If you’re running a short-term rental as a professional, it’s normal that you start considering the Airbnb automation options. All other successful business owners outsource or automate tasks, without which they’d be burnt out, overwhelmed and unable to scale.
The same goes for vacation rental and Airbnb rental operators. Your short-term rental isn’t just a side hustle anymore. It’s a full-time business and you need to treat it as such.
Below I’ve compiled the ultimate guide to Airbnb automation and best Airbnb management software so you can do less and scale in ways never before possible.
What’s important as a business owner is to let go a bit of control, and outsource or automate tasks that you don’t need to be doing. The more you work in your business instead of on your business, the harder it will be to scale. Your goal should be for your income stream to not be dependent on your time.
Imagine: you’re managing multiple listings, personally answering guest communication, answering guest reviews, research and updating prices across different channels, and meeting each guest yourself for check-in…this isn’t a sustainable business model.
That’s why today we’re going to talk about how to set up your Airbnb automation so your business can run on auto-pilot.
One of the first things that short-term rental operators outsource is the cleaning of the properties. Having a clean property is one of the main deciding factors in your guests’ rating. Put yourself in the guests’ shoes: finding a hair in the sink or a left-over glass does not a good experience make.
It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out or if you’re growing or already have 100 units. Your rental should be spotless when guests arrive. There’s no way around it. And when you decided to build a business, did you picture yourself scrubbing toilets?
So how do you find the right cleaning services? A cleaning service provider should:
You are looking for hotel-quality cleanliness, not just a bit of dusting. The sheets need to be cleaned and put back on the bed straight and squared.
You can test whether they follow instructions by providing detailed instructions to follow in your ad or when reaching out to them. If you’re placing an ad, you can add a hidden comment like “Be sure to write the word “Octopus” in the subject line of your email”.
Any email that doesn’t have that word in it means you’re dealing with someone who doesn’t thoroughly read instructions, and you can move on.
Start with one cleaner and as you grow you can add team members. You can manage them through an outsourced property manager or through property management software.
The next natural step to take as you grow is to hire someone to manage your properties.
An Airbnb Property manager will handle the day-to-day details of your rental property: meet and greet, handling maintenance and repairs, and can be your physical point of contact for guests, especially if you don’t live in the same city as your listing.
You need to find a property manager or property management company that you trust enough to vet your guests and handle the property well. When choosing a property manager, try to find property managers that:
Some property management companies will also offer cleaning, marketing, photography, pricing, and more. A lot of these things can be automated using software, as you’ll see below, which may end up being cheaper and better done.
You can also ask them if they use any software, which may also be helpful to you. If you want to automate your Airbnb rental without having to hire someone other than a cleaner, read on.
You can automate your check-in process, which will make things easier for both you and your guests. There are ways to check your guests in without paying a property manager and without you needing to deliver the keys to the guest (or them having to go elsewhere to pick the keys up).
One easy way to do this is using a lockbox which you can buy from any hardware store. It’s freakishly simple: you give the guests the code to the key and tell them where the box is located. They retrieve the key when they get to the rental, and they put it back there when they leave. Simple as that!
You can also use a keyless entry system. These can run on both a key and a code system. The code is emailed to the guest, providing them with access to your Airbnb space worry-free. With this system, you can rest easy knowing your guests are void of access issues and in the end, it will save a lot of hassle on those late nights coming in from the bars. You can pick a keyless entry system up at most hardware stores. They are easy to install and easy to change the code as well.
A keyless entry system is a wonderful, set-and-forget Airbnb automation strategy.
This also means the guest can come anytime after check-in time — even at midnight! It makes things easier for everyone.
Related: Review of smart locks
Guest communication is one of the most time-consuming tasks. It’s both vital to the health of your listing but also not necessary for you to do, given the available technology.
You’re wasting precious time if you keep copying and pasting answers to the same questions over and over across multiple listings.
Luckily, Smartbnb is a program that offers sophisticated and trainable AI automated guest messaging. Smartbnb is an app that uses AI to learn how to answer guests’ questions in a way that is relevant and never betrays the fact that it’s a bot. In terms of Airbnb automation, this is top of the line.
Since each rental has different aspects and rules, and therefore different questions that guests might ask, you have to configure and train the bot.
Guest communication is one of the more overlooked aspects of the short-term rental business, but one of the most important. You need to be quick, reliable and responsive from inquiry to the closing of the review window.
You can configure your Smartbnb messaging flow properly so that your guests (a) never feel like they’re talking to a robot and (b) always have their questions answered promptly. Plus, guests get responses even if you’re asleep or kitesurfing in Zanzibar.
The standard Airbnb message flow includes:
Smartbnb configures all the standard message flows, but you can also add literally any possible question and train it to respond appropriately.
Find out more questions you could train Smartbnb to answer and a more in-depth look at automated guest communication at this post.
If there’s one opportunity too many hosts overlook, it’s guest reviews.
You should review every single guest and respond to every guest review. While a portion of potential guests will peruse your description, many of them skip to the meaty part: your photos and your reviews. Those are what often make or break a person’s decision to stay at your property.
You have 14 days after the guest has checked out to write a review. Your guest won’t be able to see the review until they have posted a review of their own, or until the 14-day review period has ended. Why is guest reviews in this Airbnb automation guide? You guessed it: you can also automate reviews!
That means they get a prompt telling them you’ve reviewed them, and the curiosity factor (“What did the host say about me?”) will encourage them to leave you a review.
Some property management software has guest review features. Your Porter, for instance, has 60 templates you can choose from that will automatically send out positive guest reviews. With iGMS you can create your own templates to automate the positive guest reviews.
Smartbnb uses template-based automatic positive guest reviews. But you can also use it to automate negative guest reviews, and it sets it so that the negative reviews go out 20 seconds before the review window closes so that the guests can’t retaliate. How cool is that?
The more reviews you leave, the more you get. And we all know that helps bookings.
I promised I’d talk about property management software you can use to automate most of the property management tasks.
Using this software, you can expect not only to sync calendars across multiple listings, but also to share your Airbnb calendar with your cleaner or other team members. Property management software helps your Airbnb automation via:
The main benefit of using property management software in your Airbnb automation is getting one central calendar where you can see all your listings.The management software will update the calendar across different channels so nothing falls between the cracks and all your team members are looking at the same real-time calendar.
You can get direct API integration with Airbnb, Booking.com, HomeAway/VRBO and others.
You can use this software as well to assign tasks and let workers view, accept and mark them as complete. Some of them let you create trigger-based job creation and assignments like cleaning check-in and checkout, and updates them on the calendars. Since these are automated and triggered based on your calendar, you'll be working Airbnb automation like a pro.
Most property management software has other features like pricing, financial reporting, automated guest review, messaging, website creation, and more.
One of the most important things to automate is pricing. You may think you know the pricing of your property better than anyone (and if we’re talking humans, you probably do), but there are too many factors influencing pricing that one person couldn’t keep up with.
We’re talking hotel and flight prices and bookings, events you’ve never even heard of, and demand in ways that are tracked and updated by algorithms so seamlessly it takes minutes to do something that would take you hours to do.
Your pricing should be dynamic and changing in real-time, based on fluctuations in demand caused by seasons, competition, events and other factors.
The ‘flat’ pricing method is when the Airbnb hosts set the same, baseline price for their listing across the whole year. This is a very quick and easy way to lose a lot of money.
In a report by Beyond Pricing, hosts with dynamic pricing strategies can increase their revenue by 43%. For instance, if there’s a big event in the area with thousands of people coming to the city and looking for lodging, a dynamic pricing tool would automatically increase your prices for that weekend.
The aim isn’t so much to be constantly booked as it is to increase your overall revenue. That’s what these tools are used for.
A good pricing strategy calculates the following factors:
The Airbnb pricing tools use sophisticated algorithms to calculate prices based on these and more factors, and keeps them constantly updated on your calendar across the different channels. This also helps your Airbnb listing rank higher in the search results.
There are a few tools available for automated Airbnb pricing:
Airbnb has its own smart pricing tool that’s free but I don’t recommend it. Because Airbnb has the guests’ interest in mind on top of the hosts, it sets the prices way lower than it needs to. Learn more about why you should avoid the Airbnb smart pricing tool here.
My favorite dynamic Airbnb pricing tool is Beyond Pricing. This application calculates the optimal price for each day in your calendar, based on:
The best thing is, the app connects to your calendar and updates the prices automatically. This is an important step in your Airbnb automation process because it also keeps your listing fresh. You can use this to go in and adjust your rates on over 100 properties in minutes if you needed to, which is a little more complicated through other PMS software.
Beyond Pricing allows you to set your own base price based on a “health score” it gives you. It will then vary your prices around that price, based on the demand factors. This means you can still control the level of your overall pricing.
I’ve personally reviewed thousands of listings, and I can tell you that most hosts underprice their listings. They are booked too much. Remember, the goal isn’t 100% occupancy, it’s to maximize profit. This is why hosts who start using Beyond Pricing typically see a 10 to 40% increase in their profit, even though their occupancy may not change much.
Readers of my blog get $60 in BP credits on top of the one-month free trial via this link.
Wheelhouse is an interesting pricing tool bases its pricing on the above factors, as well as on the rental itself. You can fine-tune it based on whether you’re a host, owner, or property manager and you can adjust it to recommend prices based on your business goals.
You can also customize it for discount tiers, or make seasonality / weekend adjustments. If you have fewer than 10 properties, Wheelhouse starts at 1% per automated booking.
There are other automated pricing tools, like Pricelabs and Vayoo. Read my full 2019 Airbnb pricing tool comparison report here.
When you start to grow your Airbnb business, you absolutely need to start automating some tasks. Doing everything yourself is the antithesis to scaling.