When people find out that Tom and I rent out our apartment on Airbnb while we travel they often ask us how we are able to manage Airbnb remotely. Though I can see why it may make some people nervous, with a little bit of planning and the right set-up it is easy-peasy!
1. Set up your space.
If you can minimize the clutter in your space everything will be easier all-around. People would rather not stay in a place that feels over-cluttered with belongings, the cleaner will find it easier to clean, and you will have less of your things to worry about going missing or getting broken. This is a great opportunity to go through your space, and make sure you just have one of each thing you would need and that it works well. This is especially true in the kitchen. A drawer with one good spatula, one good pair of tongs etc. is much easier to navigate than a drawer stuffed full of 7 spatulas (3 that are cracking and falling apart), 3 garlic presses, a melon-baller, banana bunker – you get the idea. Turn a critical eye over your space and think about what you would like to be there or not be there if you were staying in someone else’s home. For example, we cook quite a bit while traveling and think it is important to have a well-stocked kitchen with the necessary cooking tools, coffee, tea, oil and spices. We also think that nice, good quality, unstained sheets and towels make a big difference and so make sure we provide them. We don’t leave anything incredibly valuable or irreplaceable (like the quilt a friend sewed us for a wedding gift) in the apartment, and made sure to purchase a Hypoallergenic Waterproof Mattress Protector to protect our mattress.
We leave our apartment stocked with all the basic necessities, but also put away anything too personal. We decorate with art we have either created, like the glass orbs we have blown, or photos and art we have collected on our travels. We try not to leave anything too personal up, like pictures of us smooching or a bunch of papers on the fridge. We also have two complete sets of linens (sheets, towels etc.) so that our cleaner does not have to wait for them to come out of the dryer to make up the bed and bathroom. I would say that cleanliness is one of the most important factors to the average Airbnb guest and ridding your space of clutter makes it easier to keep clean and neat.
We installed some hardware around our apartment that has helped us automate the check-in and check-out procedures. Since we are often halfway around the world when people are checking in or out we have multiple back-ups in case anything happens. Over the last three years that we have been renting out our apartment we have had to use every single back-up we have ever put in place!
We have two KeySafe Lock Boxes hidden in two different locations just in case someone forgets to return a key, or one of the boxes gets jammed.
The keys themselves are back-ups because we also installed an Electronic Deadbolt with Keypad on the front door. This means that guests can unlock and lock the door by using a numerical code. When we bought this keypad entry system in 2013 it was the best option out there, but a lot has changed with home automation over the past few years so I am sure there are new and equally as good options out there now.
With our set-up, to be able to lock or unlock the door from an iPhone, to re-set the code remotely, and to get e-mail alerts when the door is locked or unlocked, you will also need a Home Controller. We love that we can change the code between guests and that we receive e-mail alerts when the door is locked or unlocked, allowing us to double-check cleanings, or know if a guest has checked in.
We also use text expander, a program that allows you to write out standard e-mails and then access them with unique keyboard shortcuts. You can also personalize messages with names, or automatically fill in certain fields with that day’s date, or the next day’s date. This allows us to quickly and easily send out e-mails to our guests the day before they arrive with detailed check-in info and the day before they leave with detailed check-out info. Here is a link to a great tutorial that we used to set up text expander.
3. Find good cleaners.
This is a crucial component of being able to manage your Airbnb remotely. It is important that your cleaners have a good head on her or his shoulders. It is also important to have at least 2 cleaners you can call on so that if one cleaner can’t make it, you can call on your other cleaner. We have found that we really need 3-4 cleaners, with the last one being a “uh-oh!” friend or family member who is familiar with your place and will help you out if you are in a jam. You can’t do this without cleaners, so make sure you pay them well and keep them happy!
4. Welcome binder.
If you leave your guests with a binder full of information there is less of a chance they will need to ask you anything during their stay. We leave a binder full of information about local food, activities, laundry, public transport, walking paths and yoga classes – anything we would want to know! We also have all of the check -in and check-our procedures, WiFi codes and trouble-shooting tips for any issue that may arise. We also like to leave a small welcome gift that represents the area (in this case Ghirardelli chocolates) just because it is nice.
5. Task Rabbit.
We have had situations come up in the past where all of our cleaners were unavailable, or that we needed totally random favors done. Task Rabbit. has saved the day every time! You can use the site to find people who specialize in cleaning vacation rentals, and who will complete all types of random tasks. Did a guest leave something behind and frantically needs it mailed to them ASAP? You can find someone on Task Rabbit to go pick up the item and ship it within hours. We have used Task Rabbit to find cleaners, to go get copies of permits for us at the city building and to mail things, it really is a great service!
Having free next day shipping is an invaluable tool when managing your Airbnb remotely. It is good for the obvious reason; If our cleaners let us know we are low on paper towels or glass cleaner we can have it shipped to them immediately. We have also had guests check-in and then write saying they just HAVE to have a hair dryer, reading lamp, Wireless Bluetooth Speaker for their IPhone or other small item not in our apartment. Though our first instinct may have been to tell our guests to go and pick one up themselves if it is that important, we ended up deciding that it was worth it to just buy whatever it is they need (within reason) and have it next-day shipped. If one guest wants it, chances are other guests will too. Being accommodating also helps to keep your reviews up, and reviews are the number one thing we look at when renting other Airbnb accommodations throughout our own travels.
7. Take your reviews seriously.
Though we originally stocked the apartment with what WE thought was important, our guest’s reviews have showed us what they think is important and we have listened to that feedback to improve our listing. For example, we rarely watch TV and so didn’t bother having a good TV or TV programming in the apartment. A few guests mentioned in their reviews that they would have preferred to have more TV options and so we found a great deal on a flat screen TV, installed a Roku and subscribed to Hulu Plus. Obviuously we wouldn’t have done this if we were only renting our place for one week a year, but since we travel so frequently, it seemed like it was worth it.
7. Refine your listing.
Make sure that your description and photos are detailed, but accurate. It is important that guests get a good sense of the neighborhood and space before they come. We really appreciate photos that help us determine the layout of the apartment/house to know how it all fits together. If you have to walk through a bedroom to reach the bathroom, don’t hide that with selective photos or descriptions, it will just bring down your reviews. Airbnb also offers their hosts a free professional photographer to come out and take photos of your space. You should definitely take advantage of this if they offer the service in your area!
Now that you have your space set up well, your automation hardware installed, your cleaners picked out, your ad is listed and your “uh-oh!” procedures in place, you can sit back and relax. This is roughly what our remote Airbnb management looks like:
We come up from our dive, get back from our hike, or pause from whatever it is we want to be doing, and check our e-mail and see a request for a reservation. We quickly send our standard reply to the guest using text expander and email our cleaners to see who wants to clean.
By the time the official reservation has been proposed and accepted our cleaners have responded and we give the job to whoever wants it, or whoever replied first.
The reservation is automatically synced with our gmail calendar through Airbnb and we add the cleaner to our calendar so we can remember to check and see if they used their code to enter the apartment when the cleaning is supposed to be happening. We send any standard check-in or check-out e-mails that need to go out that day in less than a minute (using text expander) and then we go back to drinking coconuts on the beach, or whatever else we want to be doing that day. Though to be honest it is just as likely that we are working on our laptops, albeit in an exotic location than lazing on a beach, icy coconut in hand.
Though it may sound like a lot of set-up, if you are looking to make the transition to location-independence Airbnb is a great way to help fund your travels while keeping your home ready and waiting for you. Now that all of our set-up is complete we probably spend less than an hour a week actively managing our Airbnb and are proud of the space that we share with other travelers!