After staying at over 30 Airbnb flats and rooms in recent years, I’ve decided to share my tips for Airbnb hosts, to help hosts be more aware of what their guests need and want.
This guide is aimed at anyone who wants to become an Airbnb host and start renting out rooms or entire properties.
More experienced Airbnb hosts may also find some useful tips in this guide and perhaps discover things they never thought about.
If you’re already hosting on Airbnb, but struggling to find guests, remember you can improve your chances of success on Airbnb by hiring a professional writer with a speciality in Airbnb listings.
The essence of this guide is: Think like a guest. If you think like a guest, you will succeed as a host.
This is the key to providing the kind of service that will get you 5-star reviews and a Superhost status.
I have used my vast experience in this guide to give hosts advice from the perspective of a savvy traveller.
I’ve also used some examples other travellers have told me about their own Airbnb stays.
There are quite a few things you can outsource for an affordable price when you prepare your Airbnb listing. I included links to these services in this guide.
Starting out as an Airbnb host
Before I dive into answering the question “what do Airbnb guests want”, let’s quickly go through what first-time hosts need to know.
I’ll assume you already know what Airbnb is and how Airbnb works.
Before you start renting out your place, check how much you’re likely to make per month. Airbnb will give you an earnings estimate.
It’s a monthly estimate based on your location, and on whether you’re renting out an entire home, a private room or a shared room.
If the monthly amount makes sense to you, sign up as a host and let Airbnb guide you.
Next, read my Airbnb hosting tips to understand how to stand out from the crowd, have good communication with your guests and avoid all sorts of mistakes that new hosts tend to make.
Tips on how to prepare your property for Airbnb
To prepare your place for Airbnb, consider what your guests are looking for. Why do they even go on the Airbnb website to find accommodation, instead of just getting a hotel?
For many Airbnb guests, the main reason is that we want an experience that’s different from the standard hotel experience.
We want to feel as if we’re living locally, make breakfast in the kitchen, maybe go to the local bakery around the corner and generally give our stay in a foreign city a more personal feel.
That’s why a good Airbnb experience is one that offers all sorts of extras that you don’t always get at hotels.
Interior design is your way to stand out on Airbnb
Maintaining high quality and providing lots of great amenities is wonderful, but your place is competing against other properties in a marketplace that’s very visual.
Browsing through the Airbnb website is like taking an online course in interior design.
Airbnbs are known for being stylish, and current standards are high.
You want to invest in great looking furniture, matching carpets, some art on the walls, nice lighting to make the place welcoming, house plants and anything else that will make the place look remarkably attractive.
This doesn’t have to be terribly expensive, by the way.
I’ve been to an Airbnb flat that had a really simple Ikea bed, but with the help of some colourful cushions on it and some interesting wall art above it, the room looked cheerful and inviting.
The book Rock Your Rental is full of tips for Airbnb hosts on how to decorate rental properties on a limited budget.
Small details may prove not so small in terms of the impression that they make.
For example, bookshelves with books in different languages make the place look more homey and can be useful to your guests as well.
The same goes for board or card games. Try to make your guests feel at home.
If you’re still unsure about the interior design of your property, hiring a designer is now more accessible than ever and can even be done remotely online.
Airbnb amenities: The basics and the extras
One of the ways to stand out as an exceptional Airbnb host is to provide all sorts of amenities that show you care about your guests (and that they’ll never expect to get in a hotel room).
I think most of the complaints that Airbnb owners get are about insufficient amenities.
There’s a long list of optional amenities on Airbnb. They range from basic things like Wifi or a fridge, to less common ones, like an iron or a hair dryer.
While you don’t have to provide all the amenities, consider which ones will improve your guests’ experience the most.
Also, consider which ones will add a personal touch to your place.
The best tip I can give you is to actually sleep in the bedroom you’re renting out and notice all the little things that can make the stay more convenient.
If it turns out that something is missing during your guest’s stay, be courteous and offer to provide it.
For example, I stayed in a flat during a European heat wave and had to ask my host for a fan. She replied quickly and the next day she brought a brand new fan to the flat.
Make sure your guests have some storage space for their clothes and other items.
Make room in the wardrobe and provide some hangers, or use a chest of drawers with plenty of space.
Welcome book or house manual, local guides and maps
A welcome book or house manual is a booklet with details on all the things your guest may want to know about the house and the area.
Include information about amenities, things to do, the wifi password, best cafes and restaurants nearby, house rules, emergency contact numbers etc.
You can get a template for this booklet and customise it for each property.
Go to the tourist information centre and collect some leaflets, maps and guides that are handed out to tourists.
Leave them on the table where your guests can see them when they arrive.
It takes minimal effort on your part as a host, but can be very useful for a guest arriving in your city for the first time.
Quite a few hosts that I’ve stayed with left a printed guide on the table or the local Lonely Planet guide.
Some hosts I’ve had went the extra mile of meeting me and showing me places on the map, sharing lots of local tips on where to go and what to do and recommending restaurants and even local dishes.
I always appreciate it when my host gives me information about public transport and how to get around.
This can save me a lot of time and confusion when I’m in a new and unfamiliar city.
Other hosts have sent me their local tips via an Airbnb message. That’s also appreciated of course, but if you print your tips and leave them in the apartment you’ll save yourself time.
Basic Airbnb amenities
The most basic things a guest expects to find at an Airbnb property are:
- Toilet paper
Skip on any of those, and you’re likely to get a negative review.
If the use of the kitchen is included, then washing up liquid should be provided.
If there’s a washing machine in the house, then laundry detergent should also be provided.
It seems obvious, but that’s not always the case.
I once stayed at an Airbnb with a kitchen that had no washing-up liquid. I hadn’t noticed it at first, cooked a meal and then realised I couldn’t wash the dishes…
When I messaged the host, she said that the washing up liquid “was not included in the service”.
The next day I went and bought some. I certainly didn’t like the inconvenience of having to run errands when you could be enjoying your vacation time and got the feeling that the host didn’t care enough about her guests.
Things like that reflect badly on the host, especially since these supplies are not expensive at all and could easily have been stocked by the cleaner before my arrival.
The same goes for leaving one roll of toilet paper for a guest who booked the place for two weeks; this is annoyingly common and I honestly don’t understand why hosts would risk a bad review just to save a few pennies.
One of the main reasons I often prefer an Airbnb to a hotel is the option to have my own kitchen.
It’s always a nice surprise to arrive at an apartment and discover that the host has left some coffee, tea, olive oil and spices in the kitchen for me to use.
I consider these to be pretty basic by now. Hosts don’t always leave them, but they should.
For a guest that stays for just a few days, buying all of these things makes no sense and these are not things they’d normally pack in their luggage.
Some hosts also leave some pasta or rice and the like in the kitchen cupboard.
These can be extra useful, for example, if your guests’ flight lands late at night after all the shops and restaurants are closed.
Don’t forget to leave kitchen towels, preferably more than one.
You’ll also gain points with your guests for things like a coffee maker, a dishwasher and even a bottle opener.
If necessary, leave notes on the electrical appliances in the kitchen and around the house on how to use them.
Some hosts leave a bottle of wine for their guests. I find that charming and it definitely gives the right impression.
There are hosts who leave some snacks or chocolate. These can be local snacks that are typical of your area. Again, this is about the personal touch.
When it’s hot outside, leave a bottle of cold water in the fridge and your guests will be eternally grateful.
Toiletries and bathroom amenities
As an Airbnb host, you don’t have to leave shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes and body lotion.
However, those hosts that do leave their bathrooms full of toiletries make a good impression on guests right away.
Not all guests will use what you leave, but they can be very useful for some.
To add that personal touch your guests are after, leave items that they may need around the house. These may include:
- An umbrella
- A first aid kit
- Extra blankets
- A power strip
- An international power adaptor
- A hairdryer
- A reusable shopping bag
- An iron and ironing board
- Ear plugs
- A hot water bottle
If you’re really working on getting that Airbnb Superhost badge, consider providing a public transport card (pre-loaded) to make things really convenient for your guests.
Some hosts also give their guests a local sim card. It’s a small investment on your part as a host, but saves your guests a lot of hassle, so “small” things like that go a long way.
Quality is important
A common complaint amongst Airbnb guests is about hosts choosing to buy the cheapest toilet paper…
While you’re not expected to buy the most expensive supplies, try not to look stingy. For example:
- Invest in a good mattress and quality linen. Your guests will appreciate that and mention it in their positive reviews.
- Test the electrical appliances around the house to make sure nothing is out of order.
- A broken chair, a window that doesn’t shut properly or a sketchy Wifi connection are all things you want to address before your guests arrive.
Tips about your Airbnb listing
When I browse through Airbnb listings, I use filters to narrow down the search results, and still normally end up with 300+ properties.
It’s one of the biggest advantages of Airbnb: A huge selection. But it also makes it hard to choose the right place to stay.
That means hosts should aim to make their listings stand out.
Let’s look at the different parts of your listing and see how you can do that.
1. Your Airbnb photos are crucial
I think the photos are the most important thing in an Airbnb listing.
They are crucial to the final decision of whether your place will get bookings or not.
You want to upload about 10-20 photos. I think 3-4 are not enough to get an impression of the property. More than 20 is a bit much.
Add labels to your photos describing each photo. Many hosts don’t do that and just give all photos the same caption (often identical to the title of their listing).
To stand out, invest a couple of minutes in explaining what can be seen in each photo.
Use them to draw attention to some of the highlights in your place, such as your amazing coffee machine or the gorgeous vintage sofa in the corner.
The main picture is the one users see in search results even before they click on your listing. Try to think from a guest’s perspective, what’s the most important thing they want to see?
It normally isn’t the kitchen, the living room or the garden! I have no idea why some hosts pick main photos that show anything but the bedroom. The main reason we’re booking vacation rentals is so that we’ll have a place to sleep.
Even if you don’t have a professional camera, make the effort to produce good photos of your place and do not list it with bad photos.
Bad photos that are blurry, dark, don’t show your place from a good angle and don’t give your potential guests a good idea of what it actually looks like will definitely drive users away.
The first impression makes a huge difference. Try to create photos that are Instagram-worthy.
I recommend hiring a professional photographer for a photo shoot to guarantee high-quality photos.
If you can’t find a professional photographer near you, consider getting a professional camera, or use your own camera or phone if they’re good enough, or borrow a good camera from a friend. If you’re still unsure about the photos you took, have them edited for you.
Here are some useful tips for Airbnb hosts on taking great photos:
- Make sure you shoot high-resolution photos.
- A wide-angle lens will allow you to show more of the space.
- Only post well lit photos, with open curtains to let natural light into the room. If necessary, put the lights on too. Shoot with the light source behind you to avoid getting dark pictures.
- Before the photo shoot, tidy up the place. No clutter allowed.
- Hide personal possessions that aren’t included in the listing.
- You can use fresh fruit and flowers to add charm to the space.
- Many hosts place little stylish items in the house and zoom in on them in the photos.
- After the photo shoot, do some editing to make the photos attractive.
Check out this video for more tips and tricks for Airbnb hosts on how to prepare your photos, plus great examples:
If you’re still unsure about how to take the best photos, take a quick photography course to teach you all the skills you need.
While selecting and editing your photos, bear in mind that your guests will mention in their review of the place does or doesn’t look the same as in the pictures.
For an even stronger impact and another marketing tool, consider making a video of your property that you can then use to promote it online.
You can also add an architectural floor plan to the picture section of your listing. This is especially useful for larger properties.
Show all amenities in your photos
Any amenities listed and all the things you mention in your description should appear in the pictures as well.
It makes your listing look more reliable and makes my decision as a guest much easier.
- If there’s a washing machine on the list of amenities, I’d expect to be able to see it in at least one of the pictures.
- When I book a flat with a kitchen, I want to see that it has a fridge-freezer, a microwave, a stove or anything else that’s promised in the listing.
- Make sure you include the windows in some of the photos.
- If the listing mentions a working area suitable for laptops, include a photo of it (I travel as a digital nomad and often struggle to spot those desks…)
Photos of the building and the area
It’s a good idea to add a photo of what the building looks like from the outside. It isn’t essential but will make it easier to find.
If there’s an amazing view from the window or balcony, add a photo of it too.
Some hosts add lots of standard pictures of the city that the flat is in, especially of famous tourist attractions.
These photos look nice, but for me as a guest browsing through photos trying to decide on which flat to book, they just create a distraction. I’m not researching tourist attractions right now, I’m looking for a place to stay.
Similarly, there’s no need to add too many photos of shops and restaurants on your street. 1-2 are enough.
What is helpful though is a map of the area and the nearest public transport stations. If it’s my first time in your city, it helps with orientation.
2. Guests appreciate honest Airbnb hosts
Guests will notice if your description or photos are misleading or incomplete and they will mention that in the review.
If we arrive at a place and discover too many things that we didn’t expect, it might ruin our vacation.
To be a good Airbnb host, you must be honest. By that I don’t only mean “don’t lie”, because that should be obvious. I also mean you should always include all the relevant details and don’t try to hide things from your guests.
My first encounter with a dishonest host (luckily for me, there haven’t been many), was when I arrived in a room with a window that didn’t open.
It was never mentioned in the listing and was a big disappointment.
My second incident was even worse. I arrived at a nice flat and had a good night’s sleep until I was woken up early in the morning by the very loud noise from the construction site just outside the building.
The host never mentioned it when I booked, though she admitted she had known about it.
Here are some other examples of things you shouldn’t hide from your guests:
- An apartment on the 5th floor with no elevator.
- Wifi coverage that doesn’t reach all the rooms in the flat.
- Hot water that’s just about enough for a 5-minute shower for one person.
You want to mention things like that, and do it in a way that respects your potential guests’ intelligence.
Also always mention if you have dogs or cats in the house. Some people have allergies and some may be afraid of (even the cutest) dogs.
And finally, the photos in your listings should always be up to date.
3. How to craft a good title for your Airbnb listing
When I browse through hundreds of Airbnb results, the last thing I want to see is a weird/irrelevant/overly clever title that doesn’t tell me straight away what I should expect from the property.
Always put yourself in the shoes of your potential guests and answer the questions they need answers for.
Your title should tell guests what kind of property it is, plus something special about it that will attract attention.
If your place is close to a metro or train station, it’s a good idea to mention that in the title. It can really help visitors who don’t know the city well.
Similarly, if it’s within a short walking distance from a famous landmark, it’s worth mentioning that.
You can also add “close to a nightlife area” or “close to a lake” and so on.
You can also change the title from time to time if there are major events like festivals or conferences that your place is very close to.
Again, be honest in the title, just like in the photos and description.
So many hosts put the word “central” or something similar in the title, even when it’s not exactly true.
A place that’s “only a 30 minute walk from the main square” cannot be considered central for a tourist.
It may be relatively central for a local who knows the city well. But tourists visit for a limited time and if they want to stay central that’s because they don’t want to waste too much time on getting around.
If your property isn’t central, please don’t say it is. Instead, use the description to highlight its other advantages, such as a quiet area with less traffic, nearby green spaces, no noise from bars and clubs, a safe neighbourhood etc.
The location of the property is just one thing you can add to the title to grab attention. If there’s nothing special about the location, you can mention other things.
For example, say something about the interior design (modern/vintage etc.) or any unique amenities (bicycles included, parking, swimming pool…).
Remember that a good title and a good description are crucial for succeeding on Airbnb. If you struggle with copywriting, you can outsource the task.
4. The description will sell your Airbnb
Some hosts think that guests don’t read the description in their Airbnb listings, but the truth is guests will probably ignore the description is if it’s extremely long or hard to read.
Make it relatively concise and easy to read with bullet points and short sentences.
Include anything that’s relevant to your guests’ stay and don’t try to hide any downsides that will be obvious once they arrive at the place.
Always indicate how far your place is from the nearest public transport stations and from the central tourist areas.
I often can’t find that basic information about public transport in the listing, and have to gather it from the reviews.
You also want to mention some of the amenities in the description itself.
Even though there’s a list of amenities, less experienced Airbnb users don’t know that they need to click it to see the full list.
So do mention, for example, the dishwasher, washing machine or hair dryer, because details like these are very helpful in making the decision to book.
If you’re still struggling to write a good description after using the above tips, hire a professional copywriter who specialises in creating attractive Airbnb listings.
For those who have an existing Airbnb listing already, taking into account all the tips above, you should be able to improve your listing and get more guests.
If you still don’t see success after a while, it might be time to review your listing and have it optimised by a professional.
5. Tips on pricing your Airbnb
Price is a major consideration for most Airbnb users.
In most places, it makes more financial sense for a traveller to rent an Airbnb rather than stay in a hotel or even a hostel.
This will give you a general idea of how much you can charge.
However, one of the most useful tips for Airbnb hosts who are just starting out is to price your property a bit lower than the average market price for similar rentals in the same area at the beginning.
This way you’ll attract more guests. You need to attract them and give them amazing service, so that they’ll leave positive reviews.
Once you get enough 5-star reviews, you can adjust the price according to market demand.
Pricing should take into account your expense and income goals and other factors, beyond the earning estimate given to you when you sign up. If you need help calculating these, get a professional Airbnb investor to assist you in creating your pricing strategy.
6. Instant bookings
I strongly recommend you allow instant booking. That means the booking is approved automatically and guests don’t have to wait for your approval.
When I search for Airbnbs, I always filter my search results to see only those that allow for instant booking.
It makes life so much easier for me as a frequent traveller who makes quite a few bookings every year.
Thinking you’ve found the perfect flat and then having your booking cancelled after 24 hours because the host failed to reply is not a good experience.
With instant booking, I get an immediate confirmation without having to wait for the host to reply.
If you still hesitate to allow instant booking, bear in mind that guests will have to confirm the house rules before completing the booking.
Also, on the very rare occasion that you discover a booking from a guest with many negative reviews, you can cancel it.
7. Clear and simple house rules
Good Airbnb users always read the house rules. Some users may skip them though.
To increase the chance that they’ll be read in full, keep them simple and clear.
Airbnb house rules should be explicit and leave no room for guessing.
For example, if you want guests to keep quiet at night, specify “no noise after 10 pm”.
Try to list only the most essential rules. Nobody wants to read 28 rules that go into detail about anything that might go wrong with their stay!
8. Check-in and arrival must be super simple
Your guests may arrive tired and stressed out after a long flight or train ride. They may also be arriving in a new city they’ve never been to before and where they don’t speak the language.
You really want to put yourself in your guests’ shoes when you prepare the directions to your place.
Be considerate and design an arrival and check-in process that is as smooth and simple as can be.
Pick guests up from the airport or train station (optional)
This is a service that some hosts offer. Sometimes they charge for it, but sometimes they offer it for free as a nice gesture.
I still remember the first time a host offered to pick me up from the airport.
For him, it was just a 15 minute ride in his car. For me, he was saving me the headache of having to navigate the public transport system in a foreign language.
Another time, a host came to meet me at the central train station and drove me to the flat from there.
I could have taken the metro quite easily, but it was a chance for her to have a chat and introduce me to the area.
As a host, you may not always have the time to offer this service, but when you can, it will definitely make a good impression.
Self check-in is very popular on Airbnb these days.
As a host, it frees you up and you don’t have to wait for your guests. Just leave the keys in a lockbox and send your guests the combination.
Alternatively, use a keypad with a code.
It’s also convenient for guests who like to be independent or for those who arrive very early in the morning or late at night.
To make this work though, the self check-in instructions have to be extremely clear.
This is one crucial hosting tip I need you to pay attention to, as in my experience some hosts prepare really confusing self check-in instructions that make the whole process terribly annoying.
Your self check-in instructions must include recent, up-to-date pictures of the house as seen from the street.
Give specific details of where to find the keys and which codes open which doors in the building.
Get someone to proofread your English if it isn’t your first language. It’s sometimes very hard to understand instructions that seem to have been machine translated and make little sense.
If you opt for self check-in, you won’t be welcoming your guests in person, but you can still send them a nice welcome message to make sure they managed to get in and that everything’s OK.
And finally, the lockbox should be located at the same address as the property.
I once had to walk to a different building on a different street, about 10 minutes away from my Airbnb flat, just to get the key from a lockbox.
A 10 minute walk doesn’t actually take 10 minutes when you’re carrying luggage with you. And on the streets of a new, unfamiliar city, where you don’t always know your way around, it could be even more frustrating.
I was not impressed with that host, and he obviously didn’t care much about his guests. Don’t do that.
Meet your Airbnb guests in person (optional)
Before self check-in was available, hosts would meet their guests in person, or send someone to meet them.
As a host, this option means you’ll get to talk to your guest, give them a warm welcome and some tips and generally make a good, friendly impression on them.
It will most likely be mentioned when they give you a positive review.
The downside is that you’ll have to spend time arriving to the property (if you don’t live there or nearby) and waiting for guests.
Their flight may be delayed, or they may take longer than expected waiting at the luggage carousel, or their bus from the airport may get stuck in traffic… All sorts of things can happen that may cost you your valuable time.
If you decide to meet your guests in person, be as flexible as you can about check-in times.
I once saw a flat that looked just perfect for my needs, but had to pass because the check-in time was between 2 pm – 5 pm. Seriously.
Most listings aren’t like that of course.
If your guests’ flight is scheduled to arrive much earlier than the check-in time, and you can’t let them in early because the pace needs cleaning, you can still offer them the option to leave their luggage at the property.
They can then go explore the area or have something to eat and return later.
9. Tips about your Airbnb host profile
At the end of your listing, your potential guests will see your host profile.
Some hosts have profiles with just a few words and a photo.
I don’t know if it’s laziness or just a lack of understanding of what the profile os for and why it’s important.
Your Airbnb profile should create trust.
Though I don’t think Airbnb scams are very common, there’s always some uncertainty when booking online from a stranger.
Guests who are about to pay money to stay at your place want to know you’re reliable and want to feel comfortable booking with you.
Your profile should have a good, bright photo of you, preferably smiling 🙂 You obviously shouldn’t use dark and blurry photos that make you look dodgy.
The text in your profile doesn’t have to be too long, but do make the effort to write more than one sentence.
It’s an informal introduction that’s supposed to show you’re friendly and trustworthy.
If you make a good impression in your profile and in your communications with guests, this will very likely be reflected in your positive reviews.
When you’re just starting out as a host on Airbnb, it may be difficult to create the level of trust that an experienced host already has.
What you want to do at that stage is get references from people who know you in real life.
If you connect your Facebook account to Airbnb, you’ll be able to contact some Facebook friends who are on Airbnb and ask them for references.
What services can you outsource as an Airbnb host?
- Writing: Get a professional copywriter to write a compelling Airbnb listing description and title for you
- Editing: If you’ve already written your description and it doesn’t convert as expected, have it optimised by a professional.
- Design: Outsource the interior design of your property.
- Photography: Hire an Airbnb photographer for high-quality photos.
- Photo editing: You can also take the photos yourself and just outsource the photo editing to make the most out of them.
- Floor plan: Have an architectural floor plan made and add it to your photo section.
- House manual: You can buy a template for an Airbnb house manual online and add your own details.
- Video: Have a video of the property made for you and use it for online promotion.
Books & courses: How to learn more about Airbnb hosting
If you’re about to become an Airbnb host, check out these resources to help you be a successful host:
- Airbnb Entrepreneur: Become the Best Listing in Town!
- Airbnb Superhost: How to level up your hosting status
- Airbnb Hosting Mastery: Run a Business Using Your Own Home
- Optimize YOUR Bnb: The Definitive Guide to Ranking #1 in Airbnb Search