How Airbnb Works

Hosting a Property With Airbnb

The conference rooms at the Airbnb headquarters in San Francisco are set up to look like actual Airbnb listings.
The conference rooms at the Airbnb headquarters in San Francisco are set up to look like actual Airbnb listings.
© Ole Spata/dpa/Corbis

Listing a property on Airbnb is like creating an online profile on a social network. First you need a catchy title for your listing. "1 bedroom apt" won't get nearly as many clicks as "Cozy 1-bedroom just blocks from Central Park." Then you need to write a full description of the property, selling the benefits of its location, its amenities and yourself. In fact, you will create a separate host profile to post a picture of yourself and share your story.

Pricing is a hugely important consideration. Airbnb allows you complete freedom to set your rates, but suggests that you search for similar properties in your area and price competitively. Not only can you set nightly rates, but you can offer weekly and monthly rates to attract longer-term travelers. It's free to list a property on Airbnb, but the company keeps 3 percent of every reservation.

Pictures are the heart and soul of a property listing. Airbnb allows you to post up to 24 pictures of your place and will even send over a professional photographer for free in select cities. If you take your own photos, use as much natural light as possible and include shots from several different angles, including outside the home.

As part of your listing, you can include any "house rules" for prospective renters. Indicate whether or not you allow alcohol, smoking, pets or children, and whether there are "quiet hours." You are also allowed to charge a security deposit and a cleaning fee. Airbnb lets you choose from five different cancellation policies that vary in strictness and flexibility.

Good communication is essential for booking reservations and maintaining a good rating. As a host, you are required to accept or deny a booking request within 24 hours. Your response rate is listed with your profile and hosts with bad response rates appear lower in search results.

During the booking process, it's up to the host to vet prospective renters. Airbnb has built-in tools for verifying a renter's identity using online social networks — plus guest reviews by other hosts — but it's the host's responsibility to ask questions that reveal if the renter is trustworthy and a good fit for the property.

Once the booking is confirmed and payment is made, Airbnb makes "payouts" to hosts via PayPal, direct bank deposit or check. Hosts are asked to meet the guests at the property and give a brief tour of the amenities. After the stay, hosts typically review each guest for the benefit of future hosts.

Airbnb has been wildly successful at connecting adventurous travelers with entrepreneurial property owners around the world, but some folks believe the company is basically a black market for hotel rooms. Keep reading for more on Airbnb's legal battles.