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Start an Airbnb

How to Start an Airbnb: 7 Key Steps to Set Up Your Rental

Are you considering opening a short-term rental? Or are you a new Airbnb host setting up your first listing? Read on to learn exactly how to start an Airbnb in 7 steps.

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I'm Sabrina, an Airbnb host coach who knows starting your own short-term rental biz can quickly get waaaay too complicated. But it doesn't have to be. I help first-time Airbnb hosts like you go from overwhelmed 
to "Yes!! Another  booking!"
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Are you considering opening your first short-term rental but not sure how to start an Airbnb?

Or, maybe you’re in the midst of setting up your Airbnb and want to make sure you’re not missing anything?

Read on to learn exactly how to start an Airbnb in just seven steps.

How to Start an Airbnb in 7 Steps

1. Pick your property

When it comes to choosing which property you’ll turn into an Airbnb, you have several options:

  • Rent out an unused room in your house
  • Rent out your house when you travel
  • Rent out your basement or guesthouse
  • Buy a new property solely dedicated to Airbnb’ing

If you can cover the upfront costs, having a property solely dedicated to your Airbnb business is a great option. That way, you can get consistent rental revenue while investing in a great piece of real estate.

But, if you can’t do that right now (or if you just want to dip your toe in the Airbnb water!) consider one of the other great options listed above.

Before you invest in any property, make sure to use a profitability calculator. These tools calculate how profitable a property is before you invest any of your hard-earned cash.

2. Check local requirements

Before you choose a specific location for your Airbnb, you need to understand any requirements for short-term rentals in that area.

Some municipalities and homeowner’s associations don’t allow short-term rentals at all. Others require certain permitting that can be cumbersome, expensive, and/or hard to get approval for.

You need to know what’s required before you invest in a property. Usually, you can find this information online, but it doesn’t hurt to call your municipality and talk to someone directly, too, because what’s online is not always up-to-date.

For example, where my Airbnb is located, I’m required to have a short-term rental permit.

To apply for the permit, I had to create a floor plan which then determined my maximum occupancy. I also submitted an aerial photo of the property, drew up an emergency escape route, and bought a fire extinguisher for each floor.

After submitting all of the above and passing an in-person inspection, I was approved. All in all, the process took about one month.

Recommended: 10 Property Maintenance Mistakes Successful Airbnb Hosts Need to Avoid

3. Furnish & stock your property

Before doing any work on your actual listing, you need to set up the property itself.

But figuring out exactly what your guests need in every single room can be daunting.

Save time by downloading my FREE furniture and supplies checklist (100+ items!):

Recommended: The Best Room-By-Room Airbnb Checklist: 100+ Essential Items

4. Get renter’s insurance

Your existing homeowner’s insurance may not include coverage specific to renting out your property. Check your existing policy. If you’re not covered, consider adding coverage for rentals or buy a separate policy.

And take a look at Airbnb’s AirCover policy, which covers hosts with $1MM in liability insurance and $1MM in damage protection.

Recommended: Airbnb Host Fees: Are They Worth It for Airbnb Hosts?

5. Find a local cleaning company

The one thing you can’t skip when setting up your Airbnb is creating a plan for cleaning your property between guests.

If you live locally and have the time, you could choose to clean the property yourself. However, I recommend hiring a cleaning company.

Why?

Because cleaning is super easy to outsource. There are tons of professional cleaners that will get the job done. Your time is better spent focusing on more revenue-generating opportunities for your business.

Once you find a cleaner, you’ll want to ask a few questions to make sure you’re on the same page and have realistic expectations.

Consider asking:

  • Do you have software that integrates with my Airbnb listing?
    • The cleaning company’s software should sync with your Airbnb calendar so that the cleaners know when your property needs to be cleaned
  • Will you promptly send me photos of any damage, missing items, or areas that require extra cleaning?
    • If guests do anything that might require them to pay additional fees after their stay, having photos from your cleaning crew will be essential. Get all of my tips for recouping extra costs here
  • How will I pay you?
    • The cleaning company might email you an invoice after each stay. Hopefully you can set up automatic payments once every 1-2 weeks for any outstanding invoices, so you’re not paying every invoice one at a time

Recommended: Everything You Need to Know About the Airbnb Resolution Center

6. Take listing photos

Once all of your furniture is in place and you’ve found a local cleaning company, you’re ready to take photos of your property!

Ask your cleaning company to do one deep clean the day before you take photos.

Airbnb Hosting Tip: This is also a good opportunity for you to make sure everything is cleaned as expected. That way, you can discuss any issues with the cleaning crew, if needed.

When it comes to taking listing photos, you have two options:

  • Option #1: Do-It-Yourself
    • If you have experience taking photos and have the right equipment (i.e. a camera that zooms out to capture the whole room) you can go the DIY route with your photos
    • Before you do, consider spending a few hours planning
      • Take a look at other listings to see what you think works well and what doesn’t
      • Ask yourself, which angles make each room look the most spacious? What’s important to capture and what’s not?
    • Then, build a list of the photos you want to capture. You should include 1-2 photos of each room and any local amenities
    • Remember, you want your photos to showcase the entire room. They should make your property appear bright and spacious. To make your listing appear inviting, consider staging certain areas like your dining room table

Airbnb Hosting Tip: What I like best about the DIY route is that, as a first-time Airbnb host, you’re probably going to end up making changes to your property after you take photos. If you hire a professional, you can’t just snap an updated photo and add it to your listing.

  • Option #2: Hire a professional
    • If you do choose to hire a photographer, I still recommend doing all of the above. Then, talk to your photographer about your expectations so you’re both on the same page.
    • A few things you might want to discuss:
      • Video walkthroughs. Many photographers sell standard packages that include video walkthroughs of your property. Unfortunately, you can’t post videos on Airbnb. So, you might only want to pay for a video if you plan to use it on other platforms
      • Also know that you probably won’t get to pick and choose from a variety of photos. The photographers I found all take several of the same photo and edit them together, so you only get to see the final (fully paid for) images
      • Finally, ask about photo rights. It’s standard for photographers to own the rights to the photos they take. So, if you’re ever interested in using them off the Airbnb platform you’ll need to get that approved by the photographer in advance

Get even more photography-related tips in this post.

7. Draft your listing

Phew! Now that you’ve got all that out of the way, you’re finally ready to start drafting your actual listing. This is by far the quickest step so I recommend waiting until last.

There are four main components to your listing: listing photos, title, description, and house rules.

  • Listing photos
    • If you followed all my photo recommendations above, you should be in great shape! Just upload your final photos to your listing and add a descriptive caption to each
  • Title
    • When deciding on your listing title, first do some competitive research to understand what other listings in your area are highlighting
    • You might notice trends like proximity to certain amenities in your neighborhood, the number of rooms and bathrooms, or other enticing descriptors
    • When crafting your own title, state what makes it special compared to other listings and/or who your property is perfect for
    • For example:
      • “Modern Cozy Home w/ King Bed, Spacious Kitchen, Close to Lake”
      • “Modern Cozy Home Perfect for Families &Remote Work”
  • Listing description
    • Make a list of everything your guests need to know as well as what you want them to know
      • For example, they need to know how many bedrooms and bathrooms you have. You might want them to know that your property has a 75″ Smart TV and king-sized beds
      • Creating a list ensures you don’t miss any important details
    • Then draft your description. Make sure to incorporate your key attributes in a way that ties your whole property together and invites guests in for a great vacation. Ideally, they’ll picture themselves enjoying your property as they read

Airbnb Hosting Tip: Have a target guest in mind when creating your listing. Is your place perfect for families with young kids? Romantic getaways? Business trips? Whatever it is, have that ideal guest in mind when you write your listing. Highlight things they would want to know!

Recommended: 10 Mistakes You Need to Avoid When Listing With Airbnb

  • House rules
    • House rules are the most straightforward aspect of your listing. Airbnb will ask you a series of standard questions that will automatically populate most of your rules.
    • In addition to those, think about what other rules are important to you. This might include:
      • The potential for additional fees
      • Checkout instructions from your cleaning crew
      • Your municipality’s noise curfew

Airbnb Hosting Tips: Try to keep this section kind and light-hearted. You don’t want to scare any potential guests away just before they’re ready to hit ‘book’ by coming off as aggressive or threatening.

Learn more about how your house rules can protect you in this post.

BONUS: Label anything potentially confusing

Before your first guest arrives, go the extra mile by thinking about what you might want to label around your property.

Labeling is tricky – in fact, some hosts recommend against it – because it can quickly get overwhelming for guests.

The goal of labeling is to ensure your guests have the most relaxing vacation possible.

Put yourself in their shoes and walk around your property as if it’s the first time you’ve ever been there. Think about what might be potentially confusing for guests.

For example:

  • Do you have unlabeled dish soap and hand soap bottles in the kitchen? (Guests won’t know which is which!)
  • Do you have cleaning supplies in an unlabeled cabinet? (Guests won’t know they’re there!)

To ensure your guests don’t get frustrated by these small details, consider putting a label on each. You can find aesthetically pleasing labels like these on Amazon.

But, be sure to use these sparingly and only where very important. You want to help your guests, not annoy them.

Recommended: 141 Laundry Room Labels (Amazon)

Takeaway

Whew, we just covered a lot!

Hopefully, this guide on how to start an Airbnb makes the process easier and more manageable for you.

Setting up your first Airbnb is a huge accomplishment! After all your hard work, don’t forget to take some time to celebrate and relax.

But, know that the work doesn’t end there. After you start hosting there’s a lot of work that goes into managing your Airbnb.

Recommended:

Don’t miss out! Save time setting up your Airbnb. Get my FREE furniture and supplies checklist (100 items!) today:

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How to start an Airbnb

Questions about setting up your first Airbnb? Let me know in the comments.

Disclaimer: All content on this website is for informational purposes only. You are taking all provided information at your own risk. We are not financial, real estate, legal, investment or other professionals. Nothing on this website should be construed as professional advice. We will not be liable for any loss or damage of any nature. Additionally, we are not agents or employees of Airbnb. For more information, read our disclaimer.

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I made $85,000+ my first year Airbnb hosting. Now, I’m sharing all my Airbnb hosting tips so you can build your own insanely profitable business.

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I'm Sabrina,
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