Good style and the photos to flaunt it — Here’s the thing: with 5.6 million active Airbnb listings worldwide, it’s not enough to throw a bunch of random furniture in a room, snap some crappy iPhone pics, throw them up on your profile and call it a day.
Many people dream of becoming an Airbnb host but don’t know where to start. In this series called “5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host” we are interviewing successful Airbnb hosts who share lessons from their experience about how to run a very successful Airbnb property.
As part of this series I had the pleasure of interviewing Sadye Evyn Reish.
Sadye Evyn Reish is an interior stylist and hospitality expert who specializes in Airbnbs, and with nearly 20 years of event and marketing experience to boot, she knows a thing or two about creating spaces (and experiences) that not only catch your eye, but make you want to stay a while…and tell your friends to visit, too! Sadye works with Airbnb hosts on design, styling, staging, photography and hospitality for their properties, to 1) ensure they get noticed on the platform; 2) teach them how to WOW guests from the first point of contact until they leave the Airbnb; and 3) help them foster repeat customers, rave reviews and ultimately boost their bottom line with their short-term rental business. Learn more and grab your free Airbnb Starter Guide at www.sadyeevynreish.com/airbnb.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?
Born and raised in Orange County, I left my SoCal roots when I was 19 and ventured north on a soccer scholarship to University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA. Shortly after graduating college in 2005 with a degree in Public Relations, I jetted across the pond to live and work in London (traveling around Europe every chance I got), then eventually — by way of Stockton (again) and San Diego — landed in Sacramento, CA, where I’ve lived for the past seven years.
Those who know me (or follow along on Instagram) know that I’m a style fanatic who loves a good bargain and killer vintage finds — I’m a regular at thrift stores and flea markets — and that as a devoted do-it-yourselfer, I’ve never met a power tool I don’t like.
At home, my apartment is an ever-evolving space where I try new DIY concepts and techniques, style up a storm and design until I’m delirious (then do it all again), all so that I can continue to create, while providing fresh ideas and easy-to-follow HOW-TOs for my followers and clients to use in their own homes or Airbnbs.
I have a penchant for pink (but really, all things color) and pattern play is pretty much my jam — just peep my throw pillows or the inside of my closet!
And whether I’m designing a space, styling an outfit, creating a dish or dabbling in dating, my go-to motto is “EVERYTHING IS AN EXPERIMENT.” It takes the pressure off to be perfect (since experiments are inherently messy and often go awry) and keeps things fun and interesting.
Speaking of fun, I’m also a spin instructor (going on six years) and an artist, too. And since sharing your Enneagram, Myers-Briggs and Human Design types is all the rage these days, I’m a Type 3/Achiever, ENFP-A/Campaigner and Manifesting Generator, respectively.
Those last three might explain my propensity for pursuing multiple passions simultaneously (read: never having just one “job”) and the reason for my diverse career path. From hospitality, public relations, advertising sales and copywriting, to event design and production, wedding styling, Airbnb design, corporate development, marketing, branding and content creation — all predominately spanning across lifestyle, travel and tourism — it’s all culminated to what I do now: interior styling and hospitality consulting for Airbnbs.
What led you to first start becoming an Airbnb host?
As an avid traveler, I’ve been all over the world (pre-COVID, of course), staying in various Airbnbs and vacation rentals, but none that were worth writing home about. Then, in June 2017, I took a solo trip to Nashville, TN and stayed in the cutest little Airbnb studio! Despite its small footprint, it was chock full of style and color and well-equipped with unexpected amenities and thoughtful touches. And the host (who lived on property in the main house) was absolutely lovely! Having had very few attention-grabbing Airbnb stays since, I saw an opportunity to combine my nearly 20 years of styling, hospitality and marketing know-how to help Airbnb hosts create the same kind of experience that I had in Nashville — the kind that guests will continue to rave about, even after four years have passed (wink, wink).
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this?
One of my Airbnb clients had a few guests recently who were clearly celebrating something, because she is still finding confetti all over the property! Luckily, the guests were respectful of the house, despite leaving a bit of the party behind.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I was designing my first Airbnb studio (a single car attached garage that we converted into an efficiency studio), I laid out the space so that the bed would go along the wall that was shared with the main house living room. The studio still felt a bit drafty — despite walling off the garage opening — so positioning the bed on that wall seemed like the most logical spot from a temperature perspective, plus it worked for the flow of the space. Confident in the layout, I had the contractor hardwire a light next to where the bed was to be placed. It looked great and the light switch was cleverly concealed behind the bedside table, but a few months and noise complaints later, my client (the host) resorted to moving the bed to the opposite wall and flipping its orientation. The space still looks cute, but now the light feels a bit out of place, hovering midway down the mattress, versus next to the headboard. Thankfully the overall style is quirky, so it works!
The lessons? One, if converting an attached garage into a studio that you plan to rent out separately from the main house, be sure to install noise cancelling insulation between the adjoining main house and studio (garage) walls. And two, rather than hardwiring a light based on a specific furniture layout (that you may have to change down the road, for one reason or another), opt for a plug-in wall sconce that can be easily repositioned elsewhere in the space — no electrician required!
What are some of the common mistakes you have seen people make when they first start hosting with Airbnb?
I’ve seen a lot of mistakes over the years, but below are the most common:
- Putting little to no emphasis on the overall style, aesthetic and vibe of the home
- Having poor-quality photos on their listing
- Not stocking the kitchen with enough of the basics (dishes, pots, pans, utensils, etc.)
- Not having a full-length mirror (this may seem insignificant, but trust me when I say that women will especially notice when there isn’t one)
- Not having enough seating (living and dining)
- Unclear communication (i.e. not clearly outlining how to access/enter the rental, not clearly posting the WiFi details and not clearly defining/posting the house rules, to name a few)
- From an inventory standpoint, not having enough back-up sets of sheets, towels, etc. (which aids in efficient and quick turn-over between guests)
What are some of the things that can be done to avoid these errors?
- Before you list your Airbnb, consider investing a little time and money to spruce it up! It’s amazing what fresh paint on the walls and stylish accents — like decorative pillows and throws, rugs, plants, lighting and art — can do to make a space feel more vibrant and pulled together. And if you actually live in your property between Airbnb visitors, consider some overall decluttering — when people escape their own messes they don’t want to be bombarded by yours!
- If you can afford it, hire a photographer who specializes in shooting interiors. And if that’s not in your budget, pay attention to staging (photo styling), lighting and angles when taking photos on your smartphone or DSLR camera, then use a photo editing app to brighten and sharpen them up. My go-to is VSCO.
- When stocking the kitchen, make sure you have enough sets of dishes (plates, bowls, glassware) and eating utensils for the number of guests you claim to accommodate on your listing — plus extras, because inevitably some will break. You also want to have a full set of pots and pans, plus cooking utensils (spatulas, spoons, ladles, etc.) and prep dishes, like mixing bowls, cutting boards and proper kitchen knives.
- Ideally, you should have a full-length mirror in each bedroom (the inside of the closet door or on the back of the bedroom door are great locations), but placing one at the end of a hallway or in an entryway works, too.
- There’s nothing more annoying than booking a place that says it “sleeps six,” but can only comfortably seat four in the living room or at a dining/kitchen table. Good rule of thumb: make sure you offer enough seats for the number of guests you claim to sleep.
- Once a guest books, clearly outline and communicate how they’ll access the Airbnb (e.g. include address information, keyless entry or lock box instructions/location and any special details they should be aware of); post the WiFi details in multiple locations (e.g. living room, kitchen, bedrooms) and also include them in your house rules book; and speaking of house rules, make sure you clearly outline the expectations for guests both with regard to what is and isn’t allowed during their stay, as well as what’s expected upon their departure.
- Be sure to stock multiple sets of sheets per bed and several sets of shower towels, bath mats and hand towels (bathroom and kitchen).
Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the Airbnb experience? In your opinion, what makes you different from the rest?
When I style and set up an Airbnb, there’s more to it than curating cool, yet comfortable furniture, cozy accessories, pops of color and stylish details; it’s also about creating a sense of place for those who visit.
Why does that matter? Based on decades of research and scientific studies, “sense of place” evolves through personal experiences and defineshow people view, interpret and interact with their world(Russ et al., 2015). In other words, when guests feel a sense of belonging and connection to their surroundings, they’re more inclined to leave a good review, book repeat visits and tell their family, friends and social following about their Airbnb experience.
Using an approach I like to call “storied style,” I combine pieces that my clients already own with new, vintage, and repurposed elements, then layer in different textures, unique art, plantlife and unexpected amenities. The result is a visual story that captures guests’ attention on the platform, pulls them in once they arrive and brings them back for future visits.
From books to read, games to play and other extras, to a list of favorite coffee shops, brunch spots and outdoor dining options nearby, plus any seasonal activities or open-air events taking place while guests are in town — I’ve found that intentional styling, along with thoughtful touches, leads to lasting impressions and essentially informs the story guests tell about their stay (aka: their review).
Another element I like to account for — especially as the multi-hyphenate home life endures, with many people still working remotely — is creating a cozy work-from-home corner for guests seeking a change of scenery from their own “home office,” but who still need to get work done during their Airbnb visit.
Ultimately what makes me different is that I’m a style and hospitality consultant who uses my nearly 20 years of marketing and experiential event expertise to create environments where people feel comfortable and happy, while also teaching my clients (the hosts) how to elevate the guest experience through their communication, the amenities they offer and the overall Airbnb service they provide.
*SOURCE: Russ, A., Peters, S.J., Krasny, M.E. and Stedman, R.C. (2015). Development of ecological place meaning in New York City. Journal of environmental education, 46(2), 73–93.
Wonderful. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share “5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host”? Please share a story or example for each.
Good style and the photos to flaunt it — Here’s the thing: with 5.6 million* active Airbnb listings worldwide, it’s not enough to throw a bunch of random furniture in a room, snap some crappy iPhone pics, throw them up on your profile and call it a day.
The key to having a successful Airbnb starts with an attention-grabbing space, but also the photos to flaunt it.
Because let’s face it: you can have ALL the bells and whistles for your Airbnb, but if your photos look more like mug shots than glamour shots, people will inevitably swipe left (so to speak) on your property and look for one with pretty pictures instead.
Just like with a dating profile, PHOTOS ARE YOUR FIRST IMPRESSION, and when it comes to attracting your ideal guests, lighting, angles and presentation (staging) matter.
*SOURCE: As of September 30, 2020 (source: https://news.airbnb.com/about-us/)
Stellar communication — We all know that communication is key in ANY relationship, and the same holds true for your host-to-guest interaction.
From answering pre-booking inquiries and making sure guests have everything they need during their visit, to ensuring a smooth check-out, then following up with a review once they’ve gone — how you communicate with guests before, during and after their stay is an integral part of the customer journey.
You want to be prompt, clear and courteous throughout every stage of their experience, and also remember that every time a guest books, it’s not just a transaction; it’s an opportunity to grow and nurture your Airbnb audience, which will ultimately boost your bookings and your bottom line.
Create an experience — Quick history lesson: When Airbnb first hit the scene in 2007, it was literally just an air mattress on the floor of the founders’ loft in San Francisco (hence the original name: Airbed & Breakfast). Understandably, the strategy back then was to offer a significantly cheaper alternative to hotels and a “place to crash for the night” sort of vibe.
But now — 14 years and more than four million* hosts later — it’s more about creating an overall experience for your guests. One that not only catches their eye, but makes them wanna stay a while (without having to blow up their bed in the middle of the night) and tell their friends to visit, too!
I could rattle off countless ways in which to up the ante with your amenities in order to enhance the guest experience, but from my experience, the number one luxury you should pay attention to and invest in, is the bed! And I’m talking about a bonafide bed, not the kind that requires air.
But seriously — so many of the reviews for the Airbnbs I designed comment on three things: 1) the overall style and vibe of the home, 2) how great the hosts were, and 3) how comfortable the beds were. And you wanna know the best part about that last one? The mattress brand I used for all of them was less than 300 dollars and conveniently came in a box.
So the moral of the guest experience story is this: A stylish design paired with stellar communication, plus thoughtful touches and a comfortable place to sleep, all combine to leave a lasting impression, which is paramount to getting good reviews, guest retention and more bookings.
*SOURCE: As of September 30, 2020 (source: https://news.airbnb.com/about-us/)
Prepare for the unexpected — As Forrest Gump so poignantly put it, “sh*t happens.” Or in the case of hosting an Airbnb, things will inevitably break, go missing, get stained, stop working, etc.
But planning ahead for what could go wrong by buying in bulk for heavily used items like towels, sheets, shower curtains, glassware, etc. will not only save you time and help you quickly reset the space between guests — it will ultimately save you money and from the headache of having to make emergency trips to the store before the next guest arrives.
Treat your Airbnb like a business — Because it is one! And as with any money making endeavor, if you want to be successful, you first and foremost need to offer a quality product and service.
But you also need to…
- Identify who your ideal customer (guest) is
- Know your industry and competitors (i.e. what are other hosts in your area offering/charging)
- Be willing to invest time and money
- Promote and market your listing
- Be flexible and adaptable to unforeseen changes or events (like a pandemic
- Keep track of your profits and losses
- Regularly assess what’s working and be willing to change what’s not
- Determine what to delegate or outsource (like cleaning and management services)
- Look for ways to level up (like attaining SuperHost or Plus status and adding to your amenities)
- And most importantly, always, always, always serve your guests
You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?
As someone who loves planned activities mixed with spontaneous adventures and who enjoys taking time to explore, versus trying to cram it all in, my “perfect vacation experience” would be one where I do an extended Airbnb stay somewhere (Rome, Italy, perhaps), but then travel to other nearby cities for day or weekend trips. I love the idea of not just visiting, but actually living where I travel, even if it’s just for a few days, weeks or maybe even months, especially if working remotely remains in effect. Frequenting the corner cafe, chatting with locals about where I should go for dinner that night or what I should see the next day that’s not in the guide books, and making up the itinerary (for the most part) as I go. There’s something really special about solo travel in that way. You end up meeting so many interesting people — who you might not otherwise engage with if you had a travel companion — and those conversations often lead to unique and memorable experiences. Plus, you have complete autonomy with how you spend your days.
I’d actually planned on doing this exact trip in 2020 — specifically to Italy, Greece and Portugal — but then the pandemic hit and so did the cease travel. Here’s hoping I can make it happen soon!
Can you share with our readers how you’ve used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I believe in the power of storytelling and leading by example to inspire others to take action — be it for their health, their dreams or the betterment of society — so when I know something I’ve experienced might do that, I use my platform to tell my story.
From enduring cancer at 33 and using it as an opportunity to spread awareness around the dangers of Melanoma and the importance of checking your skin; to leaving the corporate world to start a business and sharing that process in hopes of inspiring others to get out of their comfort zone and go after their own goals; or using my voice and artistic abilities to raise awareness and funds for social justice causes — I’m always looking for meaningful ways to engage with my community and strive to make a positive impact on people’s lives.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’d love to inspire more women (and men) to stop worrying about checking the proverbial life boxes set forth by society — or their pushy parents and peers — and remind them that no matter their age, it’s okay to change their mind, change careers, be in a relationship, be single, have kids, be childless, own a home, be content to rent, color their hair, ditch the dye, lose weight, gain weight, lose interest in things that once brought them joy, discover new things that light them up, and so on. Because in my opinion, there is no “one-size-fits-all” way to do life.
As a single woman in her late thirties who doesn’t have kids, has never been married and who’s explored various avenues in her career, I’ve gotten my fair share of “when are you going to settle down,” “the clock is ticking” and — my personal favorite — “maybe you’re just being too picky” comments [insert eyeroll] over the years. But I recently realized two very important things: 1) I’m on my own life path and schedule, which are exactly right for me, and 2) it is absolutely okay to not have the marriage and baby boxes checked yet (or maybe ever), because those things do not define me as a woman or determine my happiness as a human being.
For me, I love what I do. I love designing and creating and helping or inspiring others to do the same, and while I truly look forward to meeting someone and maybe someday having children, growing my business and pursuing my passions are what’s calling to me right now. That, and this past year hasn’t exactly been ideal for dating.
Jokes aside, my genuine hope is to influence more people to follow their heart and intuition, even if it seems “crazy” or unconventional, because in my experience, that’s when the magic happens. And after a wild year like 2020, the world could use more magic; more people doing what they love and happily being who they’re meant to be instead of who they thinkthey should be and being miserable because of it.
So to anyone reading this, I’d say:
Forget about checking off certain boxes (marriage, house, kids, career, etc.) by a certain age and instead, try living YOUR life based on what feels right for you…not your parents, friends or random people on Instagram.
It is truly amazing what you can discover — both in the world and about yourself — when you ditch the comfort of what you know (or have been told) for the excitement of what could be. You just have to be willing to tear up the societal script and make up your own as you go…
How can our readers further follow you on social media?
On Instagram, you can follow me via @bysadyeevyn for Airbnb styling, hospitality and creative content, or @sadyeevyn for a mix of off the cuff stories, silly dance videos and occasional lifestyle content.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!