My formula to an (awesomely thorough) New Client Interview

Congrats! You have your first interested Co-Host client, so now what? You need to schedule a call to learn about their home and their needs/desires. Here is a compilation of questions that I have refined with my experience working with a large variety of clients. In my experience, if you can stay on task, this call should be about 1 hour.

 

Ad Creation Questions

  1. What do you help with? Intended rental period? Is this going to be a part time rental while they are away on frequent trips throughout the year or full-time?

  2. Do you have an account with Airbnb/Homeaway? If not, you can send them a referral link like mine: www.airbnb.com/c/zmcintyre1, which gives them $25-40 towards their first Airbnb stay. Get their sign in. You are allowed to be a Co-Host on up to 3 different listings (at the time of this posting), so once you link your account, you may not need access to their account although it is always good to have. You will also need the clients 4 digit Bday & will need to know payout method (ACH deposit/paypal) and last 4 digits of that account, if you ever want to call into airbnb to discuss a guest issue.

  3. Get owners contact phone number and email - This seems like a no-brainer, but it can be forgotten. I have a spreadsheet where I keep all the owners contact info and share it with my employees. It’s good to have it saved in an organized place.

  4. Details of the home: # of beds/baths, sq ft, how many it sleeps, number of beds, size of beds, location in home. All of these details are asked to be included on the Airbnb ad, if you get all the info upfront, you won’t have to email the client a bunch of times for all the extra details.

  5. Amenities of the home/complex: pool, hot tub, elevator, doorman, kid-friendly , fireplace, gym, a/c, hangers, iron/board, hair dryer, TV - size, TV services: cable / hbo / netflix / hulu, Appliances: washer/dryer / dishwasher / microwave / toaster / blender / coffee maker - what type, workstation or desk, etc.

  6. Is this ranch style home (1 floor throughout) or are their stairs and how many)? In many cases, I am managing a home without ever visiting it, so I need to know all the details to be able to pass it along to the guest. Is the condo on the third floor without an elevator? That needs to be in the ad. I even count the exact about of steps if its an irregular number, for example, my condo is half a flight of stairs up, I believe it’s only 7. Older people especially want to know all these details.

  7. Do you want to allow pets? In some homes I do, in some I don’t, this of course, can open you up to a wider range of guests and more possibilities of getting booked, but it can also subject you to more potential damage, excessive cleanings and limit you to guests with allergies. I always charge a fee for pets. Some homes is $50 per pet, some is $95. Some places we only allow dogs but not cats, etc etc. Any combination is possible, just be sure to explain clearly in the ad.

  8. Do you have an HOA? Is there a rule against Short Term Rentals in the bylaws or HOA rules (these are 2 different documents that most HOAs have)? HOAs are no joke, they can ban against you to shut down any rental activity or hand out hefty fines. Luckily if their are not explicit rules against it, it can be a lengthy and costly process to change those laws that many HOAs will choose not to go through. In order to stay on their good side, adhere to their occupancy limits and pet rules, and maybe even suggest the owner joins the board. I have gone to a few HOA board meeting to defend an owner’s right to Short Term Rent.

  9. Do you know short term rental laws in your city, have/need a license, do we need to submit taxes? Just like the HOAs you really don’t want to mess with the city. They may take longer to find you out, but may not be very lenient with fees or give second chances. Its best to learn the rules (if there are any) upfront, to see how you can play within them.

  10. What are the seasons, special weekends? Pricing requirements? Every area has it’s high and low seasons and the owners may or may not have that much information to share with you. Sometimes when people live in an area for awhile they don’t really notice the comings and going of vacationers. You will likely have to do a little research. The seasons can be related to weather, sports events, college events (graduation, parents weekend), film festivals, concerts, etc. 

  11. Do you have a House Manual? If they have rented their home previously, they may have a house manual document that they can email to you. If so, you can skip the next section for now, but you will want to compare the two because their manual may be missing some things and it may be in a paragraph format which is difficult to read. To have help created a house manual from scratch, check out the following section...


 

House Manual Questions

You can have them fill out sample house manual, or I prefer just asking them while we are on the phone, it gives them less homework. You don’t want to overwhelm your clients. I suggest making the house manual in a bullet point format as opposed to paragraph form. You want the information to be easy to read and find, as most people will just skim it. On Airbnb, house manuals are submitted to guests electronically, so it can include links.:

  1. Public Transport options from the airport - Public bus, Shared shuttle, Uber - avg. cost: https://www.uber.com/invite/lhf83 , Turo - like airbnb for cars: https://turo.com/referral?code=2034645rdiZJ9, etc. I throw in my referral offers to give them free credit.  

  2. Address + special directions to home if necessary

  3. Key code/lock box location - This is also where you would put the special instructions for a tricky front door, if you have one.  

  4. Parking info - designated spot, guest parking, need a parking pass, can park on the street, how to use the garage - where to find the opener, etc.

  5. Wifi - Network name, password

  6. Iron/Board - Where is it stored?

  7. Trash - Are there shared bins, where are they? What day it goes out, where to take the cans? What do you recycle?

  8. Laundry + laundry soap - Where is it located?

  9. TV / stereo / DVD player / remote instructions - I don’t know about you, but I always get intimidated when I see 3 remotes and usually decide not to engage from that point. Leave instructions so it is easy for guests to use.

  10. Are there any House Quirks? weird light switch placement, appliances, showers, how to lock doors if tricky

 

Homework for Client

There are some things that the client will have to look up or that will take too long to explain over the phone. Tell them that you will send them an email with “homework” questions for them to complete.   

  1. Send sign ins for Airbnb, VRBO / Homeaway or any other sites, if they have them.

  2. Set up bank and tax information on all sites. Preferably you want this set up before the first booking so you are not having to collect payment for the client and pay them out, this can become messy for your taxes.

  3. Bragging Points for Location. If you are making the listing from scratch you will need to know the attraction points of the area. You can ask the client to write some out, to even write a sample ad, or you can get info from other nearby listings.

  4. Send photos (if not already listed on ads). Initially, the photos do not have to be professional, but you need photos to get the listing live. Have them take them with their phone if they don’t have a better camera, until you are able to get a professional photographer in there. Here are photo instructions to pass on to your client: Take a photo of all 4 corners of each room, with some close-up photos of interesting pieces/art. Great ads commonly have 40 photos, take photos of all amenities (pool, gym) and outside of the home with front/back yards and any landscaping

  5. Send House Manual or have them fill out a questionnaire, if you didn’t do the House Manual part of the interview.

  6. Send Recommendations for the area. Part 2 of the House Manual (which I do not include in the electronic version, but do in the printed version in the home), has a list of restaurants in the area, local hikes, and fun “to dos”.

  7. Send a little “About Me” bio on the owner or family with a picture (what you do, places you like to travel, why you like hosting). This goes in the Airbnb profile online and in the house manual that you print out to leave in the home.

  8. Send any Cleaner or Handyman Contacts. Of course, you can hire new cleaners, etc, but if someone already is familiar with the home and the way the owner likes it cleaned and staged, that is very valuable knowledge. Having someone who is knows the home, clean it, also makes it easy to spot and report damage if it occurs.  

  9. Put Away anything Sentimental or Breakable, consider creating an owner's closet (locks from outside). In general, guests are very respectful and damage is not common, but accidents can happen, so anything left out has a chance to be discolored, cracked, worn, stained, etc.

  10. Stock home with Supplies. Here is the important list: toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo/conditioner/body wash for each shower, makeup removing wipes for each bathroom (saves towel life), hair dryer, laundry soap, sponges, all purpose cleaner, vacuum, trash bags (what size is it), hand soap at each sink, dish soap in kitchen. If a client frequently returns to the home, make sure they restock it each time. If not, you may have to take on the responsibility of ordering and shipping supplies to the home. I used Target.com

  11. Do you have enough Sheets & Towels? If this is a lived in home, i.e. a part-time rental, they will likely have enough, but have them check. Please note that cleaners frequently take the laundry home to do at their leisure rather that waiting for it to finish in the home as it usually takes a long time. 2-3 sets of sheets for each bed, 2 duvet sets (better than comforters because easier to wash), 2-3 bath towels per person, 2-3 hand towels per bathroom, 1-2 washcloths per person. Colored is better than white sheets and towels, as they don’t stain as easily.

  12. Want to get an Additional sleeping set up, air bed? Of course this is optional but if someone is renting a 1 bedroom apartment and they do not have a sleeper sofa, an air mattress in the living can boost your guest number from 2 to 4 max and that can bring in more income, as we charge per guest.

 

Whoo, that was a lot of information. I hope you find it helpful. If you think that I missed anything or would like to add something to aid others, leave it in the comments below.