How to Prepare Your Home for Airbnb
Visiting Nashville? Stay with us! Check out our Airbnb listing here.
If you’re following along with our Pretirement prep on Instagram, you’ll know that the majority of our brain power – and will power – is currently going toward getting our house ready to list on Airbnb.
Now that we have our short-term rental permit, the next step is bracing our house for an onslaught of strangers.
We’ve made it almost to the end of the road, no worse for the wear and with what we think is a little bit of wisdom to share.
Note: We’re approaching this in the context of listing the house for rent, but we’d be doing some degree of house prep whether we were renting our house or not.
Leaving your home unattended for months at a time requires a certain amount of pragmatism – unattended buildings get violated sometimes, or leaks happen and no one knows, or fire hazards appear and no one is there to catch them.
Those bummers can’t necessarily be counted upon, of course, but it would be silly not to remove, at the very least, the things you don’t want to lose in the event of any one of the aforementioned bummers.
Tip 1: Expect the worst in people
This feels like a good time to specify that our experience as Airbnb hosts has been positive – we’ve found that people are generally extremely eager to be friendly and respectful.
But that has been our experience while we are still here.
People let down their guard a bit in a place they perceive to be entirely theirs, if only for a weekend. Also, people get drunk and lose things and drop things and break things and rip things and spill things and get self tanner and makeup all over your linens.
So, I think it’s realistic to get comfortable with a certain degree of loss. That applies to anything you leave in the house, which is why we will not leave a single dish, glass, sheet, towel, or trinket valued over 11 cents.
We’ve removed things like our record player and vinyl collection, sound equipment, our beloved coffee maker, wedding china, some art and books of monetary or sentimental value, our christmas ornament collection, which is a close third after Joe and Moxie (in no particular order) on the list of things Jordan would run into a burning house to save. Basically, anything we love and think people might be tempted to destroy, either inadvertently or on purpose, we’re just taking out of the mix.
RE: everything else, we hereby humbly request that Jesus take the wheel. Amen.
Tip 2: Start Early
We started this process in late April and we are still making at least one trip to Goodwill per week. This process has kind of happened in rounds – the closer we get to leaving, the more cut-throat we’ve seemed to get about things we thought we could never get rid of a month ago.
Our closet is a good example. It looked like this:
Round 1: Getting rid of things we haven’t worn in months or years and will not wear again;
Round 2: Getting rid of things that are out of season (right now, that’s fall or winter) and that we don’t think we will wear again this year;
Round 3: Getting rid of work clothes (we’re not smiling, you’re smiling);
Round 4: Getting rid of things we do wear but realistically may not fit into our new lifestyle which, for the foreseeable future, involves ambling around the desert.
At this point, anything left hanging in our closet, we intend to pack for the first leg of our trip. But it took a few months to get there and, thus, felt much less overwhelming.
Tip 3: Go room by room
This happened organically for us, because we’ve already been renting one guest room on Airbnb, so we started with that room, and progressed first to the spaces we knew we’d be sharing with our guests.
Tip 3.1 Make a calendar and set deadlines to clear out each room, closet, and cabinet.
It may sound crazy, but otherwise, it’s all too easy to put off. This way, you eat the elephant a bite at a time – or whatever – and avoid getting into a stressful time crunch right before you’re due to list on Airbnb.
Tip 3.2 Keep it organized
Things we were giving away, went into cardboard boxes and bags.
Things we were putting in storage were neatly packed in plastic storage bins.
Tip 3.3 Take things to their new home immediately
When we were done with each room, we immediately took the packaged items to their new home – either Goodwill or our storage unit – the same day or the next morning at the latest.
If you let all the boxes sit in the house, even if it’s in a room you’re not using, you’ll still be wallowing around in mess and you won’t feel the satisfaction of making progress.
This also goes back to eating the elephant (who the hell came up with that?) a bite at a time. Give yourself a break and, as much as you can, do this in small, palatable stages.
Tip 4: Store things in a neat and organized way
Start early. Give yourself some time to think about how you want to organize your storage. Organization is the first thing out the door if you wait too long to get started and find yourself in a mad rush to get everything packed up at the end.
This is also a benefit of packing things up room by room – you can store like with like, and avoid having to tear your storage unit apart looking for something in a few months or years because you just threw everything in a tub and forced the lid shut.
Tip 4.1 Anything we’ve sent to storage has been packed in a see-through plastic container with like items.
Tip 4.2 We organized the storage unit so that things we may need between trips are easily accessible in the front, while things we know we won’t need for a while are neatly stacked toward the back.
Tip 5: Be ruthless
And by that we mean, be almost uncomfortably discerning about what you keep and what you ditch. We can’t tell you how many things we’ve dug out of a storage unit and thought ,“what the hell even is this?” and then we’ve stewed about how NOT WORTH IT AND EXPENSIVE IT WAS TO STORE IT AND MAYBE WE WILL GET OVER IT SOMEDAY BUT PROBABLY NOT YOU KNOW US LOL.
Don’t do that to yourself. When you’re looking at something, really think: am I going to be happy to see this in X number of months or years when I’m back in my home or storage unit?
If you’re not sure, the answer is no. In fact, in most cases, the answer is no. Ditch it.
At this point, Joe would like to remind everyone (Jordan) to itemize and keep receipts for all the things you (we) give away so you (we) can take advantage of the tax write-offs. Some free advice from your friendly neighborhood accountant (husband).
Tip 6: Designate an owner’s closet
Since we know we will be in the house periodically, we decided to keep some things in the house that we’d want while we’re there. Things like:
- Our own sheets and towels
- Our coffee maker
- Clothes we’ll want to pack for the next legs of our trip, because trying to pack in a storage unit seems terrible.
There were also things that felt weird to put into storage, and those are in the owner’s closet, too:
- Jewelry of no value and that we like and wear but won’t be practical to take on every leg of the trip
- A small box each of sentimentals – cards and mementos, mostly from each other
- Stationery, wrapping paper (the one thing Jordan has trouble parting with)
There is a lock on the owner’s closet but, again, we don’t recommend leaving anything of true value in there. People get curious about locked doors.
Tip 7: Get a Safe Deposit Box
There will definitely be things you don’t want in the house OR in storage. For those things, it’s best to get a safe deposit box, so you know exactly where they are. Examples of things you might leave in a safe deposit box are:
- Jewelry of any value
- Marriage certificate
- Ownership deeds and titles
- Birth Certificate
- Social Security Card
It’s worth noting that safe deposit boxes are not insured in and of themselves. You will want to make sure that items are insured independently before putting them in a safe deposit box.
Tip 8: Get a P.O. Box
If you’re going to be on the road for fewer than 30 days, the post office will hold your mail for you. Any longer than that, and it may be worth it to get a P.O. box.
If you don’t want to pay the monthly fee for the P.O. box, you may be able to talk a friend into letting you forward your mail to their address.
Either way, you don’t want Airbnb guests rifling through your mail. Take care of it.
Tip 9: Remember, this is your house
We were worried at first that we would have to remove all signs that we ever lived in the house. Would we have to take our wedding photos off the wall? Would we have to change the entire aesthetic to make it more universally appealing?
Then, we were reminded that people use Airbnb knowing full-well that the entire model hinges on staying in other people’s homes. There is no expectation that they will be walking into a blank slate owned by faceless strangers. As long as the home is clean and accommodating of basic needs, people like knowing it belongs to somebody.