9 Definitive Solutions to Profit-Draining Challenges in STRs

solutions to profit draining short term rentals

By Rowan Clifford

Author of Airbn’b’Smart and Smartbnb user

Airbnb has the unique ability to add freedom and extra income to people’s lives.

However, as many a host will tell you:

“Hosting on Airbnb can be a whole lot of work.”

For many, it can become a job on top of your full-time job and leach all of the free time you once had.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way.

It is possible to reduce the massive workload of Airbnb hosting, but…

… you’ve got to be smart.

Reducing your workload and making massive efficiencies takes having a micro view of macro problems.

And to help us do this, we’ll be using hard system solutions to tackle everyday Airbnb hosting issues.

So what exactly is a hard system?

A hard system is real-world solution to a pre-defined problem.  

That sounds really complex and scientific, I know, but it’s really quite simple.

Let me explain:

A great real-world example of this is a public swimming pool.

The problem: People have dirty feet before they enter the pool.  This makes the pool dirty, requiring more cleaning, more chlorine, and overall higher costs.

Desired outcome: Reduce the amount of dirt put into the pool from people’s feet to reduce cleaning expenditure, and reduce chlorine costs.

Now let me show you two possible solutions to this problem.

One is an example of a ‘Soft system solution’, the other is a ‘Hard system solution.’

Let’s take a look and see how these two different approaches perform…


Soft system solution:

Put a sign up asking people to clean their feet before they enter the pool.

Result: People ignore the sign & the problem persists.

Economic impact: Only a small number of swimmers abide by the sign.  Cleaning & chlorine costs only drop very slightly.

Hard system solution:  

Create a single corridor for all swimmers to enter the pool.  Create a shallow pool of water all swimmers must walk through to get to the pool.  

Result:  No swimmer can enter the pool without having rinsed their feet already.

Economic impact: Cleaning costs are dramatically reduced.  Chlorine costs dramatically reduced.

From the example above, you can see how a small system change can have a big economic impact for the overall costs of operation.

Now lets see how this same method of thinking can be applied to hosting on Airbnb.

How hard systems can reduce operating costs and increase profits as an Airbnb Host.

When you apply hard systems thinking to hosting on Airbnb, you begin to see that there are a number of potential hard system solutions that can increase efficiency, reduce costs, increase operating profits & save a tonne of time.

A good model that we can learn from as Airbnb hosts are the methods used in the Hotel industry.

The big hotel chains must look for efficiencies and cost savings wherever possible to compete in a hyper-competitive market.

Every procedure, every piece of furnishing, every detail must be considered within the context of the overall company operation, right down to the tiniest details.

Airbnb, too, is becoming extremely competitive worldwide, so what lessons can we learn and expand on from the hotel industry to improve the way you operate as a host?

How to gain an edge over your competition on Airbnb

I’m a bit of a systems nerd, and I’ve thought long and hard about how to improve efficiencies for the operation of my Airbnb property.  

It's by using these systems, and approaching Airbnb hosting with this mindset, that I've been able to travel the world for the past 4 years (often in entirely different time zones), yet still manage to operate and manage my duties as a host with little to no effort (often under 5 minutes a week).

I want to share with you some of the hard system approaches I took that enabled me to travel the world and take advantage of the extra freedoms and income Airbnb has helped generate…

9 definitive solutions to the most common profit-draining challenges, using hard systems

1. Furniture

Furnishings can really make a place.  They can add personality and make your home warm and welcoming.  

However, over time you can virtually guarantee that all of your furnishings will be broken and damaged by guests.  It kind of just comes with the territory.

So, the goal here isn’t to remove all furnishings, instead to remove all unnecessary furnishings.

Problem: Furnishings are getting broken and are costly to replace. Soft furnishings require extra cleaning.


Hard System Solution: Use only furnishings that are absolutely necessary.  Remove everything else.  Make sure the furnishings used are replaceable cheaply and easily.

Result: A reduction in costs accrued from breakages. Reduced cleaning costs over time.  

2. Paintwork

It’s inevitable that walls and paintwork will get dirty and require cleaning and maintenance over time.

Re-painting is not only a costly expense, but it also requires blocking off potential booked nights, costing you time and money.

Problem: Paintwork gets dirty, needs re-painting regularly.


Hard System Solution: Use extra high-quality hard-wearing paint.  Use heavy-duty gloss paint where possible.  

Result: High-quality paint is extra durable and requires minimal maintenance.  It’s easier to clean (reducing cleaning fees), and needs re-painting less often (resulting in less potential nights lost to maintenance, and reduced maintenance fees).

Pro Tip: Use white paint wherever possible. It's much easier to source and much cheaper than colored pain.

3. Flooring

Flooring is subject to more wear and tear than virtually every other area of your property.  Your flooring choices will have a direct impact on your maintenance costs over time.

Carpets and rugs are especially subject to extreme wear and tear.  

From dirty shoes to food stains and red wine spills, they get a battering!

Problem: Excessive wear and tear on carpets and rugs.  Stain removal.  Regular carpet cleaning fees.


Hard System Solution: Replace carpet with hard flooring where possible.  Where hard flooring isn’t possible, install hard-wearing patterned carpeting to camouflage stains and prolong carpet life.

Result: Hard floors last a very long time and virtually never need to be replaced.  No need for expensive carpet cleaning fees.  Virtually zero wear and tear.  Hard flooring takes less time to clean than carpet.

4. Furniture

The furniture you use within your home adds personality and style and can enhance your guests’ experience during their stay.  

However, soft furnishings like sofas, cushions, and seating are especially subject to spills and stains.  Stain removal for soft furnishings can often require expert cleaning and costly trips to the dry cleaner.

They’re also subject to high levels of wear and tear that may require regular replacements over time.

Problem: Sofas and seating get dirty and require expensive cleaning solutions. Excessive wear and tear.


Hard System Solution: Replace soft furnishings with hard-wearing pvc/leather alternatives. Remove cushions where possible.

Result: Your furnishings stay cleaner and in better condition for longer.  You remove the need for dry cleaners. Reduced cleaning time and costs.

5. Shower

Showers and bathrooms are hot-spot zones where guests are notoriously picky when it comes to hygiene.  

Tiny details like mold and mildew build-up can lead to disappointed guests.  

With guest expectations increasing year on year, it becomes increasingly costly and time-consuming to meet such high standards.

Problem: Mildew and mold build up in the shower and bathroom.  Costly to maintain.  Expensive to replace.


Hard System Solution: Use black grout with any tiling work (makes any mold buildup invisible & it’s easy to clean).  Use black silicone sealer if possible (conceals mold and mildew staining). Install glass shower door instead of shower curtains (glass is easy to clean.  No mold buildup).

Result: Virtually never need to re-grout tiles or re-silicone around shower base or bath rims, which will reduce outlay over time.  The shower door can be easily wiped clean, reducing the costs of new shower curtains.

6. Skirting boards

Skirting boards get scuffed and marked really easily.  They’re constantly getting kicked with shoes, banged with furniture/luggage & dirtied by mops, etc.

All of this requires extra cleaning and painting over time.

Problem: Skirting boards get dirty often and require lots of cleaning and maintenance.


Hard System Solution: Paint skirting with dark, hard-wearing paint to remove the visibility of scuffs and marks (or use dark stained wood as an alternative).

Result: Skirting looks cleaner and fresher for longer.  Scuffs and marks are concealed.  Re-painting, maintenance, and cleaning are reduced.

7. Guest Entry

Co-ordinating guest entry into your property can be a massive time burden.

Not only are there multiple guest messages involved in co-ordinating accurate check-in times, but there’s also the problem of having to hang around waiting for them to arrive.

Your time is precious and valuable, and you don’t want to be wasting it, waiting for your guests to arrive.

Problem: Time wasted waiting for guests to check-in.


Hard System Solution: Get a secure access key lock so that guests can check themselves in irrespective of what time they arrive.

Result: You never have to wait around for your guests to arrive again.  Your guests are free to arrive at their own time and check-in themselves.  Little to no guest messages needed to co-ordinate check-in procedure.

8. Message Templates

Guest messaging is an important part of communicating effectively as an Airbnb host.  It’s this interaction that builds rapport and trust between both parties.

However, guest messaging can become increasingly time-consuming as your bookings increase.

And oftentimes, many of the questions you receive will be very similar in nature.

These frequently asked questions will likely be things like: Do you have parking?  Do you have the internet?  Can you recommend some good places to eat?

These messages begin to eat into your time the busier you get, reducing your free time to do the things you enjoy.

Problem: Answering guest FAQ’s taking too much time.


Hard System Solution: Use Airbnb’s Saved Messaging feature, or even better, Smartbnb’s Canned Messages feature (which includes smart shortcuts, so you don’t even need to replace your guests’ name/location/check-in dates, etc. etc.) to save templates for all of your guests FAQ’s.

Result: You’ll now have thoughtfully constructed pre-written message templates ready to send without ever having to re-type the same message.  This will improve the quality of your messages, and save you a tonne of time in the process.

Pro Tip: With the help of Smartbnb, it's now possible to use AI to auto-detect commonly asked questions from guests and to auto-generate a reply. And what's even better is it's super quick and easy to set up.

Using templates saves so much time

Automating the whole communication takes it to the next level.
Give it a try today with a 14-day free trial.

9. Automation

Writing message templates, as mentioned above, is a good way to reduce the time spent writing answers to frequently asked questions from your guests.

However, there are many messages throughout a guest’s stay that are not only much harder to construct as templated responses (without the use of in-built logic) but are also time-sensitive.

For example, sending check-in instructions to your guests a month before their arrival will likely end up with your guests re-messaging you for instructions prior to arrival.

Sending the right messages at the right time helps reduce the toing-and-froing and repeated messages that get increasingly difficult to manage as you scale up your operation.

Problem: Guest communication is very time consuming and can be confusing when trying to send time-sensitive messages.

Hard System Solution: Use a tool like Smartbnb to automate virtually all messages between you and your guests.

Result:  Smartbnb will handle upwards of 90% of all of your guest communication by automating the entire process.  Using clever built-in short-codes and logic, Smartbnb is able to send your guests the right message at the right time… Every time.

This gives you back your valuable time to get on with the things you enjoy most.

Pro Tip: Smartbnb can also handle communication and reminders to your cleaners (or any member of your team for that matter) by sending pre-scheduled emails and texts.


Airbnb has enabled everyday homeowners to generate new income streams from their properties. However, if you’re not careful, this new-found financial freedom can become a time-sucking burden.

By taking a long term macro view of your Airbnb operations (like we’ve done in this post), you can gain valuable insights that unearth timesaving, cost-reducing competitive advantages over time.

Many of the suggestions in this post may be cost-prohibitive right now in your journey, but using the hard system mindset will have you making better decisions next time you need to reinvest money for updates and maintenance.

This mindset has certainly helped save me a lot of time, money, and stress over the past four years, and hopefully, it can do the same for you too.

Peace out.


Rowan Clifford is a serial solopreneur and founder of Airbn’b’ Smart where he writes tips, tricks and hacks for savvy Airbnb hosts looking to maximize their earning potential with minimum effort.

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