I Became an Airbnb Owner During the Pandemic — Here Are 4 Things Prospective Hosts Should Know

published Aug 19, 2022
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As a frequent traveler, I’m always on the hunt for a good deal regarding accommodations, which often means staying in an Airbnb. I’ve done everything on a budget, from booking a room in a shared apartment in Lisbon, Portugal, to renting a romantic, open rooftop in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I was always intrigued by the concept of regular folks like me accommodating strangers, so I began to ask hosts questions. After all, was the hassle of ownership worth the tradeoff of having to stock, clean, and manage an Airbnb? Their answer was always yes.

Although my first Airbnb wasn’t intentional, my husband and I now own three — two near my daughter’s college in North Carolina and one in our home state of Virginia. For us, the journey is fresh (we hosted our first guest in July of 2021), but we’d do it all over again. In fact, we are. We just purchased a home in Texas with our son and daughter-in-law, which will eventually become a fourth short-term rental. If you’re considering opening an Airbnb, here are four things I think you should know first.

Determine if you already have space for guests.

As I said, our first Airbnb was a bit of an accident. Because there were no hotels close to my daughter’s college — and the housing costs were low — we decided to purchase a home nearby. After our offer was accepted, I started to panic about having a house that would sit empty for part of the year, which is when opening an Airbnb crossed my mind. Our Realtor recommended getting a property manager for it, and the rest is history. Our first rental was going so well that we decided to purchase a second home in the same town to use as a short-term rental.

The wonderful thing about Airbnb is that you can rent out any space, which doesn’t always require purchasing a home. So whether you have an extra bedroom, mother-in-law suite, or want to rent your camper or boat for overnight stays, think about hosting guests. Of course, you’ll probably have to do some sprucing, stocking, and fixing to get things ready, but some of your existing spaces could generate extra cash.

Get someone reliable to help you manage your rentals.

As I told my son before he purchased his first Airbnb, the most critical step is figuring out who will manage and clean your listing. What seems like a dream — short-term rental ownership — can quickly become a burden if you don’t have someone who can help. In addition, if you take on the roles of host, manager, and cleaner, you may burn out quickly, so consider who can take over if you want to take a vacation or need a sick day. 

Fortunately, because we live a few hours from two of our Airbnbs, I have someone who takes care of guests, maintenance, and cleaning. Although she and I both answer questions and take reservations on the Airbnb app, she’s much closer and can quickly attend to guests’ needs. Her proximity is also helpful if we have problem guests. 

Learn to detach and let go of your emotions.

Having an Airbnb means that adopting the “it’s not personal, it’s business” mindset is necessary, which was a challenge for me initially. When I’d pop into our Airbnbs, I would be constantly frustrated because things weren’t how I left them. Sometimes decor items and furniture would be somewhere besides their original location. One time I was scanning the kitchen cabinets and found that all of my storage container bottoms were missing, and only the lids were left. So I’ve learned to let go. Even the most well-intentioned guests don’t always treat your home as you would, although most Airbnb folks will.

Don’t be afraid of getting — or giving — bad reviews.

Forget cash: Reviews are king with Airbnb, and for a good reason. As an Airbnb guest, I always look at the star rating and read guest feedback on properties to determine if a place is a good fit for our trip. Conversely, I read reviews from hosts to see if a guest has created problems for other owners. The rating system goes both ways, although issues should be brought up and resolved during a stay and not simply stated in a review.

As a host, sometimes things go wrong. For example, your cleaning crew may forget to empty the trash can, or the internet may malfunction. However, some honest reviews have alerted us to issues, and we were able to adjust policies, add information to our listing, or spruce up a specific area based on feedback. I’ve also learned that a small subset of guests are never happy and probably better suited for a hotel. As a host and guest, remember that you’re dealing with human beings and not a hotel chain, so be kind with your words, even when you need to be brutally honest.