An Airbnb Superhost Shares 9 Unusual Tips to Improve Your Listing

Terence Michael at his home in Venice, California
Terence Michael is a Hollywood producer who makes extra income as an Airbnb superhost. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Thinking about becoming an Airbnb host?

You’ve probably got some questions — like, how can you prepare the space, how do you advertise your space, how can I avoid talking to my guests, and, uh, what happens when someone clogs the toilet?

To answer these questions for you — with tips you can actually use — we talked to Terence Michael, an Airbnb superhost based in Los Angeles. For the past two years, he’s hosted alongside his college buddy David Andreone to manage two properties remotely — one in Nashville, Tennessee, and one in Palm Springs, California.

Now, he teaches others how to tap into a lucrative side gig using Airbnb through online consultations and his book, “Produce Yourself.”

9 Insider Airbnb Hosting Tips

Whether you’re a real estate tycoon or simply want to list your extra bed to help with rent, take notes from Michael, who shared some of his exclusive Airbnb hosting tips with us.

Here’s what he had to say:

1. Break out the Label Maker

Michael wrote a self-improvement book, “Produce Yourself,” that encourages individuals to take control of their finances through side gigs like Airbnb hosting. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

“Walk through your own place for the first time. People don’t know where things are, how the window opens or if the toilet needs to be flushed twice. Or, hey, extra towels are here.

“I have the entire house loaded with labels. They look nice; they’re modern. This helps people feel less helpless. When they walk to the coffeemaker, they can see, ‘Oh, it says extra coffee filters are here, with an arrow.’ You want to do everything you can to minimize them calling you or texting you.”

2. Make Your Guests Work for You — Just a Little Bit

“The amount of turnover products, like [toiletries], is rather large. It ended up being like, ‘Am I going to be making a bunch of Costco runs, or do I have to hire someone on TaskRabbit to do that?’

“Here’s a little hack: I order on Amazon and have it delivered when people are there. Everyone’s always fine. I’ll just say, ‘Hey, a box is coming. Do you mind just putting it inside?’”

3. Love Thy Neighbor — and Don’t Be Afraid to Turn Guests Away

airbnb listing in palm springs california
The interior of Michael’s Airbnb listing in Palm Springs, Calif. Photo courtesy of Airbnb

“I always let my neighbors know ahead of time what I’m doing before starting an Airbnb business. I just ask them kindly, ‘If it’s ever too loud, if anyone’s infringing on anything, text me immediately. I will rectify that.’

“I say, ‘I’m not going to put anyone here who I think won’t be good for you.’ And I turn a lot of big groups away, especially in Nashville. I don’t want anyone going to the cops or the city.”

4. Airbnb Will Side With the Host

Michael poses in his Venice, Calif. home on Monday, May 21, 2018. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

“When people leave, get someone to get eyes on the place as soon as possible. Airbnb does side with the lister.

“If there’s a broken chair leg or a towel rack — I make sure it’s something [the guest] did — or if they had a baby that threw up on the carpet, Airbnb will actually cover you and release the security deposit back to you if you reach out within 14 days.

I thought Airbnb was going to side so much with everybody else, but they really take care of the host.”

5. Update That Speed Dial

“Another thing that will help you sleep better at night: You want to have a plumber, electrician and a handyman.

“Go on Yelp, and everybody’s there. I just call and say I want someone who’s available or who also has someone they can recommend if it’s 3 a.m.

“Have those three numbers on your cell phone ready to call. For me, personally, it’s always been plumbing. Someone’s going to clog a toilet. The garbage disposal isn’t going to work if they put rice down it.

“Many times, it’s their fault, so what I like to do is say, ‘I’m going to send someone up there right away for you. They say it’s going to cost $75. You can just pay them.’ And they understand. I’ve never really had an issue. They’re just happy someone comes and fixes it right away.”

6. Invest in a Fire Stick

“I have Wi-Fi, but I don’t have cable. A couple of people have complained, but it’s been a small percentage. Here’s how I get around it: I just have an Amazon Fire Stick.

“It’s like $39 on Amazon. You plug it into the back of the TV, and it has Showtime, Netflix, HBO — it has every single thing you could ever want. A guest will click Netflix, and they can sign in with their own account.”

7. Buy a Domain Name

Michael obtained the domain name BookPalmSprings.com to make his listings easier for potential guests to find. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

“Anytime you talk to people and they ask, ‘How can I find your Airbnb?’ Most people say, ‘Go on Airbnb. Type in the city.’

Well, they’re going to see everything else that’s available.

So I went to GoDaddy, and I think I paid $35 or something. I bought BookPalmSprings.com. That’s it. How easy is that to remember?

On Book Palm Springs, I actually did make my own little clunky website, but you don’t have to. On MidCentury1963.com, I didn’t. That’s the forward [to my listing on Airbnb].”

8. Upsell Isn’t a Four-Letter Word

Sachi, Michael’s 16-year-old Shiba Inu, walks down the stairs of his Venice, Calif. home on May 21, 2018. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

“A big thing I’ve learned is to upsell. A lot of people ask the day of or maybe while they’re booking, ‘Hey, do we really have to check out at 11 a.m.? Our flight is at 5 p.m.’

“I’ll be like, ‘You know, it’s going to be an extra half day. That’s going to be $50 extra.’

“Or consider a per-person charge, depending on how big your place is. Most Airbnb policies suggest you shouldn’t have more than two people per bedroom. So if you’ve got a two-bedroom place and six people want to crash, it’s OK for you to say, ‘We’re going to charge $30 extra for each of the two extra people.’

“Other typical add-ons are pets. Some people do a pet deposit.”

9. Establish the Vibe

airbnb listing in palm springs california
The outdoor area of Michael’s Airbnb listing in Palm Springs, Calif. Photo courtesy of Airbnb

“There’s this marketing technique where you ask for five adjectives that define the product or service. For my Palm Springs place, I said, ‘It’s white. It’s zen. It’s midcentury. It’s Coachella. It’s simple.’

“So I made the write-up have that feeling. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, party here.’ That wasn’t the brand. This brand was just chill — come fall asleep in the hammock.”

How to Make the Most of Your Hosting Experience

Learn more about becoming an Airbnb host in our guide. There, Michael offers more tips on how to get started and covers what you need to know about expenses — from insurance to taxes. Then check out your potential monthly earnings using Airbnb’s calculator.

Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s thinking she’ll take a trip to Palm Springs and stay in Michael’s place. You know, for research.

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