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Over 200 million people will have stayed in an Airbnb by the end of 2017. Not bad for a little company that began in August 2008. Originally it was about the lowest of the low budget travellers trying to squeeze a few extra miles into their travel plans by sleeping on couches. In fact, the name Airbnb evolved out of the concept of an “air mattress B&B”. Now, in less than a decade it has become a powerhouse in the travel industry worth US$31 billion. That’s a lot of zeroes. Using the proliferation of fast Internet and smartphones to its advantage, it has empowered everyday people to generate an income from their property.
Airbnb hosts can now be found in over 191 countries and in more than 65,000 cities across the world. There are more than 3 million listings all up and this number continues to grow as demand outstrips supply in many key locations across the globe. Like the Uber of the travel world, Airbnb provides travellers with a greater variety of options at a wider range of price points. But more importantly, it allows you to turn anything – from that spare bedroom that your kids used to use to that investment property “up in the mountains” – into an income generator.
Welcome to the Airbnb hosting guide
What is Airbnb?
Airbnb is a community-driven and moderated marketplace where hosts are empowered to advertise their spare space to potential renters. That space could literally be a sofa bed in your lounge room, a boat moored to a jetty or an entire castle. Hosts and renters are both reviewed on their space and behaviour accordingly. Airbnb continues to expand and offer new features, such as Airbnb Trips and Experiences – rolled out over the last year to enable locals to offer unique experiences and activities to tourists – and Airbnb for Business.
Listing your property on Airbnb is free, and you can opt to offer your space for any price that you desire. Airbnb acts as the middleman between the host and the renter, mediating any issues, governing over minimum requirements, offering protection and providing the forum through which both parties can rate and review each other. In order to sign up to be an Airbnb host, simply head to the page, click the sign up button and follow the prompts.
When someone books your room, Airbnb charges a standard host service fee of 3% of the listed price. This can slide up to 5% depending on the cancellation policy you set. So, if you set a cost of $300 for a room per night and someone stays a single night, you will receive $291 and Airbnb will receive $9. Airbnb also charges a guest service fee to the person who rents the space. This is between 5% and 15% depending on the length of the stay, the characteristics of the listing, the final subtotal and other undisclosed factors. This fee, however, affects the guest only, not the Airbnb host.
There are plenty of benefits to being an Airbnb host, but also a couple of negatives that you need to be aware of.
- It provides an income stream from an unused space.
- It provides a social platform through which you can meet and engage with people from all over the world and even make lifelong friends.
- For those already in or considering getting into the hospitality or travel industry, it builds fantastic experience.
- It gives you complete control over your listing: how much it goes for, who stays there and when it is available.
- The additional income can free you up from your own work commitments and give you more time for recreation, hobbies, vacations or family.
- There is a larger community of hosts on Airbnb that you can immerse yourself in. Hosts engage with each other on the Airbnb forum and also have face-to-face meetups.
- You can develop an additional income from your skillset or your day job by expanding out to offer Airbnb Experiences.
- Many hosts love the process so much that they embrace it to the point of making a career change.
- You need to deliver on the service and features you promise in your listing each and every time to maintain your reviews and reputation.
- You need to respond to any and all enquiries in a timely fashion.
- A stranger will be in your home, potentially sharing a space with you. Although, you can look up their reviews before they stay and vet them for potential personality clashes.
- There may be extended periods in which you don’t receive a booking.
- Your property will experience general wear and tear, which you will need to address.
- More listings could appear in your area, requiring you to add features to your space or be more competitive with your pricing.
- If you are looking to sublet you may need to get permission from your landlord, or even split the profits.
- Guests may require you while you are in the middle of something else, disrupting your life.
Letting a stranger onto your property always comes with an element of risk and fear. Airbnb seeks to guarantee peace of mind for hosts with protection in place, for free, for all bookings. The Host Guarantee ensures that any property damage caused by a guest of up to $1,000,000 is reimbursed.
Note: The Airbnb Host Guarantee does not replace insurance that may cover your valuable contents, your pets or even yourself. The Host Guarantee does not protect any cash you have in your home, any animals, your personal liability or any damage to property in shared or common areas. That last point is particularly important to remember. If you have items in your house such as jewellery, art, technology or similar, then proving that these were damaged by your guest can be hard. You should retain your current home and contents insurance policy to ensure that these items are fully covered.
There is a secondary program that Airbnb Hosts are also enrolled into as soon as they list their property. That is the Host Protection Insurance program, which protects you from claims made by your guests of up to $1,000,000. This could be in relation to property damage or bodily injury, for example, a guest falling down the stairs and breaking their leg.
With Airbnb, the host is free to charge whatever they feel is right for their space. Airbnb is effectively a middleman that then takes a 3% commission from the amount you, the Airbnb host, set. Airbnb will send you your money, via the payout choice that you have selected, 24 hours after check-in time, unless you are a new host. For a new host, there is a 30-day buffer in place before the first payment can be made. So if you have a reservation on the first day that you sign up to be an Airbnb host (unlikely!), you will have to wait 30 days to get paid. If you have your first booking 31 days after you sign up, then you will only have to wait the standard 24 hours.
However, even after Airbnb has made the payment, other elements can delay the process. For example, weekends or public holidays, or other processing delays. Processing delays will occur for:
- Direct deposits: Up to 3 business days
- Bank transfers or international wires: 3-7 business days
- PayPal: 1 business day
- Western Union: 1 business day (US Pacific Time)
- Payoneer prepaid debit card: 1 business day
A much sought-after reward for any Airbnb host, a Superhost badge is a privilege granted to those who go beyond simply offering a space for people to stay and fully take on the role of being a host. There are four boxes you need to tick, which are evaluated at four intervals during the calendar year:
- At least 80% of your reviews have to be five stars.
- You must never cancel a reservation made by a guest.
- You must respond quickly to questions (within 24 hours) and you must have a response rate of more than 90%.
- You must host at least 10 Airbnb Trips, which includes offering Airbnb Experiences. We have plenty more info on Airbnb Trips right here.
As well as the badge, which is an indicator that guests can look for when searching for a place to stay, there are other perks. Perhaps most importantly, guests can search using the Superhost filter, which helps push your property to the top of the list and allows you to charge more of a premium for your listing. You can also get access to new features first, as well as invites to exclusive events, priority support and, if you maintain your Superhost status for more than a year, a $100 travel voucher.
It’s safe to say that if you are setting yourself up to be an Airbnb host, then you are not looking at renting out your property – at least in its entirety – in the traditional fashion to a tenant. If you are looking to buy an investment property for the purpose of Airbnb, it’s wise to consider the location of that property. While the Airbnb service thrives in many locations around the country, in others it does not, especially those that are off the beaten track. In these locations, renting out your investment property to a tenant would probably be a better source of income, and you should do your due diligence in understanding the number of travellers that could potentially come past your desired location. Does demand outstrip supply? Do you supply something unique to the area, such as the best view, the best proximity to popular sights or an awesome feature like a spa under the stars?
For more on whether Airbnb is a good investment for your property, check out our more detailed analysis here.
It’s never easy to work out what something dear to you is actually worth to an impartial eye browsing through all the listings in your region. Seeing your property from the perspective of a guest – potentially a foreign guest with different cultural values – takes plenty of research and lots of listening. Here are a few factors to consider:
- What is the demand in your area? Do a search and see what the availability is like for spaces similar to yours. This will determine whether you need to price competitively.
- Examine the relative prices of other Airbnb properties in your area. Find some that have similar offerings in terms of location, rooms and features and see what prices they are going for. Are they booked out? Is your space better or worse?
- Establish the estimated daily water, electricity, gas and Internet usage as well as other amenities in your space. In particular, if you have any unique features that consume a lot of electricity, such as a heated pool or spa or reverse-cycle air conditioning, you will want to factor that cost into your profit line.
- Do you want to entice longer stays by offering a cheaper mid-week rate?
- Have you considered seasonal changes? Perhaps in periods of high demand, you won’t have to be as competitive with your pricing?
- Did you or do you need to do any renovations or repairs to get your property Airbnb ready, and will that impact the following point?
- What is the tipping point at which hosting your space isn’t worth your while? It’s worth knowing this so that you don’t set unrealistic expectations.
Anyone can request to be an Airbnb host as it is free to sign up, but if you are renting the property that you plan to list, you’re entering a grey area that you’d be wise to negotiate correctly. Subletting through Airbnb is permissible by the Airbnb host program, but may not be through your lease, landlord or another organisation related to your property. For example, an apartment building might set its own rules that landlords and therefore tenants must follow.
If you’re considering subletting a property you rent through Airbnb, there are some simple steps you can take to ensure that everything stays above board.
- Let your landlord know. For many new leases, a clause will be written in saying that subletting requires written consent from the owner, so why not ask for it? Be prepared to explain what parts of the property will be used by potential guests and what your terms will be on Airbnb. For example, you may say “not suitable for children”. Be sure to let them know that any guests will be covered by Airbnb’s $1,000,000 Host Guarantee and $1,000,000 Host Protection Insurance. Also know that the Airbnb community vets guests and hosts through reviews, ensuring a high standard for both sellers and consumers.
- Establish clear ground rules for guests that can be communicated to interested parties such as neighbours, landlords and building organisations. For example, the frequency of guests, how many can stay at one time, what number to call in an emergency, your pet policy, noise restrictions and code/key restrictions.
- Make sure neighbours are on board and can get in contact with you if they are unhappy with anything. Complaints from unhappy neighbours may put your lease in jeopardy.
- You may want to consider a system where you notify your neighbours and landlord when someone books your property so that nobody is caught by surprise.
You could also consider the Airbnb Friendly Buildings Program, designed for those who want to sublet through Airbnb but have come across resistance from other involved parties. The concept involves complete transparency of the process and, potentially, a revenue share. The program organises and ratifies the agreement between a landlord and a tenant, or potentially a number of landlords who own properties in the same complex or apartment building.
This is a great way for a property owner to retain a long-term relationship with a tenant, while finding a way for both of you to make some extra money from any spare or unused space.
The number of businesses and companies turning to Airbnb for their travel requirements is growing at quite a rate. In 2016 alone, the number of bookings made for business trips either internationally or domestically tripled. Over 250,000 companies now use Airbnb to book accommodation for staff. Hosts can list themselves under the Airbnb for Business category if they meet certain criteria that lend themselves well to this kind of traveller.
Some of the factors that Airbnb looks at when deciding if a host can list under the Airbnb for Business category include:
- 24-hour check-in.
- No host cancellations within seven days of the booking.
- Wireless Internet included.
- A laptop-ready workspace.
- Essential amenities (e.g., a hair dryer, clothes hangers, a clothes iron, shampoo and toiletries).
- Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Entire homes for team-sized bookings.
Over the last couple of years, in a measured rollout across the globe, Airbnb has begun to offer a new Airbnb host service called Experiences. These are guided activities offered by an Airbnb host in order to show guests the surrounding area from a local’s perspective. It could be a driving tour to a nearby national park or a walk through the local markets. Maybe it’s dinner at a “local’s only” restaurant or a fishing trip in nearby waters.
What Airbnb particularly likes to see is hosts using their own skillset or career as a chance to show guests a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience or activity. Something that they can’t find in a Google search or a travel catalogue. They like this because it makes Airbnb look like a service that delivers beyond its competitors. For example, a horticulturalist might take guests on an informative walk through the local gardens that they work at or a lifesaver might offer a surf lesson at the beach they patrol.
Airbnb charges a 20% service fee to the host on all booked experiences. So if someone booked your $500 experience, you would receive a $400 payment.
If you were thinking of renting your dog kennel out to a poor backpacker, think again. It’s Airbnb’s aim to be considered the best online destination for great and unique accommodation options at the best price. In order to deliver on that, they need to set and stick to a certain standard. The core principle of that standard is trust, and the company breaks trust into five key areas that make up the minimum standards and expectations for a host. Here is a guide to Airbnb’s host standards, most of which are fairly obvious.
- Do not harm yourself or others staying in your space.
- You should not threaten anyone staying in your space or communicating with you though Airbnb.
- Do not create any hazardous situations for a guest, such as dangerous pets, flammable materials, blocked escape routes or unfixed weapons. You and any other people that live with you should not be carrying an infectious disease while you have guests.
- Repair anything that could impact guest safety, such as a broken handrail on a balcony or exposed wires. Other issues less urgent of repair, such as a leaking tap, should be identified in your listing.
- Make sure local emergency numbers are clearly visible and that you have laid out directions to the nearest hospital and (if applicable) vet.
- Ensure a first-aid kit is easily available as well as a fire extinguisher.
- Provide a functioning smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector and ensure that your property meets government safety guidelines.
- Provide a clearly marked fire escape route and a map of your home.
- Know and do not exceed your safe occupancy limits.
- Make sure the listing is safe for children, unless you declare in your listing that children are not welcome.
- Ensure your property is correctly ventilated, that temperature control devices are functioning and that detailed instructions of use are provided.
- Don’t use or break a guest’s property, enter the space that is theirs to use without permission or make threats about bad reviews to coerce a favourable result.
- You should not make any transactions outside of the Airbnb ecosystem.
- There should be no undisclosed or ill-sited cameras in your listing.
- There should be no violation of others’ privacy, copyrights or trademarks.
- Be aware of and comply with applicable federal, state and local laws.
- Make sure guests are aware of all building rules where applicable, including parking, party, pet and noise policies.
- You should uphold the law, treat people with respect and not practise anti-discriminatory behaviour.
- Don’t share personal information about your guests with any other party.
- Do not encourage your guests to disturb common spaces.
- Make sure you don’t treat your neighbours as your Airbnb’s reception.
- Make sure you always respond to neighbour or community concerns.
- You should not provide inaccurate information about yourself.
- The information about your availability and your listing, including its features, type, hazards and habitability issues, should be 100% accurate.
- Your reviews should always be honest and constructive.
- Consider the space you list to be a place where people can feel like they belong, not just as a means to a transaction.
- Your space must be habitable. It can’t be of sub-standard cleanliness or repair or have undisclosed utility issues such as no running water or electricity.
- The listing must be a space (so it can’t be camping gear) and it must be stationary (so it can’t be a moving boat).
- Outside of extenuating circumstances, you can’t cancel after the deadline.
- You must respond. Answer booking queries before the guest’s stay and answer requests during their stay, ensuring that your contact details are accurate. If you enter a resolution process, you must also be on hand to respond.
- Be aware that consistent low ratings can result in your listing being removed.
When your guest has left your space and finished their trip they will review you in five main categories: communication, check-in, accuracy, cleanliness and overall experience. In order to get those great reviews, here are some helpful tips:
- Make sure your availability is up-to-date on your listing so that guests don’t begin their experience with misinformation.
- Many of your guests will have travelled a long distance. Why not have an inexpensive gift ready for them on arrival, like a bottle of wine, a local dine-in food menu or a simple snack.
- Respond quickly to all questions from your guests. Make sure you have the Airbnb app installed on your mobile device for instant updates.
- Make sure guests have up-to-date contact information for you as well as a backup (such as your partner’s). Whatever happens, never let them wait for check-in.
- If something in your listing changes at the last minute, for example, a key appliance breaks down, communicate the issue with the guest and let them know when it will be resolved. Consider hiring a replacement in the interim if it’s an issue for the guest or they are not comfortable with the repair person arriving during their stay.
- Create a house manual filled with as much information as possible about how the equipment on the property operates, what the surrounding neighbours are like and what they expect, any building rules or regulations that must be followed and details about the local area.
- Consider getting your house manual transcribed into other languages. You can find freelancers for hire on places like Upwork and Fiverr.
- Can you organise any discounts for your guests? Maybe you have a friend that owns a local restaurant or manages a local attraction who can offer a bargain for your guests.
- Make sure your guests are aware of the days that garbage is collected so that they can easily move clutter that has gathered up off the property.
- Ask your guests if they have any particular interests – fishing, hiking, swimming, etc. – and prepare some activity ideas for them in advance.
- If you are frequently hosting international travellers, consider offering an airport shuttle service as an added feature and include the cost in your price. Nothing makes a guest feel more welcome at check-in than taking the pressure of transfers off their shoulders.
- If your guests have children, make sure you have some kid-rated movies and toys on hand so that they’re kept happy. Portable cots and high chairs are also greatly received.
- You may also want to provide a reliable babysitter service, using a local contact that you have a pre-existing relationship with and can vouch for.
- Be ready and willing to accept late check-outs and early check-ins.
- Get friends, or friends of friends, who don’t know your property well to visit your space and see if it matches the expectations set in your listing.
- Be honest about your listing. If you don’t mention that you are up a steep driveway, near a rowdy bar or that the next-door neighbours are currently renovating, it will come back to bite you.
- Provide a wildlife guide for your area. Critters that you know are harmless and see every day could scare or terrify travellers from different countries if they are not pre-warned.
- When you initially list your space, you may need to consider keeping your price lower than the competition. This will encourage more stays and if you over-deliver, you can get your ratings and testimonials up much faster.
- If you have a feature that is seasonal, such as an unheated pool or a garden filled with flowers, you should consider advising guests of when the best and worst months for those features are.
- Provide a full public transport guide for your area and to important landmarks.
If you run a professional hospitality business, such as a motel, estate, hostel, eco lodge, timeshare, boutique hotel, wedding venue or retreat, and you want to book guests through Airbnb, you will be happy to know that this is possible. However, Airbnb does look for some specific features in such listings, most notably:
- A maximum of 25 rooms across the property.
- Personality in the design of the guest rooms.
- A local influence and sense of culture in the common spaces and in the guest rooms.
- Surprising, non-traditional characteristics in the property that make it unique, such as being heritage listed.
- An expectation that hosts will be hands-on and personally involved with the hospitality.
- A focus on local services such as regional food, wine or entertainment.
- Bespoke maps with personalised touches and recommendations.
- You offer Airbnb Experiences or local tours.
- The full-time availability of the owner or manager.