Updated: Mar 29, 2021
A step by step guide to help anyone get set up and begin hosting guests in your home
I get asked all the time just how hard it is to get started as an Airbnb host and after doing it over and over again for our clients, I always tell people it's easy once you know what you're doing. That's why I put together this blog post to help people looking to list their home on Airbnb for the first time and feel they want a little bit of help. If you want to know everything you need to know before getting set up with Airbnb, here is your step by step guide to getting started and taking bookings in under an hour.
This may not be the most entertaining article you've ever read, but it is jam packed full of useful tips and tricks to help you avoid the major mistakes a lot off first time hosts make when listing their space on Airbnb. If you're looking for a step by step tutorial, look no further, by the end of this article you'll be fully set up and ready to take your very first booking.
Before you start
“Getting all of the hard work done before you try to set up your listing online will save you a lot of time and effort.”
Making sure you have everything ready and available is one way to make the process of getting your first booking as painless as possible. Getting all of the hard work done before you try to set up your listing online will save you a lot of time and effort. I've put together a pre-listing checklist that you can find and download here.
As well as the pre-listing checklist, there are a few things you need to consider before you start to make sure you're really ready to accept a new guests in your home.
Is your home guest ready? Although Airbnb is all about sharing your home with others, there is always the possibility that something could get broken, misplaced or even stolen by one of your guests. Make sure before your guests come and stay that you have moved out all of your precious items. We recommend to only have replaceable items in your listing while it is on Airbnb and to pack away all of your precious items to be on the safe side.
Is your home safe for guests? Do your smoke alarms work, is there a first aid kit, do the stairs have a railing etc. It pays to go through your home and look at everything as a potential health risk and try to minimise any risks that could arise. Remember that when dealing with the general public, common sense is not always in abundant supply so be sure to remove as many hazards as possible even if they seem obvious and easy to avoid.
Do you have insurance? Be mindful that your home and contents insurance may not automatically cover you for short term stays. Be sure to check with your insurance provider to see if you're covered before you accept your first booking. I found some good information about short term rental insurance including some companies who provide specialised short term rental insurance. This page has a lot of information about how the Airbnb cover actually works and why it isn't a wise choice to rely on the Airbnb cover.
Are you ready to handle guests? A lot of people like the idea of Airbnb and dive right in to get started without considering how much work goes into managing an Airbnb every single day. You need to be in constant communication with guests to answer questions, make reservations and help out in an emergency. For a lot of people this begins to become like a full time job that they weren't prepared for. If you want to know more about everything that goes into managing an Airbnb, visit this article that I wrote recently that talks about how much work goes into the running of a successful Airbnb business.
Toiletries and essentials. Although many people will bring their own toiletries along with them on holidays, you still need to consider what you will provide as part of your service. Make sure that you have at least two sets of linens (Pillow cases, sheets, blankets etc.), towels, hand towels, bath mats, kitchen cloths. In the beginning you can start with a single set however they will wear out quickly and you will always be under pressure to get them washed and dry before the next guest checks in.
Check in & check out. Will you be on-site to meet and greet the guests as they arrive or will you have some other arrangement for them to collect the keys and check-in. If you are on-site, remember that guests aren't always on time so be prepared that if you're just going to quickly drop in to meet them at the agreed time, you could be waiting around for them to arrive. Alternatively, if you're going to install a lock box or something similar, you need to ensure that it is easily accessible to the guest and that they are made aware of how to get the keys before they stay.
How well is your home presented? Listing your home on Airbnb is very different to listing it for rent to a long term tenant. For one, a long term tenant has the opportunity to come and inspect the property before they decide to rent it. On Airbnb, your potential guests can only see the pictures you post on your listing. I wrote a more in depth article here that talks all about the benefits and estimated costs of staging and photography and why it helps you earn more.
Do you have a house manual? Although it isn't essential, having a house manual that people can refer to is helpful when it comes to providing your guests with all of the information they need while they will be staying in your home. Things like what restaurants are close by, which how to get around (public transport) how to operate the T.V, the wifi password and how to use the oven. Having this house manual printed and bound is a great way to help your guests make the most of their stay as well as to limit the number of phone calls that you receive while they're there. If you don't know what to include, or where to start, click here to download a free template to help you write a great house manual.
Cleaning and servicing. If you live nearby and have the time and ability to clean your own place, it can be a great way to make a little bit of extra money. However, much the same as with staging and photography, if it isn't done to a high standard then it can really hurt your ratings which can negatively impact your profits. We always recommend hiring a professional cleaner with experience servicing Airbnb's. All of the listings we manage are professionally cleaned to maintain the highest standards. Servicing a property is much more than simply cleaning, it involves refilling consumables such as soap, shampoo, re-making beds with new linens and laundering the used ones. be sure to have someone arranged to take care of it before you start.
Property maintenance. Maintenance is something people overlook but it is highly important to keep up to date with maintenance and to ensure everything is working properly before every stay. You should also consider asking friends or family if they have any recommendations of tradespeople to take care of both routine and emergency jobs such as plumbers, electricians and general maintenance. We recommend that each property we manage to create a maintenance schedule where each area of the home is checked on a regular basis to keep up to date on any maintenance and also to keep an eye on the quality of the cleaning team.
Now that you know what you're in for it's time to get started with this step by step guide to set up your own listing on Airbnb.
Important note* If you're planning on asking a friend to help you to set up your Airbnb, make sure you set it up on your own personal profile. The reason is that whoever's Airbnb account creates the listing first technically owns that listing and it is very difficult to transfer ownership to another account, you currently have to create a duplicate listing and contact each booking and ask them to re-book on your new listing which results in people cancelling and you losing money.
The only exception to this rule is if you are hiring a professional management company to take care of your property for you. In that case, they may require the property to be set up under their own account for various reasons. For our clients we are flexible and depending on the situation we will either set up the listing on our own account or on the property owners account.
At this point, I'm assuming that you downloaded the pre-listing checklist and that you have everything ready to go but if you haven't, that is fine Airbnb allows you to save your progress at any time and come back later when you have everything ready to go.
If you already have an Airbnb account, as a guest you don't need to sign up again as a host, simply log into your existing account. If you're completely new to Airbnb, you will need to sign up before you can list a property and there are a few extra steps such as confirming email address, phone number and uploading a profile picture that you need to complete that are not shown in this guide.
Once you're logged in to your Airbnb account on your computer, you can simply start by clicking the button that says "Become a host" in the top right hand corner of the screen.
Once you've clicked the 'Become a host' button, click on 'List your place' to get started.
The Airbnb listing process is split up into three sections to make it easier to complete. The first section is called "Start with the basics".
Section 1: Start with the basics
In this section, you will answer a few questions to get some of the basic details of your property ready to be listed.
Step 1: What kind of place are you listing?
Click on the drop down menu and then select from the list the type of property that best describes your home.
There is a second drop down menu where it asks you to further refine your choice.
Once you have selected the option that best describes your property in both of the drop down menus your screen will display a description of the type of property they consider to match your choice. Make sure it fits your actual property and if it doesn't, test out a few options until you get it right.
Your screen should display some additional questions for you to choose from. This guide is set up for people who are listing their entire place and if you are only listing a single room, there may be some differences between this guide and your actual experience.
A note on the last question where it asks if you are listing as part of a company. If you are listing your home on Airbnb and you will be the one managing it, then you should click no. However, if you will or have hired a manager or management company then you should click yes. Hiring a good management company can be very rewarding for Airbnb hosts, they can take the workload off of your shoulders and increase your profitability by applying a much more sophisticated and personalised service that is difficult to match as an individual host. If you're interested in what an Airbnb manager actually does, here is an article that I wrote to help clarify some of the industry terminology to make it easy to understand exactly what a manager does.
To continue on to the next step click the next button.
Step 2: Bedrooms and bathrooms
In this step, you should enter the details of the different bedrooms and bathrooms you have available in your home.
Guests: Work out how many guests could comfortably sleep in your home including any sofa beds you have available. The more people that can sleep there, the higher your nightly rate can be but be considerate of your guests comfort and try to avoid cramming them in like sardines.
How many bedrooms: How many rooms are specifically set up as a bedroom? Don't include living rooms with a sofa bed as a bedroom in this section.
How many beds can guests use: This might seem like the same question, but it is important for potential guests to know how many beds are available. Especially if you have based the total number of guests on couples sharing beds.
Sleeping arrangements: Go through and set the number and type of beds available in each room. This is important to give guests an understanding of the sleeping arrangements they will have when they arrive.
Bathrooms: Simply set the number of bathrooms available. As a rule, you should count each bathroom individually (Including en suites) and every individual toilet separate from the full bathroom as 0.5.
Click next to continue.
Step 3: Where is your place located?
Obviously, people need to know your address if they are going to be staying in your home so this step is where you add the property address. You may be wondering if the full address is published to the public and it is not. Your address is kept private until a guest books. Until then, they are only shown the rough location on a map.
Fill out the required form fields and click next to continue.
Finalise the location by checking the pin on a map is in the correct location. If it is not correctly located, click adjust then click and drag the map until the pin is in the correct location and click save when you're done.
Click Looks good to move on.
Step 4: What amenities do you offer?
This step allows you to select from a list of the most popular amenities available in other Airbnb listings. These are what Airbnb believes to be the most important amenities to guests which makes it a great place to take a look and see if there is anything that you can easily add that will increase the appeal of your listing.
This is not the full list of amenities you can display to guests, you can add more later in the process. Simply go through and select all of the amenities relevant to your property.
Click next to continue
Step 5: What spaces do guests have access to?
If your listing has some of the features described on this page, you should select all that apply. This is especially important for homes in apartment buildings with pool, gym and sauna facilities. Make sure your guests know about all the features they have access to while they stay in your property.
That is the end of the first section, only two more to go. If you're getting overwhelmed, or this is looking like a lot of work, leave a comment at the bottom of this page with what you're struggling with and I'll give you some tips to help you out.
Section 2: Set the scene
Now that the easy part is done, it is time to move onto the more technical side of your Airbnb listing. In this section, you will add all of your amazing photography as well as your well curated written descriptions of the property to help your potential guests fall in love at first sight.
While many people do complete this section themselves without any help from professionals, I would strongly recommend finding a professional staging and photography company to capture your property in the best way to make it as appealing as possible to potential guests. Spending a few hundred dollars now could help you earn much, much more in your first year.
“Spending a few hundred dollars now could help you earn much, much more in your first year.”
Consider that the one and only way that potential guests will choose to stay in your home instead of another is the quality and appeal of the online listing, it makes sense that having better quality photography and staging will result in higher occupancy rates and higher nightly rates meaning you end up with more money in your back pocket each and every month. If you would like to know more about property staging and photography, click here to organise a free consultation with one of our staging specialists.
Step 1: Upload photos
Photography is one of the most important aspects of your online listing. Apart from price it is the only way for you to be able to appeal to potential guests. The human brain is hard wired to be able to remember pictures more easily than words or numbers so make sure you capitalise on that and make your entire listing as memorable as possible with top quality photos.
Actually uploading the pictures is simple but getting the right pictures and the right staging takes a bit of effort. I wrote a full article here that goes in depth on how to get the best photos of your home for an airbnb listing for those of you that are hell bent on DIY that goes into how to do it yourself and also why you shouldn't.
Hire a professional photographer and a professional staging company, it costs money (unless you get it done free through Airbnb) but it pays you back so, so much more than it costs. Remember, this is a business and the more you put into it, the more you can get out of it.
What to capture
When you find a great photographer, make sure they capture every room of the home to give the guest as much real information as possible so that they can really get a feel for your home without actually being there.
Make sure you really highlight the best parts of your home that a guest would care about. Maybe you love the kitchen, but not all guests will want to cook so don't spend too much time focusing on the things that don't matter to your guests
If there are facilities like pools, sauna and gym make sure you capture them as well and take multiple pictures too. If it is an amazing pool, capture all aspects and really make it look amazing.
A lot of people forget about captions and that is a mistake. You should be writing a detailed caption for each and every photo. By detailed, I mean a description of how the guest might use the subject of the picture.
For example, if the picture is of a pool, don't simply caption it as 'pool1', say something more like 'At the end of a hot day exploring the local shopping and cuisine, cool down with a refreshing swim in this crystal blue pool and watch the sun set over the horizon'.
Remember, you're selling your potential guest at each and every moment, make sure they can visualise your listing more vividly than any others they look at.
Not a lot of people go to the effort of creating a floor plan for their listing but a series of photos only tells so much of a story and the floor plan can help people to tie everything together and visualise just how amazing it is going to be to stay in your home.
Picture quality and quantity
The minimum picture resolution we recommend to use is 1024x683 pixels but if you can, go for 1200x800 pixels @72 DPI. If that doesn't automatically make sense to you, then that should be the biggest reason for you to hire a professional photographer.
In terms of quantity, the more the merrier. As long as all the pictures you upload are of high quantity and actually represent the space or the surrounding area, go for it (Within reason).
However, there are some things to avoid:
Putting pictures of a particular plant or vase in your listing is one of my pet hates when scrolling through the pictures of a listing. We know it looks great and if you were selling plants or vases, you should absolutely do that. Problem is that you're selling a room so make sure that each of your pictures gives the potential guest a feel for the room, not just a particular piece of furniture.
Too many lifestyle pictures. Yes, you should absolutely include some images that represent the local area, but if they make up the majority of your pictures, it detracts from the listing and makes people begin to wonder what is wrong with it. Follow the 80/20 rule, make 80% of your images relevant to your listing and 20% relevant to the local area.
Now that you have all of your photos taken and saved in the correct resolution and ratio, it's time to upload them. Simply click the upload pictures button and find the right file and click upload. Make sure you put the caption in before moving on to the next one.
Once you have uploaded all of the pictures, click next and move on.
Step 2: Describe your place to guests
This is arguably one of the most important aspects of your listing just slightly behind the quality of photos. If you want to know more about exactly why the listing description is so important and how to write a killer description, read this article that I wrote about it.
In this section, you have 500 characters which isn't much so you need to use it wisely. Considering what I have said previously, you need to write a very short, emotionally charged description designed to make people want to book. Now. If you want help leave a comment at the bottom of this article to tell me what you're struggling with an I will give you some free tips and advice.
Although this section is optional, I always recommend that people complete it as it gives you space to really write something that people can begin to feel like they are already there, relaxing and having an amazing time.
Be sure to mention anything that a guest would want to know about before they stay such ass heavy construction in the vicinity or other detracting factors that aren't shown in the pictures. It is always better to lose a booking through honesty that to ruin someones holiday and getting a bad rating.
This section is entirely up to you. For our clients, we have a generic paragraph that we use because all of our properties are managed by a local but the entire space is for the guest only. However, if you live next door, or in the next street down, let people know you're around. Remember though, nobody likes that nosy host that looks in constantly to check up on you. You need to respect the privacy of your guests, if they indicate that they want some level of interaction from you, then go right ahead and do it, but otherwise, let them be to enjoy their time.
Again, this is the first thing that people look for when they're searching for a place to stay so location is obviously important to them. Make sure in here that you give them the hidden gems and local specials that are around your listing. A big part of Airbnb is that they get to feel like they're not a tourist so giving them some local knowledge is a must.
Pro tip: We usually include an Instagram account of a local person or business that features great new cafe's restaurants and bars for people to check out so they can discover their own amazing places in their area.
When you're travelling, you don't know the area well and the quality and availability of public transport can be hit and miss. Make sure you put their mind at ease and give them some options for getting around and be sure to include a rough estimate of how much it will cost them to get to some popular local attractions including the airport.
Once you have filled in all of the fields on this page, you can click next and move on to the next step.
Step 3: Name your place
Although this is not the most important aspect of your listing, it is a valuable place to try and grab someone's attention. You have a couple of options here.
Is coming up with a unique name for the property and this is best suited to individual homes more than apartments because it is more of a unique listing where as an apartment is almost if not identical to the others in the same building. The idea of a unique name is to help people to remember the name and boost return visitors as well as google search results if you have your own website.
You can use the property name as a way of attracting attention of potential guests with details of the property or special discounts or considerations. For example I have seen some use the name of the property to say 1bdr apt 'No cleaning fee' because that was their way of attracting guests. I'm not saying that is the best way to do it, but the name of the property is a good place to grab some extra attention if you have something special to say. Try to avoid generic things like 1bdr or 2 bathrooms, make it interesting and instantly appealing to potential guests.
That is the last step in stage 2 and hopefully, you have followed along this guide and you're almost done. Remember that if you don't understand anything to leave a comment below and I will get back to you ASAP with an answer.
Stage 3: Get ready for guests
Moving onto the third and final stage of your listing set up (Yay!), it is time to set up your booking preferences. This is the fun part where you get to say how much you want to charge per night.
Step 1: Guest requirements
This is an important part of the setup process and there are some things you need to consider before proceeding. You need to know what is more important to you, security or profits.
Additional guest requirements
In this section, you get to decide the requirements each user needs to have before they can book your property. Obviously the more barriers you have, the less likely someone will turn out to be a bad guest, but it is also less likely that the majority of guests will book your place.
You need to make the choice whether or not to require extra precautions like a government issued ID on file and only allowing guests that have been recommended by previous hosts. Both of these precautions reduces your chance of getting a bad egg, but it also significantly reduces your occupancy rate.
We normally don't recommend that people set these extra precautions when setting up their listings because we understand that the main motivation for our clients is to generate more profits.
Go through each and select yes or no. Keep in mind the type of property and location before answering these questions. For instance, if you have a home that would appeal to a family, denying children might significantly impact on your ability to achieve a high occupancy rate. However, at the end of the day, you need to be confident in the rules you set and be happy to stick by them.
Details guests must know about your home
Make sure you tick each item that is relevant to your property. If there is something that a guest might not be happy with it is always best to be up front about it and miss out on a booking instead of having the guest arrive and realise that there are stairs that their 87 year old grandmother can't climb.
Click next to continue
Step 2: Here’s how guests will book with you
This page is purely informational and you don't need to do anything although it is important for you to understand how bookings are made and what you are required to do.
A note on the Airbnb $1,000,000 cover. This is not an insurance policy and as such is not covered by the same regulations which means that Airbnb aren't required to pay out for things in the same way as an insurance company is. They do pay it out but at their discretion, you should always get your own insurance to cover yourself for peace of mind.
Step 3: Successful hosting starts with an accurate calendar
Keeping your calendar up to date is absolutely essential. Before you just check the box and click next, make sure you understand what happens if you double book or if you need to cancel on a guest. Airbnb takes a very guest friendly approach to cancellations and if you do need to cancel a reservation because the property is unavailable, or because for some reason you can't honour the booking you may be liable to pay a penalty fee set by Airbnb.
Keeping you calendar regularly updated and synced with any other booking sites you are using is essential to make sure you're never double booked and that you don't have to cancel any of the bookings guests have made. If you are only using Airbnb, this shouldn't be a problem however, we do strongly recommend that you do take the time to list on multiple booking sites.
I wrote an article here that talks about why you should list on multiple booking channels. All of the properties we manage are listed on 5 or more booking channels to maximise occupancy rates.
Check the box and click continue.
Step 4: Two questions to get started with your settings
Answer both of these questions honestly, if you're new Airbnb has some great information and resources to help you get moving that we recommend everyone should read.
By setting how often you want to be booked, you are telling the Airbnb algorithm how often to rank your listing in search results so if you want your place booked as often as possible make sure you tell them.
Step 5: Booking preferences
Here, we get into the nitty gritty of it where you set up your preferences and booking settings. make sure you pay attention to these sections because they are really important to how well your listing is going to be performing.
How much notice do you need before a guest arrives?
Think about this one before answering, how much time do you really need before a guest arrives. Obviously this is 100% dependent on your situation but if you're renting out your entire place, I recommend to get your cleaner to go through as soon as a guest moves out so that it is always ready for new guests.
However, if you can't do this or if there are long periods of down time between guests, you should consider how much notice you need to get things ready. If you need to organise a cleaner, make sure you talk to them and find out how quickly they can do it because you don't want to have a last minute booking and have to find a second rate cleaner that ends up getting you a bad review.
Because we have very little down time for our managed properties, we generally have the cleaner come through as soon as the guest checks out so that the property can be ready on the same day as the booking. That way, you maximise your bookings and reduce your down time.
How far in advance can your guests book?
We usually set this as 14 months simply because people like to get in early for the holidays and if they can't book it they will book somewhere else. However, you need to consider what is right for you. Will you be selling your place in 6-12 months? Is there any reason you may not want guests at any time in the future? Think about your personal situation and make a judgement call to suit your own needs but in my opinion, the longer the better.
How long can guests stay?
Make sure you check your local legislation because in some states, a short term rental is classified as anything where someone stays for less than 3 months and when the length of stay exceeds that, the laws are different and you may be liable for a whole load of different things you don't want to deal with.
When you set you minimum length of stay, you need to consider a few factors. If someone stays one night, you need to make sure that your full cleaning fee is calculated for the single night to ensure you're not losing money. If you set the minimum night stay for longer than 1 night, you are losing some potential guests that only want to stay one night however, be sure to take into account the amount of work involved if you get a whole weeks worth of one night stays before setting it.
Step 6: Update your calendar
This is really, really important to get right. make sure you set up your calendar so that it shows your correct availability. If your property isn't available until a certain date, make sure that you update the calendar correctly.
Step 7: Price your space
Airbnb smart pricing is very good at tracking trends and keeping up with the market average for similar properties to yours. They have a lot of data to work with and especially in the beginning their tips are a good place to start and you can always update them later.
I normally recommend to clients to set their prices at the tip price or just slightly over (about 5-10%). That way, you're still in the rough price range of your competitors, but you can make a little bit more money.
Step 8: Special offer
Because this is a new listing, you might want to consider using an introductory offer. Airbnb facilitates this easily and they let you offer a 20% discount for the first 3 guests who stay. The idea is that you get your first ratings that then make your listing more appealing to other guests.
You need to decide for yourself whether you want to offer the discount or not. On one hand, it can get you more reviews faster but on the other you make less money.
For most of our properties, we offer the discount because in the business world of today, reviews are everything.
Step 9: Length of stay discounts
Depending on what you want and how much work you want to do, offering a discount for longer stays can be a good way to reduce your work load while still generating good revenue. Again, you need to consider what is more important to you and what type of guest you want to attract.
The Airbnb suggestions are usually good however, for our properties we usually offer a lower discount for long stays simply because we have the resources to effectively manage as many short term stays as possible earning our clients more for their property.
Step 10: Review your settings
You're almost done!
On this page, go through and check that everything makes sense to you and make sure you haven't made any mistakes along the way.
If everything looks OK, go ahead and click next.
Step 11: Local laws and taxes
I'm not a lawyer or an accountant so I can't give any advice on this topic for specific individuals. However, I do know that each local council has different laws and different states have different legislation. For peace of mind you should seek professional advice before going any further.
Regardless of legality, you need to stress to your guests the importance of respecting your neighbours and not creating party houses in residential areas. Nobody likes to buy a house in a nice quiet cul-de-sac only to find out that next door is an Airbnb party house. If it is a nuisance to the community there is a higher probablilty that you will face fines or penalties.
Finally, click finish and your listing is almost ready. Make sure you read through all of your descriptions, check for spelling and grammar and make sure all of the pictures look right before clicking publish.
Once you publish your listing, you will see your hosts dashboard where you can see all upcoming guests bookings and communication.
This is the end of this article but there is still a lot more to be done to get your listing fully set up and optimised. Follow the prompts by Airbnb and complete the things they suggest and remember, if you need help with anything from this article, leave a comment below with what you need help with and I will happily give you some free tips and advice.
Stay tuned for my next article that goes through step by step how to understand your dashboard and what you should do next. Subscribe to our email list to get updates on new articles, videos and other useful content.
P.S. If you're looking to take your Airbnb earnings to the next level and implement the same strategies the big hotels have been using for years to dominate the market...