Clear Marketing and Clean Sheets: How Minnesota’s Top Airbnb Hosts Make Things Work

Short-term home rentals have proliferated over the past decade as mobile technology connects budget-conscious travelers with open-minded homeowners, changing the hospitality industry.

These same short-term rentals are now reshaping real estate and investing. Buyers of secondary or tertiary residences are increasingly using them to accommodate people on vacation rather than long-term tenants.

Some owners find they can make more money by offering short stays. Consultants have sprung up to help people decide on the best use of their additional properties.

For advice on managing a short-term rental, we turned to four of Minnesota’s highest-rated hosts on Airbnb, the largest short-term rental listings platform. It has around 650,000 hosts in the United States. In contrast, there are approximately 5.5 million hotel rooms in the country.

Here are their top tips:

Set clear expectations for your accommodation.

One of Minnesota’s most sought-after Airbnb spots lacks the most fundamental feature of most overnight accommodations — indoor plumbing.

Shari and David Hendren built the ReTreet House just down a hill from their home outside of Two Harbors. The two-story house, which they opened in 2019, is on stilts and accessed by a staircase that winds around cedar trees. But the bedrock on which it is built made running a water pipe too expensive.

“It allows us to target a certain type of individual or group of people. We’re already removing people who aren’t interested in an outdoor bathroom,” Shari Hendren said. “We’ve been very clear so people know what they’re getting into.”

Since hosts and guests take a little more risk in a shared tenancy situation, clear communication from the start is essential. Put many photos of your property on the ad, and present its disadvantages as well as its attributes.

In the Twin Cities, parking constraints, noise and access to local businesses need to be clearly outlined, said Krista Rakochy, whose guest suite in northeast Minneapolis is one of Airbnb’s best ratings from the metropolitan area.

She also recommends that hosts be approachable and responsive. She leaves a handwritten welcome note to each of her guests. “I’m a real person who responds to them, not someone distant and canned,” Rakochy said.

Adopt the ideas of the guests

After his father’s death, Pete Norby and his wife, Barb, converted his parents’ home outside of Canton, near the Iowa border in the southeast corner of the state, into a Airbnb they call the Big Woods Cottage. Almost immediately, they began incorporating guest ideas, changes that helped them rise to the top of the leaderboards.

“For the first two years I really pushed everyone to come up with suggestions,” Barb Norby said. “There are so many little things that you don’t think about yourself.”

The variety of kitchen utensils is endless, she noted. And with many guests on hunting or fishing trips, the Norbys stocked the cottage with plenty of spices and condiments. “All the suggestions people got were accurate,” she said.

Make the schedule work for you

Many people start a short-term rental thinking they need to get reservations all the time. They then realize that it is good to have time between the guests. Rakochy, which opened just in time to welcome people for the 2018 Super Bowl in Minneapolis, said, “Ours filled up really fast, to the point where we had to start scheduling breaks.”

Ashley Hewitt and her sister started their Airbnb near Brook Park the same way, allowing guests to book any dates they wanted. “It would make our cleaning schedule sporadic and we would have up to three bookings per week, with arrivals and departures every day,” she said.

The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 initially put a stop to the short-term rental business, just like in other accommodations. However, demand quickly returned, especially at Airbnb in small towns and rural areas that offered an escape from the cities.

Airbnb imposed cleaning protocols on hosts, and it quickly became the norm for hosts to have a day or two between guest stays. Many have found that they like this model. “It allowed us to have a set schedule from week to week,” Hewitt said.

Compare with other Airbnb hosts on price, costs, taxes

The host support network is extensive, from Airbnb itself to numerous online groups. “I avoided a lot of mistakes by learning from the hosts’ online community,” Rakochy said.

One of the most important things to research is determining the price of your rental. Hosts usually look at nearby places to get an idea of ​​prices. Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms also have methods for hosts to offer discounts for longer stays or apply different prices as demand rises and falls.

Airbnb handles billing, direct deposit, and most lodging and sales taxes. Hosts pay a service fee to the company for this accounting work. Some pass these costs on to the guests.

During the pandemic of the past two years, the biggest decision for hosts has been how to handle cleaning. The four top-rated Minnesota hosts we contacted clean their properties themselves and don’t charge guests extra fees. Many hosts, however, hire other people to clean and charge cleaning fees — exceeding $100 in some cases.

“We don’t charge cleaning fees to our customers,” Hendren said. “We take it out of our revenue as part of our operating costs at the end of the year.”

Norby said she preferred to clean her cabin herself. “I think it gives me control over my cleaning procedures, reduces possible contamination risks during COVID, and keeps my prices low,” she said.

Cleanliness really is the most important thing

Cleanliness is the number one attribute travelers are asked to comment on when rating Airbnb hosts, and it’s the first thing they notice when entering a property.

“Clean it like you want it to be new to every person,” Hendren said. “I am determined to make things enjoyable. »

Norby said cleanliness is something she values ​​when she travels. “I find it completely confusing to go somewhere and think, ‘Oh, I don’t know if I want to put my clothes here,'” she said.

Hewitt said she and her sister have found that while they’re among guests, their cabin needs attention every day.

“Just imagine you have the most important guests coming to stay with you, and you know those guests need to enjoy their stay to the fullest because afterwards they will tell the world what they thought of it,” he said. she declared.

Rakochy’s top tip for cleanliness is one hotel owners have known for decades: use white towels and linens.

“A lot of people think otherwise and use sheets that match the color of the walls, floors, or decor,” she said. “White towels and bedding make guests feel clean and have a peaceful appeal. And they’re actually easier to clean because you can launder them.”

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