21 rental tips for Airbnb hosts

Written by Seamus McKale

Reviewed by Connor Griffiths

Updated June 12, 2024 | Published November 14, 2022

Whether renting out a secondary property or trying to fill in your primary home while you’re away, Airbnb hosting is the most popular way to squeeze some income out of an empty home.

Of course, there are other sites where you can list your property, like VRBO, Booking.com, or Expedia; these tips will work just as well for those sites. In fact, many enterprising hosts list their property on several sites at once.

In any case, becoming an Airbnb host (or joining any other short-term rental platform) is relatively easy. Once you’ve decided you want to get into it, you can usually have your listing up and running within a day.

The quick-and-easy version might be plenty if you just want to rent out a room or a home for a couple of weeks each year. But if you’re serious about getting more bookings, whether you’re a beginner or a veteran, you’ll need these 21 Airbnb host tips—let’s get started.

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The important points

  • Writing a detailed, accurate listing is important for getting visitors and setting expectations appropriately.
  • Being a responsive host (including to reviews) is at least as important as having a good listing.
  • Don’t forget to inform your home insurance provider about any short-term rental arrangements in your home.

Listing and pricing tips

1. Write an effective description and title

The place to start when you want more Airbnb bookings is your listing on the website itself. Your listing’s title should be unique, and describe the most important features, like a great view or proximity to popular landmarks.

The description is just as important. It should be thorough, but written in concise language with short paragraphs. Avoid unnecessary information, like directions to the property—guests will receive those when they book. Instead, describe the property and all its amenities. Figure out your listing’s unique selling propositions, and make sure they feature prominently in your description.

And finally, make sure your listing is accurate! If guests arrive and find exactly what they expected, they’ll be more inclined to leave you a positive review (more on that later).

2. Research your competition’s pricing

Pricing your short-term rental correctly has two benefits: you’ll get more bookings, and you’ll earn more revenue. Ask too much, and you won’t make any money. Ask too little, and the whole ordeal may not be worth the effort.

To set the best price, investigate listings for properties located near yours that have similar features. Check dates several months in the future, as you won’t be able to see listings that are already booked. But, make sure to also check what’s available for, say, the upcoming weekend; properties that are still available may be priced too high.

Or, if that’s too much work, you can opt in to Airbnb’s smart pricing tool, which automatically adjusts your booking’s price based on several factors.

3. Adjust pricing seasonally

To get the most out of your short-term rental property, make sure you adjust your pricing based on demand.

While you might be able to reel in bookings at high prices during the summer, your property could sit empty at the same prices in January (or the opposite, in a skiing town). Consider, too, the difference in demand between weekends and weekdays, or between holiday weekends and regular weekends.

The busy times vary depending on where your property is and what sort of guests you’re attracting, so it’s worth taking some time to personalize your seasonal pricing.

Photo tips

4. Use lots of quality photos

Your use of images is perhaps the most important aspect of your Airbnb listing. The right photos can make or break your short-term rental—the right photos, and lots of ’em.

You should have 25-30 photos of your listing.

Renters want to know as much as they can about your property. If you only have a couple low-quality photos, they’ll move onto the next property. Airbnb recommends using photos in landscape (wide) format, with a resolution of at least 1024 x 683.

You should arrange the photos on your listing in a logical way. For example, as though a guest is walking through the home as they scroll through the photos. If you’ve got access to a wide-angle lens, use it; it’ll help your listing appear larger.

5. Stage your photos

Quality photos are more than just high-resolution. Even if you’re using a pro-level camera, it’s meaningless if your property is messy or dark.

Staging photos means making sure the property is clean, tidy, and set up in an inviting way before you take photos. Make the beds, arrange the couch cushions, and bring in some fresh flowers or other plants.

Basically, try to make your property as tidy as a hotel room (but perhaps with a homier touch).

A tidy living room with natural lighting staged for Airbnb photography

6. Use natural lighting wherever possible

When you take your photos, do so during the brightest part of the day with the curtains wide open. Nothing makes a listing look better than bright daylight.

If you can’t get enough daylight, at least make sure your artificial lighting is sufficient. No matter what you do, don’t upload dark, dreary photos.

7. Consider professional photography

There is a lot of skill and attention to detail required to succeed at Airbnb photography. If you don’t think you’re up to the task, there’s no shame in hiring a pro—it might be your best option even if you’re comfortable behind the camera.

While there’s obviously a cost associated with bringing in a pro, you stand to lose a lot more from poor photos than you’d spend on a photographer.

Service and review tips

8. Respond to reviews politely

Airbnb reviews are one of the most important things to manage as a short-term rental operator. When a guest leaves you a review, you’ll be prompted to review them, too. Be respectful; if the guest has raised any issues, respond to those issues politely.

You’ll also be able to publicly respond to guests’ reviews of your property. Make sure you do, as it’s an opportunity to show potential future guests that you’re a friendly, responsive host. Again, if someone leaves you a negative review (and it will happen eventually), don’t ignore it or get aggressive in your response. Be polite, address their concerns, and if necessary, make things right.

9. Pay attention to feedback

Don’t just respond to reviews—pay attention to what they say.

A negative review is a perfect opportunity to improve your listing. What went wrong, and how can you keep it from happening a second time? On the other hand, positive reviews can help you identify your property’s strengths. When you know what guests like, you can focus on those things in your listing.

10. Make sure your check-in experience is smooth

After they’ve booked your property, your guests’ first experience will be the check-in experience. First impressions are everything, so make it easy for guests when they arrive.

Send detailed, clear instructions for locating the property and getting inside. Include photos where necessary, too. Have a friend go through your check-in process and see if they can offer suggestions.

As well, it’s nice to include a small welcome gift for guests, especially if you’re using the self-check-in option; it adds a great personal touch.

And finally, create a physical welcome manual for your property. While you can have digital instructions, many guests prefer the personal touch of having a physical book. Include things like Wi-Fi passwords, instructions for the entertainment system, or suggestions for local activities or restaurants.

A wooden box with jars inside, used as an Airbnb gift basket

11. Be quick with responses to inquiries

The speed at which you respond to inquiries has an impact on how Airbnb’s search algorithm shows your property to potential guests. More responsive hosts may have their properties show up higher in the search results.

You should respond to reservation requests within 24 hours. When you know a guest is checking in, you should be ready to respond to their inquiries immediately, just in case something goes wrong.

12. Become a Superhost

If you’re serious about running an Airbnb property, you should aim for Superhost status.

To become a Superhost, you’ll need to have at least 4.8 overall rating, 10 stays (or 100 nights), a cancellation rate under 1 per cent, and a response rate above 90 per cent.

The main benefit of Superhost-dom is being able to attract more bookings and, therefore, more money. But, you’ll also get higher rewards for referring new hosts, and even occasional travel coupons.

13. Keep things clean

Nothing will affect your Airbnb reviews like your property’s cleanliness. Without a spotless rental, you’ll be in tough.

Even if you’re used to keeping your home pretty clean, cleaning for Airbnb guests is a whole other ball game. One stray hair in the wrong spot could trigger a negative review from a touchy guest.

Accordingly, there are myriad Airbnb cleaning tips out there. In addition to obvious tasks like cleaning the bathroom and washing the linens between guests, make sure you go the extra mile. Dust underneath furniture, clean windowsills and light switches, and run a lint roller over any fabric that might collect hair.

It’s a time-consuming task, but it’s one of the most important host duties. Of course, there’s no shame in hiring a professional cleaner, though it will eat into your revenue. Remember, you’re aiming for “cleaner than a hotel room” territory here.

The same goes for your Airbnb’s laundry—it’s crucial to launder sheets and towels, but it takes a while. One laundry tip is to have a full extra set. That way, you can change all the laundry and take the dirty stuff away to wash on your own time, or have a full-service laundromat take care of it for you.

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Safety and security tips

14. Do your due diligence

While enabling instant booking for your property is a great way to earn more bookings, it’s important to vet your potential guests.

Whether instant booking or not, you should check your guests’ profiles. If they’ve received several positive reviews from other hosts, it’s a great sign. If you see negative reviews, you can always ask them about the reviews directly.

You should also ensure that your guests’ profiles are complete—no missing information.

Even with instant booking, you can ask questions of your guests. You should ask them, at minimum, the purpose of their stay. You can also ask why they chose your property, for example. Short or evasive answers could be red flags.

You can also request that guests provide official ID (like a driver’s license or passport) that you can compare against their profile.

15. Set reservation restrictions

Even with instant booking enabled, you can set requirements that your guests have to meet. For example, you can require them to show government-issued ID, or have a number of positive reviews from previous hosts.

Many Airbnb hosts prefer not to enable instant booking, however. You’re allowed to cancel an instant booking if you’re uncomfortable with a guest that’s booked your property. But, it’s easier if you get to know potential guests beforehand.

16. Pay attention to your property’s security

To start with, you may wish to replace the lock-and-key entrance doorknob with a number pad lock. That way, you (and your guest) aren’t worried about fumbling around or losing keys. Plus, you can change the access code between guests.

If you’re renting a property that you normally live in, make sure personal information is locked away in a cabinet or safe—with nothing accessible to overly-curious guests. Similarly, if you receive mail at the address, you might want to change that (or at least put your mail on hold while guests are present).

17. Have clear house rules

Airbnb allows you to set firm house rules that guests agree to follow.

While you don’t want to overwhelm guests with hundreds of rules, you should set out important safety and security guidelines. Things like “no smoking,” “lock the doors when you leave,” or “stay quiet after 10 pm” could all be useful rules.

When writing your house rules, you can leave out courtesy reminders (like where to leave used towels). These will unnecessarily complicate the rules list. It’s easier to leave helpful reminders in your property manual or in your welcome message.

18. Follow local regulations

Short-term rentals are heavily regulated in many cities. As well, many condo buildings restrict (or forbid) short-term rentals. Before you sign up to be a host, make sure you are crystal clear about the rules that apply to your city and your building.

You may need a special permit (or even a business license) before you can rent out your property. You might also have to collect a special tax from your guests (and later pay it to the local government).

19. Stay on-platform

When a guest books through the Airbnb platform, it’s best to keep communication within Airbnb. Depending on the rules where you live, you may need to collect some contact information from your guests. You might also wish to provide your phone number for emergencies, but that’s entirely at your discretion.

In any case, Airbnb has strict rules for off-platform communication, so make sure you know what you’re doing if you need to communicate outside the app.

Insurance tips

20. Inform your home insurance provider

When you start a short-term rental operation, whether it’s a couple nights a year or a full-time service, you must inform your home insurance provider.

Short-term rentals are a unique form of occupancy, and some home insurance providers don’t cover them. Short-term rentals face greater risks due to the number of strangers coming in and out of the property. Because of the higher risk, short-term rental insurance is usually more expensive than typical primary home insurance.

You’ll need to seek home insurance that allows Airbnb. For example, home insurance from Square One allows short-term rentals, as long as you’ve indicated that in your application (and it’s been approved). You can always add the coverage to an existing policy, too.

In any case, if you start renting out your property on Airbnb without informing your provider, your coverage could be void.

21. Get the right coverage

While Airbnb does offer some coverage for damage to hosts’ property or for liability claims, it isn’t a substitute for home insurance.

Airbnb’s coverage only applies while guests are staying at the property. It also doesn’t cover damage from natural causes (like earthquakes or wildfires). Plus, it only also covers your personal liability up to $1 million, and only as that liability relates to guests.

Airbnb’s coverage has other limitations, too. For example, Airbnb requires you to attempt reconciling with guests before you file a claim. With your home insurance, you can start a claim as soon as a loss occurs.

In short, you will still need home insurance for your Airbnb rental. But, when you get the right coverage, you can rest easy knowing your property is still protected. You may even be able to find rental income coverage, which helps cover lost income if you can’t rent out your property for a while due to an insured loss.

Have a chat with your home insurance provider to see what they offer for short-term rentals.

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About the expert: Connor Griffiths

Connor Griffiths is the CEO of the vacation rental management company Lifty Life Vacation Rentals and Head of Content for the industry-leading vacation rental software Hostaway.com. Connor has a 7-year background in the industry, starting as an Airbnb host and the revenue manager for the channel manager Jetstream Solutions. He holds a BBA at Kwantlen University.

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