Try Before You Buy
Gillian Shumway, who rents out her two-bedroom 1910 Bates-Hendricks home ($575 per night) and single bedrooms within ($75 to $95 per night) to a steady stream of convention-goers, suggests using Airbnb as a guest first before signing on as a host. “I now know to provide nice, fluffy towels and stock the bathroom with designer shampoo and soaps,” she says. Those touches lead to positive reviews.
Prep Your Property
Gussy up, or strip down, your rental as needed. For Laura Davenport, whose two-bedroom house near Zionsville ($99 per night) attracts a lot of families visiting relatives, that meant a new futon, couch, and chairs from Ikea supplemented with furnishings and accessories from her own home. Shumway removed personal items from the guestroom and cleared out a closet.
Equip the Kitchen
Hosts needn’t feed their guests (although sharing that fresh banana bread is courteous). However, one longtime host, who rents a room in a Mass Ave pad ($85 per night), has found that international guests like to cook, so new kitchenware is a good investment.
Wi-Fi is a must, but don’t buy a new TV. The veteran Mass Ave host says guests use their tablets and phones and wouldn’t miss a television.
Make Use of Airbnb Resources
Airbnb offers free professional photography services—use them, and reach out to other local hosts for advice. Davenport set up a URL address that links directly to her Airbnb listing.
“Lay down some house rules, but don’t be OCD,” advises Cassie Lee, who, until recently, covered the mortgage on her two-bedroom Broad Ripple bungalow by renting it ($150 to $200 per night) to a mix of wedding guests, couples, and business travelers. Typical rules include no smoking, pets, drugs, or overnight guests.
Good reviews push listings higher on the search results and are key to attracting business. But how do you snag that first one? Charge less than the market rate to start. Also, forgo the optional cleaning fee.
Follow Your Instincts
Unlike VRBO, Airbnb allows hosts to review guests—meaning you can “screen” prospects. Red flags: incomplete profiles, slow or no response to emails or phone calls, hesitancy to answer questions. If something feels off, go with your gut and just say no.