By: Veronica Tercan — author of the The Accidental Airbnb Host
You’ve seen the headlines: Unauthorized house parties with hundreds of partygoers. Thousands and thousands of dollars in property damages.
At times, even the most diligent Airbnb hosts occasionally let the wrong guests slip through the cracks and into their cherished rental.
Fortunately, Airbnb has built in multiple features to help you screen guests before they book. Though these features are not perfect, they go a long way toward protecting you and your property — and without much additional effort.
And don’t forget the other side of the coin: once you’ve decided the guest is a good fit for you and your space, it’s time to turn on the charm and make sure they’re equally trusting of you.
Check out The Accidental Airbnb Host’s recommended steps below for both vetting guests and impressing them!
1. Check guests’ profiles.
When a reservation request comes in, don’t be immediately lured in by the excitement of a potential booking. Think like an online dater and check their picture and profile first! It’s the best way to get a good first impression.
As with online dating, beware of sparse info or a barely filled-out profile. It could be a warning sign.
That said, an incomplete profile isn’t always a dealbreaker. Maybe the guest is a first-time Airbnb user and just need a little bit of guidance.
If a potential guest hasn’t finished their profile, give them another chance and ask them to upload a picture and complete the Verified ID process.
You can also require your guests to have a Verified ID in order to submit a reservation request in the first place. From the dashboard, go to “Your Listings” and click on “Reservation Requirements.” Then, check the box that reads: “Require guests to go through verification.”
2. Check reviews & references.
Next, check out the guest’s reviews from Airbnb hosts he or she has stayed with in the past. Just as your reviews are like gold to potential guests, reviews of guests are gold for you. If they’ve been negatively reviewed, use the messaging system to ask as many questions as you want.
If, at the end of that conversation you decide you don’t want to accept a guest inquiry, make sure to officially ‘decline’ the request. Simply sending a message, or not responding at all, can negatively affect your rating on Airbnb.
3. Ask targeted questions.
If guests don’t have reviews or references, use the messaging system to learn more about them. Messaging guests with the right questions before a booking lets you know if they’re a good fit.
My favorite question is: “Why are you visiting us here in [destination]?” It’s a great conversation starter, and it helps you accommodate any special needs they may have related to their trip. That’s the stuff great hosts are made of!
4. Consult social media.
If you’re still hesitant about accepting a guest, search his or her social media profiles. Most people have an online profile on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn these days. Some even have a personal website or blog. The dating rule of “don’t Google before a first date” does not apply here. Stalk away; it’s for your own good!
Compare guests’ social profiles to their Airbnb profiles and make sure the details line up. If you can’t find them on social networks, see if they mention where they work on the “About” section of their Airbnb profile. If they do, Google his or her name together with the company name and check for hits. If you still have no luck, ask questions in the messaging system until you feel comfortable accepting the guest.
Note: Airbnb hides websites and phone numbers in their messaging system prior to reservations, but they won’t hide names and company names. So go ahead and ask for their workplace!
Respond quickly to inquiries.
Now that you’ve done some background investigation, it’s time to prove yourself to your guests!
First, respond as fast as you can to any reservation requests. Most guests send inquiries to several hosts at the same time, and usually book with the host from whom they received the fastest response. Responding quickly shows that you’ll be fast to respond to any issues that may arise during their trip, too.
Use their first name.
“A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language,” writes Dale Carnegie, author of the iconic book How to Win Friends and Influence People.
When replying to guest inquiries in messages, always use your guest’s first name. A name is a core part of our identity, and hearing it makes us feel special and respected. For your part, remembering someone’s name, and using it, is a great way to stand out from the impersonal inquiry responses your guest is surely getting from other hosts.
But don’t overdo it! Once in the greeting (“Hi [Guest]”) and then once (maybe twice) more in the body of the mail is plenty. Any more than that and you risk coming across like a used car salesman.
Pay attention to guest questions.
Guests will inevitably ask questions. Sometimes many, sometimes just a few…but most of the time you will get the same questions over and over again.
Instead of getting (understandably) annoyed at having to repeat yourself, use this opportunity to listen to and engage your guests. The last thing you want is to seem unfriendly or rude.
Another tip: answer some of the FAQs in the text of your property description. For example, if you always get a question like, “How far are you from the beach?” you should mention in your listing at least twice that you are “3 blocks to the beach” (or whatever). Unfortunately, this probably won’t fix the problem completely, but it’ll help.
Then, try to end your message with a question in return to keep the conversation going. Your guests will notice the extra attention, and might just choose your rental because of this small but important gesture.
When responding to inquiries, always be professional and polite…and avoid grammatical errors. This may sound rigid, but by being accurate and correct down to the grammatical details, you show guests that you take hosting seriously…and that they can trust they’ll be in good hands with you.
You may have heard that Airbnb guests favor the “Instant Book” option, which eliminates some of these early interactions between host and guest. But keep in mind that, as of now, you don’t have to accept a booking or offer “Instant Book” for your listing. It’s your call.
And I do recommend having at least one interaction with a guest before they arrive at your place. While early communication won’t protect you from every single worst-case scenario, it can go a long way toward ensuring that only great guests show up at your door.