New paint! Easy amenities! And… a nice recliner?
Airbnb has ballooned in popularity in the last few years—the number of Rochester listings has doubled to 300 since 2017—with Mayo Clinic patients driving much of the traffic to our town.
And Destination Medical Center—the $5.6 billion economic development plan designed to transform Rochester into a global destination for health and wellness—is just starting to take off. All of those guests are going to need a place to stay.
With more than 150 million Airbnb users worldwide, you may be looking to get a piece of that pie (and we’re focusing on Airnbnbs, here, since they’re more geared toward room and small area rentals versus VRBOs, which tend to focus more on entire home rentals). But it’s a little trickier than just clearing out an old room and hoping for guests. As demand for rooms rises, so has the number of would-be hosts. How do you make your Airbnb memorable (and profitable)?
We reached out to area Superhosts (Airbnb’s designation for hosts who get 10 or more stays in a year with 80 percent 5-star reviews from guests, among other criteria) to get their tips.
Start with the basics
Think about what a guest in your home would want and need for a stay of a couple of weeks.
Jodi Bell, a home staging specialist, works with homeowners who are interested in renting out their homes. First things first, she always advises that people repaint, and think about redoing their floors and carpets for more aesthetic appeal.
Typically though, people who come to Rochester aren’t here on vacation—they may be recovering from an illness, or seeking treatment. Bell recommends finding attractive furniture and linens, but they should be sturdy, comfortable, and easy to clean first – guests are going to want to lay on any couches and recliners, and they’ll want them to be comfortable.
Peggy Engelby, a superhost, moved into her home in Sargeant, Minn. (southwest of Rochester) in 2003 with her late husband. At the time, the basement of the house wasn’t finished. After some work (repainting, redecorating, and refurnishing), that basement is now a bedroom and bath with a TV, wet bar, and some storage space.
Engelby says that in the last couple of years, she’s had to meet new Airbnb standards for homes, like installing carbon monoxide detectors. But she says the basics of Airbnb rental are simple: Keep the whole house neat and clean, and make a few amenities available.
Cooking and dishes and laundry
The reason people choose Airbnb over hotel rooms, Bell says, comes down to appliances.
"The reason they’re here, not in a hotel, is because they’re looking for a home away from home," Bell says. "They want to cook their own meals and settle in."
Wayne Bothun, a Rochester superhost who rents rooms in his home, recently bought a second washer/dryer just for his guests.
It’s nice to have new appliances, but choosing ones that are functional and user-friendly, since you may have guests from all over the world, is crucial, Bell says.
Each of the Airbnb superhosts has one or two sure-fire tools in their arsenal—home features and furnishings that they know go over well with guests.
For Bell, that’s a nice recliner in the main living space—one that’s spacious enough to sleep on, and preferably leather. One of Bothun’s guests raved about a recliner that was set up next to a fireplace, where she could sit and warm up after colder Minnesota days.
Engelby’s relatively rural setting lends itself to outdoor ambiance. Her home has a wraparound deck where she’s placed furniture, so guests can enjoy the fresh country air.
"There’s not a lot of noise around, and I keep the feeders out so they can watch the birds," she says. "I’ve had so many people tell me, ‘It’s so quiet and peaceful out here!’"
Figure out your audience
Engelby’s location (about 20 minutes from Rochester) means her guests tend to stay for the long term. Fortunately, she prefers that. "I know a lot of places in the city have turnover every two days or every week, but that wasn’t for me," she says.
It’s important to have a reason for renting, Bell says—guests can tell if hosts are only in it as a money-maker. Bell sees herself, and most of the houses she helps with, as providers for patients looking to heal and recover. Airbnb has become popular as a convenient way to earn cash, but hosts who assume it’s low-commitment should think again.
"It sounds like something that’s easy and anyone can do it," Bell says. "But I do think you have to have a mindset of who you’re doing it for, in order for your guests to have a great time and really appreciate it."
How to learn more
Messaging on airbnb.com is strictly confined to rental transactions and queries. However, if you’re an aspiring or new host, you can connect with others on the Airbnb community forums.
Jodi’s top tips
• Provide each guest with a "welcome sheet" that lists the house rules, WiFi password, and instructions on home features (how do you work the shower?). Hosts who want to go above and beyond can also include information on handy town resources, like the nearest place that offers grocery delivery, a good dry cleaner, and more.
• Rotate towels in and out often. They wear out quickly.
• Install room-darkening curtains or pull-down blinds in bedrooms.
Peggy’s top tips
• Keep the house clean. Dust and clean up prior to every new guest.
• Make room in the fridge and cupboards so that people can bring leftovers home and store simple items, even if they don’t cook. And delineate which areas are fine to eat in—a spill on a light-colored carpet in the bedroom led her to ban food outside of communal areas.
• Be social, but give guests who may not want to talk alone time in the communal areas (living room, kitchen, deck) if they’d prefer that.
Wayne’s top tips
• Greet guests when they arrive, or as soon as possible. Try to generally be available over the course of the stay to deal with any issues (comfort in rooms, temperature controls) as they come up. Give renters a brief tour.
• When a new guest arrives, leave notes on the doors to other renters’ rooms saying who’s there and how long they’re staying. That way, everyone knows who they’ll be living with for the next little while.
• More than anything, make sure renters have a clear understanding of what they get for their money—whether that’s a bedroom only, a room with access to a kitchen, or potentially just a bed in a room with other renters.
Finally, check your local city ordinances before considering any short-term rental options for your home.