In today's uncertain world, the idea of inviting strangers into your home can be daunting. Many new and veteran Airbnb hosts worry about the types of people who might be booking through the site and whether the money earned is worth the risk. In many cases, guests are considerate, reasonable and try to treat your home as their own. In some cases, guests and hosts even enjoy the temporary company of the other. So how do you ensure that you can screen Airbnb guests successfully?
The first thing you should do is to create an "ideal guest profile." Although this is a brainstorming activity that will result in a profile that is for your eyes only, it can be a helpful reminder when you receive each new booking request. You may come up with a short list of a few basic qualities that are non-negotiable, or you may have an extensive list of ideal characteristics that you're seeking.
In addition, it may be helpful to come up with a personal vision of why you are in the vacation rental business. Is it your primary source of income or just a hobby you enjoy? Regardless of the level of detail of your profile or vision, go ahead and re-read them before sitting down to review potential bookings. These descriptions can help you remember what you're doing and why you're doing it to keep you focused.
Having trouble with creating a profile? Consider your closest friends, relatives and colleagues and make a list of adjectives or qualities that describe them. Or, pretend you are hiring someone to work for you. What qualities would make candidates most appealing in a work situation?
Obviously fair housing laws will prohibit you from discriminating based on religion, sex, race and other such criteria. But beyond those factors, you can still create a guest that you would most enjoy hosting.
Once you have your list of characteristics ready to go, you get to the tricky part: how to find guests that fit your ideal guest profile. Here are some tools and resources to help you move in that direction:
1. Get Verified and Demand Verification
One basic thing to do is to take advantage of Airbnb guest verification. This is a process that Airbnb spearheads to ensure people are actually who they say they are. As a host, you should go through the process as well, and then look for verified IDbadges when you're reviewing potential bookings. This process should provide you with basic contact information like an e-mail address and a phone number.
2. Look for Complete Airbnb Profiles
When new guests and hosts begin to work with a platform like Airbnb, they both have the opportunity to complete just the basic, required information or volunteer additional information to paint a more complete profile.
As a host, you'll want to find those guests who took the time to enter most or all of that extra information. First, those types of people tend to be more invested in the whole Airbnb process and community. Second, they are more willing to share about themselves, which should help you screen Airbnb guests more effectively. And third, potential guests who took the time to upload photos will also provide additional information to help you make your decision.
3. Check Out Social Media Connections
When new users sign up for Airbnb accounts, they can now link their Facebook pages, Google accounts, and LinkedIn profiles to their Airbnb account. As a host, this means you have access to more information. You can not only look at information posted on social media, but you can check out their friends, contacts and colleagues as well. All of this information means providing you with a more complete and accurate picture of your potential guests.
4. Review the Reviews
One of the most helpful things available on Airbnb is its review system. Every host and every guest have the opportunity to read the reviews posted by hosts and guests who have gone before them. Airbnb does not remove any guest reviews (with the exception of extreme cases where the system may have been abused), which allows both guests and hosts to see the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Airbnb relies on its review system to build trust within its online community. For the most part, reviews will be honest and you can not only see the praises and complaints of hosts about guests and vice versa, but you will also see how the other party handled the compliment or criticism.
5. Check References.
Airbnb invites and allows both hosts and guests to post references from friends, family and colleagues to vouch for them, so to speak. Just as someone might rely on references to apply for college or a job, you use use this area of the Airbnb system to gather more information about your potential guests.
6. Pay Attention To Online Interactions
Just like you can tell a lot from a person from tone of voice, body language or the subjects spoken about, you can deduce information from your e-mail exchanges or phone conversations with potential guests.
If a potential guest wants to circumvent the system, that should be a warning to you as a host. One of the benefits of online systems like Airbnb is that they provide both hosts and guests some protection from dishonest people. Making sure you keep financial transactions within the hosting system can protect all parties.
How and when your potential guests respond to any communication with them will also give you some clues about their compatibility. If someone sends you a long e-mail with lots of questions that are answered on your profile or listing, you may wonder how serious they really are and their attentiveness to your listing. If you spend time answering questions by e-mail and potential guests take a long time to book or reply, the booking may not be a high priority for them.
If you have questions for your potential guests, and they don't respond or refuse to reply, you may have someone who is careless or hiding something.
Guests who ask suspicious questions about surveillance or neighbors or just sound off to you may not be worth the trouble. Trust your instincts and refuse to book anyone who you believe may be being dishonest or shady in their communication.
7. Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions
If you have more vacancies than you'd like and want to accept some potential guests that don't necessarily meet all of the above criteria, you can still do some more exploring on your own.
If someone looks reasonable but has only a partially completed profile, you can e-mail and ask the for the missing information if it's important to you. If you'd really like
Airbnb guest verification, ask if the potential guest would be willing to oblige. It's possible that some people don't understand the importance of the verification process, were simply busy when they registered or accidentally overlooked some of the details.
If a negative review was posted by another host and a response was not made, you can e-mail the potential guest and ask for his or her side of the story. You may even be doing the person a favor if you suggest posting a reply online so that other hosts can understand the entire situation.
8. Target Market to Your Ideal Guest
Think again about your ideal guests and the types of things they would be most attractive to them. For instance, if you really enjoy hosting families, highlight the fact that you have a swing set or live near a park. Stock your vacation rental with things like portable cribs, high chairs and toys. Offer lists of family-friendly activities in the area.
On the other hand, if you'd love to host football fans, you may want to designate one area of your home to the local team. Decorate with banners and paraphernalia. Offer schedules and perhaps details on local events like fan appreciation days or special events where visitors can meet players. Update your calendar and availability by changing your headlines frequently to reflect upcoming events.
If you want to host couples, show pictures of romantic sunsets or a crackling fireplace. List nearby places to stroll or eat a quiet dinner. Add things like hot tubs when you're considering property improvements.
9. Be Wary of Opposition
As you open conversations with potential guests, consider their reactions to certain aspects of your listing. For example, if someone complains about having to come up with a large security deposit, you may wonder about their ability to pay for any future damages that might occur.
If someone questions your house rules about smoking or pets or complains about charges for cleaning or extra people, you may want to see if you can explore the source of their opposition. When there is conflict early on during the process, it may be safe to assume that there could be conflict until, during and after the visit. As a host, you'll have to decide if the potential difficulties are worth the money earned. Conflicts tend to cost a lot in terms of the time required to resolve them.
10. Consider Third-Party Help
If you don't want to screen every potential guest yourself, you can hire a third-party company like Air Concierge to take over this task. Each service provider will ask you to provide your most important criteria in selecting guests for your vacation rental, and these providers can actually conduct the screening process over time. Many will offer you the opportunity to confirm their decisions before the bookings are finalized. It will be one less thing you have to worry about so you can concentrate on the other aspects of your business.
Remember that these tips are only to help you screen potential guests. Use your intuition, balance the time and resources you have available to decide how in-depth you want to go, and use your past experience to guide you. Remember that hosting platforms like Airbnb have built-in protections for you in case things do go wrong. For instance, if you end up with a lot of damages, Airbnb may help you pay for them. You should have your own safeguards in place such as insurance as well.
Most Airbnb transactions work out positively for all parties involved. Every once in a while, you may have a negative experience, but you can always learn something that will help you improve and safeguard your vacation rental better for the next time around.