Do You Have A House Manual Guests Will Read?
I was staying at my friend’s lovely and amazing Airbnb beach house on Long Island. I helped her set up her space a few years back and hadn't been there for a while. And if you tuned into the episode, “Connecting With Your Guest As A Remote Host,” you know I was ready you know and well prepared!
With my Brooklyn home booked and my team and procedures in place, I was OFF! Since I already knew my friend’s home, I was comfortable staying there by myself. I’m a New Yorker! We’re built STRONG! Once there, I was trying to figure out the air conditioning system…. It was HOT!… even at the beach… and mama needed her A/C. I looked for her House Manual to get the information, I found the manual but not the info.
I realized I had the perfect thank you gift … You know, for letting me enjoy her home. I could buy her flowers, which was my first thought, but… Flowers do die… Cheeses can be delicious with a good bottle of wine…. But then I thought, My House Manual would be perfect. It is essential for her Airbnb business… and knowing my girl… It’s business over a bottle, every time!
So, The House Manual it is. So, with that in mind, I decided to devote today’s episode to creating:
The Art of the House Manual:
Many hosts I come across say they have a “house manual”… but the question is… Do they have a house manual that works?
There’s an ART to creating a successful one. It’s not about having old take out menus and tourist brochures in a folder… You need to know what exactly goes into a house manual, and more importantly, how to get your guests to read it.
It’s simple when done right… and we’re about to do it right.
Let’s start with the crucial information that must go in The House Manual:
- The home essentials…
- Your neighborhood…
- Your City or Town
The Home Essentials:
The House Manual Essentials is all about your home, all of those details that you know, and you think are obvious, but really, they’re aren’t. Only you know that the…
- Hot water knob is really the cold water.
- Compost (in my case) goes in the freezer.
- Please Do NOT open the window that holds the air conditioner.
All This may seem like common sense to you. But you’d be surprised how many times I’ve heard from hosts “Seriously, they opened the window and the A/C came crashing down 5 stories!” Amazing.
The first page of your House Manual will have:
- A welcome message: something short and pleasant.
- The listing address: If the guests need to call for a car service or order food, they don’t need to look for the information on the Airbnb website or on their digital device. I know I don’t remember the listing address where I’m staying (or is that just me?).
- Your or your manager’s contact information: and your preferred method of communication. Is it a phone call, a text, or email?
- Your wifi password: the holy grail, and what everyone wants.
This particular page will have the most important information. Remember, many guests are foreigners. This information is basic but still needs to be detailed: How the guest can contact the police, fire department, hospital or call for an ambulance. You also need to provide information on where the fire extinguisher is located and how to leave your home in case of a fire or emergency.
Airbnb also has a safety card, which you can find in the dashboard under Home Safety. In Airbnb’s Home Safety section, you can find the following:
- A Safety checklist for your home.
- The safety Card.
- Emergency Exit Instructions and
- Emergency Phone Numbers
Airbnb gives you the option to print out the safety card so you can have it on your listing. I suggest you do. It is that important.
I had a guest call for an ambulance once and another guest actually went the hospital. …. in both cases, I wasn’t home. Luckily, they had my House Manual to get the contact information. Trust me, The House Manual is a lifesaver… sometimes, literally.
The Holy Grail for us hosts Your home was booked a long time ago, and your guests don’t remember the house rules. How could they?
Again, because I know you guys all heard Episode #4: which had to do with house rules and boundaries, I’m sure you ALL have excellent house rules… If you’re NOT sure, check out Ep #4… “He Ate My Avocado,”
When your guests arrive, this is the time you need to remind them of your House Rules once again. When I’m giving my house tour, I make sure I mention my house rules. For example, “No one smokes, right”? And if someone says they do….
Well, first I give them the mom look… After a second of them squirming, We talk about my policy of where they can smoke. But the house rules are also reinforced in The House manual as a reminder…
I ALWAYS tell them… If you’re unsure about anything, please check The House Manual for the House Rules or contact me, I live in the house and you can email or text me. You want to give them freedom but also let them know you’re reachable. You’re NOT an absentee Host. right?
Appliances and Kitchen:
Here we’re working on the house information. So appliances, like television, stereo, iron, hair dryer, heating and cooling system, go here. If they’re allowed to use please provide instructions. It might be obvious to you, but an unfamiliar air conditioner or heating unit. or even a smart thermostat with no buttons isn’t obvious to some of us… I’m just saying.
If you provide kitchen access in a shared space or you have a private apartment or house, this page will be more robust with information.
- How to use your appliances?
- Recycling information
- Do they need to take out the trash?
- Do they need to run the dishwasher before they leave?
Even something as simple as, “is the water safe to drink?” You know it, but your guests don’t.
Housekeeping, Towels & Linens:
If you provide linens and towels… and I hope you do. Some guests don’t. Now Airbnb has hosts having to check linens and towels listed as an amenity. This is the section where you might mention that you provide additional towels and where they can find them. If you provide daily housekeeping (I don’t, but some people do), this is where you let them know.
I also mention that I provide makeup remover wipes and I tell them NOT to use my towels to remove their make up. Ahh! Those stains on our towels. How we battle them.
I live in a rather historical neighborhood in Brooklyn called Park Slope… and my home just happens to be the turn of the century… The other turn of the century…
So even though I’ve upgraded it, one of my bathtubs has a very old-fashioned stopper. Sometimes the stopper goes down on its own. Some of my friends say it’s spooky; I say it’s quaint. So when this happens, the water accumulates in the tub and my guests think the drain is clogged… But I know it isn’t.
So now there is a photo of the bathroom and the stopper in the house manual… and in the bathroom. This way, my guests don’t panic because that isn’t pretty.
So my point is, if you have anything special – your swimming pool, hot tub, or anything particular to your home or apartment – add that info or any other special instructions to your House Manual. It’s better having your guests properly informed than having your guests panic.
Check Out Instructions:
This is where you inform your guests, one more time, of your listing’s check-out time because they will forget. Can you blame them? They’re on vacation, having an amazing time at your lovely home. The last thing they want to do is leave. That’s GREAT, but they still need to check OUT!
Do you want them to strip the bed? Do the laundry? Some hosts have a list of things to do before guests leave; others don’t.
Don’t surprise your guests with a PDF the day before departure, like Mitch and Stephanie from episode 9. Write your instructions in The House Manual so they’re prepared ahead of time and don’t get surprised.
A surprise guest is not a happy guest.
In your sign off message, let them know that you’ll appreciate any feedback. It’s better for your guest to let you know something they don’t love in person than in a review.
Now let’s get to the part that will make your house manual actually be read and raved about your neighborhood.
If you have gone to my listings (and I imagine some of you have. Or to the sales page of the House Manual I sell you can read the comments and reviews from guests. This section and the next one are the reasons why they love and rave about it.
I go through my neighborhood, and I make sure I recommend ALL of the great restaurants, coffee shops, and places that I love… I don’t list the so-so places because who wants so-so when you can recommend memorable ones.
It’s also a great excuse for hosts to try new places. I know hosts who have made relationships with restaurants and businesses, who then provide discounts for their guests. A Win-win all around.
For every establishment, I provide
- The name,
- Their address,
- Phone number,
- Hours of operation,
- A little note about why I recommend them,
- And a google map with the distance from my house to the location.
I give them multiple options, so if the guest is tired, they can choose something close by… and they have an idea of where they’re going.
Remember, your guests don’t know your neighborhood and not everyone will have internet access outside of your house.
The following is the information that goes in the neighborhood section:
I divide restaurants by category – breakfast, lunch, and dinner –
It’s a bit time consuming, depending on how perfect you want your House Manual, but the beauty of it is. Once it’s done. It’s done. And guests really appreciate it.
You’ll need to update it because as you know, restaurants come and go.
If a guests find a new restaurant in my neighborhood we discuss their new find and the big question now becomes, “is the new place book worthy?” Guests become vested in the book and my neighborhood. And like Martha Stewart says, “That’s a good thing.”
BARS/LIVE MUSIC and ENTERTAINMENT:
Bars/Live Music and Entertainment:
I let guests know about the nearby bars, live music, and anything else that might be kind of cool and fun in the neighborhood.
For example, in the summertime Prospect Park has very inexpensive outdoor concerts. And I make sure I have the schedules and let the guests know when they’re happening.
It’s a very non-touristy thing to do that can make a nice summer evening extra special.
Supermarkets – We all gotta eat.
I give guests a choice of markets.
There is an upscale gourmet market. And another market which is more budget conscious,
And then, there's Whole Foods. It’s a bit far, but it has a parking lot and people like to go and get that “Whole Foods” experience.
Bakeries – for your sweet tooth:
If you must have cake and pastries… Bakeries get their own section in the House Manual. It’s geared for those guests wanting something sweet or needing to get a cake for a special occasion.
Hair/Nail Places and Spa because looking is feeling good:
I get guests who are here for weddings, graduations, and specials occasions and need to get their hair and nails done. Or they just want a massage.
These places are also included in the book.
Gyms get your work on
There is a 24-hour fitness gym and a few yoga studios nearby. Not everyone likes to workout during their vacation, but some people do. Remember, this is about them… If there are runners in the house, I usually recommend Prospect Park. And believe me, they use it.
Post Office Yes, snail mail
Even the post office gets a line item… because some guests, not that many, do still send postcards. It’s so sweet. I wish we ALL did that more like Tammi Sims in Episode 8 “Connecting with Guests as a Remote SuperHost”. Oh, nostalgia.
Your neighborhood section will be for guests inquiring about different businesses. And I’m about to add some businesses that provide phone and Sim cards since guests ask for them quite often.
Back when I started my House Manual, there was a page with the wifi password and a thank you note for staying at my house. Now, it’s a binder that keeps growing.
Because Brooklyn is a destination and has so many amazing fun stuff to do, I have a “Brooklyn Fun” section, where I highlight different neighborhoods and even extra stuff from my own personal experiences.
This park is within walking distance from me, and even though it can go in my neighborhood section, I gave it its own separate section.
- The lake,
- The carousel,
- The zoo,
- The ice skating rink in the winter,
- And concerts in the summer,
In the “Your City” section, think of the tourist attractions that attract guests to your city.
For New York, some of them are:
- Central Park
- Time Square
- The Statue of Liberty
- Downtown Manhattan
- And much more
I created a page for the main tourist attractions. For example:
I did a Central Park page with easy transportation instructions to take guests there from my home. If they want to rent bikes, I have provided some links. I also did a bit of research on some restaurants in the area. I added some photos and some historical tidbits and voila…
Central Park page is DONE! Yes, I went a bit overboard, but you do it this once and you’re done.
I had a lovely family from Germany stay with me. They were planning their day in my kitchen and trying to figure out what to do first. They had a list of many things to do and didn’t know where to begin. With only four days in New York, you can spend a lot of time just going from one place to the other. I ended up creating an itinerary for them. I split the city into quadrants, and off they went.
Well, I added that to my House Manual as a “4-day tour” for guests.
There are so many things you can add to your House Manual to customize it… and that’s what it’s all about. Customizing it to your specific listing or listings…
- That hidden beach you love,
- The great ice cream shop with the organic ingredients
- The vintage shop with the ambiance.
Your guests are already non-traditional by staying at an Airbnb, so why not make their stay extra special.
Making Your House Manual:
As I’m sure you all know by now, I have created and sell my own House Manual templates. But if you want to go digital, there are other options. And yes, it’s only fair that I’ll tell you about my competition. And here we go:
As of this recording, there are:
- Coral Life
- Your Welcome, who offers a tablet where you create a guidebook and also offer services.
Some are free; some charge. Check them out, and use what works best for you and your listing.
You can also create your own House Manual by opening up a word or google document and going to town. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. And you find yourself staring at a blank piece of paper, and all you’ve managed to come up with is,
and you're off to Facebook and clicking on cat videos… Well, may I suggest the easy route….
My House Manual Templates:
A set of beautifully-designed templates. Super easy to customize and use. I did all the hard work, so you get to all the fun work,
One of the reasons I created these templates was because my guests love my House Manual. And I wanted to offer a product to hosts, which was professional and uncomplicated but also beautiful.
Here is where you’ll answer questions about what’s important to you, including:
- House Rules
- Check Out Guidelines
- Emergency Information
- And Much More
House Manual Template
Here’s where your guest can find All the information they need about your house.
- House Rules
- How to use Appliances
- And Much More
If it takes your guest from point A to B, you’ll find a section here to help them find their way:
- And Much More
Help your guest get the insider’s view of the best of your neighborhood Sections for:
- And Much More
No Tech Skills Needed
Easy to Update
Gives YOU Freedom
Gives your GUESTS Freedom
Choose one of the following themes: Beach, Mountains, Snow, or major cities as the images that will make your House Manual a thing of beauty. Or you can upload your own images to make it truly personalized.
Are you a PC or MAC person?
I’ve got you covered! Formats and instructions for ALL computer species.
I’m an old-fashioned, paper girl, and I love seeing my guests using my House Manual. They love it. And you will, too.
Simplicity is the name of the game.
Look, whatever you want to do, whether you want to go digital, create your very own, or simply go with my templates, have a House Manual for your guests.
It provides freedom. Freedom for you, not to be answering the same questions over and over and over again. And freedom for your guest, who won’t feel embarrassed, asking you yet another question, over and over again.
It is a win-win for everyone.
This is Evelyn….
Thanking you for listening and joining me on this amazing Hosting Journey…