If you’re anything like us, you love to spend your summers exploring new places. If we had our way, we would trot the globe year-round. Alas, so much travel requires an excess of time and funds. While we can’t do much to create extra vacation time, there is a way to actually make money when you travel. No, this doesn’t involve working on vacation, and it’s not one of those too-good-to-be-true schemes. It’s just a matter of making your home work for you while you’re away. This is where websites like Airbnb come in. We love the idea of renting to vacationers looking for a more local, personalized experience than a week in a hotel. Depending on the size and location of your home, you can earn a pretty penny to contribute to your mortgage payment…or more importantly your travel fund.
Turning your home into a vacation rental might sound like a lot of work, but it doesn’t have to be. It will be easy to avoid making rookie mistakes when renting your home to short-term guests if you follow our top do’s and don’ts.
DO follow local laws and ordinances.
Some neighborhoods have restrictions that prevent homeowners from leasing to short-term renters. In fact, the City of Charleston has an ordinance that states no homes downtown may be rented for less than thirty days. Violations come with a hefty fine. Residents of Cannonborough-Elliottborough have now formally requested that they be able to rent their homes to vacationers because they’d like more visitors in the area. Additionally, some mayoral candidates in the area are promoting that this ordinance be changed.. Check out which other areas are affected by ordinances like this one to make sure you are legally able to lease to vacationers.
DON’T misrepresent yourself or your vacation rental.
Written descriptions and photos are usually what sell a rental. There’s nothing better than a well-written post and eye-catching photos to grab potential renters’ attention. In fact, Airbnb actually offers free professional photography for eligible hosts! Be aware, though, of anything that might be a misrepresentation. For example, if your photos show a well-stocked kitchen with a nice coffee maker and a variety of pots and pans hanging on a rack, those had better be available to your guests. Renters expect the home to be in the same condition they see in photos. So if they arrive in town and find that your sparkling blue in-ground pool is actually cloudy and full of leaves and bugs, they will not be happy campers. They will review you poorly and it could hurt your chances of obtaining future rentals.
DO know who you are renting to.
Reviews are very valuable tools at Airbnb. Not only can renters leave feedback about their experiences with rentals and hosts, but hosts can also leave reviews about their guests. Take the time to read any reviews and then keep up a dialogue with potential renters. Whether it’s through email, chat, or phone calls, communication is key to a successful transaction.
DON’T assume your homeowners insurance will cover renters.
Accidents happen. Though it’s not necessarily likely, there’s always a chance that a renter could suffer an injury in your home and claim that it was due to negligence on your part. Your homeowners insurance probably covers any accidents that happen to you at home, but will it cover your renters? Check with your insurance company and ask specifically if your policy covers short-term renters. Airbnb does have a Host Guarantee Program that, according to their website, “provides protection for up to $1,000,000 to a host for damages to covered property in the rare event of guest damages above the security deposit.” That guarantee, however, does not replace your homeowners insurance or renter’s insurance. It also doesn’t cover cash and securities, collectibles, rare artwork, jewelry, pets, or personal liability. We also think it’s smart to ask guests to acquire renter’s insurance. That way, everyone is covered.
DO price your rental accordingly.
Search the website and find out what comparable rentals are going for in your area. You don’t want to over price, especially if there are many other places available around you. Be competitive with pricing and consider supply and demand. Rates are usually a bit more on weekends, during peak seasons, and around holidays. Think about offering specials like last-minute deals. If it looks like your home is going to be empty for any amount of time, offer a discount for renters who book at the last minute. Check local hotel rates to make sure you can compete with them as well. Most Airbnb users choose vacation rentals because they’re more economical than hotel rooms.
DO consider yourself a host.
Think about adding a few personal touches to your guests’ stay. It’s always a good idea to put together an information packet with any guidelines they might need about your home or any neighborhood rules. If renters are staying for an extended period, they will need to know things you might take for granted, such as which days trash and recycling get picked up. Guests will also appreciate any insight you can offer them on the neighborhood and its surroundings, like names and phone numbers of nearby restaurants and stores and a list of places that deliver food. Be sure to include some brochures for popular tourist attractions and maybe even some advice about your favorite local activities. If you really want to make an impression, you can put together a sort of welcome basket with a few snacks, some drinks, and the little sundries people sometimes forget to pack. Leave some board games, cards, and books for your guests to enjoy on rainy days or downtime. Make sure items like toilet paper and paper towels are well stocked, too.
DON’T ignore reviews or other communications.
Responding to reviews takes just a couple of minutes, and it shows that you care about your guests and attempt to offer a high level of service. Don’t just respond to unfavorable reviews, but positive ones as well. Always be polite and handle any negative experiences with grace. Our grandmothers always told us, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” Don’t let hostile reviews get the best of you. Explain your regret about the renter’s experience and make it known that you will make improvements where needed. You want potential guests who read those reviews and subsequent replies to see that you are amenable and responsive.
Basically, being a successful Airbnb host means putting yourself in your guests’ shoes. Most renters are just looking for a safe, clean, convenient place to stay. Everything else is just icing on the proverbial cake.