It’s the pipe dream heard ’round the world: You stumble on a little beach bungalow, put in some sweat equity, and soon find yourself sitting atop a gold mine vacation home that rakes in the big bucks month after month. The advent of Airbnb may have made a least some of that fantasy a tangible reality—but becoming a successful vacation home host is still way easier said than done. From designing an appealing space to nailing the thoughtful touches that will keep guests coming back for more, we have all the tips and tricks to starting a successful—and stylish!—Airbnb that becomes a fast favorite with locals and tourists alike. Pro tip: Get your “No Vacancy” sign ready—you’re going to need it.
Tip #1: Conduct Ample Research
This may come off a bit harsh, but hear us out—if you have big dreams of running an Airbnb you really (and we mean really really) need to do a ton of market research first. Finding the right locale for your business venture is a bit like catching lightning in a bottle—you want a spot that has a proven track record for drawing in and entertaining tourists but isn’t so big that the rental home market in the area is already oversaturated, making it less likely that you’ll find mega success (and we want that for you!). Just because you grew up visiting an off-the-beaten-path lake town with your family every summer doesn’t mean it’s the right spot to post up your Airbnb, so you may have to remove your nostalgia factor from the equation. Instead, talk to business owners and travel agents in your area of interest to get a feel for exactly what “tourist season” looks like—and what kind of market interest you can expect.
Tip #2: Marry Your Design to the Locale
Good tourism is an immersive experience, and more and more people are traveling with the intention of enveloping themselves in everything their destination has to offer. Think for a second about the best hotel experience you’ve ever had—we bet it was just as much about the decor and the way the hotel made you feel as it was about where you were actually posted up on vacation. To make the most of your Airbnb venture, aim to have the decor of your house mirror the vibe of your vacation location. Beachside destinations call for lots of breezy fabrics, neutral decor, and wicker accents, while rustic escapes pair naturally with moodier hues and cozy knits. Spend some time visiting restaurants and hotels in the area to get a feel for their style, then create a mood board for your own plans before getting to work.
Tip #3: Decorate For Comfort
We’ve all (unfortunately) made those design purchases that are visually beautiful, but utterly uncomfortable—and trust us, that’s not how you want your Airbnb to feel. Remember: Guests are booking your home as a respite, so every design choice you make should be considered through the lens of comfort and relaxation. Splurge on the good sheets, go for the extra-deep couch, spring for the heated floors—the more your home feels like a cozy hug, the likelier it is that guests will leave with the warm fuzzies. And remember, comfort isn’t just about feeling physically comfortable in a space—it’s about it functioning in a comfortable way, too. This means lots of intimate seating areas where families can reconnect over a board game, a dining table big enough to seat your full guest count, or a bunk room that allows kiddos to swap ghost stories in the dark.
Tip #4: Don’t Forget Amenities
If you want to make (and charge) the big bucks, you definitely need to focus on amenities. Because many guests head to an Airbnb for a week or longer, there’s a real expectation that their every need is met—which is not always easy if you’re not on-site like a traditional hotel. Do your best to outfit your home with, well, all the comforts of home ahead of welcoming your first guests. This means obvious things like a full set of dishware, glassware, and flatware, but also less obvious additions like boogie boards for the waves and lanterns for late-night walks to the beach. A high-end crowd will likely want thoughtful extras too, like smart speakers throughout the home and a fancy espresso machine. If you can’t afford those types of extras just yet, plan to splurge on them after your first few successful rounds of guests.
Tip #5: Work in Local Flavor
To further establish your Airbnb as the place to visit in your vacation community, consider incorporating local makers and vendors into your guests’ experience. The easiest way to go about this? Art and home goods! Chances are there’s probably a great established collection of makers in your chosen community, so tap them to bring a bit of authentic flair to your Airbnb. Ask a local ceramicist to create signature mugs for the house (bonus points if guests get to leave with them!) or commission a nearby painter to add a mural to the sunroom. This sentiment also holds true for other vendors in the area, who can be key allies in spreading the word about the hottest place to stay in town (ahem, that’s your house). Provide guests with a directory of local businesses to frequent while they’re visiting, or team with a nearby pro (think: a private chef or salsa teacher) for an experience guests can only score through a stay at your place.
Tip #6: Try a Signature Scent
Scent is one of our strongest senses, and it has the ability to cement a place in our memory better (and more vividly) than almost anything else. Take advantage of that olfactory fact and “brand” your Airbnb with a signature scent that guests will remember long after they depart. Pick up a few chic diffusers to disperse throughout the home and concoct your own essential oil blend, or snag a few candles from a local company to weave in sensory notes that nod to the locale. It’ll add that extra layer of somethin’ somethin’ to make your Airbnb truly stand out from the pack.
Tip #7: Splurge on Pro Pics
You’ve spruced up the home, you’ve decorated your heart out, and you’ve got a killer squad of locals on your side—there’s just one big thing left to do to ready your Airbnb for the world: snap pictures. An Airbnb listing is only as good as the photos (and description!) that accompany it, so this is not a time to rely on your smartphone and some dim lighting to get the job done. Instead, hire a professional photographer to take pictures of your place, making sure to get all the best angles, decor moments, and scenic vistas that make it special. Trust us—crisp, clear, inviting shots will go a long way in incentivizing guests to click “add to cart.”
Tip #8: Tap a Friend for a Trial Run
There are just some things you can’t get a good read on if you’re “too close” to the situation, and your Airbnb is probably one of them. After all, this has been a labor of love up to this point and is probably something you’re excited (and a bit nervous) about launching into the ether. To help ease your mind—and iron out any last-minute kinks—tap a few friends (or several, if you have a home meant to host a crowd) to spend a weekend at your place for a trial run of sorts. You’ll get the most out of this experiment if you treat them as you would a true guest, interacting with them in the same manner you intend to communicate with visitors (like via text or WhatsApp), providing them with a “welcome” e-mail, and more. This way, you’ll hear from them firsthand about all those pesky things that may make a guest dock your Airbnb rating—think: poor water pressure or a faulty garage door—before they become an issue for paying customers.