Now that you have closed and set up your cleaning service, you post everything on VRBO or Airbnb, and you are ready to go, right? Well, not really. You have preparations to make first. There is decorating, taking inventory, changing the locks, and doing paperwork. This post will take you through everything you need to know to get ready for guest hosting.
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First Step in Guest Hosting: Change the locks
As I mentioned in Step 6, you absolutely need to change the locks on your door. This is critical in guest hosting. When I bought my condo, I found out that the on-site cleaning crews liked to eat lunch in various condos and watch TV. At the very least, you don’t know how many keys the old owner gave out to maintenance people and such. I highly recommend KABA e-series locks or the mortise e-series here. These are expensive, but they are commercial-grade locks. KABA locks need to be set up digitally by a locksmith, and there is a yearly fee for the E-lock service. I change the batteries once a year, but KABA directions say they will last for 2 years. Also, you will need to decide if you are going to dedicate one closet and the owner’s closet. The owner’s closet is a locked closet where you keep supplies for when you visit.
It is amazing what a fresh coat of paint will do. First, it would be best if you looked at repairing any drywall nicks and scratches. Then, time to apply a fresh coat of paint to the walls. This is the perfect time to modernize your property’s look; it is a great time to buy new pictures and update other decorations. It would be best if you took the time to decorate it now; this is probably the only time for the next couple of years. You will be taking pictures next, and it does not do any good to decorate after the pictures. If the place came furnished and it is in good shape, I would leave it. Closing on the property and updating it can be expensive, so it is best to limit your costs until you make some money.
We get many questions on what do we supply, especially in the way of kitchen gadgets. I don’t have everything in our condo memorized. It is important to make a list of everything you are leaving at the property. Also, this list helps if things go missing. Of course, if something looks old or worn, you should purchase a new one. You should record how many & what kind of pots and pans you provide. How about other items like a Keurig coffee maker? You need to work with the cleaning company to determine what they will supply; for instance, with the Keurig coffee maker, will the cleaning company supply a box of k-cups, or does your guest need to bring them?
Pictures are how you attract guests to host
The easiest way to get pictures is to download them from the realtor’s website where you bought the house from. Though if you have updated the decorations, you will need new professional pictures. Before getting the pictures taken, I would have the cleaning company clean the place, making it look pristine for the photos. Also, you should take your own photos. For your own pictures, you should highlight special features or views of your place; see below. The professional photographer will be able to take room-sized pictures much better. My photographer would take roughly 11 photos and merge them into a single photo for that room. This is how they get the wide-angle photos without the fish-eye effect. You can see how I merged the two types of photos in my listing. A professional photographer can also make a video for you. If it is relatively cheap, I would have it done for future needs. VRBO allows the posting of a video to your listing, but AirBnB does not.
Develop a rental contract
With recent changes to Airbnb and VRBO, you probably do not need a rental agreement. However, we use one to emphasize key points about rules we have in our listings. Here is a copy of our rental agreement. You may want to add any special COA rules or fines, age and pet restrictions, check-in/out guidelines, etc. It is important to make sure your rental contract is not illegally discriminating and not in violation of the hosting platform’s anti-discrimination policies. Depending on the state, it is also important to note that short-term renters that stay over 30 days are considered tenants. Tenants have certain rights that guests do not. For instance, tenants have a special procedure for eviction. See more information on this in my post, “Developing a Listing.”
Develop a welcome packet and local guide
When getting ready to host, developing a welcome packet is key to ensuring your guest’s vacation starts well. To develop a great welcome packet, put yourself in the guest’s shoes. What do they need to know as they arrive at your place? They will need to know where to park or not to park. Also, they will need to know the check-in procedures, relevant codes, how to get in touch with you. Nowadays, the wifi password is one of the biggest items to include. This is actually so important that we include the door codes and wifi password in both the packet and the packet email. As I mentioned, the guests need to be able to get in contact with you in case something is wrong with the property, or they are late getting there.
A local guide is also a nice touch. In our local guide, we put some of our favorite places to eat, things to do, the best beaches for seashells, etc. It is a way to personalize the guest’s stay and make them feel like they are staying in your home vs. a cold hotel room. I have seen some hosts put a sign-in book or a place to put signed seashells for everyone to see. It is important to remember that people are paying for an experience vs. just a place to stay.
You should post a laminated copy of your check-out procedures on the fridge or somewhere else visible. Guest often come well organized, but during the craziness of vacation, that organization goes out the window. Make it easy for your guests to check out. Some common items on a check-out list include taking out the trash, loading and running the dishwasher, setting the thermostat, putting all the linens in the bathroom, etc. Your cleaning company will help to develop these guidelines. Having a great check out is in their best interest and reduces cleaning time/cost.
This has been a long journey to get here. Now, you have a property, decorated it, taken your pictures, and developed the welcome packet. It is getting exciting; you are ready to start creating your listing and making money. In my next post, I will discuss how to set up your Airbnb listing. Also, check out my Youtube video to see how to create your listing.
Remember, if this sounds overly complicated, Relaxing Condos offers coaching services to get you started with any of your vacation rental business needs. If you found this useful, please share it on social media using the buttons below. Also, don’t forget to sign up for our monthly Newsletter, Special Hot Tips, and our cost estimating guide delivered to your inbox!