Hacking Airbnb – How to Make Money Renting Your House on Airbnb

Picture this:

You hop on a flight for spring break vacation. You spend one week soaking up the sun and enjoying the good life. You meet new people, taste delicious foods, and party with other people from all over the country.

You return home and, for the first time in one week, you check your bank account. Surprisingly, your balance has grown while you’ve been on vacation.

Wait a second. Is this scenario even possible if you’re not a rich venture capitalist?

Yes, it is.

Enter Airbnb.

More and more people are using Airbnb to make ends meet. Some of them are even earning six-figure salaries renting their apartments.

Making money on Airbnb requires three things: an empty house, an apartment or even just a room that is sitting idle, openness to meeting new people and the desire to make some extra money.

Airbnb involves sharing a personal property with travelers. This insanely successful concept evolved around the idea that part of the magic of traveling comes from feeling like you belong. By offering tourists a more immersive way to experience a destination, the founders of Airbnb have created a business that it’s worth $30 billion today.

And, the good news is that you can have a piece of the cake too.

If you’re thinking of testing the waters, in this comprehensive guide, you’ll find everything you need to know about how to make money renting your house on Airbnb.

How Airbnb Works?

Airbnb is an online platform that provides alternative accommodation options. It also represents a way to make money for those who are open enough to accept strangers into their homes.

Simply put, Airbnb connects helpless tourists in need of cheaper or more unique accommodation with hosts that offer anything from single rooms to fairy tale castles. However, both the host and the guest must be ready to accept paying a small fee.

Airbnb is the largest player in this niche market. It’s active in over 190 countries and has over 60 million tourists as customers.

The platform’s original motivation was to supply a way for people with spare spaces in their homes to make a use of their empty places in times when the accommodation in the city was insufficient for the number of travelers (during festivals or other major events) or when hotels were offering overpriced services. Nowadays, Airbnb has become a top choice for all types of travelers, from short breaks tourists and backpackers to business people that are looking for an authentic experience.

Why Host on Airbnb?

Why Host on Airbnb?

Part of what makes Airbnb such a successful business concept is that it allows people to earn an extra income without investing too much time or money. But, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any downsides to renting your home on Airbnb.

Making your home open to someone that you don’t know comes with some risks. First of all, the amount of work necessary to make your Airbnb hustle legal can become a bit stressful, depending on the state you are living in. There are also some terrifying stories about houses that have been trashed or robbed, although they represent less than 1% of the overall experiences.

But if you have the courage to let someone stay at your home, you can turn your Airbnb hustle into a very profitable business. As a host, you will have the freedom to set your prices and choose how much you want to charge depending on the season.

If you are social and enjoy getting acquainted with people of different nationalities and cultural backgrounds, you can form a network of connections from all over the world. Airbnb is commonly used by both tourists and business people, so you will have a chance to meet representatives from all kinds of social circles.

Not to mention, having a place empty for too much time can become a pain in the neck. Placing it on Airbnb comes with the perks of always finding a house sitter that will not only warm your house but also pay you to let him do that.

Airbnb Host Requirements

Airbnb Host Requirements

To become a host, you first need to set up an account. Getting on Airbnb is free for both the hosts and the guests, and it can be easily done using only your email address or your Facebook or Google+ account. Once you’re all set up, the fun begins.

The Legal Aspects

First of all, you should get informed about the legal context of house-sharing in your state and your city. Some cities in the United States have imposed restrictions regarding the number of days that you can rent your place through house-sharing, the number of guests you can host or the number of rooms you can provide for tourists. In other areas, you might need to obtain a permit or a license before starting your Airbnb journey.  Given the fact that these types of rentals fall outside the tourist system make sure you oblige with the jurisdiction laws. You don’t want to receive penalties or fines or have to deal with any types of law enforcement. Take time to research the way occupancy taxes must be handled. In some states, Airbnb has already managed to secure the burden of taxes as their responsibility. Check if you are lucky enough to have your housing in these places.

The Privacy Aspects

Getting on Airbnb as a host means entering a community where each member’s privacy must be respected. If you have surveillance devices placed in your home for security reasons, make sure your guests are aware by making it very clear in your housing description. Otherwise, the guest will have the right to cancel the reservation and ask for the refund while you, as a host, might have to deal with penalties.

Be Time Committed

If you are serious about making a profit through Airbnb, then you’ll need to invest a few hours every week. You need to be constantly online and available to interact with your potential guests in real time. You will have to chat and answer questions regarding the accommodation you can provide before a person is convinced to rent your space. You’ll have to come up with a system to check guests in and out. Not to mention, you’ll also have to manage cleaning, whether you choose to do it yourself or hire a specialized service.

Get your Landlord’s Approval

If you don’t own the house or apartment you want to rent, you have to get your landlord’s permission before you set up an account. Check your contract if it allows subleasing your house or parts of it. If there is no such stipulation, ask for your landlord’s permission.

Authenticity

The Airbnb community has managed to grow based on trust and reliability. The details about your house should be accurate and correct. Otherwise, your low ratings will alert both future guests and Airbnb that you are not suitable to continue as a host. Your responsibility is to provide a correct description of the house, real images of your place, and ensure that all habitation standards are respected. By that, we’re referring to electricity, heat, running water and cleanliness.

Airbnb Hosting Standards

Airbnb Hosting Standards

“Hospitality is the secret to success,” is one of Airbnb’s mottos. So, to ensure that every experience is as best as it can be, there are several hosting standards that the company imposes for both hosts and guests. Once you’ve embarked on the Airbnb journey, you must be ready to work hard to ensure that your hospitality gets fantastic reviews.

The math is pretty simple: good reviews mean more guests; more guests mean more money on Airbnb.

Cha-Ching!

To get positive reviews, you need to pay attention to some of the following aspects:

  • Always update your availability: keep a very organized calendar, so that the platform knows when your space is unavailable
  • Communicate in a timely manner: make yourself available for your guests and be ready to share information about the housing, the check-in/check-out hours, and other issues, so that everyone’s experience enrolls smoothly
  • Be committed to reservations: always get the accommodation ready before your guests arrive. If, for some reasons, you need to cancel the reservation, make sure your guests have enough time to find other places to rent
  • Be accurate: share only real information and set clear expectations regarding the services you are offering, and price your home Otherwise, your account can get suspended

Is Hosting on Airbnb Safe?

Is Hosting on Airbnb Safe?

One question that everybody has regarding Airbnb is if it is safe. Obviously, there’s the risk that you’ll come across people who are neither polite nor respectful. There have been cases when Airbnb hosts faced extraordinary things: a house destroyed after a party, tourists who changed the locks and did not want to leave, etc. The company faced a PR crisis in 2011 regarding this issue when a renter’s home was trashed and robbed, and the story reached all media outlets. Since then, Airbnb has implemented a complex system that has become the standard in the house-sharing industry.

The platform doesn’t accept anonymity and has a review system that works both ways. If renters or hosts get too many low remarks, they are suspended or given penalties. Reviews represent the most legitimate feedback about the host or the guest, and it motivates people to be respectful and to fulfill their responsibilities and obligations.

Before a reservation is booked, parties can communicate only through the Airbnb platform. By doing so, Airbnb can keep an eye on the closed communication between hosts and guests and ensure that everything remains safe and secure. Also, both the renter and guest are screened through authorized and verified credit card information. After the reservation is booked, parties are given each other’s contact information so they can communicate more easily.

Payments are secured through online banking methods. When a guest books a reservation, they have to introduce their credit card data to ensure that the host will get paid. There are multiple payment methods: international banking transfer through a PayPal account or money transfer services. The payment is made a day after the guest has arrived at your property.

An important thing offered by Airbnb is the opportunity to reject a reservation request if you feel that your potential guest is not trustworthy. A host has no obligation to accept a reservation request if he doesn’t feel comfortable. If you need more information about a prospective guest, the platform has a Facebook Connect tool that allows hosts to request recommendations from friends.

However, if these safety measures prove to be inefficient, Airbnb provides a host guarantee insurance of $1,000,000 – “Peace of mind. Guaranteed”. The insurance is accessible for hosts all over the world and covers protection for damages not exceeding $1,000,000. If a host is having problems, he can contact the company and ask for refunds. However, the insurance doesn’t cover all types of belongings or personal liability, so you might need to consider getting a comprehensive private insurance plan.

Tips for Listing on Airbnb

Tips for Listing on Airbnb

Listing a property on Airbnb is quite easy. The platform is simple and user-friendly, so you will manage to upload your listing in no time. But if you want to stand out in the crowd, there are a few tips to follow.

Your Title

Many people underestimate the importance of a catchy and explicit title. Here’s a good example: “Luminous and modern two-room apartment in downtown.” If you are a bit creative, you can even brand your space. Whatever you choose, make sure it is easy to remember. You don’t need to specify the name of the city in your title, as tourists get to your listing after preselecting the location. However, if your house is located in the suburbs, you should mention that in the title.

Your Description

Here are the rules of an excellent description: make it clear, compelling, and, above all, make it honest. Give as many details as you can to help potential guests get an accurate idea of what you can offer them. Don’t make false or exaggerated claims. If you want to be even more proficient, you can translate your description in other languages, such as Spanish or Mandarin. That way, you can give your potential guests a boost of trust. Remember: your presentation is one of the elements that hook potential guests.

Your Images

The best Airbnb listings are the ones that have good photographs of the apartment. The logic is simple: the better the quality of the pictures, the higher the number of reservations requests.

Make an effort to take well-lit pictures during the day, when you can emphasize the natural lighting. Choose the ones that can give potential guests a better understanding of how the apartment looks, how big it is, and so on. You can even look at some of your more expensive competitors to see which angles they use to highlight the beauty of their property.

Airbnb also provides complimentary professional photography services to hosts. Check and see if the services are available in your region.

Your House Rules

Airbnb allows all hosts to set their own housing rules, so take the time to analyze whatever limits you want to impose on your guests. Take into consideration your needs, the tourists’ expectations, as well as the general rules of your neighborhood. For example, if you live in a quiet building with private entrance, specify the silence hours. Make it clear in your rules if smoking is allowed; mention the maximum number of people that can stay in your place and if you allow visitors; mention if house sitters must perform certain house duties, such as taking out the garbage.

Your Profile

Your profile represents one of the most important elements of your Airbnb account. It has the power to convince a traveler that you are worthy of his trust. Complete your profile details as thoroughly and transparently as possible to let visitors know what to expect from you as their host.

Your Price

One of the most important aspects that people pay attention to when renting a house on Airbnb is the price. Before setting the price, check your competition. Search other places that people can rent on Airbnb from your area and check the pricing, look at the pictures, and analyze their success. Research some of the hotels as well and see what they are offering in their price range. If many properties are competing in the same area, you can choose to offer a lower price to get into the market. Take into account the fee you will have to pay to Airbnb and the costs each guest generates – cleaning supplies or services, utilities, and so on.

If you’re serious about making money on Airbnb, you’ll need to be flexible with your price. Pay attention to the market’s request and raise or lower your housing fee according to the season. If you know that there is an event coming up the next month, you can increase the price since there’s a good chance there will be an influx of tourists. On the other hand, if you don’t get enough guests, you can lower the price to make your listing more appealing.

Airbnb also provides a dynamic automatic pricing tool for hosts, that automatically increases and decreases the price of your listing, based on demand in your area. You have the ability to set a minimum and maximum price that it operates in.

Hosting Checklist

Hosting Checklist

So, everything is up and running. Your listing has caught the attention of tourists, and you have secured your first reservation. Now, you need to prepare your place for the guests’ arrival.

No matter the level of comfort you are willing to provide, you should always welcome your guests into a clean, inviting setting. Think of your Airbnb property as a professional accommodation service to maximize the visitors’ excitement and ensure positive reviews.

  1. Setting Up the House

One of the first things you need to do to impress your guests is to take their desires and expectations into consideration when setting up the place. Think of your furnishings in terms of function and form. Don’t overcrowd the space and choose a minimalistic decoration, so that you don’t have to worry about the things that might get broken or affected by your visitors. Simple Ikea pieces will work just fine.

  1. Clean Your Home

Take some days to scrub the entire house before your guests arrive. Clean the kitchen, the hallways, the bathroom, and every space where your guests will have access to. An unclean environment is what kills many Airbnb hosting careers. If a few months pass since your last rental, make an effort to refresh your home, even if you’ve already cleaned the location after your previous guests have left. Other actions should include:

  • Vacuum the carpets and mop your floors
  • Wipe the countertops and remove furniture stains
  • Make your bathroom squeaky clean. Clean the sink, the bathtub, and the toilet
  1. Fix Hazards

Leave no wire exposed, no step loose and no furniture broken. Fix anything that might injure a person, so that you avoid possible negative outcomes.

  1. Replace Old Sheets With Fresh Ones

This advice might seem redundant for some people. However, you’ll be surprised to discover how many hosts fail to follow this basic rule. You must change bed sheets after each guest. Buy some extra sets if you don’t want to bother with cleaning bed sheets every week. It’s a simple investment that will help you avoid bad reviews.

  1. Empty the Refrigerator

This is a rule from the “clean your house after every guest” category. However, we must insist on the importance of throwing away any leftovers from previous visitors. Nobody wants to see a half-eaten pizza in the refrigerator or any other items used by someone who rented the house before them. Make sure there’s fresh water in the fridge. If you are willing to walk the extra mile, you can stock your fridge with fruits, eggs, dairy, or other basic food items.

  1. Get Your Bathroom Sparkly

A good Airbnb apartment offers three basic things: a clean bed, a clean kitchen, and a clean toilet. But, remember: you are trying to score some extra points and get more potential guests interested in your listing. So, it’s a good idea to provide toiletry such as bath towels (two per guest), toilet paper, hand soap, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothpaste and whatever you feel could be needed. You can also charge more because of these amenities.

  1. Secure Your Valuables

If you are renting a room in your home or if guests will be staying in your house for more than a week, you should make sure that your valuables are safe and protected. Take valuable things like jewelry, fine china, and silver plates, financial documents, personal documents or albums with family photographs and safeguard them by making them inaccessible to guests. One idea would be to place all these items in a locked closet where guests wouldn’t have access.  If you need something foolproof, you can even buy a safe box that will protect you from sneaky eyes.

  1. Make a Guest Key

Ensure that you have at least a spare key that you can give to your guest. Never provide a visitor with your only key since you should always have a replacement in case anything happens.

Airbnb Tips and Tricks for Hosts

Airbnb Tips and Tricks for Hosts

There is always something more that you could do to improve the overall experience of your guests. If your primary purpose is to obtain excellent reviews on the platform, then you should do everything you can to make your guests feel pampered.

Go the Extra Mile

It’s important to understand that your level of interaction will influence the number of tourists who will rent your property. If you want to create an Airbnb business that will earn you substantial profits, you have to offer extra services, at least at the beginning. Start by checking the reviews for the most popular listings and learn from the feedback tourists are giving. You’ll notice that people appreciate the small extra things hosts are doing.

Don’t Make Your Guests Wait for You

If you are providing accommodation in a major city through Airbnb, the chances are that your guests will arrive at different times. Get yourself ready to greet them. If your schedule doesn’t allow you to do so, ask a friend to do this for you. The important thing is that someone should greet your guests, no matter their arrival time. You can rest assured that you won’t get any positive feedback if your guests have to sit around and wait for you for hours.

Pick Them Up from the Airport

One of the best things you can do to make a first good impression is to pick up your guests at the airport or the train stations. Not only that you’ll reduce the number of messages you exchange, but you’ll also make things a lot easier for them. And, believe us, they’ll truly appreciate it.

If you are not available or willing to take care of their commute, then provide accurate information regarding transportation, such as taxi fees, bus and train connections, and other indication that might help them.

Make It Easy for Them to Get Around

Create a “Welcome Card” for your guests and add any information that you think they might find helpful. Include a card with your contact details, a list of the best restaurant, museums, and other interesting activities.

Check with them the next day to ensure that everything is OK and ask them if they need something else for their stay. If you have some time and willingness to socialize, you could even spend an evening with your guests and accompany them to the places that they would want to see.

Differentiate Yourself

Try to offer something special to differentiate yourself from the competition: a meal to a restaurant, a free ride to a touristic sight, a jar of home-made cookies, etc. We guarantee that your guests will appreciate your effort and recommend you to their friends.

Ask for References

Beginnings are rough. The same stays true for your Airbnb career. If you are new to the platform, you’ll find it difficult to secure your first guest. People are usually looking for established places that have already been tried by travelers. They want to know what to expect.

The good news is that there is a solution to this problem. Even if you are new to the platform, you can ask your friends and family to write references. Have them “stay” at your place and leave you a review. You can offer them exclusive discounts or the lowest possible rate to persuade them to write great reviews about your accommodation and your skills as a host.

Handling a Bad Review on Airbnb

Handling a Bad Review on Airbnb

Sometimes, things can go wrong even if you worked every aspect of your guests’ stay. At the end of the day, nobody can please everybody. As reservations are piling up and more tourists choose your property, it is only a matter of time until something fails and a bad review gets published on your account. No matter the circumstances of why your guests have left you a low rating, you need to stay calm and handle the situation quickly and tactfully.

Apologize to the guests for anything that hasn’t been working properly. Even if you don’t agree with the feedback, hosting is a business and “the customer is always right.” Let people know that you are genuinely feeling sorry for the bad experience and you are doing everything in your powers to fix the issues. If you think it was the customer’s fault for the bad experience, remember that you have 14 days after the checkout to review the guest.

If the feedback is too harsh, write a public response to the review and explain what went wrong and how you are fixing it so that future guests don’t experience the same problem.

Your reviews are permanent, so be professional in every aspect, from the way you treat your guests to the way you handle an online disagreement. Always acknowledge your fault and take your reviews as an opportunity to improve your property and the comfort of your future guests.

Don’t forget that the best prevention of a bad review is good communication. By always staying in touch with your guests and assuring that they have everything they need, you can avoid low reviews. Many times, bad reviews can come as a result of a misunderstanding. Therefore, keep in contact with your guests and solve their issues right on time.

Simple Key Exchange

Simple Key Exchange

The key exchange is the first guest-host contact, so try making it as comfortable and pleasant as possible. Remember that your goal is always to get a positive review, so you need to create a smooth experience for your guests.

Ask a Friend to Help You with the Key Exchange

The most common key exchange solution is leaving your key with someone who stays nearby, whether it’s a friend, a relative or a neighbor. Give your guests the number of the person responsible for the key and make sure that your friends are available to meet and greet the guests. This method works best if you compensate your key-deliverer for their trouble.

Drop the Key to a Nearby Shop

Another method is to drop the key to a nearby shop or cafe from where guests can easily pick it up. This process requires having total confidence in the staff of the shop/cafe to be responsible and attentive. However, make sure that your guests arrive within the business’ working hours. Otherwise, getting the key might become more complicated than needed.

Use an External Service

If you can’t coordinate on your own, there are external services that help you establish a key exchange system. For a small pick-up commission, you can work with agencies that coordinate with coffee houses or stores to manage key exchanges. There are property management companies that can take off the entire burden of meeting and greeting tourists but charge somewhere between 15% and 30% of your renting fee.

Use a Key Box

A very simple and efficient option is installing a lockbox with a simple code that you can share with your guests. That way, they can always have access to the key, no matter the hour of the check in. You can either put it directly on the front door or hide it around the exterior of the house to keep it private from neighbors.

A smart lock is the most convenient method for both the host and the guest. You can also install a digital lock that you can control remotely via your mobile device. Or you can pass the code to your guests and change it every time they check out.

List Property on Other Sites as Well

Let’s do a little math. If you want to make a profit renting your house on Airbnb, the occupancy level needs to be at least 70% every month.

Placing your property on other house-sharing increases your chances of having it booked on a regular basis. Airbnb is the largest and most popular platform in the world, but it’s not the only one. Consider HomeAway, VRBO or FlipKey to improve your chances of finding guests. You could even check some of the international options that specialize in certain kinds of renting: for groups, for families, and so on.

Note that each site has its regulations and you must comply with their demands. Learn about the platform’s audience and their expectations. For instance, on websites like HomeAway or VRBO, people tend to look for more expensive housing. Keep a very organized schedule, so that you don’t get yourself in the situation of having two reservations booked for the same period on two different platforms. Airbnb has the capability to import booking calendars from some of the other rental sites, to keep things in sync, and not have guests double book your property.

Becoming an Airbnb Super Host. Is It Worth it?

If you manage to grow your Airbnb business enough that you secure at least ten reservations in a year, you get a chance of becoming a Super Host. If hosts meet several benchmarks, they get the Super Host badge on their profile that ensures more visibility and more benefits.

You need to keep a high response rate of at least 90% and have over 80% of your reviews be 5 stars. The commitment of a super host is much appreciated, as they rarely cancel confirmed reservations.

Becoming a Super Host is not difficult, but you must impress guests with your hospitality skills. This requires time and dedication. Everything must be in perfect order, starting with your presentation and finishing with the overall experience. The perks are attractive, as super hosts that maintain their status for more than a year receive travel coupons and are given priority support when calling Airbnb. Oh, and they also get invites to exclusive events.

Conclusion

If you have a flair for hospitality and you are open to receiving strangers in your home, Airbnb can help you make ends meet or earn some extra profits. You need to decide from the beginning the amount of time you are ready to invest in developing a house-sharing business.

Numerous people have managed to create real businesses through Airbnb, owning several properties and making over six-figures. The good news is that you can do the same if you follow the tips we’ve mentioned in this guide.

In the end, keep in mind that it’s your duty to ensure that your guest’s experience is enjoyable. It is also your responsibility to get into compliance with your local laws and regulations and ensure that your Airbnb activity is safe and legal.

The great part about Airbnb is that you have full control over the people you allow to rent your house. The platform allows you to refuse reservations and gives refunds if you feel that your guests are not respecting your desires.

Becoming a host on Airbnb is a real journey that can fulfill your life with wonderful experiences, cultural exchange, and new worldwide connections. Once you follow the rules, the tips, and the advice offered in this guide, you can follow your path to Airbnb riches.

Do you have an empty house, a welcoming property or a spare room? Become a host and start making money on Airbnb now!

4 Comments

  1. Michelle February 22, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    I enjoyed your article. I am looking forward to renting on Airbnb and I think reading your article will help me avoid some potential pitfalls.

    Reply
    1. Ian February 22, 2017 at 9:47 pm

      That’s great Michelle, best of luck in your Airbnb journey.

      Reply
  2. Ankit February 27, 2017 at 5:46 am

    A well written post. Everything you covered about Airbnb.

    Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Ian March 10, 2017 at 1:01 am

      Thanks Ankit!

      Reply

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