When Inez Valk put a clawfoot tub in the upstairs bedroom of her Delaware country house, she didn’t anticipate that guests would get carried away “by the romance of their surroundings,” as she delicately puts it, overflowing the tub so bathwater seeped through the floorboards.
“We urgently—but gingerly—knocked on the door and were greeted by flushed, sheepish guests,” she recalls. “Then we called a plumber.”
Becoming a successful Airbnb host isn’t just about landing a booking; it’s about what happens after the guests arrive. You wouldn’t know that from looking at Airbnb’s website, however. For all its splashy photos and big, useful maps, Airbnb focuses more on the nuts and bolts of hosting—regulations, insurance and safety—rather than offering helpful tips for choosing bed linens, schmoozing with guests and, for better or worse, setting the mood.
Related: How to be the Perfect Airbnb Guest
“People who have chosen to go this route are not just looking for a well-appointed hotel room,” Valk says. “They are looking to engage their imaginations.” (Which may mean finding imaginative uses for a beautiful clawfoot tub.)
First-time Airbnb hosts need to think beyond nailing the practical bullet points—“the requisite number of glasses, blackout curtains and packaged bathroom products,” according to Valk—and consider why travelers are paying to live in a stranger’s house in the first place.
Natascha Folens, an interior designer in Washington, D.C., who specializes in Airbnb rentals and runs two of her own in Middleburg, Virginia, and Ibiza, Spain, echoes this sentiment. “If you search in D.C., you get over 1,000 properties,” she says. “So how do you stand out?”
We asked Valk, Folens and interior designer Michelle Prentice, who rents a historic cottage in Beaufort, South Carolina, for some pointers on doing just that. For more on the culture of home-sharing, read our feature on the Airbnb Open.