Beginning our short term rental business Airbnb, vrbo, craigslist

12 Replies

Hi Y'all,

We have a 4 bed 3 bath, pool home 6 hours away from our home that we are hoping to turn into a short term rental. We have had plenty of experience with long term rentals, but are wet behind the ears on this.

Here are some things that I need help to resolve:

Which furnishing textiles are best for durability ?

How to vet prospective tenants?

Does anyone have a short term rental with a pool?  PLEASE provide me with tips

How to check if the cleaning crew did their job properly from a remote location, I was thinking of having them take a live video before payment...

which remote door locks and thermostats are most reliable?

If you were able to start over, what would you have done differently? I am scared but up for the challenge...

Thanks for your help!


Post on all the places you mentioned. I do get almost all my bookings on VRBO, but other do better on Airbnb.

Check competition and price a little below them to get bookings in the beginning along with 5 star reviews.

I would use a pool company to clean your pool to limit your liability.

Make sure you have commercial insurance (Foremost, CBIZ or Proper)

Find a great cleaning person or service. They will make or break you.You don't want any bad reviews for a dirty house.

Take great pictures or get a pro to do this for you. Max out the pictures on each site. You need about 50. Get at least 2 of each space. If you know someone with a drone get a couple aerial pictures so people can really see the pool. I would take some in the evening with the pool light one.

Hi Sandy! If it's a vacation home, I'd probably avoid Craigslist as there are so many scams there. You'll get plenty of bookings on the major booking platforms, so you won't even need Craigslist.

My number one piece of advice is to BE ADAPTABLE. The ability to roll with the punches is key in this business. Things will go wrong, and not everything is going to fit into a nice neat box. It will go smoothly 90% of the time, but when situations arise, have an open mind and get it handled!

Hey @Sandy Sciales ! Ok, let's run down some things we have done that have worked for us at our lake house.

As for textiles, for sheets I use a 70/30 Cotton/Poly blend in a percale weave. They wash up nice, dry pretty fast, have a crisp feel and don't wrinkle as much. Sateen weaves have a tendency to pill up. I have been buying Big One sheets from Kohls. On our second season and they still look great. Only white. White towels. I use the Grandeur Hospitality brand from Costco. They have low lint, fluff up nice and people like them. They go on sale regularly and cost less than 2 bucks a towel.

I bought all USA made furniture. All of it used from various places. Just cruise Craigslist and you can find some great deals.

New mattresses. We bought all Zinus 12" memory foam, 1.5" gel foam topper and a Serta cover over all of it. Great mattress for the price.

Make sure the kitchen is loaded. I setup our kitchen to cook just about anything. Toasted cheese to a 25lb turkey. Lots of small appliances, plenty of knives, all sorts of utensils. 50 plus spices in the cabinet. Some easy start foods like spaghetti with sauce. Something they can make in a pinch for the kids for a late arrival. I put ketchup and mustard along with other condiments.

 I vet each and every guest. I call them when the request a booking. Chat with them for a few minutes so I can get a feel for who they are. Only then do I approve their stay. This has worked well so far, but nothing is perfect.

As for the cleaning crew, do a test. Have them come and clean the house and leave some things and see if they clean them. I dripped some bacon grease on the front of the oven. That sort of thing. As for the video, that is a sure way to make sure you lose your cleaners.

I am using the Schalge Smart Connect on Z Wave. It works awesome and I highly recommend. I use the Wink 2 hub for Z Wave home automation and it is great as well. The app controls the lock and the thermostat. Z Wave uses much less energy for the wireless signal so the batteries in the lock last much longer. I got just about a year out of mine.  As for the thermostat, I use the Emerson Sensi. I chose that unit due to the fact that I don't have a C wire, which provides constant power to the thermostat. The Sensi works great when you have heat and AC. It pulls power from whatever system isn't in use so no C wire required. Works great with the Wink control app.

As for doing it all again, I don't think I would change much. We have all 5 star reviews so far. All you can do is get all your ducks in a row and be prepared for the inevitable system failure or damage. I use Proper insurance for vacation rentals. Covers everything. It is pricey but you are covered.

Good luck!

Thank you for that perfectly specific and most helpful post!  I could see why you have five star reviews you're very thorough and I appreciate your advice we will take it thanks again so much!!

@Sandy Sciales

Hey Sandy I've made a list of all of the things we put in our short-term rentals. It's on our website. under resources then shop.

We have tested a lot of sheets and towels and different things and these are our favorites for the durability cost and timelines of delivery.

If you are doing this ASAP, I'd run out and buy as much as possible over Labor Day sales. Or if it's a slow process, Black Friday is fantastic. I would buy furniture, beds and mattresses on craigslist if you can, since no one expects brand new items. You can get very high end things for 20% of retail price if you have the muscle and time. High quality sheets are a must for repeated washings and customer satisfaction. I'd recommend king sized beds in every room possible. I search for that in particular when I'm booking for myself. I only started doing this last year, so I don't have a ton of experience, but I never vetted anyone and had no problems at all. But I was renting a large house for a very high nightly rate. I only used VBRO/Homeaway, and I required an immediate 50% deposit and 50% 30 days before arrival, which was non-refundable. So I was getting a big chunk of change and figured that was vetting enough. Never had any trouble--most people loaded the dishwasher, took out the trash, and left me plenty of high end liquor, groceries, and even a new iron. The other advice above is great. And check out the show Stay Here on Netflix for staging ideas. Good luck!

Oh, one other thing--because we had beds of various sizes, I bought sheets in different colors so that it would be easy to do them all in one load and then find the right ones again quickly. Some people recommend having three sets for each bed, and it's a good idea to buy them all at once so you can still use a flat/fitted if the other one gets damaged. And another good recommendation I read here--put make up wipes or black/gray washcloths in the bathroom so your guests don't trash your white towels with makeup removal. 

I have to disagree with @Sarah Lorenz on the used mattresses. That is buying someone else's problem. Furniture yes. She is right on the money when it comes to buying quality at 20 percent or less of the original cost.

I also like the idea of king beds everywhere, but depending on the room size, that might not be possible. I could get king's in all the bedrooms but that would leave little room on each side. The queen rooms are just a bit too small for a king. The master should have a king for sure.

@Lauren Havens site has a ton of choices on it, but I have to disagree with the microfiber. I find they sleep hot and greasy. That is me. I use microfiber on the kids beds as they don't care. :)

I also have a check out list for guests which include loading and running the dishwasher, taking out the trash, putting all the used towel in the closest tub etc. NEVER have them wash anything. They will bleach to death and/or destroy what they are washing.

Make sure you have at least 3 sets of sheets and extra pillowcases for short turn over days. Also have at least one set available to guests just in case.

I agree with Sarah on the grey/black washcloths for makeup. My wife embroidered them so it was obvious. Every guest uses them.

We allow dogs, so we have embroidered bright yellow towels just for wiping up dog feet etc.

Originally posted by @Michael Baum :

I have to disagree with @Sarah Lorenz on the used mattresses. 

I have to disagree with @Michael Baum.  83 beds total in my STRs.  Probably 78 are used and bought at estate auctions.  The other 5 were new and expensive.  But we probably have different tenants.  Mine work 10-12 hours a day in a refinery, they just want a room to sleep in surrounded by a bunch of artwork of nude females.


Hehe @Paul Sandhu ! Yes we have different tenants. I suppose you can get lucky sometimes, but why roll the dice.

Of course when you are renting to oil rig guys, bed bugs probably die almost immediately when they bite em.

Originally posted by @Michael Baum :

Hehe @Paul Sandhu! Yes we have different tenants. I suppose you can get lucky sometimes, but why roll the dice.

Of course when you are renting to oil rig guys, bed bugs probably die almost immediately when they bite em.

Yes, bed bugs are not a problem.  What the prostitutes leave behind can be.