We Were Airbnb Hosts For 3 Years– Here’s What We Learned (and Earned!)

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I’ve heard from people who are interested in making a side-hustle out of renting some of their space through Airbnb. As a renter, I haven’t had the opportunity to sign up to be a host on Airbnb, so I thought I would ask someone close to me who has– my parents! After three years of hosting, they have a lot to say about their experience. Take it away, mom!

Why We Decided To Be Airbnb Hosts

We have been Airbnb hosts for three years. It started as a side hustle after our two grown daughters (including Financial Mechanic) left the nest. At that time it was more about filling the void than about the added income. We found ourselves with two extra bedrooms. Why not fill them? It seemed the ethical thing to do, environmentally responsible even.

I will go over:

  1. The steps to becoming an Airbnb host.
  2. Our experiences with guests, good and bad.
  3. What we have learned.
  4. How much we made..
  5. Advice for anyone who is curious about hosting.

Let’s get to it!

The Steps to Becoming Airbnb Hosts

It was incredibly easy to set up. We snapped some photos, wrote up a description of our place by filling in some boxes on the website, picked a name for our place and in about 30 minutes we had our two rooms up and listed on the site.

Our living room photo for the listing

We had an Airbnb business! We saw our first booking pop up within the week and we were very excited. We had no idea what kind of people would soon be coming to stay with us in our house!

Our Experiences With Airbnb Guests

Most Memorable Guest

Our very first guest was a brave young girl from Provence, France. She showed up at our door at midnight and we were both there to greet her. We invited her for a Thanksgiving meal, as neither of our daughters could make it home for the holiday. She invited us to stay if ever we were in Provence and left us a glowing first review. We will never forget her!

Our guest had her first Thanksgiving meal with us (actual meal not pictured)

Next, Gretchen from Germany came to town for a conference. She had a PhD in film and fascinated us with information about advances in technology for film making. She presented us with a host gift of a new DVD.

Over the following weeks and months we saw a long stream of visitors: Vladimir from Russia, Valentina from Italy, Juan from Spain, Dixie and Tom from Texas. Most here as tourists, some on business and most were very respectful and wonderful people.

The Awkward Guest

And then there are the not-so-ideal guests. Like the guy who said he was searching for a place to rent and he parked himself in the living room for two weeks streaming videos. Not sure how you find a rental place that way. I have a feeling his parents had kicked him out after an ultimatum!

The Worst Guests We’ve Had

We weren’t too thrilled with the older couple who by their own admission, “were not used to being considerate of other people.”  She practiced her singing for hours at a time. It was of the operatic variety; apparently she was preparing for a performance at their church. He, on the other hand, spent all day in the kitchen cooking some cruciferous concoction that made the house stink for days. We breathed a sigh of relief when they left.

Valuable Lessons From Hosting on Airbnb

Communicating as a Host

It takes a lot of communication to run an Airbnb. People want to know how to check-in, they ask where they can park or what the public transportation is like. The most common question of all is, “Can I check-in early?”

The problem is that in order to properly clean the place and wash the sheets and towels, we need all of the time between check-out and check-in. We usually decline but offer a place to drop bags off early in a secure area.

Learn the Laws in Your State

The rules vary state to state. For example, in our state the listing has to be your primary residence. For us that means we are often on our best behavior because guests are around. You can’t just nip into the kitchen at night in your skivvies!

The Cost of Doing Business

Luckily, you don’t have to handle money and you feel secure as Airbnb checks a person’s ability to pay. However, you can get burned if you accept a booking on behalf of someone else. This happens fairly regularly so it’s something to watch out for.

Additionally, you have to deal with clogged toilets and broken furniture, lost keys and late check-ins.

For us, the extra income and benefits of hosting outweigh these costs, but they are something you will want to prepare for.

A Surprising Side Effect of Being A Host

One of the upsides of hosting is in finding the things people leave behind. A young woman forgot her platform shoes that were likely taller than Gene Simmons’ from the band KISS. They would be perfect for a Halloween costume. Once I collected a pair of pants still with tags on (never worn and in my size!), a gorgeous cashmere sweater, even a canister of enough pot to get an entire high school class stoned.

We contact the guests but they rarely come back to collect.

The Extra Income Earned from Hosting an Airbnb

Another positive of course is the extra income. Almost daily is an email in my inbox saying Airbnb has deposited ‘X’ number of dollars into the bank account. Those dollars can then go towards a vacation or trip for us! This makes it all seem worthwhile.

Last year we earned $15,128 (before taxes).  The lowest earned in a month was in January ($800), and the most earned was in June ($2,100). This averages to be $1,260 per month, which covers the cost of our mortgage and a little extra.

We were away on vacation all of November and half of December
$ 0
Earned in one year

Advice For Setting Up Your Airbnb Profile

Pre-approving Guests

If you are unsure about hosting, you can set it up so you pre-approve guests. We are so glad we did this to start because we learned that people can book entire months at a time, but we prefer short-term guests and set our limit to a week at a time. Once you realize that guests treat your home with respect, you stop worrying so much about who to accept.

Setting a Fair Price

As far as setting a price, look in your area. Check what types of amenities are offered (like tea and coffee) and be sure to include those in your listing.

You can let Airbnb automatically set the price, but this can result in a lower price than you would want to cover your costs. Personally, I recommend doing the market research and setting prices yourself. On holidays you can charge more (on Labor Day weekend we doubled our price and we were still fully booked!)

Provide tea and coffee for your Airbnb guests!

Customer Service for Disputes

Airbnb has excellent customer service and although we haven’t needed it yet, they help to mediate disputes. This gives us peace of mind as hosts.

Questions To Ask Yourself Before Becoming An Airbnb Host:

  • Do you like meeting people from around the world?
  • Would it feel good to get your home in order and clear out the junk?
  • Would you like a few thousand in extra income per year with almost no initial financial outlay?

If you have extra space and want to earn extra income using your home, you can sign up to be an Airbnb host using my referral link.

What Do You Think?

Have you thought about listing an extra room or two on Airbnb?

Have you used Airbnb as a guest?

What was your most memorable Airbnb experience?

Let me know in the comments below!

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8 Comments

  1. That sounds like a great experience! I love going to Airbnbs myself and prefer it over a hotel, it’s nice to meet people who are from around there and they often give you great tips of what to visit. I’ve been in some strange Airbnbs, where someone slept in the living room or the location was on a trailer park including cockroaches. Most Airbnbs were lovely though!

    Airbnb is very regulated in the Netherlands, meaning that you can’t do it for more than 90 days of the year. I’d love to do it in the future if we decide to buy a house. Great post!

    1. Wow that does sound strange! I think I’ve had more strange hostel experiences, and all good Airbnb experiences. Only 90 days of the year is an interesting regulation to have. I’ve encountered some places where it makes it difficult for locals to find a place to live because they all become shortterm rentals. I bet the 90 day rule helps out for issues like that.

  2. What a great post! Airbnb is such a great option when you have extra rooms. I have an empty fully furnished basement 75% of the time (when my parents aren’t visiting the twin cities), and if it was spruced up a bit it would make a great Airbnb. However, I get a little nervous about the security aspect being a female alone a lot of the time.

    I actually laughed out loud at “She practiced her singing for hours at a time. It was of the operatic variety;…” Too funny. It sounds like your parents have had interesting guests!

    1. I think that’s a valid concern. I wonder if there is data or suggestions for how to do it as a single lady. You could also potentially rent it out long term to someone!

      Yes it’s always fun to hear their stories when I go and visit!

  3. we could easily rent two rooms right now but haven’t chosen to do that yet. i think i would almost rather have people in when we were around than when we vacate to travel.

    we’re saving the option in case of emergency if life turns and we really need the money.

  4. I am a retired senior who has moved to Fl. I dabbled Abit in Airbnb in Jersey for a year then, when I moved to Fl I jumped in head first, I have my had so many bookings, I have a maximum of 3 day stay, it’s wonderful to meet people and share my space, I have a small bedroom I book out with a double bed and give the guest the option of sharing my entire space I have always been here and state that in my listing you should state everything that you offer for instance if you have pets. Some folks have allergies also if you allow pets as you may have people traveling with thier animals. My case I have Cats and have to turn down people with dogs, another thing is kids My place is a adult complex so I make sure that’s posted. My listing is very informational and long but it helps you as the host and the guest to know what they are signing up for.

    1. Hi Frances, very interesting to hear your story. It is definitely a good note to include something about pets. I recently travelled with a friend who is allergic to cats so we had to rule out a couple of places. Some guests have shown up with a dog unannounced. I prefer long listings that give enough information, like yours!

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