Airbnb hosting: To be or not to be?

In today’s short-term letting market one cannot rest on one’s laurels when planning a listing on Airbnb or its industry competitors like and the rest of the field. There are traditionally two reasons why people list their accommodations: one is to generate extra income and the other stems from a desire to become passionately involved in the tourism and hospitality industry and satisfy a personal need for more than just the income.

The reality is that in most cases it is more about the income and less about anything else. And therein lies the source of the problem that leads to a lot of disappointment with aspirant hosts: their expectations are not always in line with market realities.

In the past few months more and more holiday home owners have begun considering listing their properties for short-term letting. The focus seems to be more about the potential income rather than the potential business opportunity that hosting can offer. There is also an unrealistic expectation of what is involved and in most cases it has proven to be a sobering experience for the aspirant host.

Whilst there are plenty of highly capable people, many of them retirees, who have the ability and necessary talents to be successful hosts, often their properties are not at the level of maintenance and comfort that guests would consider acceptable for the price asked. All hosts-in-waiting should take a business view of this opportunity and consider the following, before embarking on this challenge:

  • Are you prepared to make an investment in bringing the accommodation up to a standard that is appropriate for guests?
  • Have you considered the implications of sharing your property (not necessarily your home) with guests, and the impact it will have on your lifestyle and privacy?
  • Are you adequately prepared to handle the demands of difficult guests?
  • Are you operating within the legal compliance requirements of the municipality and, if you are not the property owner, the agreement under which you will be subletting the accommodation?

The first point is probably the most critical in determining the success of your attempt at attracting regular guests. For anyone who has travelled, there is nothing worse than arriving at your destination and finding that what you saw advertised is nothing like the reality facing you. So, as a host, you need to ensure that what you show in pictures is what your guests will actually get. The use of wide angle lenses is always risky as they misrepresent the size of rooms and amenities and that is never a good place to start. Any visible signs of dust, cobwebs and damp, peeling paint, rust and dirt should be eliminated at all costs. Cleanliness is one of the top elements rated by guests and if that doesn’t pass muster, it will be reflected in reviews and over time, reduce your ranking in searches.

Tasteful furnishings and decor are other important factors to consider. In all cases, this has a direct influence on the rental you can ask. It does not take a huge investment to kit out accommodation with taste and style; the critical focus should be on linen, towels and basic amenities. Too often one finds linen that is well past its sell-by date, towels as hard as brushes and amenities that are simply off-putting to guests.

If you are going to venture down this road, do it realistically and with attention to detail, and you won’t be disappointed.