A pet fee helps protect you from having to manage extra costs due to scratched surfaces, wear-and-tear, and additional cleaning time and supplies, but those costs are difficult to calculate. Plus, what may seem a perfectly reasonable pet fee for you can appear unfair to guests.
Charge too little and you’ll have to take on the cleaning and maintenance expenses yourself, but charge too much, and you could negatively impact your occupancy rates.
However, there’s no question that many guests want pet-friendly stays, and you’re well within your rights to charge for that special service. So, you need insights into the types of costs you’ll have to cover, how to align those calculations with what others within your local market are doing, and how to implement those charges effectively within the Airbnb platform.
We cover all these concerns so that by the end of this article, you’ll be able to make an accurate assessment on what to set for your Airbnb pet fees, how to set them, how to communicate your policies with guests, and how to make sure you remain competitive, too.
Minimize the costs of your operations and reduce your workload
Factors to consider when setting your Airbnb's pet fee
Here are some of the key factors you’ll need to weigh up when establishing a pet fee that’s aligned with both the extra costs and your prospective guests’ expectations.
The first and most obvious consideration when setting a pet fee is the cleaning costs. As well as the extra supplies required to carry out a thorough clean following a pet stay, your housekeeper will likely need extra time to:
- Vacuum pet hair
- Scrub down any marks on the floors or walls
- Swap out the towels used for wiping paws and furniture covers
- Clean out bowls and litter boxes
- Ensure the entire space smells fresh
And, on top of the additional cleaning costs, you may need to provide or replace bowls, and supply and wash towels, covers, and bedding.
Target guest type
Different guest types have different needs and expectations, which can influence the ideal pet fee for your business. Here are some examples of how:
- Families typically value the ability to bring pets, so a reasonable pet fee isn’t a deterrent. In fact, a pet fee can reassure families that you’re committed to creating a welcoming and accommodating environment.
- Longer-term renters like digital nomads also often want to bring along their pets, but since they could be staying one to three months or longer, they might expect the pet fee—which shows up in Airbnb as part of the nightly rate in search results—to be relatively low.
- Luxury travelers are generally less sensitive to price and more focused on the quality of the amenities you provide. This allows for a higher pet fee, but be prepared to offer premium pet-friendly accommodations, like welcome baskets with pet gifts, a wash station with pet shampoo and conditioner, and grooming supplies.
You have to remain competitive with other pet fees in your market, so if there are similar properties in the local area that target the same guest types, see how they structure their nightly rates and factor this into your pricing strategy.
Airbnb rules on service animals and emotional support animals
Also, bear in mind the difference between pets and service and support animals. Airbnb clarifies that:
“You must allow service animals to accompany guests while they’re staying on your property unless you are granted an exemption. You can’t charge the guest a pet fee. You also can’t charge additional fees, unless they generally apply to all guests.”
Emotional support animals, however, are different and can be charged an additional fee, except in regions where there are specific regulations that prohibit it, such as New York state and California.
5 Steps to set a reasonable Airbnb pet fee
1. Estimate additional cleaning and maintenance costs, including supplies
Over a set period of time, you can compare the cost of cleaning and maintaining a pet-friendly Airbnb against one that doesn’t accept pets. These housekeeping costs should be easy enough to record, but tracking the use and replenishment of supplies is notoriously difficult—unless you have a dedicated solution in place.
One such solution is Breezway, which you can use to monitor and report on inventory across your portfolio, which allows you to stay well-stocked, forecast expenses, and capture billables.
With Breezeway’s operations management software, you can easily track maintenance tasks and record billables.
2. Assess the cost of pet-related wear-and-tear
Understand and quantify the potential wear-and-tear pets can cause to your property, including furniture, flooring, and decorations.
Of course, you may find it hard to calculate this without extensive experience of hosting guests with pets. One approach you can take is to join Facebook communities of STR managers and see what property managers report in other online communities, including Airbnb’s own Community Center. However, the cost of general wear-and-tear will also depend on each property’s amenities and furnishings.
One way to estimate the overall wear-and-tear of pet stays is to compare the maintenance costs of two Airbnbs—one with pets, one without—over a 6-12 month period. By seeing what additional damage is caused to surfaces, furnishings, and covers, you can gain an idea of the impact of pet stays, which you can then look to cover incrementally by calculating the average cost per booking:
- Take the total cost of wear-and-tear caused by pets (the difference in maintenance costs that can be attributed to pets)
- Divide this by the number of stays over the given period
- Continue to track and review cleaning and maintenance costs using your operations management tool, making adjustments to your pricing strategy as you go
3. Research your local market
See what other Airbnb hosts in your area are charging for pets to make sure you stay competitive against your direct competitors.
To do this, find 10 comparable pet-friendly Airbnb properties (think number of bedrooms, amenities, and guest type) in your local area, review their rates, including last-minute and large lead-time bookings, as well as short stays (two to five nights) and stays for a month or more.
With that information to hand, you’ll be well placed to make sure you’re not overcharging by the standards of other Airbnbs in your neighborhood or region.
4. Update your Airbnb price settings
Go to your Airbnb account and add the fee within your price settings. This is a flat rate that’s spread out over the course of a guest’s stay, showing as part of the nightly rate in Airbnb's search results, and in the total price at checkout.
The problem is that this is a very inflexible process—you can’t charge per pet and you can’t charge per night. However, you can get past this via a trip change request. See how to do this below:
Update your Airbnb price settings
- Message your guest to establish how many pets they’ll have for their stay. Now you’ll know both the number of nights and pets.
- Use this information to calculate the fee and message your guest to see if they agree.
- If they don’t agree, cancel the reservation with a polite message. If they do, send them a trip change request, as explained below.
- Find the booking in your Airbnb calendar, update the pet fee, save, and click ‘Send request’.
5. Update your listings, house rules, and guidebook
Once you’ve created and implemented your pet fee policy, update all your property information to inform guests of what pets you will or won’t accept, how many, and any other ground rules.
You can do this effectively and with minimal additional effort by standardizing your policies as much as possible across all your listings, and always sharing your house rules within a digital guidebook. For example, you can auto-share Breezeway’s guidebook as part of your booking confirmation message, which, as well as your policy on pets, lets you share other helpful information, like:
- Where to buy pet supplies locally
- Local vet contact information
- Recommendations on pet-friendly walks and activities in the area
Breezeway’s guidebook includes a section dedicated to local recommendations and advice..
Minimize the cost of pet-friendly stays by automating cleaning ops
You can create a pricing strategy for pet-friendly Airbnb stays that covers the extra cleaning and maintenance costs and doesn’t put guests off from staying with you. To do so, you need to:
- Consider key factors, like typical kinds of costs caused by pets and your target guest type
- Estimate and track those costs using inventory tracking software
- Research the pricing strategies of similar pet-friendly Airbnbs in your local market
- Apply your pricing changes, which you should continue to review and optimize
- Communicate your policies in listings, house rules, and within a digital guidebook
To stay competitive and consistently deliver high-quality stays, you should use a short-term rental operations management platform like Breezeway. This will help keep your cleaning and maintenance costs down, allow you to easily track costs and capture billables, and minimize the work required to coordinate your team.
Minimize the costs of your operations and reduce your workload