I’ve hesitated for a long time to write this because, no joke, I’ve been hosting for so long I sort of forgot home sharing was a ‘thing.’ I finally sat myself down to write a how to host Airbnb / introductory Q&A. This is a “shot in the dark” for me to write because I am not sure what is interesting to readers and non-hosts. I have been doing it literally everyday for 2 years. I have 350 reviews and over 405 completed trips which means I’ve hosted over 2,000 individuals in total. It’s so routine for me so I can’t judge what’s good content anymore. Hopefully something grabs at you guys and I’m providing some value. This is my Airbnb hosting story!
I separated some topics out into different Airbnb posts in queue and I’ll add that onto the Airbnb glossary later. For now, I’ll do a general personal Q&A story of how I started on Airbnb below. Some topics deserve a post in it of itself. The taxes get complicated and Jared (hubby) will devote an entire post to that demon later on. I can do a quick introductory Q&A cover now to help set the scene.
*5 hours later*
“Oh fudge. I wrote 67 pages. Who is going to read this babble?”
Part 1: How to Host Airbnb
Where do you live?
We live in Seattle. It’s the birthplace of Amazon, Boeing, Starbucks and Microsoft towards the Eastside.
We get a decent amount of rain between October and February. We are fantastic dog lovers up in the Pacific Northwest – so much so we import abandoned dogs from the warmer states like California and Texas (which is how we got our pupper.)
Korean and Ethiopian food is amazing here but the Mexican food is decent at best and Chinese food here is just plain sad. There’s yummy coffee to go with the rain and a lot of techies (my husband being one of them.) The tech sector has propagated this grungy, sleepy American city into a rapidly gentrifying urban hub. It’s a strong alternative for those stuck in the overcrowded Silicon Valley (like I was.)
The Pacific Northwest is probably going to be the greenest place you’ll ever see. And as far as I know, there are no sparkly teenage vampires or kinky billionaires here.
What kind of Airbnbs do you have?
Our primary residence is a stand-alone townhouse. It’s legally a single family residence like any regular house but in the design of a 3 story behemoth. Our primary residence has 4x bedrooms (we rent out 3 out of 4), 2.5x baths, living room, dining room, kitchen, laundry room, private office, and 3 outdoor decks.
Unlike most townhouses that’s being built in Seattle, our house has no shared walls. That’s why we fell in love with it. It has all the pros of a townhouse (views, price, modern) but lesser of the cons (stairs, neighbors, lot.) We have a good-sized backyard and our own lot of land. I don’t ever want to share a physical wall with the neighbors. And I definitely do not want to consult with anyone but my husband about the maintenance of our roof and cedar sidings.
A stand-alone townhouse is perfect for home sharing. We rent out the entire first floor of our townhouse residence since it has 2 beds and 1 full bath of it’s very own. We also rent out our 3rd private bedroom upstairs. Lastly, we rent out an entire vacation house as well. We pretty much covered all the bases of rental options on Airbnb.
People (including my guests) think I’m either crazy to let complete strangers in my home or I’m a rich real estate mogul. Either of those things are true.
First of all: I have done it for 2 years and nothing horrible has happened to us or any of our properties yet. knock on wood
Second of all: We have just 3 Airbnbs listings in total. We have 2x ‘private room’ listings and 1x ‘entire place’
Nothing P. Diddy about that!
Where are your Airbnbs?
Our primary residence is in a quiet, unpretentious residential neighborhood. You will immediately notice the majestic evergreens sprinkled throughout our neighborhood. It looks like we’re living in a converted forest. It is a strong working class neighborhood nearby two different highways that grants quick access to everything Seattle has to offer.
When we purchased our first house it didn’t occur to us how lucky it is to be close to I-5 for Airbnb. I-5 is the main interstate highway running along the West Coast of the United States. By pure chance we landed in the best place for Airbnb travelers heading up to Canada and/or California. We really lucked out with our location heading into this so blindly. We purposefully focused on similar characteristics for our 2nd rental as well.
Our 2nd rental property is a full-time vacation rental. It’s a small condo sized cottage in one of the most beautiful and affluent neighborhoods in Seattle. It has 2 bedrooms and 1 full bath in a neighborhood that oddly parallels the Marina in San Francisco…the amount of yoga studios that propagate next to frozen yogurt shops…ramble ramble. 😉
How much money do you make with Airbnb?
An average Airbnb year brings in about $50K across all 3 listings (plus some non-monetary benefits). Of course that number for anyone else will vary wildly depending on the local demand, occupancy and amenities. I aim for full occupancy so I turn on Airbnb’s smart pricing feature for some of my dates. More details on that crazy science in a separate post.
My occupancy rate for my first year was 100% and for my second year it’s looking to be 98% because (I theorize) smart pricing (introduced after I began hosting) has put a downward pressure on the initial perceived market value. Airbnb wants to undercut competitors by making prices aggregate closer to the market average and take off the guess-work for hosts. I will discuss the impact of smart pricing in-depth later.
There has also been an influx of Airbnbs as well which has pulled the market price down by 15% from when I started in 2015. I don’t mind though – I still really enjoy being a host. Not to mention Airbnb has their own insurance and you don’t have to worry about the ugly legal stuff like with traditional rentals.
The biggest hurdle is seasonal. Airbnb winters are rough. My earnings are 50% less in the slowest winter month (November) compare to the busiest summer month (June.) There is just no way you will earn anywhere as close as you do in the summer time. Now keep in mind we are in Seattle where the winters can be cold but it rarely snows. It could be better or worst elsewhere.
Do you have rules for your home? Do guests respect it?
I have more restrictions than your typical host. I display all the house rules and house manual out with 100% transparency. If there is a communication mishap then I immediately know that the guests did not take the time out to read.
I stick to my house rules and I make it clear in both the introductory message as well as my official reply that I expect all guests to read and know them. I want my guests to know how to lock the front door and where we keep the fire extinguishers. Naturally a small percentage of guests feel a bit unwelcome by this but in order to protect my property and their own safety, I think it’s more than worth it.
I make it very clear in my primary residential Airbnb listing that I do not allow guest up onto the 2nd or 3rd floor without permission first. There is no kitchen access with my Airbnb. I give each room a mini fridge, microwave and kettle. There are a ton of local eateries nearby as well that I don’t feel bad about leaving out the kitchen from my home. Since the kitchen is off-limits, I no longer charge a cleaning fee. For travelers who are not looking to cook or stay longer than a couple of days, they can save money staying with me. More on that later as well.
Also…our living room is usually a mess so I just want to save myself the embarrassment! 😉
Were you scared when you started On Airbnb?
Yes! It was awkward at first. We purchased the home in August and it wasn’t until February that I finally decided to put our house on Airbnb. I so, so, so regret not listing it sooner! By being scared – I lost at least $10,000 in opportunity cost. AH the idiocy! My husband and I didn’t use 70% of our house because we were so used to living in a small 500 SQ downtown apartment that we never used any other room besides our own bedroom and maybe the office…for 6 months! What a complete waste! So my advice is to do your research and just do it.
After a full year on Airbnb and becoming more comfortable with the ‘strangers in the house’ thing…we decided to dun dun dunnnn rent out the 3rd floor bedroom as well. That’s literally right across the hall from us. Even crazier? The bathroom is jointed and shared! Jack and Jill style!
There’s a huge comfort difference between renting out the first floor and the 3rd most intimate floor. It took my husband a year to agree to renting out the upper floor bedroom despite the fact that we had zero use for it.
Thankfully, we have had no problems what so ever. In fact, we had a guest who informed us that our plumbing had been leaking. A slow drip…for days before we noticed! Everything in there was soaked! Phew, thank goodness someone caught it before it got really bad. Our 3rd floor bedroom has brought us more friends than the 1st floor guests that we never see. I have met some incredible guests and it’s been a much more positive experience than what we both expected.
Why do you do Airbnb?
What kind of question is this?
Before we even started home shopping I wanted to do Airbnb. I knew then that a house was a huge liability so if we didn’t plan to rent it out then we would have purchased something much smaller. I was 22 and my husband was 27. Liabilities are scary at that age! If it wasn’t for Airbnb we would have just brought a small cottage.
Actually, I didn’t rent out the 3rd bedroom for money. I noticed that there were guests that rented out our entire 1st floor for $70 a night just to sleep! I felt bad about that and I thought, heck, if they just a need to crash then we should rent out our spare bedroom and put it under market price. We don’t need it and it would be a nice thing to do. We initially planned that room…for…what are those things called? Neonates? 👶 Well, I am a coward so it’ll be a long while before I get up the courage for that.
How Much Time Does It Take TO CLEAN?
It depends on the duration of the stay, the quality of the guests and my schedule for the day. It takes me a couple of hours on average to clean two bedrooms. I have 4 bedrooms (including the 2nd rental) in total and that is why I consider Airbnbs full-time work. Busing back and forth to our rental is an hour long trip each way. Some days when I have triple turnovers (all three sets of guests are leaving and new guests are coming within a few hours) I call in the Calvary (dad) for help.
Any particular “nightmare” guests Stories?
I can pull a few nightmares from my magical thinking box but I will probably need to leave that for another post too. The majority of my guests have been really sweet though! I have a theory on how to weed out the bad-bads.
What did you Have to concede for Airbnb?
Privacy is a big one to a lot of people but because of how our townhouse is designed, I don’t notice much of a difference. Sure, there was that one time when I was talking to a carton of chocolate flavored ice cream and two guests walked in on me but…it was the ice cream’s fault for being so undelicious. (Never buy generic ice cream if you can afford better, it’s gross.)
We share our master bathroom with strangers and hosting Airbnbs can be more time-consuming than one would think. There are 100 micro tasks a multi-listing host has to juggle. You need to get use to serving people. In they are cold you need to bring out the space heaters. If they are too hot, you have to offer a fan. We live car free so we could rent out our driveway. Parking is scarce in Seattle and Airbnb guests love easy parking.
Cleaning up is a lot of manual work and we live in a townhouse which means there is a lot of stair climbing…perfect! Everyday is a leg day!!!
This is the first part of how to host Airbnb. Part two is linked below. More stuff later, when I’m not sleep deprived. Feel free to ask any questions or clarification. I’m running on nothing but goldfish crackers so bear with me.