and extras — like cleaning supplies and toiletries — all add up. Don’t forget about Airbnb’s cut and possible state lodging tax. If you wish to be more hands-off, you will need to factor in expenses such as cleaning help and a property management company.

Take time to craft your ad and use professional photography

Listing photos are the No. 1 thing potential guests look at when deciding to book a rental. My bookings went up 100% when I switched from my iPhone photos to having a professional real estate photographer take them. They know all the tricks, such as showing the ceiling and floor, lighting the shot and using wide-angle lens. Airbnb recommends photographers directly on the site, or you can ask local real estate agents.

Another tip is to add a referral link to Airbnb on your ad. You can passively amass a pot of referral bonuses.

Bottom line

There’s a lot to consider before becoming an Airbnb host since you are starting a small business. Hopefully, these questions can help you find whether you would like to become part of it as a host.

For details on how to become an Airbnb host, click here.

Featured image by Carl Court/Getty Images

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