We escape to The Kutcher Condos a few times a year, but did you know we also rent out both of our Maui condos all year long to vacationers escaping to the islands? Yep, it’s one of our favorite side businesses because we get to share the sunshiny goodness of our favorite place in the world with people from, well, all over the world. And while it’s doable alongside being an entrepreneur who lives in the Midwest, running a successful Airbnb from afar does take some intentionality and time.
If you’ve ever thought about renting out a second home, or a spare room, then I want to help you make it as seamless and simple as possible to share your cozy corners with travelers from all over. Keep on reading to pick up my top 10 tips for running a successful Airbnb that’ll get 5-star ratings every time and keep trekkers coming back again and again. (And check out this episode of the podcast for an even deeper Airbnb dive!)
01. Treat it like a business from the start.
While you might be getting into hosting a vacation rental as a side hustle or hobby, it’ll also be bringing in money in exchange for lodging, so it IS a business, too! Be in the loop with your numbers: what your expenses are vs. how much you’re bringing in, how many guests you need a month to make it worth it, how much competitors in your area are charging and how you stack up. Staying on top of this sort of stuff will allow you to pivot easily and make decisions based on logistics, not emotions.
Keep a sort of business plan that details these types of numbers, plus what your goal is for your Airbnb and how you plan to run it smoothly and effectively. Write realistic rules for your place in order to protect it from unruly guests; consider hiring an accountant and lawyer to keep track of the finances, permits, and other local laws you need to adhere to; and check into baseline legal matters like whether or not you need (or could benefit from having) an LLC.
When you approach this as a business, you’ll avoid potential problems down the line with finances or legality. And it’ll likely make the rental itself more lucrative since you’re aware of the numbers and what needs to happen to make sure everything stays in order.
02. Think through your client experience.
When we first bought a condo in Maui and decided to rent it out, I knew I didn’t want it to be just another property rental in the sea of options online. I wanted it to be special and thoughtful in every way. Thinking through what guests could potentially need, what would make their stay memorable, or small things that go the extra mile make all the difference in running a successful Airbnb.
We blew up drone pictures of the beach and printed them to hang on the walls, and invested in quality bedding and linens (and fluffy, plush robes because a fancy robe is everything). We made sure to make checking in as easy as possible by installing a safe keypad entry rather than expecting guests to fumble with keys and lockboxes. We provide all the beach gear they could potentially need so they don’t have to go hunting anything down for beach days. By anticipating what your guests would need AND enjoy having, you can create a lovely experience without much extra effort on your end.
03. First impressions are everything.
Good Airbnb-ers don’t settle for dinky, poor quality photos. The end. But seriously! Investing in high-res, professional photos with good lighting will take your listing miles further than a bad shot of the same exact rental. I know this is coming from an ex-photography expert herself, BUT hear me out here: We’ve all browsed vacation rental sites and measured listings against one another. It’s likely that you were more attracted to the ones with beautiful photos because as humans, we like great images. So, sell your place by putting its best foot forward! And by foot, I mean stellar images on your listing.
The second guests arrive is another opportunity for a first impression fiesta. What small ways can you make checking in and arrival as simple and exciting as possible? Example: To set our condo apart from neighbors so it’s easy for renters to find, we installed a sweet little pineapple door knocker. We can tell guests to find the pineapple, and it’s so much easier and fun as they navigate their way to the property!
04. Don’t build your future on borrowed land.
So even though Airbnb has all the spots to share info about your listing and area, I have believed from the start that it’s necessary to go a step further to create an experience for our listings. That’s why we have @thekutchercondo Instagram account and website. We drop mentions of the rentals into our Jenna Kutcher emails and social media posts, and it’s become a full-on part of my entire brand. It’s really not a side hustle; it’s become a pretty significant piece of my main hustle!
The reason why is that I want to have control over our guests’ experience beyond what Airbnb or any other renting medium can do for us. If Airbnb went away tomorrow, I still know we could run The Kutcher Condo through our own means or through another website because we’ve created a branded experience our guests have come to know, love, and expect. And it gets the guests involved in a bigger way!
They can tag and hashtag us on social media and potentially get reposted. It creates a more well-rounded and personalized experience for them to be a part of, and they get to know us better while becoming a part of our story.
05. Do your homework.
Before ever hitting “live” on your listing, make sure you do the necessary research to be certain you’re in line with the local laws, your prices are fair but competitive, and you know this venture is right for you. There’s a site called Airdna that gives you pricing stats and booking rates for your area that is super helpful in sussing out the best pricing for your rental. You can also call around to other local Airbnb’ers and ask them about their experience to evaluate if this is the right move for you.
Hawaii is in a housing crisis so we were super intentional on researching options that didn’t add to the lack of housing for locals. Our condos are located in a short-term rental only complex, meaning that all of the units are created for the purpose of short term rentals. They are legally zoned that way so even if Airbnb was ever banned from the islands, we would still be able to rent out our condos, perhaps just not on that platform.
06. Outsource where you can.
Because we live a 10-hour flight from our Airbnbs, we’ve had to outsource management, cleaning, and maintenance for our condos. Running an Airbnb yourself can take up a huge amount of time, especially at the front end. You’re furnishing, supplying, setting up technology, prepping information, and trying to get it all set for a flawless stay. On top of that, once it’s up and running, there’s deep cleaning between each stay, fixing anything that’s broken, restocking supplies, and just making sure everything is in working order.
Whew — it’s a LOT. So if you’re hoping to run an Airbnb as a simple side job, you totally can, but that’s where bringing on a team can be super beneficial. Ask yourself if this is something you have the capacity for and what you can outsource to free you up, especially if your rental isn’t in close proximity to where you live. We have close communication with our team and then do updates while we are on island as to not disturb guests stays!
07. Communicate clearly.
One of the most underrated parts to successfully running an Airbnb is on-point communication. Setting up emails leading up to your guests’ arrival so they know what time, where, and how to check-in and out, to answer common questions, to introduce yourself, and to offer suggestions can go a LONG way. Create a few templates to use so that this is easy and quick but delivers everything they’ll need to know throughout their stay.
We also send welcome guides to help plan their vacation with all our favorite local stops, from beaches and activities to restaurants, grocery stores, and coffee shops. In the listing itself, clearly represent the home, what guests can expect to find there, and what they will need to pack. We even get their flight information to be able to check in with them after arrival to make sure they got into the condo easily and ask if they need anything else. As much as you can answer questions, provide helpful info, and avoid mixed expectations, do that in your listing and emails, and create templates that you can use again and again.
08. Identify your target guests.
Who are the typical guests who stay at your property? Do you live in a young and vibrant area where you know a lot of bachelorette parties will be booking your digs? Or is it a slower environment perfect for relaxing and connecting with a spouse for a weekend getaway? Do you allow pets while most don’t in your area? Are you family-friendly and offer amenities that families with young children or babies would appreciate?
Find what makes you stand apart and then use that to target your ideal guest and market your offerings to them, from your decor to the resources you provide. Don’t try to be the vacation home for everyone, and instead identify your ideal guest and talk directly to them so they know when they see your place, it’s the perfect fit for them.
09. Go above and beyond what you promise.
One of the most rewarding parts of hosting an Airbnb is throwing in small surprises that delight and excite your guests! And seriously, it doesn’t need to be anything huge by any means. Communicate all the basics your listing brings, but then toss in some sweet extras, like a bottle of wine in the fridge, a small souvenir they can take home, a late check-out because no one else is coming that day, or gift cards to your favorite local spot.
10. Ask for feedback from your guests.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a review or for your guests to share their experience with you. Often people are more than happy to provide their thoughts but just need the nudge from you to get them. Getting reviews will help you achieve superhost status and get the referrals and social proof that other guests may need to confidently book you in the future.
Plus you can use this sort of feedback to make improvements, capitalize on what people love, and share the great reviews on your own website or social media so your expanded network can know just how awesome your Airbnb is!
Are you feeling alll kinds of ready to kick butt with running a successful Airbnb?! There is such a thrill in welcoming others into our sacred spaces, making room for them, and letting them feel at home, even if only for a little while. It’s the most special opportunity, and I’ve loved every minute. If you could host an Airbnb anywhere in the world, where would it be? Drop your answer in a comment below!