A growing number of people are hosting guests in their home through platforms like Airbnb, home exchanges, couchsurfing, or housesitting. And this means lots of guests who need to know house rules, where to find stuff, and how basic things work. Some hosts just put out a single sheet of paper with the wifi password and other important info. Others create a guidebook, with pages of information about every aspect of their home, and local recommendations for fun, food and more. And some hosts post sticky notes around the house with instructions wherever needed.
Paper is a bit old school, and it’s not very adaptable. When I had a paper guide to my home, I’d have to print it out for each guest since various things changed (like the door code). I’m pretty sure most guests would glance at it when they arrived, but only look through my guide when they actually needed to know something (how to work the washing machine, where to take out the trash, etc.) That’s fine, but paper is such an inefficient medium for this.
Some of the larger networks have started offering their own home guide templates. Airbnb has a template to add a house manual to listings within their system. I don’t have a listing on there and haven’t stayed anywhere that used this house manual so I can’t say if it’s any good. But it is limited to just the Airbnb platform, so that won’t help people offering their homes on multiple platforms. Some home exchange networks also offer exchange agreements that can include information about the home and house rules. But those tend to be basic and focused on the print out or email format.
The Guest to Guest home exchange network created Happy Guest to put home guides online, but sadly it’s only in French so you have to use google translate if you don’t speak French. It’s also a bit buggy (headers don’t display properly when entering information) and only includes a few boxes for entering information. For my purposes Happy Guest is too basic to be an improvement over an email or printed guide. Also, I don’t think I can use a website that presents in a language most of my guests don’t speak.
There are a few products on the market targeting professional home managers. If you’re making good money on Airbnb or similar platforms, these tools are worth considering. But you have to pay. For those of us focused on home exchange, couchsurfing, and other free lodging networks, paying for these products probably isn’t a good investment.
TouchStay – $70 per year
Hostfully – free to create one guide but it will display sponsored recommendations to your guests, $95.88/year for premium services removing sponsored ads
Ping – this looks like a nifty idea, but it’s not available yet – hosts create videos and voice recordings that guests can access on their smart phone at various touchpoints around the house. It’s a digital guidebook that’s more interactive than static written descriptions.
There is one free app I know about that offers a nice digital home guide: Coral. Unfortunately when I revisited their website to update my home guide recently I found it very slow and buggy. I started using this app when they released it publicly in 2017 have been using it since then. For a while they were improving the functionality, but now has gotten worse. Hopefully this is just a temporary glitch, but I’m concerned their business model (free) isn’t working out and they’ll shut down soon.
Reply with a comment if you know about another app or website for creation of digital home guides. I’d love to find some more options.