9 Airbnb Mistakes Costing Self-Employed Beginners

September 8, 2023

Mi casa es su casa. It’s often said, but it’s not always meant. That is, unless you’re an Airbnb host. In that case, you’re handing over your very own property to a stranger to use as their own for an agreed amount of time. Sounds risky and the truth is, it can be. But not in the way you might be expecting.

There are countless Airbnb mistakes it’s possible to make. We’ve identified nine of the most common mistakes and how to avoid them. 

9 Airbnb mistakes that cost self-employed beginners

Poor listing quality

The first thing a potential guest will see about your property will likely be the listing you put together. So, you need to pay attention to it because, as we all know, first impressions count. It needs to sing to the viewer. But this is only half the story. If you promise Graceland and they get a wasteland, they’ll be all shaken up. So, you have to be honest in your listing about what they’ll find there.

If there’s no washing machine, it’s no good saying there is one. Instead, emphasize what it does have. An amazing balcony? Check! So advertise that with plenty of pictures of the incredible view. And mention that there’s a great little laundromat four doors down.

A listing is also where you get to set some house rules. It’s not all about appealing to the customer. They’ll be unsupervised on your property, which might make some a little nervous. If you don’t want pets, say so. If you don’t want your guests to bring other guests, make it clear. And, of course, if you don’t allow smoking, stub it out with a firm prohibition.

The fact is, what might be unthinkable to you could be entirely acceptable to somebody else. So be explicit. 


Don’t forget to employ some suitable keywords in your listing. Properties on Airbnb have been categorized by machine learning since 2022, so you need to play the SEO game. If the beach is popular in your locale, mention it. Same with any particular feature your accommodation might have. If it’s got a hot tub, get that baby bubbling away in your listing.


Finally, don’t skimp on the visuals. Get somebody who knows what they’re doing to help out. Nothing lets a property down like a shoddy shot. And not everybody likes trains. 

Unoptimized pricing strategy

You need to hit on pricing that makes you a profit and doesn’t scare customers away. This is nothing new—it’s what commercial operations have been doing ever since Captain Caveman sold his first club. Think about certain factors. If you price yourself out of the market, you’re heading for a quiet season. So, look at the market and be realistic. Adjust your pricing strategy accordingly.

Other factors to bear in mind include seasonality. You can charge more for your place during periods of high holiday demand than during the quiet months. Same with weekends vs. weekdays. It’s all supply and demand.

The same principle applies during sudden surges in visitor numbers, maybe during local festivals. So make sure you’ve got a handle on the hot dates and price up where you can.

Lastly, try to keep an eye on industry trends. Say ‘historic’ is suddenly the new trend. If you’ve got a nice colonial place, it might pay to put up your rates a little. 

It’s vital that in all your financial activity, from pricing to cost management, you stay on top with the right expert help and tech assistance, such as accounting software or vacation rental management tools. This will help you to accurately determine your pricing strategy now and in the future. 

Neglecting guest communications

From the first interaction with a potential customer, you should be prompt and helpful with your reply. Otherwise, you stand a real chance of losing that custom.  Once they’re in, you need to keep up the good communication work. You may have neglected to tell them about the heating quirks in the instructions, and they’re sitting shivering in that draughty lounge.

Keep yourself available during the first few hours so that you can deal with their settling-in queries. Otherwise, you may be in for a stay in Bad Review City. Which is where we’re headed next.

Ignoring guest reviews

Guest reviews can be really helpful. But it’s one of the biggest Airbnb mistakes to only welcome the good ones. The negative reviews might be embarrassing to receive in such a public format, but they deliver two important things:

  • Information about how the property or your service could be improved. Every businessperson should crave this pointer.
  • The opportunity to look super-helpful and attentive. Post a quick response expressing concern and saying what you’ll do about the customer’s woe. This will more than counter any unfortunate effect the initial review will have—especially if you inspire the customer to write back in a much more positive manner.

Cleaning and maintenance lapses

The place has got to be clean, and things have got to work. Simple as that. This is where it can be very useful for you to stay in the accommodation regularly. Nothing picks up problems like being right there.

If it’s you doing the cleaning, make sure you’re free at the right time to get it done, such as vacation rental turnovers. It’s no use turning up with a vacuum cleaner and a smile if you get there an hour after the guest checks in.

Ignoring local regulations and taxes

Time was, Airbnb operated in a bit of a Wild West. The phenomenal success of the model outpaced legislation, so there were few regulations originally.

Now, however, states and countries have become much more Airbnb savvy. You may find that regulations cover, say, the maximum number of square meters you can rent out in the short term. There might even be bans in place for whatever reason.

No court is going to look particularly favorably on a defense of ‘sorry, didn’t know.’ The onus is on you to find out what rules apply, so get studying. 

You might also consider investing in a tax accounting software. The right software will help you stay on the right side of the law, whether it's paying a 30% US withholding tax if you operate in the US or complying with the new Making Tax Digital (MTD) regulations in the UK. 

Overextending and underestimating

Be honest about what you’re capable of. In all your endeavors, try not to over-promise.

You want the floor polished? Yeah, no problem! New paintwork on the stairs by the time you arrive at the weekend? You got it! Double glazing installed by lunchtime? Easy!

But if it’s not going to happen, be honest. Yes, you may lose the sale, but you’ll also lose the stress. And you’d have had to give them a refund following a scathing review in any case. Lastly, if you are literally extending your property, here are two tips. Think safety (see later) and stay organized. Choosing the right company to handle your construction or remodeling is vital. 

Make sure they’re up-to-date on safety regulations and use all the latest solutions, such as ERP for construction and cutting-edge techniques and tools. These tools can be important for making sure you get a realistic idea of how long building work will take, understand what kind of investment is needed, and that you get the quality you’re looking for. 

Little to no marketing and promotion

Remember what we said about emphasizing plus points, using keywords, and making sure the pics are hot.

Beyond this, go visit your Airbnb page and make sure it looks like you want it to. Then get social. Get onto Insta and TikTok and push your property as often as possible. Mention upcoming good times that visitors are going to want to be a part of. And if you’re suddenly struck by how beautiful the sun’s rays look spilling across that polished wooden floor (you did get it done!), get a video of it online, saying how this could be the viewer’s this very weekend.

You can even build your own property website—it doesn’t have to be all done via Airbnb. There are all sorts of promotion possibilities out there for you.

Inadequate safety measures

OK, this is where things can get serious. We’re talking misery, financial penalty—even prison. If you’re having members of the public in your property, you need to ensure it’s safe. This goes for everything, from that balcony’s railing to the power points in the kitchen.

If you’re allowing children, then you need to have things made safe specifically for them, too. You can’t mess around with this, so make sure that you have met all of Airbnb's safety requirements, as well as any locally enhanced provisions. Install smoke alarms and make sure first aid kits are present and well stocked.

A failure to keep up with safety requirements will do so much more than damage your business. Worst case, it will lead to some rather less comfortable accommodations for you upstate.

Curate the perfect holiday

The biggest Airbnb mistakes you can make tend to be down to one simple factor—neglecting to consider the guest experience from start to finish. From when they first look for a rental to when they have an amazing and hazard-free stay, you need to be in their shoes (or flip-flops) at all times.

If you deliver a great service vacation to your guests that’s every bit as superb as the rental property itself, those positive reviews will come flying in all year round.

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