4. Flexible booking & availability

The more flexible you are in how guests can book and how quickly you are able to turn over your unit, the more reservations you will get.  Flexibility in booking includes allowing instant booking, having a clear cancellation policy, and providing a wide check-in window and fair check out time.  

The importance of scheduling

To maximize your profits,

 

(1) your unit should be available within 24 hours, meaning a guest can book your unit the day before checking in, and

 

(2) if possible, you should also be able to offer a check in the same day another guest check out. This will require diligent scheduling and willingness to clean the unit yourself if your cleaning service is unavailable. If your work schedule does not permit this, you should at least be able to provide a check in the day after the previous guest departs.

 

Scheduling is very important.  There is nothing worse than realizing you have a guest coming in and the unit has not been cleaned.

You must decide whether you will allow certain guests who meet your requirements to book instantly, or whether all guests need to submit a reservation request. We recommend that you allow instant booking and specify the requirements that will make you feel comfortable. You can set your requirements to include some or all of the following:

  • Confirmed phone number

  • Confirmed email address,

  • Confirmed payment information

  • Agreement to house rules

  • Government-issued ID

  • Recommendation from other hosts

  • Guest trip information

Instant booking 

Advance notice refers to how much time you need to get your unit ready for the next guest. You can set a same-day booking (with a customizable cutoff hour) for example, we only allow someone to book the same day before 8 am, so that we have enough time to schedule cleaning before our 2 pm check-in time. You can also set it to at least 1 day’s notice, up to 4 day’s notice.  The shorter your advance notice, the higher your chances of getting a booking.

Know the difference between

"advance notice"

"preparation time"

Preparation time refers to how much time you need between bookings. For example, you can set a preparation time of “none,” which means that you agree to have someone check in the same day another guest checks out. This means that you will have to have the unit cleaned between your check in and check out times, and need to have a reliable cleaning service or have the time and be willing to do the cleaning yourself. To maximize your earnings, you should shoot for a preparation time of “none,” but if you work full time, this may not be possible.

Check-in window

Your check-in window will largely depend on whether you have a lockbox or other self-check –in method.  If you plant to greet your guests, you can select a check-in window that works with your schedule.  Keep in mind, however, that the shorter your window, the least amount of potential guests you will attract.

If you have a lockbox and offer 24-hour check-in, you are ikely to attract more guests. A lockbox or other self-check in method like a pin pad or Keycafe service comes extremely handy in this situation.

Make sure you make your check in time late enough to give departing guests enough time to check out, but if you have a preparation time of "none," you must make sure that you have enough time to clean the rental before the next check-in.

For the units near our house, we have a 2 pm check-in time; for our unit that is 20 minutes away from our home, we have a 3 pm check in time to allow us to get there if there is a problem. 

 

Since we have a lockbox by the front door of our buildings, we allow our guests to check in any time thereafter.  However, we make it very clear to our guests that they need to be respectful of our neighbors and tenants every time they come in or out of the units and building, especially late at night.

Make sure your check-in time is comfortable for you, but do not make it later than 4 pm.

 

If the unit is ready early, we always allow our guests an early check in whenever possible.  An early check in goes a long way for reviews.

Check-in window is not the same as booking window

Booking window refers to how much time in advance your guests can book. If you are unsure of whether you want to continue to rent your space, or if you plan on renting only seasonally, adjust your booking window accordingly.  You can also block dates manually on your calendar.

Check out cannot be too early that it makes your guests uncomfortable or too late that you can’t get the unit ready for the next guest.  Eleven am has worked very well for us, because we allow new guests to book on the same day that another guest is checking out, so we need time to clean the unit.  If you have set your calendar to block the day before and after a reservation, you can allow a later check out, if that works for you.  Your guests will certainly appreciate it. 

Check out time

ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS

Trip length

To an extent, trip length will be affected by your local laws.  Some jurisdictions are restricting short-term rentals to a certain number of days or a minimum number of days per stay.  Make sure to check and obey all local laws.

Minimum stay

A one-day minimum stay will maximize your profits and get the most exposure for your listing, but it can also be a lot of work if you are cleaning your unit every day and doing laundry every day.  However, it is important to keep in mind that one-day stays are often easier to clean up after, because guests often do not have enough time to make too much of a mess.

 

For beginner hosts, I would suggest a two-night minimum to start. Once you get your bearings, you can adjust to a one-night minimum.

Maximum stay

Keep in mind that in many jurisdictions, longer trips (usually 90 days or more) are not subject to occupancy taxes.

 

However, the longer a guest stays, the more wear and tear on the property and furniture. While tourists don’t spend that much time in the unit, longer stays will spend more time in your space.  This will lead to more accidents, more mess because they will tend to cook more as well.  It will also mean your guest will find more things to complain about.

 

We suggest giving any guest over 10 days a free weekly cleaning and linen/towel change. It is a little bit more work, but avoids guests destroying your linens and walking into a pigsty after a two-month stay.

Airbnb heavily penalizes hosts who cancel a confirmed reservation unless your reason for cancelling falls within Airbnb's extenuating circumstances policy.  Make it a point to NEVER cancel a reservation unless you have a very good reason for doing so.

Rental sites offer hosts a variety of cancellation policies from very strict to flexible. We recommend that you start with a strict cancellation policy and adjust in a few months. Even if you have a strict cancellation policy, you can always override it and issue a guest a full or partial refund.

 

We have issued full refunds to guests with special circumstances such as illness or death in the family.  We feel that the strict policy attracts more serious guests, and you don’t run the risk of getting a cancellation too close to the date of the reservation and then being unable to get a new reservation. People are flaky, and if they want to cancel without a valid reason, you should not be the one to pay for it.

Keep in mind, however, that in order to be featured in Airbnb's work collection, you need to have a flexible cancellation policy.

Cancellation policy

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