When you are single and traveling; it is likely that you are leaving behind an empty home. Many people think to use Airbnb or VRBO for a lodging while traveling; but renting out your house, condo, or apartment can be a source of money to cover your travel expenses. Learn how to finance travel through Airbnb.
On vacations, I like to stay in a hotel where I know I can be pampered with fresh towels each day and go out to eat. However there is a large market of people that prefer lodging with a kitchen so they can save money on food. I own a condo on Capitol Hill, a popular area of Seattle with lots of restaurants, bars, and is only a few blocks from downtown. Seattle has one of the highest hotel occupancy rates in the country, 80% compared to a nationwide rate of 64%. Consequently, hotel rates in Seattle are insanely high especially during the summer season (when the sun comes out and Seattle shines).
I posted my condo on Airbnb for the first time in January 2014 when I was going to be in Hawaii for a week. Over the next 9 months I was able to rent it out every time I went out of town, a total of 15 times that brought in over $6,000. Sometimes I actually made a profit on my vacations. Unfortunately, and this is something to take into consideration, my condo association decided to ban short term rentals of condo units so I was forced to stop renting out my condo.
Do you live in a metropolitan area or vacation destination? You may be able to finance travel through Airbnb with a little work. And you might even enjoy it.
- Start by listing your home at a discounted rate. Check your city to see what comparable homes are being rented for and reduce yours by 50% for the first few rentals. People are not as likely to rent from a new listing, so this gets your home noticed and also allows you to get a few good reviews right off the bat.
- Photos are everything. Make sure you take photos that show your home in detail. Take the photos on an overcast day with the curtains open for the best lighting. Once you have rented out your home 3 times, you will be eligible for a free photo session with a local photographer through Airbnb. Take them up on this offer; you will get free professional photos and your photos will be watermarked with “Airbnb Verified”.
- Respond to potential guests immediately. Download the Airbnb app and respond to anyone who contacts you within an hour. This shows that you care about your guests and can be trusted. These are your customers. This also includes leaving a review for your guest immediately after they leave. I always would contact my guest as well to make sure everything went well.
- Clean. Clean. And then clean again. It is essential that your home be immaculate. Vacuum. Mop the floors. Scrub the tile work. Take off the seat and scrub down the toilet. If it is not clean, your guest will not give you a good review. Hire a house cleaner if you have to.
- Focus on the guest experience. Invest in two sets of white towels (bath, hand, washcloth) and a new set of sheets. Leave a bottle of wine for your guest. Have coffee and milk on hand. Leave a personalized note with a map of the city. Have instructions printed for everything (I laminated mine). Make “Clean” signs on the towels and bed. Provide bottles of shampoo/condition and a new bar of soap (when traveling I’d make sure to bring home these supplies from the hotel). Provide an iPhone charger for the guest to use. Think what an out of town guest would need. My condo is in the heart of the city and can be loud; I provided guests with a set of disposable ear plugs.
- Figure out the key hand off. Often when I would travel, my flight would leave before my guest arrived. Or I would be at work when they planned to get to my home. So I purchased a Master Lock key box with combination lock that I attached to a gate on my property. This allowed them to enter the unit with out the need for me to be present. Of all my guests, I only met 1 of them in person.
- Think safety. Both for you as the owner and for them as the guest. I invested in a fire extinguisher and first aid kit, installed a carbon monoxide detector and purchased a new fire detector. These were all things I needed in my home anyway, but I now had an excuse to spend some money on it. Airbnb verifies all hosts and guests through various means and I only rented to people who had at least one review. But you should definitely take steps for your own protection as well. I changed out the door knobs on two of my closets so I could lock them while away. I put all my valuables and anything I didn’t want the guest to use in these closets. I also have safe that I put my important documents in. I never had any issue with things going missing, but it gave me peace of mind knowing that things were locked away.
Note: If you own your home/condo, you are probably in the clear to list on Airbnb. If you have an HOA, you can check with them if it is allowed to rent out your place, but I would also suggest that it is better to ask forgiveness than permission. Maybe you will get a fine, but likely you will come off with a slap on the wrist if they don’t allow short term rentals. If you are renting your home/apartment, I would suggest taking more time to look into the idea of subletting; it would not be fun to return from your vacation to an eviction notice.
Airbnb was good for me while it lasted. I was able to travel even more than before knowing that renting out my condo would bring in enough money to pay for my flight and possibly some of my hotel stay.