Putting Your House On Airbnb? Read This First…
If you’re thinking of putting your house on Airbnb, or even if you’re a veteran Airbnb host, you need to pay close attention to how your Airbnb listing is crafted.
Gone are the days when you could just slap up a couple of photos and a quick description and expect to get bookings.
Those days are long gone!
The competition in 2019 is crazy.
With more and more competition entering the market, and in an age of diminished concentration spans, it’s imperative to stand out from the crowd.
So how do you compete?
Well, if you’re going through all of the effort of putting your house on Airbnb you want to make sure that your listing is the best it can be.
This means crafting a listing that’s going to entice guests to book, and equally important is to satisfy Airbnb’s search ranking algorithms. If nobody can see your listing, you’re not going to get any bookings.
In this post I’m going to teach you the techniques I use for building a listing that will inform, engage and entice your audience into booking, and maximise your properties reach in Airbnb’s search results.
This post is a bit of a monster clocking in at 5000+ words, so you may want to come back to it over time.
This posts takes you through each phase of building your Airbnb listing. To follow along, log-in to your Airbnb dashboard and go through each and every section, one by one. I know it’s not the most exciting job to do in the world, but spend a couple of hours getting this right, and you’ll never have to worry about it again.
Ok, lets get started, and lets give your Airbnb listing the boost it deserves!
Before we dive deep into building your listing, I want to give you a quick crash course in crafting compelling description copy for your listing.
I’m not going to give you a lecture in creative writing here, but there definitely is a skill to writing content that people want to read.
By following certain criteria, alongside a few handy tools, we can create super engaging descriptions that your guests want to read, but more importantly, generate bookings.
That’s magnetic writing!
You see, the language and tone of your writing can instantly connect you to your guests. Be light, be fun, and be captivating.
Below are a 8 quick tips to re-sharpen your rusty writing skills:
1. Don’t hedge
“Hedging” is when you go out of your way to cover every contingency in an argument.
Example: “Nowadays many middle-school girls have at least some affinity for vampires.”
The hedges are “almost all” and “at least some affinity.” These may be strictly true, but it’s soft, pudgy wording that lacks punch.
Instead: “Nowadays middle-school girls love vampires.”
2. Repeat a phrase
Repetition establishes structure and rhythm. Repetition taps into the old part of our brain that loves rhyme and meter. Repetition pulls the reader into the flow of your writing. Repetition isn’t difficult to use. Repetition is your friend.
Repetition is annoying if overused.
3. No passive voice
Passive voice is when you switch the positions of the subject and object of a sentence.
For example: “The boy hit the ball” is in active voice; passive voice is: “The ball is hit by the boy.”
Notice how passive voice uses more words without adding information — usually a warning sign of flabby writing.
The wrongness of passive voice isn’t universal, but wouldn’t it have been clearer if I had said that passive voice isn’t always wrong?
I don’t care how good your writing is, most people won’t read more than a few sentences. Any more and they’ll start scanning. You probably aren’t reading this exactly from top to bottom are you? In fact, you’re probably not even reading this sentence.
Man, for a discussion about brevity this sure is dragging on. You can fight it by being more entertaining, but the best policy is to just write less.
5. Use short sentences
Short sentences are easy to read. They’re easy to digest. Sometimes longer sentences — especially if divided up with dashes — are an appropriate tool, especially mixed in with shorter sentences to break things up.
6. Eliminate trash adjectives
Most adjectives and adverbs don’t add information; they just take up space and dull your message.
Example: “I’m very interested in quickly scheduling an in-person interview.”
Remove the adjectives and you get the same message, but sharper: “I’m interested in scheduling an interview.”
7. Be direct
Pardon me, dear reader, but if it wouldn’t be too much of an inconvenience, could I trouble you to do me the favor of applying your obvious considerable facility with the English language to just get to the damn point?
Flowery, respectful and qualified wording is appropriate when you’re asking a waiter to do you a favor without spitting in your food.
But it has no place in magnetically persuasive writing.
8. Write informally
Sure, informal writing isn’t “professional.” And yeah, using phrases like and yeah violates the brevity rule. But it’s usually smart to write like you talk.
Being informal helps you come off as a real person, not a stodgy, robotic copy writer.
‘course, it can git to be too durned much, s’don’t go ’round makin’ it hard to just plain understand what in blazes yur talking ’bout.
They say first impressions are most important, and often your written word will be the first impression someone has of you!
So take the time and care to make it magnetic.
Pro Copy Writing Tools
I use two tools to check over any writing that I do.
They’re free, and they help.
Hemingway App makes your writing bold and clear.
The app highlights many common errors within your writing such as:
- Lengthy, over complex sentences. (When your writing is so dense and complicated that readers will get lost trying to follow its meandering, splitting logic).
- Use of complex wording where simpler alternatives exist.
- Adverbs and weakening phrases. (Removing them from your writing can give your writing more force).
- Passive voice.
All you have to do is paste your content into the online editor and go through all of the suggested improvements.
Millions of users rely on Grammarly every day to make their messages, documents, and social media posts clear, mistake-free, and effective. It works great for writing great content for your Airbnb listing too 🙂
How does Grammarly work?
Grammarly automatically detects grammar, spelling, punctuation, word choice, and style mistakes in your writing. It’s very easy to set up.
All you have to do is download the Chrome extension and you’re away. Simple as that.
Did you know that eight out of ten people will read a headline, while only 20% will go on to read the rest of your copy?
A great title will drive more clicks to your listing.
It’s your guest’s first impression so it must be clear and concise. Writing a great title isn’t easy though, as you only have 50 characters to make your listing stand out from the crowd.
Let me take you through an example to learn how to craft a killer title for maximum effect.
Firstly, let’s brainstorm and highlight the unique selling points of your place.
- Downtown New York
- Top floor apartment
- Close to time square
- 2 Beds
Let’s use this following title and break it down:
“luxury top floor apartment in downtown New York. 2 beds. Close to Time Square. Pool and sauna included.”
1) DEFINE DISTANCES WITH NUMBERS
Rather than “Close to Time Square” use “50m from Time Square”.
It’s this more descriptive, more accurate, and it also saves valuable character space.
“luxury top floor apartment in downtown New York. 2 beds. 50M toTime Square. Pool and sauna included.”
2) USE CAPITAL LETTERS AT THE BEGINNING OF EACH NEW WORD
“Luxury Top Floor Apartment In Downtown New York. 2 Beds. 50M To Time Square. Pool And Sauna Included.”
Capitalizing the first letters makes your title to STAND OUT!
3) USE PIPES INSTEAD OF FULL STOPS
“Luxury Top Floor Apartment In Downtown New York | 2 Beds | 50M To Times Square | Pool And Sauna Included”
Using pipes separates your content in a compelling way.
4) USE CHARACTERS THAT STAND OUT!
Titles that include different character sets convert better. e.g. ! & + | “
Lets see how things look with the introduction of a few of these.
”Luxury Top Floor Pad! Downtown New York | 2 Bed | 50M – Time Square | Pool + Sauna”
5) USE YOUR WORDING EFFICIENTLY
The title is really starting to take shape now.
“Luxury Top Floor Pad!” is good, but what about “Penthouse Pad!” instead?
It’s more emotive, fewer words and characters.
Also, with the apartment being just “50M from Times Square”, I think we can make the assumption that guests will already know that the apartment is in “Downtown New York”.
So let’s go ahead and remove that too.
“Penthouse Pad! 2 Bed | 50M – Time Square | Pool + Sauna”
One final adjustment. I think that we can rearrange the key points to maximize their effect:
“Penthouse Pad! 50M – Time Square | Pool + Sauna | 2 Bed”
As you can see, with this method we’ve optimized the title to be compelling and to the point.
Play around with a few iterations of this formula to draw up a few unique titles before picking a winner.
The goal of Summary section is to inform and entice your guests to read further.
We outlined our unique selling points (USP’s) whilst building our title, now this is the section where we elaborate on them and add a bit of spice.
You only have 500 characters to work with here, so keep things to the point.
Here’s a quick refresh of our USP’s:
- Luxury Modern
- Top floor apartment
- Downtown New York
- Close to time square
“Only a stone’s throw to Time Square (5o Meters to be exact!), sat at the top of one of New York’s most exclusive residences lies this ultra-modern, two bedroom luxury Penthouse apartment.
Bright and open plan, this top floor apartment has everything you need and more, including free access to the heated pool and sauna.
So why not soak up the atmosphere, and immerse yourself in the spectacle of New York at it’s best.
There really is no better place to take in everything New York City has to offer.”
This is your guests’ first impression of your place, so make it fun and blow them away!
Did you know that users can filter search results by amenities?
There are a lot of picky people out there, and sometimes, as sad as it is, having an iron and ironing board could be the deciding factor for converting a booking.
Your chief aim is to get your listing in front of as many people as possible, so it’s worth investing a small amount to offer as many amenities as you can.
Bear in mind too, now that you are running your Airbnb as a business, you’ll be able to add these items as expenses when you submit your tax return.
*Note: It pays to check in with Airbnb’s Amenities section from time to time as they often add new options to their checklists.
Are You Business Ready?
If there is any way that you can make your property business travel ready, do it!
Business travelers are cashed up, and once again it helps your listing appeal to the biggest audience possible.
To get business travel ready, here’s what you need to do:
What makes a listing Business Travel Ready?
Business Travel Ready listings must be an Entire Home/Apt and an eligible property type (house, apartment, bed & breakfast, bungalow, cabin, chalet, townhouse, villa, guesthouse, entire floor, hotel, loft, or condo). The listing must be no smoking, and can’t have pets on the property.
Many business travelers are new to traveling on Airbnb, so we’ve limited Business Travel Ready listings to certain property types to help make sure guests know what to expect when they arrive.
As a part of this, and because of the potential for allergies and other sensitivities, we also ask that Business Travel Ready listings are smoke-free properties and don’t have pets living in the space while the guest is there.
If a pet lives in your space, but won’t be there during your guest’s stay we ask that you’re aware of traveler’s potential allergens and make sure your listing is cleaned before your guest’s arrival.
The listing must also have the following Business Travel Ready amenities:
- Wireless Internet
- A laptop-friendly workspace
- Self-check-in (this includes a key lockbox, doorman, keypad, or smart-lock)
- A smoke detector
- A carbon monoxide detector
- Essentials (toilet paper, clean towels, and fresh linens)
- An iron
- A hair dryer
Reviews and response rate
Listings must have at least 3 star rated reviews before they can be eligible for Business Travel Ready status. For listings with 3 or more star rated reviews, at least 60% of both the listing’s primary reviews and the listing’s reviews for cleanliness and accuracy must be 5 star reviews.
Hosts of Business Travel Ready listings also must have responded to 90% of booking requests within 24 hours over the last year.
Hosts of Business Travel Ready listings must provide a 7-day cancellation commitment to reservations. If a listing has a cancellation within 7 days of a confirmed check-in date, it can’t be considered for Business Travel Ready for 1 year from the cancellation date.
Listings and their hosts are evaluated for business travel readiness on a rolling basis. Keep in mind that you and your listing need to continue to qualify after the initial evaluation in order to maintain Business Travel Ready status.
If you’ve done your job of enticing the guest through to your listing with your title and description, there is a very good chance that they will take the time to read this section.
Think of it like the details page of a house for sale, but with an injection of personality.
Your guests shouldn’t have to guess what your property will be like when they arrive, they should know, and this is the section to let it all out.
I’d recommend a formula a little like this:
“Spacious and bright, will be the first things that come to mind when you enter the Penthouse. Huge windows in every room illuminate the space in by day, and soak up Time Square’s neon lights by night.
Each room is ultra modern in design and equipped with everything that you could need for your stay.
If you want to do New York in style, you’ll be hard pushed to find a better place.
Bedroom 1. (3m x 3m)
– Sleeps x2
– Big comfy King Size bed with Egyptian cotton linen.
– Huge window with spectacular city views.
– Walk in wardrobe.
– Flat Screen TV.
Kitchen. (4m x 4m)
A bright and spacious designer kitchen with every you could ever need.
– State of the art designer appliances.
– Washing machine
– 4 Hob Gas cooker
– Big dining table for x6 people.”
I recommend a layout like this because it gets straight to the point, it’s very easy to read, and it’s pleasant on the eye. It’s a nice way to pack a lot of information into a small space.
Also, using bullet points helps space out the content and make’s dull information more palatable.
Using this method, go through all of the rooms/space that you will be letting, and make sure your guests are well informed.
Are there any areas of lockup storage? Do your guests have full access? How do they access a key?
“As guests, you’ll have freedom over the whole apartment. There are a couple of areas of lockup storage which are off bounds, but apart from that the apartment is all yours without interruption for the duration of your stay!”
As with all sections in your listing its important to fill them all out properly, and this one is no different.
Your guests want to know what level of interaction they are going to have with you. Some guests love the idea of sharing a space with others and love the idea of meeting new people and interacting. On the contrary, many guests prefer complete privacy and would rather as little interaction as possible.
Whatever your setup and style, it’s important to let them know.
“I live two blocks from the apartment so if there is anything I can do to help I’ll always be on hand. Feel free to reach out if you’d like any advice and recommendations.
The Penthouse is exclusively yours, without interruption for the duration of your stay, so relax, unwind, and make yourself at home.”
What is your neighborhood like and what makes it unique?
Do you live in a bustling inner city suburb? Or do you live in a quiet rural location? Every area has its own unique selling points, and it’s your job to highlight the points that will resonate most with your target audience.
Here are a few things to help you on your way:
This section also provides a great canvas to boast about your proximity to attractions:
- Local Walks
- Bars and Restaurants
- City Gardens
- Coastal access
This really is a great way to showcase your location.
“Bustling streets and neon lights illuminate the area transforming Times Square into the spectacle that it is.
New York’s top restaurants and Bars are only a short walk away as are some of the Cities biggest attractions. If the pace of the City is getting too much you can take yourself away from it all in one the plentiful leafy parks only a short distance away.
The district is well known as one of the cities safest, so it’s a great place to soak up some of the late night entertainment minus the stress. Best of all the Penthouse apartment is right in the center of it all.
If you are looking to take in everything the City has to offer, and do it in style, then look no further.
The Penthouse has everything you could ever need, and more!”
Some of the biggest selling points of your listing its vicinity to tourist attractions and good transport links, so this section is very important.
You can use this section to elaborate on the “Neighbourhood Overview” section and give transport advice for getting around.
Add information about all the modes of transport that operate in your area: Train, Bus, Underground, Taxi, Walking etc.
“Being in downtown New York makes getting around so easy.
The nearest underground station is just 300m away, giving you instant, quick access to the City. Buses also run 24hrs a day too. The nearest bus links are just one block away.
The apartment is so close to everything that so much is able to be explored by foot, and if you get tired feet after a full day of exploring, a Yellow Cab will be there to take you home.
From this location, you’ll be able to make the absolute most of every minute of your trip”
This section gets by far the most overlooked by the majority of Hosts. Airbnb gives you this section because they want you to fill it out, and their ranking algorithms reward people who do things properly!
When I tell Host’s that they need to take the time and effort to fill in this section, often times they are stuck with what to write.
Here are some of the things to consider including:
- Any negatives about your listing (mentioning them before your guests arrive will avoid bad reviews).
- Any particularly strict and stringent rules
- Any local laws
- Any additional fees eg. Extra fee for parking
- Lack of an amenity that would be expected eg. No air conditioning, No TV, No heating etc.
Just because these points could be deemed as negatives, it doesn’t mean you have to frame it as such. If your guests know what to expect and everything is clear, then everybody’s happy 🙂
With all of that being said, it’s still important to keep this section engaging. It should still be lighthearted and fun.
Here’s an example:
“With the apartment located on the top floor, it’s best to use the lift. Unfortunately, the lift only goes to the 10th floor (the apartment is on the 12th floor), so you will need to walk the last two flights of stairs.
It is possible to park your car in the underground car park, however, there is a small fee of $5 per day (which is much cheaper than any on-street parking locally). Shoot me a message in advance and I can arrange the parking permit for you.
The apartment has every mod con you can think of, but one thing that was consciously neglected was a TV. We like to encourage conversation and connection, we hope you appreciate this too”
Every listing is different, but if you package things in the correct way, there is no need for anything to ever come across as a negative.
Use the above as a guide and think of a positive twist to put on any negatives.
A well written House Manual is a great way to reduce your workload as a Host. It’s often the simple things that get overlooked, and it’s often those things that will give you the headaches.
Your guests want a seamless and stress-free experience, a great house manual should help them with that.
Home – Give your guest a warm greeting and welcome them to your home, accompanied by the WiFi credentials.
Essentials – Showcase all the basics including your local recommendations and the important info about your home in one place
Rooms – As your guest(s) step inside the various rooms in your home, provide them with all the pointers they need for each specific area.
Amenities & Tech – Help your guests get the most out their stay without having to spend time pestering you how to use all the devices, items, appliances, and gadgets you own.
Helping your guests get settled and acquainted effortlessly, gives them the freedom to focus on their trip.
How to send the House Manual
The house manual is available at any time for a guest throughout their stay via the Airbnb app, however, I recommend proactively sending the House Manual to your guests to increase the chances of them actually reading it.
Some Hosts choose to send the House Manual as a PDF attachment in an email to their guests. I would avoid this method as the open rate of the email, and the chances of the guest reading the PDF attachment are slim.
I choose instead to Copy + Paste the House Manual and send it as a direct message through Airbnb’s messaging system. I do this as I believe it shows great communication, helps to build rapport and offers value to the guest.
When to send the House Manual
I recommend sending out the House Manual on the day of the arrival. I send it at this time to have maximum effect, and to provide helpful communication prior to arrival.
I have my system set up to send it out 7 Hours before Check-in.
I have this process automated using the Smartbnb App so that I never forget to do it, but you can also do it manually. If you choose the manual route, saving the House Manual as a “Saved Message” within Airbnb App will save you a ton of time and make the process much easier.
Airbnb has this fantastic feature that lets you create a guidebook for people to see when browsing through listings.
You can highlight Cafe’s, Bars, Gardens, Galleries basically anything that you think is a must-see for your guests. This is a pretty cool resource for your guests.
It’s basically a ‘how-to’ for your area. The feature lets you place pins on a map and write short descriptions of your favorite spots across several categories.
Your Guidebook is open to anyone looking at your listing’s map. Also, if you have multiple listings, you’ll need to create a separate Guidebook for every listing.
I recommend adding at least 10-20 destinations to your Guidebook.
Airbnb’s algorithm will love you for it, and so will your guests!
Here’s a quick list of must have’s for your Guidebook:
1. Coffee House – Let your guests in on your favorite coffee spots.
2. Bar – Where to find great local beer, or a Bar with a twist.
4. Restaurants – Everyone wants to know where the locals eat.
5. Hipster Heaven – Even if it isn’t your scene, everyone loves to rock it with the Hipsters.
6. Scenic walks – Share your favorite walks.
7. Take Out – Sometimes you just want to stay in and relax, give them your top picks.
8. Galleries & Museums – Give the culture vultures the inside scoop on the best places to go.
Your House, Your Rules!
Just remember, your guests are paying a lot of money to stay at your place, so be cool with it, don’t treat everyone as guilty until proven innocent. Remember, you actually want to encourage people to book your place, and giving them a lecture full of “No’s” is not going to win you more bookings.
Be clear on what your rules are, but make sure they are reasonable to expect from someone who’s paying you their hard earned cash on their special getaway.
Don’t be a control freak, relax, and concentrate on offering an incredible experience to your guests.
The House Rules will appear in your Airbnb listing, but you it’s also a good idea to have a laminated copy in the house.
Below are a few areas to consider in your House Rules:
- Extra guests – Are visitors or extra guests allowed?
- Smoking – Is smoking permitted, and if so, where?
- Off-limit areas – Where can guests not go?
- Eating areas – Can people eat in all areas of the home?
- Cleaning procedures – Where does trash go? Should they clean the dishes?
- Laundry – Where to put it?
- Gatherings or Parties – Are they allowed? Max size? Approval?
- Quiet hours – Are there any and when are they?
- Pets/Animals – Are they allowed? Any extra deposit?
KISS – “Keep It Simple Stupid”!
Don’t over complicate things. Be clear and concise, and leave nothing open for interpretation.
Airbnb has 4 different cancellation policies to choose from:
- Strict (with grace period)
Let’s go into this in a bit more detail:
Flexible: Full refund within a limited period
– For a full refund of accommodation fees, cancellation must be made a full 24 hours prior to listing’s local check in time (or 3:00 PM if not specified) on the day of check-in. For example, if check-in is on Friday, cancel by Thursday of that week before check-in time.
– If the guest cancels less than 24 hours before check-in, the first night is non-refundable.
– If the guest arrives and decides to leave early, the accommodation fees for the nights not spent 24 hours after the official cancellation are fully refunded.
Moderate: Full refund within a limited period
– For a full refund of accommodation fees, cancellation must be made five full days prior to listing’s local check in time (or 3:00 PM if not specified) on the day of check-in. For example, if check-in is on Friday, cancel by the previous Sunday before check-in time.
– If the guest cancels less than 5 days in advance, the first night is non-refundable but 50% of the accommodation fees for remaining nights will be refunded.
– If the guest arrives and decides to leave early, 50% of the accommodation fees for the nights not spent 24 hours after the cancellation occurs are refunded.
Strict: 50% refund up until 1 week prior to check in
– For a 50% refund of accommodation fees, cancellation must be made seven full days prior to listing’s local check-in time (or 3:00 PM if not specified) on the day of check-in, otherwise no refund. For example, if check-in is on Friday, cancel by Friday of the previous week before check-in time.
– If the guest cancels less than 7 days in advance, the nights not spent are not refunded.
– If the guest arrives and decides to leave early, the nights not spent are not refunded.
Strict (grace period): Full refund if cancellation is within 48 hours of booking
– For a full refund of accommodation fees, cancellation must be made within 48 hours of booking and at least 14 full days prior to listing’s local check-in time (or 3:00 PM if not specified) on the day of check-in.
– For a 50% refund of accommodation fees, cancellation must be made 7 full days prior to listing’s local check in time (or 3:00 PM if not specified) on the day of check-in, otherwise no refund. For example, if check-in is on Friday, cancel by Friday of the previous week before check-in time.
– If the guest cancels less than 7 days in advance or decides to leave early after check-in, the nights not spent are not refunded.
Airbnb certainly tries to push you into the “Flexible” cancellation policy which I don’t personally agree with.
I don’t think it’s fair to expect Hosts to offer a 24hour cancellation policy, leaving you with 100% of the risk. This also leaves you open to foul play from your competitors too, who can make fake bookings months out in the knowledge that they can cancel at any point without any financial forfeit.
I recommend a minimum of Moderate level, but personally, I use the Strict policy.
I’ve had numerous times when people cancel their bookings and ask for a refund. I let them know that if I can get the dates booked, I will offer them a full refund, but if I can’t fill the dates, the cancellation policy still stands.
From my experience, 100% of my guests have always been super appreciative of this model.
It’s win-win for everyone involved.
You may well increase your bookings with a Flexible cancellation policy, but you will also get more cancellations.
That was a beast of a post, and it’s just the beginning. I’ve got phase two of my Airbnb Listing Masterclass coming your way soon.
Your listing should now be 1 step closer to being fully optimized from the ground up to convert more bookings.
Whether you’re creating your first listing and putting your house on Airbnb for the first time, or you’ve been a host for a long time already. The steps in this post will help you regardless.
How long have you been hosting on Airbnb for? And how well does your listing stack up now you’ve seen how things should be done? Leave a comment below and get the conversation started.