All photos by Jesse David Green
So you have an extra room in your home, or maybe you own a vacation home and you want to make some extra cash in the off months. There are multiple reasons to start renting on Airbnb, but after you decide to take the plunge, how do you ensure it’s a space where people actually want to stay?
Jesse David Green, a photographer by trade, and his wife are some of the more successful Airbnb hosts in Michigan, and certainly in the Detroit area.
Their New Center Loft in Detroit has been featured by Airbnb, on sites like Apartment Therapy, and there’s even a conference room being designed after the space for a new Airbnb world headquarters.
Jesse hosts four different spaces on the platform, all of which are very successful. We sat down with him to get some tips and tricks on how to make your Airbnb more appealing to potential guests.
When did you start renting on Airbnb?
JDG: We opened our first property (our New Center Loft) on Airbnb in April of 2015.
JDG: It was initially just going to be my workspace, but was a bit more expensive than I needed to be paying just for myself to have an office. It was set up as a full loft apartment within a mixed-use building, so we decided to outfit it entirely as an Airbnb, and it was an almost immediate success. So much so, that two months later it was too busy on Airbnb for me to ever use it as an office, and I had to move elsewhere.
That’s crazy! Sounds like you made the decision to start hosting pretty quickly. How did you get the space ready?
JDG: My wife was always good with design and interiors but has no formal training and had done no client work in the past. So when we decided to create this space to be my office and what we thought would be an occasional nightly rental, we just followed our combined aesthetic that we were already implementing in our own home.
JDG: Some of the furniture we had from a previous office, and then some was sourced or given to us by friends or family. That first project was really on a budget; we probably spent less than $1,000 to get it launched (because of how much we already had and how many deals we got). Honestly, we haven’t changed or added a ton since.
That New Center Loft went on to be featured and is now the most reviewed property in Detroit!
What made you want to list more spaces on Airbnb?
JDG: We loved the process so much! Designing, sourcing and working together has been a blast. We haven’t gotten to do this much in the past with my photography work. We also simply love to share our favorite cities in the world with people. We love putting our favorite items in the space, sharing our favorite places to go and welcoming people into our “home.”
You can tell this is a passion for you. How many Airbnbs do you currently have?
JDG: We currently have four Airbnb properties, three in Detroit and one in Traverse City, Mich. We have a small apartment in West Village, our loft in New Center, a Quonset hut at True North, and our bayfront cottage in Traverse City.
It sounds like you were pretty successful from the beginning. Were there any learning curves?
JDG: In our case, it did start off pretty successful. I feel like we had a lot of great pieces in place that we didn’t really have to outsource, which was relatively lucky. My wife had the eye for design, I found and sourced her visions for most of the things, and then we put it all together, together.
JDG: Since I’m a photographer by day, we obviously had some pretty great photos to showcase the space. Pair that with good guest experience and customer service that I’ve learned from eight years of running my own business, and it worked out pretty well from the beginning.
JDG: There have definitely been occasional hiccups along the way (with inconsiderate guests or unwarranted parties that we weren’t told about) but those stories could all be counted on one hand – and across two and a half years and four properties, I call that a win.
JDG: With each property we added, our account on Airbnb was in better and better standing because of previous reviews, so even when we launch a brand new property, it now shows up pretty high in search results which helps with those early bookings.
That definitely sounds helpful. How do you manage all of your properties, photography and busy life?
JDG: Not a lot of sleep, mostly. I’m in the process of searching for some help currently, because I’m basically running three full-time businesses alone and it’s certainly gotten to a breaking point. We couldn’t add another property if we wanted to without bringing on some help first.
JDG: My wife stays at home with our kids too, which means she doesn’t have a whole lot of time in her schedule to help on that front either. Thankfully, Airbnb provides some pretty great resources to help handle the actual communication. Prepared responses are huge, as well as the app. I basically do almost everything from the app unless I’m actually at my computer. I can manage almost anything from my phone, including communicating with my cleaning person, checking the schedule and accepting new bookings.
Sounds like it keeps you guys busy! Do you have any suggestions for someone starting out? Anything that makes an Airbnb more appealing?
JDG: Photos that are bright, beautiful and accurate to every angle of your space are key.
JDG: People hate surprises. You have to set expectations and stick to them. Cleanliness is also everything. I can’t tell you how many of our five-star reviews explicitly point out how clean everything was, from the house to the linens to the floors. We take great pride in clean spaces that are exactly what people were expecting from the photos we post.
JDG: I’ve shown up to Airbnbs on multiple occasions where you can tell which corners they took photos in, and everything outside of that is terrible. I never want to be one of those places for people.
Make sure it smells good, and feels cozy and inviting. Keep the temperature at a nice range and source small decor items from local makers whenever possible.
JDG: I’d also say don’t be shady about anything. Be super upfront, even if there is something wrong with your building or space. For example, our apartment in West Village is in transition of being renovated. All the interior units are renovated, but the exterior isn’t the prettiest and could feel semi-shady to an out-of-towner. We’re upfront about that.
JDG: We say it’s in transition and being slowly renovated. We say the alleyway to access the parking lot has massive potholes and feels dark at night, but we also say it’s safe and it’s been servicing cars for 100+ years. Not a soul has complained because we set expectations correctly and now it’s our second-busiest property.
JDG: Also, be mindful and kind to your neighbors – and set those expectations very clearly with your guests. These are other people’s homes that are nearby and they deserve a quiet place to come home to at the end of the night that doesn’t have transient people being annoying every night of the week.
I make sure our neighbors always have my contact information, and I show up and check in all the time so they know I’m not just doing this from afar. Kindness and being good to people goes a long way on both sides of this operation.
Those are some solid words of advice. Are there any special touches you add to make your guests feel more welcome?
JDG: Really just creating warm and inviting spaces.
JDG: If we hear someone is in town celebrating something special and we’re able to make it happen, we’ll leave a bag of coffee or a bottle of champagne or wine. It doesn’t always happen, but if we can have a little something special for people, we like to. We also include local magazines, artwork, goods and our guidebook on Airbnb of our favorite places. Our guests comment on these things constantly.
Any last advice for someone starting out on Airbnb?
JDG: Be kind and be mindful of every step of the process while setting up a space and running it after that. Use white linens, because they can be bleached, and you can never have enough sets of sheets or towels! Learn from your mistakes and own up to them, give guests partial refunds if you screw anything up.
There you have it! From a successful Airbnb host, here’s what you need to know to make your space a hit. Have any more tips to make an Airbnb more appealing? Share them in the comments!
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