stirrups and trophy cups displayed on an equestrian mantle

 

While I was in the process of relocating to Seattle, my home in Joplin, MO spent more than a year vacant. Unsure at first if I wanted to keep the house, and, after listing, aware the unique property would take time to sell, I set up my home as an Air BnB. In the year of hosting- mostly from a remote location- I learned a lot and have written several post relevant to both Air BnB Hosts & Guests- Particularly hosts, both seasoned and brand new.

The post Goodbye to Hawk Hill contains photos from a walk-through of the house as it was set up for Air BnB Guests

New to AirBnB? Get $40 off your first stay!

 

Air BnB Hosting Tips that Boost Profit & Guest Reviews:


1. Cut your Cable and Replace with HDMI cables

It’s the late 2010’s! Everyone has a device that streams videos online- in my opinion there’s little reason to provide both WiFi and Cable. One way to reduce operating costs for your AirBnB is to end any subscriptions to cable or premium TV services. Instead, provide HDMI cables and WiFi access. With wifi and an HDMI cable your guests can watch streaming content from their laptop on your TV screens.

I was very careful to mark my HDMI cables boldly (i.e. somewhat obnoxiously) with white tape indicating the cables belonged to the house, and never had an issue with any going missing. Another option is to, use nailed in cable clips to secure cables permanently to walls

hh_air_bnb_tips_86


 

2.  Get a WiFi-Connected Thermostat

As a homeowner I feel lukewarm about the benefits of having a nest, as a Air BnB Host, the Nest Thermostat makes my “must have” list.  If I was starting over using my house as an Air BnB again, I would do this from day 1: Install a thermostat that can sense and adjust when the house is empty, and can be activated via an App or website before guests arrive.

I saved so much money on my utilities using the Nest. Turn off any “schedule learning features” on your nest, just being able to keep the house at 85 degrees all summer and drop the temp via an app on my phone a few hours before guests came was a big cost saver.


 

3. Know your Market and Price Accordingly

Just two tips on pricing:

A. Start Low then go High.

People who pay very little for a product or service are more likely to give the product or service very high reviews. Starting out on Air BnB, reviews are EVERYTHING- reviews are so important they are practically worth paying for when you consider how many guests a handful of 5 star review lure in. (Point of note, you can ask for reviews but are prohibited from actually paying for them). Luring guests in with a very low nightly rate is a great way to get those critical first reviews.

Caveat: My experience was that the guests who booked at a lower price tended to show less respect for my home and leave my home less tidy, if I was starting from square one again I think I might be more particular about reservations I accepted at the low starting rates, checking, for example, that the guest had reviews from other hosts and wasn’t a new account.

Once you have a handful of great reviews, raise your nightly rate. In my experience, I could get the same number of bookings with a 30% higher nightly rate once I had 10+ five star reviews.

B. Know your Market

My air BnB was in the middle of nowhere, but once each fall that middle-of-nowhere became a hotel-hotspot when thousands of travelers converged for a religious conference of Vietnamese Catholics. I never knew until I became an air BnB host that hotels book a year in advance for this conference, and people frequently requested the dates for my AirBnB months in advance. Research your local events and adjust your price accordingly. Instead of $130 each night, I could take bookings for $300 each night during this festival, and only confirm a reservation that was for 3+ nights.

*cancellation fees – When pricing for an event, keep in mind cancellation fees. If you don’t have a penalty set for guests who cancel you can be left vulnerable if your guest cancels in the days before the event and you’re left without even a standard-rate booking. My WORST AirBnB experience occurred when my $300/night guest cancelled 8 days before the event and I scrambled to get a guest in last minute who ended up being a particularly difficult guest to accommodate.


 

4. Digitize your Lock

In my opinion, a keyless entry setup is essential to success when remotely managing an Air BnB. When I converted my house to a guesthouse, I purchased Shlage’s top rated coded deadbolt and was VERY pleased with the performance. There are a number of “smart” deadbolts available that allow codes to be set and removed via an app, but to date no clear frontrunner in that category getting consistently good reviews. In order to be comfortable installing and then relocating 2,000 miles away, I decided to get the unit with 1,500 4 and 5 star reviews.

I kept 3 codes programmed into my lock- my code, a code for cleaning/maintenance workers, and an AirBnB guest code, the latter of which I changed periodically.

TIP: When sharing your lock code with AirBnB guests, be VERY specific in how they should enter the code. Instead of “The lock code is 1234” specify in your message the instructions exactly as they are worded in the manual for the lock, for example: “To unlock, press the Schlage logo button, then when the numbers light up, press 1 2 3 4, pause, and listen for the deadbolt unlocking.”


5. Consider cheap replacements for expensive cookware

My experience with Air BnB guests was by and large very positive, however I did notice small things- notably kitchen stuff, slowly disappearing over the course of the year I was an AirBnB host. As people bring food, cook, clean up, and carry their items home, it’s likely yours might get caught in the confusion. It was not uncommon for families to rent my home for family reunions, and I think the chaos of cooking in community with other households contributed to my disappearing kitchen supplies.

I recommending paring your kitchen down to essentials and then replacing any high end items with dollar-store versions- In other words, if you’re going to lose a mixing bowl make sure it’s an easily replaced $3 plastic bowl rather than a $40 Williams-Sonoma wedding gift!

In the same vein, collect your niche kitchen utensils (lemon zester, vegetable spiralizer, garlic press, etc) and any especially sharp knives and place in a secure area that can’t be accessed.

 


6. Communicate with Guests Before, During, and After their Stay

Sometimes too much information can overwhelm a customer during the pre-reservation selection process, and information read while considering several properties before booking may not be remembered months after booking when the guest arrives for their stay.

For that reason I came up with a document that is basically an answer to my guest house’s “Frequently Asked Questions.” I sent this document to each guest a few days before their stay (along with the code to the electronic lock) and also posted it in a central place on the kitchen refrigerator:

answers to frequently asked questions are posted in the kitchen of my AirBnB
Posted prominently on the fridge, this FAQ helped significantly reduce last minute questions and communicate house rules and ways to best enjoy the house.

The text of this document is outlined below. 1-3, 5-6, & 10-11 are helpful suggestions to get the best use out of the property (which showers can be used simultaneous, where extra bedding can be found, how to find a hidden light switch, etc). 7-8 are house rules about limited access areas, and 4 & 9 were added to help shape expectations. Obviously I hoped no one encountered a spider or unexpected person on the property during their stay, but advising guests to possibly expect that, and explaining why, I think probably helped maintain my 5 star rating.

Welcome to Hawk Hill! Just a few notes to make your stay more comfortable:

  1. The switch for the main light in the kitchen is BEHIND the refrigerator- just reach behind with your hand.
  2. There is a motion activated driveway bell that dings when a car pulls in. If this bothers you (or it’s particularly windy) you can turn off the bell by unplugging the power source from the outlet located just inside and to the right of the laundry room door.
  3. For security and comfort, we prefer the driveway gates closed overnight and open during the day, though you may leave open overnight if you wish.
  4. This is a shared use property. You have exclusive access to the home but there is a photographer operating out of one of the outbuildings who does occasional photo shoots around the property. If necessary, she can be contacted at xxx-xxx-xxxx
  5. There are 3 bathrooms – Sometimes folks miss the 3rd bathroom on the southernmost end of downstairs (past the mudroom)- but it has the BEST shower / water pressure of all the bathrooms! It is also on a separate water heater so can be used while the upstairs shower is being used.
  6. The king size bed in the green room upstairs is a sleepnumber and can be adjusted via remotes at either side.
  7. Living room fireplace is not currently a functional fireplace.
  8. Basement is OFF LIMITS except during tornado warnings (you’ll hear the city sirens.)
  9. Our home was built in the 1920’s and we love it’s character, but don’t love that occasional spiders are a fact of life in an old home. Please be aware of these tiny residents and if you pull extra linens or pillows from a closet you may want to give them a shake!
  10. Extra Mattress: there is a twin mattress in the closet of the downstairs bedroom. Sheets for it, and extra pillows, are in the laundry basket nearby.
  11. Our “guestbook” is the chalkboard cabinets in the laundry room- feel free to leave your mark!

Make yourself at home and enjoy your stay!

To get a super review from me on Air BnB, take care of the following as you leave:

  1. Collect trash and place in large blue trash can (by the driveway or the road).
  2. Used towels go in the bathtub, dirty dishes go in the dishwasher.
  3. If you unlocked it while here, lock it back up!
  4. If you plugged something in, unplug it! (and vice a versa!)

Wifi Password is: 34622455

Contact Numbers:
Primary Contact: XXXXXX
Secondary Contact: XXXXX


7. Good help is hard to find

Actually the most challenging part of remotely managing my Air BnB was arranging cleaning between guests. In the year I operated my AirBnB I went through 3 different non-professional cleaners (friends I trusted, mostly moms with school age kids, who were interested in making extra money but ultimately found it too much on their plate for not enough money) and, after the third, turned to a professional cleaning service. If I started over in the remotely managing gig, I’d probably hire a professional from the start. Although about a 50% higher cost than hiring an independent contractor, using a commercial cleaning service provided a lot of peace of mind.

To help my cleaners, I created a custom checklist for cleaning my property, copied below.

Between AirBnB Guests: Cleaning Checklist

 Strip beds that were slept in, gather towels, & start laundry.

Start dishwasher & clean kitchen as needed.

Spot clean bathrooms, floors, and anything that looks like it needs cleaned.

Tidy up if house left untidy.

Check refrigerator for abandoned food/take out containers & trash

Trash to trashcan (trashcan to curb on Sunday)

Check toilet paper reserves in each bathroom & paper towels in kitchen. (keeping stockpile locked in garage, but guests need access to 2-3 rolls of TP in each bathroom & 1 roll of kitchen paper towels on the holder & one extra roll under the sink)

Water houseplants.

Remake beds. Leave 1 set of clean & folded towels on each bed (2 sets on king size) (Set = bath towel, hand towel, washcloth)

Text me to know you’re done and the house is ready!


9. Lock it Up

Even if you’ve moved everything but the essentials out of your nightly rental property, you’ll want a space to store extra linens, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, and paper towels. I’m generally a trustworthy person and expect the same from others, but even I might be tempted to swipe a roll of toilet paper from an abundant stash left unlocked in an Air BnB- so my vote is to lock that stuff up!

The simplest/cheapest option is to install a drawer lock on a large drawer or cabinet. This $5 part installed on an old freestanding wardrobe secured a location to me to store documents, art projects, and expensive kitchen gadgets during my year away. Depending on your available drawers and cabinets, it may not be enough space. In that case, a cheap exterior locking doorknob installed on an interior closet door provides a secure storage spot- just be sure if you lock a closet it’s not a closet a long-term guest would need (such as a bedroom closet).

For even more storage, if your property has an attached garage you can change the lock on the door connecting garage to house interior, and limit guest’s access to your garage (although this might affect the nightly rental fee you can justify charging). When I set up my remote Air BnB I actually flipped the existing doorknob so instead of the door being able to lock someone in the garage out of the house, the lock was then able to lock someone in the house out of the garage (thus letting anyone in the garage, i.e. cleaning professionals who had access to the garage door code, in as needed)

 


Ideas on how to maximize profits and guest reviews as an Airbnb Host

My Home’s (Now Retired) Air BnB Listing:

 

Hawk Hill- 3BD home in Joplin

Webb City, MO, United States

Acreage and woods make this 1930’s home in the heart of Joplin feel like a world away. Big enough for family gatherings, convenient location for business in Joplin, & quiet enough for a personal or creative retreat. 3 Bedroom, 3 bath on 3 park-like fenced acres. This home has beds for 5 people, with additional sleeping options to accommodate 4 more (total of 9 adults)

The space

3 stylish bedrooms accommodate up to 5 guests (1 king room, 1 double mattress room, and 1 room with 2 twin beds) with flexibility to sleep up to 8-10 people including 3 full size couches and a twin size mattress stowed in a closet. – Of interest to the artist/writer: property includes a perfect creative space: a well lit, quiet, sunny studio with tables of varying height, a comfortable sofa, and a comfortable writing desk and chair- with attached deck so you can move the creative process outdoors on a nice day.
Guest access

Access to all unlocked areas of the home (several hall closest will remain locked) Outbuildings not included. Garage access not included at this time. Some food items may be available in kitchen, which you may help yourself to. Limited art supplies may be available in the studio, but plan to bring your own art supplies.
The neighborhood

Located 500 yards off Joplin’s main thoroughfare, Rangeline Road, Hawk Hill seems miles away. The property is a historic farm, tucked back behind thick hedges, backed up to a golf course, and offers all the convenience of being in the middle of town with room to stretch out and relax. 5.9 miles from Joplin Airport, 4.9 miles from convention center, approximately 7 miles from both hospitals.
Other things to note

This historic farmhouse was built in the late 1920’s and the property has cycled through being operated as a vineyard and a riding stable in the years since. We’ve reestablished the original strain of grapes and planted an orchard since we purchased Hawk Hill in 2010. Note that there is currently no washing machine available.

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