Your First Unit

Your First Unit

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How to Start Your First Airbnb!

We put together a 7-step process to get you up and running as quickly as possible. Here you will find recommendations that have been tested over thousands of rentals to get you set up more efficiently, and reduce your hiccups along the way.

Review these steps at your own pace, make a plan, and have your property ready for guests in no time!

If you want more one-on-one guidance simply subscribe to our email list, or book an hour of coaching.

The most valuable piece of advice I received when starting my STR journey is the following … “Buy a property in a place with high demand for short term rentals.” Great advice, but useless unless you know how to determine where that is.

You must do your research. This includes any (or better yet, all) of the following: 

  • Look up tourism stats…how many people visit that area each year? 
  • Look up the number of Airbnbs in the area. Are there significantly less than the quantity of people that visit each year? 
  • Visit the area & talk to people. Sit down at a coffee shop and strike up a conversation.
  • Look at AirDNA stats for the area.
  • Visit Airbnb & VRBO and see how availability changes throughout the year.
  • Post in groups and ask about areas.
  • Strategize your approach and write it down.
  • Sign up for free trainings and take the advice that fits your plan. 

The research sheet we use whenever we open up a new location is available here. Check it out for yourself and get the confidence you need to break into a new location. 

Determining how much you can profit in any certain area is challenging.

The work you put in here to fully understand all your costs will be of benefit in the long term.

Before you go any further, you want to find out how much money this property/area, could make. There are many ways to do this, and AirDNA is not the only answer — despite popular belief. 

We do our research directly from the Airbnb platform, since that’s the most used and most accurate place to get pricing information. It does take a little bit longer, but in our experience, is significantly more accurate than what we find on AirDNA. If you want a copy of the research sheets that we built specifically for researching, click here

You can’t do anything without a property.

It doesn’t matter if you’re renting for arbitrage, or purchasing and renting your own, you will need a property. Once you’ve figured out that an area makes sense, find yourself a property so that we can get started! 

Permits are required in some areas and not in others. Identifying what your particular location requires should be part of your research process, but obtaining those permits won’t be possible until you have a property to give them. 

Some cities, like Nashville and San Diego, make it almost impossible to obtain a short term rental permit now. Most of them allow some, but not a high enough volume to just pick one up. If that’s the case for you, it might not be a good place to start. The good news is that remote management is not hard as hard as you think. 

Just because the city you live in today doesn’t allow everyone to manage short term rentals, doesn’t mean you should stop. Find a city that does and has enough demand that you’ll make money, and then make it work there. Some cities, like Ellijay, GA, don’t require permits at all.

Most people skip this step, more than any other step. But it could be one of the most important.

After you get your property, make sure to set up the right insurance. There will be damage, and you don’t want to rely on Airbnb only to fix it all. They decline claims just as frequently as they accept them in our experience. 

Having the right insurance outside of Airbnb/VRBO is priceless when you need it. Most homeowners insurance policies offer some sort of landlord insurance that works for short-term rentals as well. It depends on the carrier, but if you have an open conversation with them about your needs, it’s not hard to get. When you need it, you’ll be very glad you have it. 

Another hugely important step in your setup is to make it safe. 

  • Is your stove secure?
  • Is your TV properly mounted? 
  • Are the dressers bolted to the wall?
  • Do you have the right security cameras, Smart locks, handrails, and anything else needed to prevent possible issues or concerns? 

People want to feel like their families and items are protected during their visit. Ensuring you have the right safety features in place will help earn you more bookings. See our recommended safety items here.

We recommend picking a style which speaks to your geographic location. If your rental is in Breckenridge, CO, you don’t want palm trees and beaches as the main theme. Before you purchase anything, run you your idea past a few friends. If most disagree, ask them what they would look for while booking a visit in your area.

See one of our budget tracking tools to help you with this.

 

One thing that will ensure that you stand out from other listings is to pick one unique item for the primary image of your rental. If you have a beautiful living room that will be your feature image, maybe paint an accent wall in it, or get a unique coffee table, or fun chair. 

In the first one we set up, there was an unusually shaped downstairs in which we turned into a movie room full of oversize bean bags with a popcorn maker! We receive more comments on those photos than anything else we did in the house, but was one of the cheapest rooms to design.

This is again, one of the most fun parts of setting up your property. Pick a design and start getting furniture that matches it.

You can find furniture anywhere. We recommend starting with OfferUp & the Facebook Marketplace to save some money.

Once you’ve exhausted those visit our Furnishings page to see all of the products we use in our listings now. They’re specifically picked because of their cost, comfort and durability. There are a variety of design styles, so use the filters or choose the styles that fit your design. Also keep close control of your budget. It’s very easy to get carried away with buying. See one of our budget tracking tools to help you with this. 

We can’t stress this enough. If you don’t have professional images, you are losing money! People scan images, so the first visual impression is very important. Hire a photographer who has taken photos for short-term rentals before. Make sure you stage the rooms so they’re clean, and showcase all of your home essentials.


For example, if you’re taking photos of the living room, make sure the blankets are folded, pillows fluffed, remotes organized, etc.

If you need help finding one in your area, send us a message here.

 

We recommend starting with Airbnb if you haven’t signed up to be a host yet, use this link and it will link us together so we can help you with your setup and support as well. It hast he most traffic and the most user-friendly website. Once you’re up and running there it’s simple to copy your listing over to VRBO, Booking.com, and your own personal site.

 

It only takes a few minutes to create your listing, but it takes a little longer to make sure you’ve selected all the correct options. Fill in the necessary information about address and number of rooms. Then import your professional photos onto the platform and take the time to align them with the rooms that they correspond to.

 

List out all of your amenities. Everything in the house a visitor might need, or request, should be listed as available or not. Be sure and be honest here. If it’s not straight forward, then you don’t have it. The general rule is to under-promise and over-deliver. 

List the number of bedrooms and the number of people you expect to use the rental as well as if you’ll allow extra guests.

Many business travelers won’t choose a property if it doesn’t have high speed internet, so verify the WiFi speed before you list.

Decide on the questionable items, like will you allow pets? If so, what are your rules regarding their visit? Will you require an extra deposit, or put a limit on size – for example, no dogs over 40 pounds.

After you’re done with your listing, click the preview button and make sure it looks good to the end-user. Their first impression will be much different than your last impression. Make sure it looks good for both.

You must optimize your listing and continue to stay on top of how your listing compares to similar ones around you.

That age-old saying, “If you build it, they will come.” is not true for short term rentals.

This is no easy process, and optimizing to be in the top of all relevant searches is a lot of work.

We have hundreds of suggestions for you, ranging from your listing title to various amenities you offer. To get a free audit of your listing, book a call with us here.

Set A Budget

You have to build a budget before you start decorating your first unit. If you don’t have that then cost will get out of hand an adult before you know it. It takes a long time to recoup going over budget, and this being your first project you don’t want to start that way.

If you have questions about the average costs, email us and we will send you a spreadsheet that has everything outlined.

Start Decorating

This is one of the most fun parts of setting up your short-term rentals. Buying all of the equipment that you’re going to put in the unit, and then setting it up to make it look cohesive and pretty.

Make sure that everything you do is cleared with the listing photos in mind. Even if it’s a little out of place but looks really good on the photos, nobody will mention that when they get there but it will help you get bookings.

Start with OfferUp and craigslist and see what you can find on there, then go to stores like Amazon, Wayfair, Target etc. Make sure that you adhere to your budget throughout this process or else it’s going to get very expensive very quick.

Complete Your Bank & Tax Info

All STR platforms require you to fill in your bank account and tax information. Make sure this is done before you sign off or you won’t be able to collect your money.

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