When you host Airbnb guests, vacation rental damages can be considered a "cost of doing business" on the platform. It won't happen too often if you set yourself up for success but it will happen sooner or later.
To ensure you're hosting respectful guests in your short-term rental property and decrease the number of damages you encounter, follow the guidelines below.
“You see this goblet?” asks Achaan Chaa, the Thai meditation master.
“For me this glass is already broken. I enjoy it; I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably, sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. But when I put this glass on the shelf and the wind knocks it over or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, ‘Of course.’ When I understand that the glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious.”
This story illustrates an important point for vacation rental owners: sh*t happens.
You don't want to get all worked up when one of your guests break a wine glass, knock art off the wall, or stain your expensive living room sofa. The hard truth of vacation rental damages is that they are bound to happen whether you like it or not.
So while there are a number of steps you can take to prevent damages from happening, it's important to understand that you can't prevent everything.
As you host more and more reservations, you’ll start to notice patterns in your interaction with guests, and how those patterns correspond to the way they treat your home. And the more damages you deal with, the more you’ll be able to spot red flags before you even accept a reservation.
Some things to look out for include:
It’s your right to deny anyone from staying in your home, and you don’t have to give a reason. Additionally, if your profile is set to Instant Book, you have a few freebies each year to cancel a reservation without reason and without penalty.
Something that’s worked particularly well for some hosts has been collecting security deposits manually. You can set up security deposits automatically through your listing settings, but collecting additional funds upfront manually may help put your mind at ease.
If you do collect deposits manually, you'll want to post a disclaimer publicly on your listings so guests know to expect it before they book.
You can also be more selective about when to collect these by using certain verbiage like "A separate security deposit may be required at the time of booking." Then you can decide whether or not to collect this based on the information you have about the guest.
If the guest has no reviews, for example, you could reach out and say something along the lines of:
“Hey, I noticed you’re new to the Airbnb community. Welcome! I’ve had some bad experiences in the past with new users so I like to ask for a $200 security deposit before check-in. I’m sure you’ll treat the home with the utmost care, but this just serves as a small safeguard in case of any accidents.”
Most people get it. And if they don't want to comply, they'll cancel the booking and find somewhere else to stay.
The great part about manually collecting security deposits is that you can scale the amount up and down based on your own discretion, for example smaller amounts for shorter stays or larger amounts if you have particularly high-end furnishings.
This means designing your home in a way that makes it less prone to damage and repair.
Whether that means replacing carpet with tile, using hard plastic cups instead of glass, or even throwing sofa covers on the furniture… there are plenty of ways to reduce the chance for vacation rental damages when it comes to furniture and decor.
This strategy should be used carefully, though, because you have to strike a balance between quality and preservation. You don’t want to remove a nicer item or amenity that gives the space an elegant feel just because there’s a chance that someone might break it one day.
So look around your vacation home and try to determine what it is that's "worth it" and what might be better off inaccessible to guests.
This next tip is more of a budgetary strategy.
You can reserve 10% of every booking for incidentals that are bound to happen at one point or another, that way it doesn’t hurt so bad if you can’t recover costs from a damage claim.
Alternatively, you can tack on an additional fee of 1 or 2% per reservation through your “Pricing” settings on the listing. You can call it “Management” or “Community” fee but its real purpose is to act kind of like a deductible for any future claims that you submit.
How you divert the funds and where you keep them is totally up to you, so long as you know that you have a small piggy bank dedicated to "accidents."
If at the end of the year you find yourself with a lot of spare change in the account, you can use the funds to upgrade worn furniture or buy a new amenity to increase the value and appeal of your vacation rental.
It may sound counter-intuitive but increasing your rate often leads to higher-quality guests. In this context, “higher-quality” means more reasonable, more respectful guests who will treat your home like it's their own.
People who are used to having nice things are often pretty good at taking care of them.
A small increase of 10–15% over your comp set will serve as a filter for those travelers who have a higher tendency to get rowdier and leave a mess behind after their stay.
If you’re doing serious volume with your short-term rental property, it helps to treat your home like an established business and think about the kind of 'customers' you want to attract.
After hosting for a little while, you'll start seeing trends and be able to identify which items in your home are most trafficked and, therefore, most prone to damages. Then you can make adjustments to decrease costs without sacrificing on value.
Being a Savvy Owner means working smart, not hard. It means using the resources at your disposal with the utmost intelligence and efficiency.
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