If this is your first foray into the world of short-term rentals, the process of setting up a new property can be daunting. It’s a ton of work in the beginning, but the good news is that once it’s done, it’s done. So, buckle down, do it once, and do it right. Below we’ll look at the three major categories to focus on when setting up a short-term rental so that you can earn five-star reviews and set a trajectory for profitability.
Nail the Look
If the property you’ve purchased isn’t brand new, you will probably need to start by installing new carpet and giving it a fresh coat of paint. These upgrades will help the place look (and smell!) fresh and clean. It’s best to get these improvements done first before you’ve got a bunch of furniture in the way.
Once these upgrades are complete, it’s time to furnish and decorate the property. Balance is critical here. You don’t want the property to be sparse and austere, but you don’t want to have a cluttered, junk-filled space, either. You also want to avoid any easily breakable décor, like top-heavy vases, for example. And even though candles are a nice touch, definitely do not provide these at your property—safety first!
When selecting furniture and décor, it’s probably best to match the design trends of your location. For example, don’t put a giant wooden bear on display at a beach house in Miami. (Save the bear for when you invest in Gatlinburg.) However, sometimes doing something radically different can help your property stand out. For example, imagine having a New Mexico-themed property in New York. People might actually think that’s pretty cool. If you can’t settle on a stylistic direction, check out successful Airbnb listings in your area for inspiration.
Some of our favorite places to shop for furniture and décor include TJ Maxx, Home Goods, Wayfair, and Amazon. All these places have offerings that provide a balance of price and quality suitable for an Airbnb. We also really enjoy using Ikea when there is one nearby. By using a local Ikea, we save a lot of money on shipping (and shipping for furniture can get expensive).
Pro Tip: If you’re lucky, you might be able to buy a property furnished and ready to go. We’ve done this with several properties, and it has saved us a ton of time. Keep an eye out for these deals but be aware that the furniture is not free; its cost is baked into the purchase price.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with the design of your property. Unique, quirky features are a big reason why many guests prefer staying at an Airbnb over a hotel. One of our favorite things to do is paint the front door a bright color, like yellow or green, and display the home address with large mounted numbers on the house’s exterior. These upgrades don’t just look cool; they also have the practical benefit of making the property easy to find.
A mural is another addition that can make your property more attractive to guests. Murals work well inside or outside and provide a fun backdrop for guests’ Instagram photo sessions. We also like to add features that focus on the uniqueness of a particular location. For example, at one of our Austin properties, we have a “Texas Room,” complete with Texas-themed pillows, blankets, and art. It’s nothing elaborate, but it helps our property stand out and makes every guest’s stay more memorable.
Purchase and Organize Necessities
A short-term rental needs to do more than just look pretty; it must provide all the necessities that a typical guest would reasonably expect during their stay.
For the bedrooms, you’ll want to buy multiple sets of bed linens so that your cleaners can make the bed with fresh linens while washing the dirty ones. It’s also a good idea to use mattress and pillow protectors.
Pro Tip: If you have multiple bedrooms at your property, consider setting one up with a soft mattress and another with a firm mattress. You can’t please everyone, but by doing this, you’ve increased the odds that guests will find a bed that makes them happy.
In each full bathroom, you should provide shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and hand soap. You should have clean towels and washcloths on the towel rack and a bathmat on the floor. Under the sink, you should have a hairdryer and plenty of extra toilet paper for your guests. You should have a small trash can by the toilet or under the sink, and there should also be at least one plunger somewhere in the house.
The next step is to get the kitchen set up. At a minimum, you should provide guests with:
- Forks, spoons, and knives. (These usually come in sets. Buy a few sets, so your guests have plenty.)
- Plates and bowls. (You should have at least four of each.)
- Drinking glasses, including tumblers, juice glasses, and wine glasses.
- A cutting board.
- A wine opener.
- Sharp knives—at minimum, a chef’s knife, paring knife, and serrated knife.
- A variety of mixing bowls and measuring cups.
- Pots and pans.
- A baking sheet.
- Cooking utensils, like tongs, spatulas, ladles, etc.
- A spoon rest.
- Kitchen towels.
- Paper towels and a dispenser.
- Dishwasher pods.
Guests will also appreciate a pantry stocked with simple essentials, like:
- Coffee pods and Keurig.
- Salt and pepper.
- Oil or cooking spray.
Amazon has numerous “all-in-one” kitchen set-ups that will cover many of the items on this list, many of them for under $100.
Finally, you’ll need to set up a supply closet. Choose a cabinet with plenty of room for all your supplies and install a lock on it. Alternatively, you can buy standalone locking storage cabinets. The supply cabinet is where you will store all your inventory of supplies, including:
- Paper towels.
- Extra coffee pods.
- Toilet Paper.
- Extra bed linens, towels, and washcloths.
It’s best to buy these items in bulk and retrieve them from the supply closet as they are needed. Buying in bulk saves you money and reduces the chances that you’ll run out of something important.
Give Guests a “Wow” Welcome
Check-in can make or break the guest experience, so you really want to nail it. Before guests even open the front door, the first thing they’ll notice is the exterior of your property. For that reason, it’s important to keep your landscaping simple and easy to maintain. The last thing you want is for guests to arrive to a front yard full of overgrown grass and wilted plants. The paint on the outside of the home needs to be in good shape as well.
To enable guests to enter the property, you’ll need to set up keyless entry. This is a special lock on the front door that allows the guest to enter the property simply by typing in a code. Keyless entry is a critical component of the JOD remote management strategy, and getting it set up is well worth the investment.
A welcome book gives guests everything they’ll need to know as they settle in. At a minimum, it should include the WiFi username and password and instructions that pertain to any quirks of the property (for example, how to use a Nest thermostat or how to turn on the jacuzzi). You can also include the answer to commonly asked questions (like the location of extra toilet paper). For extra credit, you can provide a list of the host’s favorite restaurants and attractions in the area—this adds a nice personal touch.
Along with the welcome book, you can provide guests with a welcome basket that includes snacks, drinks, and a personalized note from the host.
Here are a few additional touches that make guests feel welcome:
- Extra pillows and blankets are great to have on hand, just in case someone needs to sleep on the couch or if the provided pillows and blankets are soiled during the guests’ stay. Extra towels are a good idea, too.
- Board games and a deck of cards are also great things to provide (especially if you’re renting out a cabin).
Let’s face it—getting a short-term rental ready for its first guests is a lot of work. Luckily, you only have to go through the initial set-up process once per property. A comfortable property with a cool vibe has the potential to earn fantastic returns over many years, so it pays to invest in quality furniture, appliances, and kitchenware.
The amount you must spend depends on the condition the property is in when you buy it. We’ve been able to purchase some of our properties fully furnished. In these cases, all we had to do was buy linens and shampoo, and we were up and running. We’ve purchased unfurnished properties. These often needed some work and usually cost about $5,000 total to set up.
If you’re considering getting into short-term rentals, make sure you’ve got the funds allocated to set them up properly. In the end, it’s not worth the headaches and low reviews you’ll deal with if you attempt to set up a short-term rental on the cheap. Once everything is up and running, you can make little upgrades and repairs as you go along to continue providing a premium experience for your guests. By doing the work to start earning five-star reviews right away, you prime your property for many years of future success.