10 Biggest Airbnb Host Mistakes to Avoid

When it comes to running a successful Airbnb business, as with any business, the key to success is in your ability to put yourself in the shoes of your guests. You have to know – and act upon – your guests’ needs and wants. You have to design their experience while in your property for optimal satisfaction. And you have to really understand what will make your guests excited to share their experience with others and to leave you glowing 5 star reviews. If you can do these things well, your Airbnb business has a much better chance of succeeding and becoming a very profitable enterprise.

Aspire to be like those Airbnb Superhosts that consider their guests’s comfort, user experience, preferences, and priorities when setting up their properties. This will make you a host that your guests will recommend to others, and will often lead to future rebookings. Since 5 star reviews are the highest currency for an Airbnb listing, a host needs to understand the factors that affect them.

When running a profitable Airbnb business, there are a 10 Big Mistakes you’ll need to avoid:

Mistake #1: Listing Against Regulations

Don’t list your property on Airbnb if it’s against your HOA or city covenants/zoning laws. You’ll get caught and probably fined. It’s simply not worth it. Sure, you might get away with it for a short time, but it isn’t the way to build a foundation for lasting success. If you’re going through the effort to establish an Airbnb property the right way (which is the only way to do this, in my opinion), start with a good foundation and follow the rules for long-term business success.

Mistake #2: Not Keeping the Property Immaculately Clean

If you do not know how, or don’t have time, to clean to hotel-quality standards, find someone who does and hire it out. People don’t want to find hair in their bed or in the bathroom or on their towels. If your carpet is dirty, get it cleaned. People want to stay in a clean place, sleep in a clean bed, and use clean bathrooms and towels. Nothing will kill your reviews faster than a dirty, cluttered, or unsanitary property.

Mistake #3: Broken, Worn-Down Furniture

If you have broken or worn out furniture, fix or replace it. People don’t want to stay somewhere that has furniture that looks like it belongs in an old frat house. It doesn’t have to be fancy or even brand new, just in optimal shape. General rule to live by: If your furniture has rips, tears, cracks, isn’t stable, isn’t comfortable, is held together by duct tape (no matter how little duct tape is utilized), or looks like it would be rejected by Goodwill, then you need to replace it.

Mistake #4: Pets on the Property

Don’t have personal pets on the property where guests will be staying. Many people are allergic to pet hair, and even those that aren’t certainly don’t want to find it all over the property they’ve paid good money to stay in. Obviously, if your property caters specifically to guests that have their own pets, that’s another story. For example, we allow small dogs on some of our properties (and include an up-charge for the extra cleaning expense it requires.) Whatever you do, do NOT have a litter box anywhere on the property where guests will be staying.

Mistake #5: Scratchy Towels and Sheets

No scratchy towels! If you could exfoliate your skin with your current towels, it’s time to replace them. People want soft, fluffy, luxurious new towels (that all match) in their bathrooms. The same concept applies to bed sheets—if they aren’t soft, or if they are more than a year old, get new ones. Note: decent towels and sheets aren’t expensive–Walmart has perfectly acceptable sheets and towels.

Mistake #6: Old Pillows

Pillows can be gross. Do you know that after a couple of years, nearly a third of your pillow’s weight is made up of dead skin, bugs, and dust mites and their feces? It’s true–you can read about it right here! Do yourself, and those that stay in your Airbnb bed, a favor and get new pillows every single year.

Mistake #7: Low-Quality Mattresses

Don’t go cheap on the mattress. This is one place you really need to invest in better quality. Mattress quality alone can have a significant impact on the reviews guests leave for your property. If your mattress is more than 5-6 years old and you paid less than $500 for it, it’s time to get a new one (and upgrade while you’re at it.) Good quality mattresses that can last 10 years or more cost $1,000 or more ($0.27 per day over 10 years.)

You can find a great memory foam mattress on Amazon that gets delivered to your house for less than $300 – but don’t expect it to last a decade. You’ll have to trade that sucker out every 3 years or so, but your cost per day is the same as a $1,000 mattress.

Good mattresses are what people want to sleep on (don’t you?) If it’s saggy, too hard, too soft, or too old, they will hate it and without quality sleep, it’s hard to say you had a wonderful stay. We have stayed in some places that had mattresses so bad we had to find blankets to use as a mattress pad, and it still sucked. Naturally, we left a bad review and made sure future guests were warned. Make sure you have a clean, newer, comfortable mattress.

Mistake #8: Forgetting the Coffee Bar

A fatal mistake, and often overlooked, is forgetting how much people love (and depend on) their morning cup of joe. People need it and are hugely disappointed (if not irate) if you don’t provide it. Make sure you have: 

  • good quality, ground coffee
  • creamer (liquid, NOT powder)
  • several options for sweetener (sugar, Stevia, and Splenda)
  • a coffee maker that is relatively new. (They are cheap, so get a good one! Note that some people don’t like coffee pods, so skip the Keurig.)

Mistake #9: Requiring a Face-to-Face Check In

Try to avoid making people meet you to check in. People would rather check in without meeting you to get a key and instructions on the property. It’s more convenient for them (and for you) not to have to coordinate a meeting time.

Installing an internet-enabled keypad lock (on the door and/or garage) is best—easier for you and easier for your guests. Also, provide printed-out information (in addition to the House Manual on the Airbnb site) about the property—wifi name and password, where to put trash, where the coffee is, and how to use the TV / cable / AppleTV / etc. Type it up, print it out, and put it in a sign holder in the kitchen.

Mistake #10: Giving Discounts

Don’t do it. People will ask and ask, but don’t give them a discount. We use Airbnb’s Smart Pricing and stick to that. If they want a discount because they can’t afford our rates, then they need to look for a down-market property. Our rates are our rates. Stick to your guns. No discounts!

If you want ratings that turn heads, you need to think like a guest when designing their stay—from check-in to hot showers (with soft towels to snuggle into afterwards) to morning coffee and everything in between. Think about the things that would turn you off if you were paying to stay somewhere. If you avoid these critical mistakes, you’ll be on the right track to winning reviews and more revenue for your Airbnb investment property.

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