So, you want to be an Airbnb host

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Scott Boyd

March 09, 2017

Travel and lifestyle

Perhaps you’ve heard how easy it is to earn a little extra cash by listing your spare room or vacant apartment on the Airbnb website. You might even know someone who has served as an Airbnb host, and you’re now thinking of trying it for yourself. That’s great. But before you go ahead and list your space, there are a few important points to consider prior to welcoming the first guest into your home.

Airbnb is one of the more successful examples of how the new “sharing economy" is disrupting traditional businesses. In this case, it's the hotel industry that's undergoing a rethink. And while not all vacationers are interested in renting private accommodations, there's a growing pool of travellers for whom Airbnb is a natural fit.

Like Uber, which has dramatically altered the driver-for-hire industry, Airbnb is a user review-driven service. Both the hosts and the guests review and comment on their experience, and these are captured on the Airbnb website. These comments are used by travellers when evaluating various accommodations listed on Airbnb, while hosts can also screen potential guests based on the remarks of previous hosts. This means that observations made by both parties are very important, and whether you are a host or a guest, you need to ensure the feedback you receive is positive.

Check local bylaws before listing

Airbnb is not without controversy, however, and some jurisdictions have recently brought in legislation to enforce greater oversight on private accommodation rentals, specifically in response to the surge in Airbnb usage. So before listing your space, make sure you're aware of any bylaws or other restrictions that could result in actions being taken against you.

Creating your listing

With that out of the way, it’s time to actually go to the Airbnb website and create your profile, and then begin the process of listing your space. Airbnb provides tutorials on how to complete these steps, so we don’t need to go into that here, but it’s worth discussing some of the finer points that you need to think about to ensure your listing stands out.

Your listing on the Airbnb platform is crucial to your success at attracting guests. After all, you’re competing not only with other Airbnb hosts in your area, but also conventional hotels and accommodations. Like any form of marketing, you need to deliver a message that resonates with potential Airbnb guests. The opportunity to save money is always attractive, and for many price will be a major factor. However, many guests choose Airbnb because they wish to experience the culture of their intended destination, in a way not possible when staying in the typical tourist areas. This is something you can use to your advantage when creating your listing.

For instance, you should most definitely note that amusement park and the other tourist attractions nearby, but also highlight the out-of-way landmarks that only residents would likely know about. Include a reference about that small, independent art gallery around the corner from your space, and be sure to mention the weekly farmer’s market just down the street. These types of places don’t often make the travel brochures, but they are a big part of what defines the local culture and are what many Airbnb travellers want to experience.

Speaking of local culture, food is a major part of any cultural experience, and this is where you get to put your local expertise to work. List the best of the nearby eateries, and categorize by menu and restaurant style. Note the hours and when they tend to be busiest, and provide details on things like patios and general ambiance. You may even be able to work out some kind of deal with a local establishment, where they offer discounts or a complimentary appetizers to diners you send their way!

Setting your price

Now with all the hard work of creating your listing done, you still have one important consideration: how much to charge. Based on the details you included when creating your listing, Airbnb will provide a suggested price range compared to similar spaces already listed for your area. This takes into consideration the type of accommodation, and where the space is located.

As a new host, consider pricing your space a little below the market value in your area, to increase the appeal until you've earned a series of positive reviews. Price may not always be the primary consideration when choosing an Airbnb listing, but everyone likes to feel they’ve made a good deal. And this, together with providing excellent service, should ensure glowing reviews from your future guests.

Protecting your property (and yourself)

At the top of the list of concerns for many would-be Airbnb hosts is the potential for property damage caused by unruly guests. This is not a concern to be taken lightly, and Airbnb does offer the Host Protection Insurance program which provides insurance coverage for many Airbnb hosts. However, note that not all countries are included in this coverage, and there have been several highly publicized incidents where property owners were left to their own devices to deal with very significant repair costs.

Note also that, in some cases, residential property insurance coverage has been denied by insurance providers, on the basis that the property was being used as a commercial enterprise. If you intend to list with Airbnb, you should first confirm with your insurance provider that your property insurance will cover possible damages caused by Airbnb guests.

Airbnb has undeniably changed the way many people travel, and usage will almost certainly continue to grow. By keeping these tips in mind before offering your space through Airbnb, you'll increase the likelihood of having a positive – and profitable – hosting experience.