7 Ways To Turn Your Place Into An Airbnb Winner

Got space to rent and a laptop? Don’t mind fluffing pillows for strangers? You too can become an Airbnb host—and possibly make a tidy profit.

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Photo: iStock

Despite recent government pushback in some cities, Airbnb still manages to entice more and more adventurous travellers away from hotels and into private residences. But with over a million properties in 190 countries, it can be hard for a new host to stand out from the crowd. To help give you a leg up, here are seven pieces of advice from a Airbnb veterans who know how to merge personalized hospitality with business logic.

1. Just be yourself

That’s what Lisa Dowling, from Pickering, Ont., discovered when she started renting out a room in her former Toronto home through Airbnb about eight years ago. Although it’s tempting to fudge a bit with misleading photos and a flowery property description, it’s not a good idea, she says. Disgruntled guests could give you bad online reviews—the death knell for any Airbnb listing.

Instead of promising what you don’t deliver, be honest about what to expect.

On the flip side, if your property is Instagram cute and squeaky clean—and you want to attract paying guests with higher expectations—by all means mention that luxe espresso machine, quality bedding or million-dollar view in your description.

“You will attract the kind of guests that are appropriate to your space,” Dowling explains, mentioning she decided to keep her own listing casual, without a lot of bells and whistles. The low cost and barebones accommodation attracted backpackers on a budget, but that was OK. It meant less hassle for her.

2. Photos really make a difference

A good set of photos will make or break a listing right out of the gate. Although some Airbnb hosts hire professional photographers, anyone with an artistic eye can probably get away with posting a few shots taken from a phone.

“It’s really about creating visual impact in your home,” says Alex Dagg, an Airbnb spokesperson and highly rated “super host” who rents out her cottage north of Toronto. “Brighten your rooms with eye-catching colours and personal touches.”

About nine or 10 high-impact photos should be enough, including a few shots of area attractions for good measure. You want potential guests dreaming about what they’ll do on vacation even before they arrive.

3. It’s all in the details

Fluffy pillows, ample towels—and coffee. Always coffee. When it comes to creating a welcoming home that guests appreciate, the little things matter.

“Really talented hosts use things like extra rugs and throws to make their place look and feel cozy,” says Dagg. They also offer ample dishes, plenty of condiments, good Wi-Fi and Netflix, too. Keeping the property stocked with cleaning supplies means people can take care of spills and stains quickly.

“As a host, you want to encourage your guests to look after the place, right?” she says.

4. The price is right

Luckily there are several tools to help you figure out what to charge for your space, although Dagg admits there can be a degree of trial and error. To get you going, Airbnb offers a price tips system that keeps a running tab on the likelihood of your place being rented and what the typical range might be. (However, some hosts complain online that the numbers don’t always seem accurate.)

Instead, it’s not a bad idea to check out competing properties close by. And don’t be afraid to price yourself on the low side at first to garner those all-important first customers. Once good reviews start coming in, it’s probably OK to charge more.

5. Know the law

It’s important to understand the laws around short-term rentals in your municipality. For instance, new rules for Toronto are in the works and Vancouver launched new regulations last year requiring that Airbnb hosts offer only their primary residence to guests. Vancouver hosts must pay an annual license, too.

6. Vet your guests

Although it’s possible to turn on an automatic booking function via Airbnb, that’s probably not the best idea for a host who plans to have people sleeping down the hall. Dowling prefers to email potential guests two or three times first.

“Follow your gut. I mean, it’s not a hotel so it’s your right to accept or refuse guests,” she says.

7. Get help when things go wrong

Even after a guest has been vetted, bad stuff can still happen. But Airbnb does have a relatively good reputation for mediating sticky situations. A few years ago, a guest’s dog peed all over a brand new mattress in Dowling’s rental room—and the man wouldn’t take responsibility. She contacted Airbnb, sent the company photos of the mattress and the receipt proving it had been purchased 10 days before.

“They immediately reimbursed me for the mattress,” she said, explaining that using the company gives her peace of mind that renting the room on her own wouldn’t. “There was no waiting. There was no arguing. It was just done.”