Lessons Learned in 10 Years as an Airbnb Host

Dear hosts, do you know I didn’t have a coffee maker the day I opened my Airbnb back in May of 2010? Or that I had a party the day before my first guest arrived? And when they finally did arrive, I got caught cleaning. I also had an early guest lie in his review saying that I went through his belongings. After that review that guest wanted to rent my home again! Oh yeah. In today’s episode, I’m going to discuss The Lessons I’ve Learned in 10 Years as an Airbnb Host.


My Beginning:

Yes, I started doing Airbnb before it became a verb—before real estate investors created specific funds for vacation rentals, and before everyone saw Airbnb as a money-making machine. My story began when Airbnb was called Air Bed and Breakfast and people were saying, “Really?? You’re going to have strangers in your home? Aren’t you afraid of…”

  • Your safety as a single woman?
  • Will someone steal your stuff?
  • Sharing your home, your bathroom?

I completed 10 years of hosting this last May, with COVID changing the short term rental market. I don’t want to say it’s changed forever because I believe we will go back to some sort of normal.

Listen to Lessons Learned in 10 Years as an Airbnb Host so you too can learn from my hosting journey.

Learning Lessons:


Lessons Learned in 10 Years as an Airbnb Host

And when I talk about learning from yesterday, I don’t mean getting stuck in past regrets. Because I should've, could’ve, and would've never done anyone any good.

It’s about what we make from that past, about how we will do it differently today.

Lesson Number 1: Do the Cleaning Now

Do you know how many times I have overestimated my time? Too many to count.

In Episode 1, My Personal Hosting Journey I talk about how my first guest, Ed, caught me cleaning; yes, this is a lesson I keep learning.

It was 2010, and because I was a freelancer I wasn’t entitled to unemployment benefits after I lost my job. I was somewhat prepared because I had some savings put away, but taking money out and not replacing it brought more than a few nights of tossing and turning.

I was getting discouraged and not seeing any hope until I found an article about Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky. Before I knew it I had taken a few blurry photos of my bedroom and I was moving out to a friend’s place. Giving up my room to save my home.

Before I had accepted my first guest reservation I decided to have a party. So many of us were unemployed in 2010, with worries and concerns and not knowing what would come next. But we could get together, and we did. It was my birthday and the celebration of the end of an era.
The next morning I thought I had time to finish cleaning before Ed’s arrival. Well, let's just say that this was the first of many times when my guests found me cleaning. Thankfully, in old school Airbnb style, I was only renting my bedroom and not the entire apartment.

Then and Now:

That was then; this is now. These days Javier, my boyfriend, and also part of the La Casita Puerto Rico team, is amazing at getting the right to work as soon as the guest leaves. When the door closes, he starts cleaning. Sheets are pulled, sand gets vacuumed and off he goes. Which is great for getting those last-minute bookings.

Getting your place cleaned as soon as a guest leaves allow you to discover if there are any damages. Which means you can process a claim right away if needed. If there are damages or you need to replace anything, you have the time to get it done.

There is also the peace of mind of knowing you’re done and ready. We just had a guest confuse his check-in day by 24 hours. Yes, the guest arrived an entire day earlier; but Javier was ready for them.

This lesson isn’t just about cleaning; it’s also about fixing any issues, replacing those sheets, and keeping your short term rental updated.

For peace of mind and making money: get your space cleaned as soon as your guests leave and resolve any issues you might have now, and not later.

Lesson Number 2: A Good Team will Make You Money

There was a point in my hosting journey when I had cleaned bathrooms, deciphered and treated laundry stains, and sorted trash so many times that I finally realized I had to hire cleaners. I thought I was saving money by doing the cleaning myself, but instead I was getting host fatigue and starting to hate Airbnbing.

I knew I had been doing a job someone else could do better than me; so I decided to hire it out so that I could be free to concentrate on growing my business instead of working in my business.

One year I sprained my ankle so badly that I was on crutches. There was no way I could go up and down the stairs and clean. This is a perfect example of why it’s smart to hire cleaners and train them before you need them. But where do you find good cleaners? In episode 43 Hiring and Keeping a Cleaning Person you’ll find that and much more

Create a spreadsheet of your finances and figure out how outsourcing this job can save you money by freeing you up to concentrate on bigger things.

Lesson Number 3: Be Ready for Change

Your hosting style will evolve over the years. What you started today will not look the same in 10 years, trust me.

When I first started in 2010, I began by renting my bedroom. I had a roommate and I gave up my lovely comfortable bed. Eventually, my roommate moved out, and I took his room. I never went back to my original bedroom. Yes, that lovely, lovely bed has saved my home.

Through 10 years of hosting, I shared my bedroom and eventually rented my entire home.

I thought I would only be renting to tourists, but now that’s not the case. This year alone I began with a packed calendar of travelers coming to experience my city. That ended when Covid started and I began getting local New Yorkers who didn’t want to be with roommates.

By April I was welcoming travel nurses who stayed for 3 months at a time. Now I’m back to New Yorkers who are doing renovations in their homes and need a place to stay.

Different markets mean different marketing and different home set-ups.

Because of the needs of these various guests, my 5-Star House Manual has also changed. Your 30-day guest wants more information about the neighborhood than they do about tourist attractions.

I also created a digital 5-Star House Manual to accommodate the cleaning protocols that we have to do now.

I’ll be teaching about this in my free class The Art of the House Manual in 2020; because just as I have evolved, so has my House Manual. Go to the hosting journey.com forward slash free to find out more.

These hosting style changes were quick and unexpected. I had to change or stop hosting.

Lesson Number 4: Your Mindset Will Dictate Your Success

Whether it’s a busted hot water heater, an unrecognizable stain on the sheets (again), cancellation refunds, or a bad review, my mindset will dictate how I tackle those unfortunate events.

Do you stop when you’re overwhelmed? Or dive deep into regret when a bad review happens? I get it.
But how I think about that situation will impact the action steps I need to take.

I can sit by anxiously obsessing about the challenges we face as Airbnb hosts. Or I can move into a solution.

One set of guests lied in their review. They were a group of guys in town for a conference.
When the conference was over, they decided to smoke pot in my smoke-free unit, and I smelled it when they were checking out and told them. They retaliated with a review stating that I had gone through their belongings.

I was furious, and Airbnb would not remove the review.

To Answer a Review or Not?

When it comes to getting a negative review, I have my own personal criteria about whether I answer it publicly or not. I talk about it in Episode 74 Reviews: Learning, Adapting, and When to Say, No, Thank You.

In this case, I answered back; because this wasn’t just a bad review; it was one that could damage my reputation.

I took steps to protect myself and moved on. I even made this review part of my Airbnb Open presentation. I didn’t let it stop me.

Dear hosts, these are some of the many lessons I have learned as an original Airbnb host. Now I’m headed into a new adventure, and I can’t wait to share the new lessons and journey with you.

Get the Ultimate Room-to-Room Checklist

Get the Ultimate Room-to-Room Checklist

We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!