Outfitting Your Short Term Rental - Tips to Enhance the Guest Experience and Maximize Profits
If you’re interested in purchasing a home to use as an airbnb, you may be thinking about how you will furnish the home. Should you have a king bed or a room full of bunk beds? Can I furnish it with things I already own? How important is it that I have cable TV? All of these are great questions, and the answers ultimately depend on the guests you are looking to attract. First things first, I recommend creating a vision board for your property. This board will define how you furnish and outfit the home. It will illustrate colors, style, and the general vibe for your airbnb.
You’ll want to begin by getting a clear picture of who your ideal guest is. What do they value? Where do they shop? How old are they? How do you want them to feel when they arrive? Then, think about the attributes of the home. If your home is built with a rustic ranch style does modern decor really make sense? Is the main selling point of this home it’s fabulous location on the lake? Then, you’ll want to make sure your furniture isn’t so big it blocks the water views and you may want to add a dedicated area for water toys and towels. Take all of the information you know about the property and consider your ideal guest preferences in order to design your board. You can compile all of your ideas in a binder, make a pinterest board or make a collage on a large piece of paper. Whatever medium you choose, add inspirational photos, define a color palette, and find a way to visually bring a cohesive plan together.
Furnishing your airbnb is different then furnishing your home. You want to think of furnishing a home like you would stage a home. Have you ever walked through a builder’s model home? There are no family photos and the space is clean and inviting. Less is more when it comes to furnishings, and while you should have decor items, you don’t want them to be personalized. Make sure you have art on the walls that is in line with your vision, and consider adding items that will enhance the guest experience such as a well-curated guide book on the coffee table or a selection of games on the shelf.
Furthermore, there will be considerable traffic through this home, and you want to keep this in mind when procuring furniture. You want items that are durable, easy to clean, and don’t show imperfections. You would think that white would be a huge no-no here, but white slipcovered furniture items are actually great because they can easily be bleached. A good rule of thumb here is that if it’s white and you can wash it, it’s a win. Leather couches and chairs are also relatively easy to maintain and clean, especially if you Scotchgard them first. A rug in a darker hue or one that’s heavily patterned will show stains less easily.
When you’re furnishing your short term rental (STR), you don’t have to buy everything new. In fact, mixing in some antique or second-hand items will likely elevate the look of your airbnb. However, you don’t want your furniture to look like you found it on the side of the road. The key here is to add character, and potentially save money by utilizing the right furnishings. A used mattress, probably not the best idea. One case of bed bugs and you're out of the airbnb biz. An antique sideboard you found on the side of the road, now that could work. However, if you're utilizing second-hand furnishings make sure they are a)clean and b)functional. No one wants to eat at a table that wobbles, but with a little elbow grease you can fix that wobble.
Speaking of tables, ideally, you want enough seats for the maximum number of guests your home allows in both the living and dining rooms. So if your home sleeps 10, you want a dining room table that seats 10. However, don’t cram a ton of chairs into the small dining space simply to accommodate this. Scale is equally important, and you don’t want a room to appear over-stuffed. Ditto with beds. Sure you could put four full size beds in that room, but would that result in a great experience for your guests? Probably not. Simply putting as many heads in beds as possible does not equate to max revenue. The easiest way to be able to accommodate extra guests is a pull out couch. Thus, you often see pull out couches in vacation rental homes. Alternatively, you could add a daybed or supply air mattresses if you determine that having these extra sleeping spots would be beneficial to your ideal guest.
When you are outfitting your kitchen, you want to make sure you have enough plates, cups, and silverware for all of your guests. In an ideal world, I recommend you take your max occupancy and multiply that times three when determining quantities for kitchen ware. For example, let’s say your max occupancy is 10. Purchase at least 30 cups, 30 plates, 30 bowls, etc. Take one set of each item and reserve these in your owner's closet. This way, when a bowl disappears you can simply replace it from your reserves without having to buy an entirely new set. Find kitchenware that matches your vision, but it doesn’t need to be expensive. You can find great deals on kitchen items at discount stores like Homegoods.
Open cabinets or cabinets with glass doors are great for STRs. It makes it easy for guests to find what they need. If you’re remodeling the home before it becomes an airbnb, you may want to consider replacing the cabinet doors with glass ones, or opting for low cost open shelves. Don’t overdo it with kitchen tools and appliances. If you have too many things in the kitchen, it will be harder for guests to find what they need. Think about what guests will really use. Just because you have a giant set of cookie cutters doesn’t mean they should go in your airbnb. At the same time, make sure they will have all the essentials. Guests will need a few different sized pots and pans, baking trays, mixing bowls, serving bowls, and a variety of knives, spatulas and serving utensils. If you have a grill, make sure there are grilling tools. Guests often are staying at an airbnb because they want to be able to cook. Make sure they have all of the essentials to do so, and make sure everything is as organized as possible so they can easily locate it when they need it. You MUST have a coffee maker in your STR, there are no exceptions. 64% of Americans drink coffee everyday so the odds are high that each booking you have will contain at least one coffee drinker. Personally, I recommend a decent drip coffee maker; however if your STR is smaller you may want to consider a Keurig. BUT if you get a Keurig, you really should provide pods too.
Bedrooms, and more specifically, beds are so important. Do yourself a favor and buy nice mattresses and ample pillows, at least two pillows per head. Quality linens are also a good purchase. Buy a minimum of two sets of linens per bed to allow for speedy turnovers. Have you ever noticed that hotels almost always have white sheets? That’s because they can be bleached. Do yourself a favor and purchase white sheets for your Airbnb. Duvet covers are great for bedding since they’re easier to wash than a full comforter. You can add color with decorative throw blankets and pillows. An airbnb bedroom doesn’t necessarily need a closet but it is helpful for guests to have someplace to store their clothes. You can do hanging racks, dressers, or even hooks on the back of the doors depending on your anticipated average rental length. Bedrooms should have at least one nightstand. A nice touch is to make it easy for guests to charge their devices. A nightstand with easy access to an outlet is wonderful. If there’s no outlet nearby, consider adding one or using an extension cord.
For the bathrooms, you will want to consider what type of products you plan to provide. Again, these should match your vision in terms of quality as well as product packaging. You need to provide hand towels, bath towels and washcloths, and you should have at least enough towels to match your maximum guest count. More is always better so you aren’t waiting for laundry to be done in order to check the next guest in, and remember white can be bleached. Don’t forget bath mats and shower curtains that match your vision. You’ll want to make sure you have at least one plunger in the home, a toilet bowl cleaner for every toilet, and a first-aid kit for the home. A blow dryer in each bath is also a nice touch.
Preparing your home to be an airbnb is about much more than furnishing it, you’ll need to consider how you will market it, how you will maintain it, and how you will price it. However, a good aesthetic goes a long way when attracting guests. Make a vision and stick to it! One of the best ways to ensure that your home performs the way you want it to is by staying there personally. As soon as you think you’re done, stay for a night or two or invite a friend to relax in your airbnb. You’ll quickly realize where you may have neglected an important item or failed to provide instructions on where to find or operate something.
If you’re looking to purchase a property to use as a vacation rental in the greater Austin area, I’d love to connect with you. My specialty is helping people locate and purchase homes that can be used as STRs in central Texas. Contact me today so we can find the perfect one for you
Now that 2021 has finally come to an end, we can finally assess the state of the Austin real estate market over the past year in its entirety. It felt wild, and now the stats show it truly was one for the records. Home prices appreciated far more in 2021 than ever before. We saw median sales prices rise more than $100K in almost every city in the metro area, and homes sold at record paces too.
In the City of Austin, the median sales price for single family homes rose to $605,000. That’s up more than 30% since last year. From 2015 to 2019 it was typical to see single digit percentage increases in this median sales price jump year over year. While we saw an annual median sales price of $605K for single family homes in the city limits, the median sales price was actually higher than this many months throughout the year. In 2021, we saw a return to our normal real estate sales cycle, with the highest median sales price occurring in June and July where the median sales price for single family homes peaked at $650,000. This is typical for our market, yet a stark comparison to 2020 when we strangely saw peak median sales prices in December.
These record breaking jumps in median sales prices were not isolated to the Austin city limits. In the entire Austin-Round Rock MSA which encompasses all of Travis, Williamson, Bastrop, Caldwell and Hays counties we saw a 33.29% increase in the median sales price for single-family homes. In many cities, we saw the median sales price increase by even more. In Dripping Springs, the median sales price for single family homes in 2020 was $470k, last year it increased 47.87% to $695,000. In Cedar Park, home prices increased more than 43%. Even in areas with relatively high median sales prices, we saw significant increases in the median sales price. Homes in Westlake Hills appreciated more than 37%, bringing the median sales price for homes in this coveted neighborhood to $2,350,000.
Throughout the five county metro area we simultaneously saw the amount of time it takes for a home to sell to go down, way down. In 2020, the average days on market for a single home was 40, in 2021, that figure dropped to 16. If you were looking for a home in 2021, you may be shocked by that number since it felt like the day a home hit the market it was already gone.
So, what does all of this mean for 2022? Let me pull out my Magic 8 Ball. Will home prices decrease in 2022? Don’t count on it. Will home prices increase in 2022 as much as they did in 2021? My sources say no. Will we see home prices peak in the late spring/early summer as we usually do? Most likely.
Do you have more questions about the Austin real estate market that a standard Magic 8 Ball can’t answer? Contact me for detailed intel on what’s happening in the ATX market.
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