Have you considered renting out your apartment or home for some extra cash? Here’s why I finally decided to host with Airbnb.
In summer 2014 I was renting a luxury high-rise apartment in downtown Seattle, head-over-heels in love with my now-husband … and also barely home. As editor of a tech blog based in San Francisco, I spent every other week in the Bay Area, leaving my apartment — and its gorgeous view of the Puget Sound — empty.
It was on one of those trips to California that I had an epiphany: There I was, renting out apartments via Airbnb for 5 days at a time, that my apartment was empty. Why didn’t I do the same and make a little extra cash?
Before I even left the office for the airport, I created an account and crafted a detailed description of my gorgeous studio. As soon as I could access Wi-Fi in-flight, I already had two reservations for the next time I’d be gone on a business trip.
The secret to my mile-high success? Before I even created my account, I scoured my neighborhood for similar listings. I checked out their titles, descriptions and keywords (such as distance to Amazon, Microsoft, events and conventions.) I compared prices and pricing models to be competitive. (Airbnb now has a tool you can use to determine what your place is worth to help newbies out.)
After all, this wasn’t my primary gig — this was my primary home. That said, when I wasn’t home, I wanted it to be someone else’s home.
Airbnb was created as part of the sharing economy, which is really just about the basics of any economy — a concept everyone learns in high school. The price you set is all about supply and demand — and in the summer of 2014, there wasn’t a lot of supply, but the demand (especially for a nice apartment) was high. So with just 10 days of bookings per month, I made back my rent, plus a little extra.
There are a lot of reasons why you should host on Airbnb, including the ability to make a lot of extra cash by allowing strangers to call your house home for a few days (or weeks, or months.) It’s also a great way to dabble in investment properties, a nomadic lifestyle (without losing a permanent residence) or enjoying longer vacations without breaking the bank.
That said, here are important things to consider. After staying at multiple Airbnb residences, I knew what impressed me (and what did not.) A few gems I incorporated into my own apartment included a “handbook” with everything guests would need to know (including the Wi-Fi info, how to use the Roku box, Netflix instructions, how to navigate the apartment complex, and how to dispose of trash, etc.) as well as pamphlets from local restaurants. A big city can be overwhelming, so sharing my recommendations for the best Thai and pizza place added a personal touch and was helpful for guests.
I also took safety into consideration. I put a new lock on my closet door, which protected my items from guests. I added a hefty fee for any damages — which made sure guests who had a good time in my apartment (with leftover limes to prove it!) were still considerate of my space. Key exchanges took place only in the lobby of my complex and during daylight hours.
However, the ultimate considerations you need to be familiar with are Airbnb’s rules and the rules that govern your property. For example, if you live in a rented house or apartment, check first to see whether or not your landlord permits renters to sublet. Otherwise you run the risk of being evicted.
If you have the right to list your apartment on Airbnb, it’s an awesome opportunity to make extra cash, maybe even enough to cover the cost of your mortgage or rent while still living there part time. Just remember to put your guests first and think about what they would want. Hotel-quality towels? Patio furniture? A close walk to a job interview at a big company you live right next to? Make their stay great so you earn five-star reviews and keep a steady stream of guests!
Written by Kelly Clay