Setting up a solid profit-based foundation as an Airbnb Host is the key to success.
As an Airbnb Ambassador, I often share my story about how I became an Airbnb Superhost and why I am so passionate about it. But it was my years in the hotel and resort business in SW Florida that set the foundation for a solid business plan for my two Airbnb listings. Follow along to learn the strategies that proved very successful for me, including a solid partnership with Airbnb.
1. Lodging is resilient.
Lodging is here to stay and is the mainstay for a solid business plan. Throughout history, the lodging industry has repeatedly shown that it always bounces back. In recent history, crises such as the 2008 stock market crash, 9/11, a global pandemic, hurricanes in tropical locations, have proven that lodging is a very sustainable business. People will always seek leisure travel; the desire to "get away" spend quality time with the family and friends in exciting locations, is as American as apple pie.
2. Location, Location, Location
When you consider a location for your vacation rental or Airbnb property, select a destination with a strong demand for tourism. Beaches, lakes, and mountains are natural tourism attractors. Bonus points if your location is adjacent to a national park or national landmark.
It goes without saying that you should check your local ordinances to make sure short term rentals are allowed in your county, city and/or neighborhood.
My Airbnb properties are located in the NC Smoky Mountains, just 30 minutes from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the tourist towns of Cherokee, Bryson City, and Sylva. My cabins are located in a western-facing direction with amazing sunset views. This location is a strong attractor for couples getaway vacations, so it is an ideal set-up for an Airbnb cabin.
3. Property Size
There are a few schools of thought on the right size of property for an Airbnb. I have found greatest success in a one bedroom or studio dwelling with a maximum occupancy of two people. Why? Because singles and couples travel year round, whereas families do not due to school obligations. And even better, couples generally travel for adventure and to see new places as a couple; they have no interest in having a party in your vacation rental. I have been hosting since 2017 and have never had any guest hold a party in my Airbnb's.
My lodging career began in the 1980's at a beach resort in Southwest Florida, which consists of 60 two-bedroom units. Day after day we turned down requests for a one bedroom unit for two people. Until...we decided to do a bedroom lock off. By locking off one of the bedrooms - which did not have a separate entrance and therefore simply sat empty - we could call it a one-bedroom unit. We rented more units for just $10 less per night. And we had one less bedroom to clean upon check out. The demand for one-bedroom stays was overwhelming and we took advantage of it.
That is why I designed my Airbnb properties to accommodate no more than two people. And it has paid off!
4. Length of Stay
I accept nothing less than a two-night minimum. Not only does it reduce the chance of guests having a party, but it reduces the wear and tear from a long succession of one-night rentals. I also have a 3 night minimum on holiday weekends. My average length of stay is 2.8 days; many people stay more than two nights. The longest stay I have ever hosted was 16 nights.
I don't allow rentals for more than 28 days because I am in the short-term rental business. My experience with longer stays equates to more complaints, more damage, a lower average daily rate (ADR) and unreasonable guest demands. Not to mention the possibility of having to work with tenant/landlord laws on long term stays.
The demand for weekend getaways is very high in my location, so I charge a higher rate on Friday and Saturday nights.
I do not allow pets, and I do not have a hot tub. Because my cabins are in a high-demand tourist location, my properties stay booked, and I don't have to deal with the extra cleaning for pets and the cleaning and maintenance of a hot tub.
5. Interior Design
Quality out trumps mediocrity every time. Sure, people will travel on a budget, and there is a place for everyone's price point. But historically, my clients who are hosts have experienced sub-standard results when their rental unit is dated, tired, or less than stellar cleaning standards, and it shows in their review results. Once I coached them on a timeline for improvements that matched their budget, the results turned to the positive.
Quality design does not have to be expensive. I score some of the best quality pieces from HomeGoods, Marshalls, Target, Amazon, and Walmart. My style is clean, clutter-free, and simple, with a farmhouse theme (think Joanna Gaines). I have purchased many pieces from Decor Steals, and their quality for the price is unmatched.
If you want to get some ideas of what design style works best in your area, take a close look at your competitors with high ratings and superhost status. Choose a theme and then take small steps to pull it all together.
6. Professional photography
The two strongest factors that make your Airbnb listing powerful are the caliber of your photography and the quality of your reviews.
According to Airbnb, listings with professional photos tend to earn 40% more, get booked 24% more often, and can charge a 26% higher nightly price. Let a local photographer capture your space in its best light. Airbnb will connect you with professional photographers that will help you transform your listing to stand out to guests.
New hosts should not be overly concerned about the lack of reviews. I strongly recommend that new hosts take advantage of Airbnb's recommendation to offer a 20% discount to the first three reservations of a new listing - this is well worth the cost to make your listing discount attractive, and get those first 3 reviews on your listing as soon as possible.
Guests are not afraid to book a new listing, but make sure your listing photos stand out so they can see all the best features of your property
7. Partner with Airbnb
Partnering with Airbnb was the best decision I have made in my short term rental business. In 2017, I converted an out-building on my property into a guest house. At 325 square feet, it is a tiny house by all accounts, but that is part of the attraction.
My initial thoughts were to just "try it out" and list it on Airbnb. If it didn't rent, then I would make it an office or a bedroom for my adult children when they come to visit. But that never happened. The bookings immediately took off, I quickly achieved superhost status, and I have never looked back. In fact, I built a second Airbnb cabin in 2020 which is even more popular than the first.
Based on my guest's feedback, the features they love the best are the location, the design, and the professional hospitality they experience with me as their superhost. I make it easy for them to book (instant book), and I allow them to cancel with a full refund regardless of my cancelation policy. It creates a strong base of repeat clientele, and better yet, they tell their friends and the cycle repeats itself.
Learn more about my my hospitality style in this blog post.
8. Don't Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
Even though lodging is a resilient business, it is not without its ups and downs. Seasonal fluctuations, storms, pandemics, and other unforeseen events can disrupt even the most sound short term rental business plan, and temporarily turn your budget upside down.
Stay ahead of the curve and keep your income options viable. In addition to being an Airbnb Superhost (and I live on-site where my properties are located so I am hands-on), I am also an Airbnb Ambassador, professional photographer, and I also provide host consulting services. I have two other side jobs involving marketing consulting and social media marketing, so my income resources are varied and can fill in the gaps when one takes a downturn.