In the short-term rental industry, property managers need to find the balance between booking as many guests as possible and protecting their properties from misuse. That’s what makes screening guests so complicated. While you want guests to book with you, you need to be mindful of who’s entering your property. One wrong guest can result in a suite littered with red solo cups and thousands of dollars worth of property damage. So, how do you differentiate between a good guest and a bad one based on their reservation details?
A great way to differentiate between the two is by following up with the guest during the booking process. Sometimes the decision will be obvious, but other times, you need to do a little digging. Start a rapport with the guest. Ask them questions. Get to know them. All it takes is a quick email or short phone call. But if you’re stumped as to what kind of questions you should ask, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are 10 simple questions to ask that will illuminate what kind of guest you’re renting to.
1. Tell me about yourself.
Why it’s important: While our first suggestion on the list is more of a statement than a question, it is imperative to get as much information about the guest as you can. This includes everything from where they live to what their travel plans are. Ideally, you can hop on the phone and chat with the guest, but email works too. Not only will this help you get a better sense of who is booking your property but it will make the guest feel reassured in their booking and show how excited you are to host them.
2. What is the purpose of your visit?
Why it’s important: Whether it’s visiting family, shopping, business, or tourism, guests have all kinds of reasons for travelling. But some of these reasons don’t coincide with your property’s house rules. In order to protect your property, you need to figure out the guest’s intentions before they arrive. If the guest is coming to the city with a bunch of friends to throw a wild bachelor party, or to live it up during a city-wide festival, then you need to be on your guard. If things get too out of control, you could have thousands of dollars worth of property damage on your hands. To prevent this, ask your guest about their travel plans. If something sounds suspicious, question them on it. You want the guest to be fully aware of your expectations.
3. Have you stayed in the city before?
Why it’s important: As a host, the guest’s safety is a number one priority. When they’re out wandering around the city, you want them to be smart and safe. If the guest is unfamiliar with the area, this is your chance to help them navigate, ensuring they don’t get lost or wander into rougher areas. It’s also a kind gesture to offer restaurant and tourism recommendations. Not only will this keep you from being roped into a search party for a lost guest, but it will help secure that 5-star rating.
4. What attracted you to my listing?
Why it’s important: Some guests will be totally honest and tell you it’s because it was the cheapest option, while others might comment on the convenient location or appealing look of the property. Either way, this is a good question to figure out the guest’s priorities. Not only does it reveal the guest’s expectations for their stay but also tells you what about your listing is attracting (or deterring) guests. This type of feedback is invaluable.
5. Have you stayed in a short-term rental before?
Why it’s important: It’s amazing how many guests don’t understand the difference between a short-term rental and a hotel, or are under the impression that they are booking a hotel rather than a fully-furnished property. This is your chance to inquire about the guest’s experience with short-term rentals, clarifying any aspects that might be unclear, such as how the guest enters the property and how to access the suite’s amenities. It’s also incredibly important to give context to the rental’s location. If it’s in a quiet, suburban neighbourhood, explain that guests need to be courteous to the neighbours and keep noise to an acceptable level.
6. How many additional guests are there?
Why it’s important: Additional guests are one of the great unknowns in the short-term rental industry. Typically, booking platforms only require guests to state how many people will be staying at the property, which certainly doesn’t include whether outside guests will be dropping in to visit. Even if they’re not staying over night, make it clear to the guest that you require contact information for anyone entering your property.
Whether you allow additional guests should be determined on a case-by-case basis. If a couple is in town to visit their daughter at university, they can’t be faulted for inviting her over. But if a 20-something-year-old is throwing a predrink with 10 of her closest friends, you may want to step in. By asking about additional guests and whether there will be any visitors, you are able to clarify your rules around who enters the property.
7. For registration purposes, can you provide the names and contact details of all additional guests?
Why it’s important: Sites like Airbnb only require the main guest to provide their contact information and personal details. But this means there’s no accountability for additional guests. You have no information about who they are or how to contact them. The leadup to the reservation is your chance to get more information. Make it a requirement for all guests staying on your property to provide their personal and contact information. This is also your chance to make sure each guest reads and accepts your house rules, making them legally accountable if anything happens.
8. Have you read the house rules and do you have any questions about them?
Why it’s important: The house rules are your opportunity to lay out your expectations for guest behaviour. Whether it’s no parties, no pets or no extra guests, you want to make sure that the guests booking your property agree to and understand your rules. By asking whether they have any questions about the rules, you’re able to reiterate their importance and highlight your zero-tolerance policy for rule breaking.
9. What time do you expect to arrive?
Why it’s important: Always set a check-in/checkout time for your properties. This way, you can ensure the property is thoroughly cleaned before and after each guest arrives, and it gives a buffer time between guests. But this doesn’t mean guests will always arrive exactly on time. Flight delays and traffic can cause guests to show up at all hours. Asking about their travel plans helps you prepare for their arrival and ensure they don’t show up too early. Or, if some of the guest’s information seemed a little suspicious, this gives you the chance to meet the guest in person and vet them before granting access to your property.
10. What's the best way to contact you?
Why it’s important: Maybe a couple books with you and the husband never answers his phone. Or a guest from another country makes a reservation but their phone plan doesn’t work here. Clarifying the best way to contact a guest may seem redundant, especially if you already have the guest’s email or phone number from the booking channel, but it can save you a lot of headaches in the case of an emergency. Explain to the guest that they need to be reachable during their stay. That way, if something comes up, you can easily get in touch with them.
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