Advice on Running an Airbnb Inside Your Home after Our Year of Hosting

You may have read via our social medial posts, but if you missed it, our season of acting as Airbnb hosts has come to a close. If you're new here, maybe you didn't even know we were hosts! A quick catchup for the newbies—last May we launched The Loft on Madison, an Airbnb inside our Grand Rapids home, set up mainly in our third story loft.


You can see photos of the space here. Up until this March, when everything shut down due to Corona virus, we had a healthy string of guests staying with us several times a week.



Once we were able to re-launch this past June, we decided it just didn't make sense for this season of our lives. It's bittersweet, for sure, and who knows, maybe we'll do it again someday in a different way, BUT, I learned a lot in our short time hosting, and if you've ever considered having your own Airbnb, whether in your home or in another location, I think I probably have some good tips for you!


Like any good entrepreneur, my favorite part of hosting was figuring out how to systemize and streamline our Airbnb so that it truly was it's own little business. Everything from key code entry, to message templates, to building a brand and website, to hiring out the management and cleaning of the space so that we could essentially "set it and forget it".


This post will focus specifically on hosting an Airbnb location within your main residence since that is my own experience, but many of these concepts can be applied to a separate location as well.


Let's dive in!



Guest Access & Traffic Patterns


First up is to think about which areas you'll rent out and how people will access them. Remember, more beds = more dollars in your pocket, BUT, more beds also means more people in the space and more wear and tear.


At first, we were open to hosting as many people as our guests wanted to squeeze into the space, but we quickly learned that—because the space was within our home where we needed to live and work AND SLEEP (very important)—that was not going to work. Too much noise and too much movement!



You'll also want to think about how your guests will access the space, and whether or not there will be a separate entrance. Our home has two staircases: one at the main entry, and one at the back of the house that leads from the kitchen up to the second floor. Since we planned to include the guest bedroom and bathroom in the rental, which are right at the top of the back staircase, we decided to make that staircase the way guests would access the space.


We have a side entry on our house that leads from the basement up to the kitchen, so that door became our guest entry. Guests would cut through the kitchen to the back stairway, and then head up to the space. This was also ideal because the kitchen was an easy room to close off with a doggie gate and keep Ruby out of the guest area.




Setting up the Guest Area


Your guest area should be bright, clean, and, of course, adorable. Bright, airy spaces do well on Airbnb, and they also look fantastic in photographs. I won't get into designing your space so much in this post since you can find lots of great tips on designing spaces within this blog.


What I will say, is that this space shouldn't be made up of your hand-me-down pieces and old furniture. Yes, it can be collected or thrifted and your pieces don't all have to be new, but it shouldn't look like it was thrown together and forgotten.


Within your space, make sure to have all the necessities you would have at a hotel, and then some. Remember, you could potentially have several bookings in a row, and you don't want to find yourself short on towels or sheets. Make sure you have a well-stocked linen closet!


Here are my recommended quantities of essential items within your Airbnb, and I've included the links to the exact products we used:

  • Sheets/Pillowcases: at least 3 sets for each bed in the space

  • Duvet Covers: I prefer duvet covers to regular comforters because they are easy to swap out and wash; 3 per bed recommend

  • Duvet Insert: 1 per each bed and one extra in case something happens and you find yourself with a ruined duvet insert

  • Mattress Covers: 2 per bed

  • Towels: I recommend LOTS of towels because every guest is different and some may end up using several towels over their stay. I'd recommend 4 towels times the total number of guests you rent your space to. I realize that's a lot, but it will save you from having to do laundry last minute or running short on towels, which is super important in an Airbnb.

  • Pillows: 2/guest; we allowed up to 4 guests in our space, so we had 8 pillows. Hot tip: I like to include two different kinds of pillows per guest—one firm and one fluffy—so that all different kinds of sleepers will feel comfortable in the space.

  • Sets of silverware/Dish Set; at least two sets, maybe 3, if you want to increase the amount of time you have to do dishes :)

  • Keep a ready stock of shampoo/body wash as well. We liked to use Everone Soap, since it's considered both body wash and shampoo and could be used as hand soap as well. This way, we only had to buy one product and keep that stocked rather than track three different products.

The above are essentials, but everything else in your space is an add on!


Be sure to have plenty of mirrors since guests will likely be getting ready there and ask yourself whether you would be comfortable and have all you'd need if it were you staying there personally.


For instance, I included an ironing board and a blow drier, because those are things I would hope to have if I were staying at an Airbnb.


We also included some local flare to make our space unique, like coffee from Stovetop Coffee Roasters and artwork by local artist Chelsea Michal-Garter.


Our space is also quite large, so we set it up to include both a living and dining area with TV, internet, microwave, mini-fridge, and coffee maker. We wanted guests to have the benefits of a hotel with the coziness of home!





Photographing Your Space


I know this might seem frivolous, but I'm telling you, if you are not a photographer, you simply won't capture the beauty of your space the way a professional will. Think of it as a marketing cost—it's an investment in your space! Plus, you can write these costs off since it is for your Airbnb BUSINESS.


Bright and airy spaces seem to do the best on Airbnb, so make sure to photograph at the time of day when your space gets the most natural light. Be sure to get both zoomed-out shots of each angle of each room and also some creative detail shots to showcase the uniqueness and personality of your space.


If you are local in Grand Rapids, reach out to Alyssa Wagner or Sydney Kamaloski and they can hook you up with some KILLER images!




Automated Entry


We used the Yale Lock that integrated with our Nest Home system to automate our guest entry process. This was such a lifesaver because we never had to worry about changing locks if someone took a key or have new keys made if a guest lost one.


Once a month, we'd simply go through and assign a temporary access code to each upcoming guest, which we'd set to activate at their check-in time and deactivate at their check-out time. This way, we never had to worry about a guest entering the space early or trying to get back in once they've left. Saftey first!


We also loved this feature because we could add an entry code for our cleaning professional so she always had access when she needed it. For personal use, if we ever needed someone to drop something off or let the dog out, it was easy to create a temporary code to let them in. SUPER simple; I highly recommend the Yale!



Set Clear "House Rules"


If you're hosting within your main residence, clear house rules are a MUST.


Ya'll. QUIET HOURS are very important if you don't want people making major noise while you are trying to sleep. We had one too many guests that we're obviously here for a weekend of partying, so after that, we made sure our listing was VERY clear about what was expected, and what our guests could expect as well.


Of course, even if you are as clear as air on your page about what's expected, you will never the less have one or two dud guests throughout your time hosting. Let me tell you—this is a major bummer when it's happening. BUT, try to focus on the 50 amazing guests you've had for every one icky guest, and hopefully that will help get you through it!




To communicate our house rules, here's what we did: In our listing description, we included the below message along with our house rules and asked guests to please respond that they had read the rules before booking. If they booked without responding, our first message would kindly ask them to respond that they had read and agreed to the rules.


Feel free to use this as a template for your own listing and tweak it to meet your own home setup and needs:


Our space is unique, so we ask that all guests READ THE HOUSE RULES and space description FULLY so you aren't surprised by anything when you arrive. Additionally, we'll ask you to to REPLY that you've done so prior to booking (you'll be prompted automatically when you book your dates).


We'll start with the icky part—THE HOUSE RULES—and then we'll get to the fun part.


HOUSE RULES:

  • Strict quiet hours from 11pm-7am; noise carries easily in this old house! If you aren't very quiet after 11pm, you WILL wake us up, and we will be grumpy :(

  • Please remove shoes before heading upstairs to help with cleanliness and noise levels (our old floors are super creaky!)

  • The space is not suitable for children under 12

  • Out of respect for our neighbors, please don't hang out in the alley between the houses or in the front yard

  • If you plan to bring additional guests to visit the loft, let us know by shooting us a message via the app or a text.

  • No parties

  • No smoking on property

  • No illegal drugs on the property

  • No animals (our dog loves people but HATES animals...)

  • Make sure to ALWAYS lock the door when entering or leaving


Then we'd go on to describe the space in detail.....



If you don't set clear house rules, you'll be in for some unpleasant surprises!


If you love sleep, set quite hours. If you don't want to interact with your guests, make that clear in the listing. Don't worry about this impacting your bookings—there are plenty of people who will find your house rules reassuring and will be happy to abide by them. And the people who don't like it? We promise you wouldn't want to host them anyway!



Message Templates


This takes some time to set up on the front end, but it will save you HOURS after the fact. Within the messenger application on Airbnb, you have the option to save email templates that you can insert into a message with just one click. For our space, we created several templates, but the two we used most often included a welcome message and a check-in message.



Here's our welcome message (again, feel free to steal this!):



Thanks so much for booking with us!


There's more info on the space and some favorite local recommendations here: www.theloftonmadison.com


Our address is:


INSERT ADDRESS HERE


We'll get in touch closer to check in to coordinate other details. Please let us know if you have any questions in the meantime!


All the best,


Lauren & Larry



Then, a few days before check-in, we'd send the below message, which included check-in information and instructions for accessing the space:



We're excited to host your upcoming stay!


When you arrive, you can find free street parking available on our street. Please enter through the side door, which is located on the left side of the house.


Your temporary entry code for your stay is: 000-000


To open the lock, push and hold the YALE branding at the top of the lock until the numbers light up. Next, enter your code and push the checkmark on the bottom right of the lock. Wait until you hear the lock open, and then simply push the door open (knob does not turn).


Once the door is open, make sure you push it all the way closed, and then manually lock the deadbolt from the inside (sometimes it can be finicky, so you may have to wiggle it a little).


When you leave, manually unlock the deadbolt from the inside, be sure to pull the door tightly closed from the outside, and then push and hold the YALE branding at the top of the lock until you hear the lock close.


Our neighborhood is very safe, but please be sure to always lock the door behind you when entering/leaving.


Once inside the doors, there are instructions posted to find the guest area.


Let us know if you have any questions. We're excited to host you!


Larry & Lauren


As you can see, this message is very detailed and specific to our home, but you'll be able to tweak your own check-in message after hosting a few guests and finding out their common questions.


We have a few other message templates for common questions or requests as well, but they're specific to our space, so I won't share them here. The key is to figure out what questions people keep asking about your space, and then create a template that allows you to answer with just one click instead of reinventing the wheel every time.




Hiring Out Help


There are two roles that I'd suggest thinking about hiring for your Airbnb, especially if you already work full-time. We had assistance both on the backend, with guest communication and scheduling, as well as with flipping the space.


Sydney, who was my assistant at the time, managed all the backend elements. She'd communicate with guests via the app, deal with scheduling issues, make sure all the supplies were stocked and ordered, assigned access codes to guests, and also coordinated with our cleaner to make sure the space was flipped on the correct dates.


Sandy, our cleaner, was in charge of flipping the space. To make this especially streamlined, I recommend flipping the space yourself two or three times and creating a very thorough checklist for your cleaner to work through each flip. I also recommend providing them with the photos of your space so they know just how to set it up after it's been cleaned.


Then, the first time you have them do the flip, I'd suggest you be there to walk them through your checklist, show them where you keep things like cleaning supplies and spare sheets, and also to make sure they are comfortable with the keycode entry.


Once your manager and cleaner know the drill for your space, you can pretty much sit back and watch your Airbnb run itself! It's pretty darn cool!



The Wrap Up


There's so much more I could tell you about hosting an Airbnb, but this post is already wayyyy to long...so that said, feel free to shoot me a message if you have questions about hosting! We found it to be a great way to provide ourselves with a somewhat-predictable income in a time that was fairly transitional for us, which was our goal.


We also loved thinking about creating a unique experience for guests. We've stayed at a LOT of Aribnbs in the six years we've been married, and we always appreciated when hosts went the extra mile to make the stay special and to highlight the coolest local spots, so we tried to emulate our favorite hosts!


SO! Let me know if you decide to create an Airbnb inside your own home, or even in another location. I'd love to hear about your experience! And of course, if you need help designing the space, you know where to find me!


Cheers,


Lauren



Work with Lauren Figueroa Interior Design


LFID is a full-service interior design firm based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We work with clients throughout west and southeast Michigan, and pride ourselves on creating bespoke, people-centered spaces—because after all, people are what this life is all about! If you have a project on the horizon, get started by telling us a little about your vision here.