Rookie Mistakes from an Airbnb Host

“They just threw my HBC towels on the floor of a flooded bathroom! MY HUDSON’S BAY TOWELS!” I cried at the start of our weekly Sales meeting. I had just wrapped up my first weekend renting out our lake house as a rookie Airbnb host. And while my husband was busy cleaning up a flooded bathroom that our renters forgot to mention, I was more worried about the state of my precious towels. Y’know, the GOOD towels.

‘Why would you even leave them out?’ was the wise question posed by one of our Integrated Sales Managers, Vanessa. “No, like you have swap out everything and you have to be super careful who you’re renting to”.

“Wait – what? How is that possible – I literally have to rent to everyone and anyone! Airbnb doesn’t let you discriminate against luxury towel haters and if you do, you get a bad host rating!” I break out into a sweat, on my way to a full blown panic attack at the thought of being publicly named a Bad Host (Thanks, Mom!).


If you’re a rookie ‘Host’ in this kind of side hustle, here are a few things to think about before you hand over the keys (and your good towels):

1. You can totally judge a book by its cover
Vanessa: This is about your instincts, if you have a bad feeling about the renters there is probably a good reason for it and to always trust instincts. This happened to me a couple times. I had an uneasy feeling whether it was because they didn’t have previous reviews or just based on initial communication. I would say 9/10 your instincts will be spot on. Pro tip: Turn off Smart Booking (basically instant bookings) until you get more comfortable with the process. This will allow you to ask questions and communicate with your potential renters.

2. Rules
Claire: This one seems obvious, but for me it wasn’t. I was trying to be as flexible and nice as possible, because the more flexible you are, the more bookings you might bring in. Check in whenever, check out whenever, stay one night or nine nights, bring a pack of dogs if you want etc etc. Ummmm, here’s a tip: the pack of dogs thing didn’t work out so well and the one night stays will really kill your spirit when you have to changeover again for a new guest the very next day. For the most part, people are nice and mean what they say when they suggest they’ll treat your home like theirs…..its just that the way they treat their home might not be exactly how you treat yours. So I’ve learned the hard way – go into this with more parameters on your listing (security deposits, clear check in/out times, rules around pets and garbage) and then slowly start adjusting your guidelines as you get more comfortable. Tip: Add a cleaning fee even if you are doing it yourself to offset your time, laundry and cleaning products.

3. Swap out your good stuff for good-ish stuff
Claire: Three words. Hudson’s Bay Towels. If you’re like me and have stuff that you weirdly seem to be attached to, take the time to swap out that stuff or lock it up in a closet. I also added a whole lot of new sheet sets, towels and bought about 100 new same-colour pillowcases to make bed making and changeovers go quicker. This way I am not waiting impatiently for laundry to be done to re-set the beds or towels.

4. On call
Claire: Guests will expect that you are always available on text or Airbnb messaging which might be fine if you’re in the same time zone, but if you’re planning to be away on vacation yourself, sign up your neighbour or a friend who lives nearby to help you deal with any home issues like calling a plumber. Tip: your response time matters to your rating as a Host and will help you to secure bookings, so stay charged if you’re eager to find new renters.
Vanessa: Agreed! It is key to respond quickly to all inquiries. I always find that tons of inquiries will come in through the night so my morning ritual always involves answering these inquires on the mobile app so by the time I am up and ready for my day I’ve already caught up on overnight inquires.

5. Leave a personalized note for your guests
Vanessa: This involves going that extra mile and making the experience more personal. I find when people have a personal connection they are more inclined to leave the space like they would leave their own (hopefully clean and tidy). I always include the closest brunch spots, grocery store and drug store. I also always list what the closet metro station is.

Overall Airbnb can be a profitable side hustle but you need to give it the attention and care that you would with any job. Silly mistakes with booking mean penalties and large fees.

Vanessa Airbnb link:

Claire’s cottage is available year round and has nice towels