Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Short-Term Rental Business

In recent years, the short-term rental market has experienced a significant boom, fueled by platforms like Airbnb, Vrbo, and Booking.com. This surge in popularity has presented lucrative opportunities for individuals looking to generate extra income by renting out their properties. If you’re considering diving into the world of short-term rentals, here’s a comprehensive guide to help you get started.

1. Research Local Regulations and Zoning Laws

Before you embark on your short-term rental journey, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the regulations and zoning laws in your area. Many cities and municipalities have specific rules governing short-term rentals, including requirements for permits, taxes, safety standards, and occupancy limits. Ignoring these regulations could result in fines or legal issues, so be sure to do your due diligence and comply with all relevant laws. The first step is calling your local county zoning office.

2. Identify Your Target Market

Understanding your target market is essential for success in the short-term rental business. Consider factors such as location, amenities, and price range to determine the type of guests you want to attract. Are you targeting business travelers, vacationers, or families? Tailor your property and marketing strategies accordingly to appeal to your desired demographic.

3. Prepare Your Property

Invest time and effort into preparing your property for short-term rentals. Cleanliness, comfort, and functionality are key factors that guests consider when choosing accommodations. Make necessary repairs, upgrade amenities, and furnish the space tastefully to create a welcoming environment. Consider adding personal touches such as complimentary toiletries or a welcome basket to enhance the guest experience. Take out any items that may be too personal, or divisive such as political slogans or overtly religious objects.

4. Set Competitive Pricing

Research the rates of similar properties in your area to establish competitive pricing for your short-term rental. Take into account factors such as location, seasonality, and demand when determining your rates. While you want to maximize your earnings, it’s essential to remain competitive to attract guests and secure bookings. Consider using dynamic pricing software such as Pricelabs or Beyond.

5. Create Compelling Listings

Crafting compelling listings is crucial for attracting potential guests to your property. Use a professional real estate photographer to get high-quality photos that showcase your space in its best light, highlighting key features and amenities. Write clear and concise descriptions that accurately represent your property and its unique selling points. Be sure to include important details such as check-in instructions, house rules, and cancellation policies to set expectations upfront.

6. Implement a Booking and Management System

Managing bookings, inquiries, and guest communication can be overwhelming without a proper system in place. To get started, it’s easiest to use a booking and management platform like Airbnb or Vrbo to streamline the process. These platforms offer tools for managing calendars, handling payments, and communicating with guests, making it easier to manage your short-term rental business efficiently. Later, you may consider setting up a direct booking site.

7. Provide Excellent Customer Service

Exceptional customer service is key to maintaining positive reviews and securing repeat bookings. Respond promptly to guest inquiries and requests, and address any issues or concerns promptly and professionally. Going above and beyond to exceed guest expectations can lead to glowing reviews and word-of-mouth referrals, ultimately boosting your business’s reputation and success.

8. Monitor and Adapt

The short-term rental market is constantly evolving, so it’s essential to monitor industry trends and adapt your strategies accordingly. Stay informed about changes in regulations, shifts in consumer preferences, and advancements in technology that may impact your business. Continuously seeking ways to improve and innovate will help you stay competitive and thrive in the ever-changing short-term rental landscape.


Barb is the president of NASTRA and has spent her professional career in hospitality and real estate. After acquiring her first short-term rental in 2018, Barb moved her focus to legal advocacy after she sued the city of Nashville over a permit issue. Over the last three years, she has mentored more than 2,800 new STR hosts and is the Community Leader for Airbnb in Nashville, as well as an Airbnb “Ask a Superhost” Ambassador. Barb has appeared on numerous radio broadcasts, television shows, and podcasts to talk about her love of hosting. She also manages and co-hosts a number of short term rentals across Tennessee and Arkansas. Barb and her husband Pat own a hotel brokerage, development and consulting company. Look for her upcoming podcast series, “Women of Airbnb.”

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