Entice Guests to Book Your Short-Term Rental with an Alluring 500-Character Opener

See all my articles on short-term-rental listing writing, including on titles/headlines, photo captions, opening paragraphs, the full listing description and more.

Along with your photos and listing title/headline, your 500-word (Airbnb only) opening paragraph is one of the first pieces of content to draw prospective guests into your listing. It should be the “hook” that lures guests to read more about your property and entices them to book.

Unlike the other sections of an Airbnb listing – The Space, Guest Access, and Other Things to Note – the opener is not labeled with a specific purpose. Therefore, it’s up to hosts to decide what content they want guests to see first.

It’s also the only section (other than the title/headline) with a character limit, in this case 500 characters, including spaces. I advise coming as close to those 500 characters as you can. Be aware, too, that to read beyond the opening paragraph, the guest has to click “Show more…” You can bet that some guests will not click “Show more…,” so create your opener with this mindset: If this paragraph is the only part of the listing guests read, what do I most want them to know? What aspects are most likely to motivate them to book?

Writing Process for Openers
When I write listing descriptions for clients, the opener is one of the last things I write. Writing “The Space” section gives me a good feel for the best features and amenities in the home and prepares me to write the opener. Even as a host who already knows the property, you’ll probably benefit from writing the opener toward the end of the process. I suggest writing a draft of your entire listing in a Word document or similar before placing it on Airbnb because the platform may not allow you to submit components of it in this suggested order (plus, a separate document provides a good way to check for typos and make sure the content is exactly what you want before uploading it to the platform).

Key Components: Top Selling Points and Target Market
Always keep your top selling points and your primary target market in mind when crafting your opening paragraph. I ask my clients to identify their top 5 selling points, and I ensure that these are covered in the combination of title/headline and opening paragraph. Some high-demand selling points may be worth mentioning in both the title/headline and the opener; these include pool, hot tub, pet-friendliness.

Think about reaching your primary target market as you construct your opener. If you cater to families, make that clear in those first 500 characters. Don’t be concerned about excluding secondary markets; targeting your most important market won’t preclude others from booking. Here’s an example of an opener that specifically targets business travelers/digital nomads:
If you’ve dreamed of a digital-nomad life in which you can travel to fun and scenic spots and enjoy every comfort while using blazing fast WiFi to get work done, you’ve found the perfect place. This luxurious house-plus-private-apartment combo has it all, along with a huge office space with TV. It’s beautiful, spacious – 4,300 sq ft – and loaded with amenities. All in a gorgeous natural setting close to Austin attractions, shopping, and fine dining. Ideal for small business retreats!

And an example that clearly targets families:
Look no further if you seek a luxurious stay in a home that gives new meaning to “family-friendly.” Loaded with thoughtful touches, this designer home in a wonderful neighbourhood offers a chef’s kitchen, magical playroom (also a yoga room!), baby room + equipment, kids’ bedroom, theater room, and so much more. You’ll love the private backyard w/BBQ, fast Wi-Fi, 3 TVs with cable + streaming. Guests rave about the huge soaker tub, all-new bedding, closet space + 5-min walk to public transpo.

Strike a Balance Between Location and the Space Itself
I’ve noticed when I critique listings in my Facebook group, Critique My Airbnb Listing, hosts often focus too much on location in that opening paragraph. If location is on your list of top 5 selling points, you should definitely feature it in your opener – but don’t neglect the home. Guests want to be near what they’re coming to see and do in the area, but they also want to be comfortable in the space and ensure it meets their needs. Here’s an example that leads with location but gives plenty of attention to the home:
Make the most of your Chandler destination at this amenity-packed pool home that’s close to everything, yet tucked into a safe, quiet neighborhood. Whether you’re traveling here for a major event or just looking for fun, relaxing getaway, you’ll love dining, splashing, swimming, and gathering in the beautiful, spacious outdoor oasis with fire pit, grill, TV, seating, and pool. Inside, luxuriate in the sumptuous, tastefully decorated home enhanced with artwork and filled with every convenience.

Don’t Waste Characters on Information Obvious Elsewhere in the Listing
No need to use precious characters on number of bedrooms and bathrooms as the listing already clearly shows that information. You may not need to mention the name of the city within these 500 characters. Since guests typically search by location, they already know what city your listing is in; it may be sufficient to mention the name of a neighborhood or say something like “minutes from downtown.”

Don’t Bring Up Rules or Negatives in the Opener
Hosts know that guests often don’t read listings carefully and thus are often tempted to mention important rules or limitations right from the get-go. As much as you want to drive home messages about no pets, no smoking, no dishwasher, no air conditioning, for example, it’s a turn-off to do so, and it takes up precious characters that could be used for selling points. Save those negatives for later in the listing.

Consider Current Trends
Recently, concerns about high cleaning fees and excessive checkout chores lists have been in the news. If you are in a position to offer a low or no cleaning fee (possibly because you’ve folded the cleaning fee into your nightly rate), consider including that info in your opener. Similarly, if you do not require your guests to do any clean-up tasks at checkout time, you may want to state that in those first 500 characters. For my own listing, I not only allow pets but don’t charge a fee for them, so I broadcast that in my opener.

Try Opening with a Question
Questions are a good way to make guests feel engaged. My own listing opens with a question:
Want to be close to the Columbia River/Lake Roosevelt, places to snowshoe, x-country ski, hunt, fish, hike, boat, go birding, and enjoy nature amid quiet beauty? You’ll love well-reviewed, pet-friendly Hansen Woodland Farm’s charming and well-appointed house, 40 acres of hiking/snowshoe trails on property, firepit, close access to national forest and recreation area, convenience, spaciousness. Indoor + outdoor games. Books + DVDs. 2-person kayak. LOW CLEANING FEE/NO PET FEE.

Another question opener:
Looking for lots of opportunities for fun, both in the home and in the surrounding area?

Integrate Guest-Review Highlights into Opener
What do guests love about your place? Go through reviews to see what stands out. What features do guests mention most often? Weave those into wording like this:
Guests rave that it’s sparkling clean, cozy, comfortable, and close to everything – with an accommodating host.
You can even lead off the opener with the “Guests rave” approach:
Guests rave about the home-like feel, amazingly comfortable king bed, walkable convenience, and fully equipped quality of this charming cottage in the heart of Historic Downtown Franklin! Walk to downtown restaurants, shops, and historic Civil War museums/sites (a 12-minute walk). Relax on the deck and take in the expansive, peaceful fenced backyard. Chill out with your choice of channels/apps on the ROKU-enabled TVs. Experience a fantastic office setup if you need to get work done. Make the cozy comfort of this well-reviewed gem your home base for visiting family and friends.

Use Guest-Centric vs. Host-Centric Language
Keep the pronoun “you” at the forefront in the opener – and throughout the listing. Avoid host-centric “we” language, such as: “We’ve equipped the home with everything you could possibly need.” Instead: “You’ll love how well equipped the home is.”

Use the Opener to Explain Unusual Set-Ups
Perhaps you have a space-within-a-space setup like one of my clients who had a casita with separate entrance that could be booked separately or together with house attached to it. Or two units of a duplex that can be booked separately or together. Or two houses on the same property or next-door to each other. Explain the setup in your opener, as in this example:
You’ve found the perfect beach-vacation gathering spot for your large group! Two families or friend groups can book upper + lower units of an amenity-rich duplex with fun backyard (w/firepit + cornhole) and 6-bed loft space. Your group will love the quiet area and cheerful beach décor. Get twice the kitchen, dining, living-room space + 13 beds across five bedrooms. Best of all, it’s less than half a mile from beautiful beaches in Indiana Dune Park – with towels and beach accessories supplied.

Create a Vibe
One client wanted to convey how relaxing her rental is. Here’s an example of using the entire opener to create a certain mood or vibe:
Looking for the ultimate in privacy, relaxation, and natural beauty for your group of family members or friends? Look no further than Ursus Slumber, with its spectacular views, hot tub, and abundant amenities. You’ll find yourself in relaxation heaven, with myriad opportunities to unwind – deck, two patios, chiminea firepit, not to mention the restful and inviting environment inside the home. Chill out with satellite TV and 200+ streaming channels, including premium channels. You’ll love the convenient location close to golf, skiing, hiking, sightseeing, recreation, and much more.

Get Them Dreaming
Your opening wording can create a sense of longing – a feeling of being able to attain the kind of place guests have only dreamed of. Check out these two examples that begin with “Imagine…”
Imagine vacationing a stone’s throw from all the Disney theme parks while staying in a home so entertaining that the fun is multiplied exponentially. Family and large-group dreams come true at [name of STR], where Frozen + Avengers bedrooms and a play nook await the kids, a pool and spa beckon in the backyard, and arcade/game room and theater rooms provide endless entertainment. All this, plus access to the abundant recreation and entertainment resort features, including water park.

Imagine every comfort, every convenience, endless thoughtful touches, all in a breathtakingly scenic location. No need to imagine; you’ve found it at [name of STR], where guest comfort is top priority. You’ll delight in the pool, neighboring recreational facilities, and next-level smart-home technology. Icing on the cake is the spectacular view of Table Rock Lake and the Ozark Mountains. Guests rave about the fully equipped kitchen, free grocery delivery, comfortable mattresses, and bedding.

Should You Mention Renovations in the Opener?
Personally, I don’t find renovations to be a meaningful selling point, but I crowdsourced among frequent Airbnb guests for their thoughts and found mixed opinions. Read my research here: Is ‘Renovated’ a Selling Point for Short-Term Rentals?

Don’t Hesitate to Ask for Help
Hosts shouldn’t be expected to be accomplished professional copywriters. Articles like this can go a long way toward an effective DIY approach, but not everyone is comfortable with writing. For most hosts, the cost of my listing-writing services is equal to or less than your booking fee for a single night. Don’t be afraid to invest in a professionally written listing description – starting with your 500-character opener.

To see before-and-after listing description examples and order a listing makeover, listing from scratch, or photo captions from an experienced professional writer and Superhost, visit http://katharinehansenphd.com/WritingPortfolio/STRListings.html. Custom orders also available.

See all my articles on writing short-term rental listing descriptions.

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