the good news
We started renting it out at the beginning of June when we came to Utah for the summer. It was probably rented out at 90% capacity. Which was a relief because we weren’t sure how it’d do– would anyone even stay at our home in Florida during a pandemic in the summer?
Mostly we had people doing staycations and movers relocating to the area and renting our house while theirs was getting worked on. Which was great! With the no contact check in and having the house available to one family, it felt like a safe way for locals to have a break from their own home.
the bad news
And then Covid cases spiked in Florida. Which was terrible. That lead to the county our Florida house is in (Broward) making Air BNB’s illegal until August 20, so we pulled our listing. It’s been a little stressful to not have the rental income, but we obviously have to follow the law.
We’re hoping it’ll be ok to welcome back visitors after the 20th, but’ll that’ll depend on what the county says. My fingers are crossed though!
All of this Covid stuff has slowed down our plans to go back to Florida. The cases are much lower in Utah (especially the area we’re in), so it’s been with safety in mind that we’ve pushed our moving date from August to later in the fall.
But what is Don doing about kindergarten? If you remember, our plan was to spend the whole school year in Florida so Don could attend kindergarten. Well, our Florida school district is doing 100% online learning. Which isn’t a great fit for my son. And with it being kindergarten in a new school I had MANY thoughts on it. And I’ve obsessed about this decision for weeks.
We’re probably going to hold him back and hopefully start kindergarten next fall. In the meantime, the plan is to home preschool him. That was a massive decision and I feel 89% good about it. I’m sure, like most parents with school aged kids, it felt like picking the best of bad options. I know this is a life changing decision for him and us so I don’t take it lightly.
And now to less complicated issues- how to improve an Air BNB listing!
A few weeks ago, I was watching my friend’s (Sarah from Nestrs) stories on Instagram. She was talking about her Air BNB business and implementing all she learned. I asked her for some tips and she came up with the genius idea of doing a consultation on her podcast “Thanks for Visiting.” I loved that idea so last week we had a call and they gave me ALL the tips.
The podcast interview just went live yesterday! If you want to listen to it, you can on any of these channels- Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts. They delivered the areas of improvement so kindly with such insight. If you’re an Air BNB owner, you should definitely give it a listen as they give countless tips that I won’t cover in this blog post.
They taught me SO much. I thought I’d write down everything they went over in the consultation about changing my listing in case any other Air BNB owners might find these ideas helpful too!
The title on an Air BNB listing can have 50 characters. Use them up! Why? The Air BNB algorithm seems to favor super long titles.
Also, focus on the front of the title- the first 3-4 words. This is what people will see when browsing listings. What is the number one amenity your short term rental has? Let the guest know about it first. And then shorten up any words you can to save characters. For example use “&” instead of “and.”
After that, change up the title frequently. Again Air BNB likes it- it shows you’re continually updating your listing. In turn, your listing is shown to more people.
My listing had the title with the name of the home and that’s it. After price and location, people decide on where they stay from the title. So having a lame one was a fail by me.
After having great photos, the next best way to draw potential guests in is by adding copy to the photos. Why is the bed comfy? How great is the shower? What coffee maker do you have? Guests love to stay in spaces with character, so call attention to details like a fireplace, claw foot tub, or a high end oven.
The caption is where you use descriptive language to get the reader to picture themselves relaxing and enjoying your place. By mentally picturing how they’ll use a specific room, they’re much more comfortable to book their stay.
The caption is also a great place to talk about hidden features. For example, you could say something like “the tankless water heater makes for luxurious long showers.” Or say how fast the internet is. Or mention what’s behind a closed door or inside a cabinet.
If you have a really good guest review that mentions an amenity of your house, you can use that review as the caption on the photo.
Not every picture needs an amazing caption, but 2/3 should.
I think this is genius! Currently, my listing just says which room each picture is taken in. Not good enough!
For the description, the most important thing is to make it easy to skim since people will be quickly reviewing it.
A great way to do this is to use bullet points for each piece of information.
Use numbers as they are fast to read and draw attention. Say “sleeps 6” instead of “sleeps six.”
Pick 2-3 local destinations and put how far they are. For example- 5 miles to boardwalk.
Don’t add any fluff. Keep what you have to say brief and get to the point.
Again, there is room for improvement for me here! I love to skim read things so adding bullets will be an easy update.
Air BNB gives an estimate for what you can charge for your listing, but to me it seemed low (might be because I started renting during Covid). They can’t see how special the house is and what a good neighborhood it’s in. Here’s some thoughts on pricing-
If you price too low, you attract the wrong kind of traveler. Aka someone who might not respect your property.
Next, if you’re booked more than 85% of the time, it’s time to raise pricing. Go slow and go up $3-$7 per night
Look at the performance tab on Air BNB’s dashboard. It gives a good overview of how much you’re making each month. And shows the occupancy rate. These numbers can help you know if it’s time to raise or lower prices.
Play around with how long guests have to book. Maybe a longer commitment will attract better guests? Less turnaround saves money too. Implement, record, measure. Try it out and then see if it was worth it.
Sarah from Nestrs has more tips for pricing here.
Besides the obvious tip of having good photos, here are some more in depth items for what makes a good photo on Air BNB-
First up, horizontal photos only. Why? They take more space on the Air BNB listing so you can better show off the rooms with a bigger photo.
Second, have a neighborhood photo. What local place will be a highlight for guests? The beach, an amusement park, or hiking in the mountains? Share a great photo of it. Then explain it in the caption “the beach is a 5 minute walk away.”
Third, add a floor plan photo. I remember when I was traveling with Don when he was a baby, this was super important to me so I knew he could sleep in his own space, but be close enough that I could hear him quickly if he cried. The floor plan quickly shows the layout and shows that you’re a host that pays attention to details.
I need to switch to horizontal only photos. Instagram, Pinterest, and my blog all need vertical photos so I just don’t take as many horizontal photos. But now that I know, I can make sure to get some!
On each Air BNB listing, it shows the response time as a percentage. Your response time is the average amount of time that it took for you to respond to all new messages in the past 30 days.
By quickly answering to the first message someone sends you, it’ll show a great response time on the listing. This will help quests feel comfortable knowing you’ll be attentive to their needs.
The time calculated is only for the first message you get from a new inquiry. So that’s the one to really get to quickly!
One thing I’m pretty passionate about with my listing is that I want to allow pets. We travel with our 2 dogs all the time and know how important it is to have them with us. When the Utah house was first on Air BNB in March, we had a few quests and then the pandemic hit and we were worried it’d sit empty for who knows how long.
Then, a couple with their two pets stayed at our house for almost two months. I can’t over estimate how grateful we were for choosing our home to quarantine in! The reason they selected our listing was the pet policy.
Currently, we don’t charge a pet fee. But the girls on the podcast suggested it. Here’s why-
If a guest had to board their pet, it’s super expensive! At least $45 per night per pet.
Pet owners understand the value of being able to bring their dog or cat with them. It’s a luxury!
Note, if a guest says they have a service animal, you have to let that pet stay for free.
On the podcast, they suggested charging $100 for up to a 7 night stay. And then charging that fee after booking.
We’ve had a few guests bring pets and it’s been a little bit of an issue at check out. Both were late leaving because of their pets. In hindsight, if we would have charged extra, it would have helped with the situation. So this is something we’ll probably implement. I don’t want it to be a huge fee, but something that shows that bringing a pet is a luxury worth paying for.
The cleaning fee is the one time charge guests incur for having the home cleaned after they check out.
Search through other listings in your area and make sure your cleaning fee is competitive with them.
When I first started my Air BNB, I got the amazing suggestion to take what my cleaner charges and add $10-$20 to it. Then save this money for buying incidental items like cleaning supplies, paper towels, detergent, etc.
A great benefit of increasing the cleaning fee is that it also discourages short-stay guests. For example, if you have to pay a $100 cleaning fee, it might make it look WAY more appealing to book a week instead of one night.
Currently our cleaning fee is at $100 which I think is good. But I’ll look at other listings and make sure it’s what’s common for my area.
I left this section blank on my listing- oops! I felt a little silly writing about myself. Here’s why it’s important to actually fill the host description out-
Number one, it tells a story. Feeling connected to a story is a great way to help guests want to stay since they want to be apart of that narrative. It can also help build trust.
You can say anything about yourself from in depth things like- why did you buy the house? Why is the location important to you? Really personalize it!
Or you can tell more basic things that you’d normally tell someone when you first meet them. What is your job? What do you do for fun? Where do you like to travel? What sports, music, books, or movies do you love? Hopefully the guest will relate to one of those and feel more connected to you.
This is another section that I fail at. I never respond to reviews, but I’m definitely missing out. Here’s why-
It shows that you’re a host that is dedicated to the property.
For a good review, you can highlight the positive. For a negative, you can respond with grace.
The response can be short, but it’s good to take the time to write back to at least 2/3 of the reviews.
This was a tip that was given to me on the podcast. I can have a custom link through Air BNB to make it easy to share my property with others!
To make your own, go to manage listings, click on listings, select the property, then click “edit” under custom link. Here is where you can type in a custom URL for your listing.
OK! So there’s 10 ways for how to improve your Air BNB listing! I feel like I am just scratching the surface with these tips. There’s so much that goes into running a short term rental and it kind of blows my mind the little details you can implement!
But it was cool to learn about ways to really raise the quality of the listing which can mean more bookings and raise revenue. Cheers to that! Besides more money, it makes a guest feel more comfortable booking which is a priority.