From 2014 through 2015, I took the crazy leap into becoming an Airbnb host.
I’m a landlord in Atlanta, and I decided to turn one of my rental properties into an AirBnB unit for one year. I wanted to see if I could earn more on the property through hosting instead of contracting a traditional lease.
In those 12 months of hosting travelers through AirBnB, I earned $28,268.35, met some fascinating people from around the world, and learned a massive amount of skills, tips and systems around successful Airbnb hosting.
Today I’m revealing the good, the bad and the ugly of the lessons I learned as an AirBnB host.
1) Customers want you to subsidize their vacation
I’m a person, not a strict corporation with policies, so some people try to negotiate with me. Roughly 1 in 10 potential guests ask for a discount, which they usually phrase like this:
“We’re coming to Atlanta for a wedding. We spent too much money on the bridesmaid dresses. Can you lower your price to $50 a night?”
What these guests don’t realize is that they’re asking me to reduce the profits that pay for the mortgage.
These guests see me as someone making extra pocket money. They don’t recognize that I’m running a business. I have to cover my expenses and get paid for my time.
Here’s how I respond:
- On a tight budget? Try renting a room in a shared space (roommate-style), which is cheaper than renting the whole home.
- Alternately, try a different location in a cheaper neighborhood.
- If that doesn’t work, here’s the phone number for Super 8 motel; they’re in the same neighborhood and have a significantly lower rate.
Surprisingly, most of these guests book at full price after they get that response.
2) AirBnB is about hospitality and customer service
When people book your space for their vacation, they want a guest experience ‘ not just a bedroom and kitchen.
As an AirBnB host, I see my role as that of a hotel concierge. I offer complimentary bottles of water, give directions and offer restaurant suggestions. I supply my guests with an abundance of fresh, fluffy bath towels, matching plates and mugs, wine glasses and a few coffee table books.
In short, I make the space feel like a sanctuary and try to anticipate anything they’ll need before they have to request it.
3) Being an AirBnB host makes it tough to travel
If you had a friend or family member visiting you, would you schedule a trip at the same time? Of course not. You’d stay home to play host.
The same is true as an Airbnb host: it’s hard to travel.
You can’t check on your guests, or provide extra towels and linens if you’re going to be out-of-state. As a landlord, traveling is much easier; as an Airbnb host who’s responsible for replacing the dishwashing liquid when it runs dry, you’re much more shackled down.
Don’t book guests if you’re going to be out-of-town. And if you end up needing to leave town at the last minute (after accepting a booking), let the guest know ASAP so that they can voice any special requests ahead-of-time.
4) You meet fascinating people
As an Airbnb host, you will meet people who are leading thrilling, incredible lives. These are just a few of the real-life amazing people I’ve had the privilege of hosting:
- Broadway performers
- Full-time clockmakers who travel the nation attending art fairs
- Ravers who travel the globe looking for the next party
- A nuclear engineering student
I love meeting people from across the globe, and one of my favorite aspects of Airbnb is that I can achieve this from home.
5) Set expectations upfront
Customer service is my top priority. I know that sounds like a cliché, but I put my money where my mouth is.
I bought a dedicated wifi router (rather than piggybacking off another unit in the building) so that the Airbnb guests could have high-speed connectivity.
I pay for cable TV for the Airbnb unit, even though I don’t have this in my own personal home.
I supply the unit with anything that a 5-star hotel would provide, including an iron and ironing board, coffee maker, hairdryer and full-length mirror (that came after a guest requested one!)
6) Complaints are exhausting
I joke that AirBnB hosting taught me that people will complain about anything and everything. For example:
- One person complained that there’s a step between the kitchen and bedroom.
- One person complained that there’s no rocking chair.
- My personal favorite: One guest called to say the weather is too hot and humid.
Take complaints and feedback seriously ‘ but not too seriously. When a guest suggested that I add a full-length mirror to the unit, I thought: ‘Yeah, that’s a great idea!’ and added it. It cost less than $20 and created a more valuable guest experience.
But when a guest asks for a rocking chair … well, that might be outside the scope of reasonable expectation.
The bottom line
In 12 months, I earned $7,185.11 more money as an Airbnb host than I would have as a traditional landlord. This breaks down to an extra $598.76 per month.
(You can read my full income report here, which includes a breakdown of exactly how much I collected in gross revenue, spent on expenses and kept as net profits.)
Airbnb hosting is fun and profitable. Just make sure that you’re treating it like a business, and set up the systems that will allow you to run it correctly from Day One.
If you’re interested, check out my free guide to becoming an Airbnb host.