What to make some money? Finally, it is time to develop your Airbnb and VRBO listings. How do you catch someone’s eye? What are the essential parts of your listing to focus on? Our listing achieved super-host status on Airbnb in under six months. I will share with you the secrets that got us there. If you have not gotten all of your services in place or your place ready to host, please see my posts on Setting up Cleaning and Getting ready for Hosting.
Getting started developing your Airbnb listing
In this post, I will go over the important items to get your listing noticed. To see the fundamentals of setting up your listing, see my Youtube video “Airbnb Setup.” I create a listing, set up pricing, guest stay length, and booking policies in the video. Given that you understand the fundamentals of setting up a listing, we will go over the listing details. Most of these details will apply to other sites as well as Airbnb. We list on multiple sites, but most of our bookings, 80%+, come from Airbnb.
First, let’s discuss the importance of amenities when creating your Airbnb listing. On this blog, we are specifically targeting vacation rentals. So when you are on vacation, what things would you like the place you are staying to have when you arrive? Minimally, guests are expecting you to provide linens and such. Also, while most people don’t cook on vacation, everyone loves the option to cook. I would suggest you provide kitchenware. With COVID, mobile working environments are becoming much more important. So, if you can fit a desk, I would highly recommend it. Some other amenities I recommend are a hairdryer, hangers, tv, heating/cooling, and wifi. Wifi is essential unless you are providing an “unplugged experience.” Things like shampoo, breakfast, coffee, and tea will depend on what your cleaning service can provide. If you offer breakfast, your tax category changes from a passive (Schedule E) business to an active (Schedule C) business. For more information on short-term rental taxes, see our future post, “Short-Term Rental Taxes.” Also, it would be best if you tried to include as many safety amenities as possible.
Photos are the most important part of your listing. Price and photos attract new guests to your listing. You first need to decide on your cover photo. The first photo you select is, by default, your cover photo; you can change your cover photo later. This needs to be an eye-drawing picture. It can be a great view from your place or a focal point at your property. I have seen people use beach chairs in the sand or other distinctive attractions to make their listings stand out. As people are scrolling through hundreds of listings, what is going to make yours pop? Below is our cover photo; it is a view from our balcony.
Next, you will post photos of the inside and outside of your property, along with any nearby features you want to include. It would help if you tried to arrange these photos logically, such as entering and walking through the place. You should also pick out accent items and put in close-ups of these sprinkled through your walk-through. This allows for people to feel like they know you and makes your place seem warmer. Below is one of our accent photos:
You should provide a good number of photos, around 30-50. With this many photos, make sure you hit the highlights early in the sequence. So if you are doing a walk-through type photo collage, you want to walk right to the selling point of your property. This could be a view, a quiet read nook, or an outdoor space. Then from there, walk back through the rest of the property. You do not want to keep your potential guests waiting for why they should book. As mentioned in a previous post, getting professional photos are well worth the cost.
The description of your place is significant for those detailed people, trust me. My operations manager, Beth, is a very detailed person. Anytime she is looking for an Airbnb to stay at, she goes through the listing with a fine-tooth comb. The first sentence or two are the most important. You will often see abbreviations used in the description. For example, 2 BR 2BA is a two-bedroom, two-bath property. Additionally, you want to include how many people your place sleeps. Make sure to highlight any of your place’s key amenities like a pool, shuttle service, gym, hot tube, elevator, etc. Your description adds to your photos to make your place shine. After you get people to click on your site, your description keeps them there.
Your place’s title is important because people choose your property by looking at the cover photo and the title. You have 50 characters to hit it out of the park. Put your best three adjectives here that describe your place. You are trying to create a word picture of your place for the guest. The best way of getting a catchy title is to go to Airbnb and search for a place to stay in the same location as your property.
Other parts of the Airbnb listing
Instant bookings and guest requirements
Instant booking means that Airbnb automatically approves the guests if they meet a certain set of criteria. On the guest requirements page, you can select which criteria Airbnb uses. They need to provide some standard items like email address, phone number, payment info, agreeing to your house rules, etc. You can set additional rules, such as the need for government ID to be provided to Airbnb and recommendations by other hosts. I highly suggest you check the government ID. This keeps people from booking under a false name. The “recommended by other hosts” setting is good to have checked in your Airbnb Listing. It allows you to look at prospective new users and make a human decision on booking. Later in the listing process, a section called “Here’s how guests will book with you.” In the second box, you can turn off instant books by checking “I want to review every guest.” Instant booking moves your listing up in the search results.
The house rules are essential to set correctly. They give guests an expectation of what is allowed. They also allow you to cancel guests penalty-free and to claim a grievance with Airbnb. You have a place to add additional rules for your property. These rules allow you to add your specific or HOA/COA-specific rules to the listing. One rule that we add is that “one guest must be over 25 to rent.” To book, the guest must agree to all rules listed. If someone books our place and is under 25, we cancel the booking without hurting our super-host status. Similarly, if your cleaning company finds that the guests smoked or had pets, you can go back to Airbnb for damage compensation. Also, this section contains a “truth in advertising” part. You can add details about your place like must climb stairs, some spaces shared, etc.
The next few sections contain some self-explanatory settings. Your cleaning company will set the amount of notice you need and your check-in and out times. Depending on how you provide your guest with a key/access code, you may want to limit how late your guest can checking.
Length of stay
While these settings are obvious, the length of stay attracts certain guests and has legal ramifications. You will need to work with your cleaning company to decide the minimum length to accommodate the minimum nights of stay. I recommend two-night stays. The other consideration is that most parties are one-night events. So, a minimum of two nights’ stay discourages these parties. Some pricing programs have the ability to change the number of nights stay. You might want to require longer stays during busy times to avoid “holes” in your calendar. Depending on the state laws, guests that stay over 30 days are considered tenants. Tenants have certain legal rights. For example, you can not just change the code on the door for a tenant. There is a specific legal procedure to evict them. During COVID, you cannot evict a tenant for not paying; see the following article. I set my maximum stay to 25 days with the ability to review longer stays.
The Pricing setting is the hardest to gauge. Your pricing is a balance of maximizing occupancy and profit. To determine the base pricing, you need to review other listings in your area at various times of the year. This setting could take a couple of years to get right. I would recommend not using Airbnb’s automatically adjusting price model. Historically, it lists the property lower than other models. I would recommend getting beyond pricing.
In Airbnb, you can set specials. I would recommend you set a special for the first guests. It is critical to get a couple of reviews under your belt. I do not typically offer weekly specials. I do offer 28day+ specials for the winter months after very carefully review the soon-to-be tenants.
Getting your Airbnb listing noticed
The most important three things in this order are 1) your cover photo, 2) your ratings, and 3) your title. As mentioned above, we are visual people. The cover photo is going to determine if people stop long enough to look at the other items. The ratings are going to tell the people how well you host. Also, your ratings and the number of stays/nights rented affect your super-host status. Super-hosts get listed first when someone searches an area. Getting super-host status should be a top goal. But wait, I don’t have any review yet. For your first 5 or 10 stays, your goal is to get a good review. I offered a deep discount and made sure everything was as perfect as possible for the first few hosting.
In this post, I have walked you through the ins and outs of creating your listing. We discussed the importance of the cover photo, title, and description. If you would like help setting up your listing, we offer consulting services; send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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