We reached out to a local Airbnb host to get the best tips and tricks ahead of the DNC in Milwaukee.
Not long after the announcement that Milwaukee will host the next Democratic National Convention — bringing around 50,000 people to Wisconsin’s largest city, many for the first time (July 13-16, 2020) — maybe you began to think “How can I profit from this influx of people?”
There’s no doubt that listing part of — or your entire — home on Airbnb came to mind.
We talked to a local Airbnb host for tips on what to do (and not to do) and also exactly when you need to start preparing your pad for overnight guests.
“It was totally a side-chance thing,” says Deb Heffner, about her journey to becoming an Airbnb host three years ago. “My husband and I stayed in one and thought ‘Oh, we should try it,’” she says. The couple enjoys the flexibility and not having a year-long lease for their Wauwatosa duplex (they live upstairs and rent out the lower). “It’s pretty much never not been booked,” she says.
1. Understand your city’s or neighborhood’s laws
“Make sure that wherever you are, it’s allowed,” says Deb Heffner, of Wauwatosa. In other words, don’t upload photos and details for your apartment without running the concept of short-term stays (for people not on the lease) by management first. Some apartment buildings do not support Airbnb and your hosting an Airbnb guest could put both of you out on the street. Another tip? Some areas of Wisconsin now require a certificate or permit before you can book short-term rentals, says Heffner. Check out this handy guide, written just for Wisconsinites looking to rent out their homes, for more tips.
You should also know your neighborhood if choosing to host beyond DNC. Are your guests likely to be business travelers (weeknights), leisure travelers (weekends or during major events like Summerfest) or long-term guests (affiliated with a local corporation or university)? This will help you place minimums on the number of nights and price accordingly. “People who are coming to Tosa probably aren’t coming for a party weekend,” quips Heffner. Inform your neighbors that you are now an Airbnb host, too, so they aren’t caught off guard by a late-night arrival.
2. Don’t rush publishing on Airbnb
At first it might seem like a great idea to pour a glass of wine and start hammering away at your Airbnb post. But what if you make a mistake and, for example, state there are four bedrooms instead of two (a lazy slip on the keyboard)? That could cost you a negative review. Fortunately, you can save your listing in draft mode and come back to it over a few days’ time.
“Give yourself some time to go through it,” says Heffner. “You have a chance to keep it in draft form before you publish it.”
You also have decisions to make. Will you allow for immediate bookings or self-approve as they come in? (The second option allows you to avoid the weirdos or potential problem renters by gauging their messages to you). Also, what is your cancellation policy?
3. Take amazing photos
Obviously, interior images are most important, because who cares if the exterior is glam while the actual rental is not? While Airbnb recommends you invest in professional photos, if you follow these two basic tips you should be fine: 1) employ natural lighting and 2) publish lots of photos.
There’s a certain amount of skepticism if only five photos are shown: what is the Airbnb host hiding?
Photos snapped from your smartphone should work if the lighting is decent. And don’t be afraid to stage your place by draping a soft blanket over the armchair or arranging a bowl of fresh fruit on the kitchen island. You want your place to feel like home. Just don’t turn it into a space it’s not.
“You want to be honest but at the same time not oversell it,” says Heffner, “so you’re not overdelivering.”
4. When do you need to be ready for DNC?
Sure, you can slap your listing up on Airbnb and adjust the calendar so your first booking is July 15, but why? You run the risk of negative reviews and unhappy guests (who won’t be able to re-book anywhere else as the entire city will be sold out). Heffner strongly suggests testing the market. Open up some dates on Airbnb before mid-July and welcome guests in exchange for their honest feedback.
Heffner had a horrific experience when she first began hosting: her teenage daughter accidentally posted their listing before the family had finished prepping the rental. She then had to decline a request to stay.
“You have to consider that you might get requests pretty soon,” she says.
5. Be ready to make new friends
Staying in an Airbnb is not for everyone, whether it’s one room or the entire place, because it’s going to come with a certain level of face-to-face communication with the host. Some travelers like to be left alone. Maybe they are better off in a hotel.
For this year’s Chinese New Year, Heffner received five messages from past guests who are Chinese, proof that she’s got a new network of friends around the world.
“We’ve met people from all over the world,” she says. This past summer, Heffner and her family even traveled to Spain to visit a family who had stayed in their Tosa duplex in 2018.