5 Things I Learned About Owning My Own Airbnb

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Ever since Airbnb launched over 15 years ago, I’ve been a fan. So when it came time to make an adult decision and invest in my future, I decided to buy an apartment in a foreign country (Belgrade, Serbia), and open my own vacation rental. Fast forward some time, and now my Airbnb is booked for months with visitors from all around the world. While I’m just starting out, I’ve already learned a lot about the local hospitality industry. Here are some unexpected things I’ve learned that have made me a better Airbnb host. 

1People Don’t Care About the Details … At First

I put a lot of time, thought, and planning into my Airbnb. So much so that I didn’t open it for over a year after I purchased the property. I wanted it to be absolutely perfect upon my launch, but realistically, I could have gotten a head start with a much more basic offering. No one was booking my place because it had cute wallpaper, or custom-built furniture – my first few guests were just looking for a place to crash after partying in the city all weekend.

As my bookings began to increase, however, I began to attract guests who were purposely booking based on the design elements. This was more aligned with my overall goals as a host. However, I now know for my next property that I can keep things basic and people will still book. Creating a no-frills Airbnb is a great way to build up reviews, credibility, and side cash, which I can later re-invest to make the place pristine.

2You Can’t Control How Guests Use Your Space

I put a lot of thought into how furniture and household items are placed (gotta make things Instagrammable), but I always find that guests move things around in weird ways, to better accommodate the space. And since most of my guests are couples, I try not to think about the activities that have happened in the bed I used to sleep in while I’m changing the sheets…

At first I was kind of freaked out, and it took a bit to let it go. I have to remind myself that this is the hospitality business, maybe with a more personal edge, but as long as people are using the space safely and legally, I can’t try to control how and why they book my place.

3Guests Aren’t Always Travelers

I wrongly assumed that the kinds of people booking my place would be like me: solo female travelers looking to immerse themselves in the local culture. Most of my guests, however, have been marooned in the city while waiting for visas to come through, or they live with their parents and need a place to stay while their significant other is in town. Some are long-term guests looking for inexpensive accommodations while working remotely.

I was bummed at first because I really wanted to make new cultural connections with travelers, but these experiences have made me realize how important Airbnb is for people who can’t afford a hotel or want a more home-like experience.

4Three is the Magic Number

I learned super quickly that having multiples of everything, especially linens, was vital for guest comfort and cleaning management. Two is enough in most cases, but three is even better; towels might take longer to dry or sheets might get ruined, so being able to replace these items quickly and easily is vital.

People also steal the strangest things. It’s an unfortunate reality for most Airbnb owners, but that’s why purchasing household goods from IKEA or dollar stores is vital. I’ve had guests take juice glasses, kitchen towels, and random cutlery. I have no idea why. Thankfully, my stash of inexpensive forks and knives is at the ready and doesn't cut too much into my overall costs.

5You’ll Dedicate More Time Than You Think

Handing over a key takes five minutes but the prep time leading up to a guest’s arrival can take hours. I have to make sure the Airbnb is clean, the kitchen is stocked with supplies, etc. If there is a check-out on the same day of a check-in, I usually have to be on-call from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. I also must be available in case guests need anything, or else I run the risk of having to refund the guest or getting a bad review. 

My busiest periods are always weekends, typically Thursday to Monday. Guests also tend to book last minute — some even day-of. Unless I block off the days on my calendar, I can’t really plan my free time in advance. My personal travel plans have been put on hold unless I have a long-term booking, so I’ve begun making a lot more last-minute travel plans myself. I am hoping to pass off the property to a dedicated Airbnb manager or agency, which will mean less money for me, but more time back in the long run.

The Bottom Line

Owning an Airbnb is more work than I realized, but I know it will pay off in the end. With more experience in the local hospitality world, I’m able to provide a better experience with each booking. In the end, my only goal is to be the very best Airbnb host I can be.

Tags: Entrepreneur, Travel, Small Business Owner

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Written By

Katka Lapelosová

Katka is a writer from New York City, currently living in Belgrade, Serbia. See Full Bio

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