Prepare Your Home for Short Term Rentals

How to Prepare Your Home for Short-Term Rentals

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No matter where you live, or what the rental market is like in your area, there are a few things you must do to prepare your home for short-term rentals on Airbnb. Getting your home ready can be a daunting task, and when we bought our first home we didn’t know where to begin. If you stay focused and get a few things done first, you will be renting out your home in no time! We break in down for you in our quick guide on how to prepare your home to be a short-term rental.

De-Clutter and Deep-Clean

If you purchased a property to use solely for short-term rentals, you may not have any personal belongings to remove. If you sometimes stay in your rental, however, or if it has been in your family for several years, you will want to remove any personal items you can’t bear to see broken or lost. The overwhelming majority of guests will be respectful of your space, but we would never risk losing a treasured family heirloom because some guests were rowdy or careless.  

You should also remove anything that you enjoy having in your home, but that won’t add to a guest experience. These types of items may also make your rental more difficult to clean and prepare your home for the next guest. For example, fragile glassware (like vases or decorative art) will always be a much greater liability than and asset.

We once managed a rental for a homeowner who had such a specific idea of how he wanted his (many) throw pillows arranged, that he insisted on providing pictures of how the beds should look to the cleaning company. As you might imagine, this type of service takes longer and is, therefore, more expensive. His guests didn’t care whether their bed had a square or round throw pillow, and he was wasting money paying for this extra service, which didn’t add to his guest’s experience.

Change the Locks

We always recommend changing the locks on a newly-purchased house, but this also applies if you are converting your current home to a short-term rental. You will not only change the locks but decide how you want your guests to access your home. There are two main options for guest access: lock boxes and smart locks. If you plan to go the lock box route, you’ll want all the entrances into your home to be keyed the same. We recommend going the DIY route with easy to install re-keyable locks.

Lock Boxes

Preparing your home for short-term rentals will involve, first and foremost, security. We use lock boxes, for a few reasons. It is convenient for us to buy several secure lock boxes so if there is ever an issue with a guest accessing the main lock box, we can refer them to a backup lock box. Additionally, most of our homes have an “owner’s closet” where we keep extra supplies like towels, sheets, toilet paper, soap, and paper towels.

We recommend you have two lock boxes that contain keys only to the main parts of the house, and one lock box that contains keys to the house, as well as the owner’s closet and shed/storage area. This way, we can give the code to our cleaners and anyone who may need to do work on the house and get into the owner’s lock box, and give the guests the code to the main lock box.

We have also occasionally given guests the ability to access the owner’s lock box, so they could get to our supplies. This only comes up once in a while as a quick fix if the cleaners ever forget to restock something. It saves the guests the frustration of having to go to the store to pick up an essential item, and saves you from having to call your cleaning company, handyman, or management company and pay an additional fee.

Smart Locks

While we use lock boxes for our homes, we manage several properties that prefer to use smart locks. This is a more high-tech option, and some people feel that they are more secure than low-tech lock boxes. There are several kinds of smart locks to choose from, but they are more expensive than lock boxes. In addition to the increased cost, there is no real backup option to allow your guests entry if there is an issue with the smart lock.

Add External Controls

Security Cameras

Taking time to prepare your home for short-term rentals should also involve some method of security for you and your investment. Obviously, you would never want to intrude on the privacy of your guests inside the home, but we do recommend security cameras for the outside of your property. Security cameras are a good idea in general and can protect you from dishonest guests.

There are two common problems that we have solved with outdoor security cameras: extra guests and pets. Almost all vacation rentals will provide for a maximum number of guests, with an extra fee for exceeding the maximum agreed-upon number of guests. Similarly, every rental will state whether pets are allowed, any restrictions, and whether there is an additional occupancy or cleaning fee. Sometimes guests will say they have a party of 4, only to show up with 5, 6, or even 12 people. Or, someone will see the “no pets” policy, but bring their Doberman anyway.

If you invest in security cameras, you will be armed with security footage showing an unauthorized large party enter your house, or a litter of puppies scamper up the porch. You will then have no problem justifying the extra charges to Airbnb and will ensure that you are always adequately compensated for the number of people that stayed, or for any extra cleaning fees you may face as a result of animal guests.

Temperature Controls

There are several reasons to set up your house with a smart thermostat when you prepare your home for short-term rentals.   You can remotely check in on the house after the guests have checked out, and ensure that your utility bill will not skyrocket because your house was left at 60 degrees in the middle of summer, or 75 in the dead of winter. This can be even more important in cold climates during the winter, where pipes often freeze if the heat is not left on. You can also ensure that the house is a comfortable temperature when new guests arrive, by turning the heat or air off in between guests, but back on a few hours before your next reservation.

Stock it with Essentials

One of the easiest and most familiar tasks, when you prepare your home for short-term rentals, is to stock it with Airbnb essentials. We recommend you take the time to stock it with at least the following:

  • toilet paper/paper towels/sponges
  • coffee and accessories to get them through their first morning or longer
  • shampoo/conditioner/soap/body wash
  • dish soap/dishwasher soap/laundry detergent
  • salt & pepper
  • ketchup & mustard
  • cooking oil and pots and pans
  • wine opener & can openers
  • salad bowls & steak knives
  • flatware/cutlery, plates/bowls & glasses

If you can provide your guests with everything they will need to eat, cook, and live in the house, they will notice and note it in your reviews.

Prepare Your Home Welcome Binder

Your mission to prepare your home for short-term rentals is not complete until you’ve put together your welcome binder. This is a standard three-ring binder that will include all the information your guests will need to have a safe, enjoyable stay. You should include a page of house rules, and safety information.

Minimally, you should include the location of the first-aid kit, fire extinguishers, and any instructions on how to use potentially complicated amenities such as the fireplace/fire pit, spa, or hot tub, etc. Be sure to add any other important information about your specific property that will be helpful for your guests. Having a thorough and easy-to-follow welcome binder will reduce the amount of questions your guests will reach out directly to you to ask.

Your welcome binder should also give your guests your recommendations for the best places in town to eat, play, and relax, as well as any other local attractions of interest unique to your area. We use ours to point out all the amenities our homes have to offer. For example, let them know the Wi-Fi password, whether you have Netflix/Hulu/HBO, and the location of any cards or board games in the house they can use.

What do you think is important to share in your welcome binder? Share in the comments below.

About the Author Kevin Kelsey

Originally from Connecticut, Kevin moved to Los Angeles in 2013 and worked his way up to becoming an editor on award-winning reality TV shows. Kevin owns 4 short term rentals in Southern California and founded AirHost Academy to help other hosts improve their business.