When I first decided to start using my home as a short term rental, one thing that made me a bit uneasy was the idea of letting strangers stay into my personal space. What if they break something important? What if they cause problems with my neighbors? What if they leave the place looking like a disaster struck?
Thankfully, there are a number of ways to screen potential guests so you can feel more comfortable renting to them. For instance, most short term rental platforms like Airbnb, VRBO and Home Away allow hosts to read reviews from other former hosts.
In addition to guest reviews, here are a few other techniques I recommend to screen your guests before you commit to that booking.
Create a “perfect guest” persona.
Start by figuring out who your ideal guest would be. If you need help coming up with this criteria, think about a few people in your life that you find reliable – friends, family members, colleagues, etc. Then, make a list of the reasons why you consider them to be reliable. What are their best traits? This can help you start developing a clearer picture of who you’d feel comfortable sharing your home with. From there, you can determine which standards will best help you identify these ideal guests (i.e. quality of reviews, number of reviews, etc.), and use those criteria to screen your guests.
Look at their profile.
Once you’ve been a short term rental host for a while, you’ll discover that many people don’t bother to fill out their profiles. Whether you’re comfortable renting to someone you literally know nothing about or not is up to you, but personally, I recommend profile completeness as a standard to use when you screen your guests. Generally speaking, the more complete and thorough a profile is, the more comfortable I feel about renting to them. At the very least, I look for ID verification – which is a feature offered by Airbnb.
Check their social media activity.
These days, most people are active on social media, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or LinkedIn. This gives you a picture of who the person is and how they might behave. For instance, you might look at someone’s Facebook page and see a ton of pictures of them partying. In that case, you might want to consider whether they might be too much of a risk to rent to. Airbnb allows users to link their profiles directly to their social media accounts, which makes this step much easier.
Start a conversation.
You can gain a lot of insight about potential guests by simply starting a conversation, either by email or phone. Ask some questions. In particular, ask whether they have experience with a home share rental like Airbnb, what the purpose of their trip is, how many guests will be staying, and whether they have pets or smoke, etc. (Just keep in mind that there are some questions that are off-limits. For instance, it’s against the law to ask discriminatory questions about things like race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.) In fact, in Airbnb and VRBO, you can save template emails with the standard questions you want to ask all guests before you confirm their booking. Since I enable the instant book feature on Airbnb, I list the requirements in my house rules (such as no parties, or occupancy limits), and then have a template email I send to anyone who books to confirm that no parties are allowed, and asking them about the purpose of their trip. I highly recommend doing this to screen your guests.
Hire a property manager.
If you don’t have time to screen your guests, which is often the case, hiring a property manager to handle this step for you is a great option. You can hire an individual or a service, whichever you feel comfortable with and is suited for your budget. Then, you simply provide them with the criteria you’ve defined, and they’ll handle the screening process on your behalf. This can save you time, but of course, because it costs money, it’ll obviously cut into your profits, so keep that in mind.
A few red flags to watch for:
- In-town young people, which might indicate they’re looking for a home to host a party
- Too many questions about neighborhood rules and surveillance
- Guests who refuse to respond to your questions
- Guests who try to circumvent the short term rental platform
Opening your home to complete strangers can be a bit nerve wracking, but if you do your due diligence in screening potential guests before you rent, you’ll have a much better chance of enjoying a worry-free experience. You’ll also want to make sure your listing is attracting the right type of guests, and here are some tips for getting started with that.