i'd thought about it for a while. my closest girl friends would come over, & their compliments on my space would remind me about it. i'd had friends & friends of friends from out of town visit & stay with me... & i really enjoyed the hospitality aspect of that, making others feel like home in my home. i'd stayed in my share of airbnbs during my travels, so i knew that side of it. but taking the leap into hosting on airbnb? it took me a few months to actually decide to do it. it's one thing to let people stay with you while you're there with them. completely different for me to let strangers stay in my place while i'm out of the country.
last fall, plane tickets were set in stone for my trip to thailand, & airbnb hosting kept coming to mind. i'd kind of dismiss it, thinking i'd decide later. before i knew it, march had arrived, the month of my trip. i'm not generally a procrastinator. i didn't realize how much i'd been procrastinating with making this decision until, about a week & a half before my departure date, i finally sat at my laptop & did some research to decide whether or not i really wanted to host. as far as i know, i don't personally know anyone who's hosted on airbnb, so i had to take to the internet to get some insight.
i can imagine maybe airbnb hosting isn't for everyone. i recalled a friend & co-worker's honest words to me from last summer when i mentioned i'd thought about hosting: "i've stayed in airbnb's before, but i know i'm clean. i wouldn't trust a perfect stranger to stay in my home. people can be gross." ha... she had a point. there's definitely a pretty big amount of trusting the good in others when it comes to hosting. but i figured, it's just an apartment. i mean in the grand scheme of things, my apartment is a blessing from the Lord. i had an honest moment where i thought, my apartment is pretty awesome... this is a way i can share the blessing of it with someone in need of a place to stay. & that's not meant to guilt-trip anyone who refuses to host. for me, that's just what it kinda came down to. sure, there are other details. but i knew i'd make sure, as best i can, to get a good sense of any guest before accepting their reservation. that's a cool thing about airbnb. you don't have to turn on the *instant book* option for your listing. you can message back & forth with an inquiring guest before approving their reservation. that gave me more peace of mind.
so, i decided to list my place on airbnb. i took some iphone photos of my place using my ultra-wide olloclip lens to include more in each shot (photos in this blog post are not those photos). airbnb makes it easy to list; it was actually fun! says my inner nerd. i filled out all the info needed about my space, like how many my apartment sleeps comfortably (5, not including floor space). i made sure to be very specific in the house rules section about what is/isn't allowed & expectations for guests, etc. i basically didn't want anything left open to interpretation as far as things most important to me were concerned.
it took several days for my first booking to come in. airbnb makes it easy to keep your prices in line with other listings, aka competition. so i made sure to check every so often that my prices weren't too high or too low. my first booking inquiry was for 5 girls from kentucky & ohio. the point person for their group sent me a very sweet message, & we messaged back & forth a bit. i felt like i got a good vibe from her & a good sense of her decency at least. a great feature on airbnb is you can see a traveler's renting/hosting history & read reviews about them. definitely helps in making the whole process feel safer. & airbnb’s 1,000,000 host guarantee is a huge plus.
so, literally days before leaving for thailand, i accepted my first reservation. talk about having a lot to do in gettin ready to leave the country! plus, with it being Easter weekend that same time, work was super busy. but i kinda like being busy & having a lot to get done. i mean, it gets pretty crazy... but it's also kinda fun in the midst of the crazy. (i'm strange.) anyway, i made a list of things i needed to do & buy before i left in order to be ready for my first Airbnb guests. some of the things from my to-do list were:
- buy new sheets (i went with white so that it kinda gave off a hotel vibe for the bed... homey but elegant)
- buy dishwasher soap (for as long as i can remember, i've always hand-washed my dishes & rarely used the dishwasher for anything else besides a dry rack... but i know most people use the dishwasher as exactly that, so i wanted to cater to my guests)
- first aid kit
- buy or make NO SMOKING signs (i ended up making one)
- buy new shower curtain liner (always a good thing to refresh before hosting... that thing can get nasty with soap scum ~ ain't nobody got time for that)
- CLEAN (obvi)
speaking of cleaning... that brings me to one of the biggest questions i had: what do i do with all my stuff? i'm a trusting person, but i still didn't want all my jewelry, clothes, & shoes just there in the open for the grabbing. after doing a bit of research on what other hosts have done (a lot of hosts rent out a space they don't live in, so this didn't help me out too much), i decided to empty out the top drawers of my dressers for my guests & put those clothes in some luggage that i store in my bedroom closet. then i took all my jewelry & also stored it in that same closet. i removed my hanging shoe racks from my bedroom door & also set them in my closet. i covered everything in the closet, including my clothes on the hangers, with a few bedsheets so that even if someone looked in there, everything was at least covered. you'd have to be really nosy to have discovered all that was in there. *& see? this is why it's important to get a good sense of who'll be staying in your place. make sure they seem respectable!* since i'd taken down the door of my bedroom closet when i moved in because it gave me more space, i just hung up a curtain over my closet door. i then made sure that in the info i'd send to my guests before arriving, i made it clear my bedroom closet was off limits, as well as the rest of the drawers of my dressers. for my coat closet by my front door, i took out some of my coats & put them in my bedroom closet so that my guests could use that closet space space/those hangers if they needed. hosting was actually a great opportunity for me to do some spring cleaning & de-clutter my entire space. it felt great to get rid of things in little junk spaces & make the essentials easy for my guest to find. i wanted their experience to be a little more like a hotel in that way.
the more crazy part was, about 4 more bookings for my apartment came in as i was traveling to thailand. some i could accept, some i couldn't. i ended up getting my apartment booked up for the whole time i was gone on my trip ~ which means i hosted 3 back-to-back guests! which pretty much paid for all my expenses on my trip. almost as if i was getting paid to travel! ha. it was pretty awesome & i thank God for His provision. it was quite the experience. you kind of have to lay down the law & be unafraid to be bold & honest with people (some would say i wouldn't have a problem with this & airbnb hosting is right up my alley then. hehe) but i mean after all, it is your space in which you're letting people stay. i learned a lot & i gotta say, i'd do it again!
thinking of putting your place up on airbnb to host? here are some important things i did to be the best airbnb host i could be that may help you:
have your own point person. especially if you're out of town, this is very helpful. don't try to do it all by yourself. ask a friend to help you out when you're unable to be there. this of course should be a reliable person, someone you trust to have a the same standards as you when it comes to your space. i'm blessed that one of my closest friends katrina had just moved into my same apartment complex a month or so ago. i asked her for help in the check-in process of getting my guests the spare key & in picking up the key when they checked out. i made sure with her first that she was ok with me giving out her number to my guests so they could reach her directly once they were close to my place. each time i'd confirmed a new booking, i immediately texted her to see if she was available at the proper time to check my guest in. i made sure to thank her every time she agreed to help me, even if it was something as simple as running over to my place to grab my spare key. it helped that she had a great attitude about it & never made me feel like a burden. get yoself an awesome friend like my kuhtreetree to help you, & be sure to treat him or her for their awesomeness, or at least get them a souvenir from your travels.
go with your gut. it's ok to decline a reservation because you don't get a good feeling about the person. you'd want to be comfortable with who you let into your home, the same way you'd wanna be comfortable as a guest staying in someone else's. think of it like if you were there at your space & someone is coming to stay with you... you wouldn't want someone staying with you who gives you a strange vibe, right? same for when you're gone. i had a guy inquire to stay at my space who asked if i was 420-friendly. knowing that it may lose me a reservation & money, i was still honest with him & told him no i'm not, & that my space is non-smoking. it didn't work out for him to stay at my place, & that's ok. don't compromise things that are important to you & your space in fear that you may not get booked. consider what's most important & stick with it.
be thorough with directions & how to get the key. communication is huge with hosting, even before your guests arrive. they may not look through the house rules in your listing, so it's important to also send them important info they need to know, before they arrive. i know when i'm traveling, there's not a lot more frustrating than getting bad directions. even before your guest arrives, you want them to feel welcome. provide very clear directions on how to get to your place so the process is that much easier for them. i would have preferred to meet my guests in person to welcome them & give them the key myself, but since i was out of the country i made sure to communicate with them ~ again, beforehand ~ that someone else would be checking them in. i made it easy for them to pick up the key from my friend katrina. i basically wanted my guests to feel like a friend of mine who was visiting & staying at my place.
have a nice welcome. little things go a long way. i left a welcome note for my guests on bright paper hung up on string, right where they could see when they entered. i suggested some local spots for them to check out, including a favorite of mine. i placed a small guestbook on the counter by my welcome note for them to sign, & left my number again if they needed me. leave something for your guest to feel that much more welcome, adding to the positive vibe of your place. even something like fresh flowers or leaving a bottle of wine in the fridge. not that i did it for this reason, but one of my guests left me a gift back: a bunch of vinyl records by my record player to add to my vinyl collection. really sweet & unexpected. make your guests feel the same.
send guests important info. again, there's a "house rules" section on every listing that you can fill out, but i realized i should send each guest important info myself to make sure they didn't miss anything. i included things like: sleeping arrangements & where extra blankets are located; how to work the tv (i don't have cable, but i have my appletv, hulu, netflix, & an xbox360... so i left directions on how to get everything functioning); thermostat location for ac/heat; where cooking supplies like pots/pans & aluminum foil are; how to expand the dining table & where extra chairs are; location of items like cleaning supplies, extra trash bags, iron/ironing board, & first aid kit; a heads up that i don't have a coffeemaker or any coffee supplies since i don't drink coffee, & a recommendation for an awesome coffee shop down the street with its address & hours; where take-out menus are; requests of consideration for my neighbors in not bothering them or being too loud past midnight; wifi info; check-in/check-out info, like what to do with their used towels, where the dumpster is for their trash, & where to leave the key.
golden-rule it, & ask your guests to do the same. treat your guests how you'd want to be treated if you were a guest. in your communication with them, ask them to do the same for your space, treating it how they'd want their home to be treated. you'd hope everyone lives with this kind of mindset, but saying it to your guests will remind them afresh.
get renters insurance. i had a couple friends of mine advice me on this. look into it before renting out your space (i hadn't even thought of this beforehand, but thank God my stuff was fine.)
as for actually listing your space, it's really easy. add a description of your home & your neighborhood. humble-brag on your place a bit & list what it offers ~ like wifi, a/c, pool, laundry, first aid kit, etc. add a few well-lit photos of your space & don't be shy... you can display all the rooms, showing fun aspects of your home. people will more likely book with a listing that has great photos giving a good representation of your space. cell phone photos work great, but you can request that airbnb send you a photographer to take photos of your space for you to use if you wish. under each photo you can write a lil description or the highlights of it, or just leave it blank. you can also add a cleaning fee for when your guest leaves (i didn't), & lastly ~ add pricing & availability of course. dassit!