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Airbnb Case Study – How we made $1400 in just over 3 weeks

My wife and I were looking to put some money aside for renovating our apartment when I thought Airbnb might be worth a try.

We had what we thought was a good combination of factors

  • A central location in Sydney handy to both the city, transport and Universities
  • A spare room & sofa bed with its own bathroom
  • Building facilities like a pool, sauna, spa, laundry

After just over 3 weeks we have completed and confirmed reservations for $1401. Here is what we learnt along the way….

Start low

Survey your neighbourhood competition and make a short list of similar apartments or houses that are close by and offering the same number of bedrooms/bathrooms. Try and get at least 5 or 6. Work out the average price. Set your price no higher than the average. If you are suddenly deluged with bookings consider raising the price, but remember you need to keep it within reason. No bookings, then lower your price.

Ground rules

Airbnb provide a House Rules section. Use it to tell people the behaviour you are expecting from them. If you are a vegan or they aren’t allowed to wear shoes in the house then be up front and tell them so they make an informed decision. If they turn up and you give them a bunch of rules they aren’t expecting then don’t expect a great review at the end of the stay.

Use The Free Airbnb Professional Photographer

Most people suck at photography and indoor photography is notoriously difficult. So don’t waste time doing it yourself, get the pro to come in and do it for free. I had a response and a appointment booked in less than 48 hours. Plus the photos they do are marked official Airbnb verified photo which instils a level of trust in the potential guest that they will get wheat they paid for, plus the shots make my apartment look like they are out of a magazine shoot.

Short Stays at First

The Airbnb search algorithm places massive emphasis on reviews & recommendations. Someone who stays for a month only gets to review you at the end of the stay, in the same time you could have had 20 short stays meaning 20 reviews. Set your max stay duration to 5 days or less. It seems that most people a looking for a either 2 or 3 nights on average.

Once you have built up a stable bank of positive reviews then consider increasing the maximum stay duration.

Respond to every single message ASAP

Vitally important that you respond within 24 hours to every single message – even if to say thanks. Airbnb post your response rate on your profile – and frankly who is going to even bother booking with a host that cannot maintain a 100% response rate

Verbose Profile

Include a high quality recent photo, not some idiotic shot from Facebook. If you are a couple then it needs to be of both of you, smiling. If you have a pet ensure it is in the photo too. You do not want someone showing up with an allergy to cats when you have 3 of them. Fill in the rest of the profile with as much detail as you are happy to share with the world.

Couples=More Money

Airbnb lets you charge extra for more than 1 person. We started off small charging an extra $10 per person per day. That’s $70 extra a week, $210 a month, you get the idea.

Cleaning Fees

You are able to charge extra – we chose not to at first as it can really inflate the cost of a 1 or 2 night stay. Instead charge no fee but add on a couple of dollars a day to your price for the same effect.

Use the guidebook

Fill in the Airbnb guidebook with every restaurant, grocery store, vintage clothing outlet, bar, pub and op shop you frequent. Not only will it help your impending flatmates get a handle on the sort of people you are it also lets them know how well you know your city and neighbourhood. All of the guests we had had looked at it.

Social Connections

Add your Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter and mobile number immediately. People truest your social connections and it makes you odd if you do not have these in 2011.

Check your guests social connections – then Google them to ensure they are real people. If you can’t find them google the email address they provided – it’s amazing what shows up in search results and lets you get to know the guests before they even visit you. My searches have thrown up Facebook groups, restaurant reviews they have left, bands they play in and more.

Reviews & recommendations

Airbnb use reviews & recommendations like Google use pagerank and back links to rank your listing. They push you up the search results for your neighbourhood. Make sure you ask, even plead with your guests to leave a review. One tip is to leave one for them as soon as they leave to encourage them to write a nice review of your place. Good reviews  = higher listing = more bookings = more $$.

Recommendations – they are great to get started as you will have no reviews when you start out. Ask your family, friends and colleagues to write 1 paragraph about you. You have the ability to accept or decline them in case your friends play a prank on you. The more the better.

The little things

Make sure the place is clean, I used to work in hotels and the #1 thing people expect is that your place is clean. If it means you have to vacuum 2 or 3 times a week then do it, your place will look 100% better.

If you have WiFi then offer it free like most hotels do. If you have a washing machine and dryer then let them use that as well. If they have been travelling a long time no doubt they have a bag of dirty clothes and it may make the difference in between choosing your place or another.

Bathroom amenities like hairdryers, shampoo, conditioner, clean towels and bathrobes make the guest feel as if they are staying in a hotel when they aren’t. You can pick up bathrobes and hairdryers on Amazon cheaply

Think you can beat our results? – Why not give it a go yourself? It is free for hosts to list

Get started with Airbnb now

About Brian

I'm an Airbnb Host and Evangelist living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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